All my latest race reports and new's can be read here.
2017 Race plans
2017 will be a busy year on a personal front for me in that Natasha my lovely Fiancee are tying the knot in July, but before that are expecting our first child in February. We and our family are excited beyond belief, and can't wait for the next episode of our lives to start.
Meantime, back on the Racing front, Team Flitwick are currently fianalising our plans for the next Season, which will be on us probably quicker than we think.
We intend, as 2016, to complete at the Classic Motorcycle club rounds, kicking off in March, with possibly and endurance round and of course taking in the 2017 Classic TT in August.
Dad is working hard on the Enfied Bullet mark three, and we are hoping it will make its debut in March, alongside the K4 twin, and possiblely one other machine (watch this space)..Meantime Brother David will be competing at the same meetings with his Camier 500 and Ducati 350.
See the diary tab to see the dates and venues- we would be delighted if you can join us .the kettles always on- just look for the Grey Flitwick Truck.....
Hosting server loss 2016
Unfortunately due to a Server host crash my site was down whilst we moved hosts and recovered this website. This has now been done, and although my dsite is back up and running, unfortunately some of the old news archives have sadly been lost and not recovered. News between 2010 and 2015 has been most affected, so if you are looking for something during that period you may not find what you are looking for.
Thank you for your understanding....
2016 Race review
Well that’s another Season over, this time with no major injuries to report, despite a high speed crash at the Ulster grand prix, a couple of weeks before the Classic TT.
It was a mixed year of results, getting good consistent top three placing on board the little K4 at the CRMC meetings, and finishing third in the 350 twin Championship, just 18 points behind Alan Oversby at the end of the Season.
I also won the Classic Club Race of the year Trophy on the same machine. Brother David finished 4th in the 350 European championship, which runs concurrently alongside the 350 twin class- well done to him.
On the 500, I was this year invited to ride in the Grand prix class, whereas our Enfield is a clubman machine. This upped the ante somewhat from 2015, and despite a win at the beginning of the season, some dnfs and missed rounds due to the Ulster and Classic TT saw me finish in 5th place in the championship.
Both the Enfield bullet and the 350 K4 Showed signs of age this year, particularly at the classic TT, and adding in Chimay a few weeks before did not help, with it being the hottest weekend of the year the little bikes took some pounding.
2016 was probably my weakest results at the Classic TT, with four bikes and only one finish, with the Enfield heroically hanging on despite loss of power and compression issues. The k4, with very little practice should have seen a good result, but a hairline crack in the frame spotted just before the race saw a disappointing dns. The 250 two stoke on loan from Peter Berwick seized during practice, and then a bearing seized casing a heat related “fire”- luckily soon under control. Peter, who worked tirelessly had to withdraw on Medical ground. Finally Rolling thunder, despite a new purpose built “race” ignition would not play ball and had to be withdrawn.
For 2017 the anticipated new Enfield framed 500 Bullet should be ready, and the K4 will get some attention.
Our good and loyal friend and Technician extraordinaire Mervyn was diagnosed with mouth cancer just before the Classic TT, and is currently undergoing treatment. We as a Team are fingers and toes crossed that the outcome will be good, and hoping he will be back in the fold next year- he is much loved and appreciated, and the Team is not the same without him, and his lovely wife Janet there by our sides..
Meantime I am pleased to announce that Natasha and I are expecting our first child in February, so expect to see us about next year with our newest Team member..
We set off for one of the furthest meeting points from our base in Bedfordshire on Friday night, with the Weather forecast dire.
The journey took Five hours there, with heavy traffic delays and Driving rain the nearer we got to the circuit- which in good Weather is considered the UK's Philip Island.
The last time I rode at this circuit was in 2010, so I know it would be a tall ask to ride as I had then, as I couldn't remember a thing about the track!
We arrived at just after midnight, parked the Race Truck up in the space kindly saved by John Hodgkiss, who sponsors Brother David with a Yamaha 500 air cooled Camier and as it was still wet, left the awning set up for the morning, in the vain hope the Weather would improve!
Saturday morning dawned at the Weather was still wet, heavy rain clouds and high winds. We managed to get the awning up in the rain, but the whole Team was completely soaked through to the skin by that point.
Practice was extremely wet and windy, with several offs due to the wind but the track is surprisingly grippy.
The first scheduled race went off on time, with Brother David due to go out in the second- but the Weather was getting even worse, with a red flag stopping the race at the end of the first lap, and several riders involved. This track is very close to the Sea, and the small light classics were in real danger of blowing off the track and down to the sea! An announcement was made that racing was suspended until 2.30, and at at that time the Clerk of the coures had to make the difficult decision to cancel the rest of that days schedule.
By this time there were 40 mph winds and the rain was frankly horizontal, so it was a good call.
The upside was that we all got early dinner, and some much needed sleep, and the bikes were all prepped and ready for the Sunday.
Racing recommenced on Sunday am, starting with Parade C, then a re-run of Race Two (air-cooled 500, Davids class) then running race 3-9, from Saturdays schedule, with the laps cut to 5 from 6, abandoning races 10-25, then running the Sundays schedule as planned, with the shortened race laps.
Unfortunately the first race saw seven riders go down on the wet and still windy circuit, and delays followed throughout the day in this vein.
My first race was the 350 on the K4, and as I was leading the championship by 31 points, ahead of Simon Walsh and Alan Oversby, I was anxious to get a good couple of results under my belt to strengthen my lead.
Not everything always goes to plan however, as at the end of the warm up lap I fould that my gear lever had broken, so I could only sit at the side of the track and watch whilst my nearest rivals got closer to the lead. Dad worked like a trojan to do a temporary repair on the lever (new one to make before Chimay now...) so I was now fixed on getting as good a result as possible in the next race.
Races with the CRMC are worked on the first race based on Championship position (so I should have been on pole for the first one) then subsequent races based on race results through the day- so a dns, or dnf means you start from the back! So the second 350 race on the K4 saw me starting right at the back of the Grid, with 24 rider ahead on at the line up. I managed to claw up to 4th, and was still hanging on to the championship lead at that point.
With just one more race on the 350 I knew that it would be difficult to maintain the championship lead, as my main rivals were ahead on the grid, but I finished 3rd in class, so on my reckoning Simon Walsh and I are now on joint points of 249, with Alan on 216, and it's everything to play for at Donnington.
"Harry" the 500 Seeley Enfield is a clubman class bike, and I have for the past three years pitted against the thoroughbred Grand Prix class, comprising Manx's et all, and last year was consistently in the top four, with a class Championship win. This year I was invited to enter in the GP Class, so that is what I am running in.
The Enfield is a fantastic bike to ride, and Dads' developement is second to none, however it is a push rod single never designed to be anywhere near the speeds of the Super Grand prix race bred class. So it has always been fun to show what we as a Team are capable of doing on what is considered a Road going Machine. after the last round at Cadwell I was currently running 4th in the Championship.
With three races due on the Sunday, I was hoping to maintain that placing. With an eighth, plus two 4th places I did that, and am now just 2 points from the third place Man Mike Cooper, who had a disastrous weekend on the 500, three dnfs.
Brother David had a good weekend, improving his times on both bikes, and finishing in the top ten on the 500 for the first time this year. He is currently running third in the 350 European class.
We are all off the Chimay Classic races in Belgium next week, with racing on the 16th and 1the July, and I am pleased to say that Dad will be riding his Vintage 350 Bullet for the first time in 25 years...So all three Linsdells out again in the same meeting..bring it on!
2015 end of Season report
Established classic racing star Olie Linsdell has finished at the top of the pile in the CRMC’s 2015 500cc Classic Clubman’s championship.
Riding his father Steve’s remarkable Royal Enfield Bullet powered machine, Linsdell took victory by just thirteen points at the end of an exciting seven round championship. The success was even more outstanding, given that the Flitwick Motorcycles backed rider had missed two events in the lead up to the Isle of Man Classic TT.
Despite competing largely against multi-cylinder Japanese machines from the 1970’s, Linsdell is able to look back proudly on a season where he was headed just once by a machine from his class.
The CRMC (Classic Racing Motorcycle Club) is recognised as the UK and Europe’s premier racing club for competition machines from the 1940’s through to the 1980’s. Olie was competing in the 500cc Classic Clubman championship for pre 1972 production based machines.
This championship is run concurrently with the 500cc Grand Prix series, a class contested largely by replica overhead camshaft Manx Nortons and Matchless G50’s. With assistance from renowned engine simulation specialist Ron Herring, the Flitwick Motorcycles Bullet has proved itself to be competitive in such company throughout the season, boasting a host of overall podium positions and other strong placings.
The Linsdells are not resting on their laurels, however. With all eyes firmly on 2016 the team plan to step up to the Grand Prix class next year, where their production based pushrod Bullet has been invited to compete. Development of a brand new Enfield framed machine is already underway for this purpose, with the CRMC championship seen as the ideal preparation for the primary goal - the Isle of Man Classic TT.
Photos Courtesy of Russell Lea Photography
With the help of long term sponsor and friends Steve Bond, SMV Engineering and Mervyn Hackett, Steve, Olie and the whole team are thoroughly looking forward to another season doing what they do best: putting their Royal Enfield Bullet at the top of the result sheet!
So, the last month of the winter break saw me gradually becoming more and more excited for my twelfth season racing - it couldn't come soon enough! With some new ideas about my approach to riding in 2015 I was sure that there were some big improvements to be made and some more enjoyment to be had in our build up toward the perfect 2015 Classic TT - from both me and the Royal Enfield Bullet.......
As with every early season round one we really were in the hands of the gods with regards to weather. Especially when you consider round one is always in Wales... Having booked onto the Friday test-day, the week proceeding the meeting was spent looking at the weather and evolving our plans as we finished the bikes. As was expected the weather did lend a hand in the decision of when to take the six hour trek; did we set off on Thursday night and do half the trip once rush-hour had died down, or did we have an extra night in our own beds and do the entire trip at crack of on Friday morning? As it turned out the weather was due to be wet, rainy and windy from Friday morning until about lunch time and to then gradually improve throughout the rest of the day. It was for that reason that it was thought best to just have a relaxing night on thursday night, before leaving bright eyed & bushy tailed and still getting the final three sessions of the day in after lunch to blow out the cobwebs from both myself and the bikes.
Arriving at Pembrey and doing the three aforementioned sessions didn't fill me with a huge amount of confidence because the wind, combined with the annoying constant light rain and freezing conditions never let up, and put me into a downer about spending the next couple of days pussy footing around and having no fun. Luckily this feeling only lasted until the following morning when I opened the blind over the roof light and accidentally blinded poor little Natasha, much to her dismay (but my delight..). From then on I was ready to take on the world, and couldn't wait to really get my teeth into racing again, after a long hard winter.
Not even discovering a broken cylinder stud on the K4 whilst warming the bike before race one could dampen my spirit (it was decided to just ride it until it blew a head gasket), and I went on to win all my class races on the Saturday (4 from 4), with outright wins on the 350 and really upsetting the applecart in the 500's by placing my Enfield in 2nd and 4th place overall against the Manx Norton's and G50's (GP Bikes).
Sunday was another reeallllyyyy enjoyable days racing in the sun, and it really went to show the depth of field in the 500 Class this year. If you were caught napping and had a lazy first few laps there was a genuine chance that you could finish down in 8th place. It was anybody's game from that first group of riders, and it's not very often you come across championships like that! It's very enjoyable and a perfect example of this was the ACU National 500 race where I was embroiled in a fantastic race long battle with Lee Hodge and Alex Sinclair, managing to go from 4th to 3rd on the penultimate lap and then through to 2nd at the final corner! I really felt sorry for Alex who was second for most of the race, only to get mugged, but I'm sure he'd do the same for me given the chance....
Both of the 500 club races on the Sunday saw me finish second overall ion both races, against even the GP bikes and win my class comfortably. This really was a pleasing result, and the final race of the weekend saw me make a break out front with the GP1 champion from the past few years on the Craven Manx Norton, a bike which is commonly known as the fastest Manx Norton (or classic single outright) racing regularly in the UK. It was nice to have a bit of breathing room, and despite the visible line of oil around the last corner I put in my fastest lap of the weekend whilst still having some spare thought power to analyse where the differences lie between our steeds. The answer is there's really not a lot in it, and when our next incarnation of engine if complete, hopefully my Anglesey (RND3), I'd say it's really game on to go for the overall wins. All we need is a bit of punch out of the corners....best get those designs manufactured!
This is about as far apart from one another as we got in the ACU National race...
Pics Courtesey Russell Lee Sport-Pics
The 350 was beginning to feel it's broken cylinder stud and although I won Sunday race one comfortably I thought it had probably lost a bit of compression by the final club race of the weekend(it turned out upon stripping it when returning home that it was a bit more than that). Unfortunately I let a bike get between Harley Rushden and I in the first few laps, probably through being not quite aggressive enough, and he just pulled slightly too big and I finished in second position. This was disappointing otherwise I'd have had a 100% win rate in the club races for my classes, but I suppose I can't complain about bringing a bike home with upon stripping a severely pitted camshaft and rocker, torn up clutch basket, and broken cylinder studding, as well as a main bearing stud. However, we are now in danger of having to sit out round two of the 350 Championship, which I lead, so if ANYBODY knows of or has a spare and competitive ish K4 engine laying around (or bike), please get in touch through my contact page. This really is a championship that I want to bring Home this year, for various reasons, and I'm not sure I'll be able to sitting out a round.
So, on to Cadwell Park for round two, and although it's not a circuit I've raced at since 2009, it's one that I love and seemed to suit the Enfield well the last time out. If I can return the same sort of performance again, but six years later, I should be ballpark lap time wise.
I've also got some exciting bikes that go ring a ding ding to ride there too, courtesy of the very kind Andrew Sumner. But I'll keep you waiting until then to see what they are and in which classes, but they are both new builds and we can't expect miracles. This means that I'll almost not be able to sit still all weekend, with 18 races over the two day meeting. Best get to the gym.........
I have been racing now for twelve years and last year was a tough one. A combined pressure of work, buying our first home, and time restraints meant I was always on the back foot, and to be honest for those reasons I did not enjoy the season quite as much as I usually do.
A crash at Scarborough whilst qualifying for the 500 classic class left me with a badly broken foot that needed major surgery just six weeks before the Classic TT kicked off, and only two weeks from the date Natasha and I were due to move into our first home. Having to rely on lifts and taxi services just to get to work and treatments, being on crutches with external metalwork and therefore being fairly useless during our move left me re-evaluating just what I wanted out of Racing in the future. The answer to this is FUN. It's the reason I began racing in the first place, and in reality is the reason that 99% of people embark on a racing career. It's something that seems to have been clouded by all of the extra work involved over the past few years, and I want to nip that feeling in the bud before I totally fall out of love with racing entirely and feel the need to retire for good.
It is therefore, after discussion with my beloved Fiancee Natasha, my Family, Team and I have decided that it is best to just have fun this year with no pressure, and I am therefore scaling back my racing to the CRMC Classic meetings plus the Classic TT in August.
I will be riding the 500 Enfield Bullet and The Honda K4, together with the Yamaha FZ750 that I nearly destroyed (along with myself) during my accident at the Manx in 2010. It is now nearly repaired back to its former glory- I have unfinished business on that....
So for the first time in seven years, I will not be competing at the TT in June....now where are those gardening gloves.....
With the weather not on the meetings side, the first race day for Dundrod was delayed and curtailed due to downpours and accidents. The main race of the day, the Dundrod 150 was cancelled as the weather closed in, with only three races completed by close of play,
and one of those, the concurrently ran 125GP, Supersport 400 and Supertwin, saw a result declared on just two laps.
In the words of the Belfast Telegraph, with thanks, this is what happened:
"In the classic race Ollie Linsdell emerged through the low cloud on his Royal Enfield to win his first road race since a serious accident at the Manx Grand Prix and Royal Enfields first win at Dundrod since 1925.
Linsdell was almost a minute ahead of Mark McGaw who edged Paul Coward to the chequered flag by a tenth of a second. "
Olie has qualified third for the 250 race on saturday, and 25th on the SMV R6, just behind Dan kneen, so we are all praying for better weather- check back soon for updates.
Classic Race: 1st O. Linsdell, 2nd M. McGaw, 3rd P. Coward, 4th A. Brew, 5th D. Morgan, 6th P. Wakefield
Heading to Italy, I was very aware that this would be my first modern race since the accident at the Manx.
Andy Kirkwood had kindly offered the use of his Ducati 848 challenge bike, and I had ridden it at No Limits track day, mainly so I had at least cocked my leg over it before Italy.
The 848 challenge is a series mainly in the UK, but with a couple of the series abroad. The current regular rider, Steve couldnt make Monza, hence my good fortune.
Dad and Steve Bond, or good friend and Sponsor were to be my support team, and we arrived in just after the bike truck had been unpacked, with our bike and gear neatly placed in the garage- sorry guys for not helping with the unload!
We had taken a gamble that the weather would be hot, and there was no need for wet tyres- and practice and the morning of race day were just that- over 30 degrees at times. Unfortunately, the heavens opened 10 minutes before the start of the first race, and the track was wet- not good on dry tires! I had qualified 15th on the unfamiliar Duke, having never ridden Monza circuit before. The Ducati is difficult to get off the line, and takes a few meeting to perfect the technique- and needless to say my start was pretty bad- this combined with the lack of grip meant the only sensible thing to do was pull in- definitely didnt want to take a tumble on Andys bike!
The second race was back to dry conditions, and my start was once again bad- I was back of the grid on the first turn. I got my head down, and managed to pass through the field to 11th, a result I was relatively happy with given that most of the field had ridden the bikes all year.
Race 1 Result: 1. R Brown, 2. Morris, 3. Gilbertson, 4. Fry, 5. Poll, 6. Poyser, 7. Holden, 8. Edwards, 9. Hopkins, 10. De Tarnowsky, 11. Cruickshank, 12. Keen, 13. Cope.
Race 2 Result: 1. Morris, 2. R Brown, 3. Edwards, 4. Gilbertson, 5. Fry, 6. Poole, 7. De Tarnowsky, 8. Hoyles, 9. Holden, 10. A Brown, 11. Linsdell, 12. Poyser, 13. Keen, 14. Poll, 15. Pearce, 16. Connolly, 17. Cruickshank, 18. Cope
My thanks to Andy for the use of the bike, the challenge organizers, for their well run friendly meeting, and Steve Jordan, regular rider, for trusting the machine to our keeping.
Next meeting is the Ulster Grand Prix, 10th -13th August- my first real road race since the Manx. I will be riding the SMV R6, a 125 and 250 supplied by Derek, and the Seeley 500 Bullet in the classic race- as long as the weather doesnt stop play- cant wait ..
First of all I must offer my sincere apologies for being so bad at keeping you all up to date..... Things have been really tough in 2011, first of all overcoming the injuries sustained at the Manx GP, and then trying to come to terms with suddenly only having classic racing, instead of complimenting it with riding Superbikes and Supersport bikes at places like the TT and northwest etc.
Don't get me wrong, I love everything about Classic racing as both an engineer and a rider, but I need my modern fix too! Combine that with my two early crashes at the start of the season (it would seem that 23 is the age that you stop just bouncing, everything hurts!) and a meeting that saw me break down in every session and maybe you can see why I perhaps fell out of love with racing slightly.
It had been a couple of years since I'd been pain free and suddenly I felt like a nobody.... Anyway, all of these are just excuses, I decided to take a few months break to clear my head, and recover from the continual bouncing, so I went to the Northwest and TT as just a spectator. A great time was had by all and it really kicked my arse into gear, I don't want to miss another one!
As soon as I was home from the Northwest I started training again and have now decided I will enter the UGP on the 600, a Classic, and hopefully a 125 and 250.
I have also agreed to a ride on Andy Kirkwood's 848 Ducati for a one off event at Monza this weekend (9th & 10th July)- thank you so much Andy! I must also extend my appreciation to Steve and Sarah Jordan for allowing me to ride a bike that Steve has otherwise inherited for the year.
I was at Mallory park on Saturday just gone, to familiarise myself with the Ducati, and started learning how to ride a modern bike, with modern tyres and brakes on a short circuit again - the last time I did it in anger was in 2008 Superstock 600!
I will update on my antics early next week, so check back soon.................
Peter Wileman Photography
Well at last I was back racing at Mallory for the opening round of the CRMC 2011 meetings, for the first time since my big crash at the Manx grand prix in August.
Riding the Seeley Enfield push rod single that Dad Steve took to over a ton during Manx practice, and a Yamaha TD2 250,on loan from Roger Bryant, I was pleased and relieved that I had lost none of my riding skills.
It was however a mixed week-end for Team Flitwick, with both myself and brother David off, on the extremely slippery new Mallory surface.
My off came in my first race back after the big Island crash, at the 'Bus stop' chicane going in on the borrowed TD2 Yamaha. I landed heavily on my shoulder that was dislocated on the Island, but despite the bruising still went on to ride in four more races- my Mother was having kittens!
So Dad, Merv, Steve Bond and Roger set to repairing the little Yam, in readiness for the next days races- sorry Roger, the racing adrenelin had kicked in!
Brother David was even unluckier when he had nowhere to go at Edwinas' chicane on Sunday. Rriding Bob Lights 500 Goldie in the first race of the day, another rider dropped his bike just in front of him, during the warm up lap. This had him off resulting in a dislocated right shoulder- we are now like book ends! They tried three times manipulating it into place, before taking him to theatre to finally get it back in. The Mallory new surface is very slippery at cold temperature and there were 26 fallers on the Saturday alone so that made us feel a little better!
David had brand new AM leathers that were cut off- the top half at the medical centre at Mallory and although he begged them not to do it at Leicester Royal they also cut the bottom part off up both legs. Every panel has a cut in them so they are completely ruined- so Steve from AM Leathers is busy making a replacement set as we speak- good leathers I highly reccomend them.
Despite my' early tip off, I got my head down and went on to win three out of the four Group 2 races on the Seeley Bullet but finished 2nd in the other after a slow start just after Davids crash. Tyre warmers are banned with the classic club, so this time I made sure I warmed the tyres before cracking on!
The group 2 bikes now run with the 1300 bikes so I had my work cut out but finished the last race 2nd overall with a fastest lap of 58.7 seconds- not far behind Gary Thwaites, who doesn't hang about. This also knocked about 4 seconds off the lap record for my class, at Mallry, so far so good.
As a bonus, and a thank you to Roger Bryant for loaning his TD2, I also won on the Yamaha, and knocked 6 seconds from that lap record too- all in all a good comeback shakedown! Next race is Pembrey (south Wales) Easter Sat/Sunday, I will again be on the Enfield and hopefully David will be fit to ride Bobs Goldies.
Meantime back to the physio now for some work on my shoulder, then roll on the next round- can't wait!
Well, I think its about time I give you all some up to date news and happenings regarding my injuries and recent (exciting!) activities in my racing world. However, the first thing that needs to be done is to wish you all a happy new year. I hope you had a good Christmas break, andI thank for your continued support.
As far as my recovery following my Manx GP crash goes all looks very good, Im back in full-time work and everything seems to be going smoothly, continuing my trend of beating doctors expectations.
The head injuries are (touch wood) showing no real lasting side effects and my physical injuries are still improving. One of the main problems has been my left shoulder following the dislocation, with limited movement and very little strength,but it is now however good enough to swim breaststroke and Ive recently been informed that there is infact no need for any further surgery. Life is at last beginning to get back to normal, and its about time (the worst year of my life by far!). Fingers crossed now for an appointment about my road driving license in the next few days and then the real training can begin!
As far as my recent racing plans go Ive just returned from a trip to Northern Ireland with the intention of visiting a team which could result in the backing to compete at all Irish nationals as well as the International events for 2011, on three proven top machines. The only problem was that the team boss was taken very ill and ended up in and out of hospital for the duration of my visit, which had been delayed to after Christmas due to the bad Weather. What a shame, another trip may be in order!
Id like to pass on my thanks to Trev and Wendy for their fantastic hospitality, it was great to be back over, and my very best wishes to said team boss for a quick and full recovery.
The other bit of exciting news regarding racing is that Ive been back on a bike for the first time since the accident, which is just over four months! Call us mad, but myself and Danny Imberg set off to Mallory park on the 2nd January where I completed 3 sessions on his Kawasaki ZX6R without any problems. I seemed to be as fast as ever immediately, despite the less than warm conditions. It set many minds at rest and has brought me back to life thank god.
Now there is just the less than easy task of getting enough financial backing and bringing my condition back to the top of its game, in readiness for the 2011 season start.
Finally I feel more comfortable writing a few words to thank all of the well wishers for their support since my Manx GP accident and also better about publishing them to my website! Being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things is a complete curse after a bang on the head!
As Im sure most of you are aware I suffered a major crash at the Manx GP in the Isle of Man towards the end of August. A catalogue of injuries were received including a punctured lung, dislocated knees and shoulder, tissue and tendon wounds as well as four broken vertebra and an eye socket. However, most of these paled into insignificance because of a serious head injury that left me in a four day coma. Initial treatment was received at the scene before being transferred to nobles hospital and then off the Island to Walton neurological hospital in Liverpool within 24 hours.
After I woke up there is a gap of about two weeks where I cannot remember a thing- even though Ive heard a lot of stories! There is also a gap for about a month beforehand including Armoy and the Ulster GP. Mum stayed at my aunts house in Liverpool and was joined by Dad at times and Kirsty who remained loyal, spending two separate weeks there despite us not having been together all year.
Initial recovery went well with my shoulder and knee relocated, and operations to sort the knee wound and lung. I finally returned home on the 5th of October.
Since I have been at home recovery has progressed well and Im now starting to enter the real world.
The physical wounds still have some way to go but I have already been on a pushbike and as soon as I can training will begin in proper measures in preparation for next season.
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported me in any measure through this tough time; it truly shows why we are supporters of the greatest sport on earth! I aim to keep you all up to date on here as plans progress and need to send a public appreciation to all of my sponsors about a year that we continued to learn the joys (and lows...) of real road racing!
Just 37 days after his high speed accident during the Manx grand prix post classic race, Olie Linsdell has returned to his home in Westoning, Bedfordshire.
The accident, which happened at the fast Bishops court section of the 37 and a half mile TT course, left Olie in a critical condition with head injuries. He was flown from Nobles hospital in the Isle of Man to the Walton neurological centre in Liverpool, remaining in intensive care for a week and a half. Waking on the 5th day, he continued to astound his family and doctors by insisting on getting up on the 8th day, despite having undergone surgery on his damaged right knee the day before!
Olie continues daily to regain his strength, and has started to take walks to build up his stamina, whilst also exercising his memory, which naturally needs recuperation also.
Carole his mother said:
Olie is so happy to be back in the Family home, and has been amazed by all the messages, letters, cards visits and well wishes that have been sent and continue to be received during this very difficult time. He will soon we hope feel well enough to thank you all personally, but wishes meantime for me to pass on this update.
The care and attention of the amazing Hospital staff, at Nobles, the Walton Centre and Biggleswade hospitals, plus the Marshalls and Helicopter medics that attended him at the accident scene has been nothing short of wonderful. The amazing and unexpected support of Wynn Evans, the Manx Grand Prix supporters club, Paddock angels plus many others has humbled us. The fantastic help from our Friends on and off the Island will never be forgotten.
Olie, Dad Steve, myself and Brother David can never express our thanks enough to you all. We are now all confident that Olie will make a full recovery, and are so, so lucky that he is here to tell the tale. We would also like to ask that all those positive and uplifting thoughts be directed as well to Tim Venables, and parents Tory and Brian, who we had the privilege to become acquainted with during the long hours spent at the Walton, and to whom we send our love and prayers that they too will soon all be home.
Finally, When Olie had his accident at the TT in 2009; someone said he was sponsored by God- well I am pleased to say that a second year of sponsorship was negotiated for 2010 as well
After an indifferent Isle of Man TT, Team Flitwick Motorcycles were looking forward to visiting the little Olivers Mount road circuit, in Scarborough, where I was to ride Giovanni Cabbassis fabulous Paton, for the annual Barry Sheene Road Race Festival in readiness for the Ulster GP and the Manx Grand Prix in August. I was also riding the SMV Yamaha 600 Supersport.
Sadly our new Team truck had yet again failed to materialise, so it was decided to work from the Van and Pop up awning, staying in the relative comfort of a small Band B.
We set off on Saturday afternoon, the Team consisting of Dad, myself, David, Mervyn Janet and Mum, meeting Sponsor and friend Steve Bond at the circuit, who was travelling over from the Isle of Man.
Setting up was a breeze, with no big truck to worry about, although the very windy weather meant that thepop- up awning needed to be weighted down and tied to the fence to prevent it turning into a kite!
The forecast was for sunshine, to overcast and back to sunshine with a light to strong breeze, and the possibility of rain for Olivers Mount, but ever the optimistic we refused to believe it would be anything but sunny. After a quick wash and brush up we took in a great Chinese feast at what is probably the best Chinese in Scarborough, then it was bed in readiness for the next days events.
Practice and qualifying went well, anf myself and classic 2009 rival Ryan Farquhar were well ahead of the Classic field, Ryan riding a Paton belonging to Roger Winfield. I also qualified third for the 600 modern class. The Weather was very hot but with such a strong wind that we very near lost the awning entirely, having to tie it in again to the van as well as the fence!
First up was race three, an eight-lapper for modern machines 600cc and over. As i had qualified 3rd fastest, I was on the front row with Ryan in Pole, , Keith Pringle second, and Mick Goodings 4th.
It was Keith Pringle who took the hole shot with Ryan slotting into second as we rounded the Mere Hairpin and by Drurys on the opening lap it was Farquhar in the lead, leading at the end of the lap by a 1.880 second advantage over Keith Pringle and me hot on his tail in third. This is the order we finished in.
Next up was the first leg of the Denis Parkinson Trophy Race for Up to 500cc Classic machines pre 1973, once again over eight laps.
This time I took the pole position from rival Ryan Farquhar, leeding the field into Mere Hairpin. By the end of the opening lap Ryan had crept past by me by two-tenths of a second, with Mark Parrett on a G50 Matchless third some 12 seconds down.
It was the same gap a lap later, with positions remained static, and the remaining riders circulating.
At Drurys on lap three I passed Ryan, but by the end of lap it was Farquhar back in front by some 22 seconds, after I slid off at Mountside Hairpinwith, and was forced to retire having broken a footrest- leaving Farquhar to take the win by a massive 64 seconds ahead of Mark Parrett and Grant Sellars.
Next up for me was race six, the Geoff Barry Trophy Race, which included the larger capacity classic machines. Once again I took the hole shot from Pole position, followed by Ryan Farquhar, with John MacFarlane on his 1000 third.
I heldl held the lead at the end of lap one of eight by nine-tenths of a second, with James Coward now third.
Lap two saw the gap widen to four seconds, with James Coward in third, a further nine seconds down.
Lap three saw John MacFarlane taking third spot, and the gap between myself and Ryan now up to 10 1/2 seconds. Half distance and Ryan was now being chased by MacFarlane with only two and a half seconds between them, whilst my own lead was now nearly 15 seconds. A lap later I added another second to my lead, with John MacFarlane catching Ryan, passing him by three-quarter distance,
The penultimate lap I managed to extend my lead to some 11 seconds over John MacFarlane with Ryan still in third.
i took the race win by 13.7 seconds over John MacFarlane and Ryan Farquhar, with 17 seconds between second and third.
Race eight, the second leg of the Denis Parkinson Trophy saw Ryan retiring from the meeting, giving extreme fatigue as the reason, having travelled on the overnight ferry from Ireland, where he was racing on Saturday.
I held the lead from the start with Paul Coward second and Mark Parrett third, and was leading by some 8.4 seconds, at the end of lap one. The lead was doubled after another 2.43-miles, although the gap between second and third was down to four-tenths of a second.
At the four-lap mark the lead was half a minute, whilst the gap between second and third was up to 1.70 seconds.
On the fifth lap I broke the lap record lifting the speed to 74.441mph (1min 57.516sec) beating Ryan Farquhars record set last year. At three-quarter race distance the lead was up to 54.866 seconds. By the chequered flag at the end of the eight laps I was in the lead by 74.346 seconds from Mark Parrett with Grant Sellars coming home third.
The penultimate race of the day, the second leg of the modern solos of 600cc and over, saw Keith Pringle, myself and Ivan Lintin on the front row and it was Keith who took the hole-shot round Mere Hairpin and up Sheenes Rise.
At the end of the first of the eight laps, Pringle was still in the lead, followed by Lintin andmyself. Mick Goodings, Mark Buckley and Alistair Haworth made up the top six. No change on lap two, only the lead was extended to 4.8 seconds and by lap four to 6 seconds with positions remaining the same.
I managed to pull three-quarters of a second back on race leader Pringle on lap five. with Lintin a further 4.4 seconds down in third.
Lap six and the difference between the leader duo was down to 5 seconds, whilst the gap between second and third extended to 5.5 seconds, with no changes in the top six.
Keith Pringle extended his lead to 6 seconds on his penultimate lap and at the chequered flag was 5.310 seconds ahead of me, with Ivan Lintin taking the final podium position.
The final race of the day was the feature race for the unique Barry Sheene Trophy.
Once again I got the hole-shot, but John MacFarlane crept past me as we crossed the line to start the second lap with James Coward in third. Myself and MacFarlane were still separated by a half-second at the end of lap two, with Coward now 12 seconds down in third. No change on lap three between us, although James Coward was falling back, now 20 seconds down.
At half-distance, I came past, and was back in front of MacFarlane by 0.786 of a second, with Coward now 28 seconds adrift. Lap five of eight and my lead was extended by some 3 seconds in hand on John. Lap six and this had increased to 6.3 seconds. Lap seven I was still pressing ahead on the Paton with an eight second lead.
At the all important chequered flag, I took a 6.661 second victory over John, with James Coward third, taking the coveted Barry Sheene Trophy in the process.
As the presentation commenced, the Rain came down, having held off until the last man crossed the line.
All in all a pleasing meeting, next up Kells.
Team Flitwick Yamaha set off to the Isle of Man for the 2010 TT races with high hopes.
FTR Moto2 Senior TT 2010, photo courtesy of Joey-Jan.com
It had been a long hard winter, with many hours spent in raising sponsorship to enable me to compete on the roads with a full complement of Yamaha machinery.
I am so excited to report that I will ride one of the new breed of motorcycle Grand Prix machines at the 2010 Isle of Man TT.
It is with great pleasure that Team Flitwick Yamaha and Olie Linsdell announce their continued relationship for the 2010 Road Race season. Olie had looked set to really make a mark for himself in his first full year of Road Racing, and with strong finishes at Cookstown, Tandragee and the Northwest 200 it looked as though the young Flitwick man could really spring a few surprises at the TT in 2009. After some strong early practice times, including a standing start Supersport lap of 120.9mph on Tuesday evening, and 122mph on his first ever Superbike circuit, disaster struck when a technical issue caused a high speed crash in the Glen Duff section of the mountain course on Wednesday.
The accident resulted in a broken left femur as well as severe damage to his knee and elbow. Despite the injuries Olie managed to recover well enough to pass a medical for the Manx GP less than three months later, where he competed on Giovanni Cabassis classic 500 Paton. By breaking the lap record twice and keeping Ryan Farqhuar at bay for more than two laps, before the bike eventually slowed and stopped, Olie showed that he has lost none of his desire or outright speed. When you consider that an X-Ray just three days before travelling showed that the leg was still fractured, it is clear that he will return to the Island in 2010 as both a mentally and physically stronger rider.
The accident proved to put quite a financial strain on the team however, by writing off the new Supersport R6. Since the Manx GP Olie and a group of loyal supporters have been working hard to put a competitive package together that will allow them to pick up where they left off in 2009, and attend to some unfinished business in both the Internationals and Irish National Road Racing events. The team now finds themselves in a favourable position to announce John and Olaug Mann at SMV Engineering as title sponsors of a new Yamaha Supersport R6 machine, as well as the return to Team Flitwick Yamaha of Steve Bond, who will fund a new top spec R1 Superbike. The Superstock R1 provided by Peter Wheeler of Wheeler Electrical will be retained for a second campaign in what looks to form a formidable stable of machines. All bikes will be once again be supplied with the best rubber from Pirelli.
The provisional calendar of events sees the main focus being on the three International meetings, with a good number of Irish national and Scarborough meetings included where funds allow. Olie is also currently looking into the possibility of taking the team to the Macau GP at the end of the year. Alongside its modern road racing efforts the team will be running in the newly announced ACU National Classic championship and at the Manx GP in August, as well as at selected Irish meetings.
Now that the team has the budget in place to build three competitive bikes they are left with the task of finding the necessary funding to complete a full season, and urge any potential backers to take a look at www.olielinsdellracing.com or contact Olie by email at email@example.com for more information. 2010 is going to be a year where every little helps, no matter how big or small. With Olies potential and the teams 30 years of experience, it could be one to remember!
Please check out the diary page for provisional 2010 race dates.
After his massive off at the TT in June, and the disappointment of missing the Ulster GP due to fitness, Olie was determined to prove he still had what it takes by riding in the Senior Classic Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man TT circuit. He was lucky enough to have at the use of the fantastic 500 Bic Paton supplied by our good friend and Sponsor Giovanni Cabassi.
Mondays races were cancelled, as the Weather was truly awful, and a decision was made by the organisers to combine all Classic classes into one, to be held on the scheduled senior classic day on Wednesday. This gave some of the Classic riders a headache, deciding which machine to ride- 350, 250, or 500. In some cases due to the inclement practice week weather, the decision was made easier due to non qualification. In our case, only 500 classics were in use, so no issues at all.
The Paton twins completed the opening lap almost alongside one another, with Ryan passing the pits at 128mph, and Olie at 132! The Flitwick rider set a new lap record from a standing start, upping the speed to 108.912mph, with a 17 second advantage. Mark Parrett was still hanging on to third.
Lap two and the dueling pair were together with Olie now leading on the road at Glen Helen.
However at Glen Helen on lap 3 the gap was down to 14 seconds between the leading Senior pair, with Farquhar now leading on the road, By Ramsey Farquhar was back in the lead both on the roads and time, by 3-seconds over Olie, and we realised he must have a problem. Meantime, at the end of the lap Farquhar came into the pits to refuel having blitzed the lap record and upping the speed to 110.984mph (20m 23.85s). Olie second and he too came into refuel, but had a bad restart, having to go back onto the rollers to fire the machine up again. As he left the pits he had a 38 second deficit over race leader Farquhar.
It is with regret that I have had to withdraw from the Ulster GP. I have been working hard to improve the movement and strength in my leg and Knee, but had set myself a cut off of last Wednesday to make a decision as to whether i was fit to ride. With intensive Physio and exercise my leg is improving all the time, but I felt it was just not good enough to muscle the big Yamaha Superbike and Superstock machines round the fast Dundrod circuit, without compromising safety or my competitiveness.
The good news is that since I made the decision and spoke to Noel to tell him I wouldn't be riding there this year; I have been back on a bike! Riding one of Mum and Dads Yamaha XJ6 diversion Demonstrators, I have ridden to and from work this week, and the movement and strength has improved almost hourly! I have also seen the medical officer at the BSB, who have x-rayed and examined my leg, and the even better news is that they are recommending that I am fit to ride at the Manx.
The ultimate say so still lies with the Manx and TT chief medical officer, as it should, but all being well I will be riding the fabulous Paton in the Senior Classic.
Can't wait to see what I can do against the amazing flying Ryan Farquhar- after Scarborough, we definitely have unfinished business, and I'm sure Alan Oversby on the MV will be a force to be reckoned with as well!
Meantime, I will be flying over to watch the Ulster, so look out for me in the paddock, and say hello!
Will keep you updated as news unfolds!
Just thought I would give you all a quick update. For those of you that don't know, I had a BIG crash on Wednesday 3rd June during practice for the TT. We had been bang on the pace in practice, especially on he 600 with a 121mph standing start lap placing me seventh on the leaderboard up to that point. I also managed 122 on my first lap on the superbike and the same on the stocker. I had been looking forward to the TT so much and to not be able to race is very gutting!
Only just got home late last Sunday night, so im just getting to grips with all the emails etc. I have a broken femur that has been pinned and nailed but the main issue is the knee, because all of the skin and flesh, along with some of the tendons and bone have been ground away. This has been stitched up but there is still an open wound that means I cannot move my knee until it has closed, for fear of opening it back up.....
Anyway, I'm a lucky lad to have got away with a 150mph TT crash so lightly, therefore I'm not feeling too sorry for myself, just looking onwards and upwards. Im going to do everything I can to be back for the Ulster then my return to the mountain course for the Manx GP on the Paton. That's the plan anyway! Thanks for all the support, I hope to see you around the paddock at some point before the end of the season!
Olie travelled to Scarboroughs Olivers mount circuit for a weekend riding the fantastic Paton 500 twin, kindly on load from Sponsor and good friend Giovanni Cabbassi.
The Paton seemed to have some handling problems, and Olie and the Team made adjustments to the settings, in the hope of an improvement, However the practice ws good enough for him to qualify on the front row for the Days races.
Olie was competing in the Classic Denis Parkinson Trophy to be held over two legs on Saturday and Sunday, sheduled at race three.
Olie next race was scheduled at Race five, the Classic Superbike class and the first leg of the Geoff Barry Trophy. Olie and the team had now found a broken fairing stay, after race one, and the cause of the strange handling characteristics, and were sitting this one out as they made the necessary repair.
The Sunday dawned, and it was a clear sunny day that greeted Olie on the second day of the weekend.
First up was the second leg of the Denis Parkinson Trophy for 500cc Classic machines which saw Olie. Ryan and Peter Branton lining up on the front row. Peter got the hole-shot into Mere Hairpin. It was Olie Linsdell who was however in the lead at the end of the lap being chased by Ryan Farquhar. Farquhar again lowered the lap record on the third lap as he chased after Linsdell.
The Barry Sheene Trophy was the prize for the first leg of the Classic Superbike Races, and
In the second leg of the Barry Sheene Trophy, it was Thwaites and MacFarlane who shared the hole-shot into Mere Hairpin. However it was again Olies rival Ryan Farquhar who headed the field at the end of the opening lap, two seconds ahead of Thwaites with Olie a close third.
The gap was only two-tenths of a second as they started their penultimate lap, with Gary Thwaites in third. Despite Olie riding the wheels off Giovannis fabulous Paton, he was unable to get closer. The Patons started their final lap still separated by that two-tenths of a second and crossed the line in that order with Gary Thwaites third.
A fantastic weekend all in all, and a prelude to the Manx where both Olie and Ryan will again ride the Patons- watch this space, as there is definitely unfinished business.
With three successful meeting already under our belts, and the season well and truly underway, it was off to the Northwest for the first of four International meetings this year. The Northwest 200 has a rule that only allows a rider to compete in five races in any one day, so decisions had to be made about which bikes were to be ridden. Peter Berwick had offered the 250 and Matt the 125, both classes that I could have a reasonable chance of podium success, and I was keen to try and disprove some peoples views that my two victories had only happened because of the bike I was on. I agreed to ride these two, which meant I had three races left to play with. Peter Wheeler had bought us the Superstock Bike and wanted us to run it at the internationals, so there was a third race. Pete Beale has loaned us an ex Karl Harris Superbike Yamaha for the big meetings, so the two Superbike races would make up the fourth and the fifth. It was going to be a busy day! Obviously this meant that I wouldn't be riding the 600 this year, but I was happy with the decision because the meeting was all about getting ready for the TT. I have been on a 600 for four years now so have a reasonable idea of how to ride one not something that can be said about Superbikes!
The truck had been left at Marshalls from Cookstown and Tandragee, so Dad, Merv and I once again flew into Belfast and drove up to the paddock on Sunday afternoon, managing to get a pretty good spot. We were a bit hidden but had Pirelli, Dunlop and Shoei right next door so we couldn't complain! Practice wasn't until Tuesday evening so we would have Monday to finish setting up and prepare the bikes.
Kirsty my Girlfriend arrived at the paddock to help us set up and made the best possible first impression on Merv when she brought cake supplies with her Afterwards we went for a lovely meal at Bushtown and checked in at Mrs Hegartys B & B, having our first tea and cake experience of the year (every time you walk through the door an irresistible plate of homemade cakes is thrust under your nose )
The whole of Monday was spent prepping the bikes; there was quite a lot to do because we hadnt really done anything to them after Cookstown or the Tandragee. We also took delivery of Petes Superbike from Rob Mac. Now thats one seriously trick bit of kit We were given a bit of a brief on what all the buttons do (six on the left handlebar it looks like a Christmas tree!) then left to our own devices! Both Sunday and Monday had been beautiful sunny days, which was slightly worrying because the more sunny days you have in a row the more likely it is to rain tomorrow. And practice was tomorrow
Luckily Tuesday night was dry and sunny. It was very windy though and as we lined up on the grid for the first 125 / 250 session I knew it was going to be really tough on the little bikes. The fact that the sessions are mixed means that there isnt really much opportunity to come in and make any changes on either bike because by the time you have wasted time on out laps and in laps you realistically only have a maximum of two flying laps on each bike, if your lucky. I went out on the 250 first but it soon became apparent that the gearing was way out into the strong headwind. I couldn't use top gear at all! I stayed out to get a time on the board with one flying lap then an in lap. The stiffer springs we had fitted after Cookstown felt better on the brakes, but there was no point plugging away on a bike that was so far out on the gearing. The Northwest is all about speed and if you havent got it you may as well be banging your head against a brick wall I came in and jumped on the 125, which was still a bit over geared, but at least I could hold top down to university and almost rev out on the run into Magherabuoy chicane. I had still only ridden a 125 three times so the sharp steering, amazing brakes and cramped riding style was a bit of a shock. By the time I got to station corner each lap my muscles were cramping up and I wished the straight was over! On the final of my four laps I slotted in the third fastest time, just ahead of Chris Palmer, which I was pretty pleased with considering the wind and the fact that I had never ridden one on such high gearing slipping the clutch uphill out of 20mph hairpins is quite an art!
So it was off of the 125 and straight onto the 200 + BHP Superbike! I was a bit anxious about riding the bike and it hadnt helped that every time I had read any motorcycle press in the past month or so there was an interview with Rob Mac saying how much of an animal his '08 bike was My anxiety soon turned to joy as I realised that the thing is actually easier to ride than the Superstocker There is no denying it, the thing is a rocketship, but the thing that impressed me most was how balanced, flikable and generally well sorted the thing is! I managed to finish the session in 16th overall at 116.997mph, and was fastest through the speed traps at 192mph, even though it was hitting the rev limiter in top gear I was pretty pleased that I was only ten seconds off the pole pace because I didn'tt really feel like I was trying too hard and its good to be only a few seconds off the likes of Guy Martin and ahead of Gary Johnson on such a long track, given my relatively inexperience on big bikes. The final session of the evening was the Superstock and immediately realised just how much the thing wheelie's. It was much more of a handful than the Superbike, which has about 45bhp more I was just starting to feel comfortable on the bike after coming in to make a few changes, and pushed on for the first half of a lap, knowing that there wasn't long left of the session. Coming up to Station corner, the really fast right hander before the run down to University, the yellow flags suddenly came out and I had to come to nearly a complete halt to avoid the bits of bike that were scattered all over the track after a huge accident. The session was (eventually ) red flagged at Metrapole and I ended up 14th in the session at 114.05mph. I was a little disappointed at this but knew that there was quite a bit more pace to come with a few more laps so hoped to improve on Thursday. Afterwards we found out that the accident involved John Anderton, and although he was in a critical state to begin with, we have heard that he is now stable and I wish him a speedy recovery.
As usual the little amount of work that we thought we had to do on Wednesday turned into a manic full days worth We had decided to put a larger screen on the Superbike to stop my nose getting flattened by the front of my helmet at 190mph and had a few other bits and bobs to be getting on with. Before we knew it, it was gone six so it was back to the BNB for a quick scrub up, then out for dinner with Kirsty to one of the most epic restaurants ever. There is something like 300 main courses, 60 starters and 20 desserts Id had a menu for three days trying to make my mind up! Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs though and we left with a big bag full of more doggy bags
Peter Wheeler arrived on Thursday morning and the weather took a turn for the worse, spending the whole day deciding whether to be dry, wet, windy, hot or cold. Eventually it settled on warm and dry until about half way around the third lap on the 250. The gearing was better but still a long way off from where we needed it to be because it was still fairly windy. In someones slipstream it would pull the gearing okay but without it we just werent fast enough. On the third lap I pulled the pin, catching and passing the group in front. At the Magherabouy chicane it started to spit with rain a bit, but in my opinion not really enough to affect track conditions too much, so I kept pushing, well aware of the fact that this could be my last meaningful qualifying lap and set the grid for Saturdays race. I went round Metrapole and got on the gas, passing the point where I had some slides on Tuesday evening. I actually thought good, got away with that just as it slid then highsided me! Unfortunately someone had done exactly the same the lap before and the kerb protector had not been replaced, so both the bike and me bounced up it and into the fence. I was a bit disorientated and winded, so started walking the wrong way down the track trying to find a hole in the fence. I would have had a long walk but luckily a spectator pointed out that I needed to be going the other way to get off the track and behind the fencing My wrist had already started to swell up so I got a couple of ice packs on the go and managed to wriggle it about enough to please the medics sufficiently for them to let me out in the next session. I had also given my side quite a knock bouncing up the kerb and could feel that it was swelling up and bleeding a little, so I decided to stay in the 125 leathers and investigate properly after practice had finished
I got a lift back to the pits on the back of a traveling marshal, and by this time it had rained quite a bit. I had obviously missed the rest of the combined 125 and 250 practice, so my time from Tuesday would set my grid slot on the 125. Although it was still drizzling slightly before the Superbike session, it was nowhere near wet enough for wets. We stuck the intermediate front in and because intermediates would only last a couple of laps, used a slick rear, turning the traction control up a bit It soon became clear that it would be difficult for anyone to better their times from Tuesday so I rode around for a few laps just for the experience. Guy Martin came past and I didnt lose out too much on him so knew I was probably going at an alright pace. I decided to come in and wait for a while in case it started to dry out slightly but luck wasnt on our side so a few more damp laps was the order of the day I ended the session in 13th place overall but about 3mph down on Tuesdays time. I was closer to the pace though, this time just 7.5 seconds from the fastest man, Guy. I was also just ahead of some top names including Cameron Donald, Steve Plater, Bruce Anstey, John McGuiness and Ian! Maybe we should be hoping for a changeable race day Once again I was top of the pile in thespeedtrap times, this time 196mph, but still hitting the limiter in top. We needed more gearing! Unfortunately the Superstock session was cancelled due to heavier rain and low light, so it looked like my poor position from Tuesday would have to do for the race.
We actually didnt have the usual workload on Friday, the day before the race, because the Superstock bike had already been prepared and not used in practice. So all we needed to do was give the Superbike a check over and get down to Morrellis at last for an ice cream sundae! That evening we went out for a meal with Phil Milligan, another of my sponsors, and I managed to get my head down early, ready for the manic race day. 5 races is hard work! The day dawned overcast and we prepared ourselves for a changeable day weather wise - not only tough on the riders, but the mechanics are likely to have to make about a million wheel changes! Kirsty had got a really good rest on Friday and had managed to (almost...) shrug off the cold she had been uffering with all week, so was ready for grid duties, and I was feeling a lot better after thursdays accident. The first race was the 250, having been repaired by PeterBerwick in the interim and after only managing two flying laps in qualifying I was starting from 18th on the grid! It was still dry at this point but it was quite windy (story of the week). I got a pretty respectable start and was up into tenth by the end of lap one when the red flags came out, even though it was apparent that the bike was still lacking speed. We hung around for a bit but I only got as far as Station corner on the restart before the bike slowed dramatically, forcing me to stop. This was a major blow and not the way we wanted the days racing to start. I dont think I would have been able to chalenge for the podium because of the speed deficit, but we were certainly on for a top six position.
This pretty much set the scene for the day - red flag after red flag. I got quite a good start in the Superbike
race which was next and drove round the outside at the first corner. I had a bi of a coming together with Les Shand at York Hairpin but settled into a rhythm and was on the back of a group with some really good names in it, including Lougher and Hutchinson. I was the first of the riders who isn't considered a "big" name so that was nice. Unfortunately this race also got red flagged after only two laps, but I finished a pleasing 13th overall, with a fastest lap of 118.3mph, a personal best.
Next up was the 125 race, the only one that was to go full distance all day. As with the 250 we hadn't really completed many laps in qualifying but nevertheless lined up in 4th position at the front of the second row. Due to the lack of practice we were a bit unsure of the gearing, a bit worrying since it would be even more critical than normal on a 125, with the strong winds. I got a truly terrible start and went from 4th to pretty much last in the first wave but by the end of lap one I had fought back up into fourth position, behind Davy emon, who's bike started to throw out water on the coast road. It was slowing and I managed to get past him on the way into station and signal for him to stop. From then on in it was quite a lonely race for me. I was still really struggling with the gearing and could only pull fifth, leaving me 10 mph down through the speed traps. If we had had the speed and I had got a better start maybe we could have challenged. Even so, I lapped as fast as Chris Palmer did and finished third. So a pleasing podium on only my 4th ride on the bike- thanks Matt for the bike and your support.
Straight after the 125 race it was out onto the Superstocker, (no rest in this game...) which again turned out to be a short affair. Two mad laps of slipstreaming and passing before the reds came out saw me finish 15th, the same position as last year, but only two seconds off of 10th. It was that close. It had just started raining when it was stopped and we were all on treaded tyres, so in my opinion it should have ran full distance.
My final race of the day, the Superbike main race was unfortunately cancelled due to heavy rain, another decision that I don't really agree with. So, in a five race program we did 8 racing laps when it was scheduled for 23..... Not very good stats! Having said that, it must be extremely difficult for the organisers and particularly Mervyn White the Clerk of the course in these circumstances. They're dammned if they do, and dammned if they don't- not a job I envy!
I had managed to persuade Dad and Merv that it was a good idea for them to drive the truck back and let me stay for a night out, and fly back the next day. By the time we had got everything packed up, got back to Kirsty's, had a shower and some dinner it was gone half ten so we decided against going out . I was mentally tired after a day of getting worked up to race and then getting delayed anyway, so we opted for an early night! On the Sunday we had a nice day in Portrush chilling out and then probably the biggest roast dinner I have ever had. I swear i'm still full now! I was dropped off at the airport by Kirsty's Mum and just like that it was the end of an enjoyable week in the Emerald Isle!
Thanks to all my Team and sponsors for making it possible.
Next up is Scarborough on the Paton, then off to the TT the following Friday. Cant wait!
The Tandragee was to be the third weekend in a row that Team Flitwick Yamaha had been racing, and the second in Ireland. Both Dad and I had a much more relaxing week leading up to the Tandragee because we had left the truck and bikes in Ireland, so no late nights tinkering then! We flew out with Mervyn from Luton on Thursday evening and Marshall our good Friend in Ireland picked us up from the airport. The weather forecast for the event had looked pretty terrible all week and we fully expected to wake up on Friday morning to a torrential downpour For once the weather man got it right and I changed into my one piece waterproof suite and Wellington boots from the off After nearly failing to get a parking spot at the Cookstown the week before we headed off in the Race Truck much earlier and, after stopping to get some fuel and supplies (cake and custard ), we made it to the paddock just before 9 am. Quite a few people had made it to the paddock the night before, and it would seem that a lot had simply tried to get as close to where they wanted to be as possible, before grinding to a halt in the mud and setting up where they stood! This meant that the paddock was pretty unorganised, and this combined with the continuing rain made getting to where we wanted to be a bit of an uphill struggle We had a quick scout round and found a little spot that wasnt too far from the holding area / scrutineering, not (too!) muddy and was relatively flat. Getting to it was going to be a problem as the logical route through the paddock was blocked by stranded vehicles, so we had to make our own room by making a hole in the fence and coming in from the side. We approached from the road and bounced up a narrow bit of bumpy grass between the paddock fence and the road at quite a pace. Keep it pinned! I shouted to Dad as we swung round the corner at the end of the fence where it dropped away massively in an opposite camber. The rear end stepped out like a rally car and went opposite lock, and just as I thought we would make it all the way to our chosen spot, we ground to a halt about 20 yards short! Certainly the most exciting entrance to a paddock weve ever had Unfortunately where we had stopped still wasnt very level so we had to summon the tractor that was on towing duty to move us into our final position.
It was still raining pretty hard and we reluctantly started putting the awning up (brought back horrible memories of 08 Ulster GP ), and within about an hour we had finished and put the floor down (paddock stands and foot long grass dont really work well together!)
It goes without saying that about ten minutes later the rain stopped and the sun came out, bringing bright blue skies with it. Sods law I think its called I was entered in the two open races on the R1, the Supersport race on the R6 and the classic race on the Paton, so it was to be a busy weekend once again. We set about changing the gearing on all three, swapping numbers over (I was number 133 on all bikes at Tandragee), forks springs on the R1 and all the other little bits, then went through Scrutineering. Actually, strictly speaking, Dad and Merv took the bikes through while I went on the newcomers bus for my first taste of the circuit. I must say, it wasnt the best choice of bus, because anyone sitting on the right hand side couldnt see a thing because the driver cab was in the way. From what I could see the two main roads were very fast, open and flowing while the bit joining them up into a square were VERY bumpy, narrow and jumpy it was sure to take some learning. I stayed on the bus for another lap with about ten others, and sat at the front to get a clear view, enabling me to really relate to what the guide was telling us.
By the time all this had been done the roads were shutting and it was time for the newcomers session. Ive said before that I never really get any benefit from these sessions and the Tandragee was no different. They could potentially be really handy but as usual people always go off like its a race to get to the front of the group so blast off the start and sit really close to the instructor, meaning you can't see a thing about correct lines etc. Either this or you will get someone really slow in the group that restricts progress and really defeats the object because your not going fast enough to worry about lines, bumps or jumps! I think some serious consideration needs to be given to setting the groups off in order of known ability or something similar. So after five laps of this it was out on the R1 for the first proper session and it soon became clear that this was no Cookstown and it would indeed take some learning! I was really enjoying myself though. The two main roads were even faster than they looked, we were pulling nearly TT gearing in places, and the corners obviously needed a lot of track knowledge to make a proper job of. The two little roads were pretty mad with three huge bomb holes, with some big jumps and very bumpy! It was good to experience them because there are sure to be plenty more at the other races later in the season After Cookstown we had ordered some stiffer springs for the R1 but we were struggling to get the tyres to work at Tandragee. It felt like the forks were now too hard but we werent sure whether we couldnt push them hard enough to make them work because of a lack of grip on the circuit, or the lack of grip was infact caused by the forks I was also struggling with the wheelies; the back straight was nothing like a straight when the thing wheelied about 6 times on its way down it! I would also have to short shift up through three gears over the start finish in one monster wheelie lap after lap Anyway five laps are nowhere near enough time for me to feel comfortable pushing hard so I ended up qualifying 26th out of 40 starters.
After this it was straight out on the 600 which I felt much more at home with and started to learn a lot more about the circuit. Its much easier to ride as doesnt spend the whole time trying to raise the front wheel However we were still having grip issues, people tend to ride 600 much harder than the 1000s (bar a handful of riders), and I still needed more track time so although I went faster, we only qualified 28th on the 600, from 45 starters. The final session of the night turned out to be on the Paton an it really taught me a lot about the circuit as I could really concentrate on picking lines and thinking about things instead of the bike accelerating at warp speed and fighting to keep the front wheel down. I have a lot of experience on the Paton and because I spent the whole of 2007 riding the wheels of it chasing Lea Gourlay I feel at home really pushing on. I managed to qualify on pole position by nine and a half seconds and nearly on lap record pace, in an evening that wasnt producing quick times in any other class. By this time the light had really started to fade so the final session, the main Tandragee 100 open race qualifying, was cancelled and the grids would be set by the open qualifying from earlier.
The next day was forecast to be dry until late afternoon and we were warned in the briefing that they would really try and rattle through the schedule. On Saturday morning Irish hospitality once again came into play as Trev Williamson, a man I had given a pair of boots to the day before to help him in his fundraising campaign, invited me over for a shower and some breakfast! After a freshen up and a nice plate of scrambled egg I was ready for the busy day ahead The bikes once again had to go through scrutineering and the schedule was to run pretty much as practice did the night before with the Open Junior race first up on the R1. We had put a softer spring in one side to give us a setting that was affectively somewhere in between what we had run at Cookstown and practice. We also hoped that the sunny weather, and therefore higher track temperature, would help make the tyres work a bit better. Starting from 26th on the grid wasnt such a bad thing, because it meant that I was towards the front of the second wave. This meant that if I could get away well I would have some clear track for a large proportion of the race distance. I managed a pretty good start (I think Ive finally, after 5 years, cracked them!) and was soon up to second in the B group and spent most of the race with a 600 who I would catch through the first 2 thirds of the lap but I was struggling on the road back towards the flag. Thankfully the forks felt much better and I was really starting to get to grips with the bigger bike. I finished 17th overall and chopped a huge 8 seconds off my qualifying time, showing just how much I was learning about the circuit and riding a big bike with every lap.
The second race was the Supersport 600 event, where I hoped that the track experience on the R1 previously could translate into a good result on the 600, a bike that I had been riding for 3 years and felt much more comfortable on. I followed John Burrows round the warm up lap and although we were only at warm up lap pace I still managed to pick up a few tips from watching him. Unfortunately I got round to the grid and someone pointed out some fluid leaking from my bellypan. Upon closer inspection it was discovered that I had a hole in the radiator caused by a stone being flicked up, so my race was over before it had even begun! It would seem that John had got his own back for the harsh move I had put on him in the 250 race at Cookstown after all There was no easy path back to the paddock during the race so I decided to stay and walk up after the race had finished. Between each race so far there had been quite a delay when the van went out to collect bikes and riders, so I thought I had plenty of time to wonder back up the hill ready for the Classic race. That is until I caught the commentator saying that the Classic race was out on the warm up lap! I dumped the R6 on some innocent passer by and a quick run up the hill and an even quicker putting on of the helmet saw me going out on a hard warm up lap to catch up with the rest of the field.
Although I have been making fairly decent starts all year I managed to make a right hash of the classic race and was about sixth into the first corner from pole! I soon managed to get to second and Paton power took me into the lead about half way round lap one. I got my head down and went hard for the next lap and a half, breaking the lap record by a huge 4 mph on lap two at 92.235 mph, before the oil temperature got a bit high and therefore meant a lack of oil pressure. I backed off and tried to short shift and managed to prevent the temperature rising any further over the next four laps. Apart from that it was fairly uneventful until going into Castle Corner on the final lap. There were waved yellows on the way in and marshals standing in the track waving us down. I went really slowly around the corner and past a few bits of broken screen on the track, and as I started to accelerate away again the back end stepped round on oil or fuel and chucked me right out of the seat. I was lucky to stay onboard and took it very easy for the rest of the lap to eventually win by 50 seconds I was quite relieved that I had managed to top dads result from Cookstown otherwise I never would have heard the end of it! Its also nice to get a result or two for Paton. Maybe it will make people more aware of the bike in Ireland and maybe a few sales will come from it. Its an amazing bike and there isnt a more passionate bunch of motorcyclists in the world. Roberto Pattoni has really put everything into this project and could really do with selling a couple!
The final race of the day was the main final, the Tandragee 100 Open. I was again starting from 26th on the grid but this time it was in the third wave. I was feeling confident because of my new found experience of both the track, and bike and I knew that if I could get my head down from the start, breaking away from the rest of C group, I was only going to get quicker in the longer race. I got away in about fourth and soon got up to second in group. I was behind Andrew Courtney on his R1 and he was proving very difficult to pass, despite holding me up considerably. I eventually got past him at the start of lap three and immediately pulled a gap and started trying to up the pace and string a few tidy laps together. I was starting to feel really at home on the bike, and now I knew where it would wheelie, where it would jump and how it reacted to different inputs, I felt it safe to push on. On lap 5 I managed my personal best of 98.6 mph. I soon caught and passed half of group B and before I knew it the chequered flag was out. The thing with starting in waves is you really have no idea where you are overall so it was a nice surprise when Dad and Merv said I had had a really good ride and finished 9th overall! I was the first rider from outside the A group and it was a really good confidence boost ahead of the Northwest 200 where I will not only be riding the Wheeler Electrical Superstocker, but also Pete Beales, ex Karl Harris, 200+BHP Superbike! Good job Im starting to get the hang of riding 1000s
We hurriedly packed the awning and everything up before the rain came (it had remained perfect all day!) and shot off to Marshalls where we would be staying that night, and Valerie had made us a lovely dinner. We waited until about half past ten to go to the head of the road pub, and quite wisely so because judging by the state of most people in there, we wouldnt have made it to the airport the next morning! Its a really good laugh and there are some serious characters, I dont think Ive laughed so much in a long time! Bright and early on Sunday morning the three of us flew out from Belfast International airport, getting home in time for something important I had planned for Sunday afternoon and bank holiday Monday
So its back to work for a few days, one day at college and then flying straight out on Sunday to the first International at the Northwest 200, Irelands biggest sporting event. I feel that preparations have gone really well, the Tandragee moved me up to 10th overall in the Duke Road Race rankings, and I couldnt be happier with the bikes we have for the event. Dad and Merv have worked really hard to make sure the bikes are set up well, and I couldn't do it without them- so thanks.
I will be riding the 09 R1 in the Superstock race and the awesome ex-Rob Mac 08 Superbike, which will undoubtedly be one of the fastest things in a straight line at the race! I also have two of the most experienced and professional 2 stroke men in my corner for the 125 and 250 races in the shape of Peter Berwick and Matt Jackson so I fancy a result or two in the smaller classes. Im going to the triangle aiming to learn how to ride a Superbike and continue development of the stocker, so we can arrive at the TT in the shape we need to be in to up my game on the awesome mountain course. Bring it on!!
Just 4 days after the Spring Cup at Scarborough we set off for the first of the Irish National meetings at the little Cookstown course in Northern Ireland. Up until this point the only road races I had competed in had been the Northwest 200, TT, Ulster Grand Prix at Scarborough. With the exception of Scarborough, which is a bit of an oddity, these have all been quite wide, fast, flowing circuits with reasonable surfaces From what I had heard Cookstown wasnt any of these! I had been keeping a close eye on the forecast in the week leading up to the event and had resigned myself to the fact that we would be splashing about a bit for Friday practice. We had booked the midnight boat from Fleetwood to Larne, which ended up working really well because we could all work on the Thursday and then get a full nights sleep in the cabin, arriving in Ireland at half seven ready to set up. We had also heard some stories about the Cookstown paddock resembling the Somme some years so we were pleasantly surprised to find chippings down and not a muddy puddle to be seen anywhere, despite the rain. Our first mistake was arriving on Friday morning, as at first the paddock appeared totally full. Luckily we managed to slot into probably the only spot left that we could fit our setup and get the awning up in record time. We hadnt even forgotten anything, which was a surprise given the rush we were in packing!
The R6 and the R1 had been totally prepared at home, as well as Dads Paton (He was also to be a newcomer at Cookstown!) so it was simply a matter of pushing them through scrutineering when it opened at eleven. Peter Berwick did the same with the 250 and by midday we were all set up, signed on and enjoying a nice cup of tea! As usual at road races there was a guided newcomers bus to give everyone a good first look and talk round the circuit with experienced riders. We were sitting right at the back of the bus so was difficult to see but the general consensus was that in the wet this corner is slippy, this corner is slippy, this corner is VERY slippy you get the idea! There is also one section that merely resembles a very narrow and bumpy farm track, and a few fast jumps. Its safe to say that I wasnt really relishing going out in the rain that evening!
Photo Courtesy of Derek Clegg Photography
Practice was due to start at about 3pm and it got underway with a newcomers session that was supposed to be speed controlled behind marshals, just to give us a helping hand and prevent people going mad straight away. I dont really agree with newcomers sessions because I always tend to get behind someone that insists on flying off in front and tailing the marshal about one foot away, instead of sitting back and studying lines etc. Its not a blo*dy race for god sake! Either that or Im behind someone who is so slow that all I end up doing is focussing so hard on not crashing into the back of them, when they brake in the middle of the fastest straights, that I can't actually learn anything about the circuit. After a couple of laps of the latter happening a few people came hurtling past as if they were racing, so I decided to get on and do my own thing so I could at least get a feeling for gearing etc. I was pleasantly surprised by my first impressions of the circuit; it was literally about 100 times grippier than it looked!
The first proper session was the 250 and it was scheduled that we get 5 full laps of qualifying. Conditions were still pretty terrible, and because of the number of entries it had been split into two groups, the first of which had gone directly before my session and saw times some 13 seconds off the lap record. I got out at the front of the session and was second on the road behind Adrian McFarland who on the second lap I was catching. My third lap I pushed on but knew there was sure to be more time to come on the next lap, but as I got round to Mackney Bends there were waved yellows where Michael Dunlop had fallen off, without injury, so I was forced to abort the lap. After that I took the chequered flag and was delighted to have finished second in that session and third overall. So a front row start at my first attempt, less than a second from pole. Got to be happy with that!
Photo Courtesy of Derek Clegg Photography
Next up was the supersport qualifying, which had to be split into three groups because of the number of entries. It was still raining but I was really enjoying it, with the 250 giving me a good confidence boost and showing that the conditions were nowhere near as bad as I thought they would be. Again we got five laps and on my fourth I slotted into 7th position in our session and 10th overall, again a pleasing result. I would be starting the A race on a row alongside Gary Johnson and Keith Amor, both top road racers in their own rights. The final qualifying session was the Superbike and it was my first chance to use it in B mode, which smoothes the power delivery out considerably, ideal for the wet. As I said I have very little experience on the 1000cc machine, and even less on one in the wet! Still, I kept learning every lap and ended my session in 8th place and 15th overall, enough to qualify on pole in the third wave of the A race. Overall I was quite happy with my grid slots for each of the races and knew that there was a chance of stepping onto the podium in the 250 race the next day. Incidentally, dad had a wobble round on the Paton but isnt a great lover of the wet (old age thing ) and qualified 13th.
Im not kidding you, but after the days practice all of the bikes looked like they had been raced around a motocross track! Thick mud everywhere, and it hadnt come from the paddock, but from the road Luckily Merv had brought his mini pressure washer with him and we gave them all a quick blast ready for the next days action. The weather forecast was actually a bit more encouraging, with the rain due to stay away until lunchtime. I had had a lot of fun in qualifying and honestly didnt mind what the weather did, but it would probably have been easier had it stayed wet, to save me learning the dry track on the first laps of each race! For Scarborough and Cookstown qualifying we had been using a pair of 2008 R1 forks because ours were still with Maxton being re-valved, but Richard had sent them over to John Burrows, who lives about ten miles from the circuit. We got them that evening and decided to put them in to begin the development early before the Northwest and TT. Obviously it would be straight into the race without any practice, but we have great faith in Richard at Maxton, and their products are usually bang on straight out of the box.
Photo Courtesy of Hammy McClements - www.realroadracing.com
As expected the next day dawned bright and sunny and the roads shut on time at 10am. Because of the weather forecast we were warned at the briefing that they were really going to crack on through the schedule, and not wait for anyone. The first races got away and unfortunately the 125 race was stopped three times for a number of accidents, including one that involved Peter Wakefield, who Peter was sharing an awning with. Thankfully everyone was relatively okay, but it made the organisers cut the rest of the races by two laps because they were desperate to get the schedule out of the way before the rain came. My first race, and therefore my first ever dry laps of the Cookstown Orritor circuits, were to be on the 250, starting from the front row. We decided to go on the Dunlop intermediate tyres for the race because we werent sure that the track was totally without damp patches all the way round, and also knew that they generate heat a lot more quickly if we had to wait around for a while, while still providing good dry performance. I tried to scrub the tyres in as best I could on the warm up lap and got a cracking start, taking the initial holeshot before Michael Dunlops very fast bike took off I didnt know about the braking marker in the dry for the tight first corner so I was very conservative, slotting into fifth position, keeping as far right as I could to avoid getting t-boned! On the way out of McAdoo bends Ivan Linton highsided on cold tyres leaving me in fourth place, right on the tale of John Burrows and Barry Davidson. On the first flying lap I had my first go around McAdoo bends at full pace, badly misjudging the braking marker and was forced to shove it up the inside of Burrows, really sitting him up in a hard move that I apologise for. I dont want to make any enemies in such a friendly paddock! After this I started trying to chase down Davidson but couldnt quite get into a position where I could make a move. I chased hard for a few laps and tried to latch onto William Dunlop when he came past from the second wave. I couldnt even stay in his slipstream- that thing is a rocketship! The overall result was 4th position on corrected time, with a lap time of 1.32.7. I was well happy with this and I think Peter was too, although it did show how hard its going to be staying with the Dunlop bikes at the super fast Northwest 200, but I am relishing the challenge!
The meeting was a bit more relaxed than the previous weekends Spring Cup in Scarborough and I had a fair break before the Supersport race. I was a bit annoyed that I hadnt entered the Open race because I didnt think I was eligible, and because it meant that I missed out on some dry track time. All the same I had a good ride on the R6, going one better than qualifying and finishing ninth overall. I was really starting to enjoy the course and felt far more comfortable pushing a lot harder than I was at Scarborough. The final race was the grand final, Cookstown 100 event on the R1. I got a fair start from the third group and was second into the first corner. It soon became apparent that the new Maxton forks needed some stiffer springs because I was bottoming out on the brakes and even in the middle of a corner at one point on the course. All the same I just had some fun and learnt more about riding a big bike managing to finish 14th overall and setting a personal best lap of 1.29.1. Using the forks was a good idea and we can now get some springs sorted for the Tandragee in less than a weeks time. Oh, and Dad came second in the up to 1000 classic race, and 1st in class- still top dog.......
That night we stayed with dads old friend Marshall and went for a lovely steak and a few drinks in his local. There are certainly some characters in there thats for sure! Before the meeting I was beginning to wonder whether we had done the right thing to dedicate this year purely to road racing, but now I have experienced it first hand I can honestly say Im glad we did. I cant wait for the Tandragee because its a proper road race, with very fast, flowing corners! We will be leaving on Thursday evening again to complete a mad three weeks. I hope to see some of you there. Expect a report soon after!
Photo Courtesy of Derek Clegg Photography
It was a mad rush in the week leading up to the first race of the year, with more bits arriving every day and the all important bodywork and decals not appearing until Friday morning! It didnt help that I came down with a serious case of man flu on Wednesday (women just dont understand do they?!) and only managed to sleep for a total of ten hours over he next three days
Dad came up trumps again with the bikes, and they were both finished very early on Saturday morning. I hope that you agree that they look the part! Sharpy and I had been planning to leave at about 8am on Saturday morning, but by the time we had found all the relevant bits and pieces that had been tucked away since the last round in October and had loaded the truck it was gone midday. We finally managed to get away at about 1pm and I tried to catch up on some much needed sleep in the truck. Thankfully we had a great run up and arrived in the paddock just after five. We set about trying to remember how to put the awning up and it proved trickier than we remembered, especially considering we barely used it in 2008 because we were running with Ian.
Mum, Dad, Merv and Janet were supposed to be following not far behind in the car and we spent the whole run up expecting to see them come sailing past any minute. After Sharpy and I had finished setting up they still hadnt arrived so I made a quick phone call to see what was what. It soon emerged that they had been lazing around in their B and B and, now that they knew the awning was done, would come to the paddock (footnote from Mum- we're not stupid...)!
The new Maxton shock for the R1 had arrived at the shop after we had set off in the truck, so Dad brought it up in the car, and set about fitting it before getting the bikes scrutineered. This meant I would get a much needed extra half hour in bed on Sunday morning! By this time the lack of sleep and flu had really caught up with me and I felt truly terrible, with a banging headache, achy body and seriously blocked sinuses. Nice! All the same we headed out for some food and found a lovely Chinese restaurant where we ate our fill and made me feel a bit better.
That night I managed the first half decent nights sleep Id had in four days (mainly thanks to my newly discovered, favourite, does what it says on the tin medicine - Vicks Sinex Spray, helping me to actually breathe!) This was pretty handy because the next day looked like being probably the busiest of my career ..! Four bikes spread over four practice sessions, four qualifying, 2 heats and 8 finals .. Thats 18 sessions or nearly five hours in the saddle!
The Sunday dawned with bright blue skies and after I had signed on, practice started in earnest with the 125 session first up. After a couple of laps spent getting re-equated with the circuit and the bike (I dont exactly have bags of experience on either .) the bike died going up the hill so that was y session over. Then it was off that and straight onto the 600. They really rattle through the sessions to get the all in at Scarborough, so there is no time to even clean a visor in between. The R6 felt pretty good but I knew that it would have to be ridden really hard to overcome the circuit specialists! After this it was out on Peters 250 which I had tested at Mallory the week before, and as feared, it seemed to need harder springs for the heavy braking areas. Then it was straight out on the R1 which as expected turned out to be a bit of an animal around the mount .. Once again nothing seemed to be going to plan and after two exploratory laps it lost 2 cylinders going up the hill and went into a safe mode, forcing me to stop!
After a relatively poor practice it was straight into the qualifying, which was to be run in the same manic order. Matt had made some changes to the 125 and for a couple of laps it was flying. Ian came past and I tagged onto the back of him when suddenly the bike seized solid after landing from the jump! Luckily I always cover the clutch and I managed to catch it before it spat me off, but its fair to say it woke me up a bit! I felt really bad about it because the last two times I have ridden Matts bike, both at Scarborough, I have wrecked the thing! All be it neither have been my fault, and thankfully he found a kinked breather between the fuel tank and airbox, which would have starved it of fuel and caused the seizure. This cut me down to just the three bikes for the rest of the day .
After that the rest of the qualifying sessions were fairly mediocre if I'm honest. I was struggling with the circuit, especially the slow hairpins when you are braking down to about ten mph and living in constant fear that you are about to be t-boned! I ended up qualifying 7th on the 250, 9th on the 600 and 14th on the big un, which I was slightly disappointed with to be honest, but it was only the first round and I dont exactly have a lot of experience around Olivers Mount compared to the circuit specialists. From then on in it was race after race after race . We had a couple of encouraging results on the 250 with sixth and fourth place positions over the two legs, even though I was still struggling with the forks bottoming out on the brakes. The 600 proved to be tough and the physical efforts with the flu didnt make life easy, I bagged an 8th place in the heat to get myself into the final but couldnt get my head round the braking markers into the slow hairpins and wasnt being decisive enough with my overtakes, so finished 10th in both legs. Im still very inexperienced on the 1000 and was jumping off the 250, which was really hard to ride because of the hard braking and cramped riding position, straight onto the R1, meaning my arms were already physically tired before the races even started. The extra weight took its toll and I slumped to a disappointing 16th position in the first race and was forced to withdraw from the final race of the day, totally exhausted. I did however learn a lot from the meeting on how to ride a big bike at a little road race and am now much more prepared for Cookstown in a weeks time .
Dad, Mum and Sharpy travelled back in the front of the truck, while I wrapped myself up in a sleeping bag and blanket in the back to try and recover from what had been undoubtedly the most physically demanding day of my racing career! Overall it was a steady start to the 2009 season, and if Im honest I had hoped for more from the mount. I dont really get on with stop start circuits and traditionally I go far better at the faster, more flowing places proper road racing! We will be travelling to Cookstown on Thursday night with an open mind we really do not know what to expect from the smaller Irish road races, I just hope the weather holds out for us!
Photo courtesy of www.armstrongphotos.com
After a long, hard winter it was time for the newly formed 'Team Flitwick Yamaha' to start testing in preparation for the new season. After the successes of 2008 testing in Valencia with Ian it seemed obvious that we should go abroad to really get some truly meaningful miles on the new bikes. With this in mind we booked three days at the new Portimao circuit in the Algarve. It had produced some exciting racing in World Superbikes the year before and looked like and amazing circuit, with lots of elevation changes, something that's lacking in most new circuits. The R6 had been finished in an intermediate stage while we waited for some new parts to arrive, and we had been planning to take the new Superbike with us. However, on Thursday, with the bikes due to be shipped on Saturday, a few things happened that meant that this would not be possible. This meant that we had to quickly prepare the 09 Superstock R1. We had no parts so this was merely a case of stripping as much as we could off of the bike, fitting some sticky tyre's and changing the gearing. We also managed to lay our hands on a full Akrapovic system which made the already fantastic sounding crossplane crankshaft R1 sound even fruitier! Apart from that the bike would remain totally standard!
The track day we had booked was run by No-Limits and included the track time, hotel and bike transport, so all we had to concern ourselves with was flights an getting the bikes to Toddington services on Saturday! Me, Danny Imberg, Martin Ratcliffe and Dad flew out from Stanstead very early on Tuesday morning, ready for the first day on track on Wednesday. After we had checked into the hotel we managed to get to the track with Danny and Martin who are both instructors with No-Limits. When we arrived there the Peugeot and Lola Le-Man cars were testing so we had to wait around a few hours before we were allowed into the paddock. In this time we managed to get up on a bank and have a look at the track from the outside and the first thing that struck us was just how big the elevation changes really were! The television really doesn't do it justice, and one section beared a resemblance to the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca! When we finally got in the facilities all looked amazing but we couldn't actually see any more of the track so we would have to wait for our first laps in the morning. The evening was spent helping the No-Limits lads unload the 130 odd bikes from the arctic's and trying to match up all the wheels, kit bags etc. It was mad chaos for a few hours but eventually we finished our part and went back to the hotel and then on to a steak house and bed after a long day.....
We arrived at the Parkalgar circuit at about half past seven on Wednesday morning and did last minute checks on the bikes and got the warmers on. The event was being run as a normal track day so there would be three groups, each getting twenty minutes every hour. My group was third out on track so after the briefing we had a bit of time to have a quick watch of the first two groups. We decided to get out on the R1 for the first session because we had to do a couple of sighting laps and it would also be an ideal opportunity to get some running in miles on the brand new machine as I learned the circuit. First impressions of the track were brilliant and it seemed to have a bit of everything. Fast corners, first gear hairpins, bumpy bits, wheelies.... Perfect for testing every aspect of the bikes! Even though I wasn't using all the revs on the R1 by the end of the session it was apparent that Yamaha have built an amazing motorcycle. The engine gives so much confidence laying the power down an there is power everywhere you want it. One lap a corner could be second gear and the next third gear and without hesitation it still pulls like a train! Most of the reports had focused upon the engine but one of my initial impressions focused upon the chassis. Last years bike I really struggled to muscle around at Valencia and on the road races, but this one is no more difficult than the 600! it flicks from side to side very easily, even with the standard suspension an i is so stable on the brakes, I think the engine braking must be governed by the ECU, like we can achieve with the kit box on the R6.
The next session we went out on the new R6 and it was a joy to be back on Maxton Suspension! Every shock or forks that we have ever used by them have been pretty much bang on straight out of the box and this was no exception! Alot of people think Maxton is too hard but I like a really precise, hard bike so they suite me down to the ground. The session was spent getting used to the R6 and my experience on 600's allowed me to really push on fairly quickly. By the end of the session I was fairly comfortable with the track and we had an idea of where we needed to go with the gearing and the ECU. We had fitted an air/fuel ratio gauge on the dash so I had to try and remember what the ratio was at a particular RPM and throttle position..... Very difficult to remember in a twenty minute session! We will be trying to get some data logging setup in the future! After the session we also fiddled with the engine braking setting on the ECU and managed to dial out all of the chatter from the rear when braking into the slow corners, without even using a slipper clutch. Its amazing what you can achieve with clever electronics nowadays! The rest of the day was spent alternating between the two bikes and learning more about the circuit, trying to up the pace to keep developing, instead of stagnating at one pace and not really achieving anything with the setup of the bikes. We had a lot more flexibility with the setup of the R6 so we focused the R1 sessions on just learning about the engine and generally how to ride a big bike, because I haven't actually done many miles on a thousand, and pretty much all of them have been at road races!
We had a lot of track time over the three days so a lot of the time had to be spent making changes, not because we had a problem, but just to see how they affected the bike, helping us to build up a database so we know what to do in the situations that we might find ourselves in later in the year. There simply isn't enough practice time at race meetings so testing is the only option. This was pretty much how the next couple of days went, we were constantly fine tuning the R6 fuelling and constantly fiddling with little bits, but critically always improving. By the Thursday afternoon I had pretty much reached the limits of what I felt comfortable achieving on the standard suspension on the R1. Although it is very good it still needed stiffer springs and a bit more adjustability, and I was reluctant to crash it with the standard fairing etc for the sake of crashing it. Chasing a time was stupid because the next time I ride it the suspension will be totally different and we would achieve nothing as we weren't trying to find a setup at Portimao that would be redundant for the rest of the year.
We were quite restricted by the number of tyre's that we could take with us so by the Friday morning we were ready for one session on the R6 to go for a lap time and one with an Onboard camera on. I also had a couple of experience gaining sessions on the R1 with tyre's that were well past their best.... We planned to pack up at lunch time and go for an ice cream! The R6 session went really well and I was feeling really comfortable pushing hard on a bike again, considering it has been nearly five months since I had ridden! By the end of the session I had got to within 2.5 seconds off what top ten European Superstock 1000 rider Barry Burrell had achieved at the Racedays event a few weeks before. So when you consider that I was on a regular track day, on a 600 that wasn't at full spec and its a long lap I was pretty happy with the result. Friday evening was interesting as we went out on the town with a few interesting individual's that we had met.... Martin must have had a good night because he didn't roll in until six in the morning, just an hour before we were due for breakfast and get off to the airport! It was soon back to reality as we left the 27 degrees of Faro and arrived back at a 3 degrees, rainy Stanstead...
Next event is at Scarborough for the first race of the year. I will be at Mallory Park this Wednesday to test the 250 with Peter Berwick and if its nice weather I will also take the ex Karl Harris Superbike for a run out! Since I last did an update we have sold the Superbike that we bought before Christmas and Pete Beale has agreed for us to use his full BSB Spec Rob Mac R1's, and is also building us a brand new 09 Superbike that should be ready for the Northwest 200. Very exciting times for Team Flitwick Yamaha!
Meantime, to keep you going, watch my lap of the amazing Portimao circuit aboard the
Flitwick Supersport YZF- R6 below- enjoy it!
As I have said on the home page, we are now finally in a position to formally announce our plans for the coming season. 2009 will see us setting up our own team and competing in the three International Road Races, a majority of the Irish Nationals and the Manx GP. We have secured three new bikes and preparations are going well, ready for a shakedown test at the new Portimao circuit late in March. We have generous backing from Yamaha UK and Pirelli and will be campaigning a BSB superbike spec R1, Superstock Spec R1 and Supersport Spec R6 at most events, and can't wait to meet the new challenges ahead!
As ever money is a problem but we will find a way through the season one way or another and be presented professionally throughout. We are currently finalising paint schemes and partners etc, but all three bikes or in fact the whole team, are still available for title sponsorship. Any support or products, however small, will be a massive help to our efforts in 2009. Indeed, support does not just come in financial terms, so if you have ANY suggestions please be in touch! I will keep the website updated from now on with developments, and hopefully get some pictures of the bikes up when they come closer to completion. Thanks for your continued support and I hope to see some old and new faces at the events this year!
With my modern racing season ending at Brands Hatch there was just enough time to catch a bit of last minute sun with a ride in the Italian Classic Championship on the fabulous Paton. The venue was the little known Autodrome Franciacorta about 40 kilometers outside of Milan. It was however, more than just another classic race. It was my first opportunity to show a certain Mr Gourlay that it was not just the Paton that had made me fast last year, and I'm sure he wanted to show me the opposite! Lea would also be riding a Paton and we had both never been to the circuit, so it was sure to be a grudge match on a totally level playing field.
Dad and Merv drove over in the van to arrive on the Thursday morning while Mum, David, Helen and I flew over on the half past six flight from Luton on the Friday morning. Helen and I decided to go straight into Milan from the airport and spent the whole day wondering round seeing the sights. Helen had promised to spend some of my money to get her own back for all of our holidays being spent in racing paddocks. Obviously I was a bit worried about this so was pretty relieved when we got there and she was too scared to go into any of the really expensive shops (and there are alot of them in Milan!) because she wasn't dressed up enough! Women.....
In reality we spent most of the day lazing in the lovely Parco Sempione. And yes. It was hot. About 27 degrees hot. Unfortunately we had to get back to the airport by seven because Dad was going to pick us up when he came for Janet. The hotel was about an hours drive from the airport and by the time we got back to the hotel the early start and long day in Milan caught up with us. We quickly had dinner at the Hotel with Lea, Andy, Roger, Don....there was about 20 of us in all! Lea had already been to the track that day and reckoned he had learned the place. From what he said it sounded quite impressive so I tried to get an early night so I was ready to hit the ground running the next day.
We arrived at the circuit with plenty of time as we knew it would take longer than normal to sign on and scrutineer of course, due to the language barrier. Paulo, who works for Giovanni and Paton was our guide and we had soon signed on and bought the extra free practice session, so we could learn the circuit before timed qualifying. The weather was slightly more overcast than the day before but still pleasantly warm and the first session was spent riding round and learning the Autodrome Franciacorta circuit. First impressions were good, the circuit was very much like Valencia. It was very full on with most turns being long and spent right on the side of the tyre and leading straight into the next turn. After about five laps it was clear that the concerns we had before coming were justified. We were going to really struggle with a 15 lap race because I had no brake left after 6 laps at a very sedate pace! Apart from that the bike felt pretty good, although there wasn't a lot of grip at certain points of the track. Although we knew it would compromise the manoeuvrability of the bike, I thought it would be an advantage to switch back to the larger rear tyre we had used in 2007. Another thing that was apparent was that the quality of field wasn't exactly great...David timed both me and Lea to be pretty much the same speed in the session, but obviously the times were unofficial.
The second session was the first timed qualifying. We had made the changes and I felt comfortable that I could qualify well and that there was a lot more time to come than in the free practice session. I went out and did about 4 or 5 laps to get used to the tyre and the new gearing then came into the pits to adjust the brakes. I then went out and did four or five hot laps which was enough to put me on pole by 0.174 seconds from Lea, and 1 second inside the lap record, with a 1:21.956. Lea said that he was now struggling with grip from the rear and would change to the large tyre for the next session.
The second of the two qualifying sessions was in the afternoon and I knew that the times were sure to tumble as we got to know the circuit better and Lea upped the pace with the new tyre. I was however quietly confident that I could keep the upper hand, something that I knew Lea was not expecting. I left the pit lane with Lea and after a couple of laps I upped the pace. The rest of the session was spent getting faster and faster, and to be honest it turned into more of a personal race than a traditional qualifying session. It all got a bit out of hand in the end and the moves on the locals got harder and harder. If Lea was in front and got passed someone, I had to get passed, because I wasn't going to let him get ahead and gain a phychological advantage, and visa versa. After about six laps we were forced into the pits because of the brakes. I went out again but failed to better my time. Fortunately this was a really good lap and it put me on pole position by 0.349 seconds with a time of 1:19.6, again from Lea.
There was just one 15 lap race on the Sunday so here was a lot of hanging around. We put a new front tyre in and managed to get a couple of laps tagged on the end of a qualifying session to scrub it in. The bike felt good but I knew that it would be a long, hard race because of the brake. Or more so the lack of it after a couple of laps... Roger had fitted Lea's bike with a span adjuster so he could just about maintain a lever. The race was however a big disappointment. I rode around the whole warm up lap only using the rear brake. I got a good jump off the start but missed a gear between first and second gear which meant I was fourth into the first corner. Lea had got into the lead so I was conscious not to let him get away at all, because I knew that after about 6 laps it would just be a matter of hanging on in there until the end. There would be no chance to close any gap. My experience with Lea in 2007 had shown me just how hard he went for the first three laps of any race, and Lea really wanted to prove a point in this one!
At the second corner I closed right up on the back of the two Italian riders in front. The third corner was a third gear right hander that led directly into a left hander. I planned to get on the outside of them on the right then go underneath them both at the left and set about catching Lea. Such was the speed difference between us and the locals, he had already pulled quite a lead. Unfortunately I had not anticipated just how slow they were and clipped the rear wheel of one, immediately hitting the deck! The bikes drum brakes filled with stones in the deep gravel trap so my race was over! Lea went on to win the race by a country mile and lap everyone up to sixth place. He failed to go any quicker than I had in qualifying though so I took a morale victory in that.
It wasn't exactly the perfect end to the trip but I had showed that I am just as fast as Lea on a classic bike and also the improvement in my riding this season. Last year I struggled to beat Lea on a Norton. This year I was faster than him even when he was on a Paton. The trip was great fun and it was good to get a bit of late sun! I need to thank everybody who helped out - Mum, Dad, Merv, Helen, Roger, Don, Andy, Lea and the rest of the English contingent who traveled with us. Special thanks must once again go to the Italians - Paulo for organising everything and being our personal translator, Roberto for making such a fabulous motorcycle and Giovanni for his constant kindness and continued supply of the Paton!
Brands Hatch was the venue for the final rounds of the 2008 Metzeler National Superstock 600 championship and the end of a very enjoyable year with team Black horse Yamaha. We had been making steady progress in the second half of the year and now sat comfortably in the top ten at every round. I personally was really hoping to end the season on a high, boosting my confidence and carrying me through the winter. Brands Hatch is traditionally one of my two best tracks and having made a significant breakthrough with the setup at Silverstone we thought that a top six placing was not an unrealistic target.
The organizers had finally done the sensible thing for the final round and split the class into two different sessions for practice and qualifying - imagine 60 plus bikes out on a track with a suspected 48 second laptime....They split it according to championship positions meaning that I would be in group A for free practice and the two qualifying sessions. The times from both groups would then be added together with the fastest 38 going through to the two races (Brands was a double header because we lost the Donnington GP round)
Ian and Jo arrived at Brands on Wednesday evening, so were all setup by the time I picked David up from the airport and drove down on Thursday night. Sharpy arrived on Friday morning in time for the free practice session which was held in sunny but cold conditions. After going out on track it soon became clear that a mixture of the cold conditions and a dirty track meant that the normally good grid levels were somewhat compromised.. I was struggling to get any feel or grip from both the front or rear and I came in to the pits on several occasions to make adjustments to the tyre pressures and suspension, but nothing really made any significant improvements. What was an improvement however was only having 30 people out on track! After spending the whole year struggling through people it was such a luxury - sometimes you would get two or three whole laps without having to pass anyone! Thankfully it seemed that everyone else was struggling with the grip levels as much as I was and I ended the session quickest! My lap time of 49.511 was quick enough to keep Chris Northover and Lee Johnston at bay, but was much slower than the mid 48's I had expected. Group B were next out on track with Luke Jones and Jimmy Hill managing to go quicker, leaving me 3rd overall for free practice.
The first qualifying session was later that afternoon and it had warmed up considerably, pushing the track temperature up to 25 degrees. There had also been a fair few sessions out on track, laying rubber down and improving grip levels all the time. I gave it a few laps to check the conditions and then pushed on hard before the tyre's had lost there edge, as they do after four or five laps. About 5 laps in I got a P1 on the board with a 49.1 second lap. It was more like the times I had expected but was still not fast enough. At the quicker pace I was having a few problems with rear end grip and spent the rest of the session playing about with suspension. I felt some definite improvements but was frustrated to not string a whole lap together, slipping to third towards the end of the session behind Lee Johnston and Jonathan Dickson. I still had to be happy with the result because my sector times were quickest in 1 and 2 giving me an ideal time of 48.823. Group B were out next and once again only Luke Jones and Jimmy Hill managed to go any quicker putting me 5th overall. Luke had managed to get down to a very impressive 48.5 second lap, but I was pleased to see my sector times were still every bit as quick as him until sector 3. If I could improve there in qualifying 2 I should be on for a front row start at least!
Second qualifying was on Saturday morning at 10.45 an it dawned very damp from the overnight dew. So much so that even though it was warm and sunny it was still damp around druids by the time our session started. After a few laps I got down to a 50.2 but was still cautious around druids and was being hindered by the lower track temperature. Coming out of graham hill bend on my fourth lap a big cloud of smoke and the smell of burning oil filled the sky and two bikes tumbled through the gravel trap up at Surtees. This meant that there was a half hour delay to the rest of our session. When it restarted again there was a lot of cement dust down an it was still damp. We waited until the last ten minutes before venturing out, hoping that the other bikes would clean the track slightly. It was still very slippery around Surtees and I just couldn't get going, slipping to fourth in session by the end. Group B were out next and had a totally dry track and a much cleaner Surtees than we enjoyed. This meant that I slipped down the leaderboard to 9th on the grid. Once again off the front two rows! I was really disappointed with this as my ideal lap time was still good enough for 2nd on the grid. I'm sure I would have achieved it given better track conditions and having a better frame of mind for the second session. We live and learn.
Race one was a 22 lap affair later that afternoon. We fitted a new set of tyre's and I got a fairly good start, slotting into 10th place behind Robbie Brown. The next 22 laps were mad. A bit like the final Triumph Triple Challenge race of 2007 but at a far higher pace. I was involved in a battle with Chris Northover, Lee Johnston, Jess Trayler, Matt Bilton, Robbie Brown, Liam Lyon and David Haire, covering positions 2-9. The whole race was spent passing and being passed pretty much every lap. Lap times tumbled to the 48.8 second bracket they should have been in qualifying, with the top nine all lapping within a tenth of a second of each other. After 22 laps I managed to finish in 8th position, but perhaps more importantly, only 1 second behind second place! At the end 2nd to 9th was covered by just 1.1 seconds. That's got to be one of the closest races ever bar none!
The final race of the year was on Sunday afternoon, bang in the middle of the schedule and in front of not only a huge live crowd, but a live television audience. Sunday was very warm and I didn't manage to get as good a start as the day before. The problem wasn't really he jump off the line but more the decision to go on the inside at Paddock. I got a bit boxed in and a few people got round the outside of me, ending lap one in 13th position. It was just as close as the first race, only the higher temperature made it far harder work and caused a few people to crash. During the race I managed to drag myself back up to ninth place but by that time my tyre's had started to go off and I had to settle for another top ten finish. This was a big disappointment because had the start gone the other way and made me a few positions I really believe I was fast enough for a podium. Once again it was very close to the top six position I wanted, to end the season on a high,so I wasn't as annoyed as I would have been had I finished 20 seconds back and half a second off the pace!
That brought the National Superstock season to an end.
This year was all about learning as much as possible, getting a few good results and not losing the true point of racing - enjoyment! We certainly achieved it with Ian, Jo an the whole of team Black- Horse Yamaha. Having someone with Ian's experience and reputation was a massive help at the road races and I hope that I helped him to slip into a more managerial role as well. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to ride with such a well organised Team.
Now I start planning for next year. The current thinking is to try another year in Superstock 600 as my results have just started getting to where I want them to be, and if we could start next year as we have ended 2008 then who knows... Another part of the plan will also be the three international road races and hopefully the Manx on the Paton. But as always its down to money and sorting a deal out with the right team, and nothing is sorted yet!.
Over the next few months I will be trying to make contact and organise something with teams and personal sponsors so I will try to keep you informed! This friday we are off to Italy for a round of the Italian Classic Championship on the fabulous Paton. Hopefully for a nice relaxing time and a last bit of sun before the winter proper sets in.... there is one small point of a head to head with Lea Gourlay.... our first battle on equal machinery at a new track....bring it on!
Having tried to race Peter Berwick's 250 Honda on two occasions already this year we thought we had better go somewhere and try to get a result to ensure that Peter's trips to the Ulster and Scarborough, as well as the countless hours of work on the bike, were not all in vain. Obviously with it drawing towards the end of the season our options were limited, but there was still either the Stars of Darley meeting or a round of the ACU National 250 Championship remaining at Thruxton. We opted for the Thruxton meeting because it was only a Saturday and would give me the Sunday to relax a little bit - the first day in over a month I haven't been either racing or working! It would also be an ideal opportunity for me to top up my knowledge of Thruxton - Its not a circuit I have been to much as MRO never went there and club meetings are very few and far between because of the strict noise restrictions.
Peter traveled down from Cumbria on the Friday afternoon while I left at half past five on saturday morning to get there at half seven, picking Sharpy up on the way. We were hoping that the weather would be kind and hold out for the day but things didn't look good when I went to the car to find the first frost of the winter. Great!! I was a bit disappointed with our trip because I arrived at Sharpy's house 1 minute later than planned and didn't get to Thruxton until 7.33. Must try harder next time......!
Within 45 minutes of arriving we had scrutineered, signed on and set about trying to warm up in the caravan. It was still dry but very cold.... It was the calm before the storm because we would be very busy all day, with me having thought it would be a good idea to enter not only the National championship, but also the North Gloucester open 400 race and the open race against all the Powerbikes! The National Championship and Open class both had qualifying sessions but for the club race the grids would be set on championship positions, meaning I would be dead last!
Practice would just be a quick six lap affair and I managed to tag onto Toby Markham who has been campaigning 250's for years and is one of the championship contenders. Thruxton was the first time I had really had chance to push really hard on the little Honda so we were unsure of the setup beforehand. Turns out we were a fair way off, with the bike really tying itself in knots over the fast and bumpy corners. I was fairly pleased with the fastest lap in practice but I knew that in Qualifying and the races the pace was likely to drop by at least 2.5 seconds from my 1.23.77 lap. Before the race we changed the gearing and put a bit more steering damper on. We also adjusted the rear suspension because after practice the rear tyre had really suffered from a bad case of cold tear and would certainly not last even a qualifying session with the current setup, let alone 3 races on top!
By the time the the national qualifying session started it had warmed up considerably but had also become very windy. This meant that the bike was now running too rich and would not pull the new gearing. The bike was seriously sluggish in top gear, pulling 1500 rpm too little and not taking full throttle unless you 'coaxed' it through. I ended the session in 8th place, but had gone slower than in practice due to the wind. The important thing was that I was in the front two rows, important if we wanted to challenge for the podium in the race.
Almost immediately after it was out for the 'open' qualifying session. we managed to change the jets, hoping it would sharpen the bike up at the top end, allowing it to pull the new gearing. Thankfully we were right and it now pulled it no problem and it would accept full throttle no problem. I was still having handling problems but during the session we managed to narrow it down to simply being too soft, but we had ran out of adjustment so would have to live with it for this weekend. being the only 250 in the race meant that I really struggled because the bigger bikes would be like tractors in the corners and hold me up, but then blast past on the straights. I ended up qualifying 18th out of 50 odd bikes. Not bad when you have only half the horsepower of most of the rest of the field!
I was forced to put a new rear tyre in for the first race because the abrasive surface and bad setup had really wrecked it during the two qualifying sessions. The first race was the national where I would start from 8th on the grid. I had to go steady on the first few laps because of the new rear tyre's and settled in behind Andy Sawford, another seasoned campaigner. After about 4 laps he pulled away a bit and I got caught up in a battle for sixth place including Alex Kenchington. Three laps from the end it started to rain and I obviously had more confidence in the slicks, pulling away to finish sixth with a lap time of 1.22.4. I was a little disappointed with the result but knew there wasn't allot more I could have done with the setup.
We had just about enough time to refuel before the open race, by which time it had stopped raining. It was always going to be difficult against the 1000cc machines, but I thought it would be easier than it was.... The 250 doesn't have enough torque to get away from the line with the 4 strokes so I got completely swallowed up by the pack into turn one. The rest of the race was a bit mad. There were bikes everywhere and I had to go up the inside, around the outside and in fact anywhere I could to get past. If i go past someone early in the lap and then pushed hard I could pull just about a big enough gap for them to be close enough (after passing me down the back straight) to pass at the final chicane. I finished 16th but was held up s much that I was 2 seconds slower per la than I was 15 minutes before in the national race.
The last race of the day was the open 400 race so I would be starting from last on the grid. It had started to rain properly so we fitted the new set of wets. I was quite confident for this one because I know how grippy Thruxton is in the wet and I was sure that a lot of the others wouldn't have the same experience. By the end of lap one I was into sixth place and in touch with the leaders so I just paced myself to pass them on the last lap to take the win - I couldn't afford to crash before Brands! The wet setup was really good which highlights the need for the forks to be rebuilt with a stiffer spring and shim stack over the winter.
Overall we had a good day and finally got a result of sorts to repay Peter for his hard work this year. Hopefully it is something we can build on and take to the next level at the International Road Races next year. Next weekend see's us at Brands Hatch for the final round of the superstock 600 championship. Hope to see some of you there!
After Scarborough the weekend before it was back to the BSB paddock for the penultimate round of the Metzeler National Superstock 600 Championship on the Team Black Horse Yamaha R6. We had high hopes for a top result at Silverstone because the last few rounds had seen results improving to be consistantly within the top ten in each session. The team had expanded to be twice the size for the last two rounds with Conor Cummins onboard the R1 in the Superstock 1000 class.
Silverstone is only a 40 minute drive from home so we travelled on Friday morning through the fog. It cleared at about Milton Keynes only to re-appear at Silverstone meaning track activities were delayed for an hour until 10.30. The Silverstone complex is the biggest in the country which benefited us greatly this weekend, being allocated a garage. This was great because it saved the team putting up the colossal awning and provided a more comfortable working environment. The Triumph Triple Challenge my class from last year had a guest round at Silverstone, and good friend Danny Imberg was riding our (Peter Wheelers) 675 because he is interested in the series next year. It would also give Dad something to do over the weekend and save him getting bored!
I was first out on track at half past twelve for the 25 minute free practice session. I was amazed that even though it was so late in the season there was still 54 entries, even though there are only 40 grid slots each weekend some people havent had a race all year! This means that the session are seriously busy and although most of the field are within 3 or 4 seconds there are a few people who are between 6 and 12 seconds off the pace at every round. I think its the organisers responsibility to stop taking entries from these people and suggest that they do another year in club racing its only a matter of time until someone gets seriously hurt due to the unexpected lack of pace or pressure to perform when you do get a clear lap. Its not fair to the rest of the field to have a very rare clear (ish) lap ruined by getting massively held up behind them on a committed section during qualifying. Okay. Thats it. Rant over!
The first session was pretty tough for me. I was struggling with the circuit having only used this version of Silverstone (there are three different circuits) in the R6 Cup a few years ago. Its a pretty technical place, with most corners being long, slow, decreasing radius turns that you seemed to stay leant over forever in! Its also very busy with the gearbox so its sometimes an advantage to gear the bike for just 5 gears. As I upped the pace it soon became apparent that I had very little feel for what was going on with the front end at maximum lean angle. In other words side grip was a serious issue. I came in to make a few changes but nothing really had a big affect and with the lack of practice time we ended the session in a disappointing 20th position with a laptime of 1.34.685.
The first qualifying session was also on Friday evening at 5.15. The problems I was having in free practice could be caused by a number of things Too hard or too soft tyre pressures, rebound etc. Its in this situation that a lack of practice really becomes an issue (I personally believe that we deserve at least the same practice as the 125s) If you choose to go harder instead of softer and it turned out to be wrong you lose your only chance of getting it right before qualifying. We made some changes to the suspension and gearing before first qualifying, and although lap times were better I was still struggling and languishing in 24th place with a 1.33.995. The gearing meant that the bike was now too sluggish out of the corners and the suspension didnt have much affect. This meant that there was now only one chance before final qualifying to find a good setup.
Once again the day dawned under a thick layer of fog, this time meaning we were delayed by one and a half hours. The second qualifying session wasnt until about 2 oclock and the morning was spent deciding what to do with the bike. We changed the gearing back to using all 6 gears, hoping that we could get away with using second gear out of the chicane. We also made some slight changes to the tyre pressures and tried to keep me back a bit further back on the bike, trying to achieve a more neutral balance. I started the session on a new front tyre and the rear that had completed qualifying one. Immediately the bike felt better and after a few laps I was up into 14th position, even though I was in lot of traffic. After ten minutes I came in for a new rear tyre, and when I got back out I was still in amongst a lot of traffic. The next three laps were spent battling through people and with only a few minutes of the session left I managed to get to the front of the group with Luke Jones and Dan Kneen. This proved to be my only clear lap of the session and I went to 9th position with a 1.32.499, which put me 1.072 seconds from pole. The top three consisted of Jones, Hill and Johnston who were a huge 0.8s ahead of Robbie Brown in 4th. This meant that just another 0.2 would have put me on the front row! Unfortunately on the last lap I once again got held up so I had to settle for ninth. Not bad considering I was 24th the day before though!
We woke up on Sunday morning to blue skies and no fog! The timetable for the day consisted of a ten minute warm up session at half past ten followed by a long period of nothing until the race at a quarter past five. The morning warm up went really well and saw me improving on my week sector, sector 3 and finishing 5th on the time sheets. We had high hopes for the race but knew that a good start would be crucial. During the day I tried to remain active to ovoid getting sleepy, as so often happens when you are waiting around for long periods. I went out on the moped to various places on the circuit to watch at the places I was struggling. I also helped Danny with the Triumph and saw life from the other side of the fence, helping Sharpy signal for Conor, something I had never done before.
By the time the race came around it had clouded over and had become considerably colder. In our experience I seemed to go faster in the colder conditions because the tyres dont get as greasy, suiting my riding style better. We had fitted new front and rear tyres on for the race, and had not scrubbed the front in during warm up as normal due to the wear experienced in practice. I was starting from the front of row three in 9th position, but managed to slip the clutch for slightly too long meaning I ended lap one in 13th position. I settled down behind Joe Burns and I managed to get past a few fast starters and a few people had big crashes in front. I was in ninth position at this point but did not have the same feel or ultimate grip levels of the day before obviously the cooler conditions werent helping this time! I couldnt match the times from qualifying even though I felt to be pushing harder and at about mid race distance Jonathan Dickson managed to get by and open up a half second gap. Over the next few laps I closed him down and pass him at the start of the penultimate circuit. I pushed hard and had a 0.4 s lad going on to the final lap but at Abbey, about half way round the yellow flags came out because Dan Kneen had crashed. His bike along with a couple of marshals were in the middle of the track so I had no choice but to back off, but the group behind obviously used it as an opportunity to close the gap, and at the final chicane Jonathan Dickson put a very hard block pass on me and almost overshot onto the grass. However I couldnt turn in because he was there and I crossed the line in 10th position. Looking back I probably should have come in really tight and not given him the opportunity or space to make a pass, although I would have risked him taking me out because you have to commit well before the corner. Thats racing and I have learnt my lesson for next time!
Overall it was another solid weekend. It proved that my normal pace is well inside the top ten so it stands me in good stead for a top six finish to end the season on a high. We also learnt another important bit of setup info for the bike and I cant wait for Brands Hatch! My next event is this Saturday (4/10/08) at Thruxton on Peter Berwicks 250 Honda in the National championship, before Brands the following week and a classic race in Italy on the Paton (and hopefully a bit of late sun!) to round out the season. Hope to see some of you about at one of the rounds!
The Gold Cup meeting at Olivers Mount in Scarborough was to be a busy debut with me riding Matt Jacksons 125, Peter Berwicks 250 and the Team Blackhorse Yamaha R6. I had seen a lot of videos and pictures of Olivers mount and I went with an open mind given the tracks width (about 6 foot in places!) and jumps. Ians weekend was to be even busier with a Superbike on his agenda as well as the other three! Once the track activity starts it is very full on and you dont really get a rest all day. Dad and I travelled up on Friday evening and eventually got into the paddock, thanks to Ian saving us a space, at about half past ten. Ian and Jo are spending this summer living like nomads, roaming around the country hopping from circuit to circuit and living in the truck pretty much full time, so had been there set up since the Monday, having travelled straight from Croft. This meant we got away without having to help put the awning up, again. Result! It was a relief that the weather forecast was good for the whole weekend, because I didnt really like the look of Olivers Mount in the wet and it was one less thing to worry about while rushing about on Saturday morning for signing on and scrutineering. Especially as there was only an hour from signing on / scrutineering opening to my first practice session
The first session was four laps for Newcomers only. I decided to go out on the 600 because its easier to ride slowly than the 2 strokes and is (touch wood) pretty much indestructible. Everything went okay and I just familiarised myself with where the circuit went, circulating with Connor Cummins. All too quickly it was over and I was straight back out on the R6 for the 600 practice. Ian showed me round for a few laps, picking up some useful lines and braking markers at a faster pace than the newcomers session. As I mentioned earlier the schedule is really rattled through at Scarborough so over the next hour I had practice sessions on the 125 and 250, before it starts all over again with the second set of free practice sessions, again with the 600 first, then the 250 then the 125. The grids at Scarborough are set on a combination of practice times, known experience and past events.
I was entered in the Superbike race on the 600 to get a bit more track time and obviously being a newcomer, was put on the back row of the grid amongst all the Superbikes for the first heat (top 10 qualifying for the final) I hadnt really had enough practice to be fully competitive so just used it as an extension of practice. After the start I soon discovered that a good grid position is essential at the mount. This is because the first corner is a very slow hairpin and the field concertinas up, with the riders at the back getting really held up and nearly come to a complete stop, only for the riders at the front to accelerate away pulling a huge gap in very little time as they can still hold good corner speed without being held up by other riders. After I had managed to get into a rhythm and the field had settled down I started improving my lap times, learning all the time. I ended the race in 15th position, not qualifying for the final but it was a big ask on a 600 with only a handful of laps practice.
Next up was the 125 race and I started from 14th on the grid and managed to fight up to 7th position by the end of the 4 lap race. Then it was straight back onto the 600 for the first leg of the David Jefferies 600 Cup. Again you needed to finish in the top ten to qualify for the final and I used what I had learned in the earlier races to fight up from another poor grid slot to finish in 8th position, improving my lap times by 3 seconds from the earlier race on the R6. The final race of the day was the 250 Phil Mellor Trophy. I was 14th on the grid again but got a reasonable start and had a lot of fun cutting through the field to finish 7th, learning all the time and matching my times on the 600 on Peter Berwicks little 250 Honda.
After the racing had finished Team Black Horse had a bit of a BBQ / party in the awning. A lot of people turned up and we had a really good night. Obviously because Ian an I were riding we had to be a bit restrained but we had fun nonetheless. The highlight of the evening was when we had a surprise visitor in the awning....
The next day we had a practice session on each bike to check some changes we had made then it was straight on with the racing. Because the firs race yesterday was the Superbike which I failed to qualify for we had a B Final. I started from a better 6th on the grid and was into 4th place by the end of lap one. The rest of the race was spent trying to close down Jules Croft who had made a break at the start of the race and at turn one on the last lap I managed to pass him to finish in third position, knocking a further 2 seconds off my lap times from the day before.
There was no rest and it was back to the awning and straight onto Matt Jacksons 125 Honda for the second 125 leg. I had a better grid position and managed to get into 5th position on lap one, moving into fourth on lap 2. I started setting about Michael Dunlop who was just in front in third position. I was feeling comfortable and felt sure that I could cause an upset and make it 2 Jackson Hondas on the podium. My luck however ran out when braking for the final hairpin. One of the riders that I had just past had his brakes fail, causing him to pile into me going about 20mph too fast, causing me to head butt a grassy bank. Because I had landed on my neck it was straight off to hospital where I discharged myself and managed to get back to the paddock in my fetching hospital gown (there are probably pictures .somewhere!) in just enough time to get in the spare set of leathers, get a medical and try to get out on the 250 where I had finally bee awarded a decent grid slot on the second row. Unfortunately the 250 developed a problem which meant when I did start it was only on one cylinder and I retied after only one corner! Gutted was an understatement as I really thought I had started to get to grips with the place and through no fault of my own had not really got to show my true pace on the Sunday.
Overall it was an interesting weekend, I learned the Mount and gained a lot more experience on the 250 and 125, which I need to thank Matt and Peter for supplying me (we will get a result soon Peter!). Hopefully next year I can get some good results in Scarborough. Next up we are just down the road at Silverstone for the penultimate round of the Metzler National Superstock 600 championship. Hope to see some of you there!
We headed to Croft confident of a successful if busy weekend. The last two rounds at Cadwell Park and Knockhill had seen results edging towards where I wanted them to be and I intended to build on the 10th place finish scored at Cadwell. Being only one week before my debut at Scarborough I was also riding Matt Jacksons 125 Honda at Croft talk about jumping in at the deep end having never ridden it before!
The country was going through an extended run of very wet weather and this combined with the fact that I had never had a completely dry weekend at Croft meant that I wasnt holding out much hope for me to experience one this weekend I was therefore glad when my first ride on a 125 was in the dry in Free Practice 1. The bike is really small but surprisingly comfortable and I couldnt believe how quickly it turned and stopped. I found myself doing huge stoppies without even squeezing the brake lever hard! Croft is a circuit that I really like and have had a lot of success at but I wasnt holding out much hope for a result on the 125 and would be happy if I didnt get totally embarrassed by a load of 13 year olds! I ended the session in 23rd position which I was quite pleased with after only 9 laps and being 10mph down (mainly due to my weight). The bike was also in standard trim to get used to it but Matt had promised 10% more power if I impressed I was really struggling with slipping the clutch out of the slower corners and would lose about 5 or 6 bike lengths to the smaller riders on quicker bikes.
The next session was the first free practice on the R6 and after a few laps of getting sucked into corners about 20mph too fast I settled down and found a good rhythm, posting consistent lap times. The setup was working really well in the cool conditions and I ended up in 7th position without even trying.
Matt had put a different cylinder and head on for the second free practice on the 125 so I had a few more ponies to play with. We also changed the gearing and softened the suspension a bit as Paul Dobbs was the last person to use the bike at the TT. Once again I just got used to the bike and slowly grew in confidence. I was getting better at slipping the clutch and managed to post a lap of 1.32.076 to put me 20th. The bike was still well down on speed and I was really struggling with acceleration out of the slower corners. In the fast and flowing sector 2 I was ninth fastest but I lost massive amounts in the slower stop start sectors. I did a plug chop at the end of the session and apparently the head looked like a coal lorry. A bit rich then .
Shortly after the free practice session the heavens opened, this meant that the first 600 Qualifying sessions would be wet, good old English summer . The rain had only just started and I think there had been cars out on track during the week so it was very slippery. A few people fell off on the out lap and most people just tip toed round. Every time I tried to push hard enough to get any real heat into the tyres or load the suspension up enough t make it work I would have a huge moment and nearly crash. This was exactly the same feeling I had at Knockhill in the wet but everyone was obviously having big problems as I still managed to get up to 8th position on the last lap with a 1.36.810. We made a few changes to the suspension and tyre pressures and hoped that he rain would clean the track before the next day, as that too was forecast wet.
That night it rained really heavily and the track was still really wet by the time we were out for second Superstock 600 qualifying. As soon as I got out on track I knew that the rain had indeed cleaned the circuit. It was like a different bike on a different track! I was feeling really confident but was struggling to get any clear laps. I would hang back as far as I could without letting anybody else past and then go for it but would catch the group back up within half a lap and have to abort. One thing about trying to ride in the wet with 40 other riders out on track is that the slower riders tend to brake far later than the quicker boys. This makes it very hard to just battle your way through. I was getting more and more frustrated but mid session managed to put myself into 2nd position. From then on in I knew that I had a lot more pace left but simply couldnt get another clear lap in. I was really disappointed (and angry!) to end the session in 9th position, just off the 2nd row.
By the time the first 125 qualifying session started it was almost completely dry and I went out and had some fun. It really is unbelievable how fast you can get through the corners on these things and its an art trying to keep the speed, stay tucked in at all times and avoiding slides at all costs! I improved once again to a 1.31.314 and placed in 18th position. I still hadnt really tried and was confident there was a lot more pace to come for second qualifying.
The 600 race was on Saturday at this meeting because of the silly rules in place at Croft regarding noise meaning no track activity can start until 11.30 on Sunday mornings. It was still dry for the race and I was confident that a good result could be achieved as a few people who had qualified well were not expected to figure in a dry race. 9th position isnt an ideal starting spot as is on the left hand side of the circuit, leaving a lot of space for people to nip up the inside into the first corner. Sure enough this happened and I was in 11th by the end of the first lap. I tried to re-group and make in roads but something didnt feel right with the rear end and every time I touched the throttle the rear would slide without even trying to grip. I had a few big moments and could do nothing to stop the group in front disappearing and a few of the quick boys who had qualified badly managed to nip through, seeing me finish in 13th position. A few rounds ago we would have been really happy with another point scoring position. But things had changed and I was sure that I was capable of far more at Croft so was very disappointed. When I got back to the truck we noticed some very funny wear marks on the rear tyre that we had never seen before so we had a good chat with the technical man from Pirelli, who has pointed us in the right direction regarding tyre pressures and suspension setup for Silverstone.
The final track activity of the day was the second 125 qualifying session. I was angry about the 600 result and was really fired up to let off some steam on the little bike. You can really push them so hard and I had some new tyres to play with so spent the session pushing harder and harder getting away with things that you would never dream of doing on a bigger bike (unless you're Rossi), such as picking it up on your knee! My last three laps of the session took big chunks of time off my best and I moved up the leaderboard from 21st to 16th to 14th then finally to 12th place with a 1.29.827 apparently causing fits of laughter from the team as I was still 9mph down through the speed traps! It was a good end to the day, more than any of us expected from my first ride on the 125 and went some way to putting the smile back on my face after the 600 result.
The 125 race was on Sunday evening and I was feeling a bit grotty in the morning. We had achieved everything we had wanted to on the 125, mainly getting used to it before Scarborough, so it was decided to miss the race, saving the bike and myself, and not stealing points from anyone in the whole championship. Overall it had been a really good weekend up until the 600 race. We had found some good pace in both the wet and the dry and managed to firmly plant ourselves in the top ten of every session. The race was a bit of an anomaly but Im still really confident of improving again at Silverstone in the penultimate round of the championship. Hope to see some of you there as its our home race!
I thought I had a few weekends off after the Cadwell Park BSB round on 23rd 25th. Until Dad asked me if I wanted to ride the Paton at Snetterton - on the Wednesday afternoon before the meeting . A quick phone call later and I was going classic racing again! It would be an ideal opportunity to have another opinion on the improvements made by Dad for the Manx GP and gauge the improvements made in my riding since last year. It would also serve to get me used to a smaller, less powerful bike that demands lots of corner speed prior to the 125 at Croft! After entering I realised that I had left all of my kit in Ians truck at Cadwell, so sent the rest of the week scraping and scrounging enough kit together. Last year we had thought that Snetterton would be the best circuit for the powerful Paton, but we were proved wrong when we discovered that must of the lap you were on a part throttle, searching for grip. This is what a single is so good at as well as having the added capability of stopping quickly in the heavy braking zones, being 20 kilos lighter than us.
I was entered in all of the 500 group one races as well as the 500 National race on the Sunday. The weather forecast was looking a bit dire for pretty much the whole weekend so I was relieved that first practice session stayed dry. Because of the number of classes (all with two races a day) run at the Classic Club you only get about three or four laps in a practice session and I just re-familiarised myself with the Paton. It did feel a fair piece smoother and faster than it did last year and I was feeling confident of providing a few upsets with the CRMC regulars, especially Lea Gourlay. The first race was a 500 club race and the grids were based upon current championship position as well as known ability. I finished third in this championship last year and won the national race so I was given a fair starting position of 6th place. As always the Paton got a good jump off the line and slotted into fourth place and was through t second by the end of the Revett straight. I was behind Lea and as with each lap I grew with confidence as we pulled away from the pack. On lap 3 Lea made a mistake and nearly high sided at Russell chicane. This gave me a good drive and I passed him, pushing really hard for the remaining three laps to win by 6.2 seconds with the fastest lap of the race at 1.18.218.
Unfortunately shortly after the first race the heavens opened and it rained for pretty much the rest of the weekend! The second race was therefore soaking wet and I was a bit apprehensive having only ever ridden the Paton in the wet once before, all be it in my championship winning race at Croft last year! There had been a few delays throughout the rest of the day and the race was therefore cut to a mere four lap sprint. The first couple of laps were spent dicing with Lea again, but he seemed to be having a problem getting his Manx Norton stopped and would come flying past on the brakes, only to run wide and let me back past again. it looked like he had a problem and I eventually pulled out a 2.6 second gap to win, not from Lea but from Mike Edwards, with Lea slumping a further 5.5 seconds back on Mike. I also managed to get the fastest lap of the race at 1.24.86 so I had now proved I could do it whatever the conditions. The aim now had to be to win all 5 over the weekend!
The next morning I was woken at about four then again at six by very heavy rain. When I did drag myself out of bed for a shower I had to near enough swim there! It was still raining and the awning was about 2 inches underwater. Again the fist race was the CRMC club race. The track was like one big puddle and to be honest it was more a battle of survival than pushing really hard. The lap times were around ten seconds slower than the wet race the day before so it should give you some idea of what we were contending with! I pushed hard for two laps then just held station to win by 5 seconds, this time from Luke Notton. It continued to rain for the next couple of hours and I was beginning to think that they would have to cancel the meeting. Then at about lunch time it stopped and actually began to look brighter! I stopped in at the race office to ask about the title event of the meeting, the historic Race of Aces and was told I was already down as a wildcard entry and on Pole position based on the fastest lap of the weekend in the first race! However it was open to any of he classic club classes which meant I would be up against 750 and 900 Triumphs and Yamaha TZ350s. For once the Paton wouldnt have a speed advantage against the lighter bikes! It was still wet and I go away with Lea (on his TZ) and quickly pulled away from the pack. Leas TZ was just a little bit too fast and stopped a little bit too well but I managed to just about hang in with him for the first 5 laps until we came across the backmarkers where he managed to build a gap of 2.6 seconds by the end of the race. It was a bit disappointing to be beaten, but it was by the best on probably the best bike in the club so there was no real shame We did manage to completely destroy the rest of the field, finishing 14 seconds in front of 3rd placeman, Gary Thwaites.
The next couple of races were very quickly bunched together with only two four lap races in between them. The first was another club race which I again comfortably won from Luke Notton in damp conditions. The second one was the National and was 7 laps, the same as the Race of Aces. I was 12th on the grid for this one because the National was always based on the current championship positions, and I had only done one round at Donnington, finishing third. By this point it was drying in a few places and it took me a few laps to catch up to the leading bunch, including Gourlay, Notton and Edwards. I tagged on to the back of them but my brakes had started to fade really badly and I was to spend the last 5 laps with a lever that came back to the bar immediately and provided very little in the way of braking! Two laps form the finish I had made it to second in the group and Lea and I had pulled about a second on Luke and Mike. I was really struggling with the brakes and knew that if I was to pass him I would have to pull enough of a gap before we came round to Russells for the final time, the biggest out braking point on the circuit. I managed to outdrive him heading over the start finish line and tried really hard to use what brakes I had left to keep him behind me until the Revvett straight where I could hopefully pull a big enough gap. At the corner leading onto Revvett straight we caught a backmarker who I went up the inside of, while Lea managed to sneak round the outside and hold more speed. However it mucked up his drive and I was soon back past him. From there on in I went as hard as I could, just about managing to pull enough of a gap to defend against Leas inevitable attack at Russells even though I only just managed to make the corner myself with the brakes now nigh on useless! Overall it was a brilliant weekend with 5 wins from 6 starts and was great to be back with the CRMC. It was relaxing and really good for my confidence ahead of Croft BSB as well as keeping the Paton name about on the British Classic Racing Scene and proving the continued development of a already brilliant bike. Hopefully we can sell a few more for the passionate and friendly Italians!
After the successes at the Ulster GP and the strides forward made at Knockhill I was hopeful that a good result at Cadwell Park could catapult the team into an encouraging end to the season at Croft, Silverstone and the double header at Brands Hatch. Cadwell Park was over the bank holiday weekend which meant we would be racing on the Monday. I was hoping that the good setting we found at Knockhill would work at Cadwell Park and the first practice session went pretty well, with the bike feeling good. We came in and made a few changes to the gearing and slight changes to the suspension and although I ended up in 16th position, I felt my pace was better than the 1.36.696 lap time I achieved and was looking forward to the afternoons first Qualifying session. A few changes were made by then and the track temperature had risen considerably. I spent the whole session trying to get the bike to behave itself over the bumpier corners and it worked a lot better if you let the tyre's cool for a minute. I also struggled to find any clear laps as there were 53 riders on the circuit and its very hard to pass at Cadwell. If you get out of Mansfield behind someone there isnt really another chance until over the start finish line, half a lap later. The only true passing opportunities (unless you are very brave or desperate) are at Park or Mansfield. I ended up in 19th position wit a lap time of 1.35.646, 1.8 seconds from pole position, set by Jimmy Hill who was absolutely flying and 0.5 seconds in front of anyone else!
I was a bit dejected that evening and was really hoping that the threatening clouds would not turn to rain the next day. The forecast was for it to be a bit cooler, so if the rain stayed away I thought I had a good chance of improving considerably. The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the trucks roof. Luckily by the time I had dragged myself out of bed it had stopped and by 12 oclock there was a dry line appeared, although it was still very wet around the final corner, Barn and a very narrow line around Mansfield. The bike felt good with the cooler track temperature and the slight changes we had made, and once again I actually felt pretty comfortable in the damp conditions (shock horror!) Towards the end of the session I managed to improve my time from the previous day to 1.35.231, moving me up to 17th position on the grid. I was one of only 5 people in the top 20 who managed to improve in second qualifying. I was quite pleased to have improved but knew that we still had to make some big improvements if we were to make any sort of impression from 17th on the grid.
That evening we had a long chat about the improvements that could be made and how they would affect the bike at every part of the circuit. Once again it was quite a lot cooler than qualifying and the changes we had made immediately felt a lot better. I had planned to get out with some of the quicker boys and found myself circulating with Joe Burns, Jamie Hamilton, Jonathan Dickinson and Luke Stapleford. I dropped back a bit and on the final lap really pushed on to catch them and post the second fastest time of the session with a 1.34.543. This lap time was 0.7 seconds faster than in qualifying and would have bee good enough to qualify me in 6th position. Why couldnt I have done that the day before! Understandably this improved my confidence before the race and I was pleased that I had improved my time through the first sector, which had been the one I was struggling through most.
For the Cadwell Park round they had implemented a 3-3-3 grid structure instead of the usual setup of 4 per row. This made my life even more difficult as it put me starting from row 6, a long way back. Combine this with the fact thats its very difficult to pass and I knew I had my work cut out. The lights went out and I made a pretty good jump, and critically I was a bit more aggressive through the first set of corners to end the lap in 13th position. I then set about catching and passing Josh Day and Jess Trayler before the safety car came out because of an accident. These bunched us up again, but as I tried to really push the bike started to lose all side grip, right at the apexes of pretty much every corner. It was getting pretty serious, nearly causing me to crash several times in the next few laps. I knew that I had a pretty good lead over Luke Jones behind me (thanks Sharpy and Jo) so decided to settle for my tenth position. Another really pleasing point was that I further improved my time to a 1.34.00.
This was a really good result and just the on that I needed heading in to the final part of the season. I was back in the top ten where I believe I should be on a constant basis, had found a really good setup that seems to work at different tracks and had the pace to run in the top six. Now I just need to sort out my qualifying and hopefully the results will get better from here on in. Next up is Croft, where I have achieved a lot of successes in the past and love as a track. I will also be making a wildcard appearance in the British 125 championship on Matt Jackson's Honda that I have been offered for my debut at Olivers Mount in Scarborough. Which should be interesting
We were booked on the boat from Stranraer at 11 oclock on the Sunday night after Knockhill. As soon as the race was over we finished packing and got off as soon as possible. We had a good run to the ferry so stopped to get some fish and chips. Big mistake that I would pay for later Helen and I stayed in the back of the truck asleep for the crossing and I woke up at 4 in the morning, after just arriving at the Ulster GP paddock. I then laid awake for two hours deciding whether or not I needed to be sick. At about six I decided that I did, woke Helen up and so begun a couple of days of being seriously ill Martin and Jo were also a bit ill over the week so it must have been the fish and chips. The Dundrod 150 is the National event and the Ulster GP the big International event. I had been entered in the National race on the R6 Supersport bike and the Dundrod Superbike Race on the Superstock R1. I was in both of the Supersport races in the Ulster GP as well as the Superstock Race and making my debut on Peter Berwicks RS250!
Luckily by the time Wednesdays practice came round I was nearly back to full fitness. The weather (and the forecasts for the week) was unfortunately very poor but after a few delays we managed to get out on track for our Newcomers laps. As usual the newcomers laps were pretty useless because you always get a few people in your group you decide to sit right up close to the experienced group leader so you cant actually follow lines etc because you are concentrating on the back of the others who dont actually know where they are going! On the last lap the group leader upped the pace a bit so we dropped off the rest of the group and I managed to learn a little. Next it was time for the National race practice, which is for up to 750cc machines and the Challenge practice which is for up to 1000cc. The track was still a bit damp and we went out on intermediates. I steadily upped my pace, still learning with every lap. The Ulster circuit really is an amazing place. So fast and flowing with a brilliant road surface all the way round and excellent work been carried out to aid safety. I got quicker with every lap and ended up 19th overall and 6th place in the national class with a lap speed of 111mph. We were supposed to have some practice sessions for the Ulster GP but unfortunately the weather intervened and that was that for the day.
The format for the next day was supposed to include all of the Dundrod 150 races and the final practice / qualifying sessions for Saturdays Ulster GP. We woke up in the morning to find it absolutely chucking it down. We made our way to the circuit in a pretty grim mood and obviously it had been delayed for a few hours. Eventually we were called to the hospitality marquee for a competitors meeting (After watching the whole series of Phoenix nights!) and to our surprise it was not the weather holding up proceedings, but something completely different. It was revealed that the day before a marshal had verbally abused a resident on the course, who had then proceeded to park her car right at the end of her driveway at one of the fastest corners on the course and refused to move it until she got an apology from the marshals themselves. Noel Johnston (Clerk of the course) and his team had been negotiating with her all night but the marshals involved were being very stubborn and refused to apologise so the car was staying put! Ian, Ryan Farqhuar and Bruce Anstey were taken round in a car to decide whether they would be happy racing with the car there. Thankfully they decided that it was off the racing line and it would be fine with just some bales in front of it. There would also be yellow flags to prevent overtaking so the racing was go!
Because neither the Dundrod 150 nor Ulster GP Superbikes got any practice (and therefore qualifying) it was decided that it would go off first for a 30 minute session. The roads were still very wet, thus providing an opportunity for my first go on wets firstly on a 1000cc machine and secondly at a road race! One thing that I did notice was that the wet tyre's started to weave slightly when you got to 5th gear and above, probably about 160mph I managed to get on pretty well, steadily learning where the wetter patches were and where the rip was. I was very pleased to finish the session qualifying in 15th position overall at 111.21mph, only 0.6s behind Ian Hutchinson, 1.5 behind Guy Martin and in front of Ryan Farqhuar around a 4 minute lap! I was also the fastest newcomer which was the aim for the whole week.
Obviously because of the delays earlier on in proceedings the organizers were anxious to get on with the program a.s.a.p, so there was only time for a quick drink then we were out for the Ulster GP Supersport 600 practice /qualifying sessions. By this time the track had started to dry out so we started the session on intermediates. I was still learning the place and still getting faster with every lap. At the mid way stage of the session I was sitting in 10th position and it was getting too dry even for the intermediates. I managed to go a bit quicker but the experience of the others in the dry showed through and I slipped to 17th position with a lap speed of 116.361mph. I was still the fastest newcomer and 17th isnt a bad position as a newcomer in this sort of competition.
Still no rest for the wicked and it was straight out on the 250 for my debut on the roads. I had tested the bike at Rockingham after Ian had put me in touch with Peter Berwick, a man with a lot of experience with 250s, and got on pretty well, but I was sure it would be different on the roads. It was now pretty much totally dry but we had decided on an intermediate front and slick rear because there were still a couple of places that were a bit damp. When I first got out on circuit I soon realised that the quickshifter wasnt working and that the bike was indeed a bit twitchier, because of the light weight. It wasnt really a problem and you definitely got a lot of feel for exactly what the front tyre was doing at all times. Once again I learned about the bike and just concentrated on going a bit quicker. Luckily Peter has so much knowledge and data about RS250s I didnt really need to worry about fuelling etc, I could just concentrate on going faster. I still think that the front end is a bit soft, but because we only had one session I was better off staying out and learning, instead of wasting 2 laps (out of probably a maximum of 6) coming in to make little changes. I went faster on every single lap and managed to qualify a very pleasing 9th position at 112.580mph. There was definitely a bit more time to come in the race and I was confident of a strong top ten finish, not bad for my first go on a two stroke GP bike!
The final practice session of the day was for the Ulster GP Superstock class, again on the R1. It was to be my first chance to take to a completely dry track on dry tyres. My lack of experience on a 1000cc machine showed but I go steadily quicker and on lap 5 of my 8 I set a 122.006mph average speed. I was feeling very comfortable at that pace and pushed on for the next two laps. Unfortunately I got held up for long periods over the next two laps and didnt improve. For the last lap I got a good gap and really pushed on. Unfortunately coming out of the hairpin, probably about 2/3rds of the way round, the bike lurched as it began to run out o fuel! I managed to coax it back to the pits at about half pace and still did a lap of 121.5mph, only one second slower than my fastest. It was disappointing and I ended in 18th position which is still reasonable, but I was annoyed at only being the 4th fastest newcomer. Even though I was fourth fastest, the fastest newcomer was in 15th, just one second faster than me, so four of us all together! I was safe in the mind that my pace was actually a good two or three seconds faster than the results sheets showed, possibly around 123 or 124mph.
With all the practice over it was time for the weeks first race. The first race on the timetable was the National race in which I would campaign the Supersport R6. I had qualified in 6th place but for some reason when we got to the grid they had me down as being in 8th position. We werent going to bother arguing but by the time I got round from the warm up lap somebody else had pulled up in P8 and was refusing to move because he said he had qualified there. The organisers didnt even have his number on their sheets so really he should never have started. He was very rude to Martin and David ad then proceeded to dump himself in between P7 and P8 on the grid. The Ulster uses lights to start the race, just like on a short circuit, but they dont have any line judges. To say there were more than a few jump starts was an understatement! I was the only one on the first two rows who stayed still until the lights went out, everyone else crept at least a metre. This resulted in me being in around tenth position into the first corner. I was angry about the bloke trying to nick my grid slot and everyone jumping the start so really pushed on during lap one. By the end of the lap I was up into 3rd position behind James Hillier and Mats Nilsson and very confident of being able to hunt them down and pass them. By the time we got round to Cochranstown I had caught right up to the back of James and was only about 1.5 seconds behind Mats. Just as I tipped in I saw a big puff of dust as Mats hit the air fence, losing the front. So now it was just between me and James. Coming in to start lap 3 I was trailing by 0.3 s. I passed him only to get slipstreamed straight back past down the flying kilometre. I got him for the final time leading up to deers leap and set about trying to build a lap. I was still learning the place in the dry so each lap I got faster and faster, on the final lap setting a 120.408 speed, breaking Conor Cummins lap record from 2006, to win by 11 seconds from James Hillier. The bloke who tried to steal my grid slot actually finished second but was disqualified for being on a 1000cc machine! Turned out he should have been in the Challenge race later in the day ..
Later in the day Ian managed to win the 125cc race and the Challenge race was run. Unfortunately then the weather descended once more and the rest of the day was cancelled, which meant no Dundrod 150 Superbike race. We would have to wait until Saturday for our next chance. During Friday Helen and I went with Dad and Merv to Nutts Corner circuit to give the Paton (Dad was going straight from the Ulster to the Manx) a shakedown on a trackday. Everything went okay, just putting a few miles on the bike, and showing up a few little oil leaks etc tat needed sorting before the island.
Unfortunately the weather forecast was very poor, with torrential rain expected all day. It was proved right when we peaked out of the curtains to see a lake had appeared overnight in the field opposite .. The rest of the day was spent sitting around until they finally called it off at about 3 oclock. Then came the job of taking the awning down and packing everything up. I can honestly say that we would not have been wetter had we jumped in a swimming pool! It was cold, wet, windy and as we stood with our backs to the rain, dripping wet all we could do was laugh. In fact we felt like a herd of cattle and can now sympathise with them! Then it was back to Ian and Jos for the legendary after the Ulster GP party
Unfortunately my dodgy stomach came back and I couldnt really drink or have much fun. Helen was drunk, Ian was drunk, Jo was drunk ..I was watching Jonathan Creek on the telli . Overall it was good to unwind a bit after a week of ups and downs. It was really good for team Black Horse Yamaha, to win two of the three races run this year, I was happy with my pace but disappointed not to get a few more big international results under my belt. However I will be going back next year because I love the track and really want a bit of sun to fully enjoy the place!
Knockhill was the start of a busy month for team Black Horse Yamaha. We had the three days at Knockhill, followed by going straight over to Ireland for the Ulster GP, then back over to Cadwell the following weekend. Helen and I flew up to Edinburgh on Thursday evening and Sharpy picked us up and took us to the circuit. Knockhill is a track that I enjoy, despite breaking my wrist there in 2005. The weather usually played a big part in any meetings at Knockhill and we were likely to see rain, snow, gales, sun and everything in between over the weekend! I was determined to get out of the rut I had been stuck in since the TT and try and get an improved result, as well as improving the bike ready for the remainder of the season.
The first session was to be the only truly dry session we were to have the whole weekend. Immediately the setup we had made me feel very comfortable and I kept on chipping away at the times, reminding myself of the track because I hadnt been there since 2006. I ended up in 12th position with a lap time of 53.749, 0.800 seconds from pole position. There were a few little changes that we wanted to make before the first qualifying session the next day, just to fine tune the setup slightly, but I was feeling confident of finding more time and achieving the result that I needed to boost my confidence. Unfortunately the next day began soaking wet. I hadnt ridden in the wet since hurting my shoulder at Thruxton, where I was really happy with the setup, and the number 2 bike was in a completely different configuration since then with new forks. Normally I love the wet weather conditions and go really well in them but right from the off I didn't feel at all comfortable and it felt like I was riding on ice! I came in to make a few changes but whatever we tried it didt improve the situation. I was bitterly disappointed to end the session in 34th position and for once was praying for dry weather for second qualifying!
Thankfully the day got dryer and by the time our second session started there was a narrow dry line. Normally I hate in the middle conditions, but for some reason I felt really confident and pushed on hard, even over the damp bits. It was very difficult to fully commit because of he narrow dry line but as the session progressed it got dryer and I ended up qualifying 14th on the grid, slower than yesterday but that was understandable because of the damp. It was still only 0.8 from pole, and its always nice to be less than one second because it puts you in the ballpark.
Morning warm up was held in the same conditions as qualifying and I was pleased to end up in 13th position, slightly better than in qualifying. I knew that if I could get a good start a strong position was possible. Knockhill is a very hard track to pass on and if you get held up for a few laps behind someone it is very difficult to pass because the only real passing point is at the hairpin. All the time youre stuck behind someone the riders in front will be pulling away.
The next day the race was exactly the same. It rained 20 minutes before the start but by the time we got to the grid there was again a narrow dry line. I made a reasonable start but unfortunately somebody made a flying start from the row behind and then held up a group of three or four riders in front of me. It took me about six laps to get o the front of the group, each lap gritting my teeth at the hairpin and picking off another one. By the time I got to the front of the group I pulled out a second in the first lap and managed to catch and pass Dan Kneen who had gone a few seconds up the road. The next person had pulled a further 10 seconds while I was being held up so I had to settle for 13th position and a lap time of 53.290, just 0.8 of a second from the fastest lap, again!
Overall it was a good weekend, and gives us a good result and setup to build on for the rest of the year. The only thing that I was disappointed in was the wet pace, which is normally very good. It was a strange weekend because I seemed to go well in the conditions that are normally terrible for me and visa versa! Let hope for another strong result at the next Superstock 600 round at Cadwell Park, after the Ulster GP.
The next round of BSB was to be our second visit of the year to Oulton Park. Ian had had the forks re-valved as they were at Brands Hatch before the TT and I was confident of an improved result. First practice was spent fiddling around with he new forks and trying to improve the balance of the bike. As ever it was very hard to find any clear track with 52 others out on track at the same time! I was disappointed to end up in 18th position with a lap time 2.2 seconds from pole of 1.47.7. The bike felt too soft on the brakes and too harsh in the middle of the corner. It was also struggling to hold a line on the power. We made some changes for the first qualifying that we hoped would solve the problems.
Within a few laps of going out I knew that the problems had not been solved but had in fact been made worse! Its strange how some things can give the impression of being caused by one thing only to be caused by completely the opposite! Some of the changes we had made could not be quickly changed back in the pits so I just had to make do for the rest of the session. I was getting frustrated with the pace I was running and trying too hard and being too aggressive, which resulted in a lot of mistakes and not the smooth, relaxed riding needed for a fast lap time. Often the laps that feel the slowest are your fastest, but to me they all felt fast which had the predictable affect of leaving me languishing in 31st position. My lap time of 1.36.9 was just 8 tenths faster than in the morning and left me 3.2 seconds from pole position. We would have to pray for it to stay dry for the second qualifying session the next day, even though the forecast did not look too favorable.
Unfortunately the morning dawned wet and lap times suffered likewise. The wet bike had different forks in it since the last time we used it at Thruxton and we didnt really have any settings. We fiddled about, got a good feeling from the forks and then parked it as there was no point pushing for a lap time when there was no chance of going faster than the day before. This meant that the changes we had made to the number one bike would have to be tested in the mornings ten minute warm up session. The changes made did help the problems that we had in first qualifying but threw up a whole load of new problems, most notably a side grip issue from the rear of the bike in the middle of the corners. We made a few more changes as a bit of a wild stab for the race. Starting 31st on the grid was always going to be difficult but I made a fair start and kept plugging away, making a fair few positions and improving my lap time to 1.46.5 and ending the race in 22nd position. Obviously I was upset with the result as at that stage in the season I should be comfortably scoring points at every race. It seems that I stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment and need to get out of it at Knockhill!
Snetterton was the first BSB meeting I would compete in after a month of road racing at the TT and the Northwest 200. I knew it would be a tough transition with the limited track time available, and the fact that the two disciplines require entirely different mind sets and techniques. Snetterton was also one of the worst tracks to go back to, even though it is one of the fastest in the country, as it always produces the closest, most aggressive racing and after a month of being around nobody on a bike it was sure to be a shock.
First practice was spent setting gearing etc and just getting a feel for really pushing the front etc. The bike was moving around a lot, whereas at Brands Hatch it was on rails. I ended up 1.5 seconds from first in 31st position not the ideal start but was as close as expected....the top 44 were covered by just 2 seconds. For the first qualifying session I stiffened up the front end a bit and played about with tyre pressures slightly. Before hand it rained heavily for 20 minutes then started drying quickly. I begun the session on wets but only did 3 laps before coming in for the dry bike and starting to up the pace a bit. The track was still damp in places and I didnt improve on the mornings time but it was enough to put me in 19th position, 1.3 seconds from pole. The bike still felt a bit too soft and more like the R6 cup bike did with standard suspension, rather than the race bike it was at Brands. We tried putting the stiffer springs in for the second session but I suspected that it was too soft in the midrange of travel and they would need rebuilding as they were at before the TT.
The second qualifying session was tough as the weather was perfect and even though I went 7 tenths faster, a 1.11.9, I ended up in 27th position on the grid 1.5 seconds from pole. I wasnt very happy with this but would have to make do in the race. I still had a soggy feeling from the bike, and the tyre's were getting hot and moving around a lot, whereas I prefer a rigid, precise setup. The race was on Sunday and morning warm up went okay. The bike felt good but I was half a second slower than in qualifying and this is night and day at Snetterton. The afternoons race was gone in a flash. I made a good start but got badly baulked in the first corner as usual. A good qualifying is so important in this class. I settled into a good pace and was in my own little battle when the red flags came out for a big accident on lap ten. I finished in 20th position and a lap of 1.11.7. Improvements were made from qualifying so it was something to work with. Overall I was disappointed with the weekend as a whole and wanted to make improvements to both the bike and my mind set before the next round at Oulton Park.
After last years successes at the Manx Grand Prix in August and a lifetime following Dad on the island, the step up to the TT races was understandably the main objective of this years season.
Team Black Horse Yamahas experience in everything road racing would certainly give me the best chance possible of achieving my aims of a 120mph lap and top twenty finishes. We had less than a week in between getting back from the Northwest 200 before leaving for the TT races. I would be competing in the 2 Supersport 600 races on the R6 and the Superstock race on the R1.
The day after arriving was spent signing on etc before the first practice session in the evening. The first practice session was officially untimed and it was decided that I should complete two laps on the big bike with a possible third on the 600. 2008 TT was the first to include two 600 races. Because of the nature of the 600 machine, their high state of tune and the fact that my engine had to be used at the Northwest, TT and Ulster GP it was important that I did as few miles as possible in practice. I had only ever ridden a 1000cc machine twice, once at the Northwest 200 and a few sessions at Valencia. I set off down Bray Hill and was once again amazed by the speed of the R1! The first lap was spent mostly missing apexs and just trying to get my brain up to speed with the entirely different mindset needed on the island. By the second lap the course was coming back to me and I was becoming more comfortable with the acceleration and extra weight of the big bike. The R1 seemed to be coping with the bumps really well and there wasnt really anything that I wanted changing until I had upped the pace a bit. It was useful that I had gone out on the R1 first as when I jumped on the 600 it felt slow and enabled me to always be one step ahead, like you should be, even at this early stage in proceedings. There was only enough time to complete one lap, as planned and the bike felt fast, but was very jumpy over the bumps. Between Ginger Hall and Ramsey it actually felt like someone was punching me in the kidneys!
The next practice session was on Monday evening and we made some changes to the R6 forks to soften them off in the midrange of travel. I completed 2 laps on the 600 with a best speed of 114.7mph and a further 2 on the Superstock bike at 115.5mph. I was pleased with these lap times because it was faster than I had gone the year before and I was convinced I would go faster without too much effort. The 600 was still struggling over the bumps while the 1000 floated over them, even though the speeds were much higher. It seemed that the extra weight really helps bikes through certain sections of the course and it might be difficult to get the same sort of feeling from the much lighter 600 without compromising the handling in other sections too much.
Unfortunately Tuesdays practice session was cancelled due to rain. Rain also settled in on Wednesday and the new Clerk of the course took a brave decision and went ahead with practice. Only about 10 people bothered to venture out with a fastest speed of 87mph so I was glad that we stayed in and made a few more changes to the 600. We had now lost 2 evenings practice, about 30% of the total time available, so it was important that the rest of the week was sunny.
Thursday was indeed sunny and I wanted to do 2 laps on each machine once again. Unfortunately after coming in to make some changes and change a tyre I missed out on a second lap on the R1 by no more than ten seconds! It was a disappointing evening as I had hoped to up my pace once more but only managed 115.2mph on the 600 and 114.6mph on the 1000.
The final evening of practice was Friday and I planned one lap on the 600 and 2 on the R1. I had a fairly steady lap on the 600 wit a lot of traffic at 114.2mph then a pleasing lap of 117.95 on the bigger Yamaha to become the fastest Linsdell round the mountain course ..although Dad did 117.5 it in the early nineties
My first race was on Monday with the Superstock first, followed by the first Supersport in the afternoon.
We had spent mad Sunday relaxing on the traditional fishing trip where Sharpy took back the TT fishing challenge trophy from Helen (although she was not in attendance )
It rained on Sunday evening and I was praying it had fully dried up by the time the race was due to start. Unfortunately it was still very overcast and I was worried that I would run into problems on the mountain as I had one evening in practice. I got a great start and by the time we were at Balacraine I had caught and passed Paul Shoesmith who had started ten seconds in front and I was feeling confident about a good result. Unfortunately as I entered Ramsey the visor started to steam up. The mountain was very misty and visibility was down to about 80 yards in some places. By the time I came round for the second time drips of condensation were running down the inside of my visor it was slowing me down a lot and frankly, was becoming dangerous. I came into the pits and unfortunately I had no clear pinlock visor ready, so it was swapped for another regular tint. There was a struggle getting the new visor back in and then to top it all of it all the bike wouldnt start so I ended up losing a minute more than I should have.
About half way round the next lap the visor steamed up again so I just tried to make the best of the situation. There was a little window at the top right of the visor that I could sort of see out of so on the last lap I pushed on a bit harder which resulted in a 119.2mph lap. I ended up in 32nd position with a 114.9mph average and a Bronze replica. I was a bit disappointed as without the visibility issues and the lost time at the pits I was sure that I could have had a strong result and managed the 120mph lap without too much trouble.
After the mornings result I was even more fired up for the 600 race. I had made some changes to the visors (involvind some tape and my nose!) and had a good first lap to come round in 21st place at 117.7mph. This time the pitstop went well with no visor change needed because the weather had cleared up into bright sunshine! At this point I had moved into the top 20 in 19th with a slowing down lap of 118.4mph. The good stop meant the next lap was 113.2 including the time spent in the pits. I once again pushed hard on the final lap to record a 119.150mph lap, a 117.081mph race average and a Silver replica to place me 18th. I was pleased with this ride as after practice week I thought that 120mph would be difficult on the 600, but now it seemed like a very reasonable aim for Wednesdays second race! I had also got my top twenty position with a good average race speed.
Wednesday was fair and bright for the second Supersport race. I struggled to get going for the first half of the lap and then came round Ginger hall to find an accident had just happened and lost a lot of time. By the time I got to the 34th milestone there was another incident with oil all over the circuit so I finished the lap at 116.750 in a disappointing 24th position. My second lap was once again disappointing as I struggled to find the all important rhythm and moved up to only 22nd at 117.000mph. A good stop and a better third lap put me into 20th position at 114mph (with a pitstop) going onto the final lap. I pushed hard to try and achieve the 120mph I had aimed at on the final lap but the remaining yellow flags at Ginger Hall and the 34th milestone meant that 119.554 was the result, remaining in 20th and this time picking up a Bronze replica at a slower race average. Oh well. Theres always next year!
Overall it was a fantastic fortnight and I was pleased with the results. Of course there is always room for improvement, but Im sure we will be back next year, this time aiming higher once again and looking to break into the top 15! A big thank you goes out to Mum, Dad, Brother Dave, Ian, Jo, Merv, Sharpy, Mr and Mrs Bus and anybody else who helped out at my TT debut! A special mention for ace tech's Dave, Martin, Norman and Des for working pretty much non stop the whole fortnight to keep the bikes running perfectly great job boys!! We will be back on the short circuits next weekend at Snetterton where I hope to make the transition back as quickly as possible ..See you there!
The Northwest 200 was the first road race of 2008. After a strong result at Brands Hatch I was feeling confident of a good result and couldnt wait to get going!! I would be riding the Blackhorse Supersport R6 in the two Supersport races, The Superstock R1 in the Superstock and main Superbike race and our trusty little 400 in the 400/650 race ..Busy day then .
Dad, Merv, Helen and I flew out to Belfast on the Monday morning after Brands and checked in to the old favourite Greenhill House! First practice wasnt until Tuesday night so we went to the paddock and made last minute tweaks, fitted tyres etc. The weather forecast for the whole week was dry and sunny. I always seem to get lucky with the weather there three years without any rain lets hope it continues! Tuesday evening was still dry and bright and I was out first on the mighty R1. Ideally it would have been the 400 first, then the 600 then the 1000 but it was the wrong way round. My lack of experience showed and I struggled with the shear speed of the thing, suffering from unexpected and therefore scary top gear wheelies! The 600 was next up and the engine felt really good but the forks, setup for short circuits felt far too harsh and the bike leapt about over the bumps compared to the heavier R1. After only two laps the session was stopped due to an accident and not restarted. The last session was the 400 and by this time it was getting quite late and therefore cold. I did an out lap and the bike was running very cold so cruised round and pulled in for some tape. The bike ran warmer and as I started the flying lap the temperature and pressure gauges went mad and I didnt want to risk it after the temperature problems. I pulled in again and we wriggled the sensors a bit but as soon as I went back out they went mad again so I took it easy for one flying lap and ended up 2nd, albeit 12 seconds off my pace from last year.
Thursday was the next practice evening and it followed the same timetable as Tuesday. We had made some changes to the big bike to help stop the wheelies. It went much better and I managed to improve my lap time substantially to qualify 36th out of 72 in Superbike and 39th in Superstock. The Supersport session saw me go faster than I did on the thousand and qualify a pleasing 17th from 83 qualifiers. The final session was to be the final 400 qualifying and I was hoping to improve my time after we had fixed the problems of Tuesday night. The session was delayed and when we finally got out on track the session was red flagged and ended in tragedy with Robert Dunlop being killed at Mathers Cross. Robert Dunlop, brother of Joey, was a road racing legend and it came as a massive shock to the whole paddock. Its very hard to work out in your brain that a man that you stood on the podium with only a year ago had been taken away by the sport that you love.
The races were on Saturday and I had a very busy schedule, with 5 races in a row! First up was the Supersport 600 race 1. I have never pretended that I like mass starts at road races as I struggle to be aggressive enough to barge through. This meant that I lost a few rows by the time the pack had settled down and I spent the race battling with James McBride and an impressive Lee Johnston. The wind had swung round since the practice sessions and the bike struggled to pull maximum revs. Eventually I go the better of Lee Johnston but just lost out to James McBride. I was pleased to pass Adrian Archibald in the closing stages to finish 17th with a fastest lap speed of 113.915mph.
It was straight from the 600 and on to the 400. We didnt have a lot of practice but I was still confident as the other riders had to go a minimum of 11 seconds faster to match my pace from last year. I got away in second position and was soon in the lead. I spent the first two laps with Leo Aldersley in close attention until we got caught up with the 125s when I put the hammer down a bit. The rest of the race was quite lonely. I managed to break my own lap record on lap three and ended up winning by 24.5 seconds from Paul Dobbs after Leo broke down trying to keep him at bay.
From the 400 it was onto the R1. Bit of a change then .. I had high hopes for the thousand as I believed that if I could get my braking markers a bit better there was a lot of time to come. Another advantage was that I would be starting from the second row of the second wave. This meant that I was unlikely to come to a near halt in the slower corners of the first lap and could hopefully pull away and run my own race in some space. Once again my start left a lot to be desired and after two laps I found myself about 7 seconds down on the lead 2nd wave group. However on the third lap something clicked and I went about 7 seconds faster than in qualifying and eventually reeled in the group of four in front of me, passing Chris Palmer in the final chicane to take 15th overall on corrected time with a fastest lap of 116.5mph. This was well above my expectations given my lack of experience on a litre bike. Valencia is a bit different to the Northwest!
There was enough time for a tyre change and a drink before it was back out on the R1 for the 6 lap Superbike race. Unfortunately this time I was on the back row of the first wave so spent most of the first section almost stopped. I managed to get my head down and started picking people off. I was up to about 24th position and still pushing hard (although a bit knackered!) when I ran out of petrol on the final lap.
The final race was the last Supersport event. Once again I was starting from 15th on the grid and wanted a strong result to finish a good week. The race got underway ad I made a reasonable start and was hoping to be more forceful. Unfortunately James McBride had made a blistering start from the row behind and clipped me, forcing my hand off the bar. It shocked me and images of the start line incidents over the past 2 years flashed through my mind. By the time I had re-grouped I was at the back of the group. When we got round to Black Hill the red flags came out and I decided not to participate in the restart as my body was really feeling the effects of 5 races in a row!
Overall we had a fantastic week and it was a really good shakedown for the TT. Once again the team worked really well together and we have learnt a lot about how the bikes react to the real road racing circuits. Roll on TT 2008!
Brands Hatch GP was to be the first event in a very busy month for Team Black Horse Yamaha. We had Brands Hatch, and then straight off for the Northwest 200 for a week followed a week later by the start of the TT races
Brands Hatch had now become the third round of the British Superbike Championship, after the initial date set as round one was cancelled due to the heavy snowfall. The qualifying times from the original meeting would be used to set the grids which meant I would be starting from row four and 16th after a fairly incident filled qualifying. After a disappointing result at Oulton Park I was determined to get my season back on track and go into the International Road Races, one of the main targets of the season, full of confidence. I had done a lot of thinking and started training again after my injury at Thruxton.
Ian and the team had already left for the Northwest 200 straight after Oulton Park leaving us with one bike and minimum spares. Ian had spoken to K-Tech who had arranged to do some more work on the forks to try and resolve the problems we had been experiencing since the start of the season.
The track conditions were very good for the first free practice session with warm dry weather finally gracing the British Superbike Championship! I immediately felt more at home on the bike and the new forks offered a lot more feedback mid corner. I came in a few times throughout the session to make minor adjustments and managed to go over a second faster than I had qualified in at 1.34.7 leaving me in tenth position just 0.7s slower than the fastest time set by Allen Jon Venter on the Triumph. This was confidence building after the poor results at Oulton. There were a few changes that I wanted to make and was sure I could improve further.
The next day was the final practice session before the afternoon race. The changes had been made and the day was very hot. The session was quite frustrating because the tyres were overheating slightly and becoming quite greasy. Some of the changes made to the bike worked well and others didnt so the session was spent weeding out which did work and making final tweaks. Because of the extra heat I needed to re-calibrate to riding with a more loose style just like in Valencia earlier in the year. I ended up marginally slower than on Saturday and in 14th position. It would be imperative to make a good start from 16th and try to get tagged onto a faster group and hang on until the end.
It turned out that a few riders that were present at the qualifying round were not at the re-scheduled date so I was moved up two places to 14th on the grid. The start went really well and was actually the best I had made probably in my whole career! Starts and first laps are not my strong point but at the end of lap one I had made two positions in 12th and was on the back of a big group including Alex Gault and championship leader Robbie Brown. I swapped positions with the group until the safety car came out on lap. This was a bi of a chance for a rest and to re-group. After the restart I suddenly found a whole lot more pace and quickly moved to the front of the group and 8th position, comfortably lapping as fast as those in 5th/6th at 1.33.7. The final three laps saw an unfortunate incident with Chris Northover and Allan Jon Venter promoting me to my first top ten finish of the year in 6th! My rear tyre was past its best and during the final few laps the shoulder injury played up a bit meaning Alex Gault managed to close back up for an exciting finish.
I was really pleased with this result and won the Metzler Racetech Merit Award. It took a lot to pick up from the poor result of only a week before, and make the necessary changes. It is also the perfect confidence boost ahead of the Northwest 200 and then the TT races and I cant wait to get going with the Real Road Racing!!
Oulton Park and Round two of the British Superstock 600 series was just two weeks after separating my shoulder in a qualifying accident at Thruxton. As it was not a track I have raced at as much as somebody who has spent a lot of time in the British Championship and its one of the most physical circuits on the calendar I expected it to be a hard weekend. The weather was forecast to be mixed all weekend.
First session was Free Practice and it didnt go as planned. I struggled with a vague front end and ended up in a disappointing 24th position 3 seconds off the pace. That evening Ian and I took a walk around the circuit and thought about what could be done to make it better and how it would affect the overall package around the WHOLE circuit. The changes were made and I went to bed sure that it would help me to find a big chunk of time the next day in first qualifying.
Unfortunately it turned out that we had gone entirely the opposite way we should have. The problems had worsened and it was frustrating as the harder I tried the worse the problems became and no matter what we twiddled with it didnt get any better. We had dropped the forks through but in fact should have taken more weight off the front end not something that can be done in the pit lane during a 25 minute session. By the time a red flag came out I had slipped to the final qualifying spot, a shameful 40th position.
We had a bit of a rethink and I had a relax and tried to clear my head before the second qualifying and race on Monday. Unfortunately it rained before second qualifying and although it had dried sufficiently to not physically affect lap times I have never been able to ride well in the damp. Despite this I managed some damage limitation and clawed back up to 26th position. Not ideal but better than 40th!
The race didnt really go according to plan either. Somebody beside me on the grid started to creep and the starter held the lights for what seemed like a minute and I followed. I stopped just as the lights went out and wasnt aggressive enough for the first lap. The upshot of this was 39th over the line for the fist time. I slowly made my way up the field which was made more difficult by the 2 or 3 laps under the safety car. It is also very difficult when all 40 riders are covered by a difference of less than 3 seconds. In the last lap I managed to overtake a further three riders to end up a disappointing 18th position.
I learnt a lot over this weekend. Actually, more like a lot that I already knew was confirmed this weekend. In the British Championship you can never afford to have a single lazy lap. Every single one has got to be right on the limit so you can make useful adjustments in the small amount of practice available. Qualifying is all important and the most important part of the race is in the first lap . All of these are areas that I need to work on for the next round at Brands Hatch!
After the disappointment of Brands Hatch the team couldn't wait to get going at Thruxton. Not being a circuit I have much experience at, Thruxton is very unlike most other short circuit in the country. It is very fast and in places bumpy, while also being very wide so it is easy to get 'lost' if you don't get enough practice. However most people would be in the same boat so we headed into the new round one full of confidence.
The week leading up to the meeting was very busy. I worked a 14 hour shift on Monday to try and make up some of the time needed to miss on Friday. On Tuesday I flew over to Ireland for the Northwest 200 press conference. It was a fun but very long day. To begin with Conor Cummins, Myself and Michael Rutter had a look at the new starting lights to try and figure out the correct position, angle and brightness, as this is the first year lights will be used instead of the traditional flag. Then it was off to the beach! The following few hours were bizarre and saw us eating ice-cream, sitting in deck chairs, paddling and ultimately surfing in the North sea! It was a good crack (to quote Ryan Farhquar), and Id like to have another go sometimes, though it was a bit cold! Farqhuar managed to stand up and get a short distance a few times but Conor, Myself and Cameron Donald were less successful...
We then moved on to look at some new course markers around the circuit and then on to a boat trip and a live feed for BBC Northern Ireland. Straight from there it was back to the press conference until about 10 o'clock when I had dinner with Ian and the Black Horse men. I was up at 5 o'clock the next morning for Cal Crutchlows dad to give me a lift to the airport, arriving at work in Hemel Hempstead by half past nine - no rest for the wicked! Now. On to Thruxton....
I picked Dave up at half past seven on Thursday evening from Luton airport and we headed straight off in the car. I stayed in Ian's truck and Dad came up in ours on Friday morning. There was only one free practice session on Friday before the two qualifying sessions on Saturday, so Friday morning was spent putting up the awning and preparing. We weren't out on track until 2.45 and it was still dry although windy. The forecast for the weekend didn't look very promising and it was possible that this would be the only dry time over the weekend.
As I said earlier Thruxton isn't a circuit that I have alot of experience at and I struggled from the off. I spent most of the session riding round getting stuck behind huge gaggles of people and never stringing together two corners, let alone a whole lap. It was frustrating because I couldn't really make any changes to the bike apart from gearing as I was going nowhere near fast enough to make it worthwhile. I needed more time on the track to fully commit to the fast, bumpy sweepers that are so unique to Thruxton. I ended up 27th but knew that there were still massive chunks of time to come simply by stringing laps together and pushing a bit harder in a qualifying situation. My ideal laptime was 0.6 seconds faster than my actual time and I had made a hash of each corner in the two sectors so I just hoped it would all come together in the two qualifying sessions the next day.
As it turned out, the next day was wet. This suited me fine as it would help my lack of track knowledge and also take advantage of my wet weather pace. It was forecast to be dryer in the morning session and by the time the second session came around at at 5.20 it would be torrential. It was therefore the plan to try for a time in the first session. We swapped to the spare bike with softer springs as I like a bike to have definite weight transfer in wet conditions. After about five laps I pushed on although it was very difficult with the number of people on track. Again I suffered the problem of not getting any clear track only the problem was magnified by not being able to see anything when behind somebody because of the spray! I tried dropping back to find some space but this didn't work because there was no space .....people just overtook you in a constant stream when you slowed, so the only answer was to ride it like a race and overtake people as quickly as possible. I got a board with P4 on it about midway through and it went up and down between 3rd and 6th for the rest of the session. As is usual in qualifying, the last laps saw me (and everyone else) really push. I had a bit of bad luck catching people in sections that were impossible to pass and was unable to improve. I ended up 8th on the provisional grid but was quite happy as it was the inside of row two and as good a place as any.
The first part of my previous prediction was correct - it had been raining all day and there was no let up so the track closely resembled a river. However the second part of my prediction- that nobody would go any quicker - was proved incorrect in 3 laps. I rode round for the first half of the session really struggling for space (again!). I kept getting behind huge gaggles of riders who were just stuck at each others pace, and would take two laps to get through them, then do half a lap before I caught the next one. I couldn't see my pitboard and didn't think anyone would be going quicker in the horrendous conditions so I pulled into the pits after 7 laps to find out that I had dropped to 17th overall!
I went back out and had to pull something out of the bag. A few laps later Dad and Sharpy had moved further down the pit wall and I had moved back up to 8th. I improved further each lap but so did everybody else. I went into the last lap with only one person and then what looked like some clear track in front. I was in ninth position at this point and caught the rider in front perfectly to outbrake him at the first chicane without losing any real time. I then ducked under another going into Seagrave. The first sector was my fastest and the speed trap time was also well up with the best. I was pushing alot harder than I had been because of the clear track, a luxury! Going into the final corner I flicked right, then the rear slid slightly on the left. When I flicked right again and into the final corner the suspension unloaded quickly because of the extra corner speed I was holding and just as I tapped on the power I was flicked over the highside.......
As soon as I got up I knew exactly what I had done. A quick trip to the medical centre confirmed that I had separated my AC joint but this time on my left shoulder. Unfortunately this meant that there was no way I could race on Sunday as my shoulder could not even support the weight of my own arm. Obviously both myself and the whole team were very disappointed. We had worked hard and we are sure that a top six was possible in the race. However I refuse to take anything but positives from the weekend. Thruxton is a very difficult circuit and we proved that we could run with the best and managed to make progress after setup issues at Brands Hatch. Fair enough I fell off but its racing and it happens. At least I fell pushing to try and bump up to the front row and was bang on the pace. It is a long season and we also have the international road races to look forward to. I do however have to say sorry to Ian and the team. Two crashes in two meetings isn't the best start to my time with a new team....
I went back to work on the Wednesday after the meeting and my shoulder is getting better by the day so we will be back at Oulton Park on the 3rd/4th/5th May aiming to put in another good qualifying but this time turning it into points in the race! See you there!
We arrived at Brands Hatch for Round one on Thursday afternoon full of confidence after the Valencia test. Thursday afternoon was spent putting the awning up, sorting out tyre's and just generally preparing. The timetable had us down for one 30 minute free practice session and one 25 minute qualifying session in the afternoon. Friday morning dawned warm and sunny and we felt confident of a good showing after setting the bike up in spain. However it soon became clear that the smooth Spanish track was far different from Brands Hatch and the bike was far too soft both front and rear over the bumps. I came in and we gave it two clicks of compression and it made no real difference, we then gave it two more and two turns of preload but again it made no difference. By now the suspension was getting out of its optimum range so we decided the springs would have to be changed for 1st qualifying. The session ended with a laptime of 1.36.7 putting me in 14th position, 1.8 seconds off the quickest time set by Luke Jones. I was confident that there was allot of pace to com once we had sorted he gearing and suspension settings.
We made the changes and fitted the first of our three sets of allocation tyre's for first qualifying. We had seen the weather forecast for Saturday and it said it would be freezing cold and possibly snowy. This meant that this would probably be the session that set the grids for Sundays race. To begin with I wasn't totally sure that we had gone the right way as the bike didn't really feel like it was loading up the suspension at all. I started to push harder and it started to work better.
There are 58 registered riders for 600 Superstock and this means that getting any clear track time was a nightmare. After 7 laps I upped the pace that shot me into ninth position from nowhere with a lap of 1.35.5. I was feeling comfortable and was sure there were big chunks of time to come in the next few laps. I went past a group of two or three riders into Hawthorns and by Stirlings I had caught another. I could see that there was nobody in front of him so decided to get past him on the way into Clearways and hopefully have a few clear laps. I didn't brake massively later than before but for some reason best known to myself went down an extra gear than normal. This locked up the rear wheel and generally unsettled the bike, and resulted in me going very wide and eventually crashing on a dirty bit of track when almost round! This was a bit of a nightmare situation and i was angry at myself because it was a silly crash not caused by going to fast. The marshall told me that they were understaffed and could not get me back to the pits and the spare bike so all I could do was watch myself slip down the order to 16th. We would have to pray for some dry track time tomorrow....!
Saturday morning was dry although our session wasn't until late afternoon. As our time neared we dared to hope that we would get away with it ....WRONG!!! Literally 5 minutes before our session it started raining, which then turned to serious hail..... This combined with very low temperatures meant it would be impossible to improve qualifying times and I would start from 16th on the grid for Sunday race. It was a good opportunity for me to have my first decent test on the Metzeler wets and I was right on the pace with about 6 of us within a second. Joel Morris put in a stonking lap but I really hadn't taken any chances and I'm fairly confident of my wet pace when it matters. One thing we did notice was that the suspension was still bottoming right out. This caused us to wonder whether it was just doing it over the big bumps at Surtees and Sheene curve and then not working properly for the rest of the lap. t might be that these bumps are something that we would have to sacrifice for the overall setup as they weren't really slowing me down.
Race day was Sunday and I couldn't believe it when we awoke to a few inches of snow and literally blizzard conditions. It was only forecast for sleet later in the afternoon. Not this at half past 7 in the morning! It carried on snowing and the only things we accomplished was for the team to drink tea and watch world Superbikes on the telly! The meeting was finally cancelled at about eleven o'clock and we headed home. It was still snowing at Brands at 3 in the afternoon. Ironically as soon as we left, before even the M25, it had stopped and there was not a flake of snow on the ground! Somebody doesn't want BSB to succeed this year!
The meeting was immediately re-scheduled for the 10th/11th May with the grids standing from the first qualifying, so it looks like I will have to contend with 16th on the grid at least once this year...This is the weekend before the Northwest 200 so it will provide the team with a logistical challenge. next up is Thruxton on the 18th/19th/20th April where hopefully we might get some sunshine and NO snow. ...
After the terrible weather at Snetterton the weekend before we were praying for some good weather as it would be the only testing before the first round at Brands Hatch. Ian and Jo had gone pretty much Straight from Snetterton to spain and picked Martin up from his house in France. Dad, myself and Helen flew out on Thursday morning. We were staying at a hotel about 500m from the circuit and we had dinner there the first evening. Ian was riding the spare 600 and we were sharing the Superstock R1 so he decided he wanted something 'light' to eat. In the end he decided on veal....this is what turned up at the table.....got a little bit lost in translation I think. ..
The next day was our first chance on track. Valencia is a place I had never been before and its certainly very different to any British circuits. Its a bit like a go-kart track, its all contained in such a small area and there is very little chance for a rest and there are very few bumps. It is a very technical circuit with undulations and most corners being decreasing radius, as well as it being anticlockwise so most being left handers! The weather was comfortable at about 23 degrees although there was a slight wind.
The first session was used just to learn the place and setup gearing etc. It turned out to be faster than Snetterton, which you wouldn't have said by looking at the place! We used the afternoon to try and get a base setting for suspension settings. The Wilber shock was working well pretty much straight out of the box with only ride height adjustment necessary. We spent the first day just twiddling away with the K-tech internals just to see exactly what effect different changes would have on the bike. Because of the new circuit and bike I wasn't really going fast enough to make any changes that were likely to be relevant the following day and for the rest of the year.
The next day started slightly cooler than before but also less windy. Straight away both Ian and Myself felt more comfortable with the circuit and the bike and pushed on. Within a few laps had gone two seconds faster and started to make meaningful changes to the bikes. It was pleasing to see that even thought they have different rules (Kit ignition boxes etc) our bikes were competitive against the european 600 superstock bikes. By the end of the day we had fiddled around and got a good base setting and changed the geometry of the bike slightly as well as made changes to make the bike more stable on the brakes, the one area I felt was losing me most time.
In the last session of the day I had my first ride on the teams Superstock R1 that I will be riding at the international road races this year. Once I had got used to how fast the thing goes through the gears and the fact that it is pretty much wheelying whenever your on the throttle, I really started to enjoy myself. It quite suited my riding style because you had to stop it and then fire it back out instead of holding loads of corner speed. The extra weight was actually quite helpfull in making the bike feel more planted and far more stable on the way into the corner. This was the same feeling that we needed to chase on the R6. The only downside was that the ground clearance on the bigger bike was too low and most of the Valencia track is spent leant right over. ...
By the final day we were running low on tyre's and decided to just do a couple of sessions on the 600's with the last tyre's and try to push for times. The new tyre's immediately gave a few seconds a lap and at this new pace I started to really learn what the tyre's do at this level. Its the first time I have ever really felt comfortable going in to corners knowing that I will lose the front but catching it. The Metzeler racetech's give so much confidence to 2 wheel drift or get the thing spinning up on the way out. It was a good experience as this is how hard I will have to ride this year every single lap if I want to be at the sharp end of the grid! My last flying lap was my fastest of he weekend and just pipped Ian by about a tenth so was quite happy. i also had two more sessions on the R1 and improved further. The big bike is nowhere near as intimidating as I thought I might be and is actually very user friendly. I will have no reservations in riding the bike at the road races now, its just like a fast, lazy 600 that will pull in any gear!
The first round is next weekend at brands hatch so will update afterwards!
My first ride on the teams new Superstock Spec Yamaha R6's was to be at Snetterton and the official BSB test. I was looking forward to riding the bikes and starting to learn about the members of the team. I was already quite sharp with 3 or 4 track days under my belt (albeit on the Triumph) and was eager to start learning the very different characteristics of the four cylinder R6.
However the week leading up to Snetterton was forecasting very bad conditions for all three days (why do they insist on holding it at Snetterton?!) Things didn't get off to a wonderful start on Friday when we tried to put the awning up and it was ripped off the side of the truck by the gale force winds. We decided we would run out of the back of the truck. ...
Saturday was to see the first track action. We awoke to sub zero conditions, hail, sleet, snow and gale force winds. Only the brave ventured out on track and it wasn't until the final session when we decided to go out and do a few laps just to get initial impressions and set lever heights etc. The bike felt very fast and I was impressed (and a bit relieved) at the mid range power compared to the 2006 R6, the last 4 cylinder bike I had ridden. In fact it is comparable with the Triumph 675! It also felt very balanced and was filling me with confidence to go faster despite the terrible conditions. I had to let my brain take charge though and pulled in after only 6 laps to let my hands thaw out. ...
Sundays conditions were no better. In fact they were about a hundred times worse when my first view of the outside world in the Morning was Chris Northover constructing a Snowman at about half past 8....
It wasn't until the final session of the day that it had thawed enough for us to decide to do another session. Once again it was wet, cold and windy so a laptime of 1.23.232 was only possible. It put me at the top of the 600 Superstock leaderboard by some four and a half seconds but we couldn't really read too much into it due to only 10 people making it onto the track.
The final day of the test was easter Monday and once again it was cold and white in the morning so no track activity started until 11 a.m. In their ultimate wisdom the organizers decided to go to lunch during the best weather of the weekend - Sun, dry track and no wind. Sure enough 5 minutes before we were meant to go on track, as the marshals were walking back to their posts, the snow started again. .... It only lasted five minutes so we decided to go out and get some dryish tracktime. It was nice to ride on the racetech's and as I had found on the the Triumph they are a very stable and predictable tyre. However it was too cold for any true testing and I had only completed 6 laps when it started hailing again....
I clocked a lap of 1.17.3 which was about 6 seconds slower than the expected pace at Snetterton but was fast enough to be not only officially the quickest Superstock 600 time but the fastest rider from any class over the weekend! This probably illustrates just how bad the conditions were and although too much cannot be read into the results it was a good confidence boost for myself and the team. The real testing will have to wait until we go to Valencia in Spain next week, and hopefully a bit of sun!
Its so important to me that I give something back to my Sponsors and supporters, and so for this season, we have formed the Olie Linsdell Race club.
The idea is that for a small membership fee of £50.00, each and every one of you can be a part of our team, and my success.
This is what you get for your £50.00......
So if you want to be a part of the Team, click on the picture below, download the membership form, and e-mail your details (as shown on the form) to me, including a contact telephone number, or just send it to Flitwick Motorcycles, Station Road, Flitwick, Beds, MK45 1JR- we will contact you for payment and set up your membership- it's really that simple!
Right. First of all I must apologise for the length of time since my last report. I have been very busy for the past few months. A lot has been sorted though and I cant wait to get going now, it's now only 6 weeks until the first round at Brands Hatch....
As you have probably heard I have signed to ride with Ian Lougher and team Blackhorse Yamaha, riding 2008 Yamaha R6 machinery in the new Junior Superstock series at BSB events and I'm really excited about getting started. I have been training hard and Im fitter that ever. I'm full of confidence and we are 100% sure that with Ian and the whole team around we can make a real impression this year.
We will also be riding with team Blackhorse at the international road races, the TT, Ulster GP and Northwest 200, on Supersport and Superstock Yamaha machinery. Hopefully I can use 2008 as another learning year on the roads and try to up my speeds on the bigger bikes ready for 2009.
Helen and I have been over to the island twice in the past few weeks, first of all for the Manx Motorcycle Clubs annual dinner. It was a really good evening and it was interesting to talk to the people who make the events that we have enjoyed so much possible. On Saturday night we were back on the island for 'A night of motorsport memories', an event organised by Chris Heyes and it turned out to be a real success. Over £15,000 was raised for various charities and it was a really good opportunity to let my hair down and get a few laps in before the hard work really starts. It was also a good opportunity to meet some of the people that I will be racing with this year as well as being a good excuse to get away somewhere with Helen the day after Valentines....
I will be back on track again for the first time this year on Saturday at Brands Hatch then again on Sunday at Snetterton. This is the beginning of an extensive schedule that see's 6 trackdays, a three day official BSB test and 4 days at Valencia in Spain before the first round on the 4th, 5th and 6th of April. I really cant wait to get going. I will check in again before the first round if I can fit it in between the college work, a full time job, training, testing and trying to raise further backing.....While Im on the subject if you know ANYONE who can do ANYTHING to help please be in contact as soon as possible....
The following press release has been issued- Needless to say we are all exited and delighted!
Olie is at present up to his ears in promotional launches and all the ancilliary work nescessary to get ready for the challenge, and in addition is off to the Isle of Man on Friday evening for the Annual Manx Motorcycle Club dinner, as one of the guests of honour!
Olie's own write up on his new signing will follow as soon as possible, following his return from the Island on Monday- watch this space!
Olie Linsdell signs for Team Black Horse Yamaha
Flitwick's motorcycle race ace Olie Linsdell will ride for the Yamaha UK official road-race Team in 2008.
Olie will be riding at the BSB British Superstock rounds in the all new Junior 600cc Superstock series, with the full backing and support of Team Black Horse Yamaha, under Ian's guidance.
Olie, just 20 years old, an apprentice engineer with Bedford based Wichita Clutch, had a phenomenal 2007 race season, winning the international North West 200 400 race, the youngest ever to do so, and setting a new race record in the process. He also took two wins in the Isle of Man Manx GP, entering the History books by setting a new record for the largest winning margin in the history of the Manx races.
Linsdell said: "I'm delighted to be involved with Ian and Team Blackhorse. They are one of the largest and long established teams in the paddock, and their wealth of experience will be invaluable to myself as rider on his way up.
Olie is currently looking for additional sponsors to assist with the additional expense of the step up, contact his through his website at www.olielinsdellracing.co.uk if you think you can help.
Thought I had better bring you all up to speed with what I've been up to the past month or so. We are currently in the discussion stages with a number of teams with regards to next years plans. The most exciting of which would see me riding in the newly announced Junior Superstock category at BSB as well as the three major International Road Races - the TT, the Northwest 200 and the Ulster GP.
I have been over to Milan to see our great friend and supporter Giovanni Cabassi and his amazing MAD Exhibition. Hopefully we will be again riding his Paton next year but mainly in europe at IHRO meetings and hopefully a round of the Italian Championship at Vallelunga. While we were there he said he would like us to test his new bike at some point - the legendary Britten V-twin! Combine this with the Saxon Triumph and the Paton 500 2-stroke and it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity!
I have started my winter training regime and aim to be in the Gym every other day with some motocross at the weekends. I need to be fitter next year if i'm to tackle the mountain course on a big bike and compete in the longer national races. This week the TT unveiled their 2008 advertising campaign and I'm lucky enough to have been included! Watch out for the advert in national and Motorcycle press in the coming months and download the PDF file by clicking on the link below. It makes a good read! I'm currently working on this years portfolio pack and am aiming to send it out within the next 2 - 3 weeks. Speak to you again after the NEC on the 1st December!
The final race of my 2007 season was to be at Croft on the Paton for the Race of the Year. It was a very important meeting because I was trailing Mike Smith in the race for the National 500 title by just one point and therefore had a chance of my first championship! The club races were to be used as practice for the big National race on Sunday and Andy Molnar had very kindly agreed to lend me his 350 Manx Norton to get some more track time.
The weather forecast was good for the weekend which was a bit strange for Croft but nobody was complaining! Practice was first up and I was glad to find that the Paton's power had returned after going back to Italy for a refresh due to the 'big end' incident at Snetterton. Croft is a circuit that I usually go well at and seems to suit the Paton so I was confident ahead of the afternoons races. The little 350 also felt perfect and I knew I could do a good job with some more time.
The first race was a 500cc Club race on the Paton. Lea once again managed two very fast opening laps and pulled a bit of a gap while I settled into second. I managed to reel him back in and was fairly close on the last lap. Going into the complex for the final time I caught a back marker at the wrong moment and Mike Smith managed to squeeze through for second. I wasn't too worried as there was plenty of pace still to come. Next up was the first of the 350 club races. I was drawn in grid position 8 which was better than expected since I had not done any of the 350 club races before. After a very poor start that saw me 12th into the first corner I managed to up the pace and work back to 6th position posting the 5th fastest lap of the race. I was fairly happy with this result but needed to figure out how to get the thing off the line.
There had been a lot of stoppages during the day so the second 500 race turned out to be the last of the day. I got a really good start and got my head down to pass Lea on the second lap. I can put very fast lap times in on my own but struggle to replicate them whilst around others. Once I hit the front I started lapping 2 seconds inside the lap record at 1.32.2. Lea could manage a 1.32.7 and my main rival for the national title was struggling further at 1.33.2. Things were looking good as I crossed the 7 tenths before Lea and 3.5 before Mike. The 350 race would be run in the morning at the beginning of the timetable.
I was understandably confident on Sunday morning. Croft has a real problem with noise and therefore aren't allowed to start racing until 12.00 on a Sunday. This gave the club time to run a charity push bike race around the circuit - in which I entered Dads 1930's Royal enfield much to the amusement of most of the paddock ....Unfortunately the chain came off while fighting for the lead on the run into the first corner so I will have to wait until next year to win the big one! The 350 race was before any practice and it felt odd going straight into a race situation. I had talked to Andy about getting a good launch and it paid off holding 6th into the first corner. The race was only 4 laps but I managed a 4th place finish and the third fastest time. If I could keep making these improvements it would be okay by the end of the weekend....
Race one was the last club race on the Paton. As it was the last contest of the season it is given the title 'Race Of The Year' with a separate trophy and Garland. This time I got a fantastic start and didn't let Lea get away on the first lap. I passed him at the start of lap two and once again got my head down and produced another string of fast laps together to take another second off the record at 1.31.2. I finished 1.7 seconds ahead of Lea and a reassuring 4.1 in front of Mike. The bike was setup perfectly and I couldn't be happier going into the national race, knowing that I had the pace and probably had a mental advantage over Mike.
As the afternoon went on the weather started to look slightly dodgy and sure enough it started to spot with rain about half an hour before the national race. I was angry because although I had fantastic pace I knew it would mean nothing in the wet as I had never ridden the Paton in anything other than bright sunshine. By the time we were sent out to the grid it was very greasy. I knew I just had to push outside my limits to ovoid letting Lea and Mike getting away in the first few laps. It was very slippy but I managed to pass Lea for the lead half way round. I had a quick look behind after a few laps to see no Lea and a fair gap back to Mike. All I had to do was keep my head and keep and eye on Dad and Merv' hand signals to maintain the gap. I crossed the line to finish 1.7 seconds ahead of Mike and take my first championship victory! It turned out that Lea had fallen off trying to join me up front. What a brilliant end to the season. was very happy that I had managed to win even in my unfavoured damp conditions.
My final outing of the year was on Andy's 350 in the race of the year. By this time it was well and truly soaking wet. Mike pulled in after the warm up lap and I managed to get a good start and Passed Lea and Phil Sharp for the Lead. From then on I never looked back and comfortably lapped at between 4 and 8 seconds faster than anybody else to win by an amazing 44 seconds! The avon tyre's really were brilliant in the wet and I have to thank Andy for the loan of the bike. Its such fun to ride and I was pleased to reward him with the race of the year!
So my first year of Classic racing has ended in the biggest championship in the country - the National 500. I couldn't have asked or hoped for more and have a lot of people that I need to thank. First of all Mum, Dad, Dave and Helen for their help and support through the hard times. It wouldn't be possible without a strong family and a Dad that knows so much about classic bikes! We couldn't have achieved what we did without Merv for his fantastic mechanic duties this year and Sharpy for his pit signals, talks, driving, the list goes on! I thank you for being at every round. Hanson building products and Wheeler Electrical have also been of massive help this year along with my other sponsors and everyone else that has provided support for our campaign. It goes without saying that the biggest thank you has to go to Giovanni Cabassi, Paulo, Roberto and everybody else at Paton for the loan of their fantastic bike.
Lets hope this is the first of many victories and we can once again make the Paton name great in the Racing world! Roll on 2008!
Olie Linsdell on his way to Victory Croft 2007
Pictures courtesy of Russell Lee Sport-pics.co.uk
Off to Brands Hatch for the final round of the Triumph Triple Challenge / Michelin Young Guns series, it seems no time at all since the first round in April!
I had been working hard in the gym since the disappointment of the previous round and my head was in a far better frame of mind. I wanted to go out with a bang!! I would also be riding Dad's Hub center steered 750 creation that I had ridden at the Silverstone track day earlier in the year, having entered in the prestigious Champion of Brands race. For this reason we had decided to do our first Friday test day of the year! It would also be an ideal opportunity to try out a few things on the Triumph. So long as the weather held....
Dad and I went up early on friday morning so we could miss the traffic. The clouds were looking very threatening although the forecast had said it should be dry until midday. First up was the Triumph and I just tried to ease myself into the weekend with a few laps. There was plenty of time to up the pace later on. I went out and did a few laps on the GTS immediately after and was pleased with the performance of the, lets face it, odd looking bike..... After this session it started to rain. I did a further session in the damp conditions on each bike, then one more on full wets (this was the first time I had used wets for 2 years!) By this time the heaven's had opened and rivers were forming down Paddock Hill bend. The rest of the weekend had been forecast as dry so it was decided a pointless (and risky) exercise to stay out on track. The rain continued through the afternoon and into the evening.
Saturday dawned damp and first qualifying was held on wets. I was still re-learning wets after two years off and managed to post a pleasing 54.1 in the wet conditions, putting me in a provisional 5th on the grid. I knew that there was plenty more pace to come if the races were to be held in similar conditions. By the time it came round to warm up for the Champion of Brands it had started to try nicely. It was too late to change wheels therefore things started to get a bit slippy on the overheating wet tyre's towards the end of the 10 minute session.....
Second qualifying was entirely dry on the Triumph and I was really up for continuing my excellent qualifying record in the series. After a few laps I had scrubbed in the new tyre's and pushed on, going past first Michael Booth then championship leader Jimmy Dye. I got a P1 board on lap four and then improved every lap until I came in on lap ten. I had done a 50.210 s lap and had taken my 4th pole position (out of 6 rounds contested) by a few hundredths from Steven Smith, who was certainly riding well. We were in turn half a second up on Rob Guinan and Jimmy Dye.
The next outing was aboard the 750 in the first 20 minute Qualifying session. we had fited a new set of slicks and went out with the aim of qualifying for the A group. There was a huge 77 bike entry with the first 38 bikes after qualifying going through to Group A and the rest contesting group B. After I had scrubbed in the tyre's and got a feel for slicks I started trying to up my pace- a very different bike from the 675! I was really struggling with next to no feel from the rear end and trying to cope with the bike spinning up coming out of every corner. As I got used to this happening the times came down and on the last lap of the mammoth 19 lap session I posted a 50.8 second lap to place me a pleasing 16th position. After having a 'Debrief' with dad it was discovered that he had wound the compression right in to take a note of the settings but failed to wind it back - affectively making it as hard as possible......
The first race of the weekend was the Superpole on the Triumph. Starting from pole I made a fair start (by my standards) and was third on the first lap. Jimmy Dye had managed to do his usual disappearing act on the first lap and I was left to chase Michael Booth who had also had a great first lap. I ended up in third position and was fairly happy with my ride, I knew I had the pace to win the main races on the Sunday. I also prefer starting from the inside at Brands and actually consider pole to be a disadvantage. The second qualifying session on the GTS provided more feel from the rear, but was slower than before. The track was quite greasy and nobody improved their earlier times, lots of rubber on the track with the Sidecars running! Once all the sessions had been combined I ended up 32nd on the grid, in the A group!
The warm up on the Triumph was used to scrub in a new set of Tyre's and the GTS saw me trying one of Danny Imbergs old Bridgestone slicks to see if it offered any more grip.
Race one was the first Triumph outing and I managed to get the best start of the year and actually make a place into the first corner!!! Shock horror.... I had a few moments chasing Jimmy Dye and had started closing him down when the red flags came out on the 8th lap, following an accident. It seemed I had been dragging Steven Smith along with me and we had both posted a 49.9 second lap on the final circuit, although it was not counted in the results because of the red flag. I was happy with second and was going to go out of my way to make the final race of the year mine along with the first.
The first Champion of brands race finally got away after a second lap incident saw a red flag come out. This was a shame because a brilliant start had seen me make it inside the top 20 off the line! The second attempt was not as good and I was last into Druids. I picked the pace up and soon found myself chasing down a large group of 10 riders battling from about 15th - 25th position. I caught them rapidly but struggled to pass them in the remaining few laps. The end result was a solid 28th position (not bad from 77) and a time of 50.5 seconds. We made a few adjustments for the next race.
The last Triumph race of the year was definately going to be a corker.
Jimmy Dye had already secured the championship but second, third and fourth were still up for grabs. Whatever order Steve Smith, Michael Booth and James Wainwright finished in the race would be the order of the championship. Add to this myself and Rob Guinan and there was sure to be a good race!
As three of us entered Druids side by side on lap one I knew my prediction was somewhere about right.....For the whole race the previously mentioned riders passed and re passed each other in what was the most enjoyable race of my career. More than once did I go into druids fifth or sixth and come out second!! On the last lap it was mayhem and I entered clearways 4th and crossed the line 2nd! In fact all 6 of us finished within a second. Believe me, its going to make good telly!!
We finished a thoroughly enjoyable first year of the TTC with an open topped car ride around the famous circuit for the top three and it was nice to see such a good crowd who had obviously loved the action that had unfolded in front of them.
All that was left was 15 more laps of the 2007 MRO campaign on the GTS. Another fair start saw me more in the pack than before. I found it quite difficult to find anywhere to go in the first few laps. I haven't started 32nd on the grid since probably my first ever race and wasn't used to having so many people around. It was chaos!! After it settled down I started picking a few people off until Danny's old slick finally gave up the ghost a few laps from the end. I finished 24th which both myself and Dad were very pleased with. Another encouraging point was that my final lap was 50.2, on knackered tyre's so perhaps there is more to come from the early 90's creation....?
Overall it was a solid and thoroughly enjoyable weekend that gives me the much needed confidence boost before the all important CRMC championship decider at Croft next weekend and on to next year. If any of you can make it up to Croft, please do. We need all the support we can get to try and Bring both myself and Paton their first Championships!!
It was back to Snetterton for the Second time in a fortnight and the last time this year for the penultimate round of the Michelin Young Guns series. It was the circuit that I had dominated at earlier in the year but I knew it would not be that easy this time...
It was the first time I had ridden a modern bike on a short circuit since the Manx and I thought I would struggle slightly. Right from the first qualifying session it was clear that I had suffered by missing the two rounds while I was contesting the Manx GP. I struggled to get back into the groove and when I did try and push I kept going in very hard on the front end, only to scrub all my speed in the middle of the corner and fail to get back onto the throttle. All this ended up with a very disappointing speed of 1.14.9 and 6th position on the provisional grid. To put this into context I had done a 1.12.4 on my first ride on the 675 in March.
We changed a few things for the second 15 minute qualifying session and were finally experimenting with the lower tyre pressures that everybody had been running very low all year (24psi!?). I was once again making little headway into my times until I pulled the pin on the lst lap and produced my best circuit of the weekend with a 1.12.4 to put me fourth on the grid.
The tyre pressures were better (we had only gone as far as 27psi) and we went slightly lower for the superpole race. I got a fairly poor start and was sixth for the first lap. After a couple of laps the race was stopped because of a fall resulting in LOTS of oil at the esses. We waited around while it was cleared and had two warm up laps to try and get some heat back into the tyre's. When the race finally got going again it was a near carbon copy of the first, slotting into sixth and being very cautious over the masses of oil rode to a uneventful 5th place finish at the end of the 5 lap sprint. The lower tyre pressures did not work this time and the bike was harder to turn and would not hold a line on the throttle. It had also produced far worse wear compared with our usual pressures.
It didn't get much better on Sunday. I was to start the first race from fifth on the grid and I managed to get a reasonable launch and held position into the first corner. Onto the back straight I got such a tow from the four bikes in front of me that I found myself going about 5mph faster than normal! I tried very hard to get the thing stopped and only just had to stand it up and take to the grass. As I did so I felt an almighty thud as Ricky Chadwick hit me. As I hung on over the bumps there was another bike and rider overtaking me cartwheeling through the air. I rejoined the track in last position and was sure that it would be red flagged. When it became apparent that it would not I got my head down and tried to make up some lost ground and managed to fight my way back up to 9th position at the flag.
The last race was probably my worst ride so far this year. No matter how hard I tried I just kept getting 1.13.7 on my board. This made me very frustrated and I made mistakes. I ended up in 9th position and not happy about the weekend at all. I had a lethargic feeling the whole weekend and was very tired after a hard few weeks. No excuses though, I know that I have the pace and I must do better at the final round in a few weeks. Everybody remembers the last race!!
We were back on the short circuits on the Paton at the CRMC race of aces on 8/9th September.
I had high hopes for the weekend as it was a track that the Paton could finally stretch its legs! Sharpy and I went up on Friday afternoon while David and Dad followed up early on Saturday morning. David Syzmanski was also parading the second Paton on the Sunday as well as having a hospitality box for employees and customers.
I was given grid number seven for the first race, which was effectively three because we were sharing the grid with a Scandinavian club who were holding their final round in England!
I got a reasonable start and was about fourth coming round for the first lap. Lea Gourlay very nearly highsided coming out of the chicane - a common mistake because of cold left hand side of the tyre at Snetterton - and took to the grass. I settled into second behind Luke Notton until he fell off at the chicane. I was left in the lead a led for the rest until I was very badly baulked coming out of the bombhole by a 350 Goldstar who used NO track. I had to overtake him on the right hand white line - coming out of a right hand corner!!! This let Lea Gourlay come past for the win - he said afterwards he was laughing at how doing the right thing had lost me the race...
The second race was a repeat of the first. Lea won from myself and Vernon Glashier third. There had been allot of oil dropped from the other races and we were all struggling for grip. I also believe that Snetterton is not as grippy as it used to be - Lea and I were nearly 2 seconds off his lap record, but pushing very hard. I felt that the bike was not as fast as it should be and was having quite a few problems with my brakes getting hot and the lever coming right back to the bar.
Sundays first club race had looked to be going the same way, with Lea out front and me sitting in a comfortable second until I went down the gears as normal at the end of the Revvet straight only to hear a horrible noise when I let the clutch out. As I tipped into the left hander the rear end broke away. Luckily I managed to catch it on the clutch (If you look at my pictures i'm ALWAYS covering the clutch - 2 year of riding the Aprilia 125......) and take to the grass. Upon further investigation we found that the engine had run a big end. Luckily we had the other Paton and we now had some work to do to change the front end, gearing etc, to comply with the classic rules.
The second club race going to be a practice to get used to the bike before the important national race later on. I got a flyer of a start and was into the lead into the first corner. I led comfortably and the bike was feeling back to how it should be - fast!
At the bomb hole the bike jumped out of gear which allowed Mike Smith and Lea past. It did it again coming out of the chicane then at the end of the straight the brake came right back to he bar - after only two laps. I pulled in as the brake really wasn't safe and I didn't want to hurt the engine by missing gears with the national coming up.
The final race of the weekend was the national. I once again got the holeshot and led for the first half a lap. The same thing happened with the gears and I'm sure it was getting worse as the race went on. The brake was much better and I was sitting in a comfortable third. Mike Smith tried a little too hard and fell off in a spectacular accident at Corams- bike and rider soaring over the tyre wall! This left me with second place and just one point off the lead in the championship going into he final round at Croft - have a look at the championship points! Close- the final round should be interesting........
The final part of the Manx GP adventure was to be the Ultra lightweight race on the trusty 400 Yamaha. It was a race that I had a good chance of winning if I could up my pace and join the 4 or 5 other riders that were very close to the top of practice leaderboards. The race was delayed from the scheduled start of 10.15 first to 11, then to 12 and eventually 1.15 because of low cloud on the mountain. I had been given number 41 and was pleased that there was nobody at 42. This meant I would have some clear track to set off on. It was dry and I decided to push hard from the start, conscious of advice that Dad had given me - Isle of Man races are usually won on the first lap....
By the time I reached Glen Helen I had caught and passed the pair in front of me which meant I was going pretty well and had at least ten seconds on that pair. By the time I had got to the gooseneck I was up with a group of 5 400's including Andrew Kirkwood and Maria Costello. It was raining lightly on the mountain which meant it required a bit more respect than normal. Unfortunately Sharpy and David had not expected me round so early and they missed me with the signal board. This meant I would have to wait another lap for an indication of positions, lap times and gaps etc. It turned out that lap one saw me leading Tim Sayers by 23 seconds with a speed of 106.373.
I got a board at the gooseneck on lap two that indicated I had around a 30 second lead, although I knew this would only have been from Glen Helen. At the end of the lap Dad, Merv and Helen, who was making her debut in the pit, did a brilliant job and I left the Pits with a 41 second lead over Tim Sayers and a lap speed of 107.643. I felt that i still hadn't realised my potential speed on the 400, so continued to ride hard. Lap three saw me continue to push and even with the pitstop I managed 105.901 to stretch the lead to 1 minute and 13 seconds, still over Tim Sayers. On the final lap I decided to try for the lap record while still trying to be kind to the engine. All was going well and I continued only revving the engine to 14,000 instead of 15. Then it began raining slightly harder on the mountain and the fog begun to return around the bungalow, so I had to back off a little. At the end of the final lap I had managed 108.922mph and won my second Manx GP race of the week by 1 minute 56.14 seconds, averaging 107.1 for the race. Tim Sayers came in second, and Keith Costello third. However the post race ceremony was marred by controversy because after the top ten 400's had finished the race was red flagged due to deteriating conditions, and therefore final results were declared from the end of lap three. This meant that Joe Phillips had been promoted to 3rd instead of Keith Costello even though both men had completed the scheduled 4 laps!! Fortunately the result was reversed when an appeal from Keith was upheld.
The fact that I won two races in my debut TT course meeting means that, due to a gentleman's agreement that states that no winners of a MGP can return (with trhe exception of a newcomers race) unless on a classic, I will have to either ride the Paton next year or move onto the TT - Perhaps even both......
It has been a brilliant experience for it to finally have been my turn and we have exceeded all expectations that anybody had, myself included. The two race wins are a great testament to how hard Dad, Merv, Sharpy, Mum, Helen and everybody else who was there supporting have worked in the last few months and during the fortnight itself. Its a huge team effort and achievement for us all. I also need to thank Peter Wheeler of Wheeler Electrical for the 675 triumph, Hanson Building Products, Flitwick Motorcycles and Giovanni Cabassi of CR&S and CMM for their continued support this year as well as Held gloves, Forcefield Body Armour, MJK, Putoline Oils, Feridax and Tuitus Media (You can breathe now....)
I am back on the short circuits at the weekend at Snetterton on the Paton. Hopefully I'll see lots of you there!
The second race of the week was to be the Junior Manx GP on the Wheeler Electrical 675 Triumph. Practice had gone well with laps of 110mph well within my limits. I had decided that a good aim would be for a top twenty position and to average around 110mph for the race. I would also be upset if I did not manage a 112-113mph lap. Because of my performance on Monday and my good practice times I had been moved from number 55 to 48. I wanted to try and push on during the first lap and for the fist time had used tyre warmers. Immediately I felt at home on the bike and pushed harder than I had done during practice week. Towards the end of lap one I was started to get very tired and didn't even think I would be able to finish the race! I relaxed a bit as I went onto the second lap and immediately felt better. My first lap had been just over 113mph from a standing start. At the end of lap two I had to stop for fuel and even with the slowing down for the pit stop I had done 19.54 - About 113.8mph. Lap 3 Included the pit stop so was 20.53 - about 108.5. The final lap was to be the only flying la of the race and I pushed quite hard. Often in the Isle Of Man the harder you try the slower you go, and i missed a majority of the apex's at the slower corners (Ramsey Hairpin, Gooseneck, Signpost, Governers Bridge etc). It was still enough for a 114.5 mph lap and average speed of 112.354 for the whole race. It was also good enough for 13th place overall and best newcomer - by just 0.67s! I was very happy with my performance as I was quite comfortable at that pace and Believe I could go quicker with more fitness. The high speed changes of direction are very difficult on the upper body. The last race of our 2007 Manx GP adventure will be the ultra lightweight on Friday morning. Hopefully we can repeat Mondays performance, although it is sure to be a bit more of a challenge!! Speak then
The Weather forcast for Mondays races was cloudy in the morning, and possability of showers later in the day, so everything was looking good.
My first race was to be the Newcomers C aboard the Hanson Building products Yamaha FZR400, a four lap race over the 37 mile TT course.. I was slightly apprehensive after the problems with the engine because it looked as though I was in with a god chance if I did not get black flagged or something stupid.
We were rushed up to the line and before I knew it I was off. At the Manx you set off in pairs and my partner got the drop on me although I had got back past by Ago's leap. I pushed on quite hard during the first half of the lap and Sharpie's pit board at the Gooseneck told me I had a minute and 30 seconds over the second place man....at that point it started to rain. The second lap had rain flags on almost every corner and as I came into the pits with a 130 second lead I could barely see anything through my visor. Lap three was horrible with a few places being properly wet, and visibility was poor in places, but we had chosen the correct tyre's with dunlop intermediates!
By lap three I had a huge lead and I set off onto the last lap just needing to get home. It had started to dry at this point and I pushed a bit harder. The result was a winning margin of 13 minutes and 36 seconds............ The largest winning margin ever in the Manx GP! My opening lap was 105.7 from a standing start with the rain and I averaged 102.8 for the race despite the horrible weather in the middle. I was very happy and to cap it all off Dad had one of his best rides I had ever seen to finish third in the senior classic and lap at 107.9! I still have a lot to learn! Wednesday will be the Junior race and then I will be gunning for glory in the ultra lightweight on Friday. Keep you posted.
After a morning at Jurby trying to make the 400 smoke (and failing), Saturday was to be the last evening of practice and it was decided that I would spend a lap following Dad on the Paton to try and pick up a few tricks. The weather was overcast but dry. The first lap went okay just following behind Dad which helped me to answer a few question that I had about places that I wasn't 100% sure that what I was doing was right. , Dad pulled in at the end of the first lap while I carried on for a flyer. All was going well until I began loosing oil pressure at Sulby bridge. The bike still seemed to be going okay but I thought I had better stop before I did any damage. This was frustrating as I had to just sit an watch the remainder of practice. The 600's had only done half a lap when the session was red flagged because of poor visibility on the mountain. At least I would get home for an early dinner!
Merv and Dad worked very hard and late into the evening and found a problem that they assured me was the route cause of both the smoking, lack of oil pressure and oil consumption- so hopefully everything will be okay on the day.
Oh and as a footnote Dad and I were first and second through the speedtrap at Sulby tonight!
Friday evening would be my first chance to do 2 laps on both the bikes and to try and get some true pace out of the 400. 400 was out first and I set off slowly and built up to a good, but not all out pace. I came through for a flier and decided to try and really push and see what sort of time I could manage. The first lap was 104.2mph from a standing start and the second lap was going alot better when I got black flagged at bungalow as the bike had been reported smoking. After a chat with the marshals and a check over the bike was found to be dry and I as allowed to continue. This lap was still 100.8 so who knows what might have been? The Stewards said afterwards that if it was seen smoking in the race I would have been black flagged jus the same. Something would have to be done.
Next up was the 675. Again I was just going to use this session as more track time and I rode round at a comfortable pace. The second lap was spent battling with another newcomer on a 750 suzuki and turned out to be 109.8mph without too much trouble. This upped my confidence with the bike and I have set my targets as top 20 for the race and around 112mph. Saturday will be my last chance to perfect the bikes and gain some more course knowledge.
Helen and I had done a lap on the FZ6 during the day and had found that visibility was down to about 50 yards on the mountain. I was surprised when the first session got off pretty much on time. The Ultra Lightweight and Classic machines had been given the first session to make up for the disappointment of last night. I set off slowly as the bike was very cold because we forgot to start it early enough..... After Crosby I upped the pace and was feeling very comfortable at the faster pace. I caught and passed established classic stars such as Johnny Barton and Ryan Farqhuar and learn alot from the time spent behind them. The closer I got to Ramsey the more the cloud was closing in and it became apparent when I got up the mountain that the fog was still a huge problem. Corners would come out of nowhere and the visibility was down to nearly zero. Going at no more than about 50% pace I simply 'got over' the mountain and was relieved when the fog dispersed at Kate's cottage. The session was red flagged at Governers Bridge so I did not accelerate over the line. This meant I was very pleased to be only a couple of seconds slower than Monday from a standing start and with all the time lost on the mountain. I'm sure that my pace on the 400 would now be around 104-105 and I cant wait to do a few more laps and make it a reality. Obviously because of the fog the 600 session was cancelled. We now only have Friday and Saturday practice sessions left so please pray for some sun! Speak tomorrow
Last night was the first evening that newcomers were allowed to practice with the senior and junior machines. This meant there was an opportunity for me to do 2 laps on both the 675 and the 400. Weather conditions looked brilliant from the grandstand but david had rung in saying that there was some mist on the mountain. We went off first on the Wheeler Electrical 675. We hadn't made any real changes from the night before apart from a few clicks of compression. Everything felt fine with the bike and I was going noticeable faster than before. My second lap was very busy traffic wise and I got stuck behind someone from quarry bends all the way to ramsey. Even though I was much faster than him it is so difficult to get past when the roads are so narrow. It is also a problem when they have a faster bike, making it impossible to pass down sulby straight. A few other big mistakes caused by inexperience saw me happy with my lap speed of 106.944mph. I'm sure that without the hold up it would have been nearer 108 and we will aim for that tomorrow evening.
We were meant to go out in the second session on the 400 but unfortunately it was cancelled due to low cloud on the mountain. This means we really need to do a couple of laps tomorrow evening and will be aiming to up the pace to around 104-105mph. We have already managed to qualify everything and are still fastest in newcomers C by about 2mph. The time on the 600 makes me 6th fastest newcomer on a 600 which I'm pretty happy about considering I'm a night down with the bike and have a standard engine. Speak tomorrow.
We needed to start getting some miles on the 675 and I had prepared myself for a completely different ride to the 400. After the crash and very nervous nature of the bike, and several chats with people such as Paul Dobbs and Richard from Maxton it was decided that the Michelin's were most likely the cause and that we should use Metzeler Racetech's. I could tell almost instantly that this was the case and the bike had been transformed into the stable machine that gave me the confidence I needed to think about what I'm doing rather than the bike. The course was entirely different on the 675, with corners that were nowhere near corners on the 400 forcing sharp intakes of breath when you appeared at them 20mph faster than before! I had made the mistake of wearing a dark visor and really did struggle to pick out the kerbs under the trees - not good! It also had the affect of making everywhere look wet. When all is considered I was pretty happy with my speed of 104.096mph as it would have put me third 600 newcomer the previous evening when everybody else rode their 600 for the first time. I'm sure here is plenty more to come when I can see where I'm going! Tomorrow night see's the sessions allowing newcomers in both sessions so i should be able to do two on each bike. I will keep you posted.
After the weather had seen that saturdays practice session was cancelled I was anxious for the adventure to begin on Monday evening as planned. Luckily the weather was fine and dry, ideal conditions for a newcomers tentative first steps on the TT course! The schedule saw newcomers doing a speed controlled sighting lap with experienced riders, then the senior and junior machines (with no newcomers) followed by the classic, ultra lightweight and all newcomers. As both of our bikes had to be used in the same session it was decided to just concentrate on the 400 and run the engine in and get some miles under my belt.
The speed controlled lap was a bit of a waste of time as the pace was not hot enough to learn anything and I spent a majority of it looking at the back of the person in front, trying to ovoid hitting them when they braked randomly in the middle of sulby straight!
The next session was the real one and i spent the first lap running in the refreshed motor. I felt comfortable and knew what was coming next on any point of the course. The 400 is such a lovely little bike, and I had enough time to think about what dad or Johnny Barton had said on the tours. I took absolutely no risk and didn't rev the bike hard and was very please to discover that I had lapped at 101.1mph on only my second lap of the place! This made me fastest newcomer C by some 1 minute 21 seconds or 5mph. That'll do!
Dad had a bit of a nightmare session with a faulty tyre disintegrating, with lumps of rubber the size of a ten pence piece coming off. Tomorrow we will try and get a couple of laps in on the Wheeler Electrical 675. From wednesday onwards I will be able to practice both bikes every evening as newcomers will be allowed out with the main Junior and Senior sessions.
We arrived at King William College in the Isle of Man at 11.30 last night after a VERY rough crossing from Liverpool. Today we had a busy (and soggy) day, with bikes to prepare, briefings to attend, and a guided coach tour for newcomers. This evenings practice has been cancelled due to the horrible weather conditions, and tonight's schedule has been transferred to Monday evening. It looks like I'll have to wait a few more days!! I will keep you all posted on my progress as the week continues..
The 4th and 5th of August was the first of two weekends that were to be spent at Cadwell Park immediately prior to the Manx.
CRMC were the hosts and I would be defending my lead in the Summerfield 500 National series and hoping for some strong results in the 4 club races. I began work early on the Friday so we had enough time to get to Cadwell and have an afternoon of testing to try and get a good setting for the new Maxton fork internals. Unfortunately we were stopped from testing as the bike was too noisy. It is so frustrating, because we had done as much as we could. We had huge ugly silencers, we made up some restrictors and re-packed the pipes with more or less packing. Nothing works. The rules really do lend themselves to the singles. Having such a short stroke engine and gear driven cams make it almost impossible- but we will keep trying. Running at 6,300RPM means that the engine is sounding so rough and nothing like what it does on the track, as was proved on the Saturday when a number of bikes that had passed noise tests at 103db were far noisier on the track, as tested by the meter.
It looked like David was going to get lucky with the weather again in his second meeting. Saturday dawned dry and bright. Practice went okay, with only a change of gearing needed for race one, which was held almost immediately. I got away from the line well and settled into second place behind Gourlay where I stayed for the remainder. It became clear that I would suffer from arm pump again on the physical circuit. Lea and I were nearly a second faster than anybody else, posting 1.41.3 and 1.41.4 respectively.
I knew there was a fair bit of pace still to come and was confident going into race two. Once again I got away well and was right with Lea coming round to complete lap one. I closed on Lea going into Hall Bends, only for his handlebar to snap coming over the rise which saw him crash out. I got my head down and pulled a few seconds lead on the pack. I was maintaining a fair pace but not really pushing when I made a stupid mistake in the last lap, and got a false neutral hooking up for the final corner, barn. I had so much time that I could have thought about it, stood it up and carefully matched the road speed to the revs. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment I just banged it up a gear, locked the rear wheel in the process, and then, for the second time this season found myself soaring above the bike in a highside like accident.
As soon as I hit the floor I knew it was not good and I was sure that I had suffered a broken collarbone. A trip to Louth hospital resulted in confirmation of a separated shoulder and damaged ligaments. My weekend was over before it had really begun ..
A stupid accident at a stupid time. I now face a battle to be fit for the Manx which starts exactly 14 days after the incident. I have been to see Brian Simpson in Ipswich which has helped and Im confident that I will be okay for the start of practice week. Thanks for everyones help at the weekend; Dad, Mum, Helen, Merv, Janet, Jack, Alex, Andy Molnar (For again lending his 350 Manx Norton Shame I didnt get to ride it .) and anyone who cheered me on- and well done to David who finished the race, after I crashed just in front of him!
I will be skipping the Cadwell Park round of the Triumph Triple Challenge to concentrate on getting fit for the Manx. I will try to find an internet connection and keep you all posted on progress from the island- if your over look out for me in the paddock!
For the second meeting in a row it was off to Brands Hatch to contest in Round five of the Michelin Young Guns on the Wheeler Electrical Triumph 675, but this time on the GP circuit. The weather was looking very dodgy in the week leading up to the meeting and it was looking as though I would finally get to try out the wets Sharpy very kindly took Helen, I and the lorry up on Friday afternoon and we were set up by half past 5 ready for the morning.
The morning dawned dry but very overcast. It soon became apparent that it would be necessary to push my times hard in the first qualifying as it was very likely to rain by the second. As usual most of the main contenders had been testing on Friday. I decided to try and spend no more than two laps familiarising myself with the circuit (You hardly ever get to go on the full GP circuit), then really try and push for a time. I had a huge moment when I went down too many gears at Stirlings and what started as a graceful Nicky Hayden style slide into the corner went slightly overboard . After that everything went smoothly and I continued to go harder, ending the session on provisional pole position with a 1.36.657. This put me a few tenths ahead of Steven Smith and a whole second clear of Boothy in third. It was also quite pleasing to see Jimmy Dye qualify thirteenth, although he did have an off on Friday which may have contributed!
Sure enough by the time second qualifying came round it had rained. The track had begun to dry but it was clear that nobody would be able to beat the mornings times. Those sort of conditions are usually terrible for me but I rode round and managed to do the third fastest time at only eight hundredths slower than the quickest man, James Wainwright.
By the time superpole came round it had dried fully. After my success in the King of Brands meeting a few weeks previous I decided that I needed to try and do a hot first lap and make a gap as I ride better when I can set my own pace. I have always thought that pole position at brands is more of a disadvantage than anything as you have to beat the whole front row cleanly by at least a bike length otherwise they stuff it up the inside. Steve and I went into paddock together and I came out second best. I tried to push hard and went into Surtees aiming to get a good drive down the next straight. I realised that going in quite so hot on the first lap was a mistake on the modern tyres when four riders crept up the inside as I struggled to keep the bike on the black stuff. By the time I had gassed it back up another 2 had driven past. 6 positions in one corner is not good in a 5 lap race! I then proceeded to get stuck at the pace of those around me and ended up only clawing my way back to 5th, going 1.2 seconds slower than in qualifying-what a waste of pole position. The only saving grace was that Jimmy Dye, current championship leader, and James Wainwright had finished behind me and Booth only just ahead.
The next day was forecast to be better and I used the 2 laps of warm up just to scrub in a new rear tyre. After the superpole disaster I would be starting the first race from 5th on the grid. I managed a fair start and started to climb my way through. The leading trio had gapped me by a few seconds but I managed to close them down by the last lap posting a 1.35.790 which I was very happy with. I ended 4th overall and third Young Gun, missing out on the fastest lap by just 2 hundredths of a second. The win was taken by newcomer and former top 5 British Supersport and 250 champion Chris Bishop who was coming out of retirement for this meeting.
After such a promising race one I knew that if I could get away with the leading group I had a very good chance of victory. However this was not to be as I got a poor launch and got boxed in at Paddock Hill Bend. By mid race distance I had got through to 5th but had James very close behind. I spent the second half trying to make myself as wide as possible and was in the middle of the track at most corners. It meant that I had no chance of good lap times or catching the leaders but it would hopefully keep him behind me. It all went to plan until Sheene curve, the one place I thought I was stronger, on the last lap. I ended up 6th overall and 5th young gun, not the result I had hoped for.
In conclusion it wasnt too bad a weekend. Im still on the pace, with very nearly the fastest lap of the weekend and gained a fair few points on Jimmy Dye. At the next round I will be concentrating on making a good first few laps and riding every single lap like the ones I put together when I go for a hot lap, like I did in the first race with the 1.35.790. The following day I joined David Syzmanski at Silverstone for a trackday. A lot of fun was had even if it was wet all day. A special highlight was riding Dads hub centre steered bike which surprised me a lot. The engine was mega and the handling felt surprisingly normal .I will try and race it at a Forza Extreme round before the year is out!
I will be going out to the Isle of Man for the weekend this week, then will be off to Cadwell Park on the Paton on the 4th/5th August, followed by Cadwell on the 675 the week before going over to the Manx on the 17th August! Its a very busy race schedule at the moment! Thanks to everyone for their support, I look forward to seeing you at Cadwell.
We had been very unlucky to have not yet scored a win on the Paton before Brands Hatch so I arrived on Friday afternoon to meet Dad and David (who was making his debut ) determined to change that record in arguably the clubs biggest meeting of the year. I was feeling very confident of a good result as I had the pace, taking lap records at the past 2 meetings, and just needed to work on getting up to pace quickly in my first few laps to try and stop Lea Gourlay doing his amazing disappearing acts!
Friday night was to be an eventful one with a lot of work still to do on the bike. We had quite a chat to Andy Molnar of Molnar Precision which cumulated in him offering me a ride on the best 350 Manx Norton in the country the next day. After such a sustained period of grotty weather we hoped for some sunshine over the weekend!
Sure enough Saturday morning dawned bright and hot. Practice went well with us getting an idea on the gearing required on the Paton and to get a feel of the 350 that I was planned to race after only 5 laps! The first race was to be the IHRO (International Historic Racing Organisation) on the Paton. These races were push starts so I was very nervous as Im renowned for my inability to bump start bikes on my own I was given second place on the grid, with a lovely uphill push. As the flag dropped I failed miserably to get the Paton to fire and my race was over before it had even started. I was very, very angry with myself and felt a bit stupid
The second race was the first of the club races and I managed to grab a third position behind Mike Smith and Lea. My mind wasnt really right as I was still angry at myself for the recent failure in the IHRO. Lap times were encouraging though, being faster than Smith and only marginally slower than Gourlay, even though they had already done a few races that day, at 53.6s. Race 16 was the 350 Manx. As I had never ridden it before I was to start from 33rd on the grid and had a lot o work to do. The bike handled so well and was a lot of fun to ride, I managed to push as hard as I could on a bike that I only had 5 laps experience on and worked up to sixth, lapping only half a second slower than the established riders like Gourlay at 55.7s. Another bike to ride at a classic meeting is a good idea just to get more track time and experience on the older style tyres. So a big thank you needs to go out to Andy Molnar for the loan of his lovely machine.
The last race of the day would be the second Norton Owners Club on the Paton. I was determined to stick with Gourlay and make a better job of getting through the backmarkers (some of which we would lap every 3 laps ) I got a better start and slotted into second behind Gourlay. I managed to hang onto him and was a lot more ruthless than usual through the traffic, making gaps where there wasnt really one. Sorry if I made anybody jump on my way past! Second was the end result, only half a second behind. I knew I could do it on the Sunday!
I had a surprisingly good nights sleep in the tent and was raring to go in the morning. Again the first race was the IHRO. I had half an hours practice bump starting in the morning and went into the race in a much better frame of mind. I had to start from 26th on the grid and managed a good one (practice makes perfect) and set about catching Smith and Gourlay. I posted a 53.08s lap on the final circuit but had to settle for 3rd.
I knew as I lined up on the grid for the first Norton Owners club race that this was my best chance yet of a victory. I got a great start and hung onto Gourlay as we upped the pace to a new level. I pushed really hard and if anything managed to get through the slower riders better than Lea. I made my move 3 laps from home only to get caught by a slower rider coming out of clearways and Lea re-passing me. We started the last lap together and I made my mind up that it was either win or crash. I entered paddock so hot that even I was surprised to get round .This enabled me to be close enough for a lunge at Druids with a very Gourlay like hard but fair move. I kept my head down to win by 4/10ths and our Patons first in Britain! To top it off I had set a new club lap record at 52.739 on the last lap.
My mind now turned to the prestigious King of Brands trophy. The trophy used to be the countries biggest race and has been handed out since the 50s with the names of all winners gracing the Kentagon restaurant ceiling! Lea had been the victor for the past 2 years. I had 2nd position on the grid which reflected my championship position. Another good start saw me once again tuck in behind Lea who then tried to break me early on. I made a move on lap four and was never headed, with the winning margin being over 4 seconds and with it another lap record at 52.593! I was over the moon to receive the trophy and to grace th trophy alongside some of motorcyclings greats. I was also informed that at 19 I was the trophies youngest ever victor!
By this time I was seriously tired having had a very busy couple of days and only managed a third in the last race. Overall we had a brilliant weekend with 6 podiums including 2 wins from 6 starts. I also took the lead in the National championship for the first time this year, heading the race by 4 points from Smith. I also think we set a new record for supporters this weekend, with over 15 people in the Hanson Building products truck awning on Sunday. We nearly ran out of tea bags! It was great to see so many of you waving from Paddock Hill Bank on the warm down lap. Special thank yous need to go out to Andy Molnar for the use of his 350, Roger Winfield for his silencers, Dad Mervyn and Sharpy for their hard work and support. We have finally gone some way to pay Giovanni and Roberto back for their patience with the bikes. Hopefully its the first of many wins! A quick word needs to go out for Amy the new number one fan any more applicants please apply in writing to
The next outing is again at Brands this time the wonderful Gp circuit on 21st/22nd July aboard the wheeler electrical 675. It is a circuit that I love and suits my riding style. Hope to see some of you there! The more the merrier!
We will be at Brands Hatch this weekend for the fourth round o the CRMC classic championships onboard the Paton aiming for a win in the King of Brand's Race.
Practice will start at 9.00 AM on Saturday and at 10.00 AM on Sunday.
Admission £12.00 or £10.00 in advance (0870 950 9000) Kids go free.
David will be making his debut onboard the Enfield so we hope to see as many of you there as possible!
If you can get hold of a copy of Irish Racer this month please do so. They have a three page spread all about me! Its a good read, focussing mainly on my history and aspirations. If your local doesnt stock it you will have to make do with some scans here
To the untrained eye it would seem that Lydden Hill is my favourite track in the country ..Its not but this didnt stop me going for the fourth time this year for the fourth round of the Triumph Triple challenge .
I was glad we were getting away when I saw the weather forecast on Thursday night. It looked like most of the country would be drowned over the weekend while residents of Dover basked in the sun . The truck was packed on Thursday night and Sharpy and I got away early after work on Friday to try and beat the traffic.
Saturday morning was a bit of a rush. There was still a sticker set to put on the bike as well as a new tank to return the 675 to its former glory after its slight excursion at Pembrey, which we were to collect at the circuit.
First Qualifying went quickly. The bike felt fine and I just used it to scrub in tyres and the new brake disks. To be honest I was surprised to find myself as high as ninth.
I upped my pace in second qualifying after making a few changes. I was frustrated that I couldnt get to within two tenths of what I had done in March on T3s press bike but I still ended up second on the grid with a 43.7. I was fairly confident for the race but knew that a good start was essential as the grid was so tight time wise. I got off the line okay but got mugged on the first lap and ended up 7th into the first corner.
Then things really started going wrong. I was getting frustrated and trying to lunge at gaps that werent there and coming from too far back, which messed up my line. To cut a long story short I finished 6th, 5th young gun and failed to get within half a second of my qualifying time. I was not a happy bunny
Dad arrived in the afternoon and we made a few changes for Sunday morning. I had three laps to try them out, two of which were spent scrubbing tyres in. The bike felt okay for the pace I was at and I was optimistic for the race. Due to the Superpole result I would start from 5th on the grid. I got a fair start and settled into fourth place. I wasnt really making much headway into Ricky Chadwick's third when Steven Smith came past on the brakes. Then the red flags came out due to a horrific accident involving a rider and a marshal. I wont go into too much detail but I hope they are both okay. Without marshals we would have no racing and they do a brilliant job. The race was declared a result which meant I finished fourth and third young gun. I felt sorry for Steve Smith who had beaten me fair and square twice during the weekend (and won the superpole race), only to be docked ten seconds, then had his position changed due to no fault of his own.
The last race of the day was cancelled as there was not enough time left after so many incidents. I have never seen a weekend as bad for crashes. Ever. The weekend as a whole didnt turn out to be as bad as it could have been, despite my lack of pace, I managed to claw some points back on Michael Booth and I just need to keep putting in the results. Next up is Brands Hatch CRMC on 7th/8th July. Hope to see some of you there!
Just one week after the Pembrey highside I was entered in the third round of the CRMC classic championships on the beautiful Paton twin. I was still in quite a lot of pain when we left on Friday afternoon to stay in a BnB for the second weekend in a row. Because of the noise regulations at Oulton park it was to be only a one day meeting, and to make matters worse I was only a Reserve for the days club races having got my entries in late. This meant that I missed the first Senior GP race as not enough people dropped out in the weeks leading up to the meeting. I knew it would be even more difficult than usual as I would have only 4 laps of practice before the important national race, whereas Lea and Mike would have at least 3 races each and three bikes worth of practice!
Luck was on my side when Luke Notten fell off in race one and couldnt continue. This meant that I lined up in 4th position on the grid for the second club race. I had some work to do ..I put in a storming first lap to end up 7th, then worked my way up to 2nd behind Lea Gourlay. There was a lot of oil dropped by sidecars the race before so the pace wasnt lap record hot but still respectable.
The next race was the national. I was quite confident of a strong result as I would be starting second and knew there was quite a lot of pace to come. I managed to fluff the start a bit by slipping the clutch for too long and not driving. By half way round the fist lap I passed Mike Smith and Duncan Fitchett for second place. Lea had done his usual first lap disappearing act and was a few seconds up the road. I got my head down and put in the fastest lap of the race in lap two to equal the lap record at 1.54.7. The middle section of the race saw me make a few mistakes as arm pump set in, and the gap stay constant at about a second. I tried really hard on the penultimate lap and managed to close right up, planning a move. Because of the one day format the national race had been mixed with the second of the 500 goldstar races. This meant that we were lapping at round 25 seconds faster than some and we caught a group of 5 at exactly the wrong point. Lea managed to get past one into the chicane, leaving me stuck for that section of corners. This was very frustrating as I know I would have had a bloody good go at winning it. The CRMC needs to think about using blue flags more than any other club as differences in bike and rider ability is huge.
It wasnt all bad though. Lea was behind me in the championship after his dnf at Lydden so I closed the gap on Mike to just 5 points. I was also pleased to find out that my back was fine once I was actually on the bike and riding. I had a lot of people come to congratulate me on the northwest success and have a chat about the Manx which is always nice. I think we will try and do a test day before the next classic race at Brands Hatch to try and find a better setup for the new Maxton forks. Big thank you to Merv, Sharpy, Roger and Helen for all their help. Next up is Lydden Hill with the Young Guns and I hope to see some of you there. I have some catching up to do after Pembrey!
It was time to get back to a bit of club racing after the international jolly at the Northwest. Mum and Dad had gone to the Isle of Man in the Hanson race truck, which meant Helen and I would be staying in a bnb, with Sharpee insisting on camping, even though Pembrey is notoriously wet
Pembrey is a good 4 hours away, and with it being bank holiday weekend I was keen to get off as early as possible. Helen had an English exam and I had work in the morning so we did pretty well to get off by 2.15. The roads were terrible and it was stop start the whole way. We finally arrived at the circuit at about half eight and after some fish and chips helped Sharpee put his tent up. We made our way to the bnb (which was lovely) and got a good nights kip. The weather forecast for the weekend was a bit dodgy so I felt it was important to put a decent lap in during the first session.
Most of the boys had been testing on the Friday, but I was fairly confident as I had already been to Pembrey once this year, on the Paton. I had new tyres on for first qualifying so Sharpee and I had decided that I should go out and do 3 laps to scrub hem in and then try to up the pace, before the weather closed in. Immediately the bike felt very odd, absolutely no feel was coming from the front and I really felt like I was going so slowly. I found some free track space and started trying to push, only to have a few moments at what I would consider to be nowhere near my limit, with no warning at all. I came round on my eighth lap and lost the front on a 80mph right hander, one minute I was up, the next minute I was sliding down the road thinking a) what just happened and b) please dont barrel roll, as the bike bounced over the kerb and onto the grass .
The crash really was the weirdest crash I had ever had. The bike had given zero feedback the whole session and I got no warning whatsoever. One minute it was solid and felt slow and precise, the next I was down. The only thing I could think of being a possible cause was clipping the white line on the inside as I tried to sort out my lines. Some rapid (and may I say very professional) repair work and bodge taping resulted in the bike being ready for second qualifying. Seeming as I had only completed a few laps and hadnt felt very sharp I was extremely surprised that I had provisionally qualified 3rd, only two tenths off pole with a 1.02.8. I was very confident that I could go much faster so set out intent on qualifying on pole in the second session. All went well and I upped my game, assuming everybody else would. I still wasnt getting very much feel from the bike, and wasnt very happy with my riding but it was good enough for that pole position, by over half a second, at 1.01.8!
I was still slightly worried about the lack of feel from the bike but didnt really know how to go about sorting it. The next day was forecast to be wet and windy so I decided that because I was a long way ahead it would be logical to just go out and do enough to win the first race, and then worry about a completely different wet set up in the morning. The afternoon had turned out a bit colder with a stiff breeze. I lined up on the grid and got the worst launch I had had for most of the season, finding myself 4th into the first hairpin. I knew that I needed to get some positions back fast as Jimmy Dye has a habit of upping his game in the races, and I could see him out front. Just getting on the power at the apex of the first left hander I had a huge slide, which then caused a highside. Everything went in slow motion and I found myself a long way up wondering when I would land .
Eventually I did land. And it hurt. Alot. The race was stopped and I found myself surrounded by yellow coats. My right wrist and hand felt smashed, I was convinced that my left ankle was broken and my back was in agony. Laying on my front, with a face full off grass wasnt the best position to be in but I couldnt move, I think more through shock than anything. Eventually I was put on a spinal board and taken to the medical centre where the pain was numbed by 15mg of morphine . By this point I had forgotten about the wrist and ankle, but the back was getting worse. I was taken to Carmarthen hospital and after being very painfully removed from my leathers (I refused to have another pair cut off me..) had a lot of x-rays taken. Thankfully they were all clear, with a bruised spine and a few cuts being the only damage. I was sent home that evening with some strong pain killers and had a very uncomfortable nights sleep, although the morphine did help matters as it made me very drowsy.
We returned home on Monday as planned after spending a day recovering enough to be able to face the long journey home, and somehow stuffing Sharpees FJR1300 into the van along with the moped, the 675 and all the gear .
I have now been knocked off the top spot in the championship by Jimmy Dye who managed two wins and a third. This has probably wrecked my campaign, especially as Im missing a race for the Manx (which I have just had my entries accepted for, being given number one on the 400), but I think most people will agree and remember that I would probably have won the weekend had it not been for a silly crash on cold tyres, and been in a far stronger position as leader in the championship. Im not however getting despondent and can take quite a few positives from the weekend I qualified third after only four laps, after everyone else had a full days testing on the Friday I then qualified on pole by over half a second and didnt even feel as though I was pushing I got to spend a few days in a lovely bnb with the fabulous Helen and see what great support and team I have in the way of Sharpee. I dont know what we would do without him now. This surely stands me in good stead for the rest of the year. If the amount of pain I suffered over the weekend cant knock me down nothing will! Im aiming to be back out on Saturday with the classic club and hope to take my first CRMC race win for Paton! Thanks to everyone who lent a hand and offered support over the weekend; Danny, Chris, Dave, Andrew, Merv and everyone who has sent their regards after hearing. Its nice to know I have such a concerned following. Hopefully I will see some of you at Oulton. From the podium preferably ..
What goes up ..
Must come down
At the start of the season the Northwest 200, along with the Manx GP, was the race that I most wanted to have a strong result in. I flew out to Belfast on Monday morning and was met by Dad and Merv who had come on the early morning boat. I was to ride the FZR400 and the Wheeler Electrical Triumph 675 at Irelands biggest sporting event. I was very confident of a strong result after a very pleasing 6th place as a newcomer last year, which left me as the 5th fastest person ever around the famous triangle circuit on a 400cc machine. The northwest is a huge event, second only to the TT in Road Racing terms, and attracts crowds in excess of 130,000 and millions of viewers worldwide on television.
We were greeted at the paddock by wind and rain, but we felt it was important to get the awning up and the floor down before going to the Bed and breakfast, as first practice was the following evening. The weather forecasts were not favourable but to our surprise Tuesday evening was dry by the time practice started at half five. First out was the 675 and I soon found out that it was horribly under geared, as it only took me 2 laps to do the famous station corner flat out, and was revving out far too early down the 3 mile straight .
I stayed out and just used the half hour to re-learn the track and get my head round the whole different way of riding on the roads. The fact that I was out on the 675 really helped as I jumped straight onto the 400 and immediately felt at home, like a long lost friend! Throughout the session I pushed back my braking markers, worked up to the fast corners and just generally had fun. I had an idea that I as going fairly well as nobody came past me and I sailed past a few good runners. It wasnt until I got back to the paddock an heard the commentator quote one man who has really surprised me, and a lot of people today is Oliver Linsdell, first 125/400 and third overall Thatll do I thought. I was even more surprised when I got the sheet and saw that I was over 9 seconds in front and had broken the lap record by over 3 seconds!
There was some work to do on the bikes on Wednesday and it somehow turned into a whole days work. The fact we were on provisional pole meant that we were understandably cautious about the bike. We made sure that we saw the technical man, Howard Anderson, and basically asked him if anything he could see was illegal, because if I was that far in front in the race a protest was inevitable! Thankfully nothing was which put our minds at rest and helped us concentrate on the job at hand.
Thursday evening was to see the second and final practice/qualifying session. It was decided that if dry I would only do a few laps on the 400 to scrub the new rear in and save the engine. First bike out was the 675, (Now fitted with the correct 17-45 gearing, instead of the 17-48 on Tuesday ) I spent a few laps scrubbing the new rear in and getting a feel for the new gearing, then began pushing. Unfortunately only half way round the third lap it began raining and steadily got wetter as the session went on. This was slightly annoying, and I qualified in 29th position still faster than Tuesday though. Straight out on the 400 and I just did an out lap and an in lap, but somehow still posted the third fastest time.
After pulling in to pit lane Merv heard a funny rattling noise, much like that of a knackered big end and we immediately stopped the engine and pushed back to the truck. Dad had a listen and agreed. It looked like a long day on Friday . We decided that the engine would have to be stripped, the only problem being that we didnt have any spare gaskets etc with us. Luckily an old friend of dads, Phil Milligan, had a friend coming over who kindly agreed to bring some bits on the plane. Thank you Darren!
After much work we finally had the engine to bits. And promptly put it back together again when we could find nothing wrong . Must have been us being cautious again .
Saturday was race day, and the weather forecast was good. I was understandably confident after being so far in front in practice. I was only really worried about the start, as my history of that particular part of the race isnt the best, and this time it was from pole in front of 130,000 and BBC cameras. Once again the 600 was out first. It was decided that I would not take any risks as the 400 race, the big one, was immediately after. The start was mediocre, and the first half a lap mad in every sense of the word! I was hit numerous times and basically got forced straight on at two corners. This combined with the standard triumphs serious lack of speed on the long straights meant that I had to push hard to keep up, despite the plan. Lap three saw it go seriously wrong, missing my braking marker at a mini roundabout. I had the choice of going straight into the roundabout and certainly crashing or trying to get round and probably crashing. I took option B and found myself on my arse. I was so angry with myself for such a stupid crash but was very glad I hadnt hurt myself.
The problem now was getting a lift back to the pits for the start of the 400 race. Luckily one of the travelling marshals stopped and I managed to get a lift on the back of his R1. He put me straight onto the grid where I found I had lost my earplugs. Luckily Ritchie Welsch managed to scrounge me some while his girlfriend calmed me down and found me a drink. All I could think about was the start and how important it was. As soon as the flag dropped I got probably my best start ever on a 400 and was immediately into the lead. I pushed so hard on the first lap, losing the front more than once. The rest of the race I just went at a comfortable pace, occasionally looking over my shoulder only to see no one. I crossed the finish line first then waited for what seemed like forever in the holding area until second place came in, some 35 seconds later .. I could hardly believe it standing on the podium with Northwest 200 legend Robert Dunlop and British Champion Michael Wilcox ..Miss Northwest was nice too . My whole race average was 104.7 mph and y fastest lap 105.3, a new lap record by some four seconds. In fact my race average was a whole 1.3mph faster than the previous lap record!
The result stands me in a really good position for the Manx Gp in August, and maintains my 16 race podium record! I need to thank a lot of people who made this huge international win possible. Merv, Dad, Mum, Ritchie, Darren, Sharpy, Phil Milligan, Helen an anybody else who helped and supported me. And of curse it would not be possible without Hanson, Wheeler electrical, and everybody else! The year just keeps getting better! Next up I Pembrey 675 on bank holiday weekend then Oulton park the following week. Lets hope for some more strong results!
Photo courtesy of 2007 Northwest 200 site
Olie wins 125/400 race at North West 200 2007 12th May
Olie took the win in the 124/400 North West 200 2007 aboard the Flitwick Motorcycles FZR400 Yamaha. However, he nearly didn't make the start of the race, having slipped off his 675 Triumph at the roundabout in the previous 600 Supersport race- a lift back to the paddock by a kindly official just got him there in time to take up the pole position earned in practice!
Olie on pole for North West 200 125/400 class Saturday 12th May
Our rider Olie Linsdell certainly made the commentators sit up and take notice in tuesday's first qualifying session for Saturday the 12th North West 200 125/400 race.
Lydden Hill just outside Dover was the setting for the first ride in a very busy week. I was entered to ride the Paton on the Saturday and Sunday, and then booked onto a flight to Ireland on the Monday morning, where I would meet Dad and Merv to compete in the International Northwest 200. It was important that I tried to run with Lea Gourlay and Mike Smith at Lydden, and I was confident I could do so with a different front tyre and some tweaks.
It was an early start on Saturday morning, getting up at 5 oclock to get to Dover in time to sign on, set up etc. I was met there by Sharpie and Merv (who left for the northwest on Sunday) settling in next to Roger Imberg, Danny Imbergs dad. Practice went past very quickly, only completing about 5 laps of the one mile circuit. Because it is such a short track it was very busy and was difficult t really draw any conclusions when you are overtaking about 3 people on every single corner .
The first race saw me start 4th on the grid. I soon made my way into third but was disappointed to see that once again Lea and mike had set off at such a pace I was unable to catch them, finishing third. I was pleased to see that I had taken the fastest lap at 45.015, half a second faster than Leas lap record after only 10 laps! I was pleased to see that the discussions my father and I had regarding the front tyre after Pembrey had paid dividends, and the bike now had far more grip and a much more balanced feel.
Race two was almost a carbon copy, after taking second from the start but I suffered from a huge slide on lap one putting me back down the field. I finished much closer to Lea and Mike, although a back marker spoil what would have been Second on the last lap. After the race we found that Mike had broken my lap record with a 44.8. I was determined to get it back on Sunday! We didnt have the luxury of the Hanson truck at Lydden as it was being prepared for the Northwest, so sharpie kindly put me up at his house about an hour away at sensible speeds on the FJR1300.
On Sunday Steve Ruth, formerly a very good classic rider, helped out with setup and just general knowledge of older race bikes. It was decided that we would drop the forks through slightly and take off some preload to help compensate for the taller, fatter front tyre. I was also asked by Roger Winfield to test ride his Paton in the parade as it needed running in before Lea Gourlay rode it at the first IHRO round in a weeks time. This combined with the two club races and a national race meant it was a busy day!
Race one on Sunday saw me get a much better start and finish second to Mike Smith, only 0.4 seconds away from the win. The bike felt better for the changes to the front end, but lap times were strangely slower. I knew I would improve as the day went on though, and was pleased that I had beaten Lea for the first time and was much closer to Mike. The second race of the day was the longer national race. I got a fair start and managed to pass Lea for second on lap four. By this point my arms were again giving me grief and I just held position and ended up finishing second to that man Mike Smith. I broke the national Lap record by one second, dropping into the 44s for the first time at 44.8.
The last outing of the weekend was another club race. I was determined to get a win after two Thirds and Two Seconds. I also wanted my club record back! Right before the race sharpie and his eagle eyes noticed a broken spoke on the rear wheel and further investigation revealed another. Dad was consulted and it was decided that I would go out, but the moment anything seemed odd I would pull in. As soon as the race stated knew it would be a good one. I managed to stay with Gourlay and smith from the off, passing Gourlay a few laps later. By this point Mike had pulled about a second and I set about reeling him in. Come the last lap I was right on his rear wheel and I decided I would have a go at the last corner where I was much faster. Unfortunately another backmarker put pay to this plan (I really think blue flags would b appropriate in the CRMC) and I once again finished second, less than 0.2 seconds behind. I was very happy to see that I had taken the record back with a very fast 44.512!
As a whole the weekend went almost perfectly, and its only a matter of time until I win a CRMC race. Thanks for all the support, 8 people came especially to support me at Lydden which is always an encouragement and helps with the last few tenths! The next classic round is at Oulton Park on June 2nd. But before then I have the Northwest 200
Cadwell Park Young Guns Rnd 2.
After such a great start to the season at Snetterton a few weeks previous it was important that I pushed hard to make a mark on the championship, and try to consolidate my position at the top of the standings. With my other racing commitments this year it is almost impossible to take any time for testing. This is a shame because Cadwell Park is the one track, above all others, that needs confidence usually gained by riding round and round on a test day! We arrived on Friday evening to a very cold and windswept Cadwell and managed to get the awning setup. A quick walk around the paddock indicated that everybody else had tested that day, with some even being there on Thursday at a trackday!
The weather forecast for Cadwell was very mixed. We awoke to a misty, cold morning with a biting wind. The Triumph Triple Challenge runs a format that gives us two fifteen minute qualifying sessions, but no free practice. It as decided that the weather wasnt going to get much worse in the afternoon so the session would just be used as a practice, scrubbing in tyres and re-familiarising myself with the track. All went well and I was just stating to push a bit harder when the chequered flag came out. I was fairly pleased to see that I was 8th with a time of 1.42.2 as I really had been riding like I was on a muddy field and scrubbing in tyres, only managing 6 laps. There was plenty more to come. I did feel slightly short changed as it was obvious to anyone that we hadnt had 15 minutes. Nobody had done more than 6 laps which would mean we would have averaged two and a half minutes per lap. The slowest lap of the session was a 1.59 .
The second session wasnt until the afternoon and I wanted to get out with some of the lads that I thought would be a threat, mainly Jimmy Dye and James Wainwright. The session started and I went out in the first group, only to get tangled up with Steven Smith at the first corner of the second lap which sent him grass tracking I settled back down on my own, with some clear track and started to up my pace. Sharpie was giving me good signals and my lap times fell 40s, 39s, missed 38s entirely, 37.9, 37.6, ending up on 37.3. I was well pleased as I was second on the grid for the superpole race and confident that I could go quicker. Wainwright had qualified ahead on 1.37.00, but Jimmy Dye was third, almost a second behind me!
I got a great start in the superpole race and settled into third; taking second from Dye half was round lap one, and closing in on Wainwright and the lead. Half way round lap two the Red flags came out and the race was stopped after Ritchie Welsh and another rider had a coming together. We sat on the start line for ten minutes while it was cleared up, then were told the race had been shortened to just 4 laps! Great. I always take a few laps to get going In the re-start I didnt get away as well as the first start and ended up fourth. By the time I had got back into third Wainwright and Booth had gapped me with only a few laps remaining. I managed to close the gap right up and set the fastest lap of 1.37.3 on the last but couldnt quite do it, finishing third. Perhaps more importantly Jimmy Dye had finished 4th. Thatll do!
Sundays races were ten laps and I prayed that the arm pump that had plagued me on the Paton wouldnt return. Once again the morning had started cold and misty, with warm up being horrible the mist was so thick it looked like rain on the visor! It hadnt got any better by the time race one came round and I really was dreading it, as the greasy conditions were by far my worst! I lined up third on the grid and got another reasonable start, soon finding my pace and passed Jimmy, in third position. I settled down but saw that James was disappearing into the distance and Booth was maintaining the gap ahead. As Jimmy, my main championship contender was behind me I thought it wise not to bust a gut trying to claw Booth back, and take the points. I was pretty pleased to finish third in those conditions, but was very happy to find out that James had jumped the start, which elevated me to second. To make things even better Jimmy had finished 5th, which meant I now led the championship by 17 points.
I hoped that the weather would improve and give me the confidence I needed to go into the36s. And improve it did. The sun came out, the wind died away and I was raring to go! I made a few changes to the suspension to try and help the bike over the bumps and lined up in third position on the grid, fairly confident of a good result. My start was okay and I held third place for the first couple of laps. At the start of lap three James Wainwright crashed right in front of me at Charlies 2, leaving me in second with Jimmy (Where did he suddenly get that pace from!) Dye leading. On lap 5 I took the lead into Mansfield, and pulled about half a second. I was beginning to tire, with my arms pumping up once again and the gap came down to 0.2s as we started the last lap. Making a mistake into Charlies 2 Jimmy came past me on the brakes into park then Mike forced his way past at the gooseneck. Gutted. I finished third but got into the 36s.
All in all it was a solid weekend with me extending my lead in the championship to 8 points, and I am now the only rider who has been on the podium in every race. Hopefully before the next round at Pembrey I will have something to help with the arm pump, as it has wrecked two races this year already! Next up is Lydden Hill on the Paton on May 5th/6th, then straight off to the Northwest 200 in Ireland for a week Cant wait!
Triumph Young Guns Snetterton Round 1.
About 2 months ago Wheeler electrical kindly agreed to buy me a Triumph Daytona 675 to ride at the Manx GP and the Northwest 200. As 2007 is the first running of the Michelin Young guns and Triumph Triple Challenge it was decided that I should enter a few rounds to familiarise myself with and set the bike up. Tony Scott is organising the championship so he was asked to prepare our race bike. Tony is doing a 3-man job on his own, so he struggled to get our bike finished and we collected it on Thursday evening. There was still a fair amount of work to be done so we found ourselves working until 1 in the morning finishing it. The plan was for me to go straight to Snetterton from work, and try to get a few sessions on Friday afternoon and find a base setting.
The twenty minutes I got on Friday were a nightmare. I was very tired, after only 4 hours sleep, rushed and had a horrible sore throat that was quickly developing into a cold. I still had plenty of work to do, including swapping the gearing and changing the bike back to road shift rather than race pattern which meant finding bolts etc, on my own in the hour that I had before my sessions started. The bike is brand new and will have a hard life at the Manx and Northwest so I had to be a bit gentle with it on Friday and avoid revving it to hard. The first session was very poor, with the suspension feeling terrible, and I was finding it difficult to really evaluate the problems when I was holding it at 9,500 rpm down the straights. This left me with low expectations for the weekend, thinking that a top 6 would be good if I could salvage it. I made a few changes and the second session went much better, but the bike was still far from being what I would call setup.
Saturdays schedule included two 15 minute qualifying sessions and one 6 lap superpole race. Dad and Helen had arrived in the truck at 10.30 on Friday evening to find a very cold and fed up me sitting in the van. We made a few changes to the bike and thought we would use the first session merely as a practice session, not going for times. It was decided that I would be given an in board when dad wanted me in to make some adjustments. I knew I had to up my pace and went out at the front of the group hoping that some of the lads who have had their bikes for months would drag me along....except nobody came past. I thought it odd as I didnt feel fast and the suspension didnt feel that brilliant. I kept waiting for the agreed board but it didn't appear After the session finished Dad had a big smile on his face and told me I had lapped at 1.12.4 lap, which is about 1.8 seconds faster than the R6cup bike last year, and half a second quicker than anyone else, and I had qualified on pole! I was very surprised, but was feeling confident as I was sure I could go quicker.
Because I was half a second up on the rest, it was decided that I would just do a few laps in the second session and try and save my tyres for the Superpole race later in the afternoon. Within four laps I had gone a few hundredths quicker and pitted in. Chase that I thought. Nobody went any faster in the second session so I would start THE superpole race from Pole on the grid! The race was scheduled for 6 laps but because a sidecar very kindly left oil the whole way round the first corner, second corner an the back straight on the racing line, it was cut to only 5.
I had sprinted Flitwick Motorcycles demonstrator 675 at Tempsford a few weeks before and was fairly confident that my starts would be okay. On the race bike however it was more difficult as the absence of lights etc meant it was lighter, and was very easy to wheelie. When the flag dropped I I was fourth into the first corner. The race past quickly and it took me some time to figure out how much grip the oil had. Once I had calibrated myself to not having as much grip for half the lap I made my way through 4th, 3rd, 2nd and then took Jimmy Dye for the lead on the final lap at the esses to win by 3/10th of a second. I also set the fastest lap (and record) of 1.12.9, despite the oil.
We fitted new tyres for Sundays races and went to the presentation in the evening where I collected a Trophy for winning the race and a lovely Michelin watch for qualifying on pole. As well as a garland ( a "Judy" for Sharpie ) Sundays races were scheduled for ten laps and I was understandably confident after dominating the previous day. Race one saw me get a better start and enter the first corner in 3rd position. I quickly caught and past Mike Collins and set about catching Jimmy Dye who seems to get blistering starts. I caught him on about half race distance and was feeling comfortable. I followed him for a few laps and he was riding very well. I think he will be a main contender this year. I made a pass on lap 7 at the esses again where I was much later on the brakes and just maintained the gap for the rest of the race, once again doing a 1.12.4. Full points on the board!!
I knew I would have to up my pace in the final race as two others had done 1.12s in race one. The important part would be the starts and to be aggressive enough on the first laps, not letting Jimmy get away. I found myself third once again and did a fair first lap, passing Collins for second. Jimmy was still a fair way in front after another great first lap. By lap four I had caught him and we spent the rest of the race passing and re-passing each other, trying to use the slipstream to our full advantage. Basically if you were in front coming onto the back straight you wouldnt be at the end of it . with the adrenaline flowing I was making a right mess of my riding and kept not going down enough gears onto the back straight and start/finish line and fluffing my drive. The last lap saw me leading, but once again mucking up sears leading onto the back straight. I knew I would have to get over to avoid Jimmy taking the inside line and at the end of the straight we touched, digging the elbows in at about 160mph! Just like the R6 cup all over again Jimmy had the inside line and there was nothing I could do, so had to settle for second.
This was a little disappointing as it would have been nice to have the full set at such an early point in the series but at least it will teach me not to get complacent- I need to keep training and improving. So Im leading the Championship and looking forward to what's shaping up to being a great year. My thanksgo to Wheeler Electrical for supplying the fantastic bike, Hanson for their huge support, Graham from TuitusMedia for taking the photos, Helen, Mum, Dave and Kim for cheering me on,and everyone else that came at the weekend . Well done to Jamie who scored his first top 15 and second rookie in past master's. Podiums soon enough! Lastly a very special thanks has got to go to Dad who has worked so hard the past few weeks for my racing. There is no way I could do it without him.
Next up is Cadwell Park for the second round. Lets hope I can keep it up! Hope to see some of you there!
Update from 14th April Snetterton Powerbike tour- First Day of Mitchelin Young guns
A quick note- Olie set Pole for the first round of The Triumph Triple Young Guns championship, with a best qualifying lap of 1:12.453. He then topped this by winning the Triumph 675 challenge Superpole race, and taking the fastest lap of the race.
Two more races for Sunday 15th- watch this space for Olies full report.
It was Pembrey in Wales that was to host the first of the CRMC classic championships races, and to be the beginning of my major championship bid this year. It had been in October of last year that I had last ridden the Fabulous Paton, so we entered the Good Friday test session. The week leading up to the meeting was a busy one with the Paton being prepared and Dads Royal Enfield Bullet being rebuilt after spending 20 years in a million bits .So busy in fact that the bikes were only finished at eleven oclock on Thursday evening! This was probably a blessing in disguise, as leaving at 1.25 missed the majority of the holiday traffic. A quick break for two hours kip at Swindon was all that we got before continuing our trip in the morning, finally arriving at Pembrey at Nine.
The purpose of the test day was to get used to the bike again, and I was glad of it. The first session was awful, with a horrible vibration (caused by me forgetting to rev the thing ), and brakes that it seemed didnt work! Slightly different to a 675 or the 400! My confidence grew as the day drew on and I was reasonably happy with my performance by the end of the day. The plan for the weekend was to build up to the important national race on Sunday afternoon.
The CRMC draws the first race from a hat (with a bit of help I think, as all the top runners were in the first few rows) and I was placed 5th on the grid. I was still learning the bike and just wanted a solid finish. A good start saw the 6 laps pass quickly, ending up where I started in 5th place. The front end seemed a bit vague, with some chatter which seems to plague all bikes at Pembrey, and I couldnt really see where I was going to make the 2 seconds needed to be with King Lea Gourlay. We dropped the tyre pressures slightly which helped the chatter in the second race, where I finished 4th, dropping my lap time down to 1.05.7. The second race saw me suffer from arm pump. This is something I have never really suffered from in road racing but after only 6 laps I could no longer brake properly and it was a severe hindrance. The brake lever is not adjustable on the Paton and where it is positioned puts a kink in your wrist. This combined with the need to pull the lever as hard as you can (Drum brakes...) made avoiding arm pump almost impossible.
Practice on Sunday went well and I spent a few laps with Lea Gourlay. The bike felt much more balanced and I was confident about the days races. The first race saw me get a good start, and lead into the first corner. Unfortunately Im still getting used to drum brakes and their capabilities, as well as the classic tyres and how they perform on the first lap so a few people came by in the opening laps. I managed to pass them back and take Luke Notten on about half distance. Lea Gourlay was now too far in front to be caught but I would settle for second. However the last lap saw me find a false neutral around the long left hander, allowing Luke Notten to sneak back through and finished third. The trend continued 5th, 4th, 3rd .. I was on track for my win in the national . The second race saw me once again lead into the first corner then hold second for the rest of the race, coming home about a second and a half behind Lea Gourlay. I was getting closer. I was pleased to see I had reduced my lap times to 1.04.3, with the bike feeling much better for the adjustments.
The last race of the weekend was the national. I knew I would struggle with the race distance, and arm pump, being nearly double the other races. I had a decision to make. Did I pace myself and try for a top 6? Or go as fast as I could for as long as I could, then make it as hard for people to pass as possible? I chose option B Starting from second on the grid I lost a few places and got baulked in the first corner. I pushed on, knowing that I needed a good result to get the championship off to a good start. By lap three I had got to 2nd place and set about catching Lea, who by this time was few seconds in front. I was faster down the start finish and throughout the first half of the track, while he was slightly better in the second. By lap 6, normal race distance, I was right on Leas tail. I could feel myself getting tired and tried to relax as I knew I could have a good stab at winning. However the next lap saw me lose over a second. The last few laps were damage limitation that saw me lose about 2 seconds a lap. Mike smith managed to get by and I had to settle for 3rd and a lap time of 1.04 dead. Not bad for the first round, considering the arm pump was so bad that I could hardly brake or hold one for the last lap.
Overall it wasnt a bad weekend. I have got my confidence back with the bike and will only get quicker. I know I could have had a good go at winning the national race, and cant see Lea or Mike Smith going a great deal quicker. They were only One tenth of a second faster than last year. I still have lots to come. By Lydden on the 5th/6th May I should have a new brake lever to combat the arm pump and a new front tyre to provide a bit more stability and grip. It will be tough as it is a slow, twisty track, more suited to the light singles than the heavier, powerful Paton twin. But Im comfortable that I will be right up at the sharp end trying to close the gap on Gourlay. It was good to see David Szymanski and his father from Hanson, and I would like to thank everyone who made the long trip to Wales. Made it like a local meeting! Next up is the first round of the Triumph Young Guns on the Wheeler Electrical 675, this weekend at Snetterton. Hopefully see some of you there.
After the ups and downs of Brands a few weeks previous, it was decided that Lydden MRO should be entered to get some more miles under my belt. It would also be an ideal opportunity to start getting used to the new 675 that T3-Racing was busy building for us, ready for my appearances at the Northwest 200, Manx Gp and selected Triumph young guns rounds. Both Forza extreme and SS600 were chosen meaning nearly 100 laps over the two days! I would be busy!
The weekend started badly before it even begun with the bike failing to materialise. Luckily for us Tony Scott (T3 Racing) kindly allowed us use of their press bike on a you bend it you mend it basis. Fair enough. The weekend continued to get better as we awoke on Saturday morning to some of the most miserable conditions I have ever raced in. Freezing cold, Fog, light drizzle and sometimes even sleet. Lovely. It cant get any worse we thought ... Get the bike up to scrutineering, and it has the wrong brake lines for racing and they must be changed. After much poncing about a new set was sourced and fitted. By this time we had missed both practice sessions and the first SS600 qualifying session. My first ride on the 675 would be in the 9 lap Forza extreme race .
Starting from the back of the grid the race passed quickly and without a problem. One thing I could tell was that the 675s engine was brilliant and on another level to the R6 I rode last year and that it was far easier to get off the line than anything else I had ever ridden. Next up was SS600 qualifying. I was still trying to understand the bike and only managed half a session before the rain worsened, ending up 17th on the grid. I was reasonably satisfied since I had only done 15 miles on the bike in conditions that I can never get my head round. The rest of the day past with improvements being made in every session, 13th in the SS600 superpole race and an 11th in the wet Forza race against 1000cc competition. I was hoping for either a dry day or a completely wet one on Sunday, none of this in between stuff, to really enable me to learn the bike and put in some solid results.
Our prayers were answered when we were greeted by blue skies and bright sunshine on Sunday morning. Practice went well being sixth fastest in both sessions. Some small changes were made to the suspension after some advice from Steve Jordan and I went out for the first race of the day. The bike felt good and I managed to really start testing the handling qualities of the new 675, with the results being positive, producing a 6th place finish from 11th on the grid. Next up came the tougher SS600 race, against bikes with the same favourable handling and about 20bhp on top of the standard 675. Starting from 17th on the grid I fought up to 11th, right behind another 675 ridden by Ricky Chadwick who has done a lot of testing. I was pleased to see a lap time of 43.5s and was sure I could break into the top ten with a better grid position.
In between races there was much deliberation on whether or not to change the rear tyre that was feeling rather second hand by the end of the 600 race. In the end it was decided to sit it out on what we had as the objective was track time, not results. The second Forza race was an exciting one that saw me in a race long battle with Andrew Burke on an R1. His bike just had the legs on the 675 that made any pass a lunge. I spent the whole race showing him my front wheel, forcing my way up the inside, only to be leant on and have the door closed time and time again! It was frustrating as I was being held up in the corners, and losing out on the straights. But fair play to him, he is the toughest guy to pass I have ever come across. Bar none! The end result was 7th, but much closer to the leaders, only 7 seconds.
By the time the last race came around the rear tyre was well and truly knackered and I was just trying to do as well as I could in the final ten lap SS600 race. A good start and race saw me make a last gasp pass on the final time around the hairpin to get my Top ten position I had hoped for at the stat of the weekend. Mission accomplished. Im now sure that I can be fast when I get my own bike with better suspension and set it up to my liking. All in all it was a pleasing weekend coming away with 14 SS600 points on a standard bike and 24 in Forza against 1000cc machines. Not bad on a bike I hadnt swung my leg over before Saturday morning
I would like to thank Wheeler Electrical for funding the bike, Hanson for their significant backing and everybody else who helps. Heres to a successful and enjoyable 2007! Next up is Pembrey on the Paton for Easter weekend to start my national 500 challenge, and then on to Snetterton for the first round of the Triumph young guns 675 Triple challenge the following week-end Bring it on!
First round of 2007 saw me at the BMRCB/MRO championship opening round on 10th/11th March, aboard the Flitwick Yamaha FZR400RRSP on which I had my North West 200 success in 2006. This was a warm up in preparation for my assault on one of the Fabulous Paton 500 classic machines in the CRMC club championship, and the Triumph Young Gun championship rounds at the BMRC/MRO rounds, on the wheeler electrical 675 Triumph. The weekend was the warmest so far this year, and perfect racing conditions.
In the first round of the season, grid positions are not based on practice times, so even though I had qualified in 3rd place, started the first race on Saturday on the sixth row of the grid. We were therefore please that I finished in a very creditable 12th place.
It was decided that the weight would be added back by the cable tying of a very heavy (6-kilo) security chain under the seat, and this was done before the second race of the day. However, when lining up, at the back of the grid, the organisers said he could not ride, because he had not heard them calling him on the tannoy and been up to see Clerk of the course, Tony!
Sunday was another day. Due to the exclusion, I still had to start from the back row of the grid, but fought my way up to 10th pace during the 8-lap race.
Starting on the 3rd row for race two, I pushed my way up to 7th place, not far behind the leading groups. I was pleased to see I had set the fastest lap of the race, and a personal best at 51.698s, after only 30 laps on the bike. We are now looking forward to the next round at Lydden, weekend of 24/25th March, where Im excited to be riding my new Triumph 675 for the first time in the 600 Supersport and Forza extreme classes.
Virgin Mobile Cup 2006 season review
Reflections on my season in the Virgin Mobile Cup
Next, Donington Park, where I had very little track time. I had a reasonably good race, riding smoothly and improving my lap times consistently. I was learning, and thats what this season has been about. Thruxton was another new track to me. Its not one for the faint hearted and needs real confidence to blast round the back of the circuit with the throttle nailed. I didnt get the best start but I was really enjoying myself until the last lap. Whilst pushing really hard, on worn tyres I was clipped and went down. Low point ..DNF, High point ..more TV coverage for sponsors.
Oulton Park saw typical cold, wet weather. I got a great start but managed to lose the front end and finished up in the gravel, bruised and angry. At this point, I slotted in a trip to Ireland for the North West 200 road races. I finished 6th in the 125/400 race with my Irish road racing hero Robert Dunlop! NOW I understand what Linsdell Senior is always going on about!
Mallory Park next, where I found it harder than expected to adjust back to the R6R's characteristics after the 400 in Ireland. This race was better as I moved through the field from the back of the grid. Its a very difficult track to pass on, and I really had my work cut out during the race to fight from the back row of the grid. I managed to pull back two places to cross the line in 16th place.
We moved on to Snetterton, where I was determined to improve on my Mallory placing. Preparing for A level exams, plus various job interviews and my duties at Flitwick Motorcycles meant my track time was limited since returning from the North West 200 in Ireland. The top runners in the contest had definitely benefitted from additional club racing between BSB rounds, and the gap was widening. A first lap incident allowed me to push forward past the ensuing melee, and riding well I pushed on. A last-lap tumble for two of the front runners on the last lap was all that I needed to finish 9th.
I was looking forward to a hot meeting supporting the MotoGP. No championship points were on offer, so there was less pressure on us all, with the additional benefit of mixing with Ellison, Edwards and Checa. Safety car laps made improving times and gaining places impossible until the final few laps.
On to Knockhill, an apprehensive return, as I left there last year with pins in my wrist after a racing incident. Getting off to an awful start (even more appalling than normal) I was in last place for 3 laps, and stuck behind other struggling riders for the remainder of the race. I finished intact, but the race was rubbish.
Oulton was better. I thoroughly enjoyed the race, finishing in 11th place.
Cadwell Park followed, a technical circuit I hadnt ridden for two years. The very slippery conditions affected my confidence and I have to admit this is one race I would like to forget.
Silverstone was where I had my biggest successes last year with wins and fastest laps at MRO level. Its not my favourite circuit but I was looking forward to the expected large crowds. I managed a reasonable finish in spite of some hairy early laps, and a multi-rider accident.
The final R6 Cup meeting was the GP circuit at Brands. Great in the fast flowing parts but I was struggling in the technical corners. I was also concerned that rain was forecast. I had convinced myself over the course of the season that I could not ride on the Dunlop Qualifiers in the wet. Last year I had the advantage of using wets on my Yamaha 400, so it was basically a mental rather than physical hurdle. The heavens duly opened on lap two of the race and my confidence issues once again gave a disappointing result.
To sum up, I guess I would have ended the season on a low point if that had been my last race of the year, but I had the opportunity to race a Paton in the CRMC meeting at Croft. I had four races over two days and gradually improved from 15th to a last race finish of 2nd. Great fun, very enjoyable and lots of confidence to take me through the winter into next season.
2006 has been frustrating in that my results have been less than impressive in the R6 Cup. Since mid season I had begun to look at things in a different light. Overall, my riding improved 150% and the trend continues. I have no regrets and thank everyone who has helped and supported me during a difficult but enjoyable season.
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