Category: "TZ250"

Pre-TT Classic 2017

May 30th, 2017

The Pre-TT Classic is now embedded as a key part of my season, especially after having such a great meeting last year - utterly glorious weather, and a 7th place (and prize money!) in the Classic Superbike event.  This year I was looking for a repeat, but with the TZ250 added in too.

I loaded my new long wheelbase van (the previous short wheelbase van being much too small for two bikes, wheels, tools, awning and camping kit for 3 people) on Wednesday evening, and headed to Heysham, collecting Alex on the way, early on Thursday morning.  By early evening we were set-up, with the bikes and tools in the awning, and the palatial Purple Palace next to it.  We do manage to look like we know what we're doing

On Friday morning my great friend Keith McKay was hosting a track session at Jurby circuit as way of a stag party (more later), so we headed north, pausing at the airport to collect Simon as he arrived.  Jurby, like the rest of the Island (and the UK) was scorching hot, and we ran a few sessions on both bikes, sorting some niggles on each (lack of water in the ZXR [ahem], and a replacement battery for it; tweaking the jetting on the TZ), and got them both ready for the evening practice.   The evening brought little respite from the heat, and my new Held leathers, while of the usual excellent quality, were a bit stiff and restrictive (note to self: break in new leathers before a big race meeting), so I wore my old scuffed ones from last year.  The TZ was still on TT gearing, and we didn't really know what to use for the Billown Circuit (to give the Southern 100 club's circuit its official name), so we tried it as it was.  This proved a bit tall, and I had to slip the clutch in first gear out of the three slowest corners (Ballabeg, Cross Fourways and Castletown Corner), which made me fear for the life of the clutch.  Noted for later.  We went out to practice on the 750 in the Classic Superbike class, only for it to be red-flagged on the first lap, due to someone have a big blow-up and smearing oil all over the braking zone and entry to Ballakeighan.  This took a while to clear-up, and we didn't get out again until gone 9pm; fortunately, the Isle of Man is far north and west enough for it to still be light until about 10:30pm at this time of year.  This time I got 4 or 5 laps in, at a reasonable pace, and I was comfortable that both bikes would be within the 118% qualifying cutoff (based on the average of the top 3 riders' fastest laps).

The weather forecast for Saturday was bad; fortunately, it was also wrong - after a light shower before 9am, the day stayed warm and dry, although not as hot as previously.  My girlfriend Vanessa was on the lunchtime flight, and I had time to collect her in the van (how romantic!) before practice started.  This time we had an issue with the TZ - we fired it up in the holding area, and it didn't sound right - the rear cyclinder was only firing at high revs.  There was no time to investigate, and the primary suspicion was a blocked pilot/primary jet, so I took it out to "see if it would clear".  It didn't, so after two laps I brought it in - I'm learning that with this bike, you don't run it unless everything is just right.  This was annoying, but I'm also learning that it's part of the deal with full-on GP race two-strokes.  The session on the 750 was uneventful, and by now I was really starting to get comfortable with the back part of the circuit, from Ballabeg to Crossfourways, that I'd never really got my head round before.  The TZ issued turned out to be a loose reed valve block, which was a bit of a shock, and must have loosened off during the practice session on Friday.  Easily fixed, anyway.  Taking positives where I can find them, I was pleased that I could immediately hear the TZ wasn't running right, and also that I'd learned not to run it when there was something wrong.

Sunday was a bit different - long time friend Keith was getting married to his partner Becca.  Vanessa and I dressed up and arrived by van at the ceremony in Ramsey, and then went on to the reception in Laxey.  We then got changed into regular party clothes and went to the evening event, which in Keith and Becca's inimitable style, featured an Iron Maiden tribute band! It was all good fun, but might have contributed to Alex and Simon getting as drunk as I've ever seen them.

Monday was race day, and it was wet.  Persistently wet.  Still, the Billown circuit provides decent enough grip with wet weather tyres, and the Southern 100 club are the most efficient racing club I've ever had the pleasure of racing with (by some margin), so racing started on time, rain or no rain.  I was in race 5 (Post-Classic Junior Superbike, for 250 2-strokes and 600 fourstrokes) and race 8 (Post Classic Superbike, for 750 fourstrokes up to 1992, and 1000 four-strokes up to 1986).  After the problem with the 250 during Saturday's practice, I'd missed the opportunity to go faster, but everyone else hadn't, meaning I was in 19th and last place on the grid.  But I'd still made the 118% cut-off, fortunately.  For the 750s, I was 13th on the grid.

Simon and Alex fired the 250 up in the holding area...and it sounded sick!  We quickly decided it was electrical - maybe the ignition had been left turned on?  I ran to the awning, grabbed the spare battery, and the guys quickly swapped it, and got me out in time.  The bike coughed a couple of times on the warm up lap (as the spare battery wasn't fully charged), but after that it was fine - phew!  We lined up on the grid in steady drizzle, the lights changed, and I got an awesome start.  It felt like I overtook about 10 people on the way to the first corner!  I'd not ridden the TZ on wets before, but it was lovely - the bike is so light it doesn't stress its tyres at all, and the wets offer huge grip in the rain.  As always happens after a great start, a couple of guys with better pace caught me back and passed, but I still had a good run, and finished in 11th, which I was quite pleased with.   And here's the TZ, looking more capable than the chap sat on it:

The 750 race was after the lunch break, and the drizzle slowly eased off, but the track was still mostly wet.  This time I was in the middle of the grid, but still got a great start, and was able to capitalise on it still, catching and passing manx mate Mark Bamford on the run to Iron Gates.  After that, the fast guys in front stretched away from me, and I was by myself - until lap 5, when Colin Croft passed me!  This woke me up, and I quickly matched his pace, and passed him back.  He wasn't giving in easily and came back again, so I re-doubled my efforts on the last lap, and managed to stay ahead of him, to claim 6th place, which is one better than last year!  Very pleased indeed about this, here's a great photo from Jules Watterson showing how close Colin was

Back in the paddock, looking grubby but lovely: 

So that's another successful Pre-TT Classic, which has now cemented itself as one of my favourite race meetings.  The bikes both ran well, and I seem to still have it in me to go reasonably quickly.  There's a few little jobs to do, as always - the first is to wash the bikes!


Bad start to the 2016 season

March 22nd, 2016

It's been a long winter, and I've not updated my blog for six months or more.  Which I should have done, as I had some big-ish news.  

Over the winter the organisers of the Classic TT announced that they would be introducing a new class for 250 GP bikes - purpose built two stroke racers.  There's a lot of Yamaha TZ250s, Honda NS250s, and a few Aprilias too, out there and looking for somewhere to race. When I heard this news, I thought this would be an ideal second string to my Classic Racing bow, and started looking for a suitable bike.  I eventually found a TZ of the right age (1996), specification (4TW1), provenance (full history) and price (*just* affordable), and collected it last month.  And so I was itching to get out on track, so I entered the opening meeting of the season with NGRRC at Brands Hatch.

And here she is, ready to go:

 TZ250 ready for my first outing

This turned out to be my worst race meeting ever.  Well, not really - I'm not in hospital, after all, so I've definitely had worse.  But as non-crashy meetings go, it was pretty bad.

Having prep'd the TZ last Sunday with a couple of mates who previously owned TZs (thanks NeilR & Sol), I was really looking forward to getting to actually ride it.  The NGRRC meeting wa sa two day event, so I booked for the MSV ACU track day on the Friday. I got up at silly o'clock Friday morning, loaded the van and headed round the M25.  I unloaded the bike and got its warmers on, and signed on etc, and was ready to go out in the 4th session (which was preferable to the first session, as it was so cold and slick that Pat crashed his R6 on the out-lap).

I rolled out, and...there I was, riding my TZ250.  As I'd been re-assured, it's "just a motorbike", and behaved like one.  First session was definitely just about getting some laps under my belt, which I did, and all seemed fine.  Then on the last lap of the session, I missed a gear, or it jumped out.  I didn't think much about it, but the next time I select 3rd, there was a awful noise - a biscuit tin full of nuts and bolts sort of noise. I grabbed another gear, and the noise went away.  And then I was in the pits, and the bike seemed to rev cleanly.  I couldn't believe it was a gearbox issue, so I decided to try again in the next session - but as soon as I selected 3rd the noise was there, so I came straight back in. I ran it on the stand, it was definitely a problem with third gear

I phoned a friend (thanks again to NeilR), and he sent me a video on how to remove the gearbox, which is indeed very easy to get at.  But the sight meeting me sunk my heart - broken gear teeth in the bottom of the casing, and the gears for third (on both shalfts) completely mangled.  And a tooth missing from fifth on the clutch shaft too.



What I should have done at this point is packed up and gone home.

But a chap wandering round the paddock came to chat, called Mike Webster, and he said he had a TZ (a 92 4DP1), and had a spare set of gear shafts, and I could borrow them.  And he lived close, so off he went to get them.   I put my awning up, with a work bench, tools ready and read the section in the manual several times.  Mike came back with the two shafts, and they slotted into the gearbox beautifully.  I bench checked the change mechanism up and down the box, and even got one of the guys from A&R racing to check it with me, and he said it all looked good.  So I slotted the box back in and started to re-assemble everything else.  This was very fiddly, and almost certainly where I made a crucial mistake (ominous music).  I lost a lot of time here, and so didn't make the last practice session of the afternoon.  

Following multiple updates on Facebook, I got a phone call from a mate on the Isle of Man - he put one of his mates on the phone who told me not to forget to clean out the strainer in the oil pump".  Oil pump?  I didn't know there was one!  But the manual did, and the gearbox does indeed have an oil pump.   

So after cold and fitful night's sleep in the roof of mechanic Simon's camper van, we were up at 7:30am and pulled it all apart again.  The pump is inside the gearbox, so it all had to come out.  We got it on the bench, and Simon found and cleaned the filter, while I signed on.   We re-assembled, being as careful and methodical as we could, but under a little time pressure.  But still, I got out for untimed practice, and did 6 laps (on wets, cos it was *very* cold, and slightly damp) and everything "seemed ok".   

Next outing was timed practice, for 15 minutes.  Out I went, circulating ok (tho the rest of the grid seemed *much* faster), and the flag came out, so round we went on the in-lap, and on the Cooper Straight - the rear wheel locked solid.  Pulling the clutch in made no difference - the gearbox was seized. 

I was recovered back,we got it on the bench, pulled it apart, and it was carnage.  The gearbox I'd borrowed was trashed - every gear broken, I think.  Worse, a piece of broken gear had made a hole in the casing.  Tellingly, the oil pump drive was missing teeth too.  I spoke to Graham File, and he is so busy he's not taking on any work until May at the earliest.  He told me to talk to Dennis Trollope, who was in the paddock,  I went to see him and basically begged him to take the engine from me and see what he could do with it.  I think he took pity on me, and agreed.  So Simon and I took the engine out, and carried it over to Dennis with a box of clutch and gearbox bits.  Dennis sucked his teeth a lot, but on seeing the broken oil pump drive, he said this would have been down to mis-assembly - he said 15 years ago, when there was a grid of 30+ TZs, he'd sell at least one of those gears every meeting. 

I don't know what this is going to cost, but it's going to be a lot.  And of course I have to replace all the broken gears on the shafts I borrowed from Mike Webster.  So it looks like my descent into bankruptcy due to TZ ownership has started apace.  It was a bit of a stretch to buy the bike in the first place, and I so didn't need this now. 

Human beings are pattern matching engines, and we want to assume that two gearbox failures are connected. But I don't think they are.  The second one failed because we had it apart to fix it the first time, and Simon and I, who know how to use a set of spanners, were not wise in the details of re-assembly.  And the manual did not cover this potential 'gotcha' at all,  Why the first gearbox failed is a mystery, and we'll probably never know. 

I'm definitely normally a glass-half-full sort of chap, but I did sink into a bit of a deep dark hole over this.  But, writing this a few days later, I've recovered my normal equilibrium.  The one saying that fits everything in this game is "That's racing".  And, as I said up there - at least I'm not in hospital.