Tuesday, 19 June 2012

2012 Round Four: Snetterton Sunday

We woke on Sunday to a somewhat less windy paddock. After a quick discussion, we decided that if I was going to be capable of performing better than yesterday, going out for the practice session would be a good idea. Following my dads successful performances the previous day, I decided to follow him. It was really the first time I had took parts of the track at speed - and it was surprising how much faster the bike felt. I also strangely felt safer at speed.

Coming back in from the session I had a much better look on my face than the previous day. Such a contrast! Dad and I checked the bikes over again and got ready for race 4 - which came around very quickly.

Hearing a call, we casually got on our helmets and gloves and bumped ourselves in the direction of the holding bay. However, there was no-one there.We were waved onto the track where the sighting lap grid had already been formed and by the time I was on the track the starting grid had left. I did my best to catch the rest of the grid up throughout the lap but immediately noticed the lack of numbers - it seemed dad and I were not the only two caught out by the call.

Aside from the stressful beginning to the race, I did much better than the previous day taking nearly 10 seconds off my fastest lap! In addition to this, I came home with a class 5th which was great considering the calamity of the previous three races. The practice session certainly seemed to have helped.

Coming in from the track to find many of the other racers disappointed to have not made the grid was a real shame as for once we had 5 races over the weekend. Quite a few front runners had not only missed out on the race but on valuable points too. However, it wasn't long before the camaraderie of the paddock made everyone cheerful again.

With one race left, we prepared ourselves for the last event. Dad was going well so nothing was changed and mine seemed to be going well but in all honesty, I think I was limiting its potential. Hopefully, I would get back into the swing of things by the next weekend.

Race 5 came and was problem free again until the last lap. I had no other group four riders close to me despite chasing Buddy Davis and Chris Redman down. Unfortunately, down the straight, the bike started misfiring so I went safe and slowed down. It was a real shame as I had felt it was going to be a fast lap. The warm down lap was terrifying as I knew something was wrong but didn't want the engine to blow.

I made it back in one piece and found that the funny noise I had was the carburetor hanging off - held on by the fuel connecting rod. And the culprit of this was not the Aprilia "trumpet" getting caught on the panel as I had suspected. It was in fact the exhaust bracket and mounting point failing. This had vibrated and hit the carb knocking it off. With engine mounts and exhaust fix on the list for the next race I certainly was going to have it all to do again. I'd be mad to try anything else.

In conclusion to the weekend, it was a really great event, there were highs and lows (that's scooter racing apparently) and I felt I had got some confidence back after that painful crash at Cadwell Park. As usual thankyous go to people who helped me over the weekend and preceding days. Chalkie and Ciro at Replay were their usual helpful selves. Notably Phil Bevis deserves thanks for helping me over the weekend and seeing me have a much more positive Sunday. A big thankyou and congratulations to my dad who got 5 amazing finishes and proved to himself he still has something (and proving to me that you can race with a really bad front end).

Photos: Lee Hollick Photography 

Race Scooter: All events occurred 17th June 2012

2012 Round Four: Snetterton Saturday

With the Friday booked off work following the successful Cadwell procedure, we packed up the Mazda Bongo and we set off for Snetterton in plenty of time. The journey for us was very simple consisting of only three roads so before we knew it, we arrived safe and with the sun still shining. The first task was to put up the newly acquired awning for the bongo which would house the bikes in case of the bad weather predicted. Unfortunately, the wind was very strong and it wasn't long before we gave up.

However, the evening wasn't wasted as we got the Scooters scruiteneered and checked to avoid the morning queues. We did miss the sound test though which would be a job for the morning - as would the helmet, leathers and boots check. After unpacking and being slightly more organised than usual, we did a few bits and bobs before Saturdays rush and then headed to the clubhouse nice and early for a drink before we got settled in the Bongo sleeper.


Due to the sleeping experiences of Cadwell Park earlier in the year, we didn't make the same mistake of leaving the duvet at home and on the Saturday morning, it was pleasant to wake up in comfort. However, after preparing ourselves and being checked over, we had to get the bikes sound tested. This was the first time I had the chance to test my rev counter. It was a better model than the old KOSO one I used with a backlit display. Unfortunately, the rev sensor wire was not compatible so had to be switched the previous day but the new one read the revs much more accurately and seemed a lot less random.

The temperature sensor also worked well and gave me some great readings after the sound test. Luckily, I passed - and it was the first one the bike had done since Cadwell Park was declared a wet meeting. We had a short while before the riders meeting and after signing on, we fuelled them up and got ready for the practice.

Practice felt... well... awful. At speed the front wheel felt like it was square and to make matters worse, cornering was absolutely horrible. The bike didn't feel planted as it had done at Mallory and Cadwell and I had lost a bit of confidence too. In terms of the circuit, the only bits I enjoyed were accelerating when the bike was stood up. I felt the rear slide a number of times which seemed confusing as the suspension had not been altered at all.

When I came in from practice, I showed my dad the bike. Aside from having a lot of vibration, he could not find anything wrong with a little paddock ride. With a suspected twisted crank we approached Paul Baker with the SRP lads to get a second opinion. It wasn't long before he pointed out that one of the engine mounts was shot. Good news and bad news really, engine was okay but wasn't being supported properly.

Unfortunately, no one had any engine mount extractors to borrow and not many people had any spare mounts as its not normally a thing that go... Needless to say we would take spares and kit from this day forward. However, I decided to race with the mounts as they were and see how I got on. Some points was better than none and missing a race. Plus it would be valuable track experience if the mounts were fixed.

All of that theory was blown away on lap one though with me pushing hard and the back kicking out whilst leaning. Needless to say the first race, for me, was not fun. I couldn't push the bike to anywhere near its capability and it was possibly the worst thing to be doing whilst trying to regain my confidence. My lap times were slow and I was getting no real experience of the speeds I could do when the bike was fixed. To top it all off, with no vibrations being absorbed by the mounts, my arse paid a price.

In race two, after hunting still for kit to replace my mounts (and failing), I pulled in at the end of the sighting lap. I couldn't have fun or feel safe with the bike as it was as the situation felt like it had got progressively worse. I watched the race which was a great by all accounts but I wish I could have been in the mix. Upon inspection, both engine mounts had failed, I didn't think I'd make it for race three. And I certainly didn't feel like busting a gut to get out.

However, thanks to my dad, I was persuaded to try and found a donor set of mounts in Phil Bevis' spare bits bike. With a little heat, we extracted both sets and put the standard series 3 ones in my frame. The ones I was using were the Indian solid all the way through type which could now only be used as paperweights.

Race three came and the bike felt completely transformed. My lap times were still slow but I felt so much better than before. I didn't have  much of a race with anyone but I certainly felt I was well set up for the Sunday.

To top the day off, when I went for a shower, I saw Damon Tunnicliffe who said how much better my bike looked in a straight line. He mentioned that even in practice, he had noticed my bike driving more to one side and could see that I was spooked.

Today wasn't so much a good day but a learning curve. It reminded me that this had first started to happen at Cadwell (race 4) and gave me a little confidence back. My dad suffered a rear puncture on the warm down lap so we will have to think about a better solution in the near future for our rear tyre options. Today saw me use the Sava MC31 Soft on the front for the first time. I can't really say I had a chance to notice it but it was certainly harder than the Duro GP6000 I had been using.

As usual, thanks to everyone who helped and gave me encouragement throughout the day. It was really appreciated. Thanks and well done also to my dad who definitely showed he still has talent.

Photos: Lee Hollick Photography

Race Scooter: All events occurred 16th June 2012

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Race Scooter: Cadwell Park Aftermath

As I was watching the rest of the race at Cadwell Park, I had a mixture of adrenalin and fear still pumping through my body. I could move my shoulder but my arm was quite floppy. I ended up holding it just assuming I had bruised it badly. Despite insisting that it was only a bruise, the track ambulance was called to take me for a check-up. We got there quite quickly and it wasn't long before I was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder.

My arms were stripped of the leathers and I was laid down on a bed to be seen to. After being cut out of my t-shirt, I was treated to some gas and air to make me relax. After a while I started smiling and was deemed ready but as soon as my arm was touched, the pain came back.  I breathed on the gas and air as it was pulled back and after a satisfying (for me at least) crack, it was re-located. However, the visit wasn't over there. I was to be sent to the local hospital for procedural x-rays, just to make sure I hadn't broken anything.

After sometime in the A+E department, I was given the all clear but told to have a follow up as soon as possible with a local hospital. My medication for the recovery consisted of paracetamol and ibruprofen. Despite being given an upgraded sling at the follow-up, my arm still ached for the next week and after yet more x-rays, I was told that rest for 2-3 weeks was the suggested rehabilitation. 2-3 weeks after that was for low impact sports. By my calculations, if everything went to plan, 4 weeks after the initial injury, I would be able to ride Snetterton.

My physical recovery went fairly well after the crash to be honest but after the off, I have to admit that mentally, I would require something to kick-start me back to the pace I had achieved at Cadwell. 

Having something to aim for, with very limited time being able to use my arm, I set about the repair of the bike. As the bike had flipped and landed on the headset top and rear seat, luckily that was where most of the damage was.

The panels were actually able to be polished and were fairly scratch free - I think there was more damage from where my boots were rubbing on them. The floorboards, left-hand-side legshields and exhaust took the largest hit and were bent back into shape accordingly. The rev-counter screen had also felt the full force of the crash and had to be written off.

After a lot of bending and hammering though, the Race Scooter was in much better shape than before and I had given all the nuts and bolts a full check. As per usual, the top end was stripped and inspected for wear - which was again encouragingly good. The chaincase side was also took off in order to inspect the clutch, which too was in pretty good condition.

Other than the addition of the carb "trumpet" and a slightly larger hole, nothing was changed for Snetterton.