Saturday, 17 May 2014

Dirttrack National Championship - Round 1 - Leicester

Got the flattracker and gear loaded for tomorrow's racing at Coventry... came here to post an update and realized that I haven't yet posted the happenings of the DTRA Dirttrack National Championship Round 1 that was held at Leicester 3 weeks ago! Doh.

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Okay... let's go back a wee while. A leisurely drive up to my nearest dirtrack on Sunday morning 27th April. Unloaded, parked up, set-up and a bit of banter for Round 1. A lot of new riders and bikes... some guys from France too.

Paul Sheldon with his souped up KTM EXC Thunderbike

Some riders came out from France

I had made a couple of changes to to bike on the advice of Kenny Noyes. Lower bars allowed me to swing them forward a few inches to pull me forward... need more weight on the front on the turn entry. I also stiffened up the rear suspension a bit - more pre-load and compression to try keep it more stable. Less traction, but a more predictable slide. I also tweaked my tyre pressures on the advice of UK's own AMA dirttracker, Alan Birtwhistle.

Riders' briefing

Out in practice an the bike already felt better. More control. Still needed to work on moving my ass forward in the seat for the turn entry. As usual, I was competing in Thunderbikes and the Pro classes. The first objective of the day is to not fall off, the second is to make both finals by doing well in the 3 heats run for each class.

Sideburn Gary Inman and Drogo Mitchie - Team FTWco

First heat is Thunderbikes. I get a good start. I ride well, make my way through the field and take 2nd place. Great start to the day! Bike is feeling a lot better. More control = more confidence = go faster = better results. Yeah! Pro heat 1 goes well and I get 5th or so.

View from the SpeedTherapy pits

I'm working on getting my weight forward for the turn entry, then moving it back for the exit. It;s working, but in the process, the dzus clip holding my seat unit breaks and my seat is adrift. I botch it with big-ass cable-ties (thanks George Pickering!), but it moves around and I have to re-attach it for every race for the rest of the day.

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Next Thunderbike heat is similar to the first. Good start, pick a few riders off and finish 2nd. Sweet! Next Pro heat and around 5th or 6th. This is good going... the Pro class I'm up against DTX bikes that are a lot lighter and easier to ride fast. Its tough to get into the Grand Final (the top 12 scorers from the heats), but I did it a few times last year.

Lock-wire, cable-ties and duct tape are essential to keep race bikes racing

Thunderbikes heat 3 - another good start, steady and fast ride. I catch Ross Herod going into the last lap and nip past him to take the heat win. Yeeeeha! My first heat win in a long time. In the 3rd Pro heat I am drawn on the front row and reckon if I can get into the top 3, I got a good chance of making the Grand Final. I line up at the front, watch the lights. The green light comes on and 'braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'. Shit! I'm standing still! Must have knocked it into neutral on my way to the line. Bugger! I hook 2nd gear in disgust and hoon off the line, chasing last place. I manage to catch and pass only 1 rider by the time the flag is out. Bollocks!

Drittrackin' is a family sport...

My consistency on the Thunderbikes puts me 3rd on the front row for the final. This is the first time I am starting from the front in a final. Cool as! The start line screw-up in the last Pro heat threw my chances of a Grand Final away... but I still get an extra ride in the 'B' final. I'm feeling pretty knackered though. Been having stomach cramps all day and not eating properly. Just got to dig deep for the Thunderbike final.

We roll up to the line for the start. The 5 second board goes up... the revs rise and we watch the lights. I feel the clutch just starting to bite and the bike strains forward. The green light appears and 'braaaaaaaaap!', 'braaaaaaaaaaaap'. I hook 3rd gear and slide her into turn 1 between Tim Neave (2013 champ) and Dave Chadburn (2013 runner-up). They get me at the apex and through the exit... I'm in 3rd place into turn 3. I chase. Lap 2, lap3. I get on the gas too early out of turn 2, she spins up sideways and I have to get off the throttle to not lowside. Co-Built Anthony Brown gets up my inside. Bollocks!

Battling with Co-Built Geoff Cain
Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

Lap 4 and I do the same thing. This time Co-Built number 45 - Geoff Cain gets me. Shit! I ride hard to get back at them, but I make more mistakes. They make a few bike lengths on me. I get back up to them, then make another mistake. I run wide, of slide too much on the exit. I do this for the rest of the race while Anthony and Geoff have their own hum-dinger for the podium position. I finish 5th.

Broken leg, but still smiling... this is Dirttrackin' !

It's a good result - but a bit disappointed that I didn't ride well in the final. In the Pro 'B' Final I ride well again and have a great battle with Dave Homan and Vince Hurst. But I'm knackered and come home 3rd - I think I get 1 point in the Championship for that :-)

Some cool old bikes in the new Vintage class...

8 races and I ride well in 7 of them. Even though I messed up a bit in the Thunderbikes final and didn't make the Pro final, I'm happy with the result. (the wonky seat didn't help either) I have found something in the bike that is making me more competitive. A step in the right direction.

Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Tomorrow we are at Coventry for Round 2 of the DTRA Championship. I've fixed the seat, welded two other brackets that were broken and made a few more suspension tweaks. Looking forward to seeing how they work tomorrow. Also trying something different with the gearing.

Thanks Tom Whiting for the pic

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