Practice report – Monday & Tuesday
A good start to the TT this year. As noted in my previous blog, preparations have been as crazy as always. Myself, Jo and Jack (spanner man) caught the 2am boat from Heysham on Friday morning before the newcomer and lightweight practice was due to start on Saturday. I sat smugly as the dock workers measured the length of my van/caravan combo, there was no way I was over length this time. Last year I had slightly underestimated my length (ooh err Mrs!) – by 2 metres! This year I’d booked half a metre over, as I thought anyway. They must have a new tape measure for this year as I was still 10cm short by their calculations, but they let us go anyway! So a reasonably smooth crossing followed with very little in the way of sleep.
We got to the paddock at about 7 am, it was absolutely packed! At one point the paddock security told me that I wouldn’t be able to put my awning up as there wasn’t room; what shall we do just leave the bikes out in the rain? We got sorted once I’d given my opinion on where we could park. I almost nodded off in the riders’ briefing later that afternoon, not because it was boring but, having basically been awake since 6am on Thursday morning, sitting in a warm, quiet room I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open. I held it together anyway and got signed on and my clothing checked ready for Monday night’s practice. James and Alasdair (team trucker) had caught the Thursday afternoon boat with the race truck. They had done a great job of getting the awning and bikes all set out and looking very professional, almost as if we know what we are doing!
We got a few finishing jobs sorted on the bikes and planned to head out to watch the first practice, as I wasn’t a newcomer or had a lightweight to ride. The weather called a cancellation to the session, which I’m sure all involved weren’t that disappointed with. It’s never great riding your first laps in patchy damp conditions.
The first night for everyone was Monday. Team owner, James Powell (he loves being called that!) and I decided that I would be best to run the superstock bike for the first night. It is the bike which I know the best; having the Maxton suspension in it, which I used in 2011, I was able to dial in my previous settings and things should be pretty good. I managed four laps on the bike, struggling with rider comfort more than anything else, as if riding flat out on a road course was ever going to be comfortable! The screen was a bit too low and I needed some more support at the back of the seat to hold me forward as I was wearing my arms out trying to hold on!
A reasonably non-eventful night followed, the bike performed well and aside from the highlighted issues above I was happy with the first night’s shake down. Going off the line next to British superbike front runner Josh Brookes I figured I’d let him go as he would probably pull time out on me along the section to Ballacraine with his superbike vs my superstock. As we hit the brakes for Ballacraine I was still with him and followed him through the section to Laurel Bank where he ran a bit wide and I passed him. There’s not many times in my life that I’m going to get to say that!
Ian Hutchinson passed me on the run to Ramsey and I managed to hang on to his shirt tails until the final part of the mountain, which I was pleased with. The night finished with a lap speed of 119 mph which I was slightly disappointed with if I’m honest! At the end of the day it was the first night and I had a good few things to sort on the bike, some of which could also be amended on the other bikes too so it had been a productive night.
Tuesday was spent working on the superstock bike, although the plan was to run the superbike first and then the 600 had its own session alongside the lightweights. I went off the line and the superbike felt just like being at home, even though I’d only ridden it in its current form for half a day at Anglesey a week ago. I’d put the taller screen on and changed the seat padding and it was about as comfortable as it was going to get. My first lap was good; 122 mph followed by my second of 124.2 mph, which is only 3 seconds from my personal best lap time and put me 13th in the superbike class overall. I was really pleased with the bike, we had set the gearing tall as we were unsure what it would pull with the extra power as we didn’t want to spend the night bouncing off the rev limiter. It was a bit over geared in the finish, sitting at around 12000 rpm down the long straights, where normally it revs out a couple of thousand revs higher. There is certainly more to come from the bike.
The supersport was like a breath of fresh air, after wrestling the big bike around it felt like someone had stolen the engine!!! For the first bit of the lap I struggled to get my head into the amount of abuse that the rider has to dish out to the engine on these bikes. It just doesn’t feel right squealing the motor everywhere, but if you don’t then you go nowhere fast! I managed to get three laps in on the 600, getting a little bit held up on my last lap meant my second lap was my fastest at 117.6 mph. Happy enough with that for my first time on the bike, as I know there is plenty more to come with a gearing change to do on this bike too.
Practice is due to continue tomorrow (Wednesday) night, although the weather looks like it may play its part again.
I’ll keep you posted.