With the TT over, James and I stepped back into the Infront Motorcycles unit on Monday morning and the TT blues really hit hard. Neither of us were really feeling it for the first couple of days to be honest. Things have picked up since then and once again we are flat out building race bikes, maintaining road bikes, swearing and laughing.
With the Wirral 100 meeting only a couple of weeks after the TT, I had all sorts of plans to get the bike prepped and ready to race. As normal, with work building up, the race bike took a back seat and I finally got around to wiping the flies off from the Senior and carrying out a few token repairs on the Wednesday evening before loading the bike up on Thursday! Another TT racer, Dom Herbertson, was set to ride the IFM superstock bike.
Dom had impressed us at the TT, taking bronze replicas and 117mph+ laps in his first TT riding his own superstock Kawasaki ZX6. He is a young lad, from the north east, who like most racers needs some support. He is also a great story teller probably as a result of working in the forest as a lumberjack every day; once he’s got company without ear defenders on he just goes for it! Apparently Byker Grove is a real place, although from the sound of things it’s not the sort of place you’d go for a quiet pint! The most memorable of his stories from the TT has to be about his holiday to America as a child, where he was shocked at the enormity of everything. Most notably the superstores where the cheese aisle sits right next to the shotguns aisle! I can see how this would leave a mark on an impressionable young English lad, I mean you wouldn’t get that at Tesco, and I’m pretty sure not even at Tesco Extra! Ever since this recollection was aired young Ted now keeps piping up at random times of the day “Shotguns….Cheese”.
So after staying at the unit to finish a customer’s track bike build on Thursday night until 10.25pm (needs must) James and I set off for Anglesey that night. For Friday’s practice session I’d been asked by Ricky Leddy of RLR Motorsport to run a couple of his classic TT Suzuki GSXR750 machines. Ricky had built the bikes from the ground up to run at the event during the Manx GP. Paul Shoesmith is set to ride one, with Dan Kneen on the other. It would be an experience for me having not ridden a race bike with carbs since 2004 on my ZXR400. With my head full of instructions, “Don’t just bang the throttle open it’s got flat slides”, “Don’t stall it there’s no starter motor” etc, I headed down pitlane for the first time.
Not that it’s obvious just walking the streets but mankind must have evolved since the early nineties. People must’ve had really long arms and really short legs back then as bikes of this era have a massive reach to the handlebars and a short one to the pegs! I don’t remember people’s knuckle dragging back then but I guess they must have! Squeezing my seemingly hugely long legs on I set about riding a few laps. I was pleasantly surprised – always a fan of early sports bikes (I restored and ride a RD350LC remember) a few laps in and some changes to the bike beckoned, softly sprung suspension was stiffened up and gearing altered.
After a couple more sessions the bike was now feeling like a race bike, riding underneath and around the trackday gang with their modern sports rockets on a bike old enough to remember when ‘Everything I do I do it for you’ spent 16 weeks at number one was quite a satisfying experience! All in all, a successful run out for the RLR bikes, hopefully I’ve given Ricky a direction to go in for their next outing in a few weeks before they head to the Manx. I managed to get a couple of sessions on the IFM superbike too. I had a bit of trouble with a binding and overheating brake, not a surprise given the rushed preparations, oops! A caliper strip and new brake lines for Saturday’s races sorted the problem.
Dom’s inaugral ride on the superstock bike didn’t start so well. Coming back from the riders’ briefing on Friday morning his tyre warmers hadn’t been on for long but the sighting laps were about to get underway. Rushing about, knowing that these laps are important to the organisers for insurance purposes etc he jumped on board full of youthful exuberance. Riding out of the pitlane and tipping into the right handed hairpin of “the banking” on a closed throttle at low speed, the rear, cold tyre cried ‘enough!’ Coming around broadside at first, then gripping and highsiding Dom into the scenery and the bike onto its left side. I don’t think anyone could’ve been as hard on Dom as he was on himself. He obviously had to put up with some piss taking, which was deserved; crashing 200 yards after joining the circuit in mostly male company it’s the only outcome to expect.
I got in from the session and searched all over the place, eventually finding Dom I slapped him on the back turned that frown upside down and we got to work fixing the bike. As I tell Ted, if you fall off you must get straight back on! The bike wasn’t too bad, some cosmetic damage, a bent handlebar and snapped footpeg – it didn’t take much to get it mobile again. We both had a good day from here on in, I got to watch one of the sessions while changes were being made to the classic bike and Dom was looking smooth and fast.
Saturday’s weather was almost perfect for racing, if anything a bit on the hot side. I came in after the qualifying session with not a good word to say. The bike was chattering from the front as I released the brake in the mid-corner. “It won’t do this, I can’t do that blah blah blah” I moaned, although I quietened down a bit when a time sheet was thrust in my face and I was on pole! That aside though if the bike isn’t right then it can be adjusted to go faster, it doesn’t matter where you are in the grid if you know it can be improved. The times were good and there were three of us at the front who were going well; myself, Johnny Blackshaw and David Jones. I was keen on beating the lap times that we were running at the Wirral 100 meeting in March. We had been close to the lap record for the Coastal circuit and I think all of us had our eyes on bagging that.
We had three close races, everyone had a turn at the front. I pushed hard but kept coming up short of the record by half a second. Johnny had a couple of fastest laps, David rode well although lost the front while leading in the senior open at the end of the first day. Johnny crashed in the same race at the first corner leaving me out on my own. I figured I must be the last man standing when I saw all these riders emerging from the barriers during the slowing down lap! Three wins from three starts was a good way to get back into short circuit racing but ultimately the best thing was that there was some top competition and good close racing too. Dom was running well bagging 6th and 7th places, he was bouncing off the walls, great results for his first time on the bike. Not forgetting that he had crashed the day before- none of us let him forget that and we probably never will!
Sunday’s racing took place on the International circuit. Again the main goal was to beat the lap record set by yours truly at last year’s Anglesey Grand. James, myself and Ricky Leddy had slowly been making progress with the chatter from the front wheel. Although it had never really gone away, having spoken to several other riders it would appear that I wasn’t alone with this problem. I now wonder if the circuit is beginning to get bumpier, with car meetings and trackdays on the increase here it could just be the rippling effect that the cars have in the braking areas causing the problems. Anyway the problem was one which others were also having so basically I needed to just get hold of it and make it have it!
I won the first race after a battle with David, still the lap times were half a second short of the record. Johnny beat me to the first corner in the second race, I got a run around the flat out sweeper and made a pass into Rocket, the bike was slightly broadside though! Running wide Johnny got back by me and I had no answer to him, covering the passing line on the final laps I crossed the line 0.1secs behind in what was the best race of the day. I finally made a decent start in the last race of the day getting the hole shot I stuck my head down and went for that lap time. The bike, by this point, was riding great. On the brakes, into the last ninety degree left hander, the rear wheel hangs out with just a touch of the clutch as I tip the bike in to bring it back into line and hit the apex… Perfect. I still didn’t manage to break the record and am starting to wonder how I ever went that fast! I now have a great handling bike with 25 more horsepower and am consistently half a second off, Doh! Dom set some impressive times for only his second time at the circuit and first time on the big bike.
Next up for me is a cycling club’s ten mile time trial which a friend has got me involved with. I have no idea what to expect but he says I won’t look like a weirdo so that’s good. I’ve also got another Oset electric trial to organise and run on July 6th. As always keep an eye on the blog for the updates.
And finally: this got uploaded onto my Facebook by Phil Windrum. I reckon it needs a caption like “strawberry blonde actually”….