Sunday, 31 August 2008

Senior race... NOT! again, and then Senior race!

Once again, over to the paddock and through scrutineering. I've never been scrutineered three times for the same race before! Actually, if you count the rained off Senior from last year, that's four times!

There were several delays for the weather but finally it cleared up and the tannoy announced that we'd be going for a three lap race. Conditions were great and I was really psyched up for this.. the bike was perfect, on new tyres (Rennsport SC1 inter front, SC2 dry rear) and I had Sidecar Mel and Young Woody in the pits... a crew with a LOT of years of experience between them! Janice and Becca were out marshalling as the Orange Army was a bit thin on the ground.

So we lined up for the start on the Glencrutchery Road, and the flag dropped and le leading pair were away. The next pair 10 seconds later and so on... until someone managed to blow their engine big time off the start. Big bang, huge cloud of smoke, oil everywhere... his bike kept running though and the rider kept going, spreading a nice thick trail of engine oil all the way down Bray Hill. Unbelievably, a few more pairs were given a start and to a man they all slipped and slithered sideways off the start... then reason prevailed and thye race was red flagged. We were all marshaled back into parc ferme and the bikes on the circuit were led back behind a TM.

After a long delay while a road sweeper ran back and forth over the oil spill we were off again, on a race reduced to 2 laps.

Bray was still slippy, but not bad so thanks to the sweepers!!

Other than that it was great fun, the Kawasaki ran like a storm and handled and gripped really well. Set up wise I think we were where we should have been about Wednesday of practice week!!

Finished 48th at about 106.

Rider's eye view! This is from the inside of my helmet, starring several dead Manx bugs. I've just cleaned it out by giving it a good soak in the bath... it was truly rank after soaking up 2 week's worth of sweat and grime.

Here's Sidecar Mel retrieving the bike from scrutineering!

John McGuiness did the prize presentation.
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Friday, 29 August 2008

Senior Race.. NOT!


After a day at Slick's changing to the big motor, a sighting lap in the car and new tyres at Paul Dedman's I rolled over to the paddock to kip in the van so that the lads in the house could get out for a beer without distubing me.

Got a good night's sleep and woke to a fine but misty morning. I got the bike scrutineered, up on stands, fitetd the tyre warmers and put the bike cover on. Then I got my leathers and other gear checked, blew into the obligatory breathalyser(0.00) and then had a bacon & egg bap in the paddock caff.

The mist didn't clear, so the announcement went out that racing for the day was cancelled. I retrieved my bike, rolled it into the van and then (after the obligatiry cupa and moan about the weather with the other riders) trundled off to my pal Harry's for a cuppa.

Half way through me tea, the mist cleared and the race office phoned; they were going for a 6pm roads closed and a 6.45 start for a 3 lap Senior.

So back to the paddock, more tea, and at 4 I rolled the bike back through scrutineering, kit, breathalyser etc. I swear, the *second* I put the bike on the stand in parc ferme, the rain came on. Just to make a point, the mist came down, and down, and at 5.30 (by which time we could hardly see each other's vans) they scrubbed for the second time.

Got me bike back, etc etc etc.

A real shame; there was a good patch in the middle of the afternoon but there was no way we would have had any kind of a race this evening.

Fingers, toes, everything crossed for tomorrow....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Junior race

In a word, yuk.

Hours late, at 5.30, we got underway with a race reduced to 3 laps. Conditions were amp and patchy, my least favourite... I can ride in the dry, or wet, but half and half always throws me out.

I started with Stu Bainborough, his bike's a hair quicker than mine and so he made St. Ninian's first but I managed to keep him in sight for quite a while... but after Ballacraine, it got much wetter and the throttle turned into a go-sideways lever rather than a go-faster lever. Stu seemed not bothered by this and by the time I made the start of Cronk-Y-Voddy he was just vanishing over the end. Feh!

That set the tone for the rest of the race; I just couldn't get any kind of rhythm going. I'd get a bit of pace on, have a couple of lairy slides, scare meself daft and have to collect meself again.

Rubbish ride, rubbish result.

Good news is the race was won by Manx newcomer Danny Kneen who also won the 400cc newcomers race on Monday. Well done that man!

I'm off up to Slick's now to put the Senior engine in, then I have to get me head straight for Friday.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Well, after a wee delay things got going yesterday about 4pm. The Newcomers race ran for 2 laps in horrendous conditions; the second lap got caught by rain. Good results for a lot of my pals, Ryan Kneen won the 600 race and his brother Dan won the 400. Dan was more than 2 minutes in the lead! Adam Jones just slid into the top ten. Great going lads!

The rain let up for the Senior Classic, which was won by Ryan Farquar on the Paton.

We got out for an untimed practice lap; it was dry all the way to Ramsey but the mountain road was still pretty wet. Not a big problem as I was on inters, but no point in risking it on the last few miles of practice week, so I rolled it a bit and waved at the marshals.

Slick's coming round for breakfast today, then we're off to his shed to swap motors on the bike.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Racing delayed.

We had a day off yesterday; I checked the bike and then we all went to the TT Marshal's Association do in the evening.

They do a fantastic job of feeding 700 marshals, on a budget of about 3p!! I must have spent a fortune on their charity lottery tickets over the years and have never won anything, but I managed to win a smaaart TT paddock jacket this time.

It's Newcomers and Senior Classic race day today, but the weather started off yuk... the organisers have announced that they'll close the roads at 3.15 for a 4pm start, and they'll run the two races a 3 lappers. Our practice lap should get out after that.

I'll trek over to the paddock about half two and see what gives...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Rain again.

We carried this over for Mike Newton on the way back from our last UK trip! It's his boots and orange overalls.

The bike just needed a clean and a check over, assisted as always by Comrade Trotsky.

"I think you need to go up a tooth on yer gearbox sprocket, mate."

We packed the van and headed over to the paddock, to find...


... at Bungalow Bridge.

So we had a cuppa, and came straight home.

They are going to close the roads for an untimed session because a lot of the lads still need to get the laps in to qualify. If they actually do let the bikes out I'm going town to the Central to watch. I'll try to snap a few pics, I don't think motion blur will be much of a problem today!

UPDATE at 18:20: Practice cancelled. Not a big surprise...

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Friday, 22 August 2008

Engine swap.

Oh man, busy old day or what!

Yesterday my mate Andy Cowin stopped at Crosby, so I collected his bike in the van. Mine was already booked in for an engine change and his obviously needed looked at so I rolled up to Slick's first thing this morning, unloaded the bikes and did a bunch of preparation like removing all the bodywork.

Another pal, Callum O'Shea was also there with his lovely ZX7R which had sprung an oil leak. Slick did this first, and found the leak was from the gearbox oil seal. The chances of finding a new seal in time to go racing was nil, so Slick pulled the little spring out of the oil seal, snipped a few coils off and re-made the spring, fitted it to the seal and it worked perfectly! Very impressive!

I changed from the Junior engine (600cc) to the Senior engine (636cc) to get a couple of qualifying laps in - of course with Slick at work it was a quick and efficient job.

Here's the maestro at work!

Andy's bike took a wee bit longer but it was buttoned up and tested soon enough.

Two other incidents of note; TT sidecar superstar Dave Molyneaux dropped by and gave us a load of encouragement which lit me up no end... he's a top bloke and it's fantastic to see that lads at the top of the game take time to give a bit of a boost to those of us a bit further down the pecking order... probably bird seed in my case, arf arf! Also the Snap-On van came by and I had to slither in for a bit of a lust at the lovely gear in there... one day I'll win the lottery and then, oh yes, that van will have a BIG delivery to make round my house! I also managed to blag some baseball caps for my pit crew so we're going to be *well* smart on race day.

This done we packed the bikes in the van, dropped by the house to load the rest of the gear and also picked up my assistant for the day, James "Sidecar Mel" Melvin. He's just one of the best blokes you could meet, and incidentally the Isle of Man club sidecar racing champion! We turned up in the paddock to find... this!

Sun! Blue skies! Dry roads! And lots of cheerful racers, of course. The classics and 400's were first out this evening, so we sat in the grandstand and watched them off then headed back to the van to get my gear on and pick up some tools, and some Go-Gels which I've been using for extra energy.

We were off about 7:15; I had Sam Dunlop and another mate Mike Noble (who's been going great guns on my old Suzuki 600) behind me so I was expecting to get caught up fairly soon! Still, I got my head down and got going. Sun glare was really bad up the Ballahutchin road but after the past few days I think I'd be a bit ungracious complaining too much about a bit of sun! I had a pretty lonely run all the way to Ramsey.. got to say the organisers have done an ace job of clearing up yesterday's diesel spill... Sam Dunlop came by at Sky Hill but I managed to tag on for quite a while and he was still in sight when he pulled of at the grandstand. The Mike showed me a front wheel at Braddan... can't have that, so I gave him a dose of Kawasaki power and put him back behind! That was just to prove a point though. I stuck a foot out and waved him through at Union Mills, that way my aging and decrepit eyeballs would have something to aim for through the sun glare up to Glen Vine!

Apart from yellow flags at the Waterworks, the rest of the lap was uneventful.

A good practice on the whole, the engine's great and the suspension tweaks me made worked well. The main problem we have now is the bike is very heavy on the steering at speed -- Quarry Bends for example is *really* hard work -- but informed opinion seems to be that's the way these bikes are. The ride height is about as high as it goes at the back, and the forks are 8mm through the yokes. Hey ho, just have to get them shoulders working!

Tomorrow looks iffy weather wise, the BBC's giving rain from 7pm. We might catch lucky, who knows??

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Good practice session...

Well, our little fuel debacle is solved; I don't think I'll be troubling any more marshals for tea and petrol!

It turns out that the bit at the back of the tank near the rider's, er, tackle doesn't fill up properly with the bike on the stand; the bike needs to be horizontal with both wheels on the ground.

I got 18 litres in, Slick got 22 lites in and pronounced me too stupid to pour petrol into my own bike. He may have a point!

Fuel wise, this evening the warning light came on at Governor's Dip, which is absolutely spot on. Enough to get the job done and not too much more.

Practice conditions were pretty good - would have been well nigh perfect except for the world's biggest diesel spill, all the way from Kirk Michael to Ballaugh. I haven't seen the times yet but the team had me at 105 ish, which I'm well chuffed with.

Worth mentioning that while I was wallying about trying to avoid the spills, top lad Glyn Jones came hammering past in fine style leaving clouds of concrete dust in his wake. Alas he had to stop with a puncture in Ramsey. He'll be one to watch on race day, I reckon. My pals Carolynn Sells and Andy Cowin also stopped, Caro at the 33rd and Andy managed to stop at the Crosby pub. Hope it's nothing too serious, guys!

With the longer gearing the Kawasaki was flying... can't wait to see the speed trap numbers tomorrow! On the second lap I had a fantastic clear run all the way through Douglas right to Ballacraine. I've still got to work hard at keeping the gas open in places like the bottom of Bray and Crosby; there in particular it's really noticable if you lift the throttle... the revs you lose just don't come back. I'm also going to alter the suspension a bit; more low speed damping (it's wallowing a bit after bottoming out in places like Bray and Bayr Garoo) and less high speed damping (to try to keep my last few fillings in place through Glen Duff!).
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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Blue skies!

Great day! My pal Alison arranged to have some good weather delivered and it showed up right on time!

Here's Janice in her Lara Croft boots (but minus pistols and, as she pointed out, a couple of other things ending in "istols" for the full Lara effect) enjoying the first sun we've seen in ages.

Number 59 is local superstar Danny Kneen, he's qualifying his R6 for the Junior and running his 400 in the newcomers and ultra lightweight.

Practice got off just a couple of minutes late and conditions were extremely good... just the odd damp patch still drying out. I went down to a 42 sprocket but the bike's still revving out and it only (!) made 155 through the speed trap at Sulby. I'll go to 17/44 tomorrow, as recommended by me pal Champ. He was 9th last year on a similar bike so he has a clue or 2!

The first lap came in at 104 ish, still a bit cautious, but I got me head down a bit on the second ... until the fuel warning came on at Ballaugh! I should have stopped at Ramsey I s'pose, there's a petrol station there. There isn't one at Windy Corner though! There's a lovely bunch of marshalls there however, including my pal Paul England and the amazing engineering medic Doc Moran. They had a can of petrol siphoned out of a Land Cruiser in no time and I trundled back down the mountain all on me lonesome.

Plan for tomorrow; longer gearing, have a chat with Slick about the fuel mapping and make bleedin' sure the tank is brimmed right up before the off!
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Out at last!

Yeeessss! What we see here is the Green Grenade liberally splattered with a sizable minority of the Manx insect population.

After a short delay, practice kicked off at about 18:35, with the Senior and Junior classes (750 and 600 , that's me) leading off.Conditions were a bit variable, everything from completely dry roads to standing water and cloud cover keeping the sun glare away. I was running Rennsport Wet intermediate tyres which coped very well... I only had one significant slide, out of the big left hander at GlenHelen which was completely down to over enthusiasm on my part!

My biggest problem was my new lid... at my huge sigh of relief at leaving the line the supposed "fog free" visor completely steamed up and so I spent the whole of the first lap trying not to breathe so I gould see where I was going. I pulled in at the end of the first lap and switched to my old lid, and got out for a second lap.

Our session was due to end at 19:00 and the time on the clock when I got out was... 19:00:00 !!!

The second lap was more fun and I could get down to settling into the racing lines and analysing how the bike was going. And it was going extreeeemely well, there's a few minor tweaks to do but in the main I'm very happy with it.

I'll go a bit longer on the gearing, to 16:42 from 16:43, tighten up the steering damper a little and probably (fingers crossed!!) switch to dry weather Rennsport tyres.

Next practice should kick off this evening at 18:15. Forecast is possible showers, let's keep our fingers crossed!!

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Scrubbed again...

Yuk. Came down cats & dogs all day; here's the paddock. The mighty Aardvan can se seen on the left, sinking slowly into the morass.

The Newcomers got out for one sighting lap behind the TM's, but the rest of us had to pack up and go home.


Here's the view down the Glencrutchery Road. I tried to snap a bloke kite-surfing, but he was too quick for me.

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Practice scrubbed.

Those of you who read last year's blog will find the next bit familiar. Clouds, rain, more clouds, LOTS more rain.

Our friends across the water in Norn Iron got three quarters of their August rain ration in one day... today was OK, but the forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday is pretty gruesome.

Above is the mountain, from Ramsey, before it got much, much worse!

Here's the Green Grenade tucked up warm and dry in the Aardvan.

Top dudes from the Dutch Laverda club Dirk (actually it's Tom Selleck, incognito) and Henk.

Attenpting (with some success, it has to be said) to get Italian electrics to cope with the Manx rain.
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Friday, 15 August 2008

We're off! Sorta...

Signing on today.

I started off me Manx with a "sports massage" -- in other words I got beaten to a pulp by physio Frank Dunne -- and then over to the paddock.

My signing on lady was Andreas Racing Association Race Secretary Sarah Blake who's me top mate so that took about 3 seconds and I even got a sweetie! This year it's all computerised and keyed to the bar-code on my TT course license... very slick, I must say!

Then I got all my personal kit checked, no problems apart from a comment that my leathers smell like a dead goat. Fair point, I must admit.

I then sneaked into the DH Autos tent and treated myself to a new lid; and then sneaked into the back door of the kit checking shed to get a scrutineering sticker on it. The lovely and very rapid Maria Costello complained I was jumping the queue.. age before beauty hun! Arf arf! I doubt if that will work after the flag drops, though!

Riders briefing with the new Clerk of the Course, Phil Taubman was also slick and set up to register attendees with a swipe of the bar code... one change I like is the way we'll set off in practice in batches according to race number... this means we won't have to turn up to scrutineering hours early to stand a chance of getting a good start in practice. Way hey!! Good going you organisers!

Off for me tea now... more later!