Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Back on the Short Circuits

Work, eat and sleep is all I managed to do for most of last week. By Friday the headache had subsided and I was feeling a lot better.

Up early on Saturday to sort out the KTM. Mike is helping me prep it for training in Scotland next weekend. Spent the afternoon prepping the Wee Monster and trying to find the source of an ominous knocking sound coming from the front wheel of the Chevy.

Up early again on Sunday (no too early though) to get the Duke flattracker to Geoff of Co-Built to get the custom exhaust made up. Then up to Silverstone for round 2 of the Ducati Desmo Due Championship.

The Wee Monster looking sweet with her new rosso tank

It was a Ducati feast with about 35 Desmo Due bikes, the Dutch Ducati club with all their 1098s and the 848 Challenge. There were a few 4 pot screamers too... but normal ratio of jap screamers to Italian twins was inverted. The fantastic sound of 90 degree VeeTwins boomed around Silverstone all day!

Of course, being Silverstone and Sunday, the first practice was limited to only 98dB. I arrived late becasue I didn't expect to be able to get out for this as I had no dB-killers on the bike. turns out the Wee Monster is just on the limit! So I got out for a wobble around.

Then we had the traditional Silverstone 'Church Break' before the circuit came alive with open race pipes and timed Qualification. I entered the Desmo Due races (DD) and a mixed grid of 2 smoke GP bikes (some from the 70s!), 400s and a few SVs (hereafter known as 'the other race'). This gave me 2 timed Qualification and 4 races for the day.

Craig and his boys Kyle and Ross came along to see some Ducati action

I thought I was going quite well until I saw the time-sheet. Only 8th in DD class 'A' (out of 12 entries) and somewhere on the 10th row for the other race (this was because we had a split grid). A bit rusty.

We were on the National Circuit... which is a bit mickey-mouse, but they've got rid of that horrendous 90 degree chicane abortion just before getting back onto the pit straight. It was horrible to ride, but I did well on it because you could duff others up the inside from about 5 bike-lengths back!

The last time I rode here was 2005 when I pulled this strong move on a number of faster riders in the MRO Supertwins. I also melted my rear brake disc and calliper because it was binding - the disc was glowing orange-hot when finished and spectators told me afterwards that there were flames leaping off the calliper during the race. I thought something was amiss because the bike was getting more and more sluggish... I just held the throttle on the stops for longer.

The first 'other race' was a split grid and all the two-smokes had a 15 sec lead. Still cought traffic by lap 2 and finished 16th.

We all piled into the Chevy to keep out of the April showers

First DD race. Revs up, lights on. Lights off... baaaarp! The Wee Monster bogs down. Not enough revs - I'm making a habit of that. Neil Appleby gets me up the inside for a block pass early on at Maggotts ...a move I'd used on the guys in front of me. I hang wide, turn the bike hard and get on the gas early, straight-lining across his sweeping arc. As we straighted up, I'm a few feet from his back wheel and driving hard. A few seconds slipstreaming then I dart out under the bridge to make a clean pass. we repeat this for most laps in ding-dong battle that ensues. Because of our fisty-cuffs we drop of the leading pack, but catch Andy Chalis on the last lap. Neil outsmarts me by making his move early and then getting Andy between us.

I try make a pass on Andy through Brooklands, but he blocks and I almost run into the back of him. But I keep on it, climbing all over the back of him through the long Luffield. I hold a tight line coming out and get on the gas as early as I dared. Man, that MD Racing setup Wee Monster handles brilliantly and I could put it wherever I wanted to! Andy drifts wide on the power and his rear wheel is next to my elbow as we take the flat-out right kink. I'm on the inside and we're just inches apart when we cross the line, me just half a wheel in front of him! I take 6th, just a 5 hundredths of a second ahead - he isn't happy. Sorry mate.

A great ding-dong race!

It rains before the second 'other race'. Mike and Ant help sort out the knocking front (loose head bearings) and we decide on a gearing change as the first call for the race goes out. No worries, my brilliant race engineers (no, really... they are both engineers... and brilliant) take out teh back wheel, change the rear sprocket, refit the rear wheel and adjust the chain in about 3 minutes flat!

Race engineers Ant and Mike changing the gearing in about 3 minutes flat!

The race was a bit patchy and I just take it easy and test the new gearing. We seem to be getting a little more speed at the end of the back straight and the knocking was sorted. I finish 16th again (I think).

DD race 2. Dry track. Bad start again. I bog it down and then wheelie after giving it beans. Similar pattern to the first race. A few laps in and I'm still in touch with the leading group. Then more fistycuffs with Neil Appleby.
 This time I just cannot get enough drive onto the back straight to get him back and struggle to get into his slipstream. By the time the extra speed tells, it's too late and the gap too big to make it up on the brakes. The taller gearing wasn't working in  this situation. Neil has the last laugh - again. Again we catch Andy Chalis on the last lap... but this time I couldn't steal 6th. I finish 7th. Only 0.5 secs were between me in 7th and Neil in 5th. A close race!

A good race but a little disappointed that I couldn't take the fight to Neil like I was able to in the first race. No worries... considering I haven't ridden the bike in almost a year, havn't been on short circuits  in 9 months and havn't raced at Silverstone in 5 years - I was bound to be a bit rusty. Fantastic to to have Mike, Ant, Heather, Max, Saff, Craig, Kyle and Ross there to support and help. :-) Thanks guys and girls! AND... I now have enough races to qualify for the Manx GP! Job done!

The Wee Monster

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Green Lane Concussion

Made use of the fantastic sunny weather we've been having and got out on the road bike and for some green-laning. My first ride on the four-fiddy in a while. The lanes were the driest I've ever seen them and most of them were hard, dried mud. This made them fast!

Of course... when you ride fast it's fun... but when you crash... you crash big. On the way back I crashed while hooning along through a deep-cut track (cut about 10 feet lower than the fields it goes through). It's normally muddy ruts with foot-deep slush sections. On Sunday it was like cement with 4" to 8" deep square ruts.

I was just not paying as much attention as I should have been - I hit the embankment and smacked my head. "THWACK!" was all I heard. My ears rang, I hit my head hard. It was beyond seeing stars... I was pretty dazed. I've done my neck in too. Shoulder and thigh all bruised. I've had a major headache sincethen and have been feeling exhausted and a bit ill at times. Think I got a bit of concussion. Not good.

I'm very unfit and only managed 1 loop + 2 laps (normally do 1 loop and 6 laps). Erzberg is only 5 weeks away! Just need to rest for the next few days... Sunday is my first road race of the season: Ducati Desmo at Silverstone on the Wee Monster.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Shorttrack UK - King's Lynn - Hero Pics

Got some great hero pics from Steven Baldock of the weekend's flattrackin'

Gently, gently... just a learner...

Those monstrous (for a minimalist flattracker) exhausts have to go! The white gaffer tape on the tank is to try make it look more like a framer... kinda works in the top shot.

This is the start of the 'Losers Final'. A great action shot of my front-row stall!

Thanks for the pics Steve.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Shorttrack UK - King's Lynn

It was a beautiful day for the first round of the Shorttrack UK was at King's Lynn yesterday. A bit chilly, but the wind stayed away and the sun stayed out.

Missed the first practice session because I hot-wired the side-stand sensor wrong and the Duke just cut out as soon as the clutch was let out. I couldn't test this in the late night-before prep. Got is sorted and out and managed 3 sessions of practice. I left the SD card of my wee camera at work so had to lug the big cannon along... but it's a far better tool.

'Race Dad' Gordon and the Co-Built framer

The gorgeous Zaeta mk. 2 all the way from Italy was being campaigned by Marco Belli. More of this machine on Sideburn.

Although the Duke is strictly speaking a Thunderbike, I'd entered both Shorttrack and Thunderbike class. I'd be dog-meat against the Shorttrack boys, but I need as much track time as I can get to learn this sidey-ways racing.

Skooter Farm's John Lee and Stevie Coles have a bit of race chat before the action begins .

Jacopo Monti's old-skool number-boards. Jacopo came all the way from Italy for a play on the clay only to have his bike not start. Bummer! At least he managed to get out for a heat and 'Last Chance' on a borrowed bike.

'Cow-Tech' Jason and 'Red-Max' Steve before the racing.

Jason's immaculately prepared C&J Rotax framer...

Including a cool electric start thingy-ma-jig

Attention to detail was fantastic! Silver-leaf numbers and about 17 coats of lacquer... Jason's bike is beautiful!

As in the case of the Shorttrack class (36 riders), a series of heats are run with 12 riders at a time to determine the 24 runners for the semi-finals. In the case of the smaller Thunderbikes class (18 riders), the heats determine the 12 runners for the final.

You've got 3 heats in each class to try make the final. Being in 2 classes meant I had 6 heats to run in - good track-time. I started off slow and was lapped by the eventual Grand final winner Ade Collins in the first heat. But I'm a bit of a slow starter and soon got going. By the third heat I was starting to get the knack of it.

Rider of the day Tom Woolley was fast! 4th in Grand Final and winning the Thunderbikes on his CCM machinery.

A problem I had all day was the sound of the Duke. With road exhausts on it's was far too quiet. When other bikes with open and race pipes were close by I couldn't hear it rev. It's so smooth and with no rev-counter and sliding around on dirt, I struggled to tell if I was in the right gear. I managed to get her into 2nd or 4th a few times. 4th is ok, a bit slow but 2nd was just dangerous!

In the last Shorttrack heat, I was passed by 4 riders early on... but I managed to hang onto the back of them till the finish. It wasn't enough to get into the Semi-final, but made the 'Losers Final'. I was fast enough to be on the outside-front row of the 3 row start... right on the blue-groove. I should start like a rocket from there with plenty of grip on the race line and most of the other riders on loose stuff that they'll just spin-up on. Game on!

Front row... man with the red flag ambles off. Revs up. Jeeesus! I can't hear a thing! So just hold the Duke at about 1/3 throttle. The tape goes up and I feed out the clutch... the rear tyres grips, she lurches forward and 'clunk'. She stalls. Fuck!

I brace myself, waiting for the impact from behind... but with only 3 rows behind, everyone behind gets past in about a second. I hit the starter... 'click'... again... 'click'... again...'click'. Bollocks!

By now the field are through turn 1 and 2. If I wait any longer they'll be around again before I'm off the racing line. I pull in the clutch, quickly push the bike to the centre-track and watch the race from there. I curse my front-row jitters and think of phase II of the Duke project - a louder exhaust.

Marco Belli on the Zaeta in the 'dash for Cash'

In the last Thunderbike heat I'm passed by a flying 'Sideburn' Gary. I manage to hang onto his coat tails for 3 laps before making a mistake and running wide.

Last year with the bone-smashing Ducati I missed the final by one place. This year I make it! I start on the back row, next to 'Co-Built' Anthony Brown who crashed out of the last heat.

The tape goes up and I get away cleanly. I'm on the loose stuff so slither a wheel-spinning snake all the way to the first turn. Anthony's on the blue-groove, gets a blinder and is just a baby-blue blur in the middle of the pack. First turn mayhem and the race settles. I think I'm passed once and make a pass. I land up hanging onto the back of 'Red max' Steve on his awesome Harley XR. Man, that big VeeTwin with open pipes sounds fantastic when hard on the gas and sliding out of the turns. Yeeeeha!

I can't get closer than a few yards and soon the chequered flag is being waved.

Grand Final first turn. With beautiful sunny weather, there was a blue-groove all day... fast when you keep on it... scary when you miss it and land up on the outside shit.

2009 European, UK and UK Thunderbike champ Boastie getting it sideways out of turn 2.

Ex european and UK champ Marco Belli has to be the most stylish rider out there. I wanna ride like him!

The new Zaeta not only looks fantastic, but goes like stink too!

I'm just starting to learn how this flattrack malarkey is done. I'm ok coming out of the turns, but waaaay too slow getting in... and this is where you overtake. I also make too many unforced mistakes and on a blue-groove track like yesterday you lose 1 or 2 places everytime you miss the groove.

Brilliant to see all the guys again and be back in the thick of it... AND my first final!

A great day on the clay!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Duke Build - To the Stripe

Was up at the crack of dawn to pickup the Duke Flattracker form Geoff who kindly helped out with welding on some paddock-stand bosses and a shark's fin.

Then I finally got down to the Red Max Speed Shop for some flattrack bits...

Steve helped out with selecting a seat and tank for the project...

Starting to look like a framer already. The best looking and fitting tank and seat are for a Harley XR. Steve robbed the tank from a bike in his workshop for fitting. The tank is on order... seat was in stock.

Steve's cool Vertimati Flattracker.

After a good gander at the Speed Shop, the old gal was back at home by 14h00 for the continuation of her transformation.

With a steel shoe on, metal footpegs get pretty slippy. Hopefully an old inner-tube is going to do the anti-slip job until I fit my cool Bates footpegs.

One of the jobs I tackled was getting rid of the airbox. Steve lent me a Harley XR air-filter. It's a bit tight on the shock mount, but otherwise fitted a treat! Got to order one of those...

I managed to finish off the shark-fin, fit the paddock bobbins and the seat unit (needed custom brackets), trim the undertray, remove the airbox, fit the air-filter, refit the ECU and rectifier, fit some big-ass bars (more spacer/bracket jiggery-pokery needed for that), extend the brake lever, remove more bits I don't need and finally bleed and adjust the rear-brake. The brake fluid came out black! Probably been in there since it rolled off the factory floor in Austria.

She is far from finished, but a little closer to where I want to get her.

I just finished an hour ago and am absolutely knackered!

Tomorrow is the first round of the ShorttrackUK series. So it's up early for the 3 hour trek up to King's Lynn for a day on the clay. Looking forward to it and seeing how she fares with the new mods.

Flattrack on!

Friday, 9 April 2010

BSB Action Shot

A fantastic shot of James Edmeades' highside coming onto Cooper straight at Brands Hatch on the weekend.

He suffered a broken wrist, but should be healed up to campaign the RC-8R at the TT this year. Looking forward to seeing and hearing the VeeTwin beast on TV at the TT.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Team Texas Road Trip

The Texas Tomali Ben Spies and Colin Edwards take a 'mancation':

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Erzberg - Recce

Had a great long-weekend relaxing and recovering from a cold (and a mysterious virus) in the home of KTM - beautiful Austria. No bikey stuff... well... only a bit.

Did a little day-trip to nearby Erzberg where I'm doing the Erzberg Rodeo Exreme Enduro later this year.

Shit! It's big.

The 45 degree steps are just massive! I have circled a digger... not a common garden digger, but a full-on industrial size digger that needs a lane-straddling truck with flashing lights to transport it. Click on the pic to zoom in...

The Erzberg Rodeo is less than 8 weeks away now... and the last time I slung my leg over the Four-fiddy was more 4 weeks ago... after which I was quite ill. Just about well enough to start training again now. With two Manx qualifying road-races and three rounds of Flattrack between now and Erzberg, there aren't many weekends left to get any training in. Doh!

Awesome Mini-Framer

Scotty sure does have talent!