Friday, 7th July
As the more eagle eyed among you will have noticed, there’s been a three week gap here for apparently no good reason at all. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve simply been too lazy to write anything recently, which is as good a reason as any.
The bike, however, has been lovingly polished, taken apart, put back together, polished again, admired, and even had a couple of Taymar stickers put on for good measure. Martin has helped me out no end this year, so it’s really the least I can do. All this was in preperation for this weekends MRO national round at Oulton park. Even though I am, to be completely honest, totally out of my depth in a national GP250 championship at the moment there are myriad good reasons to be doing this. Firstly, Oulton is my favourite circuit, and I’ll take every opportunity to ride there that I can. Secondly, the experience of riding at a national level can only do me good, and certainly at Snetterton it raised my riding standard to new levels. Thirdly, it’s televised, so I might yet be famous. I pondered on these thoughts and a few others as I sat in the Friday evening stasis that is the M6 on my way to the circuit. I’d managed to borrow a van for the weekend (ta J.) so at least I’d have somewhere warmer and more comfortable than either the passenger seat of my car or the pit lane garage to sleep in.
I finally arrived at Oulton at about 9:30pm, and by a stroke of luck managed to park up right next to Rogers and Riks vans. We had an informal agreement to share a garage this weekend, but what with Oultons garages being so small I didn’t want to invade their space without double checking first. Sadly neither of them were around at the time, so I began the process of getting the van unloaded. This ostensibly easy process is made somewhat more challenging when there is nobody available with a handy foot (if you see what I mean) to put on the bottom of the plank as the bike is wheeled out of the van. I solved this problem ingeniously by wedging the bottom of the plank up against a drum of avgas. I then wheeled the bike out of the van, and it was only as I got it half way down the ramp that I realised that it’s rearward progress was about to be severely impeded by a drum of avgas that some plonker had left at the bottom of the ramp. I was in a bit of a dilemma here, as I don’t posess the strength to push the bike back up the ramp. In the end with a bit of juggling I managed to get my left hand on the brake lever, and remove the fuel drum with my right one.
Flushed with my ingenuity I went to the bar. Whilst there I had a good chat with Ian Porter, with whom I’d enjoyed a marvellous scrap with a couple of years previously at Snetterton. Eventually Roger and Rik got back from the pub (they obviously take their pre-race fitness regime every bit as seriously as yours truly) and I installed my bike in the garage. As it turned out the worries about space were unfounded as the garage next was empty, so we spread out into that one too.
I got the bed set up in the back of the van, and got my head down to the accompanyment of the English summertime honking it down on the roof of the van. It was like trying to sleep in a snare drum.
Saturday, 8th July
Up at 7am, and did the normal scrooting thing. The bike passed first time as usual, as did my clothing. I am constantly amazed by the merry band of ACU scrutineers that travel the length and breadth of the country out of their own pockets only to be sworn at when they point out that somebody has forgotten to bolt on their brake calipers. I don’t suppose any scroots will ever read this, but if you do, thank you for doing such a good job in all weathers, at all times.
Anyway, it was still damp when the first untimed practise started, so I plumped for intermediate tyres, and scooted out for our alloted 10 minutes. The track was every bit as much fun as I remember, and every bit as treacherous at Old Hall in the wet. Luckily Cascades was completely dry, as was the hairpin. Clay Hill was a bit of a botty clencher… It’s normally pretty scary anyway as you hold full throttle in top over a blind crest whilst simultaneously turning hard left then straight on the brakes. However, when the only dry line is about 9 inches wide and straying off it would spell disaster it really sharpens your concentration.
I strung some good laps together, and was happy with my choice of gearing, and my suspension seemed to be working a whole lot better since I topped up the oil in the forks. I have to say here, that I’m not at all impressed with the service recently given them by Tech2000. I took them up there with a slightly weepy seal in the right leg. They came back 80 quid later with the same weep and a new one from the left fork leg. My steering damper still hasn’t been returned after it was sent for a rebuild over two months ago.
Still, I got back from the session feeling pretty good about things. I certainly wasn’t the fastest thing out there, but then again, I wasn’t the slowest either. This was a nice feeling.
During the next hour or so before time qualifying the track dried out, and with the exception of one brief shower, it was completely dry by the time our session was called. On with the slicks, and out onto the track. The first couple of laps were rather tentative as I felt my way around the circuit, and clocked times in the 1:56s. About lap 3 I started winding things on a bit, and rattled off a few of 1:53s and 1:52s before hitting a high 1:50 on lap 7 after trying to follow the insanely fast Chris Bishop after he came past me. Obviously he cleared off, but the tow I got for a few corners had obviously helped me no end. A couple more laps in the 1:52s made it pretty clear that I’d need to buck my ideas up a bit to try and break into the 1:49s, which I desperately wanted to do. I decided to wind it on again. Over the start finish line in top, I went about three yards past my normal braking marker into Old Hall, hit the brakes, and down into third. This was good – I’d picked up probably about .25 of a second, and had a new braking marker for the race. Dentons was despatched before possibly my favourite corner in the whole country, Cascades. Down again to 3rd, and hard in. I surprised myself with the violence with which my knee slider hit the kerbs, but I didn’t back off, and shot onto the Lakeside straight harder on the gas than I had been before. This got me into top well before usual, so I hung on, and determined to use my normal braking marker for Island despite carrying more speed. Again, it worked, and worked well. Probably another .5 of a second saved. The hairpin was attacked in the usual manner, and I got good drive into Foulstons chicane. Hard on the brakes, down to 2nd, left, right, left and exit onto the back straight. I tucked everything in, and nailed it through the gears ready for the entry into Knickerbrook. I didn’t want to take any chances here, as it’s a frighteningly fast corner. I hit my usual braking marker, down into fourth, and tipped it in before driving hard from the apex.
The horizon suddenly tilted an extra 45 degrees, and I realised that I had in fact crashed, and was now about to exit stage left on my arse at about 100mph. The slide seemed to last forever, firstly on the tarmac, then over the bumpy kerb before missing the gravel trap completely and bouncing across the grass. During this whole process I remember thinking “try not to start rolling” as the results would have been spectacular to say the least. Once I was sure the world had stopped moving I checked my arms and legs. All present and correct, so I legged it over to the tyre wall and climbed over. I looked back at the corner, and noted a 15yd long darkie that I’d put down before the rear tyre finally cried enough and dumped me on the road. It was like my own little signature on my favourite circuit.
All in all, I seemed to have got away with it remarkably lightly. I felt bloody stiff, and a bit winded, but other than that, perfectly OK. The bike was almost unscathed save a snapped brake lever and bent footpeg.
Back in the garage though a more serious problem came to light. The left fork leg had now lost just about all it’s oil. I didn’t fancy trying to ride around Oulton without having complete confidence in my brakes, so made the decision to retire from the race. Besides, my botty had taken a bit of a battering in the incident, and in all honesty I probably wouldn’t have lasted the race distance.
As it turns out, I qualifed, and wasn’t even on the last row of the grid for this one. Oh well. Looking back on the day, I couldn’t complain really. I’d walked away from a very quick crash, and didn’t fancy tempting fate by going out again on a bike that could dump all it’s fork oil into the brake disk at any moment.
Tuesday, 18th July
I’ve said this a million times before, and I’ll say it again. Racing is all about highs and lows. There’s a reasonably famous quote from someone about this, but not only have I forgotten the quote, I’ve also forgotten who it was. Seems remarkably pointless even mentioning it now I come to think of it.
I’d been feeling on a bit of a high following the accident. I’d qualified, and seemed to be riding pretty well. I was well on the way to sorting out a deal that would have seen me on a more competitive bike for next year. I’d walked away from a 100mph crash with no more than a bruised thumb and sore botty.
Then after half an hour in the garage tonight I’ve realised that I’ve got a rather large bill coming up that completely scuppers the aforementioned plans, and involves an awful lot of faffing around. To cut a long story short, my frame is bent and head bearings are knackered. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit and Bollocks. I’m really, quite seriously fed up right now. My unbridled optimism at the start of the year (new job, GP bike etc.) has now descended into having to sell my road bike, having a crap time in an underpaid job, and having a bent bike.
Like I said, highs and lows. My plan is simple. Fix the bike, worry about the money later, and go out and ride the thing. If anything, this has just made me even more determined to go out and bloody well win something.
Sunday, 23rd July
Regular readers of this drivel will no doubt have noticed my slightly glum mood lately what with running out of money, having to sell things to make ends meet, lobbing the bike up the track etc. etc. However several things have happened very quickly in the past few days to make life far more enjoyable. Firstly, it was my birthday yesterday and I ate some extremely edible seafood. That, in itself, is reason enough to be very happy indeed. But things get better from there… Firstly, as my birthday pressies I’ve had my entries for Snetterton and Silverstone paid for. Secondly, sitting in my garage right now is a very lovely ’96 TZ250. And it’s all mine.
None of this would be even remotely possible if it wasn’t for the enormous loveliness of several people, but mainly Faye.
So, all things being equal, the rest of my season looks like I’ll be riding a very fast TZ250 at Cadwell, Snetterton, and Silverstone. And I’ll be painting the house and sorting out the front garden (is that OK Faye?) So, bearing the above in mind, my ’93 TZ is now for sale for a song. Mail me if you’re interested. Of course, it goes without saying that it will have the frame straightened and new head bearings anf fork seals before anyone gets hold of it. (That’s the problem with making this lot public…)
Tuesday, 25th July
A vivid demonstration of the power of the internet… My ’93 has been sold already despite only putting it up for sale two days ago. The best news is that it’s going to an old sparring partner from my TZR days, Charlie Entwhistle. Charlie is also one of the few survivors from my epic stag night last year, so he’s already used to the moral depravity found in the GP250 paddock. Eh Scotty?
I’ve also taken the opportunity to firstly just sit and look at the new bike for an hour or so, and to take it apart and see what makes it tick. I’ll have to get some photos here, as it really is astonishingly gorgeous at the moment.
Oh, and a big thanks to everybody who’s offered me support and kind words after reading this diary over the past couple of months. I’d like to thank you all personally, but rest assured, your thoughts are much appreciated.
Wednesday, 26th July
Called Maldon Motorcycles to see about getting the frame checked on the ’93 before I flog it to Charlie. The good news is that they can fit it in on Friday, so all things being equal Charlie can come and pick the bike up on Sunday.
Friday, 28th July
A long drive down to Maldon Motorcycles in the morning to drop my frame off with them, turned out to be a complete waste of time, money and patience when they called back at 3pm and said that they couldn’t fit it in after all, and I’ll have to leave it with them for the weekend.
So, in a foul mood I called Tech2000 to check on the whereabouts of the errant steering damper I gave them about 3 months ago…
“Hello Eamonn, It’s Neil Ronketti – Remember I gave you a steering damper to rebuild some time ago?”
“Oh yes. We’ve not been able to do anything with it.”
For fscks sake. What is it with the UK motorcycle industry? Being led up the garden path by a supplier just to get your trade before dumping on you is not a good way to ensure future business.
On the bright side, Dave Hammond Racing could not have been more helpful if they’d tried when it comes to talking about TZ bits. I need some new bearings for my spare rear wheels, as the spindle is a different diameter. One call later, and I was given the part numbers that I needed, and some sound advice regarding fitting them. Top marks.
Saturday, 29th July
Spoke to Charlie about the frame, and seeing as he lives about 10 miles away from Maldon he’ll pop in there one day next week and pick it up. I still feel bloody guilty for disappointing him like this, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
The evening was spent in the company of fellow TeamIxion members James, Sol and Simon celebrating Sols stag night. I can honestly say that I haven’t drunk as much for quite some time now, and I’d just like to aplogise to anyone reading this who was in Cambridge and was accosted by a drooling staggering fool. It was me. Sorry.