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.
 
Practice
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.

Two days at Jurbystone Park International Speedbowl Raceway

April 17th, 2014

This was the second outing of the year, and a two-day meeting to enjoy.  I travelled across to the Isle of Man on the Friday, with the family this time (as it was the Easter holidays), and we collected stuff and set up the awning in advance of the first race day. Unsuprisingly, the wind was blowing a hoolie, so we lashed the awning down and retired for the evening.

Saturday

I got to the circuit bright and early, and it was cold and windy.  But dry.  Scrutting, and signing on was without issue, and then as practice approached we had a short but very sharp shower, soaking the track.  About this time I had a gigantic 'senior moment' and couldn't find my transponders - I *knew* I'd brought them from the B&B, but they'd become invisible.  After turning the van upside down cooler heads prevailed and the inestimable Andy Cowie just looked in the van and found them straight away.

Practice

However, this meant I went out to practice on a wet track on dry tyres.

The 10R is actually pretty easy to ride in the wet, and I wasn't bothered about grid position on the big bike anyway [because - I'm only riding it to get used to it and set it up for the TT, and also you have to be an Isle of Man resident to score points in the Open race), so that was no problem.  I got overtaken by what felt like dozens of people on wets, but just shrugged, and ended up qualifying 29th our of 34. The track was drying, but not fast enough, so practice for the Singles, Twins & Triples class was still too wet for dries,and that was what I was on. Curses.  Good mate Andy Cowie came *flying* past me, and I recall thinking "I don't remember Andy putting wets in".  Turns out he didn't. and had either had a rush of blood to the head, or was at one with machine, tyres and track.  Andy was on pole, and I was down in 25th - not a great starting position if I wanted to score good points.   For the last session for the 650 twins/ 400 fours, the track was only damp in places and I got my head down and managed to qualify tenth, which was much more like it. No times quoted, as all very slow due to the track conditions.

Race 1: ZX10R in the Open  

Starting back in 29th place, I could just about see the flags and the starting lights.  But I could see them well enough to get my usual flying start, and must have got by 6~10 people before the first corner.  I seem to be pretty comfortable riding in the hurly-burly, and picked off a couple more in the corners before the back straight, where I was able to Unleash the Horsepower!  Blimey Charlie, that ZX10R is a rocket ship!  Half the field in the Open are 600s (as well as Dave Kennington on his ZXR 400), and I must have overtaken 5 people in that one straight. Arriving in the braking zone, now the track was dry and I was going 40mph faster, was a bit of an eye-opener for the first couple of laps before I figured it out.  I kept my head down, and spent then next 3~ 4 laps making places, but then I'd got as far as I was going to go, with the people in front of me way over the horizon.  The Open is an 8 lap race, and I managed to maintain position for the last 3 laps, which netted me 9th place.  Not bad from 29th, I thought, and happy to finish just behind Paul Dedman and ahead of Gary Carswell and Dave Madsen-Mygdal.  Best lap of 1:13.7, which was half a second faster than my best from the March meeting.

Photo: Andrea Hawley

Race 2: Singles, Twins and Triples

This race was going to be frustrating - starting from 25th when I ought to have the pace for the podium.  This race is also gridded with the Steelies, which tend to be very slightly faster down the straights than my bike (Dave Clarke's wonderful ER650).  Anyway, I made another flying start, literally weaving either side of people to the first corner, and made a hatful of places on the first lap. And just kept going, until I eventually finished in 8th (4th in class).  I can't complain too much, as all but one of the people in front of me had best laps that were faster than my relatively slow best of 1:16.8.  And at least I got some points.

Race 3: 650 Twins

Starting 10th (4th row, now ARA use the modern '3 bikes per row' layout), I could at least see the front row.  I grabbed a few places from the start, and set chase for the rest. But I was now racing people running my sort of pace, and the lack of dry practice was hurting, as I was fair bit off the pace of the front three.  Still, 4th place was ok - best lap still a bit off, at 1:16.2

Races 4,5 & 6

Rinse and repeat.  Another 8th in the open, with a slightly slower lap time.  Another 8th (4th in class) in the Singles, Twins & Triples (best lap half a second faster than the previous run).  And another 4th in the 650 twins, with a best lap of 1:15.4

Sunday

The second day started just as windy, but not quite as cold. Today we were running clockwise, the opposite direction from yesterday, which seems to be the direction I prefer.  Practice was dry, with no threat of rain, and the only thing to beware was cold tyres on the two left-handers, especially in the bus stop (which continued to claim victims all day)

 Practice

  • Open (ZX10R):   14th place, 1:17 (pole 1:11)
  • Singles, Twins and Triples (ER6) : 6th place, 1:17 (pole 1:16)
  • 650 twins (ER6) : 4th place, 1:15 (pole: 1:13)

Clearly, I was much happier with my grid positions today.  We won't ask why my time on the 183bhp ZX10R was the same as on the 93bhp ER6...

Race 1: ZX10R in the Open

I still managed to make places off the start, even from 14th, and settled into what felt like a much faster pace straight away  And so it turned out - a best lap of 1:12.7 delivered me to another 8th, just behind Paul Dedman (about 15 seconds behind, actually), and just in front of Gary Carswell (by 0.2 of a second!).  Happy with that.

Race 2: Singles, Twins & Triples

Starting 6th, on the end of the 2nd row, meant at least the dog could see the rabbit now.  Another good start, into the top three, quite quickly, and then I worked my way past the couple of in front to the lead!  Woo hoo!  I tried to keep focus, as the stopwatch says I'm definitely slower without someone to chase, and brought it home for the win.  Very pleased with this, as you can imagine, and at least it means the wins I got in September last year weren't a fluke.  Best lap 1:14.4

Race 3: 650 twins

Another 2nd row start, this time from 4th place, and another good start to slot behind class superstar Callum Collister quite quckly. But then he was gone, running a series of 1:12s and 1:13s to my best of 1:13.9.  We were both slowed going past traffic on the last two laps, but not nearly enough for me to catch him. But I don't mind coming second to Callum too much - he did win a Manx Grand Prix last year, after all.

Race 4: ZX10R in the Open

All I remember about this is getting past a few people, including Dave Madsen-Mygdal, and then looking for the rest of the pack....and they were gone.  Everyone in the top 7 was running 1:09s and 1:10s - my best was a 1:13.  And then on the last lap canny old Dave Myggie nipped past to steal 8th. I don't mind being beaten by Dave tho - the man with 101 TT finishes.

Race 5: Singles, Twins and Triples

I'm slightly embarrassed to say this one felt quite easy - off the line into a good position, a couple of overtakes, and into the lead, which I held to the flag.  Best lap of 1:13.7

Race 6: 650 twins

There was no one in P2 on the grid, so I leapt off the second row, but had to slot in behind Dean Osbourne, who had grabbed the holeshot, and Callum Colister.  On the right-hander leading onto the straight Dean is a little slow, and I could see Callum lining him up, so I lined them both up,  We were three abreast on the back straight, but I had the inside line to the kink at Snuffys, and I knew I could hold it pinned round there.  Callum looked like he didn't want to back off, but I just left him the option of riding round the outside of me, which he declined to take :-)  Mind you, after following me through the one line bus stop, he came straight past into the next corner, so my moment of glory didn't last long.  I wondered how long I might be able to hang on to Callum, so I got my head down, and he only took 0.5s out of me in the next lap.  But then he took another half second in the next one, and then the tow was broken.  Still, following him had been useful, as I'd seen his "square it off" line round the fast right-hander onto the straight, and very nearly highsided trying to keep up with him doing the same!  And, it had given me a new best lap of 1:12.6.  Which was annoyingly 0.1s faster than my fastest lap on the ZX10R on the same day...  Clearly I'm much more at home on the little bike.

Photo: Andrea Hawley

All in all a great two days racing - obviously crowned with 2 wins and 2 second places.  My 11 year-old stepdaughter again proved herself as a great fledgling race mechanic, always being ready with stands and tyre warmers every time I went out and came back in, and a good day was had by all.  And a few beers were taken that evening.

What's next..

As my times came down on the 10R I found that the initial pickup on the throttle was much too aggresive, meaning everytime I tried to crack the throttle after coming off the brakes, the bike gained a little extra speed and I either had to shut the throttle again or miss the apex.  So it needs to go to Slick to have the injection map changed before the next meeting in May.  I'll also bite the bullet and get a decent exhaust for it, as the Racefit on there is a bit rubbish really, and we might as well try and get it all as right as we can.

First meeting of 2014

March 25th, 2014

This year I plan to do a full season of short circuit races at Jurby, in order to a) have a tilt at a couple of club championships and b) make sure I and my bikes are properly race ready for the TT.  There is also the matter of having to do two race meetings before the TT for the TT Mountain Licence.  So this meant a trip across the Irish Sea in March.

Before this, I had to make sure the ZX10R was ready.  And it was, just about.  I got the race kit loom and ECU fitted the previous weekend, and the freshly painted bodywork back, and applied the race numbers and backgrounds in the week.  Here's some pictures:

 

ZX10R Front 3/4

ZX10R RHS

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how the bike looks.   In case you're wondering, I picked number 45 for this season in tribute to fellow Gloucester (and, er, much more successful) rider Scott Reading.

 My old endurance partner and steadfast mechanic Alex Ferrier was able to take a couple of days off and come and help, for which I was enormously grateful. You can just about look after one bike by yourself at a club meeting, but two is nearly impossible.  As well as the 10R, I was going to be riding Dave Clarke's beautiful Kawasaki ER650 twin, which lives on the Island (with Dave).    I collected Alex in the van on Friday morning, and we boarded the lunchtime ferry.  I've crossed the Irish Sea an awful lot of times in the last 10 years, but this was one of the least pleasant - a force 6 gale at the Douglas end of the crossing meant I spent the last couple of hours hunkered down in my seat, trying to sleep and moaning occasionally.  I am not from seafaring stock.

Once off the boat I soon felt better, and we splashed our way round the TT Course to Ramsey in awful condtions.  The weather forecast for Sunday was ok, but the track was going to get a good washing first.  We met up with old, auld mate and racing partner Keith McKay, and partner Rebecca, and went for a beer and food.

Saturday dawned with lots to do.  I left Alex to drop the anti-freeze from the 650, and replace with water, and do a few other small jobs, while I went up to Slick Bass's workshop with a pile of tyres and wheels.  I had a pair of dry tyres to fit for the ZX10R, a pair of wets to put on spare wheels for the 10R, and a pair of wets for the spare wheels for the ER650.  Keith and I made short-ish work of the tyre changing, but doing the balancing on a static balancer can't be rushed, so we were there a while.  But it was eventually all done, and by the end of the afternoon we had the van loaded with two bikes all ready to race.

Sunday dawned cold, and with a shower.  The shower blew through quickly, and was the last rain of the day, but it was really cold - less than 5 degress, and with a chilling wind too.  I had a brand new awning to put up, but we admitted defeat with the wind and left the front and back panels in the van, before we ended up with a 6x3 metre kite.  But soon we were set up, with Keith's marvellous Darvil Racing Z1-R classic racer, Andy Cowie's venerable Thundercat and my two bikes, looking almost professional:

Awning at Jurby

 

The track was streaming wet, so I asked Alex to put the wets in the 10R.  Then it started to dry out, so I asked him to change them back.  He was gracious enough to not even swear.  We went out for practice on a pretty damp track, but with lots of dry bits, and no standing water.  I was very conscious that this was my first ever ride on this bike in race trim, on a very cold and damp track, and so was very careful indeed.  This meant I only qualified 24th, but there were a good half-dozen behind me still, and this was very much a shake down meeting. The bike was great, and I could really feel and hear the traction control working over the wet and bumpy part of the track.

Next came our first mistake of the meeting.  The 650 twin was in two races, the "Singles, Twins and Triples", and the "650 Twins".  I only had one transponder (which registers the lap times as you pass the start/finish line), which we needed to swap between bikes - but we forgot to swap it.  So I registered no time for the Singles, Twins & Triples, and would be starting from the back of the grid curses.  I made sure we got it right for the 650 Twins practice session, and with a nearly dry track managed to get 4th on the grid.

The sun was out, and the wind was dropping - it didn't ever exactly get warm, but it stopped being so unpleasantly cold.  The track stayed cold, though, which caught a number of people out - more of which later.   Still, it looked like we were going to get a good afternoon's racing.

First up was the 1300 Solo Championship, which is the biggest race of the day, and was in fact over-subscribed with entries. All the quick boys are in this - Ryan Kneen, Ryan Cringle, Calum Collister, Si Fulton, and the evergreen Paul Dedman, who although closer to my age than the fast younsters, is still very rapid indeed.   I was way back on the grid, and just after a finish and to begin to get a feel for the ZX10R.  The lights changed, I got a cracking start, passing half a dozen before the first corner, and then settled down to the race.  The bike was a missile - I think I passed at least one person down the straight every lap.  It was also a bit lively - exiting the final corner onto the straight over a set of bumps, the front wheel was flicking from side to side, and coming up in the air too.  Still, that's all part of riding a 1000cc bike.  I came in and was please to find I'd finished 10th!  Not bad from 24th on the grid.

Next up was the Singles, Twins and Triples, which is run in conjuction with the Steelies (steel framed 600s) and Post-classics.  There'd already been several crashes, mostly down to cold tyres on the few left-hand corners on the right-handed circuit we were using today, but this class took the biscuit.  We had 3 restarts due to crashes, each with a new warm up lap, and, for the final time of asking, two warm up laps.  Consequently, we ended up doing twelve  laps for a 6 lap race.  Which probably explains why I ran out of petrol on the last lap.  Each time I'd started from the back of the field, and each time battled my way through.  To compound the failure, I needed the recovery van to get me back to the pits, which meant that by the time we'd splashed some fuel in the tank, I'd missed the start of the 650 twins race.  So one DNF and a DNS - curses!  Still, as problems go it was no tragedy, and a lesson learned - always overfuel the bike!

By now it was gone 4pm and we'd only just completed the first run through the race card.  People had been going off left right and centre, and the organisers cut all the remaining races to 4 laps.   I lined up again for the second 1300cc Open race, and if anything got an even better start this time.  The official results say my laptimes were no better, but I felt faster, and spent 3 laps passing people.  By the 4th lap the guys in front had gone, but this was hardly a surprise at I was in 6th place!  I was told that at the flag there was a gang of angry 600s behind me, but such was my bike's pace down the straights they'd been unable to get past.  Well, I guess that's why it's the "1300cc" open!  I am extremely pleased with this result in this field.

For the next Singles, Twins and Triples race we made sure bike was properly fuelled this time.  Starting at the back again, I was passing people everywhere - I'm sure Ali Foster won't mind me using this picture: 

Over four laps there was only so much I could do from the back of the grid, and eventually came in 6th overall and 4th in class. 

Last race of the day was the 650 twins.  From 4th on the grid I ought to be able to get a result in this race, and when the lights changed I leapt off the line and straight into first place.  After a couple of laps with a clear track in front of me, I wondered why Callum Colister (last year's 650 twin club champion) hadn't been in pole position, and then Callum tucked neatly underneath me, and rode away at a second a lap or more.  Turns out he must have had a problem in qualifying, as he'd started back in 16th place.  Clearly this wasn't a problem for him, as he still won the race.  And then, on the penultimate corner, Dave Kennington on his lovely Kawasaki ZXR400 came past me too.  Dave and I had a few great battles last year, I didn't mind him passing me too much, not least because he was in a different class. So I got a 3rd overall and 2nd in class.

We then did the usual end-of-race-day routine of load van, unload van, shower, pub, curry house, pub.

All in all a great start to the 2014 season.