Thursday, 30 August 2012

ManxGP 2012 - Day 12 - Supertwins Race

Was up early to get everything loaded and up to the paddock by 08h15. Little Suzy V sailed through skrootineering... topped up the fuel, pressures checked, tyre warmers on and she was all ready by 10h00.

To try cure the wheelie-prone flightyness of the big bike, I adjusted the front ride and rear ride hieghts (again) and wanted to add a link to the chain to lengthen the wheelbase - I measured about 0.5mm of space before we ran out of space on the swing-arm. It would be close, but I was confident we could do it.

It's been so wet on the Isle this year... that there's moss growing on the van...

I didn't have any spare master links with me and none of the race shops had links for an RK Tagaso chain. So Dennis Trollope helped me out with a new chain that he would help fit in the paddock. While the wheel was off, I managed to source a new Pirelli Supercorsa so treated the bike to a new set of tyres while Ian topped up the fuel for the pit-stop.

We managed to get the big bike all done and through skrootineering by 11h30 - giving us a bit of time to get the van hauled out of the mud where it was stuck, get some lunch and get everything ready for the race. It was a busy, busy morning and I didn't have much time to focus or prepare the way I would have wanted to for the race (not many pics either). No worries. Just get out there, give it sum beans and see what happens.

Put a wheel on the grass of the day-paddock...

By 13h18 I found myself focusing a thousand yards down Glencrutchery road with the starter's hand on my shoulder. He taps and I'm off for the 4 lap Supertwin race. As I pull away, the bike doesn't feel right. I almost stall as she fails to pull. I clutch her a bit and give her full throttle. She get's going and I'm flat out towards the first jump at St Ninian's crossroads. She feels slow... real slow. No acceleration. For fuck's sake!

I hit the jump flat out... but the wee bike doesn't jump. I'm going too slow.Things are not what they should be all the way down Bray Hill. It felt like my brakes were binding or something. It's like driving a car with the handbrake on. Everything is sluggish and slow. Like you're stuck in a jar of molases in winter.

We needed a tractor to drag the van out the mud

I get to Quarterbridge and a hundred possible problems are playing through my head. I need to check if there is anything wrong that could be dangerous so I pull over at the marshall's post. I hop off the bike and check as much as I can. I can't see anything wrong, nothing leaking and there is no excess heat from the disks or callipers. Strange.

I've lost a minute by the time I get back into the race. She's dog-slow and sluggish... the other bikes pass and leave me in their dust. I wringing her neck, but she's just not pulling... she sounds fine but is just not pulling. Everything happens a lot slower.

It plays on my mind and I keep her pinned, but constantly feel the footpegs for oil and have my hand down the fairing feeling for oil. I decide to push on for a lap and see if she gets worse. She doesn't, so I fly down Gelncrutchery road in slow-motion for my second lap.

Through the Bungalow
I'm not learning anything on the course. It's just frustrating. I'm going so much slower, all my braking markers are different. I try carry corner-speed... but it's an unknown to me so all I can do is keep up with other bikes through the turns but as soon as we hit any acceleration, they're gone. I figure that at least it's good practice for the pit-stop... and a finisher's medal is better than going home empty handed like last year. So I push on for the finish.

Those were the longest four laps of the TT Mountain Course in my life. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could... but knowing something is wrong with the machine you're hurtling around at speed, just feet from stone walls is a bit disconcerting. Whenever I saw a big group of spectators, I would wave... and I was playing games with myself to try keep concentration.

Approaching a corner so much slower made it hard to judge how fast to take them - I erred on the side of caution.

I didn't spend the last few months, time, effort, money and whatever else it cost to get another D.N.F. I do not know those words. I kept the trottle wound as hard as I could. The Wee bike reluctantly carried on. More than a week earlier, she was pulling 9500rpm down Sulby Straight... close to 140mph. During the race I think I saw 8200rpm once... I doubt she was doing 120mph... and she took forever to get there.

The best part of the race was our pit-stop... probably one of our best. Stop, cut engine, gas cap off (it was there!), fuel, gel pack, visor, screen, gas cap back, start and off. Thanks Ian and Stephen for a great stop. Two laps later and I was so glad to see the chequered flag. We finished! Hurrah!

Great photography from Dan Kneen

It didn't all go my way, but I got away with finishing 30th out of 35 finishers (don't know how I didn't come last) and 47 entrants. Lap-by-lap here. Fastest lap 98mph... I did 104mph last year with rubbish breaks.

Earlier in the day, Ryan Farquar won the Senior Classic race. But that afternoon we were saddened to learn that his uncle, Trevor Ferguson, lost his life at The Nook while running second on lap two in the Supertwins race. I don't know Trevor, but knew his face from the paddock. Condolences to Trevor's family and friends. This place can be cruel.

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