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.

Last outing of the season?

October 1st, 2016

So here I was again at Jurby, on the Isle of Man, in late September. What brought me here?  Well, a number of birds needed to be hit, and I only wanted to use one stone.

  1. I needed to collect all the stuff I left with the marvellous John Newell, because my van is not big enough to transport everything needed for two bikes and ten days at the Classic TT
  2. I also needed to collect my TZ250 engine, which had been rebuilt by the equally marvellous Billy Craine and Andy Broughton, with a refurbished barrel, new piston, rings and little end, and stock cylinder heads, obtained from TZ specialists Gecko Motorcycles (from where I also got a stock Yamaha ignition to replace the questionable aftermarket one fitted).
  3. Timing the trip to address these with an ARA meeting at Jurby meant I could a) get a slightly cheaper ferry crossing, and, much more importantly, ride at another race meeting - I need to do six a year to get my TT Mountain licence

So once again I found myself heading up the M6 to Heysham.  And once again, the traffic was appalling.  The motorways in this country really are broken.  But I made the ferry crossing in time without it being as stressful as the last time I made this run.   As usual I stayed at friends Keith & Rebecca in Ramsey, now with the house livened up with their darling new daughter Erin.  Saturday was very autumnal in the Island, with lots of rain, and high winds.  But I did most of the chores I needed, collecting the ZXR and associated paraphelia from John, and then the TZ250 engine from Billy and Andy.  And then I went for a pint with the lads.

Race day dawned dry, as forecast, but the wind hadn't dropped as much as expected.  This was only a concern for my awning, which has a tendency to turn into a large kite in high winds.  But we strapped it down well enough, and had no problems.  There was the usual signing-on, scrutineering activities, and then I was out for my first, and only, practice session.  I know my way round Jurby pretty well nowadays, so one session was enough.  The post-classic class, which is what my 1992 Kawasaki ZXR750 runs in, is run alongside the 'Singles, tiwns and triples' and the 'Steelframe 600s', and is hence often known as the 'Wacky Races' by many in the paddock.  The fast guys on Supertwins and Steelies are properly fast, but I managed to comfortably head my class with a 1:16:734, a good 2.5 seconds quicker than the next guy in the class, and 6th overall.

So I formed up for the first race  on the second row, with the bright autumn sunshine bathing the circuit and justifying my use of a dark visor.  I got my usual decent start, stealing a place off the line and....that was where I stayed. The fast lads in front rode away from me, a good couple of seconds a lap or more faster than me, but everyone behind was a second or more slower - so it was quite a lonely race.  But fun all the same, even when, in the last two laps, the horizon was full of ominous black clouds

Result - Race 1

  • 1st in class (5th overall)
  • Best lap: 1:16:923

And the bike looks great too

ZXR at Jurby in the autumn sun

 

We finished in the dry, but the rain came down just in time to cause a 10 minute delay for mate (and awning co-habitee) Andy Cowie's race, which was up next.  But wind was strong enough to dry the track quickly enough, and Andy ran his race on (treaded) dry tyres, and by the time my second race came around, the track was nearly dry.  I say nearly, but I was definitely a little careful over the damp patches on the run through Tyers Curve, and my laps times, and everybody else's, reflected this.  The rain had put a few people off, so the grid was a little thinner, but the result was similar - the fast boys rode away, and I was sufficiently quicker than those behind to again have a fairly uneventful ride

Result - Race 2

  • 1st in class (4th overall)
  • Best lap 1:19:596

And after that, it was pack up, back to Ramsey, run through the shower and down the pub.

So, that might be in the end of my 2016 race season.  Or I might do the last NGRRC meeting at Thruxton next weekend.

 

That's Racing...Take 2

August 31st, 2016

I'm writing this sat at home in England, after another couple of full days.

Sunday 28th Aug

After the big crash and its aftermath in the Classic Lightweight race on Saturday, the Classic Superbike race was going to be all about getting a safe finish.  The bike had a done a practice lap on Saturday, with no problems, and really didn't need anything doing to it.  So for Sunday, the crew had a day off, and went off to be tourists, while I had a slow day just pottering round.  I had expected to be as stiff as a board, and ache all over, after my 130mph tumble yesterday,  but I felt surprisingly good, with only the slightest twinges.  My kit - Held leathers and gloves, Daytona boots, Knox back protector, Shark helmet - had really proved their worth. Here's a picture of my most significant injury, the bruise on my hip (closely cropped for decency):

Post-TZ-crash bruised hip

First item of business was to get the couple of very small holes in my leathers repaired.  My Manx racing friends had all referred me to  a lady called Christine, based in Peel, who did race leather repairs.  I'd called her Saturday evening, and she said to just to come over on Sunday morning.  I dropped them with her, she had a look, and said "Go and get a coffee, and come back in an hour".  I took myself to the lovely Peel harbour, and, it being nearly lunchtime, treated myself to a crab bap, which was as lovely as usual.  I got back to Christine's and the hole was patched, and a very small amount of money handed over for the repair.  Highly recommended.

I then drove up to Ramsey, to meet my long-LONG-standing friend Virginia, who was across to watch her beloved classic bikes.  She hopped in the van, and we both went to the 'Festival of Motorcycling" event at Jurby Racetrack, which seems to be going from strength to strength.  There were thousands of people there, and almost every bike you could think of was either on official display, or just parked in the bike-park.    I only spent an hour there, as I had a TZ to look at, so I left Ginny to it, and headed back to the paddock.

Considering it had slid up the road at 130mph or so, the TZ250 had survived amazingly well.  As a pukka race bike, it had obviously been designed to crash well!  The tail-piece/seat was trashed, but although the fairing was significantly scuffed, it could probably be fixed up and used as a 'spare'.  And the damaged to the mechanicals was limited to one handlebar, one footrest, and one exhaust.  Amazing.  But today's job was not to repair the crash damage, it was to remove to motor and take it to Billy and Andy.  Race bikes are easy to work on, and even being slow and methodical, I had the engine out in about 90 minutes; I expect that if I was in a hurry, I could do it in a third of that time, and a skilled mechanic with TZ experience much faster that that.  But I'm still learning the bike, and there was no rush.  And I had time to go shopping too, so we could eat that evening.

Alex and Simon and Simon had gone for a trip to Laxey Wheel, and then taken the electric railway to the top of Snaefell, and then the steam railway to Castletown - proper tourists!  But Simon Wilson was on a flight home that evening, so I picked them up at the station, feeling a little like Jenny Agutter, and then Wilce threw his kit together and was ready for a lift to the airport.  I took him down there and said a heartfelt thanks - he had been drafted in at short notice, and had worked like a trooper.  I then drove almost the length of the Island to Ramsey to drop the TZ motor with Billy, and then back to the paddock, where Alex had cooked up a mountain of pasta with a ragu sauce.

Monday 29th Aug

Race day.  This was the chance to turn around our frankly lousy practice week, and even worse opening race.  The first race of the day was the Classic Junior, for pre-70s 350s, and our Classic Superbike race was due to go off at 2pm.  Although down to two, the crew of Alex and Simon were old hands now, and the bike breezed through scrutineering, and was soon sat on its stands, tyre warmers warming the tyres, while they waited for pit lane to be opened so they could fill the fuelling rig.  I was so laid back that it was with something of a start when I realised that the was a little under and hour to go, and I should probably go and prepare my kit, drink some energy drink, get changed, etc.  I got back to Parc Ferme in my leathers just as the bikes were being called up onto Glencrutchery Road, but that still gave a good 10 minutes, so plenty of time.  In this race I was number 47, so even when the first rider started, I still had a good few minutes until my start; for the race, riders start individually at 10 second intervals.  But soon enough it was my turn again, and the starter gave a quick raise of the Manx flag and I wheelied down towards St Ninians Crossroads and onto Bray Hill.  It all felt very familiar - despite having done relatively few complete laps in practice, I started quite a lot, so the first part felt like second nature.  

While it was very important to get a finish, you can't just cruise round - you have to have enough of a focus to maintain your concentration and have some pace.  It's a balancing act.  I had also hoped to be faster than some of the people who started in front of me, but after catching #46 in the first few miles, I didn't see anyone else at all.  I started the second lap, and felt pretty comfortable, and the bike was working well.  But I was really paranoid that some other minor technical problem was going to rear its head, so it was difficult to actually enjoy it!  At the end of lap two, I pulled into the pits for fuel, and as Alex fuelled the bike he told me that the exhaust silencer was hanging off, and would need a repair - the clamp that retained it to the exhaust hanger had broken.  Simon set to with lockwire, as the scrutineer in attendence told us that we couldn't use a tie-wrap (which would probably have been a much better solution).  We probably lost about 60 seconds in the pits because of this, but I just drank my drink and waited to be told to head off.  As I did so, a couple of other bikes left just before me, so at least I had someone to chase now.

The third lap would be the most enjoyable, and looking at the split times after, my fastest, although the time lost in the pits doesn't make it look like it.  I chased down the two bikes ahead of me, and slowly reeled them in, catching the nearer at the end of Cronky-y-Voddy straight.  But he wasn't much slower, and his bike seemed to have good speed, so I couldn't easily get past him.  I followed him through Handleys, the top and bottom of Barregarrow, round the 13th and towards Kirkmichael.  I nearly outbraked him into Douglas Road corner, but the TT course is not somewhere that you do Hail Mary passes, so I had to follow some more, through Kirkmichael and the Bishopscourt section. My next chance would probably be the hard braking for Ballaugh Bridge, so I made sure I was right on his tail coming out of Alpine...and he seemed to slow unexpectedly just as we came out of Ballacob.  I had to quickly jink to the right to avoid running into him - just about exactly at the spot where I'd been thrown off the TZ250 on Saturday!  But at least I was now past; unfortunately, the other rider I'd been winding in was now gone, and I didn't see him again.

I headed down toBallacry, Quarry Bends, Sulby Straight and the bumpy section from Ginger Hall to Ramsey.  Previously the bike had been fairly well behaved over these bumps, but now it was moving about a bit more - I assumed this might be down to the suspension just being hot.  But it was all OK, and I was soon heading up the moutain again...only for the chap I chased down to come past me on the way out of the Gooseneck!  One of the professional photographers caught this superbly, and put them on Facebook, but can I find them now?  No, I can't, so I'll post this one instead, which is probably the most iconic photo that will ever be taken of me:

Rounding the Creg

The bike that passed me was #51, ridden by Graham Ward, and had therefore started some 40 seconds behind me.  He was well ahead on corrected time, so there was little point in trying to catch him - even if I got past, I'd be unlikely to make that 40 seconds back.  But I kept him honest, and it gave me a target to focus on, which is always good.  Unfortunately for Graham, his bike expired on the 4th lap, a little before Ramsey.  So now I just had less than half a lap to go, and now I was really paranoid!  I was talking to myself, ensuring that I stayed focussed - even though I train pretty hard for this event, and am in good condition, for my age, I'm not a youngster, and was definitely feeling tired now. And as I came out of Windy Corner, I thought I felt the bike hesitate very slightly - oh no, was I going to run out of petrol!?  It's all downhill from here, but you still need some fuel to get you home, so I properly nursed the bike down to the Creg and on to Hillberry, short-shifting all the gears, and hoping we'd just get home. But once I got to Signpost, I thought I'd probably be OK, and pulling out of Governor's Dip I knew I would be, and I crossed the line to take the chequered flag.  What a brilliant feeling!

I rode up the return road and Ginny was hanging over the fence to congratulate me, so I stopped for a quick hug, and then rode up to Parc Ferme where Simon was waiting with the stand.  I thankfully climbed off the bike, feeling really jolly tired!  But elated too! There is no feeling like finishing a TT.   The lockwire repair of the exhaust strap had probably lasted 5 minutes, and that might have been the cause of the hesitation I thought I felt - the exhaust was definitely at a jaunty angle at finish:

I thanked Simon and Alex, and we headed back to our awning and tent, where I climbed out of my leathers and stood in the sun and steamed gently.  And drank a lot of water - almost a whole 2 litre bottle.  But the next order of business was definitely to hit the beer tent, so I took 10 minutes to run through a hot shower, and then we went for a drink.  Followed by another, then another.  The beer tent after a TT is an extremely convivial and good-natured place to be, and Simon went to the race office and came back with the official results, showing me in 28th place (from nearly 70 starters) and with a replica too! (awarded to those who finish within 10% of the winner's time).  The presentations for all the Classic TT races was being held in a big marquee just a few yards away, so after a brief pause for some food to soak up the alcohol, we trooped across there, and collected our prize.  By now, the post-race inspections had excluded a number of people for 'technical infringements) and I was up to 24th place!  Multiple TT winner Phil McCallen handed my my replica; coincidentally he presented me with the previous rep I won in the Lightweight race at TT 2013.   Trophy collected, we went back to the beer tent.  This picture probably captures the evening:

Results + replica + beer

Tuesday 30th August

The next day had a bit of a slow start, but we had lots to do - we were on the evening ferry, and had to pack everything, stow some of it t John's place in Andreas, and get the rest in the van.  We set to, and it all happened.  While in the north of the Island, we stopped in at Billy's workshop, where Andy had just started on the TZ motor; although he had suspected a big-end seizure, it turned out to be a 'normal' piston seizure, on the left/upper cylinder.  It took some persuasion with a hammer to get the cylinder off, and it will require a professional repair (Aptec are the people, apparently), but this less dramatic (and expensive) than a failed crank.  Andy is convinced the issue is down to the ignition I was running, so next think on the shopping list is a genuine Yamaha ignition.

We then headed back to the paddock and crammed everything left into the van.  And when I say crammed...

..I think I need a bigger van.

We were on the 19:45 ferry, which arrived in Hesham at 23:15, and then we headed down the M6.   Alex drove to his house, I dozed a bit.  We unloaded all the camping kit with Alex, I drank a Red Bull, and a little after 2am Simon and I headed further south, arriving at my place around 4:30am.  Simon changed into his bike kit, we got his bike out of my garage, and he headed onwards, while I collapsed into bed.

So that was out Classic TT, 2016.  As always, it was hard work, but tremendously rewarding, and we got a finish and a replica.  And it can't be said enough that no one can even think of doing this by themselves; without the amazing hard work and attention to detail from Alex Ferrier, Simon Weller and Simon Wilson, I'd not have got to the start of practice, let alone finished a race.  So thanks to three of you so much.  And we did have a laugh too.