Yabba Dabba Doo!

August 20th, 2017

Yesterday was one of those days that gives you the payback, and reminds you why you put all the effort and money into this in the first place. But before that, the story so far.

We loaded the van on Wednesday, and headed off first thing Thursday morning.  First stop was to collect Alex and load all the camping kit, which lives at his house.  Even though the new longer van, with it's added layer of shelving, had swallowed all my stuff pretty easily, by the time we added the kit required to house and sustain six people for ten days, it was completely stuffed again.  There followed the usual grind up the M6, but we arrived at Heysham in plenty of time, and met the two Simons (this might get confusing), with Chris (Si Wilson's son) and their van at the port.  Si Wilson has a ride in the one of the seveal vintage/classic parade laps, on the bike that won the 1966 Thruxton 500 (which confusingly was at Brands that year), so had that bike in his van, along with Simon Weller's road bike (a modern 3 cyclinder, 800c Triumph adventure bike - a Tiger? I'm rubbish with modern bikes now, it seems).  Here's the van before the addition of all the camping kit:

Loaded van, before we added all the camping kit

The boat was a little late, for unknown reasons, and we rolled off into Douglas around 6:30pm.  And then the 'fun' started. The TT paddock has new layout and arangements this year, due (as I understand it) to a health and safety audit last year that threatened to throw the book at them.  Some of this was no doubt justified, but the effective net result is that the paddock is no longer big enough.  We queued for about 3 hours to get our pitch, was being hastily laid out on the fly in the overspill field in Nobles Park. We set up on the dark, finishing about 11:30 pm, and our evening meal was a beer. I was not happy.

But the following morning the sun was out, and I realised out new pitch location and space was pretty good.  The paddock admin crew made amends by laying duck boarding for all the new  pitches, so the race bikes (and people...) will never have to roll over the grass (and mud if it rains). We got the main team tent setup properly (actually rotating it 180 degrees from how we'd pitched it in the dark), and I got everything in the awning, which is our workshop for the next 10 days, setup just how I wanted it (those who know me will know I can be a 'bit OCD' in this area...).  Following this, I did a bunch of admin things required for the meeting - signed on, got all my riding kit, and the crew's refueling protective kit checked and approved, attended the riders briefing, etc - at the end of this, we were ready to go.  In addition, new crew member this year, my partner Vanessa, who had volunteered to be quartermaster and cook, got a load of shopping in and provided lunch and a great evening meal (with salad! Some of the lads were shocked!).   And then we went to the pub.

Saturday dawned windy but bright.  This evening was the first scheduled practice session, but I overhead someone say that it hadn't actually run for the last 7 years, most due to the weather - certainly it was rained off last year.  But in addition, there was a worry about having enough marshals - it takes over 500 marshals to man the course, and the opening saturday is often short as a lot of the visitors to the event, many of whom are marshals, don't arrive for the opening weekend. A call had gone out by email last week, and Chris and Si Wils on my crew had already signed up, but they were still short, so Vanessa signed up too. She was assigned a spot at the bottom of Bray Hill, which anyone who knows the TT course will know is one of the most iconic and spectacular points on the course.  This would be her first time seeing race bikes on the TT course - I couldn't imagine a better way to start.

I borrowed Simon's road Triumph to do a 'sighting lap' of the course in the afternoon.  I can run through the entire 37.73 miles in my head, but there really is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes, even at legal road speeds amongst the traffic.  It was dry and bright, but very windy over the mountain.  When I got back,  our time slot for scrutineering was approaching, and Alex and Simon were ready to roll the ZXR up for inspection.  My two bikes (the ZXR750 and TZ250) practice in the same class, which is annoying, and of which more later, but for opening night we'd decided just to get a couple of laps in on the more forgiving and easier-to-ride 750.  We're pretty practiced at this now, so the bike and a trolley full of stands, tools, tyre warmers, etc went up towards parc ferme, and I prepped my kit (i.e. cleaned my visor) and got into my leathers.  When I arrived in it lane, it was a hubbub of activity, with a couple of hundred bikes all on stands, tyre warmers on, riders trying to look relaxed (some succeeding, some not), crew members checking and tweaking details - basically a huge demonstration of displacement activity, while we waited for practice to start.  This was due to be around 5:20 for the newcomers (whose first lap is behind an experienced rider) and then 5:30 for the first group, which I was in.  But there was a delay, due to 3 vehicles having been left parked on various parts of the course. This is a usual thing in the run up to the roads being closed, and I'm pretty used to tannoy announcements of "Would the owner of vehicle xyz please move it immediately", and it rarely causes a delay.  But the owners of these 3 vehicles really couldn't be traced, and a recovery truck had to be sent to forcibly remove them, which delayed the proceedings by over an hour!  As it's an offence to have a vehicle on roads closed for racing, so I imagine, and hope, that the owners will get hefty fines.

But eventually we got away.  The newcomers went off in groups of 4 or 5, following their leader, and then, after 10 minutes to allow them to get far enough round the course not to be caught, our class was away.  For some reason I;ve been given number #64 on the 750, despite finishing 27th last year, which means a lot of bikes are in front of me.  The bikes start practice in pairs at 10 second intervals, so with multiple classes I reckon there was a good 10 minutes (i.e. 120+ bikes away) before I eventually got to the front, got the tap on the shoulder from the starting marshal, and headed down Bray Hill.

As usual, I beat my starting partner off the line, and, also as usual, as soon as I was riding the bike my head cleared and I was focussed on the job in hand.  Heading down Bray Hill flat out is always a great way to get focussed anyway, and especially on the first night of practice, after 50 weeks away.  In addition, I knew Vanessa was watching at the bottom, so I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing!  Bray Hill was fine, but as I reached the braking zone for Quaterbridge, my starting partner sailed past me on the brakes for no obvious reason, and then ran wide past the apex of the corner.  "Blimey, mate", I thought, "the race is a week away yet". Quarterbridge is famously a corner with not much to gain and plenty to lose, especially on the first lap with not-yet-up-to-temperature tyres, and a full fuel load, let alone the first lap of the first night of practice.  I followed him through Bradden Bridge, which he also made a complete horlicks of, such that I easily accelerated past him and into Union Mills.  I never saw him again.  

But I saw plenty of other people!  It's always a great confidence boost when you catch people who started ahead of you, and tonight was going to be an incredible confidence boost - I kept catching whole gaggles of riders.  It felt like 40 or 50, but was probably only 25~30, but still - these were all people on bikes that should lap at a similar speed to my 750.  I was actually held up at all sorts of places, but it was the first night of practice, and I was both considerate and careful getting past.  My bike felt just brilliant - fast, composed, and very good on the brakes, as I found multiple times as I outbraked people into corners (always the safest way to overtake).  I was enjoying myself, feeling fast and comfortable, and just loving it.  It was still windy over the mountain, but I was still catching and passing people too.  I was pretty sure that the lost practice time would mean I would only get one lap in, and sure enough, as I exited Governors Dip there was a board saying we were being 'short-lapped' and the chequered flag was out just along Glencrutchery Road and we were waved into parc ferme.  I rode the bike down to our awning with a big grin on my face, and Alex it put it on the stand while I gabbled like a schoolboy!  I didn't know how fast I'd gone, but reckoned it "felt like about ~105mph lap".

We had to wait for Vanessa, Si Wils and Chris to get back from marshalling, so I had time to grab a shower, then a beer, and then we all got together and Alex served up his legendary chili which had been bubbling on the stove for several hours since the afternoon.  My friend Rik Ballerini, who knows more about TZ250s than I will ever know, also turned up, and told us that on the live results app, my time was 105mph - so my seat-of -the-pants estimate was bang on!  We ate and drank and celebrated a good start to our Classic TT 2017 campaign.  Really looking forward to the next time out now!

 

It's quiet....too quiet

August 15th, 2017

It's two days before I go to the Isle of Man, and it feels like pretty much everything that needs to be done has been done.  I had a very long to-do list (actually, on www.trello.com, which I can't receommend highly enough for managing a set of tasks), and I've worked my way through it over the last few weeks (and months, to be honest) and now just about everything is in the 'done' column.  So let's set the scene...

Like last year, I'll have my two bikes, the Kawasaki ZXR750 and the Yamaha TZ250.  The Kawasaki covered itself in glory at the Pre-TT Classic on the Billown Circuit, and had an outing at Mallory where the rider, not the bike, was the weak link.  But it's good to go.  The last outing for the TZ was also at the Pre-TT, and while we are still on a learning curve with the bike, we're way ahead of where we were last year.  The ignition has been sorted (ditching the Ignitech unit for a stock Yamaha one), the engine was rebuilt by ANdy Broughton on the Island and I've replaced the machined and questionable cylinder heads with stock ones.  And the bike has a new loom, and has demonstrated that it charges reliably.  Last but not least, it's got new bodywork and paint, and is a thing of beauty:

TZ250 before leaving for the 2017 Classic TT

Less has been done to the ZXR (if it ain't broke, etc...), but she still looks lovely:

ZXR before leaving for the 2017 Classic TT

Not only have I been preparing the bikes...I've also done some stuff to my (new for 2017) van!  When we took it to the Pre-TT, with both bikes, it was pretty much full, and we knew we'd need more stuff for two weeks at the Classic TT.  As the van is a high top, and the vertical space above the bikes is wasted, we hatched the plan to drop a false floor in at height above where the bikes come to.  Crew man Si Wilson gave up a morning to help (I'm rubbish with DIY and wood, and he has power tools), and here's the result:

Van with a mezzanine

So we're all set for the boat on Thursday.  As last year, Alex and the two Simon's will be crewing, although this year has the added excitement that Si Wilson has a ride in the parade lap, on a bike that I'm now embarrassed to find I know nothing about!  It's a Triumph (I think...) and was ridden by Dave Degens back in the day.  I'll get more details and put it up here.

Next post will be from the Island, once we're set up in the paddock

Thundersport, Mallory Park

June 30th, 2017

In order to race at the Classic TT, I need a TT Mountain Licence, and to get that I need to have completed a race on six different race days in the previous 13 months (qualifying at the TT counts as one). I thought finishing in two races at the Pre-TT Classic at the Billown circuit in May would count as two, but as they were on the same day, they only counted as one. So this simple error in maths/logic meant I needed to do another meeting - before the end of June. The calendar turned up a Thundersport meeting at Mallory, and they have a "Goldern Era Superbike" class, ideal for my ZXR750.

I arrived at the circuit with a loaded van on Friday evening - to a packed paddock! I'd never seen Mallory so full. But we found some space, right at one end by the scrutineering sheds, and got the awning and tent set up. By the time that was done, we had a drink in the clubhouse, and turned in.

I was up early the next morning, getting the bike scrutineered and noise tested. I was a little worried about the noise test, as the last time I was at Cadwell I was let off with a warning at 107dB. But the Mallory instrument was obviously more forgiving, as it said 102dB. Long standing mate Dave Brownz arrived to help, but really all we had to do was put the tyre warmers on, and in a short while I was rolling into the collection area and onto track for qualiftying. I've never gone well at Mallory, for no obvious reason. And when someone rides around the outside of you at Gerrards, you know you're slow. But I wasn't the slowest - 35th out of 44 (of the mixed classes I qualified with), but with a frankly embarrassing best lap of 1:01.406.

My class had two races each day, and the Golden Era Superbikes were gridded with the "GP1 CLassics" which are big road bikes mostly from pre-2000 - the 1998~2001 R1, GSX-R750 K1~3, Ducati 998, Honda Fireblade (pre 1000cc).  All the grids, all day, were pretty full, and my time placed me 22nd on the grid, which is row 8. Still, I could see the lights ok, and my usual lightening start got me past a bunch of people before the first corner. But, of course, they were faster than me, and got back, so I finished 22nd too. Fortunately, my fastest lap was nearly a second faster, and I had my necessary finish.  Primary mission accomplished.

Race two was near the end of the afternoon, and I found a bit more speed - this time finishing 20th, with a best lap in the 59s - wow, I'd finally got into the 59s! But this is still pretty slow at Mallory. In fact, I'd done 4 laps in the 59s, but the guys at the sharp end were doing 54s and 55s, that's how far off the pace I was. But it was fun, and the spread down the grid meant there were people to race with. It was bloody hot, so I treated myself to a shower, and then "the team" (me, gf and Dave) went for a curry.

Sunday morning had 'warm up', not qualifying (hey, just like MotoGP!), and a new grid, based on fastest laps from Saturday - which still placed me 22nd. The weather looked threatening, and it rained just enough to make the track wet for the race two before mine. I decided to put the inters in for safety, though it was properly dry when my race was called. I finished 17th, but only because there were less starters. Still, I found a few more 10ths of a second, so still heading in the right direction, and half my laps were in the 59s.

But by now I was bored with Mallory, the weather was still threatening, and the only thing left was to try too hard and fall off, so I decided to skip the last race, and pack up early. Mallory doesn't have a way for vehicles to leave the paddock while racing is running, but at least we were loaded and ready to go when the last race finished.

All in all, a successful outing - I got the finish I needed, the bike ran well, and, most importantly, I enjoyed myself.

 

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!

 

Les Quatre Heures du Jurby

November 6th, 2016

I'm writing this weeks after the event, so it will be less detailed, and even less accurate, than normal.

My last post was entitled "Last outing of the season?", and when I wrote it, it looked like it might be.   I'd talked to manx racing mate Andy Cowie about maybe doing the Jurby Endurance event together, but he was not enthusiastic.  This changed when he found a sponsor to cover tyres and fuel - the inestimable Graham Wilcock, of Wilcock Consulting, who has been supporting motorcycle racing for a very long time.  So Andy asked if I was still interested - hell yeah!  I did a lot of endurance racing in the early noughties (4 seasons with the KRC series, running 6 and 8 hour races), and I really enjoy the different focus - pacing and consistency becomes the key, although you still need to be as fast as you can.

We were to ride Andy's venerable Yamaha Thundercat steelie, which is 20 years old this year. And it's still a lovely bike to ride, predictable steering and handling, and decent enough power.  For this event I was very much the gentleman racer, flying in with my leathers and helmet in a kit bag, and collected at the airport - beats the hell out of loading a van and driving up the M6, I can tell you.  Once again I stayed with the marvellous McKays - I've seen them more in the last four weeks than the rest of the year, I think.

There was a practice session late on Friday afternoon, and I met Andy's mechanic John Holt at Jurby with the bike, to get a few laps in to get used to it again - I rode it for one six lap race last year, and that was the total of my experience on it.  Additionally, John had completely rebuilt the brakes, and with new pads we needed to bed then in and check everything was ok.  Which it was - the bike was great, with nothing much to be done.  Andy showed up straight from work too, but as he knows the bike inside out, and has done a million laps round Jurby on it, there was no need for him to put his leathers on.

The weather on Saturday was appalling, with high winds and driving rain, but the forecast was for it to blow through and be fine on Sunday.  Which was essentially correct, but the timing was out, and the weather was behind schedule.  Andy picked me up early, and we got set-up at the circuit, working out of the back of John's van.  In addition, Graham was going to do the signalling for us on the pit wall, which is a long, cold and lonely job.  There were the usual activites (signing on, scrutineering, briefing) while we all kept glancing at the sky wondering what the weather was going to do.  We did actually practice on dry tyres, but a hard shower a little before the race meant almost the whole field started on wets.  Kudos to Dave Madsen-Mygdal who decided it was "going to dry out" and started on inters...his first session must have been "interesting"!

Andy and discussed the start, and he was happy for me to take it, so all the bikes lined up, held by a second rider, while the riders starting the race lined up 20m away across the tarmac, for the traditional Le Mans start. The flag dropped, and although I wasn't particularly quick on the run to the bike, once away I felt confident and set about find some pace.  I do love riding on wets, in the wet.  I knew the fast boys would be properly fast, but I made lots of places over the first few laps, and then was soon lapping people - the spread of pace across the field was substantial.  But I was pleased that none of the front runners came past me...until one did, and that was on my in-lap to re-fuel and swap with Andy.  So it took the front guys 40 mins to make a lap on me, which was very gratifying.  And, looking at the time sheets, we were in 6th place at this point.   The rain had stopped half-way through the session, and a dry line had started to appear. I'd been doing the smart thing (learned from Murray Walker commentaries of F1 from decades ago) of trying to ride through the puddles and damp sections down the straights to keep the wets cool, and it had seemed to have worked because the tyres looked in good condition when I looked at them as we refuelled.  And then he was off, and I could take my helmet off and relax.

It stayed dry, and the track continued to get drier.  This meant we were probably going to have to change wheels at some point, which was annoying, because the old Thundercat was really not set up for a fast wheel change.  When Andy came in at the end of his 40 minute session, he said there was a dry line all the way round, so we decided to change the tyres there and then.  We should be faster on dry tyres on a dry track, and keeping the wets on would have just wrecked them for future use - which might prove significant today if the rain came back later.   So we set about changing the wheels, with me doing the rear, and Andy and John doing the more fiddly front.  It was definitely a case of "more haste, less speed", but we got it done methodically, and a later look at the timing sheets suggested it took us about 7 minutes.  Which is a significant contrast from the World Endurance teams, where the bikes are engineered to change both wheels in about 10 seconds!  But with the dry tyres in, and fresh fuel, I got on the bike and headed out for my second session.

It felt great to be on dry tyres on a dry line...but then it started to rain!  It was more drizzle than rain, but it was definitely enough to make the track a little damp, and I had to be quite careful. But the rain didn't last long, and the field of circulating bikes immediately started to re-dry the racing line once it stopped.  It was in this session that I got into a dice with Dave Kennington, who was having his first race outing for a couple of years.  Dave and I had often diced with each other when I was riding Dave Clarke's beautiful SuperTwin, and Dave was on his even lovelier ZXR400 (until I eventually figured out how to get some real pace from the 650).  This time, Dave was on a modern 600 (I think partnered with Marc Colvin on his ZX6R), and I recognised the name on his leathers when I nipped past him.  He told me later that this fired him up ("I'm not getting passed by an old steelie!"), and he hung on to me, and a couple of laps later came back past me.  Of course, this fired me up, and I hung on to him, and was lining him up for another pass...and then he pulled into the pits. Apparently he'd done the last 5 laps with the fuel light on, unwilling to come in until he'd got in front!  We both had a great laugh about if afterwards.

A little later my "IN" board appeared, and I came in to swap with Andy.  As we refuelled, some of the technical officials were walking round the bike and pointing to some white emulsion fluid dripping from somewhere under the seat unit.  They wanted us to take the seat off and investigate, but as they looked the other way Andy just fired the bike up and rejoined the race!  By now the skies were clearing and I was confident there'd be no more rain.  And, as we were on the right tyres for the conditions, while lots of others were still on wets, there was every chance we could improve our position.  [Note: as it turned out, modern wets degrade in a much more controlled way than they used to - some of the fast riders were still turning respectable lap times on completely knackered wets at the end of the race.  Technology marches on!]

Time passed, and I was soon sat on the bike again heading out for my third and final session.  Now the track was dry almost everywhere, and I revelled in the grip that the excellent Continental tyres were giving.  One of the great things about Endurance is that there's always someone to race, because you're always catching slower machines, and being passed yourself by faster, and one of the knacks is being able to squeeze in a safe pass as soon as you catch someone, to avoid being held up behind then for 3 or 4 corners.  I love this!  It was in this session I put in my (and the team's) fastest lap (1:17) which Andy was very slightly disgruntled about!  Graham was also giving me a board with a laptime each lap too, so I knew I was on a decent pace.  I was having a whale of a time, and was dissappointed when I saw the IN board bringing my session to an end.  We did a quick swap, and Andy was out for the last 40 minutes of the race.  I kept my leathers on in case a disaster meant I'd have to ride again, but I could otherwise relax. 

Does it not look like I'm having fun?

Andy circulated fast but safe, and eventually the chequered flag came out.  In the final reckoning we finished 12th, out of 29 starters.  But frankly, the position didn't matter that much - I was very happy to get the finish, as this will count to my TT Mountain licence next year, and I'd REALLY enjoyed the racing - both of us had a brilliant time.   Needless to say, we had a few beers later that evening to celebrate.

Many thanks to Andy for inviting me into the team to ride his lovely bike, and the help from John and Graham and Wilcock Consulting.  And now that really is the end of my 2016 season.  Subsequent posts this year will be about activity in the workshop, rather than at the track.