Project Lemming

Tuesday, 1st April

For some reason, it seems strangely appropriate to by typing this up on April Fools Day…

Now that Project Fast Hamster is completed, I’ve been looking forward to spending a few more evenings in, watching telly, putting my feet up, playing with my daughter etc. etc. However, it appears this is not to be. As I may have already mentioned, my great friend and partner in crime and caramel desserts, Scotty Allaway has decided that his days in the GP class are done, and the TZRs are where the fun really is. So, the hunt for another TZR began, as did Project Lemming.

My daughter now thinks that Daddy lives in the garage, and all men smell of Castrol A747.

Friday, 11th April

Amazing, isn’t it? Despite spending countless evenings in the garage over the past few months on Project Fast Hamster, I now find that I still have work to do before my first race of the season next weekend. Still, race preparation is something I enjoy, and Faye doesn’t mind me being out of the house on Thurdays as it’s Friends and ER on telly. So, without further ado:

  • Changed gearing to 14/42
  • Copied the ingenious lockstop design from Project Lemming
  • Fitted new tyres [1]
  • Secured the fairing panels with cable ties
  • Another polish, just for luck
  • Ate an extremely edible kebab from the shop on the corner, and drunk a cup of tea lovingly brought out to the garage by The Lovely Faye.

And there’s still a couple of niggly little things to do before I get out on the track. I’ve got some new brake pads, courtesy of my mate Neal Champion on the way, and I need to re-stick the seat foam, as it’s come adrift already. Oh, and I suppose I need to put some petrol in it.


As far as the race itself goes, I am, to put it bluntly, crapping myself. I haven’t been this nervous about a race for a long time. Since my first race back in 1997 probably. Why is this? I dunno really. Several potential reasons spring to mind. Firstly, it’s a completely new bike, so there’s a chance it could fall apart at the first corner. Secondly, last time I went to Oulton I wrote off the TZ, and nearly myself. Thirdly, the grid is completely full, and the TZR class is fiercely competitive this year.

Looking at things pragmatically, I’ve done just about everything to ensure the bike won’t let me down. I just need to get out there and ride it now. I’m determined to enjoy this season for the racing rather than the results, but I’ll still be a little upset if I come last…

[1] It’s amazing how something that involved so much time, effort, sweat, cursing, shouting, throwing tools and impressive bad language can be reduced to just three words.

Thursday, 17th April

Well, it’s been a long, long while since I last wrote a race report. I reckon there are several reasons for this:

  1. I’ve not really done much racing of late. Last year I managed three outings on the GP bike, the Jurby weekend (which it must be said, probably saved me from hanging up my leathers for good), and the supermoto day at Brands.
  2. The racing that I did was either crap (on the GP bike), fugged in an alcoholic haze immediately afterwards (the Jurby weekend), or I didn’t actually know what I was doing (the Supermoto race).
  3. The TI reports database seems to have been lost and/or discontinued. Shame, ‘cos I used to enjoy reading through it on the odd occasion.


Anyway, back to the plot. The plan for the weekend was simple enough. Drive up to Oulton Thursday afternoon. Practise Friday. Race Saturday. Drive home Saturday evening or sit in the bar with everyone else. Phase one was hampered somewhat by the normal bank holiday traffic on the M6 ensuring that the journey took a record 6.5 hours at an average speed of somewhere around 25mph. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz… Still, I got to Oulton, secured our garage, and broke open the Stella. Over the course of the next few hours Colin turned up, Spike turned up, and I’m sure that several other people also turned up. More importantly, Colin had brought his beer fridge. There was precious little to do to the bike, mainly because I’d spent the past 6 months working on it.

Friday, 18th April

Friday morning arrived earlier than expected due to the temperature in the back of the van I was kipping in. I was seriously chilly. The clear blue skies boded well though. A breakfast of tea and pain au chocolat was my first project for the day, closely followed by my first track session. Actually that’s a lie – I had to get noise tested first. The chap looked at the bike, and asked me to hold it around 6500rpm while he tested it. I looked at the other results on the sheet for the rest of the bikes in the session (mainly GP250s and supersport 400s) and they were all putting out 106-107dB. Project Fast Hamster squeaked it’s way up to a less than spine-tingling 102dB. Cool. I’ve got a stealth hamster.

Right then. Accelerate onto the pit exit lane, and ooooops… Why’s the back wheel coming round to say hello? I remembered what Kev had told me about the Bridgestone (I’ve actually just typed that as ‘Bridgesatan’ for some reason) tyres and their teflon release agent. So, the rest of the session was spent wobbling around, gradually working the motor up to 8000rpm, and slowly getting some heat in the tyres. Back in the garage after the session and nothing appeared to be falling off or leaking, so I put my feet up and waited for the next session.

All in all I did 6 sessions during the day, each one faster than the previous, and each time the bike didn’t miss a beat. Praise again to Graham File, as it was also quick enough to draught a few of the 400s out there, which surprised the hell out of them when I silently popped out from behind and outbraked them into Knickerbrook or Island.

The BMCRC scroots had turned up a day early, and I nervously handed over the bike for it’s first ever scrooting. It was with immense relief that it flew through, with no problems at all. Sadly, the same could not be said of my leathers, which needed patching up with a bit of tape over a hole on the bum. Looks like I need to get them patched up pretty soon. Anyone know the number for Hideout off hand?

“So what’s your plan for Tomorrow then?” asked Red, later that evening over a beer and barbie.
“Dunno really. try and finish my races and see what happens.”
“Are you stopping overnight for a few beers?”
“If I get a top 10, yes, probably. If I get a top 5 I’ll buy everyone a beer”.

Saturday, 19th April

Another freezing night in the van later, and I lined up for my alloted three laps of practise with the rest of the TZR crew. It was immensely gratifying to note that I appeared to be able to hold onto most of them in a straight line, so at least I’d not be outpaced on the straights.

Right then. Race one. Was I nervous? Hell yes. My legs were shaking so much in the collecting area that I nearly fell off the bike before even getting out onto the track. The warm-up lap was hilarious fun. I was back on row 5, in position 17. Last TZR on the grid… We were waved off the grid one row at a time, and I just went potty, passing everyone I could. I arrived back at the grid to see row 1 complete, 3 bikes on row 2, and rows 3 & 4 completely empty. Psycological victory number one to me then. Jeffie raised the flag aloft, pointed at the lights, and scuttled to one side. Red… Green! I dumped the clutch, and found myself to be staring at the sky. “Twattyfucknuts” I thought to myself as I had to throttle off and stamp on the rear brake to prevent myself going straight out the back door. Of course, everyone on rows 6,7,8 and 9 went past into the first corner.

Only one thing for it. I have no idea how many people I passed on the first lap, but it must have been a good 8 or 9. And the next lap. On lap 3 things started to get a bit more difficult, and on lap 4 I tagged onto the back of Kev and a couple of supertweenies aboard ‘prilly 125s. Nipped past Kev on the way into Cascades, then went past the two 125s on the drag into Island. “No problem” I thought to myself, only to be comprehensively outbraked by both of them into the hairpin. Squirt past one of them on the run into Foulstons, then get the other on the drag up the hill towards Knickerbrook. “That’ll teach the little oiks” I mused, only to have both of them appear underneath me at Knickerbrook. Same story out of Knickerbrook… I could power past them, only to be outmanoevured into Druids. At Lodge it all got a bit hairy… I’d gone past them on the straight again, and just as I turned into Lodge one of them was right where I wanted to be. I picked it up, ran wide, and turned in again only to find his mate was now where I wanted to be. I powered past one of them over Deer Leap, and hung back behind the other through Old Hall so I could get a good run down the hill into Cascades. However, an opportunity presented itself to me when he left a foot or so on the inside at the little right kink of Dentons. It was all I needed… I was going a good 15mph faster than him by now, and squeezed into the gap. However, matey hadn’t realised I was there, and at the last minute decided to try and close the gap…

We didn’t touch. But Kev later told me that he picked the bike up, got both feet shaken off the pegs, and went into Cascades hanging onto the tank with his calf.

Needless to say, he didn’t come back past me.

I then had 2 laps to catch and pass Paul Flynn, which I did with about a lap to spare. I got back to the garage, completely unaware of where I’d finished. A quick look at the results sheets showed a 5th place, with lap times considerably quicker than the chaps in 3rd and 4th.

Job done. Project Fast Hamster had proven itself beyond my expectations.

Race 2 didn’t happen due to the powervalve motor committing electrical suicide when I fired the bike up to get to the collecting area. Fair enough really. I expected two mechanical DNFs this weekend as bits fell of the bike, so to only get one was a bonus. Still, I’d like to see what I could have done with a start position where I could actually see the lights from.

Image copyright someone else. Can’t remember who now.

Did I buy everyone a beer for my top 5? Um, no. My creaky old bones wouldn’t take another night in the back of the van, so I packed up and headed home.