Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Cadwell Park - Saturday 27th - Day 1!

Well....... it was going to be a full paddock, with the VMCC meeting having the biggest entry of the year, so I decided to travel the 45 miles to Cadwell on the Friday night and get a decent space in the paddock! If I left it till Saturday morning I had a feeling I'd be somewhere up the Louth Road!

I got there around 8.00 and after a couple of circuits of the paddock found Jigsy in his palatial motorhome with a decent space alongside him! He had the barbecue on and the beer opened.
>> Jigsy's rattler >>

I set up the van, and finished up a couple of small jobs I still had to do on the scooter..... I'd picked up the temporary rev counter from KA sensors, and found a bracket suitable for it in the workshop, so I fitted that in readiness, and did a couple of other small tinkering jobs.... isn't there some kind of law that says you should start tinkering with your bike in the dark as soon as you get there?

I had a wander around, shared a couple of beers and some chat with the usual suspects before retiring to sleep on a luxurious blow up mattress in the van! A disturbed night when i couldn't switch the light off in the back at 3am...... opening and closing the doors obviously made me really popular with the neighbours at 3.am - sorry Dan!

Jigsy was all excited and woke me with a bang on the door at 7am.... the crazy dude. We awoke to fog.... lots of it! Parctice was called around teh usual time 9.30, but it was still real foggy. I was in the queue to go out next but the fog just came down again and even during the 15 minute practice session came down to the point where the marshalls posts were not visible, so that put an immediate halt to proceedings!

The fog just hung around will lunch time so we lost a good three hours! It was clear we were not going to get our races in that afternoon!

Eventually i got out to practice as a few friends started to arrive........ Bike felt great and I felt great myself on it - relaxed - and comfortable. My car has been in the garage for over 3 weeks ( long story - but its best to heed red warning lights! ) so i'd been riding my road scooter daily, which i am certain helps things along!

It was immediately apparent that the scooter was revving nicely, but I'd maybe not made the right gearing choice after all the deliberation! I was a bit too high I felt....... I was flying down the straights passing bikes, but didn't have enough power to pull up the hills at Cadwell, so I decided to change back to my original first gearing choice and made a mental note to follow gut instincts more!

So more friends and family arrive to find me with clutch and gears out. My benevolent sponsor (!) arrived to find the scooter on its side with its guts out! ha ha. My nephew also arrived around this time, and it made me chuckle that the environment was not was he is used to ( he's a Formula 1 mechanic!).

Anyways - gearing all sorted and its down for the first race. Got an ok start, but it was awesome to see and hear 38 scooters blasting off! I wasn't last - hurrah!

I had never ridden the full circuit at Cadwell before and struggled a little to find the right lines at the Mountain and Park Bends, where unfortunately I missed a gear...... Ooops...... clatter clatter ///...... fistful of revs ..... during which i seemed to select most of the gearbox at some point including any hint of false neutrals I could find! This would come back to haunt within a lap...... I could hear a slight change in the tone of the engine, and a vibration started to appear along the start straight and up the sweeping hill.... then a couple of misfires and on the exit of the Gooseneck down hill the motor just stopped! Game over! I tried to bump it back up, but nowt happened so my first non finish! Gutted!

I watched the show from behind the straw bails...... man those front runners are flippin quick.... and Tony O'Briens little Vespa is bloody amazing!

The long push up to the paddock about killed me -! I needed an iron lung at the top! Thanks for the pushers who appeared at the top to help!

We started to examine what may be wrong! All wires in place present and correct..... hhmmmm...... process of elimination...... so plug out - no spark! Put a new plug in ...... a spark! result me thinks! Bumped it up and it started straight away...... and ran for a whole 1o seconds before stopping again..... hmmmmm..... stator? coil ?? We took flywheel off,,, checked the stator - all appeared well, although there was a mark where the ignition pick up had rubbed on the flywheel. JB Tuning had a spare coil so that was tried and it was running fine again! I ran it up and down the paddock slowly ( mistake) and let it run for a couple of minutes.... al seemed well! Conclusion drawn was that it must have been the coil!.

>>> Whats wrong here then? Is it broken? >

Saturday night I ran the SRP boys into Horncastle and we fetched ourselves a chinky chinese which was very welcome! Between us I managed to cause a little upset by driving off to turn around not knowing there were a couple of bottles of beer standing up in the back which promptly fell over and smashed - oops beer in my sleeping quarters! Also a black bollard jumped out at me too and hit the side door! Double whammy!

A few drink in the clubhouse then midnight burgers at the Hardy encampment (always a pleasure) then back to bed and a really good nights sleep!

Sunday will be a whole new day!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Cadwell almost here!

Well people, 24 hours to go till Cadwell, and the final rounds of the 2009 Championship.

Lots to tell........

First off the scooter! I have been really undecided about gearing, and after much indecision I plumped for a change. However - ! as is always the case when you solicit some opinion you seem to end with with a wide variety of input! - which is great, but of course may just confuse matters further!

Anyways........ as I'm stuck with only currently having the option of a 47T clutch sprocket, some gearing options are limited. On the winter engineering list is a 46T sprocket! I'm using a 6 plate clutch so the slutch sprockets needs to be way deeper than normal.

I've had 16/47 combination so far with an Li150 Pacemaker gearbox. on the first two outings at Mallory and Cadwell I pobably didn't have a feel for the gearing as i was hanging on for grim death alternating between grinning and screaming under the helmet! A few more races and I'm sure I'll be more in tune with exactly whats occuring as i get more comfortable ( he says confidently!)

It would be a big help to actually have a rev counter so I know what the motor is revving too ..... now in comes my old skateboarding mate Pete Trevor. Pete runs a company specialising in motorsport sensors, and has a unit just around the corner! Pete has made me a small didgital rev counter unit up as a temporary measure whilst we design something better. We tested this yesterday on teh road scooter and it all worked, so in true lastminute.com style I'll be making up a bracket to hold it - so fingers crossed at Cadwell I'll actually get to know what the bike is revving to! This will of course allow me to fine tune gearing to teh optimum once i've actually got the hang of keeping the throttle pinned!

Pete is hoping to get to Cadwell at some point over the weekend to have a chat with a few riders about what kind of data they would like to measure on race scooters, and pete may be able to make a scooter specific unit! He does a lot of work in Formula 1 and Superbikes, indeed as i was there to test the rev counter I noticed Leon Haslams rear wheel on a test rig, and his race engineers arrived as I was there! www.kasensors.co.uk for more on the kind of things available!

I treated myself to a nice new Arai Helmet this week. My old helmet was ok, but the visor sealing was pants and wind whistles through and makes eyes run! I had laser surgery on my eyes a couple of years ago, so they are quite sensitive to wind and pressure. The old helmet venting system was not much cop either and at Anglesey on teh Saturday I was having really big problems with visor steaming to the point where i amlost had to stop, so hopefully the Arai will cure that! These guys www.sportsbikeshop.co.uk are just down the road and as i was only 15 miles away on business I called in to the warehouse and they sorted me out a deal. Very efficient they were too and definitely recommended!

Now some mega news......... as a direct result of writing this blog I've managed to be offered some sponsorship for 2009.... and not just a bottle of oil, but a proper amount! All will be revealed shortly, but I'm really pleased and happy to have been offered this. I may not be running at the front, but with some help like this, and the publicity that blogs, pictures and 'doing the extra bit' its really pleasing to know that there are people out there willing to help and support.

I hope that in a small way this sponsorship will help to further publicise and help attract people into racing, and also help the sponsor to achive some benefits too!

That will have you all guessing won't it! All will be revealed shortly!

For 2009 expect a new addition the HG Racing stable (!) with Dave Crampton making a 20 year delayed return to racing! Expect to see a green Gilera Runner in Group 6 !!!!!!!!! Dave's got some great engineering support from Brian Raynor who is an ex bike TT racer and master of techy race parts! More on Daves unique Runner over the next few weeks!

Finally a mention for drunkmonkey! He's out for the first time ( eventually) on a group 6 bike. Bizarrely he's never even seen scooter racing yet has built a race bike!
Watch a video of the bike running !

In closing for this time, good luck to everyone this weekend.... I hope the last 4 races are super close at the front, Watch out for Bert Conneely 667 from 2nd on the grid with a new engine, and Stuart Day hopefully blasting through from the back to challange for the front!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Thinking of Cadwell......

Well troopers, I've just returned from meeting up wth an ex scooter racing mate - Matthew Gooch - who was doing a track day at Cadwell on a borrowed fireblade.

It was great to meet up with Matt after not seeing him for maybe even 13-14 years!

His scooter racing career was cut short after a nasty accident at Three Sisters. His elbow was pretty much shattered and now he has a few lumps of metal in there to keep it all together. After struggling for the first few years withthe injury, he's now getting along fine and was certainly enjoying his laps of the full Cadwell Circuit.

We had a good few discussions about lap times..... and just how quick the leading scooters actually are! Charlie Edmonds winning lap time last year was 2 minutes 2 seconds........ which would actually have been quicker than many of the 750cc bikes there today at the Performance bikes track day. Indeed Charlies laps are only 30 seconds adrift of Leon Haslams British superbike lap...... which in pretty incredible when you consider the machinery!

Sticking with Cadwell it was interesting to see Bert Conneely's post about when he took his Lambretta to a recent Cadwell Track day...... form the sound of it he certainly gave a good account of himself! I've been really impressed with Berts riding this year as a newcomer to scooter racing.

I know there is some inevitable sibling rivalry between Bert and his establshed scooter racing brother Steve, but they certainly push each other along very hard, and I would say have probably pushed each others skills on greatly in 2008. They raced each other very hard on the Saturday practice at Anglesey earlier this year, and I know I was pretty impressed when they both flew by me in the wet with their knees on the tarmac! Despite the wet conditions, it was awesome to see such riding skill. I actually think that when Bert gets his new motor for 2009, he will be running Charlie Edmonds and Stuart Day pretty close for the 2009 Group 4 Championship. In fact........ I'd go as far as to say that with the right engine and reliability, Bert could win the champioship in his second year of competition! - No pressure though Bert ! :)

Theres a really big entry in both the bikes and scooters for Cadwell, with full grids all round! Its certainly going to be a full paddock I reckon! The down side of this is that due to the number of entries, we will be racing the full circuit both days. Normally we race the short Woodlands circuit on Saturday and the full circuit on Sunday. Naturally its great to have good entry levels - especially in the current economic climate - but on a personal basis it would have been great to race the Woodlands circuit. My bike is not big on power, so the shorter circuit levels things out a bit!

I've been struggling a bit to work out the best gearing to use at Cadwell. I guess my 2 races so far this year have just got me back on track.... not much more - I still have so much to (re)learn and data to build up on circuits and gearing, what works, what doesn't etc etc so its all a pretty steep learning curve. But as always a few regular riders have been a great help with help and advice.... thanks fellas..... much appreciated!

Anyways..... that will do me for now...... hopefully another blog before Cadwell..... transmission is currently apart whilst I make final decisions on gear ratios to use, so you never know - next entry might have a photo of a chain and some clutch plates !

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Anglesey ( late report ! )

Well people, sorry to have taken soooo long to update since the last report! Holiday and works gets in the way of all the fun!

Well...... Anglesey.... long old drive for me to get there - much delay on the way and a road closed didn't exactly help things along!

The last hour or so was quite a nice drive though along the coast, i was tempted to stop, but just wanted to get there !

Friday night I walked the track, and wow! What a track it is. It's almost as if the circuit is made up of the best elements of several other circuits.... even a mini Laguna Seca corkscrew bend! The 10 degree banked bend looked like it was going to be fun, the main 'straight' (technically a very long curve actually) rose uphill to a blind crest left hander, swiftly followed by a right hander, and a short straight to a right hand bend at the highest part of the circuit, dropping back downhill if you had sufficient time to actually see it there was a superb view straight out to sea! dropping down the corkscrew to another short straight, then a nice left hander back to the start straight you then had another left hander to return you to the banked bend for another lap!

All in all it was a superb circuit, very smooth, however its downside must be its exposure to coastal weather....... which during Friday night / ealry Saturday morning arrived with a vengeance!

The paddock was just littered with broken and bent awnings! The wind and rain had been wild and it was deemed too dangerous to race!

Now I knew rain had been forecast, but unfortunately I had no wet tyres! Carl neath was getting me some rims and Martin Hylands of JustLambretta was going to bring me some Sava Monsum tyres... but unfortunately his bike is still not playing so he did not go. Steve Wright came to the rescue and picked me up some Sava's and tubes from Rayspeed alongwith the new rims for Carl to give to me! So whilst we were sat waiting (hoping) for the wind to drop, I built the wheels and tyres together... a little bit of filing of the stud holes and they eventually fitted together! So then i sat filing the surface off the tyres to 'scrub' them in...... thankfully Phil Bevis walked by and came back with the monster super sharp file that helped take the surface off ( alongwith several bits of skin from my fingers!)

Captain kroozer jealously looked over as he'd also been sat for some considerable time doing his with wet and dry , possible even a girls finger nail file even (!) Actually - apologies Capatin for that comment ( he's a big fella !)

Anyways eventually after half two in the afternoon, we eventually got on track, but racing was cancelled and it was just going to be a practice session for a couple of hours.!

So....... baptism of fire time, as after 13 years away this would be my first wet session! funnily enough I really never felt bad at all about it in fact i actually felt more comfortable in the wet than I had in the dry! In fact I felt so comfortable that after pulling onto the track, the first bend is the banked 180 degree bend, I just went straight round the outside of three of the vintage bikes who were very gently tip toeing around it!

in that first twenty minute session I managed to pass quite a few bikes which was great fun! Just as I thought i was actually going pretty well, the Conneely brothers came by me round the outside with Bert having his knee down! ( Didn't anyone tell him it was wet? )

So the afternoon passed with me going out on track for as many sessions as I possibly could - (I really need the track time) but after a couple of hours the sea mist came in and took away the visiblilty, so it was game over for the day!

Time to pack up and get changed, which was when i realised basically everything was soaking wet! My one pair of shoes was absolutely soaked! Only one thing for it - so I took a drive into Hollyhead to try and catch the shops before they shut! I managed to just grab a pair of dry shoes just as the shop was closing..... and wearing them was heaven!

I picked up a chinese and went back to the circuit to eat it...... and very welcome it was too! Now i don't know what they eat down on the south coast, but Kat and PJ had never eaten banana fritters before!!!!! So of course I shared some with them, and Kats face was a picture as she tried fritters for the first time..... decision..... well...... plain weird she reckons! PJ was quite clear in his assessment though ( doubt he'll be eating them again lol)

Saturday night, and a few drinks and a hot dog standing in the cold with the Hardys, Pollits and Woods's before settling back for an uncomfortable night in the back of the HG van.

Sunday arrived windy again, but dry, which to be honest I was disappointed about as after how I felt on saturday I would have loved it wet again! So as it was my second race in 13 years saw me pootling around, not troubling the front runners, but closer than I was on my first outing at Mallory. The second race saw Charlie Edmonds drop it into the start straight chasing Stuart Day, which was a shame as i reckon the spectators were due to see a Battle Royal between them two! its a rare occurence for Charlie to throw his bike down the track so it was a real shame. the second race I was closer again and it was near the end of the race before the leaders came by (!) which was a big improvement......

So... all in all, I really enjoyed Anglesey, I just need to get lots of track time to get comfortable and quicker, at 45 I'm not going to be troubling the front runners , but I look forward to net being lapped as my first target for improvement!

The scooter ran really well again, with no mechanical gremlins, which i have been really pleased about!

I'm not able to make the next meeting ( Lydden Hill) but am looking forward to Cadwell Park which is at least in the same county as I live in!

Now...... if it rains at Cadwell........... hhhmmmmmm theres a thought!

Thanks to Captain Kroozer for the fuel, Carl Neath and Steve Wright for sorting me the tyres and rims and the Hardy posse for sausages and beer! Steve Pollit for entertainment as always ( and don't mention the tumble!!!!!!!)