Not enough hours in a day

Wednesday, 15th October

Well, despite the complete lack of entries in the race diary, rather a lot has been happening. The first thing of note is the construction of The House of Plinth which will take a fair bit of time over the coming weeks. I’ve also been working on my next project. I’ll keep the details quiet for now, but let’s just say it’s completely illegal under ACU rules and will probably set fire to the lawn again.

Anyway, as far as the racing goes, myself and Keith McKay had a very succesful outing aboard his F1 spec GSX-R750 at Jurby a few weeks back. So succesful that we came home 2nd in class, which was an unexpected bonus for an otherwise brilliant weekend.

In fact, I’ve just dug up my race report…

Well, I suppose it’s time I got my finger out and actually typed up a race report for the first time in ages. I have a feeling that this could be a long one, so probably best go and get a cuppa.

I’d arrived at Jurby by a roundabout route that involved a road closure, a little old lady in Cheltenham, a vast portion of fish and chips and some lemon scented cleaner. Not necessarily in that order though. However, the mornings events dragged somewhat as we were 8 marshals short of a full compliment, and no racing could take place until this gap was filled. Luckily, by about 12:30ish we had enough volunteers, so we scooted out for practise.

Keith went first, and shot off like a scalded cat. From where I was it looked like the bike was going well, and the weather was just holding onto cold, but dry and mainly clear. My practise session was marred by a cone that someone had carelessly placed right on the apex of the fastest corner on the circuit. There was a loud, yet dull thud as my knee hit it. Yes, it hurt… Anyway, according to the chappy behind, the cone went about 8 feet in the air, and missed him by a matter of inches. Oooops. Anyhow, the bike was running perfectly. Completely ballistic in a straight line, but a bit of a handful in the corners. This was due entirely to me being a Big Gurls Blouse.

Session 1 – cold and dry. Keith took the Le Mans start, and got a belter. he ran for about 40 minutes or so, and was knocking out consistent 1:10s when I was looking. He looked smooth and comfortable, and soon came in for the first change.

Session 2 – cold and dry. We filled up with fuel, I had a quick peek at the tyres, and off I went. Within about a lap I knew that I was going to be in trouble with my knee, so I decided to aim for consistency rather than crashing out in an attempt to put in some banzai lap times. The 750 was pretty much as quick as anything else out there, and I could get most 600s just by driving past them on the quick bits. There was an R1 out there that I couldn’t catch, and a couple of very quick 600s that I was having problems with, but the general plan was to fanny around in the corners, and open it up hard down the straights. This was working beautifully, until after 40 minutes my pit board came out, and I dutifully pitted, and handed over to Keith.

Session 3 – even colder, and still dry. I’m not sure what happened here, but shortly after starting, the bike stalled, causing Keith to take a detour around the timing beacon on the way out, recording a lap some 15 seconds inside the existing lap record. Again, Keith put in some properly quick laps, while I lay down in the back of the van trying to give me knee a rest.

The intermediate timesheet handed out at this point had us comfortably 2nd in class.

Session 4 – even colder, and now drizzly. I had *soo* much fun in this session. The 750 was quite capable of spinning up in 3rd gear in the drizzle, so I was just squaring off the corners, and gassing it up. This was going very well until rather than spinning up it found some unexpected grip and popped the front up as I changed into 4th whilst passing a 400 down the back straight. Colin, however, appeared not to notice the drizzle, and lapped me twice in this session with a quite astonishing display of bravery in the fast corners. Top hero dood. Towards the end of the session the weather deteriorated, and I handed the back back to Keef. I hobbled off the bike, and went to find some painkillers.

Session 5 – colder still, and a persistent rain. Keith, being the gentleman that he is, ran a 45 minute stint here so I could get a break and put my knee up. Consistency was now the watchword, as people were starting to lob off at most corners as the surface got slicker.

Session 6 – howling wind, heavy rain, almost totally dark. “Just get it to the end” shouted Keith as I set off on the last session. To be honest, I wasn’t about to start trying to make up places when I couldn’t even see the track in places, so I just carried on riding safely in the corners, and giving the GSX-R a good seeing to down the straights. About 10 mins into the session, a misfire developed, which got steadily worse, and worse. With 15 minutes remaining it wouldn’t go above 7,000rpm. I crossed everything, and prayed in 15 different languages to Barry Sheene that he could have a word and try and get the Suzuki home. I was hoping that Soichiro Honda wasn’t listening. Every lap the revs dropped, until with 5 minutes left I could use no more than 4000 rpm, and had to clutch it up to accelerate out of every corner. I was lapped twice by Foz in my last three laps, was even out accelerated by Phil on his beautiful Triumph, despite having half the weight and a theoretical 50bhp advantage.

The chequered flag was shown, and I breathed a very large sigh of relief.

The bike died completely in the pit lane, 10 yards from our pit. I whipped the clutch in, coasted the last 10 yds, and hopped off the bike.

Shortly afterwards I hopped into the curry house, as is traditional after the Jurby race. In fact, I’m still hopping today. The swelling in my knee has gone down a fair bit, but I won’t be doing the triple jump any time soon.

And, there was the final race of the season for projects Fast Hamster and Lemming at Snetterton. Sorry about the formatting of this, but I’ve just copied it straight from a mailing list I’ve sent it to…

Saturday, 11th Oct was due to be my last race of the season, at Snett, one of my favourite circuits. As a bonus, the TZRs got an extra race at the end of the day in the form of the Paul Hogan & Danny Whalin memorial race. Personally I’d rather have Paul and Danny than an extra race, but it’s still a nice tribute to the two of them that we have the race at all.

Scotty & I got to the circuit nice & early, and pitched up in garage 7 with McCrashy (which reminds me – I stil owe you cash for the garage space. Let me know how much and I’ll sort it out for you) and Owen Cherrell. Bike preparation had already been done by me during the week, so it was straight off to scrooting. My bike initially failed on account of the flowers not being in line with the butterflies, but a swift reapplication of the stickers soon fixed that… I got back to the garage, and hooked up the fuel lines ready for first practise.

Of course, Scottys bike p155ed petrol out of the overflows due to a sticking floaty wotsit. This was fixed, and off we scooted for practise. My tyres, which had been on there for half a season, had about as much grip as David Icke has on his sanity, but there was no point in changing them just for one race. The bike was running well (11,500rpm in top down the back straight. Not bad, seeing as Mr. Yamahaha put the redline at 10,000rpm. Praise be to Graham File for the crank work) and was handling OK, so I just filled it up with petrol for the first race.

Race 1

I did my normal trick of going bananas on the sighting lap to get some heat into my tyres, and arrived back on the grid before the 2 rows in front of me. I don’t know why, but I always enjoy doing this. Matey was holding the red flag aloft at the front of the grid still, so check visor, check temperature, check lid strap, f**k, what’s that green light doing on? Half the grid went. Half the grid didn’t. The half that went now stopped, and the half that didn’t now started. Some then started again, some stopped again. I sat there and waited for the red light. The predicted red light completely failed to appear, so I set off in chase of the pack. I caught the first group within a couple of laps, containing John Rose, Paddy Newman, Scotty and a few others. It took a couple of laps to get through them, and the next group were by now the length of the Revett straight (about 800 yds I guess?) ahead. Could I catch them with 4 laps remaining? Yup, I could, but couldn’t actually get past the chap on the back of the group on a RS250 prilly. I (obviously) didn’t have the legs on the straight, and with only 1 lap remaining, didn’t want to risk a dodgy round the outside at Corams move on old tyres. However, I was quicker than quite a few of the chaps in front, and only a second off the pace of Andy Ball and Pete Fishwick, currently 3rd and 4th in the championship. Things were looking g–o–o–d…

Scotty mentioned that his tyres were shot too (unsurprising, as he’s had them even longer than me!) and his handling was up the swannee from the front end. We checked the fork oil, and found out it was the consistency and colour of a stagnant mill pond, so we drained and refilled it with new 15wt oil.

Race 2

A far better start this time, and I got into the mother of all scraps with Lawrence Harrity. It was a classic TZR dice, with him diving up the inside at Riches on a regular basis, and me using his draught on the straight to return the compliment at The Esses. This went on for the whole race, until on the last lap he got me back with an audacious (actually out of control) braking move at Russells. I tucked in behind, got the drive out, and got him on the line by .3 of a second. We were both laughing on the slow-down lap, which is exactly how TZR racing should be. My lap times had suffered (1:27.2, which is pretty crap by TZR standards) due to the constant outbraking and stuffing up each others lines, but I didn’t care. A great race.

Race 3

The Paul Hogan/Danny Whalin memorial race. For some reason I’d been given a front row start for this one, which was a real botty clencher. I lined up in 4th place. In 3rd was my race 2 nemesis, Lawrence. In 2nd was Calvin Hogan, Paul’s son. On pole was Len Whalin, Danny’s dad. We were held on the grid for ages while photos were taken, then off for the sighting lap. I was half expecting a slow lap in honour of Danny & Paul, so let Len and Calvin lead me away. They went absolutely potty, and pulled out 100yds on me by the time we got around to The Esses. Danny & Paul were probably looking down having a bet on the outcome of the warm-up lap :o)

I got my best start of the season. I went into Riches in about 4th, and decided just to hang on and see what happened. Ahead was Calvin, Len and Pete Flynn, who got a belter of a start from behind. I nipped past Len on the straight, and we all got blown away by Tony Rand. He’d made up 32 places in two corners, and by the time we got to The Esses was 100yds ahead of anyone. We are not worthy… Simon Tomlinson rode around the outside of me at Corams, but that’s not surprising, as a) he’s a championship winning rider, b) he is using new KR364s and c) he’s just faster than me. And for 6 laps, that’s how it stayed. Tony had gone, Simon was going, Calvin was still in sight, and Pete was just ahead. Then, on lap 7 of 8, I f***ed up braking for Russells and was mugged by Pete and Andy. 5th to 7th in one corner. Nuts. There was only one thing for it… I pulled the pin, and decided to get a place back or crash trying. In the end, I managed to get Pete by diving up the inside at the Bombhole on the last lap. Not an easy move, but it was clean, and fair. However, trying to get on the gas at Corams to keep the place had my tyres crying “enough!” and I have no idea at all how I kept it on the grey stuff. Pete, seeing the trouble I was in, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and cancelled his planned overtake until Russells. Only I didn’t let him past :o)

I crossed the line in 6th place. Easily my most competitive race of the year.

The Party


So, that’s it for this year. I’ve taken a £100 shed of a bike, and turned it into a good racer. I’ve only had one mechanical DNF in the first race, and no accidents at all. I’ve scrapped with Scotty up & down the country again. I’ve also scrapped with Sol, Colin, AndyB, Kev, Champ and many other good friends. I’ve had a 2nd place in the Jurby Endurance, and several good hangovers. Lexy now has an interest in bikes (she wants a blue one) and actually holds spanners for me when I ask her.

Could I ask for more out of a season? Yes. I’d like to do a season next year with the same number of riders finishing as starting. RIP Danny, Ross, Lee.