We’ll have to cut it wonky!!
Since my last blog, racing preparations have reached fever pitch. James of Infront motorcycles (www.ifm-moto.com) and I spent a day travelling the country a few weeks ago. After dropping the race bike with Zero One for its new vinyl wrap clothes to be applied we carried on to AM Leathers for a made-to-measure fitting. Steve, owner of AM, took one look at me and asked which collarbone I’d broken previously. I stripped to my t shirt and let the measuring commence, the inside leg bit was my favourite! A close second was showing off the “guns” when they were measured, I normally keep them holstered you see! Once he had finished Steve announced that my suit would have to be cut wonky, due to my no longer symmetrical shoulders, by over an inch. At that moment I felt really special!
The second of the Oset trials which I organise locally for the kids has also been and gone since my last blog update. On the Friday afternoon before the event set for the Sunday I find myself taking half a day off work to mark the sections out; alone except for the occasional cow, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, clearing thorny bushes and talking to myself. “Will the easy route be ok doing that turn?” “Is that barbed wire fence too close?” “Surely they’ll be ok doing that?” etc etc. I wondered what the bloody hell I was doing there a good few times!
Jo sorted out the paperwork side of things ready to input the results on the day. There was also a minor panic the night before when assembling the medals to give to the kids at the finish I found that they didn’t fit the lanyards supplied! I found another way around this problem as opposed to spending an evening drilling each mounting hole bigger! Come Sunday it was all worth it. 16 kids turned up, the sun shone and everyone had a great time. Jo sorted the results out within twenty minutes of the finish and we had a presentation for the top three in each class which went down really well. The whole day had a great atmosphere. For those wanting to see what it’s all about I’ve uploaded a short video of the trial onto the Infront website, www.ifm-moto.com That’ll be two mentions of the website in three paragraphs boss! The quality of the video is great on my ipad but once uploaded it turns a bit hazy. I’ve always been more of a hammer and throttle kind of guy so if anyone has advice on this I’d be happy to hear it.
Back to racing, James and I had dropped the second bike, which I shall be using to carry out one-to-one track tuition on, at the vinyl wrappers. The race bike remained gloomily in the corner of the workshop, just a frame and wiring loom. Time was marching on, we awaited the engine’s return from RLR Motorsport from its refresh and various chassis bearings to land for their respective suppliers. The instructor bike and second bodykit came back, looking awesome after its vinyl wrapping, from Zero One on the Sunday before the first Wirral 100 meeting. At this point the race bike was still in many pieces and it was decided to use the instructor bike for the first meeting but with the suspension from the race bike fitted for familiarity. I got to work on Monday swapping the forks and shock alongside prepping the bike ready for a shakedown at Oulton Park on Wednesday.
Wednesday went well with no surprises from the bike or myself. Having not sat on a race bike since the Anglesey Grand in October I was expecting to be a bit rusty but jumping on board the Suzuki felt immediately like home once again. Half way through the day James got a call from RLR to advise that the engine for the race bike was now ready. We really needed to put some miles on the race bike to get it ready for – the ultimate goal – the TT so the plan changed again! I headed from the track mid-afternoon back to the unit, in Chester, and swapped the suspension from the instructor bike to the race bike frame (again!). I loaded the rolling chassis into the van and headed to RLR, with willing volunteer Jack, the following morning.
After an early start, once there we fitted the engine at RLR’s workshop. Ricky Leddy then did some dyno runs and made some fuelling alterations. Friday was spent putting the rest of the race bike together, trimming/drilling bodywork etc etc. I finished it off at the unit around 6pm and headed to Anglesey to run the engine during the test day on Saturday. All in all a pretty busyweek in which not much paying work was completed!
Saturday started wet at Anglesey, which was a good opportunity to get some gentle miles on the freshly rebuilt engine. Even once it dried out I took it reasonably easy on the motor for the whole day, I knew that I had a ball park setting for the bike so pulling the engine’s pants down all day wasn’t really a necessity. I also took the new ACU licence applicants on track assessments alongside three other ACU instructors. It was interesting and good to be able to put a little something back into a sport which has given me so much. The new riders all performed well, part of the assessment includes practice of the warm up lap and start procedure. The first of which didn’t go quite to plan, as the red light came on one guy dumped the clutch, everyone else panicked and went too with one going vertical and sooooo nearly flipping over backwards! The second attempt went much better!
Sunday’s weather turned out dry and bright with, miraculously, no wind. I set out in first qualifying, pushing from the off the bike was struggling a little for rear traction. Some minor shock changes were made during the session. I was pleased to go into pole position with a laptime just under 1m09. I hadn’t managed to log a sub 1m09 for a few years so things were looking good. Some further shock alterations were made before the first race. I got a good start but missed third gear going into the first corner so lacked drive out getting mugged back to third place into turn two. Jonny Blackshaw put a great race together and impressively set a 1m08.00 to take the win and the coastal circuit lap record. I passed David Jones, who was having a good first ride on a 1000, in the latter stages to take second place.
Further damping and ride height changes were made, rear grip was a big improvement especially from the mid corner in the second race. I stuck with Jonny this time, see-sawing from his rear tyre I was never close enough to make a pass. Setting my personal best time of 1m08.2 I was making good progress and took second place. Getting beaten by this pesky kid who was better at me at wheelies too was beginning to get frustrating though! With the bike making such good progress I went further in the same direction with the setting of the rear shock. Unfortunately I appeared to have gone past the ‘sweet spot’ and was back to wrestling a motorbike for the final race of the day. I got a good first lap in, passing David Jones, to take the lead at Rocket I managed to hold him off until the chequered flag to take the victory. My difficulty with traction showed in the lap times though, only managing a 1m08.9 in that race.
All in all a good start to the season, many a plot has been made since to improve the rear grip issues. Hopefully I’ll have something sorted for the next Wirral meeting at Oulton Park towards the end of April. From there our next outing is the TT for which my rider numbers have come through. 25 in the big bike classes and 28 in supersport. I’m hoping that the supersport bike that I have been offered on loan can go ahead. I still need to raise the funds to run it! The bike is an ex-British championship Suzuki 600, on loan from a friend, on the basis that I rebuild the motor on return. Regulars to this blog may remember the last time I had a bike on generous loan like this. After posting my best ever TT finish (2011 supersport, 9th place) the motor let go in the second race, throwing a rod through the crankcases in various places. I ended up buying the broken bike from the owner as it was a cheaper option than replacing the very high spec engine! I need to make sure that this eventuality is covered this time, hoping for the best doesn’t always work.
I’m looking forward to running another Oset trial this Sunday (6th April). Aside from that I reckon that’s about all of the news!