Category: "TT2014"

Chain stops play

May 26th, 2014

Day 4 - Sunday 25th May

After Saturday's cancelled practice, and the resultant trip to the pub, we woke up slightly muzzy headed on Sunday morning.  But that soon faded, and we were back at work again.  Today's jobs included:

  • Attend 'technical briefing' at 9am
  • Fit the (newly compulsory) rear light to the ZX10R
  • Get both bikes run on the pit dyno (another mandatory requirement)
The briefing was ok, if a little long, but it made a bit of a joke of the new rear light regulation.  This has been in place for national and internation racing for a year, and is actually useful for wet races where visibility can be significantly reduced, mostly due to the amount of spray a modern wet tyre can generate.  Given that the TT will never be run in the rain again, it seems a little silly to have the regulation here.  Worse, the TT reg says that the light must be capable of being switched on and off by the rider while seated on the bike.  But there is no mechanism to tell riders to turn lights on or off (in the absence of a new 'lights on flag...), so the briefing announced the logical conclusion that the lights have to be on all the time, for every lap, no matter the weather.  Which means there's no real need for them to be switchable.  Still, ours not to reason why...
All the solo classes this year have to be dyno'd, mostly to check for cheating.  For the Superstocks, this makes some sense, as they are, after all, meant to be stock(ish). However, for the Superbikes, Supersports (600s) and Lightweigths (650 twins), the dyno test is meant to check that the regulated mazimum rev limit is not exceeded.  Given that rev limits are controlled entirely by software nowadays, there's nothing to stop an unscrupulous team dialing down the rev limit for the mandatory dyno run, and then just dialling it back up again aftwards.  Still, rules are rules.  Our bikes both got done on Sunday morning, and were fine. 
We were checking over the ZX10R after the dyno run and found that the regulator/rectifier was getting very hot in its current location.  This is moved from the road bike, due to the kit loom that I'd fitted (with the kit ECU), and we decided that we had to bite the bullet and make a proper mounting plate to mount it properly in the air flow.  Which Alex and Simon did admirably, and there was soon a very professional looking bracket above the gear box sprocket with the reg/rect safely mounted in the airflow.
Remounted reg/rec
We had a quiet evening, with no alochol for me, and turned in.

Day 5 - Monday 26th May

This would be the new first day of practice, after the loss of of Saturday evening.  The only real job was to get fresh tyres on the ZX10R, which the nice men at CompLog soon sorted, and then with a few last minute checks (oil the chain, fit the transponder, etc), the bike was ready for scrutineering, which opened at 4pm.  The sun was out from mid-morning, and it was a glorious day.  The queue for scrutineering was enormous, but Simon and Alex looked after the bike while I put stands, fuel, tyre warmers etc in Parc Ferme, and we were soon through (another clean pass with no 'observations' from the scrutineer) and the bike was on its stands, tyre warmers on and full of fuel, ready to roll.  An hour and half before the start of practice.  It was clearly too soon to put my leathers on, so I busied myself getting my hands taped up (to prevent blisters) by Isla at Scott Physiotherapy, re-read my course notes, ate a banana, drank lots of energy drink and generally wasted time the best I could. Soon enough I was in my leathers in Parch Ferme, with over 100 other riders (and near 200 bikes), and the atmosphere was tremendous.  Practice got away about 20 minutes late (not bad for the first night), and after a few minutes I was on the ramp out to the track, and heading off with another rider (in practice, you go off in pairs).  
I was a bit quicker off the mark, and led away down Brayhill. I went from being very edgy and nervous to feeling very relaxed - as always, this (riding bikes) is what I do, it's what I am.  My starting partner nipped past me on the brakes at Quarterbridge, and I ws happy to sit behind him and follow him for a while.  I think he may have been on a 600, as I found it very easy to wind him in on most of thr straights, and after closing right up in the Glen Helen section, I passed him easily along Cronky Voddy straight.  The bike felt just great - moving around a bit, but nothing scary, and certainly not fighting me like last year.  By Ballaugh I could see two other bikes ahead, which is always good news as it means you've caught people up.  Around here (I think) Olie Linsdell came past, and he only crept away from me very slowly, so I judged that my pace wasn't far off his.  And he's properly quick!  But, it was still just the very first lap of practice week.
And then....coming out of Ramsey Hairpin, I short-shifted to second gear, and the bike didn't accelerate.  I coasted to a halt, and looking down I saw that the chain had broken.  Damn.  So I spent the next 2 hours watching practice, and then Alex and Simon came and picked me up in the van, and we returned to the paddock, to fight another day.
So, bad news that I didn't even complete a lap, but good news that the bike and I felt so good.  But feeling good is nothing, the only real judge is the stopwatch, so tomorrow I need to get my sector times for the bit that I did do, and see what sort of pace I was actually running.

Rain stops play

May 24th, 2014

It's our third day on the Isle of Man, and so far things have been pretty Manx...

Day 1 - Thursday 22nd May

I met Simon and we took my car to Heysham.  The M6 was dull, which is about the best thing you can say about it.  We arrived at the port nicely in time, to find that just about every other vehicle queuing for the boat was either a race van or a motorhome.  I'd planned ahead and taken everything I needed across to the Island a couple of weeks before.  We had an ordinary crossing, and on disembarking went to Ramsey, collected Keith's van and the keys for the lockup, went to the lockup and loaded the van with everything needed to pitch camp, then back to the paddock to set up.  By the time we got there it was 8pm, leaving an hour or so of daylight to erect a tent we'd never seen before.  The paddock was already pretty crowded, and the only pitch we could find which was big enough for our awning plus tent was in Paddock D, a fair way from Parc Ferme.  Still, it wasn't a bad pitch.  We eventually made sense of the tent which Alex had bought from eBay, and had also never seen erected.  Alex was on a later boat that docked at 10pm, and timed his arrival nicely with all the work being completed.  We went down to Douglas prom and found some food, and then turned in for the night.

Day 2 - Friday 23rd May

A busy day.  We had to make two runs to the lockup, the first to get all the tools and spares (including two hydraulic benches) and the second to get the actual motorcycles.  We also went to B&Q and got enough sheets of OSB to lay under the rola-trac flooring for the awning to keep the floor level.  We quickly got the awning looking professional, and then Alex and Simon went to get the bikes while I went to sign on, get my riding kit scrutineered and attend the riders briefing.  This took most of the afternoon!

The grreenest awning

Having got the awning and tent set for two weeks habitation, we had to make several trips to Shoprite, each new trip to get the thing we'd forgotten previously ("Have we got a tin opener?" D'oh).  Simon cooked a fabulous chili with rice, then we popped over to Ramsey to see Keith & Rebecca briefly.  Then an early night after a long and busy day.

Day 3 - Saturday 24th May

This is the first scheduled day of practice.  This first session is limited to Newcomers and Lightweights (650 twins), so we only had to have the Kawasaki ER6 ready - the ZX10R wouldn't be out until Monday.  The main job was to rig up a rear light, which is a new regulation for this year (in case of bad visibility; never mind the fact that the bikes never go out on the course if there is bad visibility...).  We had an LED bicycle light which uses a 12v supply, which Alex and Simon professionally fitted to the bike, with a (illuminated!) switch under the seat unit.  Meanwhile, I busied myself putting stickers on the rather bare bikes.  Well before scrutineering opened at 16:45, the 650 was ready.  We had time to stroll about in the sun (sun!) and have a coffee. I also had time to visit the wonderful Isla Scott at the Scott Physiotherapy tent and get the muscle I'd pulled in my back two weeks ago sorted.  Which she did, beautifully.

The boys took the bike up to scrut'ing and it sailed through.  After being very relaxed all day, I finally started to get a touch of the nerves that one really ought to have before racing on the TT course.  I sorted my visors and riding kit, and read through my course notes (a constantly evolving description of every corner on the course). And then the rain started, intermittently at first.  Clerk of the Course, Gary Thompson came on the tannoy to say that the forecast was for it to 'blow through', but it just got heavier and heavier, and eventually the announcement came that the practice was to be abandoned.  The next practice is Monday evening, so we shrugged and cracked open a beer.

Such is the nature of racing on the Isle of Man, and there's not much point getting upset about it.

Last short circuit meeting before TT 2014

May 13th, 2014

And so here we are, the last short circuit meeting before the TT.  Just 2 weeks before, in fact, so I and a number of other competitors were 'being careful' - a crash here could put paid to months of planning and work.

I was also taking the opportunity of taking a van for the weekend with everything bulky I needed for the TT - two hydraulic benches, a fridge for the tent (tastefully signwritten with "Stella Artois" on the front), tools, spares, compressor, etc etc.  First job on arrival on Saturday afternoon was to offload this lot into the lockup I share with Keith, then fit the freshly resprayed (and, er, still a little soft) bodywork to the 650, collect the ZX10R from Slick (where it had the lovely new Yoshi exhaust fitted, and the injection remapped to take some of the bite off the initial throttle response).  And then we went to the circuit and parked the van and set up the awning to reserve some space.
Chris Foster was across for this meeting, still feeling pretty second-hand following his road crash a couple of months ago.  But a second-hand Fozzy is as good as most people brand-new, and so it turned out.  It was great to share racing bullshit and stories over dinner with Chris again.
The forecast was for "damp, drying up, with occasional showers", and so it turned out.  We arrived to a damp but drying track, and despite a worrisome shower at lunchtime, we never rode anything but a dry track.  Practice went ok, in fact surprisingly well for me (I'm usually pretty average in practice) :
- 11th on the ZX10R in the Open (1:14.4)
- 4th on the 650 in Singles/twins/triples (1:16.1)
- 2nd on the 650 in the 650 twins (1:13.3)
That 3 seconds between the 2nd & 3rd practice sessions, on the same bike, shows that it seems to take a while for me to get my race pace together.
First race : 1300cc Open
The shower at lunchtime caused the whole of the open grid to stare at the track, look at tyres, look at the heavens, then look back at the track, but in the end it was dry.  I got my usual decent start, and then, as in the last meeting, found that I was a bit lonely - the 7 people in front of me were doing 1:10s or faster, I was doing 1:12s, and the people behind we doing 1:13s or slower. The main entertainment was provided by Ryan Kneen, who'd run onto the grass at the first corner, and was fighting his way through the pack from plum last.  He passed me at speed two laps from the end, and immediately ran onto the grass again.  I waved him back in front, and he proceeded to run off the track *three* more times in front of me! Still, the main reason to be on the big bike today was to see if Slick had sorted the fuelling, which had been causing the bike to push and run wide when I went from a closed to just open throttle on corner entry.  And it was mostly fixed.  I had one slide at the bus-stop, but a 20mph corner in 1st gear on a 193bhp Superbike is always going to be troublesome. I brought it home happily enough after 8 fairly lonely laps:
Result: 8th place
Best lap: 1:12.6
Second race: Singles / twins / triples
This was the race that I was hoping to clock decent points in, but it went a bit wrong.  I was away in 4th or 5th place, but soon made my way up to 2nd.  I followed Dean Osbourne for a lap or so, and noted I had a bit of speed on him through the chicane.  So the next lap I made my move, carrying the speed through the chicane and moving alongside for paddock bend.  As I hit the brakes, cleanly on the inside, I saw the stationery yellow flag being held on the corner.  D'oh. Once round the corner I sat up and gestured for Dean to come back pass, but of course we were still under yellows.  The incident itself was at the next corner, and then we were under green and racing again.  I should have let Dean past here, I guess, but I didn't.  So I raced on, and crossed the line in 1st place.  Only to be handed a 10 second penalty, which relegated me to 5th.  Curses.  I went to talk to the Clerk of the Course, not to complain but just to put my side of the story.  I'd been committed to the move, and by the time I was on the corner with the flag, it was done.  And I tried to give up the place.  But to no avail.
Result; 5th place
Best lap: 1:14.3
Third race: 650 twins
It was in this race that young Nathan Harrison (and he really is young) seemed to find something special.  He just cleared off, beating last year's champion Callum Collister by 5 seconds.  Unheard of!  I ended up scrapping for places, and everyone else seemed to have found an extra gear too, with Dean Osborne and Lee Derbyshire in 3rd and 4th posting 1:13s, beating my best of 1:14.  Where had my pace gone - a look at the rear tyre back in the paddock showed where - the rear was cooked.  Ho hum, it would be replaced for the TT, but it had two more races to do yet.
Result: 5th place, 
Best lap : 1:14.1
Fourth Race : 1300cc Open 
This was looking to be another repeat of the lonely first race, until Dave Moffet tucked past me on the way into the corner at the end of the back straight with 3 laps to go.  Dave is riding in the TT as well, so was extremely polite on his way past.  As was I, as I breezed back past his 600 down the straight the following lap.  He showed me a wheel again, which I (still politely) fended off, but on the last lap, he made it stick.  It was fun all the same.
Result : 8th place
Best lap : 1:12.7
Fifth Race : Singles / twins / triples
Another rout for Nathan Harrison, who won by 9 seconds.  I was definitely in "let's just get a place" mode now, and the back tyre was moving around a fair bit, so I brought it home in 4th, another 6 seconds behind the battle for 2nd and 3rd
Result: 4th place
Best lap : 1:14.4
Sixth Race: 650 twins
I almost didn't go out in this, as I was worried about something silly happening.  But I decided I could keep it upright and get some points safely enough.  Callum Collister was obviously stung by Nathan Harrison's win in the first twins race, and stamped his authority on this race with a win by 12 seconds and a class record lap of 1:11.4.  Which is a pretty amazing lap. I was 12 seconds further down on Nathan, but in 3rd place all the same, which was more than I expected.  About 3 corners from the end Lee Derbyshire showed me a wheel, and on the next corner, trying to fend him off, I had a proper big slide from the back tyre.  It was cooked, but I kept the place, and some useful points.
So that's the day - six starts, six decent finishes, a PB lap time on the 10R, and much more consistency on the big bike too - my two races were  20 and 15 seconds faster than the last time we raced the track in this configuration.
But the real reason we go racing is to have fun with our mates. Andy Cowie had a good day on his steelie, placing high in his class and setting new PB laps.  Chris Foster got all his racer's excuses out early, and then finished top 10 in the second Twins race, with a lap time 5 seconds faster than practice.  Unfortunately, Keef was the unlucky guy today - his Kawasaki Z1R arrived from Alex's workshop with new Marzocchi forks, AP calipers, and disks  Unfortunately practice revealed that all was not right with the brakes (at the time of writing, a suspected interference issue between caliper bracket and disk), which meant Keef was a DNS in the afternoon.  A downer, but the bike should be fixed and out in the Pre-TT Classic.
And then we repaired to Ramsey, for shower, beer, curry, beer, sleep.
And now just about everything is in place. Almost everything I need for the TT is on the Island, the bikes are running well, I'm feeling strong and fit, and seem to have some decent pace.  First practice, on Saturday 24th May, can't come soon enough.


March 8th, 2014

Steve McQueen famously said that "Racing is life.  Everything else is just waiting".

Racers will know that there's some truth in this.  But even worse than just ordinary day-to-day waiting is waiting-to-see-if-your-TT-entry-is-successful waiting.  For some reason the TT is very popular this year, and all the classes are oversubscribed, some considerably.  While my 17th place and replica in the Lightweight last year should guarantee me an entry for that, it's the big bike classes that are way over the limit, and some people are definitely going to be unlucky.  My best time on the ZX10R last year might not be enough...

The entry committee is meeting today, and unsuccessful entrants will be emailed tomorrow.  So I'm sat with fingers and toes crossed hoping not to get an email.

STOP PRESS:  It's now Saturday, and I didn't get an email yesterday, so I'm assuming I'm in!

Apart from that, things have progressed pretty well regarding the prepartion of the Superstock ZX10R.  My Trello planning board has lots of things in the 'Done' column, and not much left in the 'To do' column.  Completed items include:

  • Maxton forks
  • HEL brake lines
  • New Bendix brake pads
  • Samco radiator hoses
  • Maxton shock
  • 520 chain and sprockets
  • lots of little detail items

The really rather expensive race kit loom and ECU had also arrived.  Might wait and see if my entry is confirmed before I open that box...

The bodywork is with Denis Motorcycle Resprays of Cirencester - I've used Denis for bike paint for the last 30 years, and he really is fantastic - recommended.  Should be back in about 10 days, and ready to be fitted for the first short circuit outing.

Here's a couple of photos of the work in progress


Maxton forks & HEL brake lines