Racing news

DOWNPOUR DROWNS MY CHANCES OF A DOUBLE

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After two close battles on the Saturday – finishing in second place – I set about getting on the pace for Sunday’s races.

It was a bit of a struggle on and off the track for most of the weekend if I’m honest. My experience at Rockingham Speedway is somewhat limited having only been to the circuit once before. Now that the ZX7R is a different bike from last year, the practice day on the Friday was more or less a start-from-scratch affair.

We had to make a lot of changes and I lost count of the times me and Dad had the seat, tank and fairing off. Combined with the tyre changes and setting up the flat-slides we didn’t have a minute. Thank goodness Mum was there with the sandwiches for us all – and the cups of tea for the old man – we couldn’t function without them.

 

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Drew’s SRAD was there again, scrutineered, sound-checked and ready for action.

 

We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but the bike was still far from set. I was only just about hitting the 1:29’s.

Anyway, in the qualifying session I got out first and set off on a clear track. After two laps I went straight to number one position with a solid 1:28 lap. Then I almost binned it going into the chicane. A lock stop bolt came lose and jammed my steering. It was like riding with a steering lock on! I ended up on the banking scattering the Marshalls. They helped me get the lock stop off so I could continue. A bit of a bugger really because I’d missed my opportunity to go a bit quicker. Ah well, it could’ve been worse and second spot, front row, was good enough for me.

 

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First for about 4 laps, Shane on his R1 was on my tail waiting to pounce.

 

In race-1 I got a super start and was leading up to about lap 4, but I was struggling to get the bike to turn, settle and find decent grip. It had me at a disadvantage on some sections of the circuit. When Shane and Ryan came past me their bikes looked much more stable than mine. I was sliding quite a lot.

Shane soon pulled away, but I managed to hold on to the back of the SP2 although I could not find a way to get back past.

 

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Good to see my pal and garage buddy, Martin Stanier, finishing well in GP1 Classics.

 

After the race I made few adjustments, but in Race 2 it was pretty much the same story. I was riding as hard and as fast as I could, but just couldn’t seem get the bike round the fast left-handers. It was a good race and I was reasonably happy to finish second again. This time though I was a bit closer to Ryan and I enjoyed challenging him a few times throughout the race for the lead finishing just a bike length behind across the line.

 

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A couple more trophies, but I was determined to do better next time out.

 

It was a good day so we treated ourselves to a meal and a drink in the pub - the only one for miles: The Chequered Flag.

During the night there was heavy rain, but the sun came out early ­and it was quite warm. The track started to dry very quickly. I was hoping for rain really because I have no experience of Rockingham in the wet. I’ve heard horror stories of how slippery it can be and with rain forecast for the afternoon I would be going out to race not knowing how bad it could be.

 

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Nice to see my friends from work come over for the day to cheer me on.

 

After the warm-up we had more problems making things harder. While I was out on the track the carb slides weren’t fully opening. It would go up to 12,000 rpm and stop, so we had to swap the flat-sides for a standard set. Then Dad discovered a leak in the radiator and had to change it; it was non-stop all morning. When all that was done we made some suspension changes and went for a different compound slick tyre. We only just had time to put the petrol in before we were called for the first race. I didn’t have time to catch my breath until I was on the start line.

 

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On the start line and time to take a breather after a hectic morning.

 

After the calculation of Mega laps from Saturday’s races, I had to start on the second row. I was so determined and had the fire in me to win this one that when the lights went out I shot straight into the lead and was never challenged from light to flag.

 

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All friends after the flag, Shane Pearson and me shake hands in Parc Ferme.

 

All the changes made all the difference – during the race it felt like a different bike. I was so pleased to beat Shane on his GP1 Classic R1 and to be the outright winner and he shook my hand after. Ryan was nearly 14 seconds behind. It felt great and I was ready for another scrap in race 2.

 

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Races are won in the garage too. The bike was well prepped for a win on Sunday.

 

I was all set for a repeat performance in race 2, but the weather changed dramatically from sunshine to a torrential 10-minute downpour.

In with the wets!

I’ve never had the experience of racing in the wet here and I didn’t know what to expect, so my strategy was to follow for a lap or two to get the feel of the track and the conditions. Winning this one was not a priority to start with.

 

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The dark side of Rockingham, just before it tipped it down.

 

After about three laps I found that there was a bit more grip than I expected and I pushed on catching Ryan, who was running 3 rd place toward the end of the 9-lap race.

I tried to overtake him more than once, but he knew I was there and he cut me off. It was bit too close for comfort at times and a bit tricky in the wet so I set myself up to pass him on the very last corner before the straight. Unfortunately, my attempt to overtake was scuppered by my own garage pal, Vince Carlton – who was also challenging with late a manoeuvre too. It really messed up my line and I had to settle for a safe 4th in the end.

Vince, who was riding his GSXR 1000 GP1 Classic, came up to apologise after – he had his racing head on and wasn’t thinking straight. Never mind.

 

I knew that this might be a difficult meeting with other riders having more experience at the Rockingham circuit. Still, I took fastest lap of the weekend in Golden Era SBK with a 1:27.599 lap. Even though it was tough going and I lost out on points – eight to exact – it was overall, a good weekend for me.

 

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Still in front, on points, on my Kawasaki ZX7R.

 

Well, I’m still leading the Golden Era Superbikes Championship by 38 points going into the next round at Anglesey, which is usually a strong track for me. Well let’s put it this way – I know it a lot better then Rockingham!

 

See you all there.

 

Thanks again to everyone: Wiseco Piston Inc, Kais Suspension, R&G Racing, OPIE Oils, Cradley Kawasaki, CP Carrillo, TA-Creative, Holbeach Tyres and Nova Transmissions for all the help and advice.

 

Pictures: Colin Port Images

Racing news

MASTERING MALLORY

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I’ve never raced at Mallory Park. I’ve been there lots of times though: I watched my Dad race there when I was just a kid, I’ve been to track days and the traditional, weekly Wednesday afternoon practices, but never rode a bike in anger there.

I took the opportunity of an earlier No Limits track day to prepare, because I couldn’t make the Thundersport Thursday practice due to work commitments. So it was literally turn up and qualify - ‘Just like the old club days’, my Dad said. We arrived a bit late on Friday night and, thanks to Martin Stanier, his son Zach, and the Carltons, we soon had the caravan in place and the awning up ready for the weekend. On Saturday morning I was determined from the very start, but it was a tough qualifier. The bike started to overheat and, unknown to me, water had overflowed into the belly pan. It must’ve spewed out on to the back wheel because I went round Gerrards like a speedway rider; I had to ease off a bit, or crash. I could see my pit board showing a decent time though, so I thought - that’ll do for me.

 

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This ZX7R of ours has qualified on pole for Golden Era Superbikes at every meeting.

 

I actually put the bike on pole for my class, but the GP1 Classic bikes dominated and pushed me back on to the second row for Saturday’s racing.

 

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Bike number two, the Suzuki SRAD, supplied by Drew Plaskitt; thought we might’ve needed it at one point!

 

Me and Dad sorted out the overheating problems by putting another radiator on the bike, but the Kwacka was still running a bit hot, causing me a few problems with power delivery coming on to the straights. It was running smashing for the first few laps, but once the temperature went over 90 degrees it would momentarily ‘bog-down’ and then kick in again, I was losing a couple of tenths a lap after about lap three. Anyway, I managed a very close second place in the first race, just behind Ryan Strafford and broke Lee Reveley’s lap record for Golden Era Superbikes with a 54.8 second lap. It was a great race, but at the start I started to panic because when the starting Marshal marched away with the flag I didn’t know where the lights were! I could hear all the other bikes revving ready to go, but I didn’t know where to look. I only noticed their location when they came on – phew! And they weren’t on for long either; if I’d looked elsewhere – other than the bridge – I would have missed them completely.

 

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The starting lights are so small on the bridge I didn’t see them ‘til they came on.

 

There was more to come in Race 2 and I was really pleased from the moment the lights went out – I made a much better start and took the lead until I was overtaken later through by Shane Pearson, who was most definitely on fire all weekend.

 

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A bit of old school scratching through the Bus Stop.

 

It was a fair old scrap with the GP1 bikes and I really enjoyed it. Jordan Watling finish 2nd and, after the luck he’s had this year, he really deserved it. My Dad was really pleased for him and his team, and said that he rode really well.

 

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Second and first places trophies on day one, that’ll do nicely.

 

It was a great way to end the first day with a win and to break my own record with a blistering 54.521 lap. Even though I had to ride around the power delivery niggle with the bike, it was still doing its job.

 

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No sympathy for Devil, or his elbow. Mallory Park is a hard and demanding track to ride. It’s tough on you and tough on the bike.

 

With a few more points in the bag, it was time to relax, take a walk around the circuit then tuck into some of Mum’s good home cooking.

 

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A peaceful evening in the park as the sun sets over the lakes.

 

With the Mega Laps calculated from Saturday’s races I was on the front row to start on Sunday. It was a good place to be and with one of my sponsors, Cradley Kawasaki, turning up to watch me I was determined to put on a good show.

We checked the carburation in the morning warm-up and the readings were spot on and the bike was delivering the power as it normally would, but air temperature was much cooler and it was hard to predict what the weather was going to do to make a decision. In the end I decided to leave the jets and needles in the carbs alone.

 

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Mark, his wife and Son from Cradley Kawasaki turned up to watch…it was nice to win for them after all the support they’ve given me.

 

In the first race I managed to pull steadily away from Ryan to take a clear win in a race that was just as much a battle with backmarkers as it was with the front-runners, Brittain and Pearson, on their GP1 Classic machines, but the best race of the day was still to come.

 

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Happy campers, Martin Stanier and me discuss how a caravan would get round Gerrards.

 

In the final race of the weekend I managed to get away well off the line and set the pace on the first few laps, but Ryan was determined to catch me, I could tell. He came past me about half way through the race, but even though I was losing a bit of power on to the straights coming out of the Devil’s Elbow and Gerrards, I managed to hold on to him and stay close enough to pass him when he made a mistake lining up to overtake a backmarker. He was in the wrong place trying to pass him at Edwina’s and I thought to myself, ‘you don’t want to be there Ryan’ so I took advantage and whipped through around the outside of the pair of them as we tipped into the Lake Esses. With just one lap to go I just wrung every last bit of power out of my engine and willed my ZX7R on to take the flag and another win in Golden Era SBK, with Shane Pearson – the overall victor – just in front of me on his R1 in the GP1 Classics.

 

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Back on top again step again with a lap record to my name

 

It was a good weekend for me, extending my title lead and grabbing a lap record was a real bonus on a track that I didn’t really expect to do well at.

By the time you’ll be reading this I’ll be sat on the beach or by the pool with a long cold drink in the Canaries having a nice holiday break with the missus. Well overdue, I can tell you.

 

See you all at Rockingham – I like it there.

 

Action Pictures: Colin Port Podium picture: Team 71

Racing news

FINISHING UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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I set off for Cadwell Park on Friday night with a job to do to. Win as many races as I could and extend the Championship lead. Come Monday afternoon, we’d done it.

After a hard-working practice day on Saturday - not really stopping to eat properly until the day was over – we set up the Kawasaki to do the business of winning again and it got me off to a blistering start by putting me on pole for Sunday’s racing.

 

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Cadwell twists and turns and it can tie you in knots if you don’t get it right.

 

I missed the first couple of minutes qualifying though, because I got stuck on the hill that leads down to the track right behind a lad who was fumbling for his qualifying pass. When I finally got out, there was a lot of traffic, but even though I had a lot of riders to deal with, I shot to number one spot on my second lap – I couldn’t believe it when Dad hung out the board with the number one on it. Then he signalled to me that I’d slipped back to 3rd from the top spot about mid-way through, so I just put the hammer down and snatched pole on the final lap with a 1.35.9. Job done!

 

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I used every inch, and a bit more of the narrow Lincolnshire circuit.

 

It was a great start to the weekend because I felt we had had unfinished business at Cadwell Park after a broken gearbox finished my chances of a possible 2nd Championship spot in the final round last year.

In the first race I didn’t get off the line so well, the clutch kept slipping and grabbing. It was new and obviously needed time to run itself in - not a time to do it at the start of an important race - but it didn’t do it again after that. It was an exciting duel on the first lap with my close rival, Ryan Strafford, but I was determined to win on his home circuit and passed him on the first lap.

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Time for take-off! Just like the old motocross days again.

 

I managed to pull out a 1:34 .8 on lap 6, which put a bigger gap between us. I knew I could do it on the Kwacka, I just had to prove it to myself after all the hard work we’d done. I was really happy to see the last lap flag come out though; it was so hot I felt like I was going shrivel up with dehydration!

 

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A jubilant Dad displays the ‘Number One’ on the board as I crossed the finish line.

 

My Dad said I looked absolutely exhausted, like I couldn’t ride another yard on it, so Mum carried the winner’s trophy and crash helmet, while he pushed the bike back to base! Once I’d had a good drink of water, together with a re-hydration tablet from Martin Stanier’s missus, I started to feel a bit more human.

In race two, it was still hot and sunny, so I went for a different tyre and it really paid off. I got a much better start his time and saw nothing but clear track in front of me. The bike felt great. My pit board showed me that I was increasing my lead by half a second every lap and I finished just over 7 seconds ahead of Ryan.

 

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King of the Mountain – at last, the top-step at Cadwell Park.

 

It was a good day’s work so we treated ourselves to a night out in Louth for a meal and a couple of light beers! It was good to get away from the circuit, chill out and have a think about the next day’s racing.

 

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I collected two winner’s trophies on Sunday and a few flies along the way.

 

On the Monday the weather was to have an effect on everyone. It was cold and damp for the warm-up, but I decided to ride the wet track on dry tyres. I wanted to get a feel for the circuit with them in case things changed halfway through a race, the weather was changing every 20 minutes or so. Nightmare!

 

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Waiting to go on a cold, grey Monday morning.

 

Well, in the first race of the day it almost paid off when the light rain cleared after a couple of laps. I started to pick up the pace a bit and charged my way through the field from 7th to 2nd place in Superbikes and 4th overall. Then without any warning, completely out of the blue – or more appropriately, out of the grey – it was like riding in a cloud. The weather just closed in so fast you couldn’t see to the end of Park Straight and water was just streaming off my visor and windscreen. At that moment it was beginning to be a close tussle between me, Pearson, Smith and Biswell and I was lining myself up for passes over the remaining laps. Suddenly, the chequered flag was out on lap six of a scheduled eight, I was a bit surprised to say the least. ‘Blimey’, I thought, ‘that was quick.’ Still, with fastest lap and solid points for second place, I didn’t feel too bad. After our race the whole meeting was brought to a halt for well over an hour until the visibility improved.

 

In the final race of the day the weather once again played its part with the race cut short to a 7-lap dash. I took a bit of gamble on a dry tyre. The circuit was fairly dry even though it was spitting a bit and I made a good start, but I had a couple of big slides – one at Mansfield and another big on at Barn. I didn’t want to crash again and lose points like I did at Snetterton, so I eased off a bit. Then, surprisingly, my tyres started to grip a lot better on the next lap, but I knew I had no chance of catching anyone over the remaining laps after I’d lost the tow. Ryan was setting a good pace and it was a bit of a lonely ride for me to the flag and – although I took third place on the sheet – I felt sick for Andy Challis. He crashed in front of me at the Hairpin. He deserved better, he rode well, setting the fastest lap.

All in all, it was a great weekend; the bike ran well, it handled well and did everything I asked of it. With valuable points in the bag, a few more trophies, the fastest lap of the whole weekend and the ‘King of the Mountain’ accolade on Sunday… I was pretty chuffed.

 

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Mallory is just round the corner; I’ll see you there.

 

Next round is at Mallory, I’ve been there a few times for practice and track days, but never raced there… we’ll see how we go.

Thank again to all my friends and family for their support and to all my sponsors: Kais Suspension, R&G Racing, Wiseco, Carillo, Opie Oils, Nova Racing Transmissions, Holbeach Tyres and Cradley Kawasaki.

Racing news

RIDING OUT YOUR LUCK

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I got a hat-trick of wins at Snetterton in Round 3 of ThundersportGB’s Golden Era Superbike Championship – but then came Race 13!

 

Snetterton has never been a great circuit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can ride it OK, but the only time I’ve ever come away from the place happy was when I was a Novice, about 10 years ago, when I won my first ever trophy.

Call me superstitious if you want, but the number 13 has always been a factor too. Once in a 600 meeting I was in garage 13. I ended up with a broken chain in qualifying and then I was run off the circuit in the race. In the KTM RC8 SuperCup Championship I broke my collarbone, and last year in the Golden Era Superbikes we had an engine failure, which had us up most of the night swapping motors.

 

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Was I looking forward to another round there? Well, you can’t see that far into the future can you?

 

We worked hard after Donington Park, putting in a few late-night shifts repairing the Kawasaki, when the inlet valve failed and made a bit of a mess. We only just had the engine run-in on the Monday before the meeting.

Me and Dad were pretty exhausted before we got to the circuit, it was hard enough getting the bike to a point where we could compete and – because of my previous experiences there – I had an inkling that things might get harder still over the weekend.

Looking back I was wrong I guess, although the crash was disappointing in the last race, the majority of the weekend was nothing short of brilliant for me.

 

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The cheeky Suzuki SRAD was waiting in the garage when we got there.

 

Andy Plaskitt turned up with a spare bike for me too. The Suzuki SRAD I did so well on at Donington was parked in the garage when we got there. Can’t complain about that! Thanks Drew! It’s nice to know someone’s got your back if things go wrong.

Practice went really well with me going much quicker than last year when I had to run a bog standard engine. Apart from an oil leak at the cylinder head, which later magically cured itself, things were looking good. It was great to be back on the ZX7R and I gradually increased the pace and performance to it’s upper limits over the weekend.

In qualifying I got off to a blinding start by putting the ZX7R on pole for Sunday’s race. The Kwacka was back on track, carrying on where it left off at Brands Hatch.

 

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At the end of qualifying Dad showed me that he’s still quite an artist.

 

In race-1, I took the chequered flag by a convincing margin over my nearest rival, Ryan Strafford, setting the fastest SBK lap of the weekend – 1:14.5 seconds. Although I was just beaten on paper by Shane Pearson on his Yamaha R1 GP1 Classic – he nicked the overall victory – my bike felt absolutely fantastic to ride.

 

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Back on the top step again, this time riding the yellow Kwacka.

 

The best race of the day was to come next though. It had my Mum and Dad on the edge of their nerves while they were watching on the pit wall. It was so exciting my Dad actually forgot to put my pit board out at one point! (I need to have a word with him that.) It was a thrilling 10-lap contest between Ryan and me; we were swopping places all the time. But I knew that if I could get him at Murrays, just before the start-finish straight, I would be able to outrun him to the line. It was damn close though; I had to rev that engine higher than ever. The ultimate test in a great race, I really enjoyed it.

 

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Another win in the bag, it even brought my camera-shy Mum out for a picture.

 

Monday’s warm up was a wet affair after some heavy overnight rain. It was still raining a bit when I went out, but I had to go and test out my new ignition unit and quickshifter. I’d been running the standard unit with a conventional foot change linkage previously. It made a big difference – like magic with the Nova Transmissions gears – and I was revving the bike a lot higher with this set up.

 

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Flat-out in the wet – handling was smashing!

 

I was looking forward to the next race and it wasn’t long before we were out again just before lunch on a dry track. I wasn’t just competing with Ryan anymore either, Shane was fast on his R1 too and he wanted to make a race of it… even though he’s in a different class. In fact most bikes had the edge on me for top speed through the trap.

 

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Going through Montreal, a difficult corner that played its part in the final race.

 

I got off to a good start in the first race of the day on Monday and led from the lights to the flag, I was never really challenged, although I nearly lost it at Corum with a massive, front-wheel slide. I thought I was off, holding it up on my knee for a split second, then the bike hit a small bump and righted itself – I rode my luck there I thought. Next time round I could see a big black line where it slid. It was more like a rear-wheel spin mark than a front! My pit board told me I was well ahead so I eased off a bit. I crossed the line in front of Shane Pearson (GP1 Classic) by 2.2 seconds and Ryan Strafford by 11.1 seconds. The Kawasaki was storming along but the unlucky bit was yet to come. Race 13!

 

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Snetterton was enticing me along thinking everything was fine, and then it turned on me and bit me.

 

In the last race of the day I didn’t get away as quick as Ryan and Shane and I had more work to do in this one if I was to try and win it. I knew I had the pace to reel in Ryan, who was just in front of Pearson, so I pushed on, out-braking Shane on the entrance to Montreal on the third lap. Unfortunately, I was a bit off line going into the corner and lost the front. Down I went in a shower of sparks. I was unhurt and the bike wasn’t too bad either – thanks to my R&G crash protectors.

It was a disappointing and unlucky end to the weekend, but I still feel optimistic about putting up a decent fight for the title now that we have a proven race-winning bike. When you think about it, every time our ZX7R has crossed the finish line this season it’s won! I’m very pleased the engine we’ve built got through the most strenuous test, and probably the most demanding track of the racing calendar.

 

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Once again thanks to Wiseco Piston Inc, Kais Suspension, R&G Racing, OPIE Oils, Cradley Kawasaki, CP Carrillo, TA-Creative, Holbeach Tyres and Nova Transmissions for all the help and advice.

 

Next round is at Cadwell Park. It’ll be nice to go back there after last year’s end-of-season disappointment.

Ritchie 71

Racing news

MIXED FEELINGS

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After a good start on my Kwacka in practice, it was a Gixer 750 that got me through the weekend.

 

It all started well on the Friday. The weather was dry, although conditions were a bit cold and windy, making riding more difficult, but at least we didn’t have to deal with any rain. The weather was looking good for the whole weekend and I was looking forward to getting stuck in – and get the ZX7R really going – on Donington Park’s long circuit. It’s never been my favourite layout; I’ve never been able to crack it with the two extra long straights and the Melbourne loop.

 

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Getting ready for a busy day, everything started well with ZX7R.

 

Anyway, I fired up the Kwacka – with the new Nova gearbox and stiffer valve springs in – for the first session and the bike was absolutely on-song. The gear changing was on another level and in the second session I was revving it right up to the limiter – the bike was really flying. In the third session I really started to push it to achieve some respectable lap times and on the very last lap I heard a clattering noise from the cylinder head at Redgate – not good. I immediately switched off the engine and coasted to a halt near the Old Hairpin. I knew it was bad – I felt sick.


Back in the garage, me and my Dad quickly set about taking the top end off to have a look. We discovered oil and water in the air-box; delving in further, we found a broken inlet valve in number 1 cylinder. Despair once again, but it was a Suzuki 750cc Gixer SRAD, that Martin Stanier used to ride last year, that would be my saviour.


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Saved by a Suzuki; talking things through with Martin Stanier and his son, Zac.

 

It was built and owned by Andrew Plaskitt, Martin’s friend and mechanic. He said it was in the back of his van and that I could ride it round just to get points. Well, it was better than going home, so I thought I’d give it a go. At first I was unsure riding someone else’s bike, especially when it’s so beautifully prepared – but after a few adjustments, here and there, it started to feel a lot better.

Andrew – ‘Drew’ as he likes to be called – was great, he just said, ‘Do what you need to do with it to make it feel right, don’t worry”. So we put new tyres on and dropped the forks in the yolks to get it turn quicker for qualifying on Saturday.

 

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It was going really well and I managed to put it on pole. Everyone was dead chuffed, and my confidence started to return.

 

Unlucky garage number 22, every bike in here had an issue: Our ZX7R, Martin Stanier and Vince Carlton crashed – his Ducati never got to run properly after – and his son’s R6 had a massive clutch seizure.

 

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Not unlucky for some, more like unlucky for all.

 


Poor Martin had a nasty crash on practice day and ruined the frame of his R1 GP1 Classic. He managed to buy a second-hand one just a few miles from the circuit on ebay. Drew went to pick it up while the bike was stripped down. We all got stuck in to help and rebuild the bike in the garage. It was like an assembly line!

 

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After a busy day on Saturday, Martin was ready for scrutineering on Sunday morning.

 

In Race 1 I was very nervous – more than usual – riding a bike that’s not your own you start to think “What if?” It’s horrible really.
Anyway, I knew that it was points that mattered and going for a win just wasn’t on my mind. I just wanted to get it across the line in one piece. I got off to a good start though and was in the lead for the first half of the race then Ryan Strafford came past me at Redgate.

 

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Another great tussle with Ryan in the first race.

 

He tried it there on the earlier lap, and I out-braked him; when I saw him there again up the inside of me, I had no choice but to let him go. I followed him home in second place. We both set good lap times too – 1.37’s – in an enjoyable close race.

 

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The first prize of the day was a second place trophy for me and the storming Suzuki.

 

In the afternoon the wind had started to drop and the conditions were good. I got another great start and the Suzuki was beginning to feel like an old friend, light and nimble through the second section - my times were very fast through there. However, it was the long sections and the Melbourne loop that were giving me problems again. The Gixer was awesome everywhere, but without a slipper clutch I was finding it difficult under hard braking to get her stopped without the back end skipping and sliding around. I managed to find a way to settle her down by really blipping the engine before going down the gears; it helped but it wasn’t perfect, or easy. My pit board told me that I was about 1 to 1.5 seconds in front all the way through the race, so I just focused on not making mistakes and I brought it home – first across the line. I’d lead the race from lights to flag; I was very happy. So was everyone who’d helped me out.

 

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I still had sad feelings though, for my Kawasaki that sat at the back of the caravan – side lined for the weekend.

 

On the Sunday it was very windy again. This made it hard going down Craner Curves even in the warm-up session, the bike wanted to lift at times, I never knew when it was going to do it, and when it wasn’t.

 

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Ready to go on the front row for Sunday morning’s race.

 

The first race saw Ryan Strafford on pole after just nicking fastest lap on Saturday, but I got a blistering start and was first into Redgate. Unknown to me, Pearson and Byard on GP1 Classic bikes, had placed themselves between Ryan Strafford and me. I was able to put some distance between Ryan and myself, but I was always under threat for the overall win from Pearson’s R1 and the super fast Gixer 750 ridden by Byard. I managed to hold them off until the final lap when Byard took the lead at Redgate. When I realised it was a GP1 classic bike I didn't put myself under any pressure to take back the lead knowing I could still win my own class. I followed him closely home to take the win for Golden Era Superbikes, maximum points and fastest lap.

 

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No matter what you’re riding it’s great to be on the podium again.

 

Late in the afternoon for the last race it had got a little cooler. I was happy with that because the previous race on a warmer circuit had made things a bit slippery, especially on the new tarmac at Redgate and Craner.

Another great start got me to Redgate corner first again in a race which I was never threatened, or pushed. My pit board told me that I was increasing my lead on every pap, so I just kept my head down and concentrated on braking, cornering and keeping it all nice and smooth. Drew had built a proper superbike, and I was so proud to bring it across the line a full 10 seconds ahead of the competition. I was elated, crossing the line punching the air with both fists – scaring my Mum, who’d come to watch and help out over the weekend. It was a very happy Mother’s Day for her when it was all over.

Drew was the first in Park Ferme to congratulate me - we’d did it - and I couldn’t have done it without his help.

 

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Me, Andrew Plaskitt and a rewarding haul of silverware after a good days work.

 

I still couldn’t shake off the mixed feelings of emotions though, with work to do again on my Kawasaki, not knowing how much, or how bad the damage would be is something that hung over me all the way home.

We’ll see what the future brings and hope we can get the bike sorted for Snetterton in a month’s time. Fingers crossed.


Ritchie 71

 

Racing news

DESIRE BURNS

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My determination to win at Brands Hatch started back in October 2016

 

It started the moment I left Cadwell Park at the end of last season with busted gearbox and shattered hopes of finishing at least third in the championship.

From that moment, every nut, bolt, piston, rod, ring, gasket and valve - no matter what part or how small – was put into my new engine with the intense thought and will of winning at Brands Hatch at the start of the 2017 season.

It spurred me on through the long sessions of building. Long nights in a cold garage, my Dad and me worked with the same mindset – this engine will win.

 

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Back at the Hatch and ready for a fight.

 

So here we were again, at Brands Hatch; it was like turning back the clock. Only difference was last year I had a standard motor under me - not this time though.

Thanks to the generosity of Wiseco, the fast service from Cradley Kawasaki, advice form Carrillo, the invaluable expertise and support from Kais Suspension and technical help from Opie Oils, I had a competitive bike to take out for Round 1 of the Golden Era Superbikes at my home circuit.

 

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Last minute checks to make sure the lap times come down.

 

It wasn’t that easy though, I crashed out in the second session of practice going round a slower rider at Clearways - not his fault really - I went very wide where the dirt collects on the edge of the track and mixed with the recent rain the surface wasn’t too good for traction. Before I knew it I was up in the air, over and off. Thank goodness for the new R&G crash protectors – they worked a treat.

Work to do for us though, because my bike and me looked like we’d been in mud bath.

Once we were cleaned up and everything was straightened out I was ready to go again.

After lunch the weather improved a bit, but because it was cold - and still a bit damp - I only had a rough idea of where I should be on set-up.

Conditions were still less than perfect for qualifying, so I decided to get out first and stick some fast times in before I hit a bunch of riders. At Brands, being so short, you can soon get caught up in a group. Anyhow, I went straight to pole on lap one and was never topped - job done.

 

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All set to go on pole position.

 

In race one, everything I had thought about for months was now focused on a red light in front of me and when it went out I made a lousy start. The guy next to me got in front of me on the straight, but I was having none of it, I out-braked him round the outside into Paddock Hill and took the lead up to Druids - I was never passed and won by a decent margin.

 

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Back on the podium again, this time a bit higher up.

 

However, my closest rival, Ryan Strafford put in the fastest lap, so I knew I had to not only win the next race, I had to put in a faster lap to retain my pole position for Sunday.

 

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The bike was handling brilliantly – it felt like it was determined to win too

 

Race two soon came round, the track was nice and dry and I had a new tyre on the back. Always good for at least another second a lap when you get it right… and I did. I won by 16 seconds and almost broke the lap record set by Richard Blunt at 49.5 – I was 49.7. Damn.
Still a win settled me down and I was beginning to see the possibility of taking another couple of wins on Sunday.

 

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Last lap I was 14 seconds ahead, when I finished it was over 16!!
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Just a smidge off the lap record, my Kawasaki felt like a 600 out there pulling off a 49.7 lap.

 

Racing aside, it was really nice to have my wife Mandy, friends and family come to watch and support me. Mum was on hand to supply the endless cups of tea Dad drinks and to make everything work in the caravan. Mum’s special pasta wants some beating after a day’s hard work too.

 

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Tail up after a good day’s work and two trophies in the bag.

 

Sunday morning brought rain with it, and it was heavy.
Warm up was a disaster, I rolled out and only got as far a Clarke Curve and the bike went from under me – like I was on ice. Down again, I couldn’t believe it. I had new wet tyres on and I’m still mystified as to how it could’ve happened. It was in the exact same spot as the previous day – if you could have put money on it, you’d be a millionaire today! More work to do and more mud and gravel to scoop out.

 

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Looking a bit battered, but at least it was clean for the camera.

 

Scrutineering done, I was ready and eager to go once more. Probably a little too eager - I jump started – Ooops, not like me!
I just got my head down, got in front and stayed there. My pit board told me I was +6 seconds on lap 10 and I needed to be +10 seconds to win over the 12 lap race! Well, I had no idea who was behind, so I just put in two faster laps at the end to increase the gap. I crossed the line first; although Pearson (GP1 Classic on his R1) was first on the sheet, I was still the winner of SBK class by 11 seconds.

 

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Getting down to business with Pearson on his R1 GP1 Classic close by.

 

And so it all came down to last race of the day, which was probably the best race of the weekend. A better start put me ahead, but Ryan and me fought it out to the finish. We were so close at times we were rubbing shoulders and elbows going down Paddock Hill.

We swapped places once or twice, having to deal with quite a few back-markers towards the end, and when I got back in front for the final time I could always hear his bike breathing down my neck. Fortunately, I managed to out drag him to the line in exciting last lap – two tenths of a second ahead.
We shook hands after; it was a great race.

 

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Victory at last with the weekend’ haul of trophies – we did it!

 

Well it was a long time to wait, over a year really when you think of it. Still, like the old saying goes; good things come to those who wait and to win all four races was well worth it. Thanks to everyone for their support and help. It’s been a long journey.

Donington Park long circuit is next. It’s a layout I’m still unsure about with its additional long straights, but we’ll have a go.

More soon.
Ritchie 71.

Racing news

BROKEN TEETH KNOCKS ME OUT IN THE FINAL ROUND

Not quite the end to the season I was hoping for. After a luckless year things took a turn for the worse at Cadwell Park during Friday’s practice. A mechanical failure in the gearbox ended my hopes of a third and possibly – although it would’ve been a tall order – a second place in the Golden Era Superbikes Championship.

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A cold and wet start on Friday, but soon things started to warm up.

 

The first morning session was wet so I just went out, nice and smooth to get the track into my head again. It was a good long session and quickly got the feel of the circuit again even in the wet – it felt good.

In the second session it was only just beginning to dry with quite a lot of wet areas off the line so I had to really concentrate with slicks on, placing the bike within the drying line. It was good practice at being precise though, and I soon found my rhythm.

The third session, just before lunch, was much better. The track was starting to dry out although still wet in some areas. I was able to push the bike into the mid 1.39’s, not a fast time by any means, but wasn’t too bad on a knackered slick from the previous round on a track that was not completely dry.

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As the track dried out, Cadwell began to feel like its old self again.

 

After lunch I had new rubber on the ZX7R with my old favourite: the Metzeler Racetec. I couldn’t wait to get cracking. The bike was going faster than the previous meeting there. It felt so much quicker with different gearing and I managed to stay with the more powerful bikes on the straights, which really surprised me! Everything felt perfect and I really got into the flow once I got few clear laps under my belt. I went 2 seconds quicker even though it was still wet through the Gooseneck and going into the bottom of the Mountain – 1.37.6 best time. I knew I had a lot more in me, and the bike too. I was looking forward to the next session.

I made a couple of adjustments to rear suspension and was out again on track. This is when it all went wrong. After about 2-laps, coming through the Gooseneck and into Mansfield, there was a terrible, loud noise accompanied by a deep shudder coming from the engine. A noise when you instinctively know that nothing good could possibly come from it. My heart sank as smoke started to rise from below.

I could see that there was oil in the belly panel when I pulled in just before the Mountain where my Dad met me – looking very worried. We pushed the bike back to the paddock and started the investigation. It was definitely gearbox, but the oil in the belly panel alarmed us both.

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Taking out the clutch revealed a broken tensioner, but the real problem was further inside.

 

Anyway, we took out the clutch, with a bit of help from Andy Chalice’s buzz gun, to find a broken drive chain tensioner. Once we took the sump off we found the debris in the bottom: three gear teeth, bits of metal and the rest of the tensioner. It was all over. Without a spare engine we were left with no alternative but to pack up and return home.

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Losing three teeth from the gearbox meant a premature end to my season.

Richard Blunt kindly offered me his bike when I told him what had happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to accept. It didn’t feel right him handing me 3rd place in the championship without a fight. After all, he was the one challenging me for it. It was a nice gesture though. I was glad to see him win all 4 races later.

Looking back I’ve really enjoyed my return to racing this year. I’ve had a trophy from every meeting, apart from this one and Oulton Park and I can honestly say that at the beginning of the year I didn’t even think I would be anywhere near the front runners at the end of the season with the bike I had.

Well it’s all over until Brands Hatch again next year and we have much work to do on the new engines and the bike. All the parts – thanks to Wiseco and Carrillo – are with us now; we just need the cranks and re-bored cylinder blocks back and in a couple of weeks we can get started again for next year. It can’t come quick enough. I’ve got my sights set on top spot next year… a bit more luck would go amiss though!

Thanks to my sponsors: Kais Suspension, R&G Racing, Cradley Kawasaki, Holbeach Tyres, TA Creative, Opie Oils and Bike Torque Racing. For next year I would like to thank Wiseco and Carrillo in the USA for joining in with us and all for their help and advice so far.

Racing news

TYRESOME TROUBLES

Well, it was a much better weekend than the last one I had there – I actually managed to finish four races instead of just one! However, as always, it wasn’t entirely without incident.

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Some good racing with Ryan again over most of the weekend

I got off to a good start on practice day with a nice dry track for a change. Mainly concentrating on setting up the bike to turn quicker and deliver the best performance through the gearing. It was a long day and the tyres were totally shot by the end of it, but I got there in the end. I found it better to go with a gearing choice that went completely against what I originally thought. We found out later that the front sprocket wasn’t the one I wanted either, my Dad put the wrong one on, but it worked. A happy accident, you might say.

I was close to my best previous time there (1.39 when I rode a KTM RC8) with a low 1.40 on the ZX7R. The last session felt really good, as the sun was setting over Donington and I felt we’d done a good job to get the bike ready for qualifying. I knew I would need a decent low 1.39 to be anywhere close to the front row.

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An early start for us on practice day

By the time we’d replaced the tyres and finished all the other fine-tuning it was nearly midnight. The longest practice day I think I’ve ever had - having started the day leaving from home at 5 in the morning. It wasn’t long before I was asleep in the back of our new Transit van, which is absolutely brilliant. We were that knackered even the planes taking off from East Midlands Airport couldn’t wake us up!

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The team bus…our super-quick and very comfortable Ford Transit.

Saturday’s qualifying was good, I got held up a bit in the middle but still managed hit the 1.39 I needed, which put me on the second row. I was fairly happy with that considering the competition. Not to mention Terry Rymer, one of the great British riders from the time when our bikes were new. He was on pole with his Yamaha OWO1.

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Terry Rymer on pole and me on the second row looking for a way through

We were first on the circuit with race number one, so I didn’t have to wait long to get cracking. And it was a cracking race too. I got away with a great start and held on to the front-runners: Rhymer Dieterman and Richard Blunt. Then, as I went into Coppice, Blunt went in too fast and started to look a bit unsteady; the next second he was off. I found out later that his brake caliper had come loose and spun around his disc when he pulled the lever in.

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Getting my head down and cracking on.

Anyway, back to the race which, was really beginning to hot up and I had my old adversary Ryan Strafford to deal with along with another guest rider and ex British Champion, Chris Martin on his super handling 250cc GP 2-stroke. We changed places quite a few times over the remaining laps, but on the last lap a back marker got it in the way and lucky for me I came out of the Foggy Esses in front of the lot of them to finish third; putting me up on the podium again. It was great result with a personal best time of a 1.38. To be up on the steps and shake hands with Terry Rymer was a real bonus.

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Picking up points and another trophy, along with Dieterman and Rymer

Race two was a different kettle of fish though. Not such a good start had me struggling to keep up with the leading group and I was knocked about a bit in the middle of the pack. This really upset my rhythm and I kept running wide and wasn’t hitting the apexes on the all the corners, as I had before. It was all over for me half way through really; I had no chance of catching anybody in front and I finished 7th. A bit frustrating and I made a mental note of making sure that I would try and get clear from the middle group the following day. This was when I realised that maybe I should’ve ordered another rear slick – the one I had on the bike was looking a bit tired.

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Warming up for the warm-up

After some heavy rain on Saturday night the track was very wet for the warm up.
I didn’t mind this so much because it was less wear for the slick tyre that I had to save for racing later. I went out on the bike feeling really good on the first lap. Then I lost the front end braking at the Melbourne loop, it was really slippery and I couldn’t save it. Lucky for me the Scrutineer let it go after taking a good look; there wasn’t too much damage. By the time we’d washed off all the mud and tipped out the gravel we were running out of time. I managed to get out for a few laps with the GP1s to check everything was straight, but only after we had to push start the bike with Nick Williamson, my Dad and a passing spectator - it was a bit hectic to say the least.

Once again we were the first race out just 5 minutes after I returned to the garage and I couldn’t change the tyres in time from wets to slicks. There was only just about enough time to put some petrol in! The track was still wet when I went out though, but it really dried out fast when the sun came out. I was struggling towards the end and finished 10th.

The last race of the day was dry and I was off to a blinding start and went straight into third place. Richard Blunt was just behind me and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he went past me on that powerful Kwacka of his. I held on to fourth spot for a few laps and could hear the bikes behind me. Once again I was suffering from a lack of power on the long straights and the left side of my tyre had had it making the run through Craner and up to McLeans too erratic to hold the position and dropped back a few places. Still I hung on to them and lapped a decent 1.39s to finish in 7th spot. Not bad considering the way the tyre look afterwards. I’m going to have to take a few more tyres with me next time I go.

So, a better weekend than the last one there? Yes, it was and it was good to see some of my family turn up to support me too. My Mum surprised me on Saturday, bringing a new Quick-Shifter that I needed – along with more beers for my Dad – and my brother James turned up on the Sunday, with his girlfriend, to watch. Also some friends who had driven all the way up from the South to watch too - that was nice.

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Championship positions after Round-8 make for an exciting final at Cadwell

Final round at Cadwell Park promises to be fun, as a few of us will be we fighting it out for second and third spots. Looking forward to that! I like Cadwell!

Racing news

GOOD TIMES ON THE ISLAND

It’s been nearly eight years since I last raced at Anglesey. The last time I was there I was on my Suzuki 600 and I’d completely forgotten what the place looked like. This time though, I took almost four seconds off my fastest time; it was a real achievement for me on the Kawasaki ZX7R.

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It was a long drive for us to get there – the Bank Holiday traffic didn’t help either, but I was all set without being too late for practice on the Saturday. It was a fine day, a bit breezy but dry. As well as familiarising myself with the circuit again, there was a lot for me to do because I’d made quite a few changes to the bike’s geometry and suspension.

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Blue skies and a yellow Kwacka ready for Saturday’s practice.


It was a bit like a pre-season shakedown test. Lucky for me there was hardly any stoppages and I was able to use full sessions to set up the ZX7R, which was going well. By the end of the day I’d got my times down to 1-minute12.8 seconds. That was just under 3 seconds faster than I’d been on my old Gixer. I was well chuffed at the end of the day and it was time to fire up the barbecue for a satisfying and entertaining evening with our garage partners – Team Mally - from Sheffield. What a great bunch!

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The garage is a kitchen and dining room on Saturday night.


Sunday’s qualifying was a bit of a disaster. The overnight rain had made the circuit very wet. I had a walk round with my Dad at about 8 o’clock in the morning and thought that by the time we were out for qualifying around 10.30 it would be dry; no chance. It was half and half, so I made the choice of staying with the new slicks we’d put on the night before and hoping that by the end of the session it would have mostly dried out to put in some fast laps. Anyway, it didn’t quite work out that way and I ended up on the 6th row in 16th position! There was a lot of work to do in the race and after a blistering start I was up to 7th by the end of the first lap. With the bit firmly between my teeth I pushed on harder to finish 4th just behind Ryan Strafford. I really enjoyed it; it was a cracking race.

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Moving on up; finishing well in the race after a sketchy qualifier.


Race 2 was bit harder because I was held up at times by some of the other lads, it’s not an easy circuit to pass other riders on, but it’s easy to run into the back of someone if you’re not careful. I really had to watch it and pick my moments to overtake and made my way into 4th spot again. Then, completely out of the blue, my gear lever came loose and I was unable to change up or down – I was stuck in 4th gear for the rest of the race finishing 6th, which wasn’t too disappointing considering my position on the grid and the fact I couldn’t use the gear box. It was so frustrating! Thank God for the Mega-Laps though, because my faster times put me on the second row for Monday’s races and I felt I’d done my job for the day.

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The calm before the morning warm-up.


Monday was a beautiful day again, it was a blue sky from horizon to horizon by the time the warm came round and I didn’t hang about either – second fastest was good enough for me. I felt really confident about the races and was pleased to see some family relatives, who have a house on the island, turn up to watch and cheer me on.

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Ready and focussed at the lights on Bank Holiday Monday.



I had a great start but was shut out into turn 1. By the time I’d fired the Kawasaki out of the banked hairpin and onto the back straight I was 3rd. It was a fast pace and I had to call on every skill I had to stick with the front-runners on their more powerful bikes. It wasn’t long before I managed pull a decent gap on Richard Blunt who was behind me in 4th. My pit-board told me I was 2 seconds in front of him – I misread it as 0.2 because I couldn’t believe that I‘d pulled such a gap and so soon. When I went to +4 there was no mistaking it then, because by that time – after about 5 laps – I’d caught up with Ryan Strafford and was challenging him for second place.

There was no chance of catching John Dieterman who was leading, so I thought I’d sit behind Ryan for a bit to check out where the best and most advantageous place would be to pass him. Then on the on lap 8 he ran wide at Rocket, which is at the top of the long straight. It was a good a time as any to go for it, or so I thought, so whipped up the inside of him. On the last lap I was in second place and I thought I’d done enough to make it stick, but in the same spot I overtook him I made a mistake - missing the apex and was off line into the next right-hander. I could hear the Honda SP2 behind me so I rolled on the power, a bit too quick though and the ZX7R shot me straight out of the seat! I saved the hi-side but lost my position to Ryan as he went up the inside of me back into second. Damn! I had a go at passing him again at the bottom of the Corkscrew – it was very close, but not close enough; I had to settle for third. Still, another podium is not to be sniffed at and I always enjoy a good race with Ryan.

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All smiles after a great battle - Ryan, John and me on the podium again.


I was now in the 1.11’s for lap times and felt confident again about the last race. I made a promising start and was 5th again into turn 1. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end of the race, losing front end on lap 2 at the banked hairpin, trying to go round the outside of Ryan, but instead of picking my way through the field, I ended up picking up a bike and the bits that came off it! Ah well, as they say, if you don’t try you’ll never win.

I still don’t know why the bike went down, I’ve always had full confidence in the front end, but it gave me no warning whatsoever; one second there was grip, the next nothing.

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Exhausted, the ZX7R needed a bit of looking after once we got it back home.

Anyway, there’s a bit of fixing to do before Donington Park, and after my last meeting there I’m looking forward to a better weekend than we had last time. We’ll see!

Racing news

A ROCK SOLID WEEKEND

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Looking much better after Oulton


After a string of bad luck at previous tracks and going to a circuit I’d never been to before - on a bike that had to be mostly rebuilt after being badly damaged at Oulton - I really didn’t know what to expect from this meeting at Rockingham Speedway at all. Little did I know; it was to be the best weekend I’ve had since Brands Hatch.

We put the finishing touches to the bike late – again – on Thursday night and set off. We were immediately held up on an M25 that was closed for repairs. At the time we thought, was this going to be the start of another-one-of-those-weekends?

However, once we arrived, the daylight of Friday morning revealed a super impressive circuit with massive grandstands that resembled a football stadium. It had a very grand feel to it and when the sun finally came out it reminded us of Daytona Speedway in America… the banks are not as steep but it had all the hallmarks of a circuit that could make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end – I found out later that certain parts of it did.

Friday practice started well, although there was the threat of rain early on that had us gazing to the heavens with looks of despair again. This time, thankfully, it turned out to be fine, dry day with lots of track time for me to get used to the circuit. Unlike most other UK tracks, which are predominantly right-handers, this track is nearly all left-handers – and it’s fast! It works every bit of the bike and your body, it’s very demanding and I was completely worn out by the end of the day. Still, I got somewhere near a set-up for qualifying and felt happy with the way things were going. My Dad and I saw a pub on the way into circuit called – appropriately enough – the ‘Chequered Flag’. So, after a hard day’s work and a walk round the circuit, we thought it would be an excellent idea to chill out there for a few hours with a meal and a shandy - or two.

Saturday was to be another fine, warm day, but some heavy overnight rain had left a few damp patches on the circuit. This unsettled my rhythm a bit and I was really surprised to see that I’d qualified on the front row in 2nd position.

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Some good company over the weekend


John and his Dad were sharing our garage too. We invited him to squeeze in with us because he could only find space to park up on the grass – not a nice place to be if it rained. We were in good company, because John and his Dad are really easy going and we had a great weekend swapping stories in between races – especially listening to his Dad’s, who still races now, even though he’s retired.

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Lining up with John and Martin on the front row


Race one soon came along; we were first up. It felt like a big event with the high stadium to the right of us. Anyway, all that was out of my mind when the red light went out. I’m normally off the blocks fast but Martin Stanier and John were a bit sharper this time. (I’d just installed new clutch plates and hadn’t quite got the measure of them). No excuses though – the three of us wriggled through the slightest of gaps at the end of the straight and by the time we all reached the second sharp left corner –coming off the banking – I was within striking distance. I out-braked and overtook Martin; I thought I might’ve had John there too, but he managed to regain the lead once more. It was no surprise that John started to pull away again on his Yamaha; although not by much it has to be said. I managed to stay half a second ahead of Martin for the whole race and just a few behind John, just by concentrating on not making mistakes. I brought the ZX7R home in second – it felt great to be on the podium again and started to fill me with a bit more confidence.

Race two was pretty much a copy of the first but I was able to challenge John more in this race and I showed him the wheel quite a few times throughout the 8-laps. I was leaving my braking so late; I even scared myself at times. Toward the end I was closing the gap by just relaxing more – not fighting the track so much and concentrating on getting my lines right – it worked, and I was just over half a second behind at the finish line. Even John’s Dad said after that another lap I might’ve won it.

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The end of a great day at Rockingham, time for the pub

It was an encouraging end to a great day’s racing for me and my time sheets showed me fastest through sector one, third fastest through sector two and second fastest in sector three.

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Not bad sector times for an old standard 750 Kwacka


After Sunday’s warm up I was ready to get on with racing and I didn’t have long to wait – we were first up again with a changed grid, based on the previous day’s times. It was still John on pole, but I was bumped back to third by Ryan Strafford who was looking strong with some good times from Saturday, “I’ve got my hands full”, I thought.

When the lights went out Ryan just took off, he out paced the pair of us to the first corner. The second corner was always my strong point and I went for the late braking manoeuvre again overtaking John Dietermann, later on in the first lap I overtook Ryan Stafford at the hairpin to take the lead. Positions were swapped through the race and when Martin Stanier got in amongst us it was even more fun. It will be a cracking race to watch on the TV, it was very close. I really enjoyed it even though I finished 4th behind Martin and John with Ryan taking the number one-spot for his first time this season.

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Getting ready for a scrap, me Ryan and John just before the start on Sunday


I spent the rest of my time before the last race just analysing where I was getting things a bit wrong and pictured the race in my head. Once I’d worked it all out I felt confident about the last race and was looking forward to putting my plans into action, and it worked - well it did up to a point. From the start it was Ryan off the line again with that torquey SP2 of his, but once John got past to the lead he just pulled away and left it up to me and Ryan to fight it out for second place. It was a great scrap and we were so close at times we could’ve shook hands. We saved that for later though because it was a race where one minute it was me in second place and then it was him. Martin Stanier said to me after that he was just waiting for us to make a mistake and let him through. It was so tight we were handlebar to handlebar before the final chicane that led on to the straight. Unfortunately, Ryan had the line going in and there was nothing I could do… I just didn’t have the power to get there before him.
Nevertheless, it was a great race and I snapped up another podium finish and a TV interview too!

 

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The ZX7R with its tail up after a great performance


After all the hard work getting the bike ready and the disappointments that have gone on before I felt we deserved this one and I was pleased to finish well for a change. The only thing I’ve got to do now is change the oil for the next meeting at Anglesey – at that’s one very welcome change I can tell you.

Racing news

OULTON DEALS ME A DOUBLE BLOW

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Dark skies loomed the evening before race day.


Oulton Park in Cheshire, for round five of the Golden Era Superbikes, was an important meeting for me to stay in with a chance of finishing well in the Championship. It was a one-day race day for double points and unknown to us at the time, was to be another luckless weekend for me and my team; one that actually started two weeks before in the garage at home.

We’d finished rebuilding the over-bored engine and had it installed ready for a test run. It started first time and everything seemed fine. I tested it through the gears and all was good until I started to blip the revs. Three times, and on the third the con rod broke away from the piston and smashed through the crankcase, completely destroying the engine.

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The death of an engine


It was very bad moment for me, and my Dad, who had worked alongside me to try and produce a more powerful unit to help me through the second half of the season. We just couldn’t work out what had happened, we think it may have been a piston circlip that hadn’t seated properly, but we’ll never really know the answer. It was a complete disaster. What made it worse was the fact that I’d booked a No Limits Track Day at the Oulton Park circuit (it’s 7 years since I’ve been there) for a bit of practice the day after.

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Work as well as play. My old road bike stepped up to the plate with my race bike’s rear suspension and tank.



I didn’t have time to swap the engine over, so I just took my ZX7R road bike that I use everyday to go to work instead – it was a bit different, but better than nothing. In truth, it was a quite an enjoyable day and took my mind off what had happened the night before.

So, back to Round-5 at Oulton Park with my trusty standard engine again. Only this time I dropped in a more aggressive inlet cam for a bit more power: not much but it helped.

Friday’s practice was a bit messy with the weather being so changeable and I was running an old slick from the previous round - saving my new one for qualifying. The last session was just too wet for dry tyres, but not quite wet enough for wets either. So I just went out to scrub in the wet tyres for a couple of laps; a full session would have destroyed them.

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Second on the grid was good enough for me!



It wasn’t until the afternoon qualifier that I really got going. It was great! I managed to put the bike on the front row in second place, just a few hundredths of a second behind Pole position man, John Dieterman. The bike felt really strong and I felt confident about the races to come on the Saturday.

Being second fastest in the morning warm-up was an encouraging start to the day and, after a bit of fine carb tuning, I was ready.

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On the Front row – I didn’t know this was a Twins Race.


Race-1 - When I arrived at the gate I noticed a board with the notification that this was a wet race! The track was bone dry, which meant that if it did rain the race wouldn’t be stopped, even though we were all on slicks. Madness! When the light went out I was away to a good start, but John used his horsepower to out drag me to Old Hall and I had follow him into Cascades. It was then I noticed a little rain on my visor. Just as we went into Island Bends John eased off due to the light rain. The rain wasn’t bothering me too much at this stage so I just got my head down. When I came round on my first lap I was already 2-seconds in the lead. I felt very comfortable on the bike with slicks, even though there were spots of rain; grip level was still good. After lap 2, I was 3-seconds in front and was beginning to enjoy the fact that I might well win this one if I played my cards right. But just as I went past my pit board into Old Hall the rain got a bit heavier and I went a touch wide and nearly ran off at the bottom of Cascades; time to slow down a tad, I thought. By the time I’d got to Hizzy’s Chicane, Graham Ward, on another ZXR 750, had closed the gap and over-took me. He promptly crashed on the exit losing traction. His bike was like a loose cannon, all over the track, and it was hard to get past the incident. Once I was in the clear, Nick Williamson, on his Suzuki had caught me up and, taking advantage of the situation, he swept past me up into Clay Hill. He went so quick I thought there must be more grip than I imagined, so I matched his pace and reeled him in through Druids … that was my big mistake. I was just behind him, going into Lodge Corner, when he lost the front on the wet surface. No grip! A split second later I’m in the same situation and down I go. Damn the rain, it must have been for no more than 20 seconds. By the time I’d picked myself up from the gravel trap it had stopped and the track started to dry again. It was a nightmare, but at least Nick and me were OK. However, having hit the tyre wall, my bike didn’t look so well at all.

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Down but not out, the ZX7R was up and running for Race-2


We were about to put the bike in the trailer and go home, but when John Dieterman came over to see if I was OK, he offered to help. Once we’d straightened out the front bracket and took all the broken bits off we realised that it might not be so bad. Once I’d bought a new brake reservoir, bled the brakes, replaced the bent clip-on, brake lever, front fairing and seat – I was pretty much good to go again.

With about 40-minutes left before Race-2 the Scrutineer gave me the OK and with tyre warmers fitted, we were ready. Then, on the actual call to the gate, it rained. Hard work got even harder and we were given 10 minutes to change to wets. We just about made it, and I only just got to the gate as it started to close. I rolled onto the circuit without a front mudguard – no time to fit it – and with a guessed set-up for the worsening conditions - not too good for confidence. Anyway, I finished 6th in torrential rain. I was glad it was all over, but not glad about the overall result.

It was a disappointing end to what seemed like a good start to the weekend, but if racing seems cruel at times, I have to remember that the good times are why we do it; I just haven’t many of those lately.

Next round is at Rockingham. It’ll be a new circuit for me to race on, as I’ve never been there before, maybe it’ll be like a new start too. I’ve decided not to expect too much anymore and just go out and enjoy it. Fingers crossed.

 

 

Racing news

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF CADWELL

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The infamous Gooseneck – my favourite part of the track


On the Friday night we arrived late at the circuit, in fact, very, very late. After a 3-hour wait on the M25, due to a vehicle fire, our trailer then blew a tyre just before Hatfield. We not only had to change a wheel, but the tyre and inner tube too. 

We rolled up to Cadwell Park at about 11 o’clock at night having left Leatherhead, in Surrey, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Sheeesh, we were knackered before we started.

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Back to basics at Cadwell - there are no garages for anybody here.

Luckily, Saturday was a lovely morning for a change and we were able to set ourselves up fairly swiftly with our temporary garage and put the warmers on the tyres. Getting used to the track again took a bit of time, but it was a good day’s practice and I enjoyed being back there after 5 years. We still haven’t had time to fix the over-bored engine after it failed at Snetterton, and my standard replacement was feeling a bit sluggish at times; adjusting the ignition map made no real difference. It felt fine at Snetterton, considering it was down on power, but here it felt not quite right somehow.

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Back for lunch, I’d worked up quite an appetite after a good morning’s work


Anyway, I’ve always liked Cadwell and managed to achieve some respectable lap times just before the lunch break, even though the bike felt the way it did. The weather continued with warm sunshine and it was a real pleasure riding the ZX7R on the sinuous Lincolnshire circuit. It was bit different from the last time though, when I was on a lighter, more powerful 600 Suzuki!

Towards the end of the day I was fairly pleased with the way things were going, but then I heard a disturbing noise from the cam-chain side of the engine. We didn’t have a spare engine this time so, quite rightly, we were very worried. We took out the cam-chain tensioner and could see that it had jammed. The small spring that operates the catch mechanism had ‘popped-up’ stopping any free movement. We managed to release it and get the small spring back into place. When we started the engine it was a lot quieter. Job done - or so we thought.

During the qualifying session – which was a complete disaster with so much traffic, I just couldn’t get a clear run at all – the noise started again. We took out the tensioner and the same thing had happened. I asked everyone who had a Kawasaki like mine in the paddock if they had a spare, but to no avail. We had to get a bit creative… or go home. The idea was to cut the head off a bolt to the right length and replace the long tensioner spring with it. Once inserted, we were effectively replicating a manual tensioner. For the fine adjustment, we had ‘shim’ the distance with small washers so that the tensioner could go in toward the chain drive in tiny increments. When it stopped making a noise, we left it as it was. It worked; I was ready to race.

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One good thing followed another, when I found out from Mark Wright (Holbeach Tyres) that the long awaited Metzeler slicks were available - things were beginning to look up.

Race-one was good, I enjoyed being out there again, but it was much harder than I thought with my standard engine. I was getting hammered on the straights, which were a lot longer than I remembered. I could only do so much to stay with the faster bikes along these sections and had to rely on my old skills through the Gooseneck, Mansfield, the Chicane, the Mountain section and through Hall Bends. In fact, my timesheet showed me faster than most through this sector. The bike felt much stronger now it was running with the right cam-chain tension and I was pleased to finish where I did with a good lap time.

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Looking back down the Mountain



In Race-two, I concentrated on getting a good lap knowing that the lap times from day one are used to re-grid the riders on the second day - I did just that, and actually raced to a strong 6th place. With a Row-three position under my belt for the next day, I went for a pub meal with my Dad, feeling a much happier person than I was at the beginning of the day.


On Monday the conditions allowed me to try a few things out in the warm-up with some worn out wet tyres on a dampish track. When the weather started to improve, it was back to the slicks again for Race-three; they felt great with much better grip. This was my best result of the meeting and I had to really fight for it. I knew that if I got a good start and stayed with front-runners, with a clear track in front of me, I could keep my lap times consistent and finish well. I managed to fight my way up to lead the second group of riders and it was all going to plan. Then, with about 4 laps to go, Ryan Strafford on his SP2, started to reel me in. When he came alongside me, we swapped positions - he’d come past me on the straight and I get him back on the corners. It was great, I was really enjoying this race and I planned to overtake him at the Hairpin on the very last lap; I knew I could do it. I lined everything up and was ready to pounce, but the Marshals were waving yellow flags for no overtaking from the Mountain, through Hall bends to Barn - damn! 

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‘You shall not pass’ said the Marshals through Hall Bends



Ryan was safe at this point and all I could do was follow him to cross the line in third place. He was quick to give a thumbs up on the warm down lap and just as quick come over in Park Ferme to say how much he enjoyed it too. It was a great race.


Race-four didn’t go entirely to plan - it was the complete opposite of the previous one. I found myself at the back of the second group by the time I got the end of Park Straight. Cadwell is a hard track to pass other riders when you’re all doing similar times and it took everything I had in me to hold on to the tail of Nick Williamson. My pit board showed +9 seconds on the last lap, so I knew I had nothing to worry about behind me and I managed to get close enough to take advantage when Nick went offline in an attempt to overtake the rider in front of him, which upset his rhythm. It was an invitation I gladly accepted, passing him at the Hairpin. At Barn corner it was close again. Nick had a good run on me and was right alongside me on the finish straight. I just managed to out-drag him to the line – there was no more than a tyre width in it at the flag. 

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Another trophy and another cap for my collection



It was another enjoyable race and I was really pleased when Nick acknowledged how well he thought I was riding my ‘slow bike’ as he called it.

I just need to find the time to try and repair my broken engine to go faster in a straight line – but that’s another story.

 

Racing news

Back to the Old Standard

Snetterton: my bogey circuit. I like riding it, but it’s one that’s always had something in store for me. I’ve never had the best of luck there - and last weekend was the same old story.

 

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Sun’s out, bike looks great - what could possibly go wrong?

 

We arrived for Saturday morning practice and found it hard to find a spot to park up and unload. The paddock was rammed. The last time I was here, I was on a KTM at BSB Rounds and there were more competitors at this Thundersport meeting than at BSB.

Things went wrong from lap two. As I was negotiating the new section at Montreal, the bike lost rear grip and it spat me off. I wasn’t even pushing it. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I got up; there were dirty tread marks on the tarmac from what looked like a tractor. It had left dirt and dust everywhere, particularly on the exit. Two more lads went down during that session on the same corner. One poor bloke, unfortunately broke his hand. It beats me why they couldn’t clean, or at least sweep the surface, before we rode on it.

I was able to ride it back to the paddock and while examining the rear tyre we found a self-tapping screw that had gone straight through it. So, it was a combination of a slowly deflated rear tyre and dirt on the tarmac that had me off. Snetterton was beginning to feel very familiar again.

Luckily the bike wasn’t too bad and it was a fairly easy fix, but I’d injured my knee and arm, which caused me problems the next day.

After the bike was tidied up, I took it out for another session. My rebuilt and recently installed, over-bored engine was going strong. It was fast and it felt really good pulling onto the long, long straights. About half way through the session I thought there was a Ducati with a dry clutch close by. I looked around and to my surprise there was no Ducati; the sound was coming from my own bike. I felt sick. I nursed it back to the paddock and it was almost cutting out. We talked about what it could be and decided to call it a day after listening to the mechanical rattle from inside. As a precaution, we took the old standard engine with us as a backup; I'm glad we did. It’s proved very reliable, but sadly well down on power, but it was my only option. Another late night swopping engines, and thanks to a team next door, lending us their Halogen Floodlights, we managed to finish before midnight.

The Next day was race day and a qualifier without any practice on a comparatively slow bike didn't fill me with much confidence. However, 9th place putting me on the third row was better than I expected, to be honest.

Race-1 was a fairly good scrap for 6th place. I thought I might be on my own for most of it but I had to do quite a bit of overtaking and use the draft to keep up. It was good practice. I settled in about half way and found a pace that seemed to be my limit with the engine I had. I was 15 mph down on most of the other bikes on the straights.

 

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Might’ve been a bit slower than most on the straight but it still managed to kill a few flies.

 

Race-2 was pretty much the same, but I managed to steal 5th after Ryan Stafford was nicked for a jumpstart. This was a typical of Snetterton meeting again, where feelings are mixed with joy and despair at the same time.

With points in the bag, my Dad and me took a walk round the circuit after the day’s races and we could see the many marks of carnage at Montreal. It really is an interesting corner to look at – technical – but it’s bloody difficult to get your head round it. A lot of riders hate it, I can see why.

In the evening we went to a great pub called the Angel - just up the road. The food and atmosphere was excellent. If anybody reading this goes to Snetterton, I recommend you pay a visit. It’ll be well worth it.

So, Bank Holiday Monday arrived and it was wet session to warm up with. I was quite pleased about that because rain was forecast for later in the day. It gave me chance to set up my suspension- just in case.

Race-3 was a bit of a scrap to start with but once again I found myself riding on my own for a while in the later stages. Being down on power here meant I just had to ride the best I could and get across the line for some points. I knew I had to finish 4 races to have any chance of keeping a decent position in the championship.

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They spelt my name wrong again!

 

Race-4, now, this was another story. It started to rain just before our delayed start. Normally I would be cursing this, but I had a good feeling about it. It was on and off for a few minutes but it continued, making the track very wet. We made the decision to change the wheels for wets. This time we got it done in time and when I was on the start line I had feeling that I was going to do well. I got a great start too and shot into 4th place from the third row. I saw John Dieterman out break himself at the end of the back straight and he ran on to re-join further back. I was now behind Richard Blunt on his ZX7RR and pushed as hard as I could to overtake him at Murrays. He came back past me again on the straight, but I got him back again at Riches. Next on my list was Richard Stubbs; also on a ZX7R. Once I was passed him at Montreal I took the lead and I was away. My pit board showed me about holding a steady gap ahead of the second place rider, but my Dad was unaware of how quickly John Dieterman was catching up. Next time I saw the board it said, “+0 Dieterman”. I missed a gear on the penultimate lap coming out of Montreal and he pounced. I tried all I could to find a way to make a move on the last lap just before the drag to the checkered flag. I was only 0.8 seconds behind him. If I hadn’t missed a gear I might’ve held on. Still, it was a good race and it was nice to mix it up with last year’s champ.

 

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A trophy for my efforts and the bike takes a well-deserved rest.

 

As for my engine, well who knows? It was a lot of hard work over the winter and having run it in for nearly a thousand, faultless miles, I’m a bit mystified and a bit miffed. The investigation begins soon.

Cadwell Park next…I like it there!

Racing news

Disasters and Disappointments at Donington

The Easter weekend races at Donington Park were a real challenge and for much of the time we were not happy Bunnies.

We arrived on the Friday night for practice on Saturday. It was cold and wet again.

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This is not a circuit I’m happy about at the best of times. I enjoy riding it, but somehow, in the past, I’ve never been able to match the pace of other riders. So I started from scratch – base suspension settings and off I went, riding and making changes. It was predominantly wet all day, so I didn't get much chance to get a decent dry race set-up. In fact, qualifying was to be the only dry session for me until much later in the weekend, so you can imagine how pleased I was to stick the bike on the front row in second place. I just made a guess at what I thought the settings should be and it seemed to work. I surprised myself, to be honest, with pretty good pace at last. It was to my last bit of good luck though - from that point on it was pretty dire for the rest of the weekend.

Race-1 was a real fiasco and the weather played a big part in my race. The circuit was very wet from a recent downpour and I felt pretty confident. I was off the line sharpish and was leading as I tipped the bike into Redgate. Down through the Craner Curves I was a couple of bike lengths ahead, but at the old hairpin the track was much drier; it had only rained heavily on half the circuit. The bike just didn't grip as I thought it would when I started to roll transition onto the drier part of the track and I slid wide, finding myself on the grass (going from first place to 23rd) and having to re-join just before Starkey’s bridge. Anyway, I got my head down and pulled back to 7th - really pushing the bike, until I pushed a bit too hard at Coppice where I experienced massive chatter on the front. I tried to get out of it, but it was too much and down I went. I’d had this problem earlier on in practice on the sections that were partly dry; it didn't do it when it was fully wet. It was weird; we even had the wheel rebalanced because we thought it might be that. I think in the end it was just the wet tyre’s ridges setting off a ripple effect that just got worse over the bumps when pushing the front. I was unhurt, thankfully, but the bike was a mess.

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Oh dear - the bike’s not feeling very well in the Scrutineering Bay after my crash at Coppice. Good job we had the spare fairing on!

I had to miss Race-2 because we couldn't fix the bike in time and that was that; the first day over and no points scored – damn! I was very frustrated and I started blaming myself for the crash. My Dad and I decided to go out and have dinner away from the circuit for a while and we had a good chat about things. We decided to put it all behind us and get on with the job for the next day - Easter Monday. There was a proper stormy night going on outside but it didn't keep us awake because the bike wasn't finished 'til gone midnight and we were both absolutely knackered.

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Feeling better now. Thanks to Richard Blunt who lent me his windscreen screen; it was fitted it later.

The morning warm-up was on a very wet track after heavy overnight rain – we even had snow! There were no issues with the bike – it felt good after the big crash.

Race-3 was a complete and total disaster and it was down to the weather again. We just didn't have enough time to change the wheels after rain threatened, then stopped and threatened again. In the end we opted for dry tyres thinking it would blow over. Then it tipped it down when they called us for the race and there was no time left to do anything about it. It was pointless going out on dry tyres. In fact, a lot of the lads who did go out on dries came in after the warm-up lap; that’s how bad it was. Now I was 3-races into the meeting with not a point scored. It was a nightmare really.

But they say every cloud has a silver lining and there was one waiting for me at the end, but only just. Race-4 was a long wait from a 10 o-clock morning warm-up to a 5.30 race in the evening, but the weather was beginning to settle at least. We had lovely sunshine for hours and the track was drying nicely, until another rain cloud came in about 20 minutes before I went out. ‘Here we go again’, I thought - luckily it blew over quickly and the track dried almost instantly.

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I felt like a needed it!

From the start I was off quick off the line again, but I missed a gear and was unceremoniously shut out to about 4th or 5th at Redgate. I had a good scrap with a couple of the lads at the sharp end though, eventually overtaking them, but alas, I couldn't quite catch Richard Steadman who managed to get away early on. Still, I was happy to reel him in to within two seconds at the finish line and bring the ZX7R home in second place, setting the fastest lap.

I left Donington on a fairly high note, but still couldn't help reminiscing over what might have been. No good dwelling on it though – I'm still third in the championship after missing three races, so I guess things aren't that bad.

Next round is at Snetterton on 1st-2nd May, I hope the weather will be much better then.

 

Racing news

Back on Track

It was great to be back after my four-year break from motorcycle racing, at Brands Hatch for the first round of the ThundersportGB Golden Era Superbikes races at the weekend. I was so excited to be there with a great looking bike. We’ve worked really hard on it since the Donington testing, where we found the rear shock spring to be too hard.

Kais were brilliant. We sent the shock up to them and they installed the softer spring we needed to get the sag right. They had it done, dusted and back to us within two days. They don’t hang about in Atherton.

R&G were also on the pace getting the new crash protectors to us after my spill at McCleans in the wet. Top guys!

Also, big thanks to Cradley Kawasaki for their help and support in getting me this far - it’s been a hectic rush to get things finished in time.

So, we set off to Brands on Friday morning after about 3 hours kip. We’d been flat out all week painting the fairing, putting tyres on, fitting and making new parts. The laquer wasn’t even dry enough to put the stickers on, so we left it to the last minute and put them on at the circuit just before practice.

Friday’s practice was good. I managed to gradually knock seconds off my lap times as the day went on. It was very cold, but sunny and not a bad day really - it felt great to be back in the saddle on a track I really like. You can watch the on-board video to get an idea of how the ZX7R goes.

 

On the Saturday I qualified fastest in the Golden Era SBK class on the very wet and cold 1.2 mile Kent Circuit. Only a rider on a BMW S1000, with traction control, in the GP1 1000cc class (running within the Golden Era SBK race because of over subscription) pipped me to the number one position. This was a promising start, I thought.

When it started raining I knew I’d have a good chance against the more powerful bikes. I am still running a standard 750cc engine because my tuned engine wasn’t finished in time for this meeting. It sort of levelled things out a bit – you don’t need horsepower when it’s wet.

In Race-1 I finished second in a shortened 10-lap race. Unfortunately, in Race-2, I was taken-out by a novice GP1 rider on a Fireblade, who tried to out-brake me at Druids. We both nearly collected John Dieterman, last year’s champion, on the way. I was lucky really, when the guy hit me I didn't touch the ground, I just slid to the gravel with my bike on to top of his. When the Marshall helped me up he said I was good to go again. I just got back on and managed to score a few valuable points.

Satisfied with my recovery for some points I should’ve gone for a quick lap, because I ended up 9th on the third row for Sunday; damn! I’d forgotten that grid positions for Sunday are allocated from lap-times achieved on Saturday.

On Sunday the weather was still cold, but the circuit started to dry out; it was time to test the dry conditions for a change. Not really knowing how well I’d do against the tuned competition, I thought that if I finished top ten, I’d be happy. So you can imagine how thrilled we all were with two podiums, finishing second in Race-3 and 3rd in Race-4. They were very exciting races to be involved in and close – just like old Superbikes.

It was great return to motorcycle racing for me with my team and a good solid performance on an underpowered bike and very pleased to be third in the Championship standings so early on.

Thanks once again to my family and friends for turning up on the Saturday and Sunday to watch, I hope it was as exciting for them as it was for me!

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Next round: Donington Park - 27th-28th March.