Friday, 10 April 2009

Official Practice Day 27th March - Continuing progress

Friday 27th saw me join around 30 other scooter racers for the 'official' VMCC/BSSO practice day at Mallory Park. Following the damaged ignition, and then the broken exhaust that cut short the track day in early March, there were a couple of jobs to do on the scooter before the practice day. I re-soldered the ignition and araldited the key wires to keep everything intact (hopefully), and a huge thanks to Ed Hocking for re-welding and strengthening the broken exhaust... top job mate! The reason for the broken exhaust most likely turned out to be a broken rubber mount that had sheared. When refitting the exhaust system, I moved the mounts slightly as I found they were not quite lining up correctly so the whole thing was under tension. So with the ignition and exhaust re-fitted we were good to go. Thursday night I picked up my mate Dave's, Gilera Runner. Dave is one of the newcomers for 2009 (although he did race group 6 for a short while in the 80's). Daves Runner is fairly mildly tuned, but is going to give him track time and practice in 2009...... maybe a Lambretta for 2010 I wonder? So with the two matching green scooters in the back of the van, Dave and Johnny Gilbert along for the day...... off we went to Mallory. Arriving a little late (following a return to home to pick up a phone!) it was all a bit of a mad rush to get changed, scrutineered and signed in. The Scrutineer John Woods advised Dave to change his fork set up to improve handling, so whilst Dave set about that with the spanners I went to bump my bike into action. Not a dickie bird...... up and down I pushed it.... no life! Oh dear! The day was starting badly. Chalkie White arrived on the scene as if by magic and we immediately set about checking things over. We quickly found the problem..... no spark..... again! The flywheel was removed and the problem was immediately evident! Yet another smashed ignition pickup! Stator plates and ignitions appear to be my achilles heel! Luckily Chalky had brought along a spare (last minute decision!) which was a stroke of luck. We just had to lengthen the wires to fit it, but as it was clear by now that I would not get this completed in time for the first track session, I walked down to trackside to watch the first session and see how Dave was getting on. I immediately saw Dave's bike sitting behind the bales near Edwina's.... I assumed he must have broken it already! Unfortunately I was wrong and he had actually binned it at Edwina's on the first lap!!!!!! So this was the Dave 'I'll just take things easy' that had managed a whole 2 bends before binning it! He was in a lot of pain from his thumb. The bike had suffered some cosmetic damage, and the handlebars were knocked out of line. So there we were..... HG Racing both with the spanners out fixing things. This was not really the best start to the day! By the second scooter track session we were both ready though. As we sat on the dummy grid, drops of rain started to hit my visor, followed by the wind getting up and a hail shower (!) which briefly gave everything a white covering....... 'oh such joy' I thought ......... on dry tyres! It soon cleared though and we were on track! Most of the circuit was wet with spray coming off tyres around Gerard's. I quickly felt comfortable though and immediately started to get a feel for the extra power from the new engine, and was passing a few people in the damp conditions. The hairpin and bus stop end of the circuit were very quickly dry, but Gerard's end took a while longer to dry, and the wind had picked up, so nothing special as far as lap times go. 8 laps were completed trouble free though!

More sessions followed, and my times dropped, and in my second session I was closer to my previous best, but still a second off it. I think the wind on the straight and through the exposed Gerard's was a factor in this though.
All too soon it was lunchtime. This gave us time to have a chat with Matthew Gooch who had driven up from Hereford to watch, and Zak and Julie from Lambretta Cottage- one of my 2009 sponsors. The Conneely's were doing a photoshoot for Scootering on the start line...... the two matching race scooters now have a matching Vespa road scooter! Watch out for it! The afternoon saw another 3 track sessions, and I continued trouble free to experiment with lines around Gerard's. I was now getting this slightly better - still way too slow on the entrance and the first section - but my exit was getting better all the time and I was entering the straight on the power much earlier and carrying more speed on the straight to Edwina's. In the last scooter session I felt really comfortable and Matthew showed me the stopwatch..... my quickest ever lap by a second. I was really enjoying it now and was delighted when the announcement went out for an extra session of mixed scooters and bikes for anyone who wanted to go out. Dave had by now retired hurt as his thumb was really painful and he could not brake very effectively. The last session saw me chasing a couple of bikes and gradually reeling them in.

One more lap and I reckon I would be pretty close to catching them. It felt a great session and the stopwatch showed a further reduction with 6 of the 8 laps being consistently quicker and quicker and those 6 laps were all new personal best laps. The final lap broke the 1.20 mark. I still have a way to go, but the good thing is I was now a full 15 seconds quicker than my first race back last year at Mallory.

So..... that was it for the day. I managed to complete around 50 laps and was really enjoying it. After the initial ignition problems the only tinkering was just before the last session when I needed to carry out a clutch adjustment as it had started to slip a little. It had been a great day for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I missed my normal pit crew! Now it's a case of looking forward to Easter Monday and race 1 of the 2009 season. There's lots to be excited about, and judging by the test day there's going to be some good close racing all through the field. Ed Hocking will be one to watch now he's graduated from the Tightwad racer to a 30 HP Chalky White motor. Newcomer Michael Bonett on the Kegra group 4 is looking quick, but the big story is looking like being 14 year old rider Josh Brown. Josh is fully sponsored by Scootermatix, the new UK Stage 6 distributor. He certainly looks super quick, and I am certain he will be challenging for top honours pretty quickly.

Thats it for now.............. Good Luck to everyone for the 2009 season.