Sunday, 31 May 2015

TT Day 2 - Sunday is Day of Rest... for some

Today we were up at the paddock by 09h00 for a technical briefing. No very exciting but some good information... no celebrity selfies today. I think the celeb riders were all still sleeping-in in their motorhomes.

The three-legged garage cat

We then set to work on the long list of things to be done on the Triumph, starting with an oil change. The first scheduled practice for Supersport is tomorrow ... need to get the bike ready and prepped.

We had a break for lunch down at the Cregg ny Baa where we also caught the last 5 laps of MotoGP. Then back to work on the Triumph.

Cool Rat-Monster in the Paddock

We ticked a lot off the list but by 18h00 we called it a day and headed back to Brett's for a delicious home-cooked Sunday roast :-)

Fuel tank saga... more mods to our Triumph fuel tank. We think we'll have enough for 2 laps. We'll see...

We've still got quite a bit to do... but confident we can get it all done before tomorrow afternoon afterwhich we'll be up at skrootineering. Tomorrow evening we have a 1.5 hour practice session scheduled. Unfortunately we have poor weather forecast too. Nae worries... we will be ready regardless.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

TT Day 1 - First Practice

Saturday morning on the Isle of Man... TT 2015, day 1. A good night's sleep an then up early to visit the Faeries.

A bit of breakfast then up to the grandstand to get new tyres for both bikes, Signing-on and Riders Briefing. The one wheel bearing on teh KMR wasn't as good as it should be so we sourced and new one on the way back to the garage.

Team Tyco truck... they got a few BMWs there

Milwaukee Yamaha setting up

Lee Johnson's cool ride

we spent a few hours at the garage changing teh wheel bearings on teh KMR and getting it prepped for the first laps of the 2015 TT campaign later in the evening.

Last year at the Classic TT, Kevan got selfies of the who's who of bike racing from teh past 40 years. In all the year's racing on the Isle of Man I have hardly any pics of the other riders. This year I want to get pics with as many riders as I can... we started yesterday...

Lee Johnson

Wayne Axon

Rider's Briefing and who should come sit next to me - Guy Martin

Italiano speed demon - Marco Pagani

Michal Dokoupil from Czech Republic

Getting my gear skrootineered

This year we have got some tyre support from Metzeler. We'll be using their dual compound Racetec RR with a special compound tailored for the TT Mountain Course.

Tyres, tyres, tyres...

...and this is just the Metzeler truck!

New rubber for the KMR and Triumph. We're trying a 180/55 on the KMR

In the afternoon we loaded the KMR and our paddock gear and headed back up the the paddock to get the KMR through skrootineering. In the skroot bay there were mutterings about our 'non-centered' race number... within the regs but the Chief skroot wasn't happy. This continued onto our lack of visible fuel tank overflow. The bike has done the NW200, TT and ManxGP without having any issue. I guess fuel tank overflow is the new Chief Skroot's little 'project' for 2015.

Getting the KMR through skrootineering

At the ManxGP, the skrootineering queue starts to form an hour before skroot opens... and quickly develops all the way down to the lower toilet block. we regularly queued for over an hour in year's past (especially the last 2 years). Yesterday there were hardly any queues. It was just Newcomers, Sidecars and Lightweight classes out last night... so I don;t expect that to last.

TT veteran Chris Petty. Chris has a remarkable 52 TT finishes to his name since 1986!

It was cold and overcast and the weather was moving in. We warm-up, get our gear on and up to the assembly area. Just a few minutes behind schedule and the session starts with the Newcomers speed-controlled lap. Soon after, we're warming up the bikes and getting ready for our first lap of 2015.

Up to the starter, his hand on my shoulder. I feel the tap and feed out onto the track and start feeding the wee bike gears down Glencrutchery road. First time through St. Ninians is always a bit apprehensive. Less than 10 seconds ago you were stationary... now you're doing 110mph just 2 feet from a hedge. You pull the bike left, over the traffic lights and jump off the camber chnage while banked over. It's special. Next time around and it'll be flat out at around 130mph.

The little KMR feels soft but stable. She feels as if she wants to run wide on the fast corner exits but she's light bike that changes direction easily. Just and extra pull and lean and she's back on trajectory. Brakes are good. The bars flapping about a bit over bigger bumps - I make a mental note to stiffen up the steering damper. I feel the 'pivot' sensation Warren was telling me about when he used a 160 rear tyre. It's like the bike is pivoting around the centre. Similar feeling I had from my Ducati 888 at last year's Classic TT. I take is steady.

View on lap 2 from #44 Bray Hill

By the time I reach the 5 mile marker, I'm back into it. The apprehension of the last few months disappears. It feels to comfortable, so natural to be flat out on the TT Mountain Course. I relish that feeling. For that first lap I keep my focus on where I'm going... as I come through onto the next lap, I shift my focus to things like lever position, body position. Is it right? How does it feel at 140mph? How much strain is my body taking? Where can we improve things?

The bike is pulling well. A very similar power delivery to my Ducati 888. Low to mid-range is a bit weedy... got to keep it revving. She spins up fast though. It's on that second lap when I feel the clutch slipping a few times. As advised, I had packed out the steel plates to give the pack an extra 0.6mm... but I think it needs a new clutch pack :-(

Through the Gosseneck - the wee bike is a lot easier to sling around than the old Aprilia or Ducati

Spots of rain bead of the screen around the Varandah... the road isn't wet so I keep on it. I don;t see another rider for almost the entire 2 laps until James Hillier comes past me at Hailwood's. I get behind him and go to school. He is so smooth. Beautiful arcing lines. Great corner speed. These are the things you can only see when following. The wee KMR has good poke and he only makes up time on me through the corners. I've lost him by the time we reach Hillberry... and raindrops are splattering on my visor and screen.

Coming out of Parliament Square

I try to get into Governor's Dip a little quicker than before. I miss the turn-in point and I'm so hard on the brakes I do a stoppie. As the back wheel comes down and I let go of the brake, the bike falls into the hairpin corner and I have to dab my foot down to stop falling over. Ooops! I remember doing the same thing on the last lap of the Classic TT last year. Note the self: "Don't try get into Governor's dip faster."

With crew Chief  Nic

I bring the bike back home as it starts to rain proper. Good job! First lap was 103.8mph average and the second was 106.6mph. Very happy with that. My best ever lap on my little Suzuki is 108mph - to get within 2mph on only my second lap on the KMR is pleasing. More to come :-)

TT Day 0 - The Crossing

Back home from travel for work at 21h00 last night to meet my brother Nic and Mom and a delicious home-cooked meal. We then started organizing the mountain of tools, spares, gear, equipment needed for the campaign.

Asleep at 01h00 for a few hours sleep then up again at 05h00 to start packing. Lists, packing, loading, checking, last minutes bits and a few hours later we're heading up to Heysham. Roadworks, broken-down cars, traffic jams and many downpours... it was slower going than I'd hoped. Keen not to repeat my many IOM ferry-missing episodes, we left early enough to still get to the ferry port two hours before departure.

They got us loaded quickly, we found our seats and within half an hour I was asleep. I woke half-way through the journey to sunshine glinting off the Irish Sea. I continued the Speed therapy tradition for hand-cutting my "92" race number for the Triumph. Soon enough and we were docking in Douglas harbor.
Nic meets Michael Dunlop

We are staying with our uber-hosts Brett and Julie-Ann again this year. Unfortunately for us, their garage has now been turned into a successful fitness studio. Luckily Kevan (pit crew last year) managed to find a garage to rent for the fortnight just 5 minutes away. We headed to Glenda and Dave's to unload the bikes, gear and setup the workshop for the fortnight.

Our IOM garage from previous years

A few hours later and we had everything unpacked, setup, the motorway muck from the poor-weather journey up cleaned off the bikes and the wheels off for fitting new tyres in the morning. We headed to Brett's on Bray hill for some scran and get settled in for the night.

A bit weird... feels like another Manx GP/Classic TT so far. Looking forward to getting up to the paddock tomorrow to see the difference and experience the TT. Tomorrow is busy... new tyres, finish off prepping the KMR, skrootineering and hopefully out for a few laps tomorrow evening. Be great to get a lap or two under the belt.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

"It is what it is boys..."

Tonight the big pack and load-up starts... tomorrow we're on the ferry to the Isle of Man...

"The Isle of Man TT... it is what it is boys..."

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

John McGuiness Rates Rivals

The other day I was reading through Performance Bikes magazine (yes... it's a paper, book-like thing with pictures... in color). I turned the page to see the 'John McGuiness rates his rivals...' article and thought: "Cool! The TT is in a week - I must remember to record the coverage.".

Within seconds I thought "Holy Cow! I'll frikkin' be there racing against these legends!". The reality is soaking in...

I'll still record the coverage... may get a glimpse of me during an overtake... "The leaders are fast approaching some traffic..."

Monday, 25 May 2015

Let's Rock!

Got an awesome delivery the other day from one of my sponsors: Rock Oil

This stuff is one of the best oils on the market for racing... and I'm not just saying that... we did some oil analysis on the Ducati 888 in 2013 and 2014 for the Classic TT. Rock Oil was proven to be a lot more durable than Agip and Motul 300V under race conditions.

Thank you Rock Oil !!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Nose to the Grindstone

Home from Mallory on Thursday night, unloaded the bikes, ate and started finishing work on the Triumph again... I only lasted till midnight. I was cream-crackered. I had to get both bikes pretty much ready to roll down Bray Hill by Sunday night as I was travelling for work early on Monday until the night before our ferry to the Isle of Man in 10 days time.

Those lovely WalterMoto rear-sets don't have an exhaust hangar on them... maybe I got the wrong ones. Not much I could do about it than make my own exhaust hangar...

A bit rough... but strong... up for the job and done.

Can't even see it hidden behind the rear-set...

Up early on Sat to pickup a delivery at the post-office and run a few errands before getting back to work on the Triumph. JT had done a fantastic job getting the bike this far in such a short space of time. It's the details that make the difference... and these are the details that take to most time to get right. It's got to be right.

Replaced those horrible after-market brake reservoirs with standard items on a 'TT' mounting

Paintwork: Steve at MTS Classics was going to do my paintwork... a professional 2-pack job that will make the bike pop. Bad timing... Steve was away racing at Anglesey for the weekend and I had to get it done on the weekend to get some of the other finishes and prep done. Almost all my race bikes in the past have had a rattle-can paint job... not as durable or shiny as a pro job... but will still look good at 100mph. I got rattling.

Using nature's spray booth. A challenge in the bright sunlight, a breeze... loads of dust and insects sticking to the wet paint. We like a challenge.

My drying cabinet...

I spent most of Saturday on the fairings; prepping, priming, masking, color and then a few clear coats of lacquer. Between the painting I did the little jobs. It was pretty much non-stop till I ran out of lacquer after about 8 hours. I'm no pro and it was all done in such a short space of time... so we had a few runs, bleeds and finger marks. I just hope it doesn't look like crap after a week of being pelted with stones in practice. I've ordered some helicopter tape for the leading edges that help with that.

Beautifully simple - a kit race loom, lithium battery and Bazzaz fuelling module strapped in with care and attention to detail by JT.

I wired in the rain rain light and switch...

I kept going on the other stuff till 1 in the morning. A few hours sleep then back on the job early on Sunday. At Halfords as they open the doors for more lacquer... then back to finishing it all off. By 16h00 I still had a list of things to do, but these could be managed on the Isle.

I got cracking on prepping the wee bike - the KMR. Check, prep, oil change and some clutch steels for adjustment (I felt some clutch slip on track). Still stuff to do (like new tyres and sponsor decals), but things that we can do in about 2 hours on the Isle.

More precision detail - this time on the KMR. A custom clutch setup by Ryan Farquhar carrying additional plates to handle the extra power of the wee 650 twin. About  30% more than standard. Check out that beautiful billet clutch basket.. a billet engine cover spacer too. Proper!
Dinner, pack the spares, pack the tool box, make lists, lots of lists. By midnight my head hits the pillow for a few hours kip before being up at 04h00 to travel for work. A serious lack of sleep... my hands, arms and back aching from the work that I'm not accustomed to. All goot conditioning for the TT. I can catch up on the sleep over the next week.

I love lists. 

It's been a big push, but the bikes are pretty much there... just a few hours more on each when were on the Isle and we're ready to rock 'n roll. Bring on some rest and sleep over the next 9 days...

Starting to look good :-)