Snetterton Thundersport GB Report

I’ve been slowly getting back to normality after the TT, back to the day job and summing up the event. The stand out moment for me, aside from the racing, was when I was walking through the paddock one day I passed a few kids chatting. On my way past I heard one whisper to the the other “that’s Ian Mackman”. Recognition at last!!!!

I had a two week break until the next round of Thundersport GB at Snetterton. Mostly this was spent flat out working evenings in the garage. The TT really does take its toll on the bike! The headbearings were all but shattered, clutches in both engines worn/warped, the bodywork looked like I’d been on a WW2 bombing raid etc etc. My enthusiasm had waived slightly too, coming back from the the TT to look forward to a 4hr drive to race at Snetterton never seems that appealing.

Jo, Ann and Ted set off for the circuit on Friday morning and I followed down after work on Friday night. I’d missed the test day, but know the circuit reasonably well so wasn’t overly concerned. My only worry was going straight into qualifying with no free practice to set the gearing etc.

Saturday started dry but really windy, qualifying went well. The new clutch in the bike wasn’t working well, biting very close to the bar and lacking free play. It’s something that I’ve always had issues with on this particular engine (remember THAT stall from the line on the first night of TT practice!). With a really heavy tailwind the bike was on the limiter a couple of hundred yards from the braking point at the end of the back straight. I was happy with how I rode, getting back into short circuit scratching again. Slamming the bike around isn’t something which comes naturally after a fortnight’s racing at the TT. I qualified fifth on the grid 1 second from pole, knowing that come the race I would have improved the bike and be riding it better too.

Between qualifying and the first race I stripped the clutch, lowered the rear ride height and changed the gearing. The clutch proved a bit of an issue, I decided to swap the complete basket assembly from the engine with good clutch feel. Unfortunately I lacked a clutch basket holding tool, cue several failed attempts to get the clutch centre nut undone using various compressors and windy guns (thanks to Jamie Devine and Tom McHale for the loan). I decided to give it up as a bad job and built the clutch pack up with a different pack height to see if it would make a difference.

The clutch was a minor improvement for the race, probably more that I’d gotten used to it than anything else. I got a reasonable start and more or less held my position, battling with Alex Heaton, Mike Dickinson etc. Phil Crowe took a heavy fall on the second lap. I pressed on eventually passing Mike when he ran on at the end of the straight. Then I used the speed of my Kawasaki to pass Alex, it is pretty fast! I set the fastest lap and a Thundersport lap record to catch up with Pete Baker who was leading. Getting good drive onto the back straight for the last time I was close enough at the end of the straight to get around the outside into the left hander. This put me too tight into the right, I knew that Pete would be able to square it off and out drive me to the bomb hole so I tried to just park it in the mid-corner, a vain attempt to halt his move. It didn’t work and he passed me on the run to the bomb hole to take the win with me a close second. A great race, shame I didn’t win but close, safe racing is what it’s all about.

That afternoon I decided, with a bit of time on my hands, to fit the other engine. The engine in the frame had done the whole TT so I’d always planned to swap it back but just ran out of time on the run up to Snetterton. With my clutch issues too, which I wanted to see if the clutch basket was the problem or not. Jo and I lifted the motor in (bad back love?) finishing the job around 7pm. I sent Ted and Ann to the prize giving to collect my trophy. Ted loved the attention apparently, waving his trophy and clapping (a star of the future?).

It rained pretty much all night and the wind was blowing a gale too. Showers blew through for most of the morning and the track stayed wet for warm up and the first race. Almost unsurprisingly the clutch was still rubbish but I got a good enough start. I took it too easy in the early stages of the race letting Pete Baker get a gap on me, setting a faster lap time later in the race but, I was unable to make any real dent into the lead which he had got on me. Finishing in second place in a relatively uneventful race.

The last race was a corker, I hole shotted the start, getting passed onto the back straight (the only place I seemed to be weak all weekend was getting onto the two straights). I hung onto the back wheel of Dickinson for a few laps until getting passed by Baker onto the back straight. Another couple of laps passed with us all within a blanket throwing space. Dickinson hit a false neutral and ran on at the end of the back straight leaving Baker and I to duke it out. I pushed hard and had a look around the outside a couple of times in Coram curve, a move which was somewhere between brave and stupid! I decided to find a better spot to make a pass. The only other place I was close enough was into the first corner or the hairpin onto the back straight. I was struggling with front end grip when hard on the brakes so the hairpin would not have been a good choice. I got great drive onto the pit straight for the penultimate time and drafted half way alongside Pete by the time we were at the start line. Diving through, in one of the old “I’ll brake after he does” type moves I got into the lead. Running a bit wide on the way out and having to stay out of the throttle for just long enough to let Pete back past into the hairpin, he ran a bit wide but I had no answer with the following kink being a left onto the straight there was no way through. We both went for it on the final lap, I lost the rear exiting the right hander before the bomb hole and ended up second again at the flag. A good, close but fair race once again! I left the circuit happy with how both I and the bike are performing. Also holding the lap record too, so all in all a pretty good weekend. With me missing the last round whilst at the TT I trail in the championship, by 69 points, in third position.

A minor gearbox problem now needs sorting before the next round.  I stripped the cassette (thanks very much Kawasaki) gearbox from the bike in about an hour the other night. This revealed that 3rd/5th gear dogs are looking a little worse for wear so I’ll get this sorted for the next outing at Rockingham at the end of July. Oh and fix the bloody clutch once and for all too!


Ian Mackman