Monday, 23 June 2008

Take It Easy.......

Take It East They said - So I Did...... very!

Heres how it went! >>

Tell you what …. After 13 years away is F^%$ing scary! The corner speeds they are carrying now are simply amazing! The tyres are so much better…. You can really feel the grip straight away.

I think I was getting carried away before the race with my over expectations! In my mind I was going to make up 2 rows from the start and then hold that place ……. How wrong was I !

First off……. I REALLY should have done a track day! The bike has been ridden up and down our road for 500 yards…. That’s it! I had no idea about how it would handle or anything…. So there I was……. 4 whole laps of practice and then race! Bit silly really!

So……. I don’t know what it like in your neck of the woods, but it was bloody windy at Mallory Park – 50mph + gusts that were coming at you on the straight, turning into cross winds through the first big long sweeping bend…… so I set off down the straight…. Flat out… into the wind grinning like a cheshire cat as the power came in……. which quickly turned to ‘ Oh Fuck!’ as the wind catches you – front end goes light and I’m wavering all over the place in the wind!

Tip into the right hander – but I’m all wrong – is it 3rd or 4th? Has to be 3rd….. not carrying enough speed to make it 4th,….. oh yes… and practice is mixed, so I got bikes all around me…… so I’m very very tentative around Gerards….. it seems to go on for ever……. As I try to put power on, back end wavering… is that wind or suspension? Get to the straight and off we go again, cruise past a couple of bikes…. Then where the hells the braking point for Edwina’s chicane? I’d been warned about it…… I brake way way too early – over cautious – hang on… back brakes not right – no pedal!

Wobble through the chicane and look down – pedal is just sitting against the floor board doing nothing! Oops… oh well… press on…….. just use the front – cast it from your mind!

So now the real tight up hill hairpin is looming fast – out brake a bike into it which I was quite chuffed with first time into it….. wobble around it, bikes flies past me out of it into bus stop chicane… I have no idea of best line through that so get it all wrong and exit cranked over on rumble strip that nearly chucks me off, then its downhill left flat out back onto start straight and off we go again!

3 laps of that then its back into pits, each lap feels a little better, but I know I’m real slow with corner speeds!

So….. in the pits Jane and Miles arrive – they’ve missed practice by about 10 mins!

The rear brake problem is down to the link pin coming out or shearing off, so I fix a new bolt and nyloc nut through it… check fuel – bugger – I’d used tons! That’s one thirsty motor!

Checked plug….. a bit rich….. will just leave it like that – hopefully in race I’ll be using more revs…

So…… an hour passes and our race is called…… man… I was shaking! Got to the dummy grid then realised I’d not got the orange newcomers bib on…….. back to the van…….. good job I realised in plenty of time!

Back up to the dummy grid…… about a minute passes and we’re off …. I was going to go straight to the grid… forgot all about the sighting lap!... so whack the throttle open again and off we go……… man it feels even windier down the straight, especially at the end of it the front end’s going real light, and we’re drifting all over!.

Now I’m just with scooters I get a chance to see instantly I’m way too slow through the bends…. Straights are fine – but then anyone can go fast in a straight line! – so its all the way around to the start…… take up my grid slot right at the back……. Red flag is held……. Dropped …. Watch the lights…….. hell – where are they? …. There they are …. On …… off after 2 seconds….. away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nerves just disappear and I’m almost alongside the row in front of me through second gear, third gear, gain slightly…….. just catch 4th, then I’m backing off way way too early for Gerards…. How the hell are they going through it that fast!.... I’m messing round with the rear end weaving, then onto straight, damn…. could have been way earlier on the throttle, stay with them on the straight, and then I’m braking way too early again for Edwina’s and wobble through it. Up to the hairpin for the first time… that felt great…. I was always good on brakes into hairpins, still can’t get the right way to be quicker through the Bus Stop…… but its feeling better, then around for second lap… by now I’m on my own …. Where have they gone?

I’m so slow around Gerards, just no confidence or corner speed……. I’m trying to concentrate on lines and trying to get smoother, after another lap, I venture a look back in the vain hope that theres someone behind me…. There isn’t , but Guy Topper is approaching fast to lap me! Bugger! This early! He’s flying with Charlie Edmonds in hot persuit. Shit…. Now I have to think about being smooth and predictable so the rest know where I’m going … slowly!

All too soon I got Lambretta’s and zips flying round me……. Especially around Gerards, man they are quick.

All too soon the race is over, I’m lapped by most people and I have to say somewhat disappointed and a little pissed off… I expected to be around the back, but not flat last and lapped my most people!

In a funny way Ed Hocking cheers me up as he comes over and immediately bounces the rear end of the scooter – way too soft he says! Well at this point….. maybe I should mention two things I was not 100% confident about with the bike……. One was the front suspension – I’d fitted Taffy springs with 12mm bushes, making it very stiff but was it too stiff? The second was the rear suspension…… the Yamaha rear shock from my road bike still has the original spring, so is more or less solid – way to stiff, so I’d just been left with a standard shock, as I’d run out of kitty really for building the bike,…… the Escort shock was just way to soft really…. And yes – squirming all over. It had felt like that, and Ed said it was just very visible from track side. So I kind of felt better ( slightly) that a squirming rear end was really not going to be helping matters. As it was first time out with the bike, its difficult to tell with some of these things how much is bike, how much is wind because its still blowing a gale!

So for the second race I put on a borrowed Bitubo shock from Chris Geyton ( cheers Chris!). I add a bit to the tyre pressures, after talking to a couple of people it seems a few run tyres pressures way higher than standard, so I added a little to mine.

So… off to the start….. determined to get a better strat this time, I select first as the flag is carried off… wahey… the bikes going forward,,,,,, clutch not freeing…. I’m edging forward… sure no-one will notice as I’m at the back row for goodness sake, flag drops and we’re away….. exactly the same pattern as the first race……. But rear end does feel better! This time I’m a lap further on before Charlie comes flying by first this time on the exit of Edwina’s closely followed by Guy.

James Campen is now watching from the hairpin, and Chris Taylor is now stopped after the bus stop and watching from the bank! Second race I generally feel a bit more confident, but not by anywhere near enough…….. I’m still lapped, but not by as many people – so that must be progress!

The last couple of laps are tricky as gear selection is all over the place – the clutch is not freeing and changing down is really hard. After the race – can’t even change down at all as I’m back in pits….. new cable has either stretched or trunnion slipped. Will adjust / fix for next time! Oh and I have an oil leak from the gearbox gear selecter arm……. Not too bad… but will need a new ‘O’ ring to seal it I reckon.

Its an over simplification, but I just need to feel confident to corner way way faster than I am ! Oh how I wish now I’d done a track day! So that’s it! £110… 4 practice laps, 12 laps of sort of racing……… a track day suddenly seems cheap - £49 for 3 or 4 hours of practice and confidence building. Should have done ….. am definitely going to do it now!

So…….. after 13 years away from the track…….. what do we now know?

Did I enjoy it?……. Well yes – I loved being back on the track and at least trying to get round quickly

Was I happy ? …. Well not really as I was pretty fed up with myself……for being too damn slow

What do I need for next time? ….. some practice at a circuit…. And some bigger testicles

Will I be doing it again…….. well…. Hell yes…..

The main positives – I finished – mechanical reliability is always good, and I was glad I’d prepared the bike well and not rushed and skimped. Other than the rear brake issue, and stretched clutch cable there were no real issues with the scooter ( oh yes… and a new rear shocker will be added for next time! ). The scooter was bright and shiny, and stayed that way! Got some good comments from people seeing it which is always nice. It was rewarding to see it standing on its paddock stand glinting in the sun.

The negatives…….. myself really……. Need to quickly find confidence to go around bends quickly! The cost to do 16 laps!

So……………………….. that was how my first race back after 13 years away went!

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