Friday, 11th March
Snetterton was, as it always seems to be, cold and windy. I got to the circuit for about 7:30am so I could help with the unloading, and tea-drinking that would no doubt need to be done. Instead, what I found was Sol, Scotty and Mark P all huddled in Sol’s car, trying to keep out of the rather robust Northerly breeze that was whipping across the circuit. We couldn’t sign on ’til 8am, so I did the only thing I could and joined them in the car for a natter. Eventually, we signed on, and then went to unload everything. Only it was still cold, we weren’t due out for another 2 hours, and the cafe was open. So instead we had tea and bacon butties.
We couldn’t put it off any longer, so after breakfast we unloaded everything into the garage, and stood around shivering. The bike was ready to go, thanks to Sol’s stirling efforts with the spanners over the previous few evenings. It was unanimously decided that I should take the first session, as I had previous experience with the bike, so could say if anything felt better/worse. It was immediately apparent that if nothing else, it was damn cold out on the circuit. We’d fitted a nice set of inters, which I reckon was the best compromise in these temperatures. Certainly they felt very smooth as I wobbled around in the pit lane. Once out onto the track I took the first lap steadily to get some heat into the motor, and then for lap 2 I opened it up fully onto the Revett Straight. Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohoooo! The power built from as little as 4000rpm, and it just pulled and pulled. I was shifting up at around 10000, well short of the 12000 redline, mindful that the temperature gauge was showing no more than 30 degrees. We got to The Esses, and I hit the brakes. New EBC wavey disks, and new Performance Friction pads, so they needed a bit of bedding in. Still, I scrubbed of enough speed, tootled through The Esses, and piled into The Bombhole.
Boing! went the back end. Actually, it went boing-oing-oing-oing-oing-wibbly-wibbly-shimmy. “That’s odd” I mused, as I piled into Corams, and it did exactly the same thing again. After another two laps of pogoing my way around the corners I headed back to the garage to get some damping put in the back. Mark twiddled the adjusters, and off I went again. Riches felt OK, Sear was OK, then gas it down the straight. Hit the brakes for The Esses, and, hello? Earth to brakes? Where are you? Come in brakes, roger? The brakes refused to play. So I hit them again even harder, and they came on with a fair bit of chattering from the front. Not good. At all. The rest of the session was spent bouncing around the corners, and braking with extreme timidity.
The rest of the day followed a very similar pattern, with Sol and Scotty reporting exactly the same problems. So, by the end of the day we had the following list of things:
- Engine. Lovely. As smooth as Duncan Goodhew in a moleskin codpiece. It’s no match for the GSX-R1000s that were out there, but it held it’s own with a 998 Ducati that crept out to play. Pulls from nowhere, and easily runs deep into the redline in top if you let it. Smaller rear sprocket please…
- Clutch. It’s either got extra strong springs, or an extra plate in there. It’s too heavy. Even at the end of a 20 minute session my arm was tired. We can’t use it for a 24hr race.
- Suspension. Oh dear. After much head scratching we came to the conclusion that the compression damping had gone AWOL. This impression was backed up by a wandering Ohlins Service Rep who had a bounce on it for us. It also appears that the preload adjuster has slipped somehow, so we’re limited to about 3mm of preload adjustment. He’s going to take it away and rebuild and service it for us, so problem solved.
- Brakes. Oh deary deary dear. The l/h disk is so dished it’s comical. After one session. So, that’s going back to Mr EBC on Monday. Utter shite. I’ll probably get it replaced with a standard pro-lite rather than the wavey one. I just don’t trust them any more.
- Temperature. After 4 sessions of progressively adding more tape and not getting more than 30 degrees showing on the gauge we eventually taped up the rad completely. I went out, it started misfiring, so I came back. It had boiled over. What had happened was that the sensor is mounted at the very highest point in the radiator. A small air pocket had built up around it, so we weren’t getting accurate readings. We topped it up, and all was well. We’d cooked a set of plugs with our ineptitude, but that was the extent of the damage. A lesson learned…
All in all, a top day out. Yes, it was cold, and yes, we weren’t able to push as hard as we wanted due to the brakes and handling problems. But as a first shakedown test for the bike, riders and mechanics it was very positive. It’s going to be a Good Season.
Big thanks to the two Marks for driving up from the South Coast to stand in a freezing garage and listen to three pathetic riders mithering on about handling problems.
Comedy moment of the day: Experienced by the bloke behind Sol on the A11 on the way home as the roof blew off his trailer. Ooops.
Monday, 14th March
Spoke to the chaps at Brakes4U about the warped disk. They agreed that it wasn’t right, so I’ve sent them back to EBC for inspection. At the same time I’ve spoken to Steve at Steve Jordan Motorcycles and he’s going to rebuild the shock for us.
Also, in my quest to raise enough funds to complete the season without having to sell either of my children, I’ve joined the adopt-a-racer scheme. Do you fancy helping out for as little as GBP10 per month? If so, pop along to my page and click the link at the bottom. No amount too small, but the more noughts on the end of the cheque the merrier.
Friday, 18th March
Dropped my leathers off at the lovely Hideout Leathers to get patched up. There’s not much wrong with them, but a couple of small areas where the leather is getting thin and could do with a bit of reinforcement. I think this will be the last season I use these leathers competitively. And I have to say, they’ve done bloody well. 7 seasons, a lot of crashes and countless races later and they’re still capable of saving my skin. A good investment.
Thursday, 24th March
Blimey. It’s been a busy few days and no mistaking. Firstly, the shock. We stripped the swinging arm out of the bike, and removed it. This is actually a gross oversimplification. For some reason the swinging arm pivot in the GSX-R is held in place by two nuts. One normal 32mm nut, which came off with no real problem. And a bizarre thingy that needs a special Suzuki service tool. Only we didn’t have one. First attempt was with a screwdriver and small rubber mallet. This only served to rearrange my knuckles slightly, and didn’t shift the locknut at all. So, out came the bigger screwdriver and club hammer. Still no luck. So we tried modifying the 32mm socket with a hacksaw to get it to fit. Of course, this didn’t work either. So, we got out the angle grinder, and made a lot of sparks. 10 minutes later, we had a new tool. It took two of us to use, with Sol hanging on it from the end of a breaker bar and me repeatedly kicking at it and swearing loads, but finally we got it off. We replaced the swinging arm (which was a specially lengthened and braced unit for the TT) with a standard one, which will be far more suitable for short circuit racing.
The shock was carefully parcelled up, and sent off to Steve Jordan for a good seeing to. Imagine our surprise, then, when he called and told me that the shock was actually off a ZZR600, and nothing to do with a GSX-R. I don’t *think* it will be a problem. It’s 9mm longer than the standard, but we can dial that out by removing some shims at the top mounting if we need. Slightly more worrying is the spring rate. 7kg/mm. It should be nearer 8.5 or so for a 12.5 stone rider. (We settled on that as both Sol and Scotty come in at about 12.5 stone when race fit. I struggle to make 11st. Which means the spring will probably be perfect for me). But, there are no 8.5kg springs that we can get hold of in time for the first race. So, we’re just going to ride it, and see how it feels. Hopefully it will feel a lot better with some damping once it’s been rebuilt.
Tyres. The wonderful people at Competition Logistics are supplying me with 2 pairs of slicks and a pair of inters. That should get us through the first race. Mind you, spending 600 quid on tyres in one go is a bit of a shock after years of TZR racing, where you don’t spend that much in a season. I’m looking forward to phoning them up and placing an order for 2.5K or so for the 24hr race. You never know, we might even get a discount. Of course, if anyone reading this wants to supply some tyres or money, please get in touch. Seriously. We have a partnership proposal worked out for any businesses that can help at all. Or if you just want to help with a couple of quid, pop along to the adopt-a-racer site and look me up there. Go on… It only costs a tenner a month. Less than a good curry.
Leathers have been finished by the lovely chaps at Hideout, and are, of course, lovely.
And I found a s/hand tank for thirty quid that will be sent off to the painters ready for our RWL colour scheme. We need some new bodywork for that as well, which I need to get ordered up soon. And I guess I’ll need to pay for the work on the shock.
An expensive couple of days…
Tuesday, 29th March
Another fruitful couple of hours spent in Sol’s workshop at the weekend. Firstly, the new disks were fitted to the spare wheels. The gearing was changed to something more likely to be useful at Snett (we were geared far too short during the practise session, so we put a couple of teeth on the front sprocket). The chainguard was fitted, the chain was shortened to suit the new swinging arm the oil was changed, yada yada. Lots of fiddly little things really, but they all needed doing. There are still several things that need to be done before we go out and play this weekend:
- Fit reconditioned shock when it arrives
- Refit bodywork, and bodge up a quick release for the seat unit
- Make a list of things to pack
- Find a marshal
- Make a pit board
Loads of stuff really. To add to our current list of mechanical mayhem, Sol’s trailer has given up the ghost. The roof fell off somewhere on the A11 last time we went to Snett! So, we’re back to my trusty old trailer, only it’s not a box trailer, so we have less room to pack.
On the positive side, I got loads of really nice chocolate for Easter.
Also on a positive note, EBC were great about the disks. They replaced them, no questions asked. Very good.