Thursday, 11 June 2015

TT Day 12 - Supersport Race 2

Wednesday we woke to a beautiful morning on the Isle of Man. Warm (for the Isle of Man), beautiful blue skies and no wind. We were going racing!

After breakfast, we got to the garage and loaded the bikes and gear. Up to the Grandstand to set camp for the day. The Sarolea team had more visitors and tents in our double-parking space... a big awning, a trailer, 2 vans and a bunch of tents... all for 1 electric bike. Those Belgians pissed me off - I told them as much. After making life difficult for us, they had better finish their bloody race!

We got the Triumph up through skrootineering where for the second time in the fortnight she got a "Very well prepared bike." comment from the skootineer. Only the Ducati 888 has got these comments before. Bike into assembly area, tyre warmers on and top-up the fuel. Back to down to the van to get ready for our second race of the TT - Supersport Race 2.

TT Assembly area

Mark and Deebs meet us at the van and we go through the pitstop. Soon the crew get suited up and head up to pit-lane to get the fuel bowser filled for the pitstop. I stretch, warm-up and get my gear on. Soon I'm making the thoughtful walk up to the grandstand. I love that walk. Focusing on the job ahead, the anticipation of the race, seeing me set-off and hold it flat-out all the way down through St Ninians and Bray Hill..

Nic and I

Soon we're up on Glencrutchery road... right at the back of the start queue. I hear the first bikes scream off the line and 10 minutes later I'm paddling the bike into the cordoned off start area. The bike is prepared and burbling underneath me. Visor down. The rider ahead gets his tap on the shoulder and is off. I get the bike into first gear and pull up to the start line. I blip the throttle and watch the man with the Isle of Man flag on my right. As his hand comes up to wave the flag, I'm easing out the clutch and I feel the tap on my shoulder as I pull away.

Deebs making sure  the tyres warmers stay on as long as possible

A little wheelie as I flatten the throttle in first, then another as I hook second gear. Third, fourth, fifth and short-shift sixth just before the jump at St Ninians. Here we go... 

Down through Quarterbridge for the first time - I carry good corner-speed and open her up as early as I dare... I get a slide going... just a small one. Cool tyres. In the wait from the first rider setting off and me at the back of the queue, the tyres have cooled a bit. No worries... they'll soon be warmed up. I miss the apex of the first left-hander of Braddan Bridge. "Settle Down." I tell myself... "4 laps to go... have fun."

The Gooseneck

The bike is feeling better than is has the whole fortnight. It's not trying to throw me off... or wheelie on every bump. On Tuesday, Nic had a long think about the changes we had made during practice week and the effect... and where we wanted to be with it. We had got some good advice and help... but we'd also got some misleading advice. It get a bit confusing and it is a bit of a black art. We figured what was working and taking us in the right direction. We applied more of that... and little Faerie Dust. The Triumph was now rideable and I didn't have to fight it the whole time.

I could use the immense engine that JT had built me for the first time. The bike is fast... very fast. This caused other problems... like approaching corners a bit faster than I had before and so missing apexes and getting some lines wrong. I oscillated from being fast and smooth to missing lines, rolling the power and being scrappy. Pity we only found these settings on my last run out on the girl :-(

Waiting for the start - I love the atmosphere of Glencrutchery Road before the start - electric!

By the time I'm going through Bishop's Court, I can see the rider that started 10 seconds ahead of me - Ben Rea. This eggs me on and I start pushing just that little bit harder. I make up time on most corners... but lose chunks of time when I make a mistake or miss my apex. I chip away. I'm only a few seconds behind by the time we wind through Ramsey and then up onto the mountain.

Rolling to the start enclosure

I get past Ben on the Mountain and crack on. As I come around the 32nd Milestone, I can see the next rider disappearing into the 33rd Milestone across the valley. My new target. I stretch those cables. The engine JT has build for me is so smooth and tractable... she pulls from low down and the power is delivered in a straight line right up to 14 000 rpm.n I have my shift-lights set at 14 000... but she'll go to 14 500rpm. Beautiful!

Into the start enclosure... where it all goes silent except for your breathing... love it!

I can hear Ben close behind me as I come down the Mountain and back into Douglas. I'm not bothered about that... I just focus in going faster, faster, faster. I start to get glimpses of the next rider on the road and I keep pushing on. My right forearm is starting to hurt. I haven't ridden this bike with this much flat-out throttle, I was always rolling it before... my body is just not used to it. I try relax as much as possible down the straights and am mindful to keep breathing steadily.

Race cred... or is that crud?

I chip away at the gap between myself and the next rider. Up onto the mountain for the second time and he is in sight. I reel him in and have caught him by the time we get to the Bungalow. It's difficult to pass on the mountain unless you have a horsepower advantage. His bike is also fast and I can only keep in his slipstream on the straights and through the kinks. The fast sweeping bends are no place for an overtake and he's real good on the brakes into Windy, Keppel Gate, the Cregg and Signpost. I can't find a way past without risk and come into the pit-stop together with him.

The most awesome Crew Chief - Nic

I hit the brakes hard and knock it down through the box until I see "GEAR: 1" on my dash as I approach the line marking the start of pit-lane. I twist the throttle gently to bring her up to 5500 rpm as I trundle all the way down pit-lane to find my pit-crew at the end. Almost a stoppie stop in front of Mark who is waving me in. Gas cap off. Drink in hand and Deebs gets to work cleaning the screen. Nic is filling up as fast as the filling system we are allocated to will allow. It seems to take an age...

The Speed Therapy Team

Fifty seconds later and Nic is just finishing up brimming the tank. Gas cap back on. I hit the starter button. She fires into life, I hook 1st gear and pull off as fast as I can. Back onto track and I'm hammering through the gears on the approach to St Ninians. The problem with a pit box right at the end of pit-lane is that I only get out of the pit-lane at 5mph... the other riders at 35pmh. I'm playing catch-up all the way down Bray Hill... a few seconds lost there :-(

Around the Gooseneck

I get straight back into it and the Triumph is flying. It still feels scrappy. I'm going faster than I have before in this bike and it takes a bit of adjustment... a bit of learning. The bits I get right are mega. An awesome feeling to  get it right and rocket through a corner faster than you ever have before. The bike is pulling well and I'm getting used to revving the nuts off it... 14 000 rpm in every gear. I try not to short-shift and use the power rather than torque. Something that is taking getting used to after so many years of riding VeeTwins on their torque.

In less than 20 minutes I am around the 37.7 mile circuit and onto my last and only flying lap. Time to crank it up and set my personal best lap. Down into Quarterbridge and I can just see the next rider disappearing around the turn. Awesome! Another target :-)

Around Quarterbridge and I open up the throttle. The revs rise "Brrrrrraaaaaaaaa" in that distinctive 3 cylinder wail. But the bike isn't driving forward as it should. I have to roll off for it to 'catch' and then I'm back on the gas. She does it again coming out of Braddan Bridge. Slipping clutch... not good :-(

The section to Ballacraine is mostly flat-out with not too much aggressive acceleration. I make ground on the rider ahead and am right behind him going into Glen Helen. Every time we get to a section of hard acceleration, my clutch is slipping and I lose ground... I make it up through the fast flowing corners, only to lose it again. As the lap goes on, the clutch is slipping more and more. Through the super-bumpy section from Ginger Hall to Ramsey I lose sight of him completely as I lose drive over every big bump.

Mark keeping the fuel cool on Glencrutchery Road

By the time I'm going up onto the mountain, I am nursing the bike. Accelerating gently and just feeling for the slip... when it slips I hold the throttle until it catches and then carry on accelerating. It's real frustrating... I just need to bring it home. The Mountain section is much easier on the clutch and I really enjoy the fast, flowing turns as much as I can. Down, off the Mountain, into the Cregg for thr last time... the super fast Brandish, Hillberry... soon I'm rounding Governor's Dip and red-lining all the way down to the waving chequered flag.

Post-race chat with Cameron Donald and Robin Harms

Nic, Mark and Deebs wave me home for our second TT finish. All the way up teh return road and I am being clapped and getting thumbs-up. Up past the Grandstand where they were getting ready for the winners podium and into Parc Firme. We've done it! Our second TT finish in the bag!

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