Tuesday, 30 August 2011

ManxGP 2011 - Day 11 - Suzy V Prepped

Continued getting Suzy V ready for the race tomorrow. Went over everything... cleaned, checked, tightened, tweaked, checked again... news tires fitted and scrubbed in... even repaired a lot of the stone-chips on the fairing.

Scrubbing in new tyres

Also got positive news on Candy - the part was dispatched express from the mainland this morning... should be here to morrow morning and fitted by the afternoon. Also dropped off new tires for her this morning that were fitted today. So she should be ready for Friday's race.

Alan Harmiston's immaculately prepared AJS G50 - Mark will be riding it in tomorrow's Senior Classic

Tomorrow at 13h15 Suvy V and I will do 4 laps of the TT Mountain Course faster than we ever have before...
Bring it on!

Suzy V Ready to Race!

ManxGP 2011 - Day 10 - Last Practice

The Junior Classic (350cc old-timers) and Junior (up to 600cc modern machines) races are now run on Monday with a practice session after that - scheduled at 15h15. Tired or working on the bikes for a week... I took a break on Sunday and didn't even look at them. Figured I had time on Monday to prep Suzy V and do a gearing change. Candy is still in hospital.

Tootling through Parliament Square
At 09h00 I decide to check the road closures just to make sure I won't get caught out - the house I'm staying in is inside the course... and the garage on Bray Hill. Not accessible after the roads close. Road's close 09h30. I read it again. 09h30. Of course! They will run the 2 races and practice in succession. Doh! Eeeedeeeeyote!

I dash out the house grabbing all I need on the way. Back to the garage and pickup all I need from there. I get to the day paddock at 09h25. Phew! Of course, I forget something... the sprocket I need for the gearing change. But luckily I can get back to the garage by foot to retrieve it - I have the bike and all the heavy hardware in the paddock.

Paddock fettling
The Junior Classsic race gets away on time. My mate Mark Herbertson is starting No 8 on a 350cc Matchless owned and prepped by Alan Hermiston. I watch for him on Bray Hill, but there is no Mark between rider No 7 and 9. Afterwards I find out that on Saturday's practice he blew the engine up - they had some spares and spent till 03h00 Monday morning rebuilding it. It seemed ok, but when Mark got off the line wasn't running right so he pulled in immediately. Bummer.

Neil Vicars in the start queue 
As the Junior Classic race finishes, the rain comes down. It pours for about half an hour and the start of the Junior race is delayed. Eventually the Junior race is started on wet roads. Mike Minns got it sideways at the first corner (St Ninians) and pulled out of the race immediately. About 12 riders pulled out the race after one lap. the conditions improved and by the last lap it was mostly dry but still a lot of damp and puddles. Not fun.

There was a lot of wheel changing going on before the race
My mate Neil Vicars was having a steady run until Braddan Bridge on the third lap where he lost the front and lowsided into the tree in the middle of the roundabout. Luckily he got away with just bumps and bruises and the bike isn't too bad - hope he can get it fixed for Friday's Senior race. Mike Moulai, the 'Flying Kiwi', had a storming race, riding a 4 cylinder bike for the first time he came home in 14th. Mike normally rides a Ducati 999, but it gave him problems early on in practice week so he parked it up and focused on the 600.

Neil's pitstop
Eventually, the practice session gets away at 16h00 on damp roads. My plan was just to test the gearing - if I was having fun and learning, I'd do two laps, if not, just one. The conditions weren't great, so I cautiously do one lap... only giving it beans on the run past the Highlander, Sulby straight and the run down to Brandish - to test the gearing.

Suzy V's race prep starts
I've gone 2 teeth longer on the back sprocket. My speed through the trap was almost identical to my run on Saturday. The wee gurl just doesn't have the power to pull a longer gearing. I'm stuck at 141mph. Back in the paddock at one of the race shops, I manage to find a compromise sprocket between the two - I'm gonna take a chance and run it in the race.

I get Suzy V back to the garage and begin to strip 'n clean. Race prep begins...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

ManxGP 2011 - Day 9 - Day of Rest

Sunday is always a day of rest on the Isle. The Jurby festival was on... kazillions of great bikes...

When the races are done I'll post some pics of interesting bikes I spotted there. Also visited the beach near Ballaugh...

Next practice: tomorrow after the Junior race.

ManxGP 2011 - Day 8 - Another Good Un

Up early (for a Saturday) and straight to work. Got to get the new race clutch fitted. Need an air wrench for the job so hauled Candy down to Dave at EvoMoto in Ramsay who kindly made space in his mad ManxGP schedule. Was hoping to get it done by 15h00 so we can do a lap on her tonight after the Newcomers race which was at 18h00.

$100 express shipping... and I still had to pay £30 duty... AND it didn't solve my problem... Bah!

I head back to the garage and prep Suzy V. All's good from last night... so she just needed a good clean, a check and a holed belly-pan repaired. The whole of last year teh belly-pan never touched the track... it was last night's hoon down Bray Hill that did it. At least I know I'm faster through there!

Oh Candy, Candy, Candy...

At 14h00 I get a call from Dave. Bad news... the spider spring on the slipper clutch has disintegrated. No parts on the island, the importers in the mainland are away racing this weekend and of course Monday is a Bank Holiday... and I didn't happen to bring the standard clutch as spare. I wasn't going out on Candy. Will be lucky to get a lap in on her before the race on Friday. Shit and bollocks!

Today is the start of the Manx 2-Day Trials, loads of trials bikes buzzing around the Isle

On the bright side... I have one bike that's working a treat. I pack Suzy V up and head over to skrootineering and through to Parc Ferme. This year is different from previous years and the Newcomers race is on the Saturday... after which is a short practice. I watch the Newcomers race in the sunshine on the grandstand. Well done to Wayne Hamilton who took the Newcomers A and Gavin Lupton who took the Newcomers B. The guy who crashed on his sighting lap on Monday managed to get his shit together and finish a credible 8th in the Newcomers B.

Look carefully at the name on the frame... "Moriwaki" Someone with deep pockets!

After the race has finished and all riders are home, we get out for a 1 lapper at 19h30. I use tyre warmers on Suzy V for the first time so that I can get on the pace quickly. I give Suzy V all she's got down Glencrutchery road and take the jump at St Ninians flat out... a simulation of the race start.

Mark Parrett helping to get one of the Newcomers going whose bike cut out on the line - they didn't allow him to rejoin the race. That sucks.

I'm on the pace right away and put in a good, fast lap. I caught quite a few 600s which are difficult to pass because of the power difference and was held up a bit through the twisty sections. Despite this, it was a cracking lap... Suzy V was faultless.

He got 4 Jerries... but 4 of what?
Another 103mph lap... but this time from a standing start. Happy with that! :-) I was being slip-streamed down Sulby straight so lost a few mph off my top speed. Feeling quite tired after the long week... tomorrow is a day off so it's beer o'clock time!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Manx Tip

Manx Tip: Lockwire the throttle cable sleeve to the cable retainer at both ends if you can. If you hit a jump or big bumps hard, the cable sleeve can pop out of the retainer and normally gets hooked on the edge of the retainer, effectively stretching your throttle cable. Which means when you let go of the throttle... it stays open. Not good. Happened twice to me on my old KTM dirtbike - led to me lockwiring all my racebikes. This could have been what happened to Brian Purdy on Tuesday night - apparently the throttle stuck open as he went into Schoolhouse corner. Definitely not a good thing.

ManxGP 2011 - Day 7 - Up a Gear

Got straight to the bikes to try sort Suzy V's one-cylinder running issue. I think it's just because of low voltage. Been cranking the bike many time since getting here and done 2 3/4 laps on a total loss system. Initial Voltage was 13.3v... now down to 12.7v. I didn't charge the battery to see how long it would last... I expected it to give notice with slow cranking... but now we know.

Suzy V at the Gooseneck
With bikes both prepped and gearing changed on Suzy, I got back to the house in the late morning and had a few presents waiting for me. 2 sets of tyres from Mike at MD Racing and calling cards for me to go pickup Candy's new race clutch (thanks to the guys at AF1racing) and a new tacho/dash for Suzy V. Spent the rest of the day running around and fitting Suzy's dash.

A good cuppa and fantastic homemade chocolate brownies.... mmmmmm-mmmmmm
Suzy V's tacho went on the blink so I was just guessing what rpm we were pulling in top. Gotta be more scientific and get the gearing right. This new unit is from the You-Ess-of-Aye is tiny and does everything. Tacho, speedo, engine hours, air temp, engine temp, time, trip metres, two shift lights and a whole bunch of other stuff. I wired it in for the tacho and engine temp. Best part... it was cheaper than replacing my old-skool dial tacho!

Wiring the dash in
I got to skrootineerting quite late, but that was okay because the classic boys were out first tonight. I get Suzy V through and go get Candy as a backup - intention is to get 2 good laps in on Suzy. I start Candy up: "Phrrrrrt-phrrrrt-phrrrrrt". What the hell? Sounds like a hole in the exhaust. I have a look and turns out the grub screw on the exhaust header has been blown out. Great! I remember her unusually back-firing on the way into Governer's Dip on Wednesday night... must have been why. Bollocks! I leave candy on the trailer for the session.

Despite afternoon showers, it's dry and sunny all round the Isle - just a few damp patches under the trees in the usual places. At about 20h20 I have Suzy V pinned all the way down Bray Hill. I normally roll through St Ninians... but tonight I was determined to do it flat the fook out! "Brrrrraaaaaaaaaappppp...."

Super-tiny dash saves mega weight!
"Whooo-hoooo!" - I try make the yoop but no sound comes out because of the crushing g forces at the bottomm of the hill. Now that was fun! Slow and easy into Quarterbridge and Braddan on cold tyres and full load of fuel. Now... flat out through the ultra-fast left hander just before The Crosby. Yeah! First time I've been able to do that through there this week. Now... try another first... flat out over Wagon and Horse leap... "Wheee-heeee!" - the little bike sails over the crest and drives down the hill. My wee tacho is working a treat and I'm pulling 9250rpm past the Highlander. Gearing is good.

Fast... and smooth. Doing a lot of sections absolutely flat-out for the first time this year. Behind a newcomer on a 600... approaching the super-fast, blind and scary (there are a whole lot of those here...) corners through Bishops Court. I just know he's going to roll. I position my self on his outside and keep the throttle on the stops. He rolls. I shoot past him like he's in reverse and sweep through on the right line. I remember this being done to me many times when I was a Newcomer shitting myself around the course. I frightens the bejeesus out of one. Because he has a lot more power, if I lose momentum, it'll take another mile before I can get close enough to pass him again. Got to keep it lit!

Not amused
Too soon, lap 1 turns to lap 2. I have never done Bray Hill flat-out on a flying lap. Since the Cregg, for last 3 miles I've been goading myself into it. After the race last year Ken Minns (father of one of my mates here: Mike) said to me in his thick Geordie accent: "We thought you had a fookin problem with the bike... why the fook did you roll through St Ninians!". Not today!

A cool green machine in the Classic Superbike class

From Governer's dip, the throttle hits the stops and stays there. I get butterflies all the way down Glencrutchery Road... brush the hedge on the right and tip her in. Flat out. Cranked over we blast through the crossroads, doing a jump over the change in camber. I keep it pinned. Now the descent down Bray Hill is just soooo much faster. Absolutely exhilarating! Hell yeah!

Suzy V at the Gooseneck - Catching the sunshine as we turn up the mountain
I learn a lot and things click. I almost get the end of Cronk Y Voddy flat out too. With a fully charged battery, Suzy V is as good as gold and for most of the lap I don't see another rider. Just me, the bike, the hedges, walls and the track. Many times during that lap, I think how privileged I am to be able to do this. It is a surreal experience.

Lap time 101 and 103 mph. Speed through Sulby Speed trap 141mph - Suzy has never been faster! Science works.

Friday, 26 August 2011

ManxGP 2011 - Day 6 - Half-wet Qualification

Up on Thursday morning and prep the bikes for the evening practice. Check everything... check everything again. As I was getting Suzy V up to skrootineering... it started to rain.

It's not often I wear a clear visor
Once in skrootineering, we had our first skrootineering failure! When I dropped the bike earlier in the week, the knob on the end of the clutch lever broke off. I filed the edge round and got through skrootineering so far lik ethat. But the rulebook says 'ball' ends and I was picked up on it this time. Suzy V was sent to the 'sin bin'.

Suzy V forlorn in the 'sin bin'... waiting for a new lever. At least she had company...

I visited the race shops in the paddock and scrounged a Yamaha lever that was exactly the same. Must be a Yamaha clutch lever/cable setup on her. I replaced the lever and she was released to pit lane. Only then did the rain stop... and we were way at the back of the queue.

Suzy was soaked by the time we got her into pit lane - no point in a cover
I didn't have too much time till the session started, so decided on leaving Candy at the van. She was playing backup today anyway as I intended to only use the wee bike.

How to break a bead... Mark and Alan do it the old-skool way
It was declared a wet session and got away on time. It was pretty wet in places, but good that it had stopped raining. I just kept out of the other bikes' spray and visibility was good. I tentatively picked my way past a number of slower riders until the Cronk Y Voddy straight where it was dry. We let Suzy V go... and she went!

By chance, this rider's moniker is 'Bullet'... them stones are vicious!
Bone dry all the way to Ramsay... where it was wet again.. so I just picked around over the mountain. I only needed onelap on Suzy V to qualify and only intended one lap... unless I was having fun and learning something. The section from Cronk Y Voddy to Ramsay was great fun... and I was learning. So I set off on another flying lap

Governor's Dip - first time through and she stalled... it was the only time I got through there...
I thought nothing of the stall at Governers Dip... thought it was just because of going carefull in too high a gear. But she spluttered a few times during the lap. Nothing much, just a hiccup. Through the fun dry section in to a wet Parliament Square (Ramsay). And she starts running on one cylinder. I rev her and she evens out. She crackles up May hill and then almost stalls as she goes into 1 cylinder through the Hairpin. Somethings not right.. I rev her nuts off... but it doesn't clear and I'm getting no drive.

Brollies up for the Classic boys skroot queue
I wasn't a good day to get stuck on the mountain. it would be at least an hour's wait before the roads opened again, so I pulled off at Tower Bends. I had a look for anything obvious... fuel... loose wire... oil... nothing all looked good. I asked the marshals not to call me in as a retirement and I got back on the course to pull off at the Gooseneck. There is an access lane there that leads back to the A2 which takes one back to Douglas along the coast road.
Local Islander Roger Jones with his classic Suzuki 250
It's extremely dangerous to tour on the circuit when live... so I got off so I could tour back on the normal roads. We get special insurance here to be able to ride a race bike for 1 hour before and 3 hours after a practice or race on normal roads :-).
Pretty scenery on the way home
I took Suzy V down the access lane and joined the coast road to Douglas. It was a long old ride back... nursing Suzy on one cylinder most of the way back. And chilly too! My vented race suit isn't good for touring. About 45 minutes later, as the session was ending, I pulled into the day paddock, slung Suzy onto the trailer, retrieved my trolley and headed back to the house.

A wee jump over Ballaugh...
I have a hunch that the problem is electrical and something to do with the 'total loss' system I'm running her with. But, despite the conditions I went out to get the last qualifying lap in the bank... I have now qualified with both Suzy V and Candy. Yeah!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

ManxGP 2011 - Day 5 - A Sad Day

Woke yesterday to pouring rain. But by 12 it had cleared and was sunny. Everyone was keen to get out and get those qualification laps in... so the queue for skrootineering was all the way down into the paddock! Eventually got both bikes through with nae bother.

Traffic on the mountain

Candy in pit lane with tyre-warmers on and a full tank of gas - I wanted to get two laps in on her. Suzy V parked up in Parc Ferme as backup - if I wasn't happy about anything on Candy I'd come in after a lap and jump on Suzy V.

A soggy morning

Uncharacteristically, the session started on time... 18:20. By 18:25 I was caning Candy all the way down Bray Hill... through the traffic lights "Whump!"... and on over Ago's Leap.  By the time we got into Appledean, I had caught the two riders ahead of me - one was my mate Neil Vicars. We were both Newcomers the same year. He's a bit quicker than me on his 600 so I thought if I stuck with him it'd be a good lap.

How NOT to be organised - this is the Newcomer that crashed on his sighting lap's paddock area

Three corners later and there were marshals on the track waving yellow flags and a big incident at Greeba Bridge. I learned this morning that Neil Kent had lost his life there. Neil was well-known, much loved and respected Manx campaigner of 25 years. He worked in one of the race shops in the paddock and just that morning I had chatted to him. He was out there doing something he loved. He will be missed.

Candy took some hits

We picked our way through the bits of bike and debris. There is always the temptation to rubber-neck a bit to see who was involved... but I just keep focus and watch the road for any debris. Two years ago I was fresh on the scene of an incident on the Mountain when Ryan Farquar hit the embankment... I rode over some debris that gave me a puncture... I didn't know I had a puncture until I was sliding sideways around the Verandah. Eye's on the road boy!

Looks like she's been hit with a 12 gauge!

The rest of the lap was stop start as Neil and I kept hitting traffic. Clumps of 2 or 3 riders normally held up by a Newcomer. Got absolutely peppered with stones. More damage to my lid and fairing. The screens I use are plexi-glass (as used on fighter jets). Twice the price as normal screens, but most bikes in the paddocks now have holes and cracks through the screens. Some have bullet holes through the fairings. The stones are very bad this year.

Bray Hill and Begarrow damage on the belly-pan

Neil and I swapped places on the road a few times... more bad traffic and stones. Finally getting a clear run from Ramsey over the mountain.

A bit concerned about tyre wear on the big girl... this is after one leisurely and 2 good laps... race pace is higher and will be 4 laps. Trying a harder compound next.

Despite a few yellow flags and the traffic, they were a good few laps. I had steepened the fork angle by 0.7 degrees to try get her to turn in easier. This worked well, but of course compromised her rock-solid stability from Monday night. So we'll bring that back a bit.  Also holed the belly-pan at the bottom of Bray Hill - looks like fibre-glass repair-job is going to be needed after every lap.

Lap 1: 103mph, Lap 2: 105.7 mph - heading in the right direction.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Schoolhouse fire

The incident yesterday resulted in a classic machine on fire. The rider is in a stable condition in Nobles.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

ManxGP 2011 - Day 4 - That's the Manx

Got the bikes cleaned up and prepped this morning. I have a new race clutch for Candy on it's way from Texas and some new Rock Oil oil for her at cost price from Padgetts.

Candy and Suzy V prepped and ready to rock 'n roll
I was an hour early to skrootineering. With two bikes to sort I always need to get there early... but this time they played it by the schedule and didn't let us through early. So I hauled the other bike and my trolley up... and stood around waiting. Both bikes through skrootineering no problemo... except a nit-picking skroot who when he realized he was wrong about my lockwiring made up some kak story about how it should be... he tried to save face and has given me more work for tomorrow. Twit.

Modern classes waiting around for skrootineering... where's Suzy V?

Anyways... still through with plenty of time to have a relax, eat and drink. Suited and booted and a new clear visor fitted (it's been dull and overcast the whole day... but dry!) and I headed up to Parc firme.
A bit of pre-skroot banter with the Minns family
There was a 20 minute delay while they shuffled marshals around... then the Newcomers who didn't manage an escorted lap yesterday went out for their escorted lap. One of the Newcomers yesterday, a local lad from Douglas, crashed on his sighting lap... at Ballaugh Bridge! I asked him about it and he said "I was just being a dick...". I guess he's been over Ballaugh at the legal 30mph lap a kazillion times... and yesterday he was free from the legal shackles, gave it welly and launched it skywards. He was ok... but the bike mullered. That's the Manx.

Some stone damage on Michael Moulai's bike - the stones were bad yesterday... shoot up like bullets and nail  you at over 130mph. Many bikes had holes right through their screens

15 minutes later the session 1 lads tore off down Bray Hill. It would be at least half an hour before we got going. I warmed up the bike... chatted a bit and worked at keeping focused. Fifteen minutes after the last of session 1 riders got going we heard that the session had been red flagged due to an incident approaching Ramsey. Approaching Ramsey is fast... hey... it's all fast...except Ballaugh Bridge!

I didn't escape the bullets - a glancing blow was enough to chip my brand new lid... this is the Manx
We waited and waited. Then the session 1 boys came back under yellow flags in drips and drabs. It took a while to clear the incident and we were losing light... the session was eventually cancelled. Ho-hum and bollocks! A lot of waiting around. Hope whoever was involved in the incident are ok.

Classics and Post Classics warming up... with those megaphone exhausts the earth shakes!

Disappointing because the forecast for the rest of the week is dire and today was the day to get those qualification laps in the bag. But we're all in the same boat... and that's the Manx!

Candy waits patiently for me to retrieve her from Parc Ferme... we did a lot of waiting around today