Midnight oil

Tuesday, 8th May

Picked up the replated barrel and bits and bobs from Cambridge Motorcycles, and set about finishing off the rebuild. I’d previously rebuilt things with my spare barrels and heads in case my normal barrel didn’t come back in time. This wasn’t a complete waste of time, as it did lead to the discovery that I needed thicker base gaskets for the spares. Anyway, one very late evening later, and the bike is sitting in my garage ready for battle once more. Everything went together pretty smoothly – I just need to fire it up to check that no internal fluids make an external appearance, and run it up to temperature a couple of times to start bedding the barrel in. The squish is a bit lop-sided now (.64mm on the bottom, and .71 on the top) but dropping the top base gasket .1mm reduced the squish to .46mm. Eh? Anyway, .71mm is close enough for me. Another minor victory for Yamahaha quality control though.
I suspect that were I a faster rider I’d worry more about these things, and try every gasket I have in an effort to get optimum squish on both barrels. However, sad though my life is, I do draw the line at spending more than 5 hours in an evening bolting cylinder heads on.

Sunday, 13th May

Just got back from Brands, and a stonking weekend. Not got much time to write about things right now, so here’s a couple of piccies until I have.

Does my bum look big in this?


I’ve basically forgotten what happened now, apart from getting a 5th place, and having a very good weekends racing. Top stuff.

Sunday, 20th May

The weekend started off well enough, with me turning up to the Castle Combe circuit at about 8pm on Friday, and parking my scumbag trailer next to someones 120 grand motorhome. No kidding, I was the *only* person there with a trailer. I adjourned to the bar, and got chatting with Ben and Andy, two of my 250 sparring partners. Andy is usually comfortably quicker than I, but Ben is my kind of pace. So, after a leisurely couple of pints and the usual barstool stories I decided to turn in for an early night. In doing so I left the bag containing my breakfast outside, ‘cos I’m a forgetful idiot at the best of times.

I was awoken early by the sound of the local wildlife scrapping over the remains of my food at about 5am. The paddock area was strewn with a selection of pork pies, pasties, sausage rolls, iced gems and croissants. I’m a stickler for a healthy diet on a race weekend. Luckily the local badgers haven’t worked out how to open Corn Flakes packets (or perhaps they just don’t like them) so I was left with some of Mr. Kellogs finest for brekko. Once this was completed I sauntered around for a bit, scrooted my bike and leathers, and tried to keep out of the way of the serious racers with the expensive toys. (Like the chap in the powerbikes using John Reynolds bike from last year, and the pair of ‘prilly RSV250s out to play).

Untimed practise was eventually called, so I scooted round for a few laps. At this stage a lap was something like this: Over the start/finish line accelerating hard, through 5th for the right kink before braking hard at the crest in the track, back three, and try to make ground left for the entry into the hairpin. 2nd through here, a quick squirt up to 4th, then some hard braking for the right-left-right chicane. Hard out of here, and try to make ground left to open up the exit from the ensuing right kink. Flat out, through the little left kink, then down to second for the right hander at the bottom. A short straight up to another little chicane, before a balls out stretch of hard gas whilst hauling the bike left to right, through the double apex right, then brake hard and down two for the final right hander. Simple eh? Well, yes, apart from the f***ing monumental bumps, and the less than generous run off.

Anyway, I was feeling OK – I had comprehensively caned both Andy and Ben, and was only a little off the pace of Andy Denyer.

Timed practise saw me upping the game a bit, and once I’d cleared my sparring partners I got some easy 1:19s. Not too spectacular, but not a miwwion miles off the pace either. As it is, I qualified 30th, with Andy in 31st, and Ben in 32nd. More pleasingly though, Andy Denyer was only 3 places in front. Maybe I’m starting to get the hang of these 250s after all…

All was not well with the other TI representative though… Martin had done a tremendous job on re-arranging his CBR, the tyre wall, and his legs. I’ll leave him to tell the story, but GWS mate.

The Big Race… Complete mayhem off the start, with a fair bit of bunching up and a couple of fallers early on. I was nearly one of them when matey came up the inside into one of the chicanes with everything locked up and the back wheel a foot in the air. I had to back off, and Andy and Ben immediately shot through. Grrrr… I got Ben a couple of laps later, but Andy was rapidly vanishing into the sunset. There was only one thing to do: My lap times immediately dropped to 1:17, and I realised that amongst other things, my bike just wasn’t set up for these lap times. I was banging off the 12,500 rpm limit in top for about 300 yds on the start/finish straight, and the right kink, which was quite pleasurable in 5th, became a real botty clencher flat on the gas at 12,500 in top. The bumps were now a real challenge, with my just hanging on to the bike and hoping it all held together. One lap later, and I was closing on Andy, when I got on the gas too hard at the chicane. The resulting 2 seconds silence as I flew through the air after being ejected over the highside was quite peaceful really. Staring at my own front wheel whilst completely inverted and approximately 6 feet in the air is quite an unusual perspective. However, gravity put in a late bid for supremecy, and the track struck me on the head with shattering violence. I rolled, and was painfully aware of a lot of bits being beaten up, then my boot dug in, and I rolled straight over my own ankle. The marshals were superb, and directed the traffic around me while I crawled out of the track, seeing stars and feeling very, very ill. I was carted straight off to the med centre to the applause of the crowd with Jason looked after my bike. (Ta J.)

Summary of injuries: Burn about 4 inches by 2 through three layers of skin on my elbow. It’s actually gone black and crispy. Ick. My elbow is approaching the size of the New Forest with all the swelling, and it going to explode into a riot of heamatomal colour any day now. My left ankle has stopped working :(. Torn ligaments, and already it’s gone black from my toes to my achilles tendon. My right hip has suffered the usual ‘soft tissue trauma’ and is pretty much immobile. Left shoulder is OK up to a point, but that point rules out such things as washing my own hair etc. for a couple of days.

Summary of damage: Written off lid. I’m not sure if my leathers will play the violin again either. The bike escaped remarkably well. Brake lever, throttle assembly, footpeg, exhaust can are all damaged, and the fairing has acquired a bit more character.

And, despite all this, I still think it was a good day. A big thanks to the marshals who got to me so quickly, ‘specially Kevin – the first thing he said after making sure I was OK was “I bet your race diary will make interesting reading next week”. Nice to know that this lot is appreciated! Also, a big thanks to the two blokes on the Bandits on the way home who gave me an impromptu stunt show. I guess that they must have been at the corner I crashed – there I was minding my own business on the M4 on the way home, when a chap on a Bandit pulls up alongside me, points at his elbow, and gave me the thumbs up to check it was OK. I waved back, gave him the thumbs up. Last I saw him and his mate were hurtling along the M4 on their back wheels towards London. More power to your elbows chaps.

Looking pretty doubtful for Snett at the moment though. The bike will be OK, but I’m really not sure about my ankle. I’ll see what I can do though.

2013 Postscript: Since writing the above, I found out that the aftermath of the crash was caught on camera, and shown by Sky Sports. Please excuse the dreadful screen-grab, but here it is. Yes, I have had my hair cut now.
Castle Combe Crash

Saturday, 26th May

As it turns out, it looks like the crash damage was a little more severe than first thought both to myself and the bike. First up, the bike: The radiator had been whacked hard enough to shunt it about three inches to the left. In itself this wouldn’t normally present a problem, but in my efforts to straighten it, I snapped off one of the mounting tabs. Dammit. This was repaired at incredibly short notice by Spike at Cambridge Motorcycles. Top chap. I’ve also snapped off the throttle cable adjusters. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as I’ve got some spare cables. However, Yamaha-san in his infinite wisdom decided to make them a seperate part, and no, I can’t get any in time for this weekends race at Snett. Roger to the rescue though, as he has a spare pair he can lend me until I can get hold of some. More worrying though, is the fact that the front wheel is no longer vertical. Either the frame is twisted, or the yokes knackered. The top yoke is visibly twisted, so I’ve arranged to borrow one this weekend to see what happens.

And so to me… My elbow is still f***ing sore, with a large scab left behind by the burn. By left ankle is now moving again, though I’m not yet tap dancing. Slightly worrying is the fact that my left shoulder appears to have taken a knock too, and this could present a real problem braking at Russells.

But, I’ve paid my entry fee for tomorrows race, and I’m going to at least get out there and try to race. It’s a nice weekend, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and I’m anxious to try and keep the current run of good results going. It’ll probably end in the gravel again…