my latest blog post about racing. Just had race 1 at Brands Hatch Indy circuit at the weekend. I has been a frustrating offseason!
I am still not allowed to post a link but you can see the actual post with pictures in my signature.
Let me know what you think.
Getting ready for Racing and Round 1 at Brands Hatch
This will be a fairly long post. Sorry about that. I had planned on doing this as two separate posts but some setbacks meant my time ran out to get the bike ready so that was the priority.
My plan for last year was to spend as little on the bike as possible. To see if I enjoyed the racing? Was I any good at it? Did I want to keep doing it? The answer to the last question was a resounding yes so for this year I hatched my plan.
Plan A Ė Get the engine checked.
I wanted to get the engine looked at to make sure that everything was as it should be. I knew Andy Pike had built a lot of engines for the DesmoDue paddock so I thought I would contact him and he agreed to do the work. Now I just needed to take the engine out! This proved to be quite easy-ish although I made it look difficult. My initial plan was to put the foot pegs on axel stands and then lower the engine out using a jack. I was told that was a stupid idea. So next plan was to put the bike on the ground and then lift the frame up and off the engine. I needed to remove the swing arm and exhaust for that. Now I donít have a lot of tools at the moment, I am just building up my collection. I didnít have a chain breaker tool and my hacksaw didnít seem to make a dent in the chain. So I had to take the swing arm off with chain attached. How I made this hard Ė I had to remove the rear brake, cunningly I thought why I donít just take the foot peg off with all the rear brake attached. Genius idea! Or so I thought. I begin to slowly unscrew the foot peg; it was strange because as they loosened off the bolts became really quite stiff. Then the first bolt came out and I had half a bike falling on me! What a muppet! The most difficult part was trying to hold the bike up with one hand and screw the foot peg back in with the other. I should have moved the big tub of old oil and filter before I started this but I didnít. So not only was I holding the bike up, I then had to fish around in the oil after I dropped the foot peg bolt. Magic fun! I did get it back together and after that removing the engine was fairly straight forward.
Sent the engine off to Andy who informed me it was actually in pretty good condition and all looked to be running well. Happy days!
I also wanted to get the suspension sorted. There was mixed opinions on if the suspension needs doing as some felt the old Ducatiís handle no matter what, others suggested nobody at the front (Iím not one of those people...yet) doesnít have sorted suspension. Checking my finances this seemed to be a step too far for this year.
So the engine returned from Andy, now I needed to fit it myself. I thought it would be fairly straight forward since removing it was fairly straight forward. While it wasnít difficult, it was definitely challenging. Holding a bike while trying to lower it onto an engine that seems to want to move, spin and fall over all the time was quite tricky! Eventually it all went back together.
Plan B Ė Fitting full fairings
The bike last year had a cut off 916 style front fairing, seat unit and a catch tray. I wanted to jazz that up a bit so the plan was to go full 916 style fairings. Ordered them, now I just needed to make them fit. I could not believe how long and painful this was! The top fairing went on ok. But the 600SS frame doesnít really have anywhere to mount the 916 style fairings. The new 916 seat was not the same as my old seat. Fun times ahead. I tackled the seat first, making a frame out of steel for the seat to sit on was quite easy, but finding out exactly what angle and stuff I wanted it at was hard to do myself. Creating brackets from paper, then aluminium and steel seemed to work to get it where I wanted it. This year the seat is the right height, tilted forward better but also closer to the front of the bike. I fit in...just. Itís a snug fit.
The side fairings were a bit of a nightmare. I had to consult with Brian Alexander and we decided to take the bike over to Steve Masonís workshop like garage where we would be able to spend some time sorted it out. The hardest part was getting the lower brackets shaped correctly with little space and a confusing number of bends and turns to get it to fit. This proved difficult and took up the majority of the day. Then Brian made some plastic fairing brackets that would attach onto the side fairing to give additional support. Hurrah! I had the whole thing the way I wanted it to look.
Plan C Ė Painting
So now I have everything as I wanted I could start painting. My colour scheme was to be gold and black. I was going to do a rattle can job on the bike and managed to find some gold paint.
Painting the tank
I wanted to strip it back to the bare metal before beginning painting. The problem I found was that the paint had a heavy dose of filler on the left side. My filler job was pretty poor and the whole thing looked exceedingly ropey. I decided to consult an expert and took the tank to a local painted to sort the filler.
Tank now sorted I could paint it gold. Gave it a couple of coats and left it to dry. I donít have a good place to paint so was just doing it outside. So I was working on the bike in the garage as the paint dries. Good job Iím inside cause a heavy shower just came down! Ooops! I left the tank outside and now itís all wet and covered in rain spots. Will need to flat it and apply another coat. Frustrating to say the least.
With all these coats of paint I have put on the tank I thought I best order some more gold for the rest of the fairings. Loaded up Amazon, 1 can remaining. So I put in an order for two and hoped they would arrive in time. I still had to paint the other panels. I had a few days to do this but the lovely Scottish weather didnít want to accommodate me. Eventually I managed to get the bits that are going to be black painted in my collar. It probably cost me a couple of years off my life expectancy painting in such a confined space but needs must. After a week there was still no paint. So searched for the paint on eBay and found it from a German supplier. Ordered 4 cans. Expected delivery date Mon-Thur of the week I am due to race. Fingers crossed the paint arrives in time. It didnít.
So there I am packed up with a bike a lovely colour of black and primer. I stayed in all day Thursday for the paint to arrive so donít have any race numbers either. My stress levels are going through the roof at this stage but I managed to get a friend to knock me up some temporary numbers I can stick on.
Finally the bike is ready-ish.
It was only Duncan Bailey and I who was going from out little van sharing posse and neither of us have a van. So off to enterprise to get a hire. Packed the bike up on Thursday and drove from Glasgow to Edinburgh to get Duncan. Trying to get the van into Duncanís converted underground garage door was quite a challenge, unfortunately too challenging for me and I scraped the right hand panel of the van. Good thing I paid that excess reduction! Packed up all Duncanís stuff and the van looked a little empty. I forgot the Gazebo. And my bed. And my sleeping bag. What a clown! I called in a big favour from one of my friends who were able to drive through late Thursday night. Ivor, what a saviour! Finally we are ready to go racing.
The plan was to get up early, about 630 to avoid the rush hour traffic in Edinburgh and London. I had a terrible nightís sleep, was up all night images of me losing control of the van on lift off over steer, flipping it, destroying the van and the two bikes. The week I had getting all this ready it wouldnít have surprised me. To say I was a bit stressed out was a bit of an understatement.
Off we set and our plan had worked. We made it to Brands Hatch by 2:30pm. Plenty time to unload the van in daylight and both Duncan and I were able to get on track for the final track session. A gods send for me as I had brand new tyres. The Dunlop Alpha 13 is excellent tyres but when new they are lethal until scrubbed. I was happy to get this done on the Friday allowing me to focus on the racing on Saturday.
The bike all passed scruitineering I could finally relax. It was then I noticed how sore my shoulders and body felt. I realised I must have been tense the whole week stressing out about getting the bike ready in time for the race. Finally I could relax.
As this was the first race of the year on Saturday we had practice, qualifying, and then a championship race. The practice session was a little damp, we were first out and we hoped it would have dried up in time for us. It hadnít. I pottered round gingerly trying not to bin it before I even started, unfortunately someone else did and dumped some oil on the circuit. Red flags were out and having completed 4 laps I felt I had done enough and would wait till qualifying. I set a blistering pace of 1:27.176. 2nd slowest of the session. I was happy enough with that though and with a dry track for qualifying I could push.
Qualifying was on second after the practice sessions. This was my first time at the track so I took a steady build up to my pace, focusing on being smooth and finding braking points and turn in points. I felt I had a nice braking point and turn in point to paddock hill bend, and had a good line and pace through clearways. Druids, Graham Hill and Surtees were proving to be much more challenging. I constantly frustrated myself round druids telling myself to take it faster then ending up toddling round time and time again. I knew I could go faster but I just couldnít get myself to do it. Graham Hill I just had crash fear. I think the thought of the left side of my tyre being cold really got in my head and I didnít trust the speed I could take that corner at. This would be a problem all weekend really. Surtees I just didnít know it well enough to know I was doing it wrong. Even with all this I was able to put in a time of 1:01.738. Good enough for 11th on the grid of 14 A bikes. Jack Younge was quicker on his B bike but he would start behind me due to class.
A common theme of last year was my terrible starts and being terrified of the other bikes all around me. This year I seem to have got over that fear a little. I fired off the line, knowing that Paddock Hill is a 4th gear corner and I could probably take it flat out from the start line I knew I needed to keep the gas on. I did, found a nice inside line and made a good start round the first corner. This is where it started to go wrong. Braking too early for Druids let a couple of bikes past me, then down the hill to Graham Hill again on the brakes too early and saw myself dropping back. From my starting position of 11th I was now in 13th over the line. Andy Taylor passed me the next lap to push me down to 14th. I was now behind Tom Roberts. I felt I had better speed through Paddock Hill and round clearways but I was riding so badly when I made a pass I immediately ballsíd up. Out braking myself going into Druids after a pass, clipping the inside of the rumbles at Graham Hill and forcing me to shut off the gas after another pass, are just a couple of examples. Finishing 13 out of 13 A bikes (14 on the road) was quite disappointing. More so because I felt I hadnít done myself justice. I had a new fastest lap of 1:00.927 but that wasnít much consolation. Time to unwind with a fruity cider and come back with a fresh attitude for the Sunday.
I managed to get on for the early practice session; I felt this would help me work on Druids and Graham Hill that was the plan. I managed to get Druids a bit better in the early warm up and was feeling my pace was good without having to push it too hard. I felt comfortable and riding well, hitting my braking points and being smooth. Graham Hill still thwarted me though, I still didnít feel comfortable with the corner but I had round a good line through it, keeping tight to the corner so I could get on the power earlier. There was no improvement in my time as I wasnít looking to put together a complete lap but at 1:01.577 I was happy.
Shortly after the practice it was a qualifying race. I was due to start 14th. Everything was going fine until the warm-up lap. The bike starts coughing and spluttering round and when I pull up to my grid spot it cuts out. I get it back running then look up to see the red light gone on. Panic! Lights go out, I gun it and the bike doesnít. It splutters off the line and everyone comes past me. I get the bike round and into the pits and start the diagnostics. With the help of DesmoDue organiser Kev Ellis and Duncan we were able to work out it was a poor connection to the power commander. Problem solved!
Starting at the back of the grid due to not completing a lap in the qualifying race meant I had a lot of work to do to get a good result. Line up in 18th on the grid and I got off the line well, quickly passed all the Class B bikes (except Jack Younge who started 5th). I set about chasing down Lee Moxham, managed to get onto the back of him and with good drive out of Clearways I was able to slipstream him and pass going down the back straight into Paddock Hill. Up to 12th and set about catching Tom Roberts, my nemesis from race one, he was working his way through the traffic too and passed Andy Taylor. I managed to pass him on lap 6 to move up to 11th, then two laps later passed Rian Hamilton and moved up to 10th. Tom Roberts was a little up the road and despite putting in my three best laps of the weekend I wasnít able to catch him. Andy Taylor did try to out brake me going into Paddock Hill but wasnít able to make it stick. I finished the race 10th on the road but 9th in Class but Mark Hamilton was judged to have a jump start and received a ten second penalty so I finished 8th in Class. It was a great way to end the weekend, I felt like I was constantly behind chasing all weekend. Thatís how the last race played out too, I was really happy with my riding, fastest lap of 59.450. I just wish that had been my qualifying race so I could have mixed it with the faster group that I want to be competing with. Overall though it was an excellent weekend, Brands Hatch is an awesome circuit but I have so much more I can learn and improve. Next up Oulton Park on the 8th of April. Letís hope the paint finally arrives.
Ding Ding – Round 2! Oulton Park
I was really excited for the second round of the season. Two main reasons: 1 – I had been here before so I had a bit of a clue as to where I was going. 2 – Its a fantastic circuit, probably my favourite so far.
I also managed to get my bike all painted up. Finally! Really happy with the look of it although the gold paint is really soft. We already managed to scratch it, and even rubbing it with your fingers dulls the gold as Brian was more than happy to show anyone he could.
Dan and Duncan were heading down from Edinburgh, while Brian came to pick me up. We got down early and I was able to sign on and get out for a half day practice. I knew I had a good braking point for Old Hall Corner and felt I carried good speed through Cascades. I crashed last year at Shell Oils so was taking it a bit gingerly but looking at other peoples pace I didn’t feel like I was losing too much time. I wasn’t trying to put together fast laps was just trying to concentrate on getting the corners right. I think that tricked some people come the race.
We had a fairly late start to the race day being out 5th practice and 7th and 17th for the qualifying and championship races, respectively. I set a blistering pace of 2:12.5 on the morning practice. It was mega busy on track and quite cold so I was taking it fairly easy. Was more worried I’d bin it before the actual races.
We were sharing the grid with the Formula 400 who started ahead of us. I basically ignored them as they weren’t in my class but it did make the racing slightly more “interesting”. I was starting 14th on the grid and had been thinking my best bet would be to go round the outside of Old Hall Bend and then try to get inside position on Cascades. When I was relaxing before the race watching at Old Hall Bend I realised this was a terrible idea. Anyone on the outside were pushed wide and instantly dropped places. So scrapped that idea and just thought to try to get to the inside and find any piece of road not occupied by someone else. I got off the line well and up to 11th by the first corner. My tactic seemed to be working. Through Cascades I saw Kev trying to go round the outside of a KTM RC390. I dived up the inside while the KTM pushed Kev wide and he had to back off. Going into Shell Oils Alan Ball came up the inside dropping me back but Pete Prichard had run on and was out the race. Next in my sights was my Brands Hatch nemesis, Tom Roberts, I got good drive out of Druids and passed on the inside on the brakes going into Lodge. My tighter and slower line meant he out dragged me and was back in front before Old Hall, Scott Wilson, who started last on the grid was now trying to go round the outside of me at Old Hall corner too but I managed to fend him off...for a while. I took a good line through the fast long left hander of Cascades; this is where I lack a bit of killer instinct. I thought about going for the outside round island bend so I had inside position for shell oil’s but I hesitated and though better off it and backed off. At that time Scott Wilson did exactly that to Tom and me. Damn it! I had improved my line through the first chicane and was able to get alongside Tom again and passed on the brakes to the second chicane. I could see Mark Hamilton just a little further up the road so knew if I get the fast bits right I should be able to pull him in. Carrying the speed through Cascades again I was able to slip past Mark into Shell oils. I could see another bike quite a bit further up the road so concentrated on trying to put in some good laps to see if I could make any headway. I don’t think I was but then saw the yellow flags out and Alan Ball in the kitty litter at Knickerbrook meant I finished 7th Ducati and 6th in class. I set a new fastest lap of 2:05.516. Was really happy with my lap times and finished ahead of the second fastest group. I knew I had some more time to come, just hope I could do that in the Championship race.
Championship Race – Points mean prizes!
Starting 7th on the grid I thought if I get off the line well I can get onto the lead group and have them pull me round and hopefully find some more speed. That was the plan. What happened was me bottling it at the first corner. I found myself on the outside of the track, there probably was space for me to lean it over and make the corner but with bikes everywhere I kind of backed out, ran wide and saw just about everyone come past me. I thought if I could just keep my head and get into a rhythm I would be able to work my way past and get a strong finish. That again wasn’t going to happen. There seems to have been a bit of a shambles at the first chicane, I’m sure I saw someone running straight through it, Mark Hamilton had out braked himself and was now trying to get back onto the corner, this caused me to brake harder, which let Brian Alexander drive down the outside of me. What a disaster! I tried to stay calm, get back into a rhythm and Brian could pull me round as he was a bit quicker than me. Into the first chicane I had taken up position behind Brian but I braked a bit later than him and where I was I didn’t think I could find any road so I had to run through the chicane losing out on more positions. It did mean it put me in a bit of a hole in the road with nobody in front of me; I could sort out my riding and put together some good laps. I caught up to David Young and passed him going into Lodge corner. The next group was of Dan James, Philip Murden and Brian. I managed to pull them in by the next lap and dragged past Dan over the start finish line. I was quicker through Cascades than Philip Murden but was too close so lost the drive out of the corner. This let Dan back past going round island bend. I tried to find a way past but laps were running out. I crossed the line 0.1 second behind Philip and 0.3 seconds behind Dan. If I had one more lap I think I could have finished in 8th instead of 10th in class. I did set my new fasters lap of 2:05.227. Overall I was happy with my speed but disappointed with my racing. Need to get a bit more cut throat and have the confidence to go for gaps. It cost me quite a bit in this race but I will be starting 7th at Donington so will be trying to do the same and get onto the back of the lead group. The goal for the year was to be fastest of the second group. Now I’ve done that I need to try and be the slowest of the fastest group!
I went to Oulton.
I was pretty slow.
I got sun burnt too.
Still had proper fun and got a point
Need to find some speed for Donington.