Monday, 29 September 2014

Ducati Monster SR2 Cafe Racer

Ducati Cafe Racer based on Ducati Monster SR2 built by mechanical engineer John Grainge. Custom Cafe racer seat by Radical Ducati, sub-frame was rebuilt, Custom fuel tank mounting and rear set was machined by john. Fuel tank was borroed from Ducati 749 and customized, Ohlins front suspension and disc brakes from Ducati 848, Ohlins rear suspension from Ducati 999, Ducati Hypermotard 1100S Marchesini magnesium wheels, Harley-Davidson V-Rod headlamp, Custom Exhaust system, custom Paint job by Alan Stanley, electrical Redesigned. Ducati Monster SR2 Cafe Racer is unique and is an assemble of best parts from all Ducati motorcycles.

from Grease n Gasoline

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dirttrack National Championship - Round 6 - Rye House

Sunday was the last round of the DTRA National Dirttrack Championships at Rye House, just north of London. With more riders than ever entered, a split event was run with the Pro, Restricted and Thunderbike heats and finals in the afternoon and all the other classes in the morning. This meant I could sleep in :-)

Thunderbike Final start line
Thanks Ian Roxburgh for the pic

Unloaded, signed on, changed and by lunchtime we were out on track. Heat 1 - a good start... 4th from the back row. Then my first Pro heat... front row start... held onto 2nd for half a lap and then went backwards. Next Thunderbike heat and I could only get 5th from a second row start - I was struggling to get into it.

I kept plugging away, thinking about where I could improve, what I was doing wrong. I wasn't really enjoying it and it was pretty hard work with just 3 classes being run back-to-back. Fortunately, I still had a bit of fitness left in my bones from the ManxGP/Classic TT so I was recovering quickly between heats and never felt tired while out on track. My calf was battered and bruised from Saturdays lie in the dirt but only bothered me in the paddock - on track it was the last thing on my mind.

Geoff getting it tight
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

The heats done... I was surprised to see that I'd qualified 5th in the Thunderbike Final with my mediocre riding. I just missed the Grand Final by one place, qualifying 13th. That cheered me up a lot. Okay.. just two races to go... let's give it all we got!

Thunderbike Final - Revvs up. The light flicks on and we're away. The bike hooks up so well on the race line that she pulls into a big wheelie. Well... it felt big... but was probably just 6 inches. I knock the throttle a little to get her back on the ground, hook third gear and run her into the turn 1 melee.

There's a bit of barging and contact around me.. I manage to keep out of trouble and sling the big KTM out of turn 2 behind in 4th place, behind Geoff Cain. Nice!

Thanks James Boddy for the pic

I quickly settle into the race. Dave Chadburn is at the front and pulling away. I'm in the queue behind Guy Sutherland and Geoff. We're all real close... lap after lap. There is kind of a blue groove (it was a groove, but wasn't blue) and it's almost impossible to make a pass without someone making a mistake or having a bit of contact. I find myself running into the back of Geoff mid-turn but his yellow Co-Built is always in my way so I have to back off. He starts cutting the turns tight. Turn 1 and there seems to be some room on his outside... this time I carry my speed and go have a look...

Shhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrr. The bike goes into a two wheel slide. Shit! I'm losing the front... I try keep her up on my steel-shoed left foot. Ghhhhhhrrrrrrrrr... the swish of tyres sliding across dirt fades into a nauseating grinding sound. Shit! I'm loooooosssssssing heeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr. My left side gets ground into the hard-packed dirt. My left foot getting caught between the front wheel and the bottom of the headstock, graunching my leg in a carbon copy of Saturday's off.

Fuck! The expectation of the impact of another bike on my trapped body goes through my mind before I've stopped sliding. Makes no difference if I'm waiting for it.. or trying to get back in the race. So I'm scrambling to get my leg out form under the bike amidst an angry swarm of Thunderbikes. I have to roll on my side and do a prone dance and wiggle free. I'm out, I'm up.

Queueing up!
Thanks James Boddy for the pic

Get bike up. Need to race! I try lift her... wrong angle and she just slides along the gravel. I adjust my position and hoik her up as the pack comes swarming around again. I hold the bike and watch over my shoulder as the other bikes dodge me. At least if I'm watching I have a tiny chance of lessening any impact. I'm missed by inches - these guys are good riders!

Clutch in and I roll the bike to the sanctity of the grass infield where I get her started again. Wait for the bikes to pass for the last time before tagging onto the back and finishing the race on two wheels. Well... I was was doing well there... and then I fucked it up. A bit annoyed with myself... but happy at the same time that I had the pace to be up there after I felt like the slowest rider out there during the heats.

Jetwash time

My leg got mangled in the same place as the day before and hurts like a bastard. 10 minutes later and I'm lining up with Guy and Paul Sheldon for the Pro 'B' final. There are still points on offer for the Championship. Oh yes... this year I have no Championship. Ah - fuck it... it's still a race! Let's go for it!

Guy manages to gap me in my over cautiousness with battered bike and body. I roll the bike home in 14th place for the Pro class - probably my last race of 2014. Would have been nice to carry the high from the Isle of Man through to the last race. Oh well.

It hurt then, it hurt more on Monday, it hurt a little less on Tuesday, it hurt less yesterday and less again today. The body forgets pain... that's why we keep racing.

Post-season sparkly clean, some WD40 and tucked away in the garage for the winter

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dirttrackin' Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the final round of the DTRA National Dirttrack Championships at Rye House (Hoddeston - just norf of London). I was lying 2nd in the Thunderbike class after two rounds - but then I missed the next three rounds due to my wedding and travel for work. I'm pretty far down in the Championship standings now. Oh well... I'll be there to have some fun.

I haven't ridden the Dirttracker for more than 4 months... so took the opportunity for some practice at Rye House this morning because there are no practice sessions scheduled before tomorrow's racing... and just because it's fun :-)

Early morning rain delayed the start and I waited till the track had dried out a bit. Focusing on some of the things I picked up from Kenny Noyes at the beginning of the season, I was back into it by the second session. I also experimented with tyre pressures... until the front-end disappeared mid-turn and I was slam-dunked into the dirt. I got my leg trapped between the front wheel and forks and another rider had to lift my bike before I could get free.

No major damage... bent gear-change lever... a few more scrapes. My calf took a good smack. It's hurtin' now... It's gonna hurt more tomorrow. My learning: the rear isn't so sensitive to tyre pressure... but the front is.

Also burned my hand on the rear brake disc while doing the tyre pressures

Got the bike a bit cleaned up, fitted a new/used gear-change lever and made some fresh cuts to the tyres this evening. Looking forward to going fast and turning left tomorrow. My classes (Thunderbike and Pro) start racing at 13h00, entry is free so come along and watch some Dirttrackin'!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Travis at Pikes Peak by San Christmas

"This wolverine portrait pic was taken shortly after I watched the fellow run off the Finish line. And then receive CPR in the back of a flatbed plow truck. That was not the first time I have seen chest compressions at the races. It was the first of this summer but not the last. Racing is real. Deep and real."
Travis Newbold

Via: Sideburn via FTWCo

Saw this shortly after my last post. An immense pic and profound words from the legend. Some of those feelings I have on the Isle of Man too.

IOM 2014 - Post Manx Blues

For a few weeks and even months after returning from the Isle of Man, I suffer 'Post Manx Blues'. Most of my friends who race out there get it too. Back to the hum-drum of everyday life - lightyears away from the focus, intensity, thrill, emotion, danger, sadness, hard work, concentration, frustration, adrenalin, celebration, relief and joy of racing on the Isle of Man. I get a feeling for what combat troops returning to civil life go through.

'Crosswind' by one of my favorite artists: Tom Fritz

With the Isle of Man experience fresh in my memory, it's the contrast to everyday life that leads me to sometimes think: "Why the hell am I doing this crap?". But I quickly remind myself: "So that I can go and have these incredible experiences.". I'm getting better at keeping the gap between the thought and the reminder as small as possible.

I think that this practice, and having achieved every goal that I set out for myself before I got on that ferry a month ago, has helped keep those 'Post Manx Blues' away. Right now, I have a deep sense of satisfaction.

I never take the decision about racing on the Isle of Man lightly - this is why I wait at least 2 weeks after returning before daring to think of returning. Let the emotions settle - like closing your eyes to the dust kicked up by a car speeding by on a dirt road. Hold your breath, let the dust settle.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

IOM 2014 Day 14 - Senior Race

Early morning Friday and the rain was being driven horizontal by the fierce wind. Not quite ideal racing conditions on the Isle of Man. Or anywhere. Once the rain stopped, the strong winds persisted... good for drying the track... bad for racing motorbikes in. We load up and head up to the Paddock where an hour delay to the start is announced to allow the track to dry more.

The Aprilia up through skrootineering, fuel topped up, tyre warmers gently getting 80 degrees into the tyres and rims and we're all set. It's sunny and the track has dried out nicely by the time the 45 minute horn sounds. But it's quite chilly and very windy.

Pretty soon I've got my gear on and am heading up to Parc Firme for the start of the Senior race - the blue riband event of the 2014 Festival of Motorcycling. When walking up for practice or a race, I pull my cap low over my eyes and stare at the ground 6 feet ahead of me and focus on the job ahead. If I look up and around, I'll see someone I know and they or I will start a conversation. I just get my head down and focus.

Thanks Justine for the pic

Up in Parc Firme, we get an update on the course conditions from the Clerk of the Course. Damp under the trees and very windy - take care. Then we're up on Glencrutchery Road. Bike warmed up, tyres toasty, fuel brimmed - we're good to go racing for four laps of the Isle of Man. The tension and excitement mounts as the first bikes on the road scream away from the start line - the race starts.

We edge forward in the queue. Helmet on, check visor, gloves on, stretch, stay loose and relaxed... focused. Hand-shakes, fist-pumps and shoulder-slaps. Hop on the bike and tip-toe it through the sea of photographers. Then we're alone in penned off start area. Just me an the bike. Focus. Think... speed. Speed!

Thanks Kevan for the pic

My friend, Warren Verwey is starting at number 40, just 20 seconds ahead of me on the road. He blasts off down the track. I close and lock my visor. Next up, is my mate Tim Devlin on his old steelie 600. I hook first gear and ease out the clutch, I roll forward toward the start line. "Clunk!". The bike stalls. Crap. I hit the start button. Nothing. Shit. I switch the key on and off to reset everything, hit the start button again. Nothing. Fuck! The Starter walks back a few paces to me, places his hand on my shoulder and taps it. Shit! The clock is ticking... time to go!

Warren Verwey on Glencrutchery Road

I then remember that the bike has to be in neutral to start - bloody road bikes! I look for neutral with my left foot. Click. Click. Click. Click. Up, down, up, down. 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd. Click. The green neutral light on my dash lights up. I hit the starter button again. "Chigga-chigga-vroooom!". I stamp down into 1st and make my start of the Senior Manx Grand Prix 2014 from 5 yards behind the start line and 5 seconds after the clock started ticking. I'm annoyed with myself and red line the aging machine in every gear all the way down to St. Ninians Crossroads.

Ahem... the start line is here... would you please start your motorcycle.

C'mon Son... it's time to go...

Peel left, hit the jump, muscle the bike toward the apex on the right. That was easy. Now left. The bike doesn't go left as quickly as it should and as I go over the crest I catch a massive headwind. It's like someone put the brakes on! Whooooah! Left... left... left... I have to roll the throttle to get back on line for the right kink through the bottom of Bray Hill. Bloody-hell! I've never felt wind like that!

Huraaaaah! We get rolling 5 seconds too late...

Throttle to the stops in annoyance.
Thanks Justine for the pics.

The headwind lifts the front of the bike up more than usual over Ago's One and Two. But I'm ready for it on the rear brake. Into the tunnel of trees, over the jump and hard on the brakes down to The Quarterbirdge. Through safely and flat-out. Faster. Faster! I get settled in quickly, but the wind is strong and I'm getting blown off line unexpectedly. Take it easy. Ride to the conditions. I keep a bigger gap to the kerbs than I normally do. By the time I reach The Appledean, I have Tim a few seconds ahead and I'm reeling him in. He's good on the brakes and just a little too far ahead for me to get him at Ballacraine. Up through Black Dub. Tip in to the blind left-hander and 'Whoah!'. I have to tuck my shoulder in to avoid contact. That wall was close!  Bloody wind.

I use the torque of the big Aprilia to drive past Tim coming out of Laurel Bank. Down Cronk-y-Voddy straight and I'm carrying 500 rpm more than usual - tailwind. Knowing I'm carrying a few mph more than usual, I take care through the super-fast right kink at the end and over the bumps. It's hard work having to constantly correct your braking, turn-in and lines because of the wind.

The jump through St Ninians - about 155mph on a flying lap

By the time I get to Sulby Straight for the first time and through the kink, I can see another rider in the distance, just disappearing through Sulby Bridge. I chip away at the gap up through Ramsey and onto the Mountain section. Over the Mountain I'm gaining seconds. By the time we're heading down through Brandish, I'm only a few seconds off and I see that it's Warren. Warren posted a personal best of 115 mph during practice in only his second year at the Manx (awesome Dood!). Starting 20 seconds ahead of me and with my start line shenanigans, I thought I wouldn't see him in the race.

I keep closing the gap through the Grandstand and the super fast section all the way to Ballacraine. I nip up his inside as he takes a wider line at the Glen Helen Hotel. I then get a false neutral up though the next uphill right-hander - Sarah's Cottage. I lose so much speed, expected him to come back past me as I stamp down 2 gears through the gearbox. He doesn't, but I know he's breathing down my neck and I pin my ears back. He can't get past down Cronk-y-Voddy but I can hear him right behind me. I know he's not going to be happy that I caught him on the road and is going to try get back at me. That's when I started to feel the arm-pump.

Warren and I dicing on the greatest race track in the world

I have never suffered arm-pump before. My lack of bike-time and the tough race conditions were taking it's toll on my body. My forearms were burning. My hands couldn't grip as before. I couldn't squeeze the brakes as hard as I'd like. I started to struggle the push the bars hard to counter-steer.

Warren makes his move down Sulby Straight. On the power, he drives past. I want to wave as he goes past, but it's too bumpy, too risky. I take it all in and savor the moment - racing on the best race circuit on the world with my friend. Money can't buy it!

Warren and his crew - Mike Dickenson, his Dad Andre and Curtis before the race

I tuck in close behind in his slipstream. I'm feathering the throttle through the kink to avoid rear-ending him. With my arm-pump, I'm struggling to brake properly, so I'm early on the brakes and he starts to get away. Up through Ginger Hall and the bumpy sections all the way to Ramsey and he gaps me by two seconds or so. I'm struggling to hold on. I know I can get him back on the mountain though, it's smooth up there - I don't have to work so hard with holding on and there is not too much heavy braking. I bide my time.

Sure enough, I catch Warren through the uber-fast three right kinks at the end of the Mountain Mile. I am flat out through them and behind his back wheel by the time we tip in at Mountain Box. He holds me up a bit through the next few sections before I push past on his inside at the Bungalow. Up Hailwood's Rise and and I pass Justin Collins too. The big torque of the Aprilia was helping me a bit on the mountain with so much wind. I was punching out of the turns quicker and making up time on acceleration.

Signpost Corner

By the time I'm cruising down pit-lane (at about 40km/h ;-/ ) and looking for my pit-box, I'm about 6 seconds ahead of Warren. I find my box, pull up next to my crew, fumble a bit with the key, but get the gas cap open. Kevan is sloshing in more fuel. Visor and screen clean and a drink from Steve. "You're fuckin' flying Paul. You're fuckin' flying!" Steve gives me encouragement as I try and stretch and relax my forearms. "You're 10th!". Holy crap! I think. 10th in the the Senior... keep going... just keep going.

Fuel tank full, Gas cap closed, key in and turned,off the stand, hit the start button. Nothing. Huh? I rock the bike forwards, I feel that she's still in gear. As on the start line, she won't start unless she's in neutral. Fuckin' road bikes! Just then, Warren pulls out from the pit box behind me. 'Bugger - gonna have to catch him again...' I'm thinking as I do the 1st to 2nd gear and back again gear-lever twiddle. Bloody hell! I'm struggling to get her into neutral. Trying the most sensitive touch. Click, click, click... the green light on my dash fails to go on. I hear the a guy in the next pit box shout across to me "You need to find neutral." Yeah, no shit. I'm working on it pal...

Click, click, click... tick, tick, tick... the seconds go by. Using the lightest touch possible, I feel 1st disengage, and there is no click up to 2nd gear. The green light is blazing. "Yeah! You bitch!" I hit the starter button so hard, it twists around the handle-bar. I keep pushing and she fires into life. Careful not to stall, I pull off and cruise down pit-lane. Another 10 seconds lost. Shit! Bollocks!

Wtf is neutral? Tick, tick, tick.... third pit-lane f-up in the week. What a muppet!
Thanks Justine for the pic.

I chase after Warren on an empty track. By the time I'm braking heavily for Quarterbridge, my forearms, especially my right, are killing me. I know I've lost loads of time on this lap. The last lap of a 4 lap race is the only proper flying lap. I wanted a personal best. I decided to sacrifice the third lap and a few race positions to go for that personal best on the last lap. Personal Best times are more important to me than race positions around the Isle of Man.

On the road alone again

Braking early and not as hard on the big braking areas, using my legs against the tank of the bike instead of countersteering and rolling the throttle on with my fingers (like a monkey would do), I was trying to rest my forearms as much as possible. I knew I was losing time, but if I could save enough strength for a blistering last lap, it would be worth it. I had to consolidate. The wind was still strong and I still had to fight through a lot of fast corners. That was a looooooong lap.

By the end of the lap, the pain had eased in my forearms. I tested the countersteering and heavy braking through Cronk-y-Mona and into Signpost. Aaaaaah, that's better. Down through the blind Bedstead (love that corner) and the Nook (hate that corner) and I was g'ing myself up to pull the pin on the last lap. Around Governor's Dip and then hard on the gas for the quickest lap I've ever done.

Small jump going through Union Mills - #36 started 50 seconds ahead of me on the road

"Braaaaaap!", "Braaaaaaaaaaaap!", "Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!". As I approach the Grandstand, I see some red movement. I approach at around 140mph to see a marshal frantically waving a red flag. Huh? Really? Now? I slow down and there is another marshal at the entry to the return road, in the middle of the track, waving a red flag. Isle of Man rules: red flag means you stop where-ever you are on track at the next marshal's post. I slow right up and filter into the return road as directed by a marshal.

The Gooseneck - leading to my favorite part of the course, The Mountain Section. 10 miles of riding heaven

I get back up the return road to find only Warren and another rider in Parc Firme. The other riders ahead of me on the road must have just got through to the next Marshal's post. With all racing stopped under a red flag, there couldn't be a better place to have it happen. Two other riders join us. With the first 35 or so riders on the road already through and on their final lap, I know that this is the end of the Senior race and a result will be called. No chance of a proper flying lap.

War stories of our dicing on the roads...
Thanks Justine for the pics.

We're all happy and somewhat relieved to be back safely. It was a tough race, real tough. Warren and I exchange war-stories of our lap 2 battle before the Clerk of the Course announces that there are 2 incidents that the 2 air-ambulances are attending to and with no air-ambulance cover, the Senior race is over and a result will be called. I am disappointed not to have a go at my personal best in lap 4, but am also relieved. That was a hard race and I didn't have anything left in me to do more than 1 lap... and I'd have to dig deep to do that lap too. I'm really pleased that it's over and we're safe... but disappointed that my last lap of the 2014 Campaign ended with a red flag.

Thanks Justine for the pics

The race result was rolled back to the 2nd lap. This played into my hands as my conserving 3rd lap and pit-stop cock-up didn't count toward the result. I later am surprised to learn that my 2nd lap dice with Warren had taken me up to 8th place at the end of lap 2. Awesome! It didn't work out so well for Warren who was on fire in lap 3 and well into the top ten.

Evening meal with friends for a job well done :-)

8th in the Manx Grand Prix Senior... I could hardly believe it! Some luck there... maybe... but after so many luckless campaigns, I was due a bit of fortune. I still had to ride the wheels off that big old bike for those first 2 laps. My first lap was 113mph from a standing start. My second lap, including the slow-down for the pit-stop was 114mph. I'd got that personal best after all.

Third replica in a week - Team SpeedTherapy's best results ever!
Thanks Justine for the pic.

It makes me chuckle. 8th in the Senior or what is basically a road bike with clip-on's, throttle, rear-sets, race bodywork and an exhaust/airfilter, power-commander AND - it's 11 years old! Nothing special about that bike... ok... maybe the color-scheme.

The day ends with sadness when later that afternoon we learn that Gary Firth, in his first year on the Isle, lost his life in one of the incidents. Condolences to Gary's family and friends. As many have said - he was doing what he loved and was living the dream.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

IOM 2014 Day 13 - Final Prep

After the success of Wednesday's Supertwins race, we decided not to go out on the Aprilia for a final practice. I was happy with the bike and had nothing to test or learn. The final practice was cut short because of a civilian emergency and the riders didn't even get a full lap in anyway.

Thursday we spent going over everything on the Aprilia. Everything. And prepping her for the Senior race on Friday. We were all done by the afternoon and spent the rest of the day and evening chilling out.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

IOM 2014 Day 12 - Race Day: Supertwins

Wednesday morning was bright, sunny and dry. Good conditions for a little bit of racing around the Isle of Man :-) The Junior race is in the morning with us on Suzy V, the carbie Suzuki SV650, in the Supertwins race around lunch-time. There is a senior practice session in the afternoon (1 lap) so we take the Aprilia along just in case I'm up for a lap after the race.

Suzuki all prepped and ready to runble!

My good friend Warren Verwey is in the Junior race. After getting the wee Suzuki through skrootineering and ready for the race, we turn our attention to the finish of the Junior race. Warren has been on fire all practice week with him and I swapping personal bests mall week. He comes home in 10th - a brilliant result on only his second Manx GP. Well done Wazzy!

Warren on it!

I head back down to the van to get ready and get some food down my gullit. We are short of a pit crew member so I ask my friends in the paddock. Mike Minns, fresh from putting in another great performance in the Junior (14th) offers to help out after his shower. Thanks Mike!

Parc Firme has the usual buzz of excitement before a race. I am approached by Manx TT Radio for a live interview. He asks about the weather. I thought that was it, but he knew me by name and that I've always raced VeeTwins around the Isle (the Aprilia is the only VeeTwin in the Senior race). The interview moves to the subject of VeeTwins and he then can't shut me up! I give my point of view on the rules for the Supertwins class and that the Kawasaki ER-6 has become the only competitive machine. The class rules should be opened up to allow other machines to be competitive... like Ducati. 2 minutes of fame!

The weather? Beautiful.

VeeTwins... aaaah, well now... you see... blah, blah, blah...
Thanks Kevan for the pics!

We get the final instructions from Clerk of the Course Phil Taubman over the tannoy. All's set around the course for a good race. We then push the bike up to Glencrutchery Road. Starting at number 21, there is less of a wait from when number 1 blasts off down the road. I prefer that. Hand-shakes, back-slaps, "See you back in Parc Firme" and "Have a good one." all around. Soon the first rider on the road is away and the queue starts moving forward.

I just love this part of racing on the Isle of Man. Up on Glencrutchery Road, your turn to go as fast as you can on the greatest race track in the world just minutes away. The tension, the focus, the excitement, the anticipation, the poignancy. I feel alive.

Steve and the Suzy V on Glencrutchery Road
Thanks Justine for the pic!

As we move forward, I start to block everything going on around me out. It's like someone turns the volume knob down and twists the focus ring on the lens of life. It's as if I'm in a dream, a movie, someone invisible and just observing. Everything goes quieter and into soft focus. Everything slows down.

We get near the penned off area just before the start line where only bikes and riders are allowed. I swing my leg over the wee Suzuki that my crew have already started, warmed up and are blipping the throttle on. Last fist pumps from the crew and I paddle past the crowd of white-bibbed photographers into the penned off area. I am aware of the crowds behind the barriers in my blurry peripheral vision, but all I see is the back wheel of the rider in front of me, all I hear is the burble of the 650 Vee Twin between my legs, all I am thinking of is twisting that throttle to the stops and holding it there as long as I dare. All I am thinking of is speed.

The moment...
Thanks Justine for the pic!

The rider ahead pulls off as fast as he can for his race start - I'm off in 10 seconds, 9, 8... I clunk the gearshift down in to first gear, ease the clutch out and roll the red bike up to the start line. The Starter places his hand on my shoulder. I focus far down Glencrutchery Road and on to the St.Ninians crossroads in the distance. "Flat-out!" I whisper to myself. I switch my vision to the man ten yards away on a small white podium holding a flag at his side and watching a stop-watch. 3, 2, 1... he flicks the flag. I'm easing the clutch out and feeding on the revs as he does this and the Starter simultaneously taps my shoulder...

Braaaaaaap! The tacho quickly sweeps to 10 000rpm... I hook second gear. Braaaaaaaaaaap! Third. Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap! Fourth. Focus on the hedge. Fifth. Sixth. The jump at St. Ninians isn't really a jump on the small bike from a standing start, but it's still pretty quick... 130mph quick. Down Bray Hill and I want another gear. I feel for one... but the bike just revs and the gear lever hits a dead-end. This is as much as she has... I hold her flat out all the way down the hill and up the other side until the trees close in - flat out through the right kink. I roll the throttle as I approach the hump in the road and left kink at the Alexander drive junction, then gas it up as I hit the hump. I normally go down one gear for that - today I take it in 6th.

Hard on the brakes, down a steep hill with a full tank and tyres not up to temp. Quarterbridge has been the end of many riders races. The wee Suzuki stops quickly, but not quick enough for the extra speed I'm carrying today. I run deep. Fortunately, Quarterbridge is very wide and I manage to turn the little bike through the middle and get on the gas as soon as I can.

A a number sections I can now do flat out on the little bike that I couldn't do flat-out in previous years... Ballagarey, DJ's, Gorse Lea, end of Cronk-y-Voddy straight, Alpine Cottage... and more. I keep that little bike flat-out as long as I dare. I catch the rider ahead before we get to Ballacraine. Just after Ballacraine, my tacho dies. Shit. No rpm, no temp... we're gonna have to fly by night. Just keep her lit.

Down Cronk-y-Voddy straight and Jamie Hodson, rider #22 powers past me. Bugger. The 12 year old, carburettor fed little Suzuki is outgunned by just about all the bikes in the Supertwins class. Her 77 horse-power against the 85 to 95 of the other bikes is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Time to be street-wise. I tuck into Jamie's slipstream and hang on.

Jamie holds me up a bit through a lot of the twisty sections, especially 11th Milestone all the way to Kirkmichael - a section I love. I can't make a pass... the wee Suzuki just doesn't have enough oomph to make a pass stick. This continues as we pass a few other riders all the way to Sulby Straight. I hang onto Jamie in his slipstream down the long straight. I'm giving the little Suzuki all she's got. Twice I pull within a foot of his back wheel and pop out of his slipstream. I gain a wheel on him and then start falling back rapidly. I tuck back behind him and wait.

I set-up a pass on the brakes at the end of the long Sulby straight. He knows this is coming and brakes later than usual. The little Suzuki may be one of the slowest bikes out there... but with an Aprilia Ohlins/Brembo front-end and at only 150kg, she is one of the best stoppers. I get level with Jamie at the tip-in point, am on the inside and nip ahead of him. I go like a scalded cat, trying to gap Jamie before the next straight.

I manage to stay ahead, but up the Mountain Mile I hear the drone of his Kawasaki pull beside me and drive past. I tuck in behind again. I know I'm strong over the mountain and just wait for my opportunity. It comes at the next set of corners. Later off the throttle and onto the brakes into Mountain Box and I'm past again. I know I can gap him over the mountain and back to Douglas. I get me head down and crack on.

First lap is 106.8mph from a standing start. I press on. Bray Hill flat-out and the little bike is going well. Jamie powers past me again down Sulby Straight on lap 2, there is traffic and I can't get past at the end of the straight. It's only as we approach Ramsey that I can push past the other rider, Jamie is in the distance. Frustrating. I reel him in over the mountain and am on his six by the time we're blasting down Glencrutchery Road again.

I was so focused on getting tucked in behind Jamie for the roller-coaster of Bray Hill, that it was only when he popped up and braked for his pit-stop that I remembered that I had to do the same and have a pit-stop. It took a second for me to realize this... I stayed on the racing line to avoid rear-ending him and hit the brakes hard... harder! Jamie and another rider just ahead of him were on my left at the entrance to pit-lane, track to my right. I didn't want to swerve in and risk hitting them. I tried to get past on the brakes. Rear wheel in the air. Oh shit! This isn't working.

Too fast! Two bikes on my left, live track on my right, pit-wall straight ahead. I knew that if I overshot pit-entrance and paddled backwards on the live track I'd probably be disqualified. I tried to steer the bike into pit-lane, but with the brakes at maximum and the rear wheel skipping across the tar, that wasn't happening. I pushed my weight as far back as I could in a half-endo. The foam-pad wrapped pole at the entrance to pit-lane was approaching very fast. I gritted my teeth and braced for impact.

Clunk! The rear wheel hits the road and the bike stalls just as the front fairing of the little Suzuki kisses the foam. Just a kiss. Fuck! That was close. I quickly find neutral and paddle the bike backwards, fire her up and cruise into the melee of pit-lane. My little pit-wall adventure was all over the live commentary - they saw the imminent crash, lost sight of me behind the foam padding, ten seconds later I'm cruising down pit-lane. They were confused and I was pissed-off that I'd lost time. My crew were wondering why it took me so long to get to them. They had no idea what had just happened.

Cruising to my pit-box... as if nothing happened ;-)
Thanks Justine for the pic.

A good pit-stop with Mike Minns manning the fuel-cap and visor/screen clean, Kevan on the refueling and Steve with the paddock stands and drink. I'm a bit angry with myself for cocking-up the second pit-stop in a row. I channel this into riding that little bike hard. As hard as I could.

Pit-stop. Steve checking the status of an oil leak. "Fine mist. You're good."
Thanks Justine for the pic.

For the next two laps, I ride that little bike as hard as I have ever ridden. With no tacho I was just revving her by ear and kissing the 10 500rpm rev limiter. She was working so hard, I expected her to blow up at any second. I kept pushing. I knew I'd lost loads of time to Jamie Hodson and catching him again on the road spurred me on.

Great pit-stop from the crew!
Thanks Justine for the pic.

I flew through the Grandstand and onto the last lap. "C'mon girl... just one more lap". I said to the Suzy V as I stroked her tank and revved her for all she was worth. Half-way through the last lap and I caught Jamie again. I got past him on the brakes into Ramsey Hairpin. I wrung the wee Suzuki's neck to try gap him before the Mountain Mile, I pushed as hard as I dared in every corner. Faster than I'd ever been before.

Mike Minns making sure I get going. Thanks for your help Dood!
Thanks Justine for the pic.

I knew if I could hold him off up the Mountain Mile, I would have a clear run home. I must have pulled enough of a gap before that long, flat-out section becasue I didn't see Jamie alongside me again. I pinned my ears back. Up, up, up... over Hailwood's Rise. Downhill to the finish... the under-powered Suzuki could roll home now. But the race wasn't over, I knew Jamie was only a few seconds behind and I kept her lit.

I went so fast through the 33rd (a very fast, sweeping double left-hander) that the wee bikes rear 160 Supercorsa started sliding. Go fast, turn left. Almost like Dirttracking... but with head down, feet on the pegs and at 120mph! Onnit! Oh man, that felt sooooo good! A huge grin on my face.

Thanks Justine for the pic.

I keep it steady for the remaining miles to make sure we see that checkered flag. For those 4 laps and 150 miles of racing, I rode the wheels off that little bike. Under-powered and outgunned, she was an absolute champ to put up with that cable-stretching hammering I gave her. She didn't miss a beat and just kept on going and going and going.

Thanks Justine for the pic.

Back in Parc Firme and Warren is disappointed to miss the podium by only 5 seconds. A fantastic ride - Warren's second race of the day and only second year on the Isle. A brilliant result! I congratulate and console him at the same time.

We finish 9th in the Supertwins race. The first Suzuki home and a fastest lap of 108.8mph. I am thrilled. After so many years of trying, I finally prove to myself that I can ride around the Isle. I feel that I have pushed to the limits of the machinery. I couldn't have ridden that wee bike any harder - I gave it all I had... and it paid off. Another personal best and another Replica for the shelf.

Two top-ten Supertwins finishers - who would have thought?
Thanks Justine for the pic.

Big thanks to Kevan Flanagan for all the help over the fortnight and slick refuelling, Mike Minns for crewing, Steve Mann at MTS Classics for crewing and helping me with all those little jobs, fabrication and bike prep, Gary Smith at SDC Performance for getting the most out of that little bike. Mike Dickenson for setup help and advice, Warren Verwey for the friendship and motivation, Justine Verwey for the pics and all those who helped and supported. And, of course, to my beautiful wife Alex for all your love and support. I couldn't have done it without you!

She worked hard. Job done!