Angelsey 2008

Angelsey 2008

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Cadwell 20th - 21st September 2008

Going to Cadwell was quite important to me as the last time I'd ridden a bike I had ended up having quite a major crash and was the first time I had actually been injured racing. It was a fairly uneventful weekend for me though. I went slowly in the first race on the Saturday due to a combination of poor fitness and a painful ankle. The second race I went much better but was still in the middle of the grid. On the Sunday it was scorching hot and I dropped out of the first race due to being just too thirsty to continue, but in the last race i actually got my head in gear and had fun albeit at the back, I have no idea what positions I finished and I was about 10 seconds a lap slower than I would have been on the 250.

Despite all that it was a relief to get back on track. I did realise that the suspension of the 600 was very vague and quite uncomfortable to ride. I did have a chat with the guys at 100% Suspension and it looks like the bike will need a fair bit of setting up for short circuit riding which I don't think I really want to do on a 600. It was very good for the Southern 100 and if I ride it next year it would be on the roads. Roll on 2009.

Home July to September 2008

I can't tell you how bored I have been! 2 months sat on my arse unable to go anywhere due to a lump of plastic on my leg. I managed not to fall foul of the evils of daytime TV but it wasn't easy. I now have a great appreciation of how hard life is when you can't get about.

On the plus side I got an interim payment from the insurance which has paid the bills and I should be getting the rest in a week or two. I also have a new job which I should be starting in October so all in all not too much of a disaster. We are going to Cadwell at the end of the week and dropping the 250 off with Iain McDonald who will be taking it home. I'll be sorry to see it go and wish I could have completed the season on it but that's racing. I have learned a lot from it and next year I will be running the 500 ZX6R (now named ERIC) with a stock engine. It will be treated to some proper suspension though. Onward and Upward!

Donnington 12th July 2008

Friday morning we piled onto the ferry out of Douglas. There were a lot of racers on there going home from the Southern 100 and a few Manxies heading out to UK circuits. We were sat on the ferry and opposite us was sat Guy Martin and his mates. I've always liked him because he seems like a normal bloke that can ride fast rather than a superstar. As the journey progressed I was walking back to my seat from the toilet and he shouted me over. I was wearing my old Rage Against the Machine sweatshirt and the silly bugger wanted to buy it off me. We I've had it a long time and Guy offered me 20 for it so it was off with the top and 20 in my pocket and a laugh and a giggle and an autograph. Well funny.

We arrived at the circuit and it was damp, the place was packed and the forecast was for rain the next day. We got set up with Angus Mcmahon and his wife Tracey who are from the island and I waited for the bike to arrive which it did around 8.00pm. I got up early and set the bike up for the day which looked like it was going to be dry and sunny. I went out in practice which was really dull as I had to run the bike in which meant by the end of practice I still hadn't had it flat out. The first race was the Open 400 and I was on the second row. I didn't fancy launching it at full revs having only just run it in and spent the first few laps keeping pace with people around me, when Dino on his unpredictable FZR came past me. Red rag to a bull, I wound the power on and passed him back. We then spent the next 3 laps falling all over each other and some poor 250 got caught up in the middle of it. Basically Dino would pass me on the straights and I would get him straight back a couple of corners later and the passes were getting closer every time, my favourite was when I was behind the other 250 going into Mcleans and Dino pulled past up the inside. They both braked and I didn't and went between the pair of them. I was quite happy with that and looking forward to the F400 race. Unfortunately I got a poor start but started to make places back going into Craner Curves. I got my way up to around 11th place and was working on passing a 400 which I did but he kept coming back at me on the straight as the head wind seemed to make my bike quite sluggish. I tried to outbrake him into Goddards and ended up running onto the grass. This meant I lost about 8 places, I rejoined the track and set about chasing the bikes that I had let past. After 2 laps I had caught them up and going into Redgates I was trying to get round the outside of the first bike when I realised there was no way I was going to make it round. I stood the bike up and trundled into the gravel trap and promptly got stuck. Then fell over. Then started punching the floor and throwing handfuls of gravel about. I was escorted off by the Marshals and after the race it took 5 of us to drag the bike out of the gravel it was that deep.

We cleaned the bike up and I went out for the second Open race. I saw Dino in the holding area and was expecting another ding dong but he didn't get out. I got a good start this time and was going well when as I came out onto the back straight the throttle broke. Initially I thought it was the cable but it was actually the twistgrip. I immediately put my hand up and started to drift out to the side of the track as I was loosing speed and everyone else was probably going a full pelt. I pulled in the clutch and I had my left leg out to show I was moving off to the left. All the other bikes were passing me when suddenly I felt a bang and was thrown from the bike. The instant it happened I remember thinking how it was a really hard collision and the other bike must have been going flat out. I was in the track on all fours and my ankle hurt so much that I couldn't stand up. I crawled onto the grass and looked for the bike which was still going on two wheels on the grass bashing against the armco. The other riders bike was a mangled heap against the armco. I had to scramble over the low wall and a fell on my back and just lay there. I couldn't believe the silly twat hadn't seen me and didn't try and avoid me. I even told the Marshal this.

The marshals were very good and sorted my bike out which had come to a halt eventually and even came over to me and told me it wasn't too bad. I got a lift to the medical centre and ended up sat opposite the other rider. I didn't say much to him as he looked like he was in a lot of pain (not enough!) and although I wanted give him a roasting I just couldn't be arsed. Turns out he'd broke his arm or wrist and was still being treated when I left. For myself I thought I'd broke my leg but the x-rays showed there was nothing broken. I was given a tubi-grip bandage and sent on my way. Once we got the bike back which wasn't too badly damaged I cancelled my entry to Cadwell as I couldn't see it getting rebuilt in time and didn't see the point if I couldn't walk properly.

We spent the night in the pub and the next day at my Moms house by which time my ankle was twice it's normal size and mostly purple. I was pretty sure it was broken somewhere so when we got of the ferry at 6.30am Monday morning we dropped Jon's truck off and Jackie took me to A&E. 5 hours later I was sat in a hospital bed on the trauma ward. I ended up in the hospital for 3 days trying to reduce the swelling enough to allow a cast to be fitted. I have a fractured Talus which apparently is hard to do and I am waiting to here if I need to have it operated on. I hope not as that would mean 3 months off instead of 6 weeks. So as things stand I'm quite fed up and have a load of paperwork to sort and insurance claims to fill out when really I should be getting ready to race. What really ticks me off is I've been racing for 6 years and had quite a few crashes some at high speed and have never had an injury worth mentioning. Then some idiot comes along and runs into the back of me and ruins the entire season through his ineptitude. This sort of thing is what is making me want to race on the roads as you seem to get a better class of rider there who appreciate how dangerous it can be. Looking on the bright side I may well be fit for Oulton park at the end of August and might be able to salvage some results there.

Southern 100 Diary 2008

10th July 2008

Thursday morning was damp. I went for a drive round the circuit at 9.00am on the way to the paddock and as far as I was concerned the track was dry. It was also quite breezy but that was good as it looked like it was bringing clearer weather with it. A while later I had my mate Jules ringing up telling me how wet it was and I should be putting wets on or at least intermediates. The argument went on for a while ending in me calling him a poof. So at 10.15am I went out on dry tyres although I had told Jules I had inters on and he hadn't seen the tyres before I went out.

Out on the track it was pretty much dry except in the area approaching Iron Gate, and we came round to the grid for the start. I was on row 6 next to Mike Noble and when the lights went out I hoisted the front wheel up and had to roll the throttle. I managed to recover and got a good charge up the inside to the first corner passing 4 or 5 bikes. I then got my head down for the rest of the lap but coming out of Castletown Corner I missed a gear and Mike and Jez hill and John Batty all shot passed me. I chased after them down the start finish straight and was quite pleased to be able to reel them in. As the race developed I found myself behind John and I could see the other two in the near distance but I started to drop back, then on the 3rd lap the back end came round on me at Iron Gate which is probably one of the worst places to come off. This slowed me down a lot on this section for the rest of the race but I found myself reeling in Johns bike towards the end of the race. On the next to last lap I was right behind him going into Ballakeigan but I couldn't stop quickly enough and had to ride the bike up the pavement which lost me loads of time. Since it was late in the race and I knew I wouldn't be able to make up the lost ground I took it a bit steady for the rest of the lap and ended up being lapped at the last corner which I was hoping to avoid. On the plus side I had a good race and ended up with a finishers award so not all bad.

I was next due out in the Senior Support race at 5.00pm and I was all set for it after all the hours of waiting in the rain but unfortunately it was cancelled due to a couple of crashes in the 2 races before it. I came away from the meeting feeling a little disappointed as I was really looking forward to getting back out on the track. All in all an up and down meeting but I'm quite happy with getting a finish and qualifying for 2 races which is all I really expected from a 500 bike. I was also really pleased with the bike which turns out is blindingly fast considering what it is. I think I'll be using it again sometime soon.

9th July 2008

It's wet! Heavy rain started at about 3.00pm which wouldn't have stopped the racing as such but then the fog came too. I wasn't due to be going out tonight so we went down to Castletown later than usual to do some work on the bike. As we got close to the circuit I could see it had been cancelled due to the travelling marshals riding towards me. Obviously it's a shame that the nights races have been cancelled but hopefully the weather will improve for Thursday. So assuming everything will be going to plan I gave the bike an oil change, repaired the bellypan that got damaged by the hot exhaust and fuelled up the bike. End of days racing. I'm feeling a bit let down to be honest as I have enjoyed the laps that I have done so far and can't wait to get back out.

Before we left I checked the grid positions and I'm 18th on the grid of 20 for the 600 B race first thing in the morning. The grid for the Senior support race hasn't been posted and I imagine it'll partially depend on the result from the two 600 races as to who gets to race. Fingers crossed.

8th July 2008

Tuesday night I was all set to do my one practice session and try and get a really good laptime. I'd bought some new brake pads and some Stomp pads for the tank to help me hang on to the bike better. Basically we did some maintenance on the bike and then sat in the holding area for my turn to go out. While I was waiting at the gate Jez Hill kindly offered to lead me round for a lap to give me an idea of the right lines. This went pretty well up until church bends where I just don't know how to go quick around, and Jez got away from me and I was passed by 2 other bikes. As we came back onto the start finish straight I got my head down and was going flat out when it felt like something had fallen off the right side of the bike. At first I thought it was the foot peg but when I looked down I saw the exhaust had broken away from the hanger and was sat in the belly pan. I quickly pulled in to the slip road to the holding area and found that the bolt had fallen out or sheared off. As we were running around trying to get tools and some bolts organised the practice was red flagged due to one of the bikes blowing an engine and dumping oil on the circuit. The upshot of this was that I didn't get a laptime but as the practice was only 2 laps for everyone the qualifying time hadn't changed. So I'm definitely in the 600cc B race and probably in the Senior B race which both take place on Thursday. Wednesday night I'm going to be giving the bike an oil change and checking it over as there is no more practice sessions. This does mean that I'll be going out in a race with only 10 laps of practice under my belt.

7th July 2008

I drove down to Castletown this afternoon with Jackie and I have to say I thought I was going to have to pull over and be sick. Right up to going out on the guided lap for newcomers I was really not feeling upto the job in hand. However as soon as I was out of the holding area I settled down and was 5th bike back from the Travelling Marshal, that way I could get an idea of the right lines. The 2 laps passed easily enough and I felt like I wanted to go much quicker. First 600 practice came up pretty quick and I set off again and tried to find somebody to follow but mostly I went backwards and on the 3rd lap went straight on at Cross 4 Ways then on the next lap went straight on at Ballakeigan. I ended up outside the 120% time by 1 second with a 2:58.517 or 85.706mph lap. The brakes felt quite rubbish to be honest and the bike was very flighty around the bombhole section. We serviced the brakes and filled the tank to give the bike a bit more weight on the front. Next practice I got out behind Keith Mckay who knows his way around the Southern and picked up a few lines off him before he eventually got away. Highlight of the evening was being passed by Ian Lougher, Michael Dunlop and Victor Gilmore in the space of 2 corners coming back into Castletown. I've watched these guys race the TT and it's even more impressive to watch when you are just behind them even for a few seconds. The practice ended too quickly and I would have liked to have done a few more laps but ended the night with a 2:51.425 or 89.252 mph lap which was well within the 120% time. So more than happy with that on a 500 bike.

Here's a video Jackie took on the night, I'm on the black and orange blur that's the 5th bike to come past!

6th July 2008

We spent today setting up camp at Castletown ready for Monday night's practice, I had a few niggly jobs to fix on the 600 but it was hot sunny day and quite relaxed in the paddock. Signing on in the evening was a bit long winded, although I enjoyed the Newcomers sighting lap in the course car. However we didn't get home til late and this is probably the way the rest of the week will go so I imagine I'll be completely done in by Thursday.

Snetterton 21st to 22nd June 2008

I've been looking forward to Snetterton for most of the season and I've been praying for a wet race weekend since Brands Hatch. I got both at Snetterton on the Saturday and it all started off very well with a steady practice and then a 6th place in the F400 and a 3rd in the F250. So far so good. I skipped the Open 400 first race as the weather was a bit changable and I didn't fancy getting taken out by a thunderbike.

As we were waiting for the second F400 race I was checking out the track and although there was a band of rain in the distance the track was drying and my gut feeling was to take the wets off and go with the dry tyres, however I left it to be safe and in the holding area saw that the rest of the grid were on wets. I wish I had listened to my instincts because the track was dry as a bone by the 2nd lap of the race. If I'd had put the dry tyres on not only would I have been pushing for the front of the race I wouldn't have wrecked a set of wets. Mind you everybody else was in the same boat but I gradually moved backwards from 6th on the grid to a 12th place finish as it felt I was riding on jelly tyres. Having said that I still was 3rd 250 which meant I got a nice trophy and a hat so not too bad. I would have been much happier if the track had stayed properly wet though.

I put the dry tyres on but left the suspension set up for the wet and went out in the Open 400 purely on the off chance of grabbing another trophy and was going well in 4th place when my chain snapped on the 2nd lap. I coasted up to a marshal point and after the race they kindly fetched my chain for me, before taking me back to the paddock where I discovered that the engine cases had been damaged. I had to araldite the broken cases up and I also had to scrap the chain as it was damaged and had obviously stretched. Luckily I had a spare chain, kindly supplied by Sean at The Tuning Works

Sunday was quite warm and sunny to start off with and I was keen to do well in the first F400 race but as we set off it was red flagged on the second lap when Freddy Pett was taken out by a 400 on the end of the back straight. Unfortunately for him he had to be taken to hospital for a check up and it turns out he had injured the ligaments in his ankle. This meant we lined up on the grid for the restart and although I got a much better start I still started going backwards. I just couldn't get the bike round the corners the way I wanted and started to make stupid mistakes. I ended up in 14th position in the F400 and 3rd 250 again. Snetterton really doesn't seem to suit the 250's. It was about halfway through the race that I realised that the suspension hadn't been reset to dry settings.

I sorted the bike out in the paddock and went out in the Open 400 race to get some track time in. After a good run I finished 4th and felt a bit better about things although my laptimes were not much better than the previous year which was quite disappointing.

The last F400 race came up and I got a pretty good start and was going well until on the 4th or 5th lap ran very wide out of Sear corner and had to ride for about 100yards on the grass, which dropped me a place to Brian Inglis on the ZXR400. I set about trying to reel him in over the next few laps but on the next to last lap on the fast back straight Dino on his new FZR came past. I outbraked him into the esses which gained me a load of ground on Brian and as we came round to Russels i was able to outbrake him as well. I set off up the start finish straight and my braking for the first corner was none existant as I was determined not to be passed. I came round Sear corner onto the straight and as I was changing up the engine stopped dead. I pulled the clutch in immeadiatley and hit the kill switch, and watched as bike after bike passed me while all I could do was coast to the end of the straight and off the track. I was half a lap from home and the bike was due to be given and engine refresh at the end of the meeting. I wasn't too upset and once I'd got back to the paddock I checked the bike. I wasn't surprised to find that the crank had snapped behind the flywheel which is exactly what happened to Leighton Walker when he had the bike at Snetterton. If the engine had lasted until the end of the race I would have had a 9th place finish in the F400 and 3rd 250. All in all a mediocre weekend, at least the bike is back with Stu for a rebuild and will be fresh as a daisy for Donnington.

Angelsey 31st May to 1st June 2008

I had never been to the new Angelsey circuit before like many of the other riders so I was hoping to do well, assuming I could work out the lines quickly. We arrived in scorching sunshine on the Friday which was the trackday. I couldn't do this as we had booked the ferry in February due to it being TT Fortnight and didn't know about the trackday then. So the only preparation I had was to walk round the track Friday night which was pretty useful.

Saturday morning I was pretty relaxed but had no idea what gearing to use so had a best guess which turned out to be not right at all in practice. Having said that I was going well and passing people until I went far too fast into a tight left hander and had to go for a ride round in the grass for 5 minutes. I felt quite happy and I had set myself a target of a 1'17"00 laptime which I thought was possible but would be hard to do.

The Weather was the same as Cadwell so the jetting seemed spot on and after putting the right gearing on the first race up was the F400 because the race programme had been changed around so that we weren't last to race for a change. Unfortunately it meant I wouldn't get the extra practice time by doing the Open 400 race but of course most of us were in the same boat. First race I was 9th on the grid and got a reasonable start into the first corner which was a proper melee where I dropped down the grid but we all got through cleanly. Coming out of the second corner I made a few places back up and was pleased to have passed Mark Jordan on the quick KR1S, but coming round the next corner the back tyre spun up quite a lot, although I wasn't too worried as the bike settled itself, but I probably lost quite a bit of time. I got settled in as Mark passed me again and was slowly drawing in a ZXR400 who looked round on the next to last lap as I was sneaking up on him, he obviously got his head down and we had a good scrap for the next few corners until he ran wide and I was able to nip past and get away. Finished 11th 400 and 6th 250 which was a bit disappointing and my laptime was only 1'19"42. I changed my gearing again and went out for the Open 400 which is a mixed grid with the Thunderbikes. I hate the Thunderbikes because they are so slow in the corners and get in the way of the race I'm in, so I wasn't surprised to finish last and not improve my laptime.

The second F400 race came round pretty quickly and I got a better start from 11th on the grid and found myself chasing the same ZXR400 but in front of him was Freddy Pett on the RS250 which is who I really wanted to pass. I got my head down and after about 6 laps managed to get past the 400 again but by this time Freddy had disappeared into the distance. Finished 9th 400 back where I started and 5th 250, with a slightly better laptime of 1'18"52, which was only half a second off Freddy's pace. The Open 400 came round far too quickly but out we went and I got a good start only to have to brake really hard as 3 thunderbikes went down at the first corner. All of us that stopped and avoided them slowed down thinking the red flags would come out only to discover the other half of the grid had carried on round the next corner. A lot of frantic acceleration ensued as we all realised the race was still on. I think due to this I managed to get higher up the grid and although I didn't see another 400 or 250 I had a scrap with an R1. No I can't believe that either. Finished 3rd in the Open 400 and got a very nice silver plate for my trouble. First trophy I've had since 2006 and put out a laptime of 1'17"81 which I was pleased with. I had a good look at the bike that evening and helped out Dave Andrews who was still having trouble with his aprilia. I also had Mark Jordan telling me (jokingly) that I should know my place in the races which was behind him.

Sunday was an overcast day but the temperature was only slightly lower as it was quite humid. I left the jetting alone as it all seemed to balance out and it was an earlier start to the racing with the F400 out at about 9.15am. I think some people were still asleep as I got a brilliant start from 9th on the grid and was chasing the leaders through the first few corners. As we settled into our positions I had Freddy in front of me but I just could not pull him in, about half way through the race I checked behind me and was well clear of the next bike and as I wasn't making any progress started to think about holding my position and taking the points which was how it finished. I was 6th 400 (my best F400 finish ever) and 4th 250. My laptime was 1'17"22 which was 6 100ths of a second slower than Freddy and overall I was only 6 seconds behind him at the end of a 10 lap race. I was very happy with that. The Open 400 race I was 12th on the now completely mixed grid behind Freddy. I got yet another great start and after 2 laps broke away from the slower bikes so all I could see in the distance was Freddy again. I was within 50 yards of him and it was then that I realised I was 2nd in the Open 400 race. All I had to do was get past for my first ever win. I can only assume this is what motivated me because on lap 8 I completely reeled Freddy in with a blistering lap (I found out later) of 1'15"99. The last 2 laps were a proper battle with us swapping places 2 or 3 times and I thought I had him as I was in front coming into the corkscrew where I was faster, but Freddy as ever got up the inside of me and we had the traditional dash out of the last corner for the line where Freddy beat me by 16 100ths of a second. Looking at the time sheets if we'd have been at that pace in the F400 we would have been 2nd and 3rd overall and 1st and 2nd 250's. I was completely fired up for the next F400. I'd done the fastest 250 laptime for which I had words of congratulations from Mark Jordan and I was 6th on the grid slap bang in the middle on the second row. I got the best start of the day and was first into the corner, where Tim Bradley on the unbeatable FZR came round the outside of me. Then I passed him at the next corner and he passed me on the straight. After that I followed him more or less on his back wheel and I was determined to stay with him. As we came round the top of the corkscrew I was within 10 yards of him and as we went down the hill I reeled him in a little, at the bottom corner he was going slower than me and I had to brake where normally I would have just rolled off, and as we came round the corner the tyres let go and I was sliding into the dirt. First crash of the year and it had to be when I was in 2nd place. In the video below I'm the black blur in second place and you can't quite see me lose it at the end of the lap as we come down the hill

Fortunately I had only broken the footpeg and set about fixing the bike and checking it over before the last Open 400 race. All was well and I pulled into Scrutineering as everyone was waiting to go out of the holding area. I have to be honest, the only reason I went out is because the trophys on offer were absolutely massive. I had a good run out and had a 3 way scrap with Freddy and a guy on a gp250 bike and ended up in 3rd place in the end which was good enough to add a very nice silver cup.

All in all despite the crash I had a good weekend and finally got into a position to challenge for a win. After all the hard work last year and coming up with not much I am very much happier with the season so far. I can't wait for Snetterton as I really liked it last year on a badly handling bike so I'll be expecting some more trophies from there.

Cadwell Park 4th to 5th May 2008

It's 7.15am Saturday morning and we have to be at the ferry at 8.00am. We've just finished loading Jon's Race truck I get in the cab and turn the engine over. Only I don't cos the batteries are flat. What followed was some swearing. More swearing and shouting. After a short period of running about uselessly I had the sense to take the battery off the van we had driven to the truck in and swap it for one of the truck batteries. This didn't work. Very loud swearing. Then I swapped it for the other battery and the truck started. Phew. We turn up to the ferry 10 minutes late and are the last ones on. We then had a nice trip across with Nick Crowe and his family as they were going to Cadwell too.

We arrived at Cadwell at about 5.30pm having dropped the Triumph off with it's happy new owner to find the paddock completely full. So we ended up in the top field and I parked near another big truck as there was a guy with a Aprilia 250 nearby. Turns out it was Dave Andrew and it was his first ever race meeting. So having got settled in and chatting to people and catching up we were all set for racing next day. Got up early for scrootinering and then adjusted the jetting on the carbs as it looked like it was going to be a warm one. Practice went well and I was a bit cheeky when the chequered flag came out. I killed the engine at full chat on the straight and pulled in claiming to have overheating problems and got a lift back to the paddock. Checked the plugs and they were a bit rich so I went down a size ready for the race. Which didn't start for another 5 hours!

First race was good, I got a good start from 9th on the grid and got into a good scrap with Dave Williams and Iain MacDonald for 9th place, and after a few changes of place I thought I had them beaten when I made a complete mess of going into the hairpin and let both of them through. I was quite annoyed with myself as I'd gone from 9th to 11th in one corner. Finished the race 11th overall and 5th 250. I was reasonably pleased with a best lap of 1'48" which was a big improvement on my previous best of 1'53".82. The second race was pretty unremarkable really, apart from Paul Ellerker having a big crash at the gooseneck early on. I was basically all on my own in 10th place circulating round when yet again I got mugged going into the hairpin, this time by Phil Harrison on the FZR. I know I can beat this bike even though it's quick and I tried reelling him back in but it was the next to last lap and I just didn't have enough time to do it. Bit of a dissapointment as I hadn't gone any quicker and I finished 11th again, however this time I was 4th 250 due to Freddy throwing his bike down at the hairpin.

Monday I was hoping to do better as I had jetted down again as it was even hotter, 25 degrees by mid afternoon and had changed my gearing for a bit more top speed. First race I got a rotten start and was going up the hill to Charlies behind Dino Brady in about 15th. I knew I was going to get bogged down so I charged round the outside of Dino pretty close to the white line and got my head down going on the straight. This seemed to do the trick and found myself chasing down Phil Harrison again who was in 8th. Basically apart from Paul Ellerker and Dan williams blasting past us and disappearing all I could see was the back of Phils wheel and I was trying to line him up for a pass on the last lap. This all went wrong as we approached the Hairpin for that last time and the yellow flags came out as a novice was riding on the grass. I rolled the throttle going through Hall Bends to find a dayglo Scotsman flying up my inside at the Hairpin. I wasn't happy and the 3 of us were in a last dash for the line with backmarkers in the way. So that'll be another 11th Place overall and 5th 250, however I had dropped my best laptime to 1'46"78. Second race I got a great start and was in 7th place after one lap when the red flags came out. We all pulled in to the grid at which point it occured to me that I had been pretty exact with the amount of fuel I had put in and if we had to do a warm up lap and the full 8 laps I might not have enough to finish the race. After a long wait we restarted and I got another good start, passing Iain again. I was going well and I knew that Iain would be trying to dive up the inside at the Hairpin so I closed the door on him only to find he was going for it anyway and ran into my front wheel. Not a problem to be honest as we both stayed upright but it meant that Phil harrison got past me at the same time. I went out work on beating Phil this time and was all over him. We exchanged places a few times and were going so hard at it we reeled in Chris Waters on the ZXR400 and passed him. I could even see Freddy in the distance ahead of us. I thought I had him lined up for the last corner and race to the finish line only to find the same backmarker in the middle of the track at the Hairpin. Before now backmarkers hadn't really been a problem for me and I'm still getting used to trying to put clean passes in on slow riders while maintaining my pace and trying to pass other bikes that are as fast as me at the same time. Never mind though, I finished 10th overall, 5th 250 and got a best lap of 1'46.06 which is almost 8 seconds a lap faster.

Croft Circuit 12th to 13th April 2008

We arrived Friday afternoon, and immediately found Dino Brady and Matty Graves for a bit of catching up. Definitely makes the weekend more enjoyable being able to poke fun at each other before we start racing. Dino's bike looks the business but he was having problems, as was Adam Molloy that day and I helped out as best I could as usual but hadn't bothered to bring any 22 spares as we were in the little van this time around.

Saturday morning was damp and knowing Croft as well as I do decided to leave the dry tyres on as the wets would have lasted about a lap (although I was praying for the rain to come after my experience at Brands). I did a few laps getting quicker and settled in. Coming out of the chicane after Hawthorn I decided to gas it up as I cleared the apex and the back end whipped round on me, I managed to hold it by sticking both feet on the ground and paddling along like a demented loon. To be honest the bike handled so well and I felt so relaxed with it that once it had got back in line I got my head down and carried on. I didn't realise Alan Armour was right behind me at the time, bet he was pissing himself. At the end of that lap he came out of the hairpin alongside me and we had a nice drag race down the straight. I don't know if he was at full chat but I know he brakes later than me so I was quite happy at the end of practice. First Open 400 race I set off and just generally did more practice and I honestly don't remember anything remarkable about it apart from being dissapointed with a laptime of 1.46 which I thought was rubbish, I was begining to think I'd never get any faster at this circuit. I changed the gearing and jetting and rushed like hell to get ready for the holding area only to sit there for 10 minutes as there was an oil spill "somewhere between Tower and Sunny out" That's most of the track then. The first F400 race I got a great start from 10th on the grid and was hanging on to the lead group for half a lap and then got into a scrap with 2 400's which was good for me as I started to remember places to pass. Came home 10th 400 and 5th 250 with a laptime of 1.43.12 which was a personal best ever lap at croft and made me feel much more relaxed. I didn't do the next Open 400 race as I wanted to save the bike and it looked like the rains might finally come so I wanted to have time to swap on to wets however the weather held off and for the second F400 race I lined up on the same spot on the grid. The lights went red I launched, the lights were still red I stopped short of the front row and waddled back to the 3rd row as the flags came out and the grid was reset. Sorry for all the burnt clutch plates everyone! The lights went out for the second time but I wasn't ready and lost loads of places. I piled into the first corner and almost got round the outside of Iain McDonald then seemed to pass a few bikes but I wasn't counting to be honest and as I came round the end of the first lap I was convinced I was still at the back somewhere. I got my head down and going into Tower I locked up the back and ran straight off and stopped about 10 yards into the cornfield. I jumped off the bike and as I turned it round and tried to get it in neutral the marshal ran up and pushed the seat unit so hard the seat popped out. Then he told me to park it up. Once the argument had finished I was so determined to get back out I dug a huge furrow in the mud and got stuck. Having calmed down I did the sensible thing and parked up. Turns out looking at Jackie's video of the end of the first lap I'd chucked away a 9th place in the 400's and probably a 4th in the 250's!

Spent a long time cleaning mud off the bike that night.

Sunday I went out in the first open 400 to check out the bike and pulled in at the end of the warm up lap as the right carb had jammed open due to a floating HT lead fouling the mechanism. Lucky this happened in warm up! For the first F400 race I was at the back of the grid but having chatted to a local got the info on when the red lights actually go out, and got a clean start straight through the pack and after a lap I had broken clear and was chasing down Phil harrisons FZR when he pulled in, easy I thought, as a zxr blasted past me to take his place taking me completely by surprise. The only notable things about the race were following Dave Reynolds on the other VJ23 for half a lap before I passed him, and getting back to the paddock and seeing my laptimes 1.40.31. This was 3 seconds faster. Speaks for itself. Another 10th in the 400 class and a 4th in the 250 class.

Chatted to Alan Armour's mechanic, Tex, in the garages as my back tyre was a bit worn and he told me to drop my pressures, as I was getting front end chatter too. I went out for the 2nd F400 10th on the grid again and did it all again. I was behind Dave on the other VJ23 for 2 laps this time and I was trying to find a way past him when Dan Williams on the NSR 250 passed me, then I got the pair of them going into the complex, then Dan came past me again, I like this sort of thing, and that NSR is the business.

Anyway Dan disappeared and I was reeling in a 400 and tried an ambitious undertake at the Jim Clarke esses and ended up doing a huge stoppie and went all the way off the track but got back on 1 place down. Finished 11th 400 and 4th 250 again. Laptime 1.39.26.

My best ever lap round croft used to be 1.43.85, and in a weekend on a properly sorted bike I took 4.59s off. I think that proves what Stu was saying about the bike, as not only is it brilliant to ride it inspires confidence in the rider.

Brands Hatch 20th to 22nd March 2008

Having settled in on the Wednesday night, Stu Jones turned up Thursday morning at 8.00am sharp as promised with the bike. We set to going over everything I needed to know and soon enough it was time to take her out for the first session of the test day. I had to run the bike in for the first 3 laps or so, but when I had that done I set off feeling my way around. I came back in and Stu pointed out that I wasn't using the quickshifter! Basically the day went well each session showing me more and more of the capability of the bike, it was everything I had been told it would be. When I set off for the 3rd session the rain started falling but I had been told the bike was very good in the wet. Most of the other riders slowed their pace during the session but I kept pushing until towards the end the back wheel gave a little slide at Surtees and I slowed the pace. No sense throwing it away when testing. The next session was properly wet so I did 3 laps to scrub the wet tyres in and called it a day while we set about going over the maintenance needed at the end of each days racing. Not only is it fun and easy to ride it is a doddle to work on. Race day was cold and I went out in the 400 Open/Thunderbikes race purely for practice. It was good as I got to do a start which was simple with the dry clutch and found that I was working my way through the grid, however halfway through I got my foot caught on the gearchange footrest and lost all my momentum going into Graham Hill bend and was swamped by the bikes behind me. I wasn't too upset as I was practicing for the F400 in reality and at the end of the race adjusted the lever to stop it happening again. The first F400 race I was on the front row and as you can see from the video below I was first into the corner but Adam Molloy came up the inside and was the first out of the corner.

It was my first taste of being up the front and finished 10th overall after a good battle with Freddy Pett, Dave Williams and Philip Harrison which more or less set the tone for the weekend. The second Open race was uneventful but useful for trying to go faster although as I was to find no matter what I did I could not get under 58s a lap. The weather was closing in and I thought I was going to have a good race on dry tyres in damp/dry conditions however looking at the weather deteriorate I made the decision to put wets on early unlike several other riders who were struggling to get tyres changed as we were called to the holding area. I was 10th on the grid and had a good start, came through the corner in 8th/9th and worked away battling with Freddy again finally finishing 8th. It was a good race for me as I finished 3 seconds ahead of the bike behind me and the next bike after that was another 15+ seconds away. The interesting part of the race was working my way through the backmarkers, some of them I lapped twice! My best laptime was only 2.5 seconds off the leading bike which was an excellent confidence boost. The bike was rock solid in the wet and no matter what I did I never felt even close to having a moment or slide. The footage is the first corner of the race and shows the amount of water on the track which got worse as the race progressed.

Sunday was cold and damp and I had left the wets on. I decided to give the Open race a miss as it was damp and there were a lot of crashes the day before in this one, and I didn't want to get caught up in an incident for no reason. As the track was drying but the temperature was only 4 degrees most people were staying on wet tyres however I decided the supercorsas were a better option even though it was a bit of a risk. Having seen how well the bike performed I didn't think it would be a problem. It was the best decision as every bike with wets on destroyed their tyres within about 6 laps. I think most people hadn't thought about the fact we were doing 15 laps. I got caught up on the start by a wheelying Mark Jordan and the bikes on wets took off and put good lap times down until about lap 5 or 6, those of us with dry tyres all got our fast laps in around about lap 10 onwards so I found although I had dropped a few places I made some of them back towards the end of the race, I almost beat Freddy as he was on wets and couldn't quite pass him before the finish line missing out by only 0.16s finishing 11th. The last F400 race was a disaster for me, the sun was out so I fitted a dark visor which promptly started to steam up in the warm up lap, I got a good start but every time I wanted to pass somebody I couldn't see and had to resort to holding my breath before trying a pass. Despite this and the snow which kept falling intermittantly throughout the race I managed my fastest lap of the weekend of 58.24s and finished 13th. Overall a good start to the season.

18 February 2008

I've just unloaded the RGV from the van having been to Oulton Park on the 16th of February for a Hottrax track day. It was a bitterly cold 3 degrees when we arrived at the cicuit and only managed to get up to 5 degrees during the rest of the day despite the clear blue sky. I'd never run the bike at these sort of temperatures and missed the first session jetting the carbs to suit the conditions. I went out for a session but couldn't get the bike to run at more than 40 degrees so even more tape went on the radiator. Maybe too much it turns out, as during the next session the bike blew a gasket and seized the engine. That looked like the day was over but I was with Bob and Wayne from RoughArse Racing and Bob kindly offered to let me have a go on his 900RR Fireblade just to get some track time. I said yes but wasn't too sure it was a good idea, however I soon got into it and had a really good time on the bike. It was a real eye opener as the suspension was set well and showed up how hard to ride my RGV really is. By the end of the day I was quite happily redlining the bike in places, going round the outside of bikes at Cascades and having a lot of fun. As a result of this I've decided to do the track day at Jurby Airfield on it and 99% sure I'll be racing at Jurby Road on it in May.

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