Anglesey Race Report

My cycling fitness routine has stepped up once again; having entered the inaugural Etape Mercia – a 70 mile closed roads cycle event in August – I figured that increasing my weekly mileage on the run up to the event would be a good move. I started taking the scenic route to work, from Runcorn through Delamere Forest, out to Tarporley/Beeston/Tattenhall and on to Chester. 32 miles to work in the morning and then the direct route, 14 miles home in the evening 3 times a week I reckoned would be enough.

After my last report that I’d become a sex symbol for the Cheshire over 50s (having been leered at by a fellow, slightly crazy, cyclist in Sutton Weaver) I’d had a reasonably uneventful month on the push bike until last week. Riding through Frodsham listening to my ipod and pressing on hard to get home at a decent hour I stopped at the same set of traffic lights as the last incident. “Excuse me” came from the open window of the car which had pulled up alongside. I pulled a headphone out and looked across, a mid-forties nurse turned out to be the source of the approach (the age-group seems to be coming down folks!). She followed up with “You were doing over 20 miles an hour back there, that’s pretty good going, I couldn’t do that, well done!” “Well thanks very much, I do try!” was about the only thing I could think to say as the lights changed to green and we both carried on our journey. I can only conclude that my animal magnetism must be enhanced by cycle wear, only God knows what will turn up at the Sutton Weaver traffic lights next time!

After a short break following a successful Thundersport GB meeting at Oulton Park Barry Ikin and Shaun Boyle were happy to let me ride the Rojac/Opas Energy Fireblade at a few more meetings this season. I looked through the calendar and picked a couple of events at Anglesey. The Wirral 100  Club were running their regular summer meeting in July – data gained here would help me in another meeting on my radar, the Anglesey Grand in October. I collected the bike from Shaun and sorted a few bits out in preparation. Setting up on Friday night, the usual gang were in attendance, Jo, Ann, Ted and new addition Jack to help with the spanners. I set out for timed practice and was again really pleased with the Fireblade, it’s like sitting in an armchair in comparison to my ZX10 that I campaigned last season. Finishing the session I’d qualified on pole but noted that the front tyre, new at the start of the session, had seen better days and was tearing on the shoulder. I was also having some ground clearance issues, dragging the belly pan and my toes all over the place.

Fitting a harder compound front tyre for the first race and making some changes to the ride height I hoped would sort a few minor issues. I got the hole shot off the line and pushed on, winning the race and setting a new Powerbike lap record in the process. The ground clearance problem was all but sorted although the front tyre problem was still present. Oddly whilst riding the bike the front tyre felt great and consistent for the whole race but, once back in the paddock, on inspection it was tearing quite heavily. Dunlop tyres do seem to do this though, if the suspension isn’t quite right the tyre sacrifices itself to the cause giving great grip until it is completely ruined. Clearly this was an issue that needed sorting, ¾ ruining a front tyre in 7 laps of Anglesey wasn’t a great position to be in. The bike also wanted to run wide mid-corner too so I reckoned that the front was sitting a bit high and not pressing the tyre into the tarmac hard enough. I lessened the front preload and removed some oil from both fork legs to try and get it to sit down further.

The second race went well, getting the hole shot once again and winning the race, I set a time only a few thousandths off my best from the first race. The tyre issue had marginally improved, as had the running wide fault. I changed the ride height again, to put more weight onto the front tyre again for the last race of the day. The changes again, improved the bike but the front tyre was pretty much finished so there wasn’t much to be learned regarding it’s longevity. I won the race but the lap time was slightly off my previous two times.

It rained for most of Saturday night but fortunately dried up for Sunday, a slightly stronger breeze kept the lap times just off the record breaking pace on Saturday. Again I won the first race, some more minor changes didn’t massively improve the issue but did improve the feel from the bike. As I wasn’t the only rider having front tyre issues myself and tyre guru James  of Infront Motorcycles, Chester reckoned that it was just a compound/track surface incompatibility issue. I’d altered just about everything on the bike and hadn’t really altered the tear problem. Different compound tyres for the next Anglesey meeting I reckon!

The second race of the day was the best of the weekend. I got a good start but Angelo Derosa passed me into the banked hairpin on the first lap. I pressed on behind him for a few laps, he was obviously trying hard and ran wide a few times. Around lap four I got great drive out of Church onto the back straight, getting alongside Angelo up the hill but I was left with the outside line into Rocket and he quickly got by on the brakes again. I got back up the inside exiting the right hander down into the Corkscrew but again was left with the outside line into the left turn and had to give up the lead again. I got better drive out of Church on the following lap and took the lead by enough to pick my line into Rocket so held off Angelo, a lap later the yellow flags were out at the corkscrew, Angelo had lost the front in the right hander, but was fortunately unhurt. I went on the take my fifth win of the weekend.

The final race of the day was an open race, mixing 1000/600 machines together. Some quick lads were out in the 600 class and the track suits a well ridden small bike to be honest. Jamie Harris beat me to the first corner on his R6 but using the superior power of the Fireblade I breezed past on the back straight and headed the race to the flag. I took my time a bit in the last race as I was concerned about the front tyre giving up and I didn’t fancy a front end lowside myself! All in all a good weekend racing, some valuable data was gained and six out of six wins can’t be bad. Once again I must thank Barry and Shaun for the use of the Bike and their sponsors Opac Energy and Rojac.

My next outing is still a little undecided, I’d planned to compete in the Thundersport GB event at Anglesey but I may now be away giving paddock support at the Manx GP. If that doesn’t happen then I’ll definitely be back for the Anglesey Grand in October.

 New Beginnings

Other news this month is that, after seven and a half years as Service Manager at Bill Smith Motors, I have worked my notice and left. I’d been in discussions with James Powell, who has spannered for me for as many years as I’ve known him, about making a move to his growing business Infront Motorcycles, Chester for a long time. Having returned from the TT and settled back into the old routine, I looked around at what prospects I had at work; being honest with myself I couldn’t see much changing. So a move into something with some variety seemed like the best thing to do. Infront Motorcycles are heavily involved in trackday and race tyres/suspension/spares/bike building etc all of which fit right in with my biggest interest.

James is also really keen, as am I, to start up one-to-one track tuition. I have instructed with the Ron Haslam race school in the past and really enjoyed it, these days I have much more experience both on the bike and with regards to suspension setup. It’s taken me a long time (and a lot of money!) to learn but I know that I can pass on some of this to others. A new challenge and something I’m really excited to get involved with.

Infront Motorcycles will also have a big presence at the Manx GP this season, I will be there with them to offer advice on the circuit/suspension or will just be a calming influence to anyone who asks (I have been the novice jacketed newbie myself after all!). Aside from the racing side of things I’ll be spannering at the Infront Motorcycles HQ, so far I’ve worked on everything from a SYM scooter to a RGV250 to a race spec Fireblade (and I’ve only been there a week!). So if you need service/repairs/MOT/tyres/suspension set up or anything else motorcycle related pop in and see us in action at River Lane, Saltney, Chester.

Wish me luck guys, I’ll keep you posted.


Posted: August 1, 2013

Ian Mackman