Friday, 29 June 2012

I'm Going Flattrackin' in the Mornin'

Getting loaded up for tomorrow's Flattrackin' at King's Lynn. It's the last of the combined Club and Grand National Championships meetings - they're tough on the old body.

Club and GNC 'Thunderbikes' are on the oval... if it stays dry there'll be a blue groove :-) Steve Hazel kindly sorted out the mucky carb this afternoon and she's runnin' sweet again. 'Restricted' is on the TT course. The last time I did a jump on the old gal, she almost broke in half!

Manx Qualification

Last Saturday I was down at Snetterton for a couple of races on the old Aprilia in the 'Forgotten Era Superbikes'. At my least like circuit I wasn't happy with the bikes handling and those tuned-to-the-moon 750s (including an ex factory HRC RC45) just blew me away down that long straight. I was way off the pace and qualified an embarassing 11th out of 14. Poor.

I was followed all the way to the track and back...

But, I was there to get my last qualification race done for the Manx GP. I just had to finish, I wasn't really up for racing. So I just grinned... and could hardly bear it.

The rain held off but a howling, gusty wind was blowing. Typical Snetterton. First race - I get a rubbish start and am last into the first corner. I struggle in the shitty chicane onto the back straight... compromising my speed and getting passed on most laps. But I'm pretty good on the brakes at the end of the straight and normally take back the places I lost down the straight as I trail brake all the way through the left-hander. This was the only fun I had on track all day.

It was great to be in the paddock with a mate

My friend Don Plane was out for the first time in 5 years on his minty but completely stock RSV. We raced together in 2004 and 2005 in the Supertwins class. Don is a super-fast rider and knows Aprilias backwards. He built and developed the most awesome RSV Factory over a few years that was eventually making a reliable 160bhp at the rear wheel (mine makes about 125bhp). He's also had a hand in my new Manx GP Senior weapon... more about that in a later post...

Don's won many races and a Championship before taking a break. A couple of 5th places on his stock RSV - he's no slouch! A tough class.

Don helped me between races tweak the Aprilia's suspension... but it didn't help much with my laptimes. Only 0.2s a lap faster in race 2 ... my head just wasn't into it. Again, the only fun was doing silly braking moves at the end of the straight. I finished 9th of 14. But we're now qualified for the Manx GP!! :-)

Oulton Park - Some Silverware

I wrote up a whole long story about what happened at Oulton Park 10 days ago becasue I had some time. Trying to add photos in this blog editor, I managed to lose it... all. So here's the short version... short? Yeah right!

The Wee Monster handles brilliantly... who needs adjustable forks?

Two Friday nights ago, I get back from Oxford flattracking, unpack the flattrack bike and gear, pack my road race bikes and gear, three hours sleep and then I leave for the 2.5 hour trip to Oulton Park. Only to find it all starts 1/2 an hour earlier than normal. It's going to be tight...

Despite all the bling, the Aprilia feels like a big boat compared with the Wee Monster

Arrive, unload Wee Monster (class: Ducati Desmo Due or 'DD') and the Aprilia RSV (class: Classic Superbikes), Monster thru scrootineering, Aprilia thru scrootineering (short queues because most riders were at the track on Friday testing and had thier bikes scrootineered then), gear thru scrootineering, sign on, noise test monster, straight out to qualifying, wet track, come in a lap earlier to noise get Aprilia noise tested, straight out to qualifying, raining, everone else on wets, me on road tyres, slither around, back to paddock early.

Aprilia wearing a brand new set of Dunlops that have been preserved for the last 5 years in my dining-room.

Rain doesn't look like it'll clear... so I go about fitting my wets on the Aprilia. Rain stops and it all starts drying quickly in the howling wind. I gamble that it'll rain again so leave the wets on. It doesn't rain and I run out of time to change the wheels myself. I roll out onto the back of the grid on a set of wets... everyone else on dry tyres... I'm praying for rain.

Nobody was listening and within 2 laps the tyres are overheating. Aweful feeling of pushing the front everywhere... horrendous on the brakes. After another 2 laps of trying I decide to not take any more chances, save my tyres, finish the race and save my energy for the DD race straight after this one. I settle to a steady rhythm and get passed by one, two, three riders. I'm glad the race ends.

In the rain, on road tyres... trying to go fast!

I come into the paddock and junp straight onto Wee Monster. She shouts 'COLD' from the dash... but I don;t have time to listen to her complaints and head out onto the grid. I qualified 2nd and when the lights go out I remembered that I had forgotten something after my last races on the Monster. The clutch is knackered... we judder all the way to the first turn and am in about 10th by the time we get there.

It's minging out there!

I cut my way through the pack and by the 3rd lap with a few fights along the way, I take the lead! Andy Chalis fights me and we swap the lead a few times before I make a mistake and run wide. He gaps me... I push hard to make up the gap. As soon as I have in in my sights, I make another mistake and he gaps me again... I go through this whole process again.

Some lunch and a cosy, dry space in the van to catch-up on some sleep between races... knackered look in the eyes...

I'm getting really tired and my riding is starting to get ragged. As a result I have to push harder to get back at him... so I make more mistakes. The last two laps I fade... happy to take a comfortable 2nd without too many risks. 2nd! Whooo-hooo!

I decide not to go out in the second Classic Superbike race and conserve my energy for the DD race. By the time we start the race it's raining.

Ready to rock 'n Roll on the Wee Monster

Again, I can't get off the line cleanly and the clutch making all sorts of terrible grinding noises. I'm even further down the pack into turn 1 than in the first race. A lot of work to do. I fight through the pack and within a few laps I have a clear track ahead and Andy Chalis in the far distance. He had 12 seconds on me.
Lovein' the Monster!

I push on... each lap he gets closer as I reel him in. I take seconds out of his lead every lap... last lap and I push hard... sliding the Wee Monster out of almost every turn. I catch him on the last corner. I stretch out but I only just reach him with my fingertips. We cross the line together... but too little, too late and I'm pipped by a few yards. Next corner and he would have been mine!

Every corner counts in these short races and I should have been a little more agressve getting through the pack. Oh well... still pretty happy with another 2nd!

I set the fatstest lap of the second race by 1.5 seconds!

Monday, 25 June 2012

ShorttrackUK GNC Round 3 - Oxford

Down to Oxford Speedway on late previous Friday afternoon (I know, I know... I've been slack...) for the next round of the flattrackin’ Grand National Championship. Despite all the rain, the track was dry and dusty with a top layer of loose gravel in practice. I was looking forward to the heats.
The racing was close all evening
Heat one and I’m drawn at the back. I almost stall off the line… the bike hooks up, I gas it and I off. Into the thick of it in turn 1, bike ahead misses a gear, I take avoiding action and bounce off Pete Wilkinson who goes down. Shit. Sorry Pete. Red flag.

I think I unintentionally clipped Wilky's handlebar - sorry Pete

Restart. I almost stall, get the 640 hooked up and am off into turn one. It’s a close race… I make a few passes and finish 3rd or 4th. Happy with that effort from the back row.

The speedway guys came out to give a few demonstration races

Heat 2 and I’m drawn on the middle row. Remembering my last two lightning starts, I almost stall on the line… hang on… I do stall on the line. Fuck! I’m left in the silent dust-cloud of shame. I try get the bike started, but she struggles and it’s two laps in by the time she fires up. I’m pissed at myself so fling the bike around a bit wildly to finish the heat in last place. Yay.

Paddock life

The problem of mid season last year is back. She struggles to start, will only idle with the choke on and bogs down when the throttle is cracked open. Blocked pilot jet again methinks. Maybe my fibreglass tank is being chowed away by the petrol… need to check that.

Time Neave makes easy work of getting past me... check the difference in lean angle... the lad's got talent!

Heat 3 and I’m drawn in the front. I make an okay start but am quick and consistent enough to finish second behind protégé Tim Neaves on the factory Honda smoker. I end up with 7th pick – happy with that after Heat 2’s blunder.

It was bumpy as hell... I was out the seat many times that evening

Final. Revs up, tape shoots up and I make an okay start to be in the thick of it in turn one. Turn one is definitely easier when you’re drawn on the front row… from row 2 it’s a dog-fight.

I love the ambience of a night meeting

Race settles into single-file on the now tricky track that had developed holes and bumps in the worst places. Easy to make a mistake.

A sea of flattrackers

I’m being held up by a bit by Dave Chadburn and the lead group are getting away. On lap 3 I my move up the inside turn 3. Dave closes the door, but I’m committed… up on the grass to avoid collision… but there’s not much traction there and I nudge into some space at the apex. It’s tight… and a bit strong… but I get through and there’s no harm done.

Guy sharing some post-race war stories... check out that grin!

I chase the lead group of four… getting closer every lap. I keep pushing. On the last lap I come around the treacherous turn 4 and Alan, who was in the lead group, is on his ass – coming off worst in the last turn punch-up between himself, Neil Martin and Tim Neave (who’s bike slipped out of gear on the line and had to overtake the entire field to take the win!). I steal a lucky 4th - a good night’s work!

Ahhhhhh... cold beer and war stories!

In the Shorttrack Pro final, I see the biggest pile-up down the back straight. Time Neave bounced off the fence mid-pack and it was carnage with 6 riders caught in a dust-cloud of carwheeling bikes and bodies. Only Tim was hurt proper with some broken bones and internal injuries. Tim has been the man to beat so farthis season... someone else will have a chance to win a final now. Get well soon Tim!

Watchin the final

One lap befre the carnage unfolds...

Steel fence is ripped apart like cotton gauze

Tom Woolley got bashed up and whinded... but nothing broken!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Riding with a Legend

Ten days ago I was fortunate enough to riding with my buddy Jim Rice (of On Any Sunday fame) in California. We went down to Jim's 'home track', Hollister Hills for a day of trail riding.

CRFs packed and ready for a day in the dirt

What an incredible place! It is huuuuge! Filled with single-tracks, switch-backs, MX tracks, hill climbs and mad trails... oh... and a TT track thrown in for good measure! Cost: $5 parking for the day.

Jim telling some race stories on the way

It's some of the best dirt riding I've ever done. The facility is specifically for dirt-bikeing and brilliantly kitted out and maintained. Makes anything I have been to in the UK look like a hovel run by bandits.

The 'day-paddock' area... trails extend into the distant hills... one could get lost in there and never get found!

The Americanos like thier jumps and after the first half-hour 'warm-up' on some of the wider trails, I'd done more jumps than I've done in my entire life!

Turn 1 on the TT track... hillclimb in the distance

Jim is one hell of rider and blindingly fast - I was playing catch up the whole day. We finished off the days riding with a few laps around the TT track where Jim used to race 650 'Scramblers'. Of course, being landed up being a sprightly affair. Actually... most of the day was like this!

The best darn lunch I've ever had out riding! Homemade cherry-pie was deeeeeelicious!

A fantastic day just riding and hanging out with Jim. Man, I sure wish I lived 6000 miles closer and could do this more often. Thanks Jim for an awesome time! We must do it again soon :-)

Food for the soul!

Great riding and great company under sunny California skies... what a day!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

ShorttrackUK GNC & Club Round 2 - Coventry

This is soooooo after the fact... but I thought I should do a post on my DirtQuake experience from 3 weeks ago anyway...

Raced in the Restricted and Thunderbike class of the ShorttrackUK Club round in the early afternoon. The Coventry track was just mud and slipery as fook.

The starts from the inside of the track were a bit... challenging. Matt Moore does a 'De Puniet' and bins it before he crosses the line
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

I was inspired by Alan Birtwhistle's fearless speed, made few mistakes and got good starts. The track got better as racing got a bit closer, but was still shite by the time we got to the final. If it hadn't have been the DirtQuake event, the meeting would have been called off - it was that bad.

I won this heat by a country mile... the attrition rate that afternoon was high!

In the end I slithered my way to 3rd in the Thunderbikes final and 4th by a few inches to Geoff Cain in the Restricted final. My second flattrack trophy! Yeeeee-ha!

Just couldn't find a way past Geoffo and almost got him on the line
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

After the Club racing we were entertained for a few hours by DirtQuake. A great event... thanks to Gary, Dave and all those who put in the graft to put on a great show. And bloody well done for all the competitors taking their cool, imaculate, silly and shitty bikes onto the clay. We were all entertained! (I have some pics of the event but not on this PC so will upload a few soon)

Catching some Zs before the GNC racing... dreaming of racin'
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

In the evening, on a much better track with loads of sticky grip, I did the GrandNational Championship in the Thunderbikes class.

More start-line shennanigans... "Which way d'we go?"

Bustin' sideways moves off the line at walking pace

I got a few bad picks on the start grid but still managed to qualify 5th. The pace was fast and the racing a lot closer than the club event. I can't remember what I did, but I made one of my few mistakes that day and finished 6th in the final.

A good day in the clay despite the crappy conditions
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

Keeping it steady at a walking pace was key

Next round of the GNC is this Friday night (15th June) at Oxford. Be there!