Tuesday, 2 September 2014

IOM 2014 Day 11 - Race Day: Formula 1

On Tuesday, despite early morning rain, the sun came out, the wind was blowing and the track was drying out quickly. We were going racing!

The postponed schedule was all happening a little later in the day with the Formula 1 race around 14h00. Alex had to return to London for work so I dropped her at the airport for the early morning flight. We were both disappointed that she couldn't be there in the pits for the race. When I got back to the house, I went straight back to bed for a few hours - I had been fighting a cold since the weekend and my body needed all the rest it could get.

Kevan getting the old girl through skrootineering

Another old Duke at skrootineering

Later that morning, we load the Ducati and up to skrootineering before the roads closed at 11h30. She flies through skrootineering - as she's done all week. We get her on warmers in Parc Firme, last check of everything and then back down to the van to load up the trolley with fuel, tools and pit-stop bits, a bite to eat and to get ready for the shortened 3-lap race.

Ian Gardner getting his beautiful Kawa through

I watch the start of the Classic 350cc race. Unfortunately, Mark Herbertson retires on the first lap. I lose interest and get back to the van to focus my thoughts on the race. Physically, I'm not feeling great. I eat my usual race lunch and focus on the job ahead as I get into my leathers and check my helmet over. All set, we head up to Parc Firme 45 minutes before the race to organise the pit crew. Big thanks to Mike Dickenson who stepped in to help with the pit-stop in Alex's absence.

Cleaning the leathers - got some greenery in the air vents when I brushed the hedges through Handley's during practice

Pretty soon we have the bike warmed up, and are on Glencrutchery Road awaiting our start. I hear the first seeded riders hoon off down the road and pretty soon the start queue is moving forward. Last minute 'Good Lucks', handshakes and fist-shakes all around and soon I'm into the pen just before the start line. Just me and the machine. We're ready.

Glencrutchery Road start queue

Just to keep things interesting, I stall as I roll up to the start line. But the bike fires right up again on the starter. "Phew!". The starter puts his hand on my shoulder, I watch the man in front with the little start flag. I hold the revs at 6000 rpm. Seconds later, he flicks the flag and I ease the clutch out as the starter taps my shoulder. We're away.

Off the line well... almost a wheelie there :-)
Thanks Samantha Herbertson for the pic!

The old Duke revs freely up to 10 000rpm in every gear. I hook 5th as I get to the turn-in point for St. Ninian's Crossroads - the tall hedge on the right side on the road. 6th just as I approach the crossroads - we're doing about 150mph as we hit the first jump across the crossroads. The old girl feels stable and planted as she lands and we hold her flat-out down Bray Hill. Through the bottom of Bray Hill - "Whump!" as she bottoms out and I keep her pinned with little wheelies over Ago's 1 and Ago's 2. What a rush!

Top of Barregarrow - one of my least liked corners on the course.
Thanks Keith Fothergill for the great pic!

The little tweaks we've made to the engine are working and we can run one tooth longer gearing, giving us a theoretical higher top speed of around 5mph more than last year. She also pulls well between 9000rpm and 10000rpm - she wants to just keep revving. I keep to the self imposed 10000rpm limit - reliability is key around the Isle of Man. Over-revving big twins is the kiss of death for the engine - I'm keen to see the finish line.

Down Bray Hill - Yep, that's how close up you can get to 150mph around here
Thanks Julie-Ann for the pic!

It's quite windy and blustery, but the sun is shining and the track is dry. The wind is tough to ride in. Headwinds slow the bike noticeably, tailwinds get her over-revving down some of the straights where I have to feather the throttle to try maintain reliability. The worst is getting blown off-line through corners - especially on the mountain where it is exposed and the wind buffets around. Tough conditions.

I try to relax and settle into the race. I achieve this for a few miles, then make one or two mistakes and have to make a conscious effort to get settled again. I am struggling a bit. I have to keep reminding myself how awesome it is to ride a Ducati 888 flat-out on the best race track in the world. I take it all in (as much of it as I can) and savour the experience.

After lap 1, I head into the pits for a refuel. It's a quick pit-stop to just brim the tank again to get to the finish line in 2 laps. Slow-down to under 60kmh, rumble down pit-lane at this speed, find my pits right near the end of pit-lane. Find my pits. Hmmm... where the hell is it? Shit, we're running out of pit-lane here. Where are the guys? Just then, Steve jumps out in front of me. I hit the brakes and pull in next to our fuel bowser. Hit the kill switch, Steve pops the bike on the rear stand (new rules for 2014), Mike unscrews the fuel cap, Kevan starts refuelling. Visor spray, drink, screen clean. The stop goes well and the newly acquainted team do a brilliant job.Thanks Team!!!

Pit-stop done, I flick the kill switch back on, she fires up straight away and I'm outta there! Back down Glencrutchery Road, St. Ninian's and Bray Hill. On a 37.7 mile lap, I'll normally make 2 or 3 mistakes. But I am making more like 10 to 15 mistakes every lap during this race. I'm missing apexes and running wide on some corners. I'm struggling to find a rhythm.

Top of Barregarrow again...
Thanks Keith Fothergill for the pic

I stick with it, consciously make an effort to relax and enjoy it... and try not to make so many mistakes. Lap 3 is my only flying lap - I want to make it a good, clean lap to try better my personal best on the old Duke. Flat out down Bray Hill on a flying lap is just that bit quicker than a standing start. It's exhilarating!

I struggle to get into it and find a rhythm as with the previous 2 laps. I also start to feel tired. I dig in, get my head down and try make it a good one. I think there were 3 things contributing to why I was struggling:
1) I was physically not feeling the best
2) Windy/blustery conditions made it more difficult and harder work
3) I was pushing harder than I have before and as a result hitting corners faster and arriving at the next one sooner

Some Manx wildlife

One that last lap, as I go through the flat-out, bumpy right kink just after the jump at Glen Auldyn Bridge (after Miltown). The old girl gets herself into a big tank-slapper. "Whooooaaaah!". I keep on the power, but it get's worse, a second later, I roll the throttle and she settles down. Shit. I stamp down a gear and get her going again... seconds lost there :-(

TT Legend - Bruce Anstey

I am relieved to see the chequered flag at the end of lap 3. Man, I had to work hard for that one! When I get back to Parc Firme, there are not too many other bikes there... it looks to be a good result. The crew meet me there and there are high-fives, hand shakes and "Well done"s all around. Mike then says: "You've been a naughty boy." and hands me my misdemeanor. Speeding in pit-lane. Damn! 30 second penalty. Shit! My pit-box was so far at the end of pit-lane on a downhill, I must have crept over the 60kmh limit while looking for it. Crap!

Bad news :-(

The 30 second penalty drops me from 14th place to 16th place and from 6th Privateer to 8th Privateer. Oh well... I'm still super happy with the finish. More important, my race average was 109mph - 3mph up from last year and my last lap was a whisker off 112mph. Very happy with that. The competition was stronger this year with Bruce Anstey winning the race on the Padgett's 500cc Grand Prix bike and smashing the two-stroke lap record in the process. There were even more big teams with fancy (and very expensive) ex-factory race bikes ridden by TT pros this year. Very chuffed with our finish and personal bests on the stock, completely period, converted road bike that we only managed 5 practice laps on.

Home! Always awesome to to see the finish on the Isle of Man :-)

We also find that the steering damper has snapped the boss that it is bolted to clean off the frame. This would either have been the result of the tank slapper on the last lap, or the cause of it. I think it was the cause of it and that is had snapped off over the previous very bumpy miles from Ginger Hall. This place is hard on machinery.

Steering damper snapped off

My objectives were to: make the start of practice - done. Qualify - done. Finish the race - done. Up my fastest lap from 109 to 112mph - done. Get a TT silver replica - done! A great start to the racing for the IOM 2014 Campaign.

Receiving the TT Silver Replica from the legend himself - John McGuinness

A special mention for Stafford Evans, Stuart Rayner and the Celeres Racing Team who built the other Ducati 888 that was in the race - they finished too! Read all about it: Celeres Racing blog.

The bike worked flawlessly. We could have got her handling a bit better given time, but we rode her best we could. Big Thanks to Steve Hillary at Redmax Ducati for building such a strong, reliable engine. Who would have thought a stock SP would conquer the TT Mountain Course... twice!  Peter Oronero for those beautiful carbon bits and perfect race loom - we were 12 kg lighter than last year! Mark Lumb at MADASL Racing for the exhausts, vernier pullies, belly-pan and loan of the slipper-clutch. Steve Bailey of BBB Fabrications for the subframe and custom exhaust link pipes. Steve Mann at MTS Classics for helping me with all those little bits n pieces, teaching me stuff and fabrication. And big thanks to Clinique for the soap that stopped the fuel tank leak!

With Brett, the best landlord on the Isle!

Thanks Kevan!

Besides my speeding, the pit-stop was also flawless. Big thanks to Kevan Flanagan for refuelling, spannering and generally helping out for the fortnight - a massive help! Steve Mann for operating the paddock stand and drinks and to Mike Dickenson for the slick fuel-cap operation and visor/screen cleaning and help with setup during practice. Thanks to Brett and Julie-Ann, my Isle of Man landlords. Thanks to Alan Birtwhistle for bringing the toolbox over that we forgot. And... thank you to my beautiful wife for your love and support. Couldn't have done it without any of you!

We had another cart blow-out after the F1 race...

...National Tyre to the rescue!


They think we're barmy!

One race done, two to go...


  1. Hi Paul
    Well done,a great race and great read.
    Was great meeting you and Kevan,keep in touch and all being well see you next year,fancy pre TT Classic at Billown?
    Cheers Stuart

  2. Well done Paul. A great read and a greta looking bike. Well done on the replica! See you soon. Gary