Sunday, 13 September 2009

Hitler's New Bike

Apparently this has been around for a while... but just seen it for the first time...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Wee Monster Triumphs!

Friday 04 September 2009 - Manx Grand Prix - Ultralightweight Race

An early start to get the Wee Monster through scrootineering and everything in place for the race. Mike arrived the night before to give support and check out what all this Manx GP fuss is all about. His MD Racing prepped monster ran faultlessly for 9 laps of practice and felt better every time I rode it. The only thing we changed during practice week was a set of tyres and brake pads. The bike is 100% within the Desmo Due rules (even running with Desmo Due control tyres - the Pirelli Diablo) - a standard motor with exhaust and PowerCommander meant we only had 62 bhp to play with. She is a bit on the porky side too with a heavy fairing and lots standard road bits still on. We were always going to get murdered against the tuned SVs and 400 Supersport machines in the Ultralightweight class, but winning the Manx GP was never a thought. Just finishing a 1.5 hour, 4 lap race on the Isle of Man was the objective for this little air-cooled roadie bike.

(Rider and pit crew Helena and Ian... and the Wee Monster before the race in Parc Ferme)

Throughout practice week we put up with jibes from other teams/competitors. Things like "What's with the road tyres?" and "How the fuck did you get that through scrootineering?" never put us off. Most of the japanese mounted paddock (besides the BAMF and Wee Monster, there were only two other non-japanese bikes in the modern classes) thought it a quaint idea bringing her to the Isle but didn't give her much chance of even reaching the race. But to be honest... Mike and I were both surprised that she'd lasted this long in practice. I did 9 laps on her - many of them in pairs. The 4 lap race with a fuel stop was going to push her harder and for for twice as long as she'd ever been pushed. The race was her big test.

The race start was delayed for half an hour and then things got underway shortly before the 10h45 start. Ian warmed her up and lined her up in sequence. #72. The first riders blasted off the start line and teh rest of us followed in pairs at 10 second intervals. Raceing on teh isle of Man is racing against the clock. The fearsome TT Mountain Course is your adversary.

("See you back in the beer tent for a pint mate!")

A good luck handshake with #71 and before I knew it I was staring down a crowd-lined Glencrutchery Road. I didn't feel the starter's hand on my shoulder, so figured someone was missing from the sequence and I was to get away by myself after #71. So I waited.

Next thing... he taps me on the shoulder and #71 on a two-smoke goes screaming down toward Bray Hill. Fuck! I'm supposed to be next to him hammering it down the start. Fuck! I rev the bike and let out the clutch... "Vroooom!".

I'm still on the start line. I embarassingly realise I'm still in neutral. I kick her down and pull away cleanly... only to find false neautral between 3rd and 4th as I approach St Ninian's Crossraods. Doh! What a cock-up of a start!

(Staring down Glencrutchery Road... only seconds to go... notice the starter's hand is not on my shoulder but I'm fiddling with my helmet strap... focus lad... focus...)

I'm a bit rattled and angry at myself. But settle down soon by the time I'm driving out of Union Mills and spot #71 far in the distance. I keep the little beast pinned but the first bike that astarted 10 seconds behind me screams passed me on this long drive up the hill. This is the difference of 20 horsepower.

There is some standing water where springs are coming out under the road through the Glen Helen section. I take it easy as I spot where the water is and make a mental note to try and avoid it on the next lap.

(I fumble off the start line a few seconds after my 'start partner' - Doh! Thanks Helena for these pics!)

I think because of not qualifying on the BAMF, I'd put a bit of pressure on myself with the Wee Monster. I struggle to get into a rythm... so just settle down to going as fast as I dare and enjoying racing on closed roads. The Wee Monster gets it's ass kicked by the other lighter, faster, more race focussed bikes (the Wee Monster doesn't even have adjustable front forks!), especially down the long straights and through the bumpy sections.

Before I know it I'm onto lap two - she feels a lot better with a lighter fuel load... but I still have to sit as far back on the seat as I can over the bumps to try keep the forks from bucking. Every time I go over big bumps and jumps on the throttle, she wags her head... I ride out a few little tank-slappers too - yup... she doesn't even have a steering damper! But she soaks up the punishment better than expected and I get a sense she's enjoying it!

(A cool shot from Nic Baleta through the marshals' hut - the Wee Monster powering up Hailwood's Heights towards Brandish)

Two laps and into the pit for fuel, visor and screen cleaning and some liquid for the body. As in 2005, Helena is on visor, screen and liquid duty... Ian on fuel duty. A great team! We have a seamless pit-stop and I head out for the last two laps. As I head down Bray Hill I feel suddenly more comfortable and relaxed. I find my rythm and start pushing here harder. I felt for the wee beast a bit as she was kepped pinned in every gear for what seemed a lifetime. But she took it all in her stride!

(A great shot from Nic Baleta - Getting the knee down through Brandish!)

Around the back of the Isle, over the mountain and down Glencrutchery Road again... man I was enjoying it! At Kate's Cottage and down towards the Cregg the leaders of teh Lightweigght class singed past me on their 250 GP bikes. By the time I had rounded Brandish they were through Hillberry and outta sight!

I was a bit sad that this was the last time I was blasting down Bray Hill but made the most of it by having the bollocks to keep her flat out in fifth (Yup... she also only has 5 gears!) through the dip! I went faster around almost every corner on that lap... but as I was urging her through the Gosseneck and up the Mountain I started to get rain on my visor. It rained all the way to the 32nd Milestone. Probaly not wet enough to have adversely affected the grip I was getting, but I wasn't about to try and find out so just stroked her home - not werf throwing it away at that stage of the game!

(A clutch of riders - or is that a gaggle... starting their descent from the Mountain - thanks Nic for the pic!)

Down the Mountain to Douglas for the last time. I was disappointed to see the man with the chequered flag - I was enjoying it so much I wanted to keep going! I brought the Wee Monster home in 54nd place (out of 87 entries... and 55 finishers... doh!) . My fastest lap was the last one: 92 mph average. Considering the rain over the mountain I'm very happy with this... and that's four pints from Mike!

Local lass Carolyn Sells made history as the first woman to win a race over the TT Mountain Circuit in the Ultralightweight class - cunningly not doing a pit-stop and completing 4 laps on one tank of gas and a minute ahead of my mate Mike Minns on his SV 650. It has been 20 years since the first race that women were allowed to compete in over the Mountain Course - apparently Carolyn competed this race 20 years ago! Neil Vicars brought his SV home in 26th place, easily adding another replica to his mantle-piece.

(Super-fast and seasoned campaigner Mike Minns hustling his SV through Brandish - thanks Nic Baleta for the pic)

The Wee Monster only managed 125 mph through the speed trap on Sulby Straight. Our gearing was one tooth short on the rear from standard road gearing - this was spot on as we were pulling 9500 rpm down past the Highlander. The top 400s were doing 145 mph and top SVs close to 140 mph... so she was completely outgunned... but she finished! During practice I was hammering it down Sulby (and got 124 mph) when I heard this whining sound. I thought there was something up with the bike when a white and black striped helmet came into my peripheral vision- it was Samual Dunlop passing me on his 125cc two-smoke!

(Another great shot by Nic Baleta at Brandish)

Overall a great result thanks to a great bike and a great team. Helena and Ian for the help and pit-stop, Nic behind the lens, in the garage and kitchen, Mike for the Mountain-Course proof bike and help with setup, all the guys in the paddock that always lend a hand... Mark Herbertson, Ant... everyone! THANKS!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

BAMF - Not Qualified

So... we didn't manage to get a qualifying time on the BAMF. The race is tomorrow and I won't be lining up to blast off down Glencrutchery Road on it. Poked sprag clutch, suspension settings that were way out and of course the poor weather, crap weather and shitty weather all played their part.

I appealed to the Clerk of the Course. He turned this down. I appealed to the Course Stewards at the cost of £50 (I wasn't going to let 50 quid stop after coming this far!) and sat in front of the committee to plead my case. They turned me down. I think if the Senior race was my only race they would have seen it differently, but having qualified on the Wee Monster for teh Ultralightweights, they supported the Clerk of the Course.

The BAMF build started in November 2008. I have spent soooooo much time, effort and money on it... just to get it to the Senior race start line... only to be denied at this stage of the game. Mabe the signs were there all along with all the problems I've had to overcome to get this far. Mabe I should have given up a long time ago. Dunno. I've done everything I could have to get to the start line. So, philosophically I don't believe anything happens by chance and console myself with the thought that it just wan't meant to be. I'd like to believe I have been saved from something not so good that may happen. Still very disappointed.

Nay worries... the Wee Monster is qualified and I am looking forward to opening her up around the course tomorrow in teh Ultralightweight race. The race starts at 10:15. We have had so much rain that I don't think the course will be dry everywhere... but I hope the weather holds so that it's not a repeat of last week's practice sessions.

Wee Monster's all checked over, prepped, gassed up and ready to rock 'n roll. Going to be an early start with scroot starting at 08h00. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Superpole - Where's my Oar?

Watched a great Junior Race from the bottom of Bray Hill this morning. My mates Simon Mara, Neil Vicars and Mike Minns all finished and did well (I think they all got replicas). It was dry all the way around the 37.7 miles.

Then the combined Classic race. My mate Mark Herbertson disappointingly retired on the first lap. This was his only race because of the cancellation of the Classic race yesterday. Two and a half weeks of living in the mud to retire on the first lap - racing on the Isle of Man can be cruel.

(Trying to keep my hands dry and warm in Parc Ferme)

The I was up for my 'Superpole' lap to qualify. 15 minutes before the start and it starts raining. We still start so I assumed the rain was local to Douglas and other parts of the circuit would be dry or patchy. How wrong I was...

I poured down the entire lap. Standing water everywhere. By the time I was at Ballacraine I knew there was no hope of getting the 98 mph I needed to qualify. By the time I got to Cronk-y-voddy my boots were filling up with water. It was the longest, most frustrating lap I've ever done of the TT Course. If it were a race... okay - the conditions are the same for everyone, but knowing that I had to do 98 mph to qualify... disappointing.

(Nice road conditions for a 98mph lap... not!)

After the lap I filled in a appeal form for the Clerk of the Course... begging him to to let me race in the Senior race despite not having qualified. We'll see what he says tomorrow. At least I have the Wee Monster to have a race on... if we ever get to race!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

More Glum Weather

The Newcomers and Post classic races went ahead as scheduled. The conditions were patchy with showers of rain all around the circuit... this was reflected in the lap times. Guy Martin didn't like the slipery roads and Ryan Farquar who I guess is used to racing on the roads in Irish weather took the Post Classic win by over 3 minutes!

(Nic at work getting a shot of Guy Martin over Ballaugh Bridge on the Post Classic Suzuki)

With just 2 minutes before the start of the Junior Classic (Classic machines 350cc or less) race a delay was called. This turned into a cancellation as the weather moved in and we enjoyed an hour or so of rain. The race was rescheduled to 18h00. This was again cancelled after a serious road traffic accident near Bishopscourt. They are going to run the Junior Classic concurrently with the Senior Classic (Classic machines up to 500cc) tomorrow, after the Junior race (modern machines from 400 to 600cc). A lot of the classic riders have a Junior Classic and Senior Classic machine, so they're going to have to choose. Bummer!

(Farquar getting some air in the Post Classic over Ballaugh Bridge - thanks Nic for the pic)

I hope the weather is okay, because that's the only chance I have of getting a qualifying lap in on the BAMF. We've made some more big changes, including tyres. I'm going with a softer Pirelli road tyre that will warm up quickly and work well in wet or damp conditions. Because I don't have a spare set of wheels, I have to compromise. They are simmilar to the tyres that I'm very happy with in the dry or wet on the monster. The positve is no last minute tyre changes because of the weather which equals less stress. The negative is they are completely untested - I've never used them before. I'm also hoping the softer tyre walls on the Pirellis is going to help our handing issues a bit. I'll pack the tyre warmers too as I'll get no sighting lap or have any miles to warm the tyres up.

The qualifying lap tomorrow is going to be 'Superpole'!

(#46 - Andy Lawson - One of the best 'Airtime' Newcomers and second in the Newcomers 'B' class - thanks Nic for the pic)

There has also been a massive increase in the number of bikes around the Isle in the last few days with kazillions of classics over for the Manx Classic rally. This top-box in an ancient BSA is straight from the Touratech catalogue... Charley and Ewan... eat your hearts out!

Wee Monster - Qualified

I got a phone call from the Manx GP Race Office yesterday. They have reviewed the qualification times because of the bad weather. They decided to reduce the qualification times by 2.5 % - no clue how they came to that figure. That means the Wee Monster is qualified!

Still waaaaay off with the BAMF. I need a 96 mph - my first lap out on her and my only dry lap was 91 mph. If it's dry 96 mph won't be a problem at all... if it's wet it'll be tough.

Off to go across to Ballaugh Bridge to watch the Newcomers and Post Classic races. A bit cloudy... roads damp but it's not raining so I think it'll go ahead.