Friday, 28 March 2014

Ducati Desmo Due - Pay Day

Thanks Jodie Wilcock for the pic

Friday night we loaded the van and got some shut-eye before the early morning trip down to Brands Hatch.

Got there around 08h00 - in good time for the 09h20 Qualification. Bike and kit through skroot okay then out onto a damp track for Qualifying. Most of the racers  made use of the Friday testing so were up to speed quickly. I just warmed my tyres for 2 laps then started chipping away.

Lap 4 and I feel a clunk. Then again. What the? I slow down and check where I can... no loose bolts sticking out. Bike still stops and turns. Engine running fine. Hmmmm... then 'clunk' again. After another lap, it get's worse so I pull into the pits.

First check I and I don't see anything. Helmet and gloves off... check again. Look, look, look. The I spot my chain... at one point, it's at a funny angle. One of the fecking links has broken. Crap! The clunk feeling was the chain hitting the engine casings.

I got a few hours before my race start, so just have to source a chain and a chain-breaker tool. With no race shop in the paddock (which is a bit weird), I ask around. Turns out Colin Norris of the SorryMate Endurance team (they kindly let me share their garage) has a spare chain from last year, a chain breaker/riveter and an angle grinder. Awesome! I get to work.

All done in good time for the race. But my Qualifying time from earlier is shite and I'm 19th on the grid from 23 riders. Got my work cut out for me. Dry, sunny but a cold wind. We line up and wait for the lights...

Hangin' with team - thanks guys!
Thanks Justine Verwey for the pic.

I make a good start and grab a few places off the line. More places to be had going into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time... and some more going into Druids. Sweet! On lap 2 I get behind Michael Burke and we have a good ol' ding-dong battle for the next 8 laps.

Then the Wee Monster starts to fluff at high revs. Then clears... then fluffs again. I lose touch with Michael, then she bogs down completely going into Surtees. After trying my hand at engine work for the first time over the winter... and the ham-handed cock-ups I've made - all I see in my mind are bits of metal being sheared and swarfed up inside the engine and the poor beast chewing herself to bits. I swear I can smell burning oil. Bollocks!

First corner in a road race is pretty busy.
Thanks Jodie Wilcock for the pic

I pull into the pits and have a quick look. No oil. No chunks of metal. No rattles or knocking sounds. I check again. Nothing. She seems to run ok. Then I spot fuel around the rim of the fuel cap. I twist the fuel cap off and hear the 'ppppffffsssssssstttt' release of pressure. Shit. Must be fuel starvation... I check down pitlane at the finish line. The chequered flag is being waved. Too late.

Team starting their 3hr endurance race - they got 4th and were unlucky not to get on the podium

This leaves me with a problem. There is only one race on Saturday... only one opportunity to get a qualifying signature for my TT Mountain Course Licence. It doesn't matter which class or bike I'm on... I just need a race finish to get that signature. I check the race schedule. There is a 'Lightweight' race for which the Wee Monster is eligible at the end of the day. I go find Dave, the race meeting Boss. He lets me enter the 'Lightweight' race on short notice.

Paul Berryman helping out with a cup 'o tea and the all important sticker alignment.
Thanks Justine Verwey for the pic.

The fuel cap is a cheap Chinese one. I got it originally for the Ducati 888 Classic TT bike. I didn't like the feel of it so swapped it for the good quality European made fuel cap that was on the Wee Monster. Turns out that although it is the right size and bolt configuration as a Yamaha fuel cap, the breather hole is in a different location. When fitted to a Ducati, the breather is blocked. Yep - cheap Chinese crap.

Thanks Jodie Wilcock for the pic

Besides the chain and gas cap issues, the bike is running well. I'm not being left for dead down the straights :-) Incremental gains: new rings, lapped in valves, removed base gasket, 2:1 exhaust (thanks Kevin Ellis), open airbox and the beautiful Desmosedici aero pack from one of my sponsors, Peter at Oronero.

Because of changeable weather (and some hail), my Lightweight race is cancelled and rescheduled for Sunday. Bollocks. I got find the Race Director and he agrees to give me a signature for that race if I finish it on the rescheduled Sunday. A long, frustrating, tiring day. Cold and hungry, I head back to my Mom's for an awesome home-cooked meal and a dry, warm bed :-)

Lookin' sweet! Did I mention the cool fairing is from Peter at Oronero?

After a fantastic night's rest and some great breakfast, I head back up to Brands for warm-up, the Lightweight race and then the two Ducati Desmo Due 18 lappers. It's bright and sunny, but soon big black clouds blow in and we have intermittent showers for the rest of the day.

Out for 4 laps warm-up and then straight into the Lightweight race. Because I was a late entry and didn't qualify, I'm right at the back of a 21 bike grid. Revvs up, lights out and I make a blinder of a start. I take handfulls of places in the first 2 corners... 13th after lap 1. Sweet! I lose some places to bigger, faster bikes as the race winds down. But I finish to gain my first signature of the weekend. Turns out that I finished 2nd in class :-) but no trophy because there were only 3 of us in the class. Bike works good.

Bike on fire at Clearways... all in a days' racin'

An hour later and I'm lining up 19th on the grid in the first Ducati Desmo Due race of the day. Another good start and I'm making up places all the way through lap 1. Next few laps I catch and pass, catch and pass. I'm up to about 7th and I can see the leading group ahead. Drops of rain start flicking off my visor and screen... I push on. Two laps later and I'm starting to see lines left by the tyres on the wetting track so I back off a bit. The next time we hit Druids and two riders are down and the red flags come out. Damn! Now I got to do all that work again from the back of the grid in a shortened race.

We gather for the restart - 8 laps. But the rain gets heavier, then it starts to hail. They call an early lunch and postpone the race by 30 mins. The rain stops after 20 mins, but the track is soaked. Our control tyre, the Dunlop Qualifier isn't too good in the wet. But we're all on the same rubber so we got to give it a go.

Spot the Wee Monster - 19th is a loooong way back!
Thanks Alan Lygo for the pic.

Another good start off the line. I cut through the pack around Paddock hill, take another bunch of places into Druids, another one into Graham Hill, another into Surtees. I cross the start line in 3rd! By the time we are around again for lap 2 and I'm leading! Its been a long time since I've lead a race... an awesome feeling. Acres of empty track in front of you. Just you, your machine and the track. No one kicking up spray in your face. Beautiful!

Working our way through the traffic.
Thanks Jodie Wilcock for the pic

I push the front a few times in the next couple of laps. I get the rear sliding around too. I focus on being relaxed and smooth. Feeling everything through my arse. On the gas as hard as I dare... just enough to get it sliding. A bit like flattracking. I'm really enjoying it and just keep trying to brake that fraction later and harder on every corner, and get on the gas that fraction earlier and quicker. The last lap flag comes out and that's when the thought of  "I can win th...". I crush the thought before it can escape and do me harm. "There's someone on your 6. Just keep doing what you're doing.".

Through Clearways for the last time... hanging off the bike, egging a slide on. Tuck behind the screen... braaaaaap, braaaaaaaaap... over the line. "Fuck yeah!" I roll down Paddock Hill, the marshals applauding. Goddamn this feels good! I turn around and the track is empty. I turn to the other side looking for the guy that was on my 6. Empty track. I slow right down, wave at the spectators and marshals and wait for the next riders for a hand touch. Turns out I won by 10 seconds. 19th place start, 8 laps... and I win by 10 seconds. This was almost the same as my only other race win which was at Anglesey... 6 years ago... in similar conditions... on the same old bike! Stoked!

Thanks Jodie Wilcock for the pic

Job done - two signatures for the TT Licence. Sweet. The attrition rate is high by the time race 2 rolls around. The track is also a bit damp and patchy after rain showers. No worries. I make another decent start and carve my way through the pack. I'm up to 5th or 4th after some laps.

Over the start/finish line and I get a face-full of hail. Shit! I back off a bit, brake earlier, tip her in slower and easier. As I approach the apex of Paddock Hill, a pair of riders in the leading group have skittled down the track and have been flung into the air as they hit the raised gravel trap. I ease off and hit the apex, my front pushes, I recover, it pushes again. Whoooooah, boy! That hail sure is slippery stuff!

Thanks Justine Verwey for the pic.

The race is red-flagged. Kevin Palmer and Scott Wilson got pretty beat up in the gravel but I think are ok - hope you're feeling better by now. We restart a 10 lapper. I got all the hard work to do again. No worries - what man has done... man can do. Lights off, full gas. More barreling through the pack... awesome fun. End of lap 1 and I'm up to 5th. With my dark visor on, it's hard to see just how wet or damp the track is. I sit behind a few riders for a few laps in the uncertain conditions.

A bit patchy out there.
Thanks Justine Verwey for the pic.

I see the leading group a few seconds ahead, they're not getting away. After 5 laps I decide to make a pass and start pushing. I catch the lead group and start picking them off. There is a lot more grip than it looks like -  I'm riding by feel. Pushing harder every lap, and the grip is there.... no front-end pushes or slides. I wind her up. I catch the leader, Matthew 'Awesome' Lawson as we cross the last lap flag. I don't take any chances through Paddock Hill, get in late, square it off and drive up Matthew's inside toward Druids. Matthew comes across to defend, but I hold my breath and squeeze through on the brakes.

I know he'll be trying to get back at me when he sees how much grip there is. I pin my ears back and sprint the last few turns for the line. I take my second win of the day by a few bike lengths. Fuck yeah! Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Top step... feels good!
Thanks Karen Claridge for the pic.

After all these years trying, I finally take a Desmo Due win and go on to do the double. It's been 6 years since my last and only race win. Goddamn!

I'd like to thank my Mom, Peter at Oronero, Mike Dawson at MD-Racing, Steve at MTS Classics, Colin and Warren of team, all the great fellas (and gals) in the Desmo Due paddock, Ale, Oz-Poz and Dooley-Bug for all your love and support form afar. I couldn't have done it without you! It's been real.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Toon Up Time

The oil-in-bore problem was the 'generic' scraper ring... it must have somehow been sucking oil into rather that keeping oil out of the cylinder.

Exhaust clamps didn't arrive, so I made a sleeve for an old one and robbed another off the flattracker. I got the beastie down to TTS for a toon-up with her new rings, tighter valves, exhaust and airbox.

I was hoping for 60bhp. The best she gave was nudging 58bhp :-(
Class limit is 65bhp... so I'm at least 10% down.
But... on the same dyno last year she could only give 54bhp and was running rough... so we're up a bit and she's smooth as butter.

I'm thinking the air-filters are interfering with the air-flow. Might experiment with that another time. For now... she needs a once-over, some race numbers and new tyres. Saturday is race day at Brands Hatch.

Monday, 10 March 2014

EVE Concept

Here is something beautiful built on a 1967 Honda SS... the EVE Concept by Bandit 9.

They're made in China too...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Wee Monster Together!

Picked up the third set of rings for the Wee Monster yesterday...

popped them on the piston, then shimmied the piston into the barrel...

wrist pin in...

make a super-thin bottom gasket - got to get every last psi of compression out it...

head back on...

and she lives! She's given up that filthy smokin' habit. She's breathin' clean. Yeeeeeha!

Just waiting for a few exhaust clamps, then need to get her down the dyno, some new tyres, nuber board and number and we're gonna go racin!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Duke Art

Off the Cafe Racer Culture blog. Thanks guys!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Two Texas Legends

Just love this pic... Colin Edwards and Ben Spies...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

How to Make and Airhead Sing

Last winter I took (mostly cut) a load of crap off the bike. This winter I've gone down the tuning route in the quest for silverware. Hopefully this two pronged approach will give me the edge I need to bring it home.

To make the most of that fantabulous 2 into 1 cobbled together exhaust... we have try make her breathe better at the front. Standard air-box (as on most bikes) is a hideous monstrosity. Even with the hack-saw mod, it's still crap.

So... I attack it at 15 000 rpm with the most bad-ass Dremel bit I have. Ten minutes later, with a garage full of tiny bits of molten plastic that I'll be cleaning up for the next five years, we have an air-box that's one third of the size...

bit of a clean-up and it starts looking purposeful.

Some council-estate kudos here - Pipercross!

The whole thing slots right in :-) and get this... weighs a whooping 1/2 kg less than the original. Win - win!

Man! She's gonna breeeeeeeeeeathe!

If I can ever get my oil-in-the-top-cylinder issue sorted, we'll get her down the dyno and see what fruit these sacrifices to the God of HorsePower bear.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Chipping Away

As I wait for new rings to arrive for the Wee Monster, I've been chipping away at other bits n pieces. 

This is the original exhaust with a left-side chop. The economy model.

Got a nice 2 into 1 conversion pipe from Kevin Ellis (the Godfather of Desmo Due)...

added my own link pipe, an old can from my flattrackers' original exhaust (Titanuim too!) and made up a hangar...

A few 100 grams weight saving... but hoping she'll breathe better. Damn looks cooler and I won't get anymore questions and snide remarks in skrootineering about the old blanked off system.

The clutch cover was worn pretty thin from sliding down the track many times. One more and it would have been holed. Check out the epoxy/ally crash protection on the underside of the clutch cover. R&G - kiss my ass.

Next up, the tank-clip/bracket. The original clip works on a road bike... but not so well when you park it in the gravel. Besides... new rules this year means no more tank clips. Found a bit of old tread-plate ally...

made a template out of an old baking tray in the garbage (Eeeeeuw!)

measure twice and cut once...

a bit of finishing, a few holes...

been busy with a lot of bracketry and stuff...

down to the painters for a rattle-can finish

Done. Race legal and neato.

Update on the BIG performance mod tomorrow...

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Wee Monster Goes Desmosedici

The other week, Peter from Oronero dropped off a set of Desmosedici bodywork he'd made for the Wee Monster. Thus far, I have gone the nekkid route... but would like to visit the podium again. It's been a while since I got any trophies. We'll see if the extra weight is worth the reduced drag.

While I wait for the rings to arrive from Italy, I started on my long list of other things for the bike. Fitting bodywork is a bit tricky with only 1 pair of hands. Especially on a bike that has never had a fairing and has no fairing mounts.

Wooden blocks, cable ties, duct-tape, straps, swearing, cussing and a whole lot of patience later and it was done. The screen is a off an old 748 fairing I had knocking about. Had to cut it a bit and makeup some ally brackets to get it to fit... but turned out okay.

She's looking pretty sweet. Thank you very much Peter!