Old blogs from the MGP - re-hosted from MySpace

manx grand prix 2007 - Day Eight

  08/26/07 14:45, by , Categories: MGP 2007

(again being written the morning after)

(and being written in double quick time as MySpace lost the first version)

Another Manx day.  I was up early, swapping the wheels out of the 636 to put in the 600 (which got oil all over its tyres yesterday).  Then up to Slick's, to fit bodywork, wheels, etc.  After this, Keith and I did a lap in the car with Gary Carswell, local TT rider, which was massively useful.

We were second out, after the Classics again, so we got away a little after 7pm.  I protected the engine a little on the way to Ballacraine, but it was fine, and I was having a good run.  But, on the way up the Mountain Mile, the fog/cloud came down, and then we really couldn't see very well.  Then all the marshalling posts were waving the yellow flags, and we came down the mountain at around 60mph.  Which makes my 101mph lap fairly respectable, I guess.

Then, as it was the end of practice week, we went down the pub...

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Manx Grand Prix 2007 - Day Seven

  08/25/07 14:44, by , Categories: MGP 2007

(this being written the morning after)

File under: "That's Racing"

As we didn't practice at all last night, there should have been nothing to do to the bikes.  Slick wanted to run them on the dyno to check the fuelling, so we popped up there, and he ran them up, and said they were fine (more later...).  But, one of the paddock stand bobbins on the 600 was at a jaunty angle, and Slick just reached down and broke it off with his hand!  So, back to the workshop, swingarm out, off to the welder (Phil Wall, who's the best welder/fabricator I've ever met) to fix, back in, job done.

We pushed the bikes thru scruting in bright sunshine, and it was going to be a good session.  The classics and ultra-lightweights (400s/125s) had the first session, so we didn't go until 7:30pm.  I set off alongside Phil McGurk, who's been doing 114mph all week - I fluffed it off the line, and he had 50 yards on me, but I was behind him before the braking zone for Quarterbridge; we both had to negotiate another slow starter, and then I easily passed him on the run up Ballahutchin.

The sun was directly in our eyes through the Greeba and Appledene section, but on the run out of Greeba Bridge down to Ballacraine I felt the engine just hold back a bit.  On arriving at Ballacraine there were oil flags out, and lots of cement dust down, and I got a bit of a slide on the way out, but then my foot slipped off the peg.  I was a bit cautious through the next couple of corners, and then looked down, and there was oil smoke coming up from the engine.  I slowed and stopped at Laurel Bank.  The bike sat in a puddle of oil.

Once roads opened, Mike came and picked me up in the van.  I'd already phoned Slick, and he said to bring the bike straight to the workshop, which we did.  Initially he thought maybe crankcase pressure had just caused the cam cover gasket to pop, but further investigation revealed a wrecked plug, which meant a melted piston.  So he dropped a new motor in (it took him about 2 hours, and that was working slowly for him!).  We ran the new engine up on the dyno a little after midnight (his workshop is a long way from any neighbours), with the ignition retarded a bit, and the fuelling set on the rich side for safety.  It still made 127bhp in the cool night air.

To bed at 1am.  Up at 8am this morning, cos there's lots to do...

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Manx Grand Prix 2007 - Day Six

  08/23/07 14:41, by , Categories: MGP 2007

One of those Manx days today...

I slept late - was really tired for some reason.  I then spent a couple of hours doing nothing worth mentioning on the bikes - a basic "nut and bolt" check, fibreglassing a hole in the bellypan of the 600 (in the same place as the on found by the scrutes on the 636 last night), fuelling them up (and measuring usage) etc etc.  But it passed a pleasant couple of hours.

Last night the weather closed in after the first session, meaning that the 'slower' bikes (the classics and the 400s/125s) didn't get out.  So this evening the two sessions were switched; this meant I wouldn't be going until 7:10pm (instead of 6:15pm).  On the drive over to Douglas from Ramsey, the cloud was pretty low over the mountain, so I guessed there was a far chance we wouldn't get out.  Still, we pushed the bike through scrutineering, and waited.

At 6:15, Martin Blackburn (deputy Clerk of the Course) came on the tannoy to announce that there was a window in the weather, and practice would start. The classics and the ultra lightweight classes went away, but after 15 minutes or so Martin came back on the tannoy to say that a sea mist had blown in over the west of the island, making conditions untenable for racing, and, as importantly, that the rescue helicopter couldn't fly there.  We waited for another hour or so, in the hope that conditions would improve, but at 8pm the practice session was abandoned.

Very deflating, but it happens.  Tomorrow there'll be no work to do on the bikes, so I'll go for a sighting lap in the car.

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Manx Grand Prix 2007 - Day Five

  08/22/07 14:39, by , Categories: MGP 2007

Had no 'real' work to do on the bikes today, which is a real luxury.  So I had a leisurely breakfast, gave Keith a hand with a couple of jobs on his 750, and then drove to my borrowed workshop, 1/2 mile across Ramsey.  I pulled the 636 out of the van, put it on the ramp and gave it a 'nut and bolt' check.  The bumps are so violent on the TT course that all sorts of things work loose, so you have to check after every session.  I didn't find anything untoward, but I obviously wasn't looking hard enough - of which more later.

Jan, Keith and I are taking it in turns to cook, so today I prep'd a pasta sauce, so we could heat it up when we got in.  And then it was lunchime, and we ate, and then headed to the paddock.  Today I'd arranged to meet Mike there, but just as I arrived he called to say he'd been ill all night, and all day, and couldn't make it.  I blame the track burger he had yesterday.  Anyway, this left me without a 'helper' (to carry stands, fit and remove tyre warmers, warm the engine, etc).  Fortunately Keith has a million friends in the paddock, and one of them, Tracy, was volunteered.  She did a stirling job - thanks Tracy.

Anyway, before this I pushed the bike through scrutineering - and the bike failed!  There was a hole in the bottom of the bellypan which wasn't there yesterday, so I was sent to the 'sin bin', where I quickly pulled the bellypan off and splashed some fibreglass over the hole. So, no drama really, but I really should have found and fixed this when I was checking the bike.  Oops.

The afternoon was very hot, and we were all bathed in sunshine; while this is bad enough in the (compulsory in pit lane) fireproof overalls, we knew it would be worse in leathers.  So I climbed into mine just 15 minutes before the start, and tried to keep in the shade. The roads closed at 6pm, and practice started only a few minutes after the scheduled time of 6:15.

I felt pretty relaxed tonight - I can't be getting used to this, can I?  Tracy helped me remove the tyre warmers and roll the bike off the stands, and then we rolled down to the start line two by two.  As usual I beat my starting partner off the line (the 636 is so fast!) and headed down Bray Hill.  I had two good laps, but something was different - I wasn't catching people like I have the last two nights.  In fact, I only overtook 3 people; on the plus side, no one overtook me.  But, I was feeling slightly apprehensive we I checked my times in the race office, and I was right - my two laps were 111 and 112mph.  Going slower than last night was not in the plan!

Still, things could be worse - racing mate Keith took two bikes out this evening, and broke both of them!  The 750 had a slipping clutch, so he did one lap and then swapped to his 600, which chose to have an electrical failure at the 32nd milestone.  That's racing, as they say.

When I got home, I checked the full results, and cheered up - tho my '112' was slower than last nights '113', it turns out I was only 2 seconds slower (the difference between 112.892mph and 113.068mph).  And, more importantly, I was still 7th fastest, maintaining my presence in the top 10.  Also, I felt much more comfortable and relaxed on the bike this evening, meaning I can do that sort of pace without working so hard - in fact, despite the heat, I was a lot less hot and sweaty when I came in.  So, there's more to come.  Positive mental attitude is all!

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Manx Grand Prix 2007 - Day Four

  08/21/07 14:36, by , Categories: MGP 2007

Awoke to bright sunshine, which is always good when racing.  The forecast is for good weather (well, dry, at least) for the rest of practice week.

Not much to do to the bikes - put some fresh tyres on the 636, as the part-worns on there were sliding a bit too much for comfort last night.  The 600 hasn't turned a wheel yet, of course, as I just did two laps on the 636 last night.  I then drove over to Slick Bass's workshop, and met Mike the Mechanic there, and we discussed how we might adjust out the handling issues I had (too much weight transfer on the brakes, and too unstable on the bumps).  Slick diagnosed it as the attitude being a bit front biased, so I raised the yokes 2mm on the forks.  Yes, 2mm, that's all.

So, then into what is already a routine of driving to the paddock, queuing up to get the bikes scrutineered, etc. Having fresh rubber on (and having been out-psyched by almost all the other top 30 riders using them), I took the tyre warmers today. 

The plan was to do one lap on the 636, and then swap to the 600 for a second lap.  I'm not sure if I've explained before, but riders running numbers 1 to 30 get 'seeded' and get out in practice first.  This is dead useful, because the only traffic you might find yourself in is people that ought to be reasonably quick. And, of course, you get away early - with over a 100 bikes to send off, in pairs at 10 second intervals, you can end up waiting quite a while.

Yesterday I'd felt bizarrely chilled out and relaxed - very unlike me before going on track.  Today my normal tension was back, which is probably a good thing.  The clock ticked round, and practice started very nearly on time, and soon enough I was away.  I beat the guy next to me away from the line, and got to the bottom of Bray Hill first, but he pushed through on the run to Quarter Bridge.  A bit keen, I thought.  I kept in touch with him through Bradden and Union Mills, and wound him in on the long straights after that, nipping past on the run to Crosby.  Blow me if he didn't tuck past again on the fast left into Greeba Castle.  I though "fair enough mate, if you want it that much you can have it".  Turns out it was Mats Nilsson, the Swedish rider who very nearly won the newcomer's race last year.  I hung on to him for a bit, but we caught some traffic through the Glen Helen section, and by the time I was past them he'd gone.

The rest of the lap was fairly uneventful, and I definitely felt much more relaxed than yesterday.  The bike was much improved on the brakes and over the bumps, so that 2mm adjustment really was all that was needed.  I pulled in at the end of the lap, and Mike had the 600 waiting, with tyre warmers off and engine warmed up, so I was straight out on that.

The 600 makes 5bhp more than the 636 on the dyno, but revs higher to make it, so the engine characteristics are quite different.  I rode this bike at the Jurby Road meeting in July, and the chassis settings are the same as then, so I was confident it would work on the TT course. And so it turned out, tho it did feel a little 'lose' compared to the 636 - this will be partly down to running used tyres (compared to the new ones on the 636), but we may tweak it a little for tomorrow. The bike is a little harder to ride, as the power is concentrated more at the top, but once wound up it really flies.

After arriving safely back at the paddock, we got the times - 113mph on the 636, and 111mph on the 600.  This places me 7th in the Senior and 9th in the Junior, so obviously I'm pretty pleased with this.

[I used to have links to the full timing sheets on www.iommgp.com, but that domain is long gone now]

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