Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Scooble returns (the sequel)

Scoobles great comeback was more of a great disaster.
The thousands of pounds I threw at my return amounted to about one full days worth of racing.

Although it was only one day, I could feel in the last race, that I was really starting feel so much more comfortable on the bike and I was really starting to throw it around. There was a noticeable change to  my body language on the bike. I was really start to literally 'get my head down' and also hanging off the bike more and dragging my knee round the left handers which I wasn't doing before.
For a small brief moment, I was starting to feel some of the 'old magic' coming back.

I relayed my racing exploits on the KR1S forum, and the legendary Mark Jordan who knows just about everything there is to know about tuning KR1 engines as well as being the world production land speed record holder on a KR1S asked if I wanted my engine tuned by him.
Did I ever!
....And so began the preparation for the 2013 season.
I sent the  seized crank and the bottom end with a leaking a crank seal back to BDK as well as another spare crank that could cannibalized for spares.
BDK did a complete rebuild for the seized crank, and also replaced all of the seals for the one that was leaking and assembled it in the cases.
I took what amounted to about three complete engines in several plastic bins up to Marks house in Coventry, however, Mark thought I was coming the next day, so I had to leave all my bits in his car porch ready for when he got back.
In order to get the best out of a KR1S engine, the ports need to be widened so much, that it is no longer viable to use the standard pistons as the rings would get caught in the ports.
Marks solution is to use the pistons from a 1983 TZ250, otherwise known as 26J pistons. 
Unfortunately though, the 26J pistons are about as rare as a very rare thing and thus generally pretty hard to find.
I eventually tracked down one piston from Padgetts and one piston from Fondseca, promptly paid through the nose and got these sent to Marks house for him to complete the tune.
Anyway, the cold winter months passed and Mark was out of the country quite allot on business.
It got to about March and Mark hadn't finished my engine, however, what he did do was offer me one of his own development engines and a set of Jim Lomas expansion chambers for me to use whilst he finished my engine.
So in late March, we met up in Dorking just off the M25 and he gave me a large box of bits as well as one of his engines, which I promptly slotted into my frame. Whats more, the engine Mark had given me also had a F3 close ratio gearbox.

In between the preparation for the forthcoming season, my friend Allison (Alicia Albion) who was returning to sidecar racing also after an 18 year break, asked if myself and Ginny wanted to attend a sidecar tryout day at Lydden Hill race circuit in the middle of March. The sidecar tryout day is basically a practice day for sidecars, where the drivers allow other ACU license holders get to act as 'ballast' for the day.
I had only done sidecars once before, and that was for one practice session in a 600cc F2 at Brands Hatch in 1992.
The day started misty and cold and the fog was so thick to start with that you couldn't even see the other end of the track. The fog lifted later in the morning, but the conditions were still quite cold and damp. I was allocated two different sidecars to start with, and whats more they were the 1000cc F1 outfits.
I was genuinely concerned because I know the G-force these things generate is phenomenal.
My first sidecar ride was with Matt Mckaurin in a lovely looking black and orange long wheelbase LCR Yamaha R1 outfit. Matt the passenger did his best to run me through the hand holds and my position on the platform. I tried to remember everything Matt had told me as we rolled out onto the track.
During the first session, I was doing my best to move about, but I was finding especially around the long right handers, that I was trying to brace my leg against the corner of the platform, however, the G-Force felt so strong, that it took all the strength in my right leg to stop my leg from collapsing beneath me. My thighs were burning with the shear effort and I was finding that in order to maintain my position, I had to hold on extra tight with my hands, which in turn was causing arm pump. After about 4 laps, I simply couldn't hold on much longer, and I knew that if I forced myself to stay out, then I probably would have fallen out. I tapped Adrian on the back and we pulled into the pits and I rolled out the side of the platform in a steaming heap whilst  wheazing like an asthmatic weasel and apologised profusely to Adrian for cutting short his session short. Adrian said I shouldn't beat myself up to much, but I was seriously disappointed with my pathetic performance, and gave myself a good stiff talking to when I got back to the car.
My next session was about 45 minutes later with the British F1 sidecar contender Barry James in the Team Cable LCR Yamaha R1 outfit.
Prior to going out, I asked Barry if I could climb over the outfit. For about the next 15 minutes, I visualised every corner on the track and adopted what I felt would be the right position for each corner, making sure to pay attention to where my hands, feet and legs were and also ensured that my knees were locked into position to counteract the strong cornering G-Forces.
We rolled out onto the circuit, and I immediately felt much more comfortable. As we approached a corner, I would using the braking forces to force me up out of the tucked position and up and behind the driver to aid traction on the front wheel. When the driver finished braking, I then started to slide my body over the back wheel to help with drive coming out of the corner. At first, I was concerned that I should be looking where I was going, but I was finding it difficult to locate my hands in the cutouts on the side of the fairing. Usually, I am a bit of a nervous passenger, but in order to stay safe, I had to trust that the driver knew what he was doing so that I could then look down at the hand holds to ensure that I was holding on in the right place at the right time and using the G-forces to visualise where I was on the track.
The second session was so much better than the first one, and I could really start to get a feel for these strange three wheeled beasts.
For my last session, I was out again with Adrian and I took the opportunity to extend on what I had already learnt and having a great time throwing myself around the platform and hanging right out on the only left hander on the circuit. It was still hard work though, and I could feel my entire body throbbing, and despite the near freezing conditions I was working up a bit of a sweat. During the day, Ginny got talking to classic sidecar driver, and managed to score herself a ride in the chair for the rest of the season. Here's her blog;

.....oh, look, a pound coin!

My entry was in for the Bemsee meeting at Brands Hatch on the (11th Practice) 12th and 13th of April. As is usual for trackdays or race meetings, I usually take a weeks leave leading up to the race meeting for last minute preparations because you can guarantee something is always going to go wrong.
The week before the race meeting, everything was done, all I needed to do was sort out the tools and order a Gazebo as this time I hadn't booked a garage.
I ordered the Gazebo on the Saturday and by Wednesday it had arrived and I had nothing else to do.
I spent nearly a week, pacing about, worrying that I should be doing something, but not knowing what it could be. This was the first time ever that there wasn't some kind of last minute panic that would result in me staying up to the small hours of the morning the night before the race because something had gone wrong or needed fixing.
On the Thursday night, the van was packed, and Ginny and I drove the hire van to the circuit whilst our friend and fellow F1 sidecar passenger Allison drove her borrowed Talbot camper van 15 minutes ahead.
We got to Brands Hatch at about 8 o'clock, unpacked the van, assembled the Gazebo and put the bike inside and we were done, ready for the race weekend.

Friday practice started off dry in the morning, and I managed about one damp session on dry tyres before the rain really started to come down. I quickly changed to the wet tyres and went out for several sessions.
I really hadn't had that much experience of wet tyres, so I took it really steady to start with before progressively upping my pace. It was then I realised what a 'good' engine actually felt like.
Last year, I was struggling to keep up with TZR250's, but with Marks engine, all I needed to do to get past them was to simply twist my wrist and be done with them.
I felt confident that I was at last on a good package and my pace started to increase. As long as I didn't do anything silly with the throttle, I could maintain quite high corner speed through the turns, although I hadn't quite got to the stage of getting my knee down in the wet.
During my second to last session, I was having a good dice with another rider on an NC30 Honda. He would storm pass me going into Graham Hill bend, and I would take him going into Surtees. For several laps this happened, until I observed the line and technique he was using when going into Graham Hill.
I would more or less square off the corner, whilst he would take a much faster sweeping line. I modified my technique to do the same, and instantly found myself going through the corner much faster and put an end to his sneaky overtaking manoeuvres to stay in front for the rest of the session.
I felt as though I was learning a whole new different type of riding style whereby, I would set the bike up early for the corner, and as soon as I had finished braking, I was back gently on the throttle, progressively feeding in the power. When a bike starts to get close to the edge of adhesion, you can feel it start to move around, however, throughout Friday, I was pushing the bike harder and harder, but so far, the bike was not moving around.

At the end of practice on Friday, I put the bike in the Gazebo, and we made our way up to the Kentagon for a nice warm tea and some cheesy chips which made us all feel that much better.

Saturday morning looked dry and windy, but the track but the track looked damp in places, so I opted to go out on dry tyres for for practice/qualifying.
Fortunately for this weekend, the Two Stoke Grand Prix race and the 400 races were spaced apart.
By the time the 400 race came round, it had started to rain, so Gin and I quickly changed back to the wet tyres. I qualified on the fourth row for the 400 race, however, in the wet conditions, I was careful getting off the line as I didn't want the bike to wheel spin and lost a few places going into Paddock Hill bend. Even though I had built upto a comfortable pace yesterday in practice, I wanted to feel the conditions first before settling at a pace I felt comfortable. After the first lap, I started into a rhythm and could see that I was rapidly catching the bikes in front. By mid race distance, I had the 400 riders representative Garry Jarman in my sites and was rapidly closing him down. I got a great drive out of clearways and passed Garry going down the start finish straight, and for the next few laps extended my lead further and passed a few more riders to finish the race as 1st Rookie and 3rd in the sub 64 class (at the time, I had no idea where I had finished in the race as I had already started to lap some of the slower riders).
I also qualified on the 3rd row for the Two Stroke Grand Prix class and got off the line pretty well, but found in the pouring rain, the rain was sticking to my visor and I couldn't see out. I tried wiping my visor with my glove, but that only smeared a film of oil and water across my visor and made it worse. I could see out the edges of my visor, and did contemplate carrying on, but I felt it was far too risky in these awful conditions so I pulled in.
The rain continued throughout the day so there was no option but to stay on wet tyres.
After lunch, I formed up on the grid for the second 400 race.
As the lights went out, I madly slipped the clutch, and the bike shot off the line and made up quite a few places, this was looking good.
However, as I lifted my left foot to change into second gear, my left foot had caught the footrest again and folded the footrest into the upright position and I couldn't change gear.
Once again, I entered Paddock Hill bend in last position.
I was then able to kick the peg down and then set about chasing the rest of the group.
I pushed harder than I had all day and was rapidly catching the riders in front. I kept up my momentum and I was slicing through the field like a hot brick through a jewelers window. Although I had badly messed up the start, my pace felt great and could feel myself learning and applying new techniques as I raced round for the remaining laps and rapidly closing down the riders in front.
Even though I started the race in last place, I still managed to cross the line as the third Rookie (again, I had no clue as to where I had come).
The weather had closed in really bad after the 400 race, and the meeting was brought to an early end, so the next Two Stroke Grand Prix race was postponed until Sunday morning.

After a long days racing, I changed out of my wet leathers, had a shower and Allie, Ginny and I walked up to the Kentagon for a refreshing cool drink and to be sociable. The Kentagon was packed, but we manged to find a table and exchange stories of the days racing. Sitting opposite us was Danielle Cooper who we had met and become  friends with last September. Danielle then told me that I had missed the awards presentation and that I had won some trophies. It was only then I realised how well I had done in the days racing, and my mood immediately picked up.
By this time, an uninspiring rock band had started making a din worse than a bunch of Classics being noise tested, so we opted to retire back to the camper van and have a hot bowl of pea and ham soup

On Sunday morning, the track was looking quite damp and cold  so I opted to stay on wet tyres for the practice session
However, by the time the Two Stroke Grand Prix race came round, the track was looking as though there was a dry line appearing, apart from a few damp patches under the trees at the hairpin. Gin and I changed to a new set of dry tyres that had been fitted by the Race Services van that morning.
Because of my DNF in the Two Stroke Class the day before, I started from the 5th row of the grid.
I got off the line well, but found that the bike felt incredibly skittish and the front wheel felt quite light and vague. It was then I realised that I hadn't checked the tyre pressures when the new tyres had been fitted.
I pressed on though, and applied the new techniques that I had learnt on Saturday in the wet, but this time, in the damp conditions the bike was really starting to bob about. On Lap four, I was progressively applying the power coming out of the hairpin, when the revs shot up and the back wheel tried to overtake the front. I held onto it well and brought it back in line before re-focussing and getting back down to business  I was mixing it with the proper open class bikes and by the end of the race, I managed to cross the line in 3rd place.
When I got back to the pits, I checked the tyre pressures, and both of them were about 10psi over their recommended pressures, no wonder the tyres felt skittish!

The 400 race was much later in the morning and by this time, the track was well and truly dry.
I lined up on the 6th row of the grid, and I was determined that this time I wasn't going to fold up my footrest. I got a good start, and was quite confident about the conditions having tested them out earlier in the morning.
My pace felt good, and I was putting in a few good passing moves, it looked as if a lot of the other riders weren't quite so sure about the conditions and were hesitating going into Surtees at the end of the Cooper straight. I was making hand over fist as I approached riders coming into this super fast left hander. I could see Emma Jarman up in front on her 400 Kawasaki. I kept my corner speed up and round round the outside of her going through Surtees before banking hard over into Clearways. As I drove out of clearways down the straight, I was expecting Emma to come stomping past me as she was on a much more powerful bike, but she didn't. I kept up the pace, and up in front I could see Emma's dad Garry also on a 400 Kawasaki. On the last lap I was gaining on Garry, and like most other riders, he backed off a little going into Surtees. I kept it nailed through this fast 80mph left hander, and as Garry lifted his bike up to go through the next right, I made my move by riding over the curb stones and stuffing it up the inside and spoiling his line going into Clearways. I kept it nailed coming out of Clearways and down the straight towards the finish line. Although I knew I had a good engine, I also knew that Garry had an 82hp ZXR400 and the sprint to the line was going to be close. I ducked down behind the screen, pulled everything in I possibly could and hoped that my little KR had the legs on Garry's 400. As we approached the line, I could hear the scream of Gary's bike as it pulled along side me to pip me to the line by 0.1 seconds - Darn!
I was please with my ride though, and my race craft was getting quite slick and manged to bring the bike home as first Rookie again as well as the third in the Sub 64, however, my pace was good enough to get second in the Sub 64 class!

...pitching it into Surtees
After lunch, I was out again in the Two Stroke Grand Prix race.
I was placed at the head of the third row and had a clear view of the track ahead. As the lights changed, a few of the faster GP machines came past me into Paddock Hill bend and a few more were trying to muscle their way in up the inside. I held my ground for the first lap and then started to up my pace. Going into the hairpin, a Honda RS250 was doing his best to get past me, but I quickly shut the door as I pitched the bike into the apex. I knew the Honda had the legs on my KR, so I knew I had to keep the pace up through the next few sections before getting onto the straight. I extended my lead enough over the Honda so he would no longer be threat, and by this time my sites were firmly set on a yellow 250 Rotax in front of me. I tucked into the slipstream of the Rotax down the Cooper straight, and I could see as we approached Surtess, the rider sat up and braked, I lined up the Rotax for a passing manoeuver as I closed in for the kill. I rode over the bumpy kirbstones coming out of Surtees and got along side the Rotax and blocked his line going into Clearways. We rubbed shoulders and fairings as we approached Clearways, this was really starting to get a bit physical. I held my line and pitched it into Clearways and tucked in down the Straight. The Rotax was determined to get past and was attempting to muscle up the inside going into Paddock Hill bend, I let the brakes run a little more which allowed me to extend enough of a gap to stay in front. I then took a defensive line going into the Hairpin, got a good drive out and stretched my lead enough to make a comfortable gap. I had clear track in front of me now with no one to chase, or so I thought. During the battle with the yellow Rotax, Kev Richardson on a Yamaha TZ250L, sneaked past on the inside going into Clearways. I stuck to the tail of Kevs bike, and although I was close, I couldn't quite get close enough to make a move and by the end of the race, I had once again crossed the line in 3rd place.
That felt like a great race, I was pleased with my start, my riding s well as my race craft.
After the race, Kev cam looking for me to congratulate me on what he thought was a great ride for a Rookie on modified road bike.
Kev and I chatted for a while and he told me that he had been racing since 1968 and used to race RG500's against the likes of the legendary  Barry Sheene back in the day

After my last performance in the two Stroke Grand Prix class, I was looking forward the the 400 race. I got a reasonable start off the line, but got baulked within a group of riders going into Paddock and a large bunch of riders came storming passed. Ovver the next two laps, I picked my was past the group, but by this time, the group in front had extended such a gap that I was unable to close down before the end of the race. Although I rode pretty well and even came home as the first Rookie again, I only manged to come 4th in the Sub 64 class.
I was pretty washed out after that race as the sun was beating down hard now. I relaxed in the camper van, drank my last two bottles of Lucozade and contemplated the final Two Stroke Grand Prix race.
I knew that I could improve my performance in a few areas, namely going into Paddock Hill bend.
Although the close ratio gearbox gave me good drive coming out of the corners, the spacing of the ratios meant that I was going into Paddock Hill bend in 3rd gear and not 4th which I would normally do using a standard box. The extra time to change down the extra gear was affecting my corner speed going into Paddock. I decided to modify my technique by changing down to 3rd as I tipped the bike in and not before as I felt this would give me better corner entry speed.
In order to get a 3rd overall in the Two Stroke class, all I needed to do was finish in front of two other riders that I had clearly beaten in the two races I had competed in over the weekend.
My mind was set for the last race of the day. I got off to a flying start, and was in touch with the leading bunch as I entered Paddock, when I noticed this time, I was unable to put my foot on the right had footrest. I immediately assumed that I had folded the peg back with my leg and I desperately fumbled to get the peg folded down, however, the peg had actually flipped upside down and was nearly hanging off.
On this occasion, it seems that the bolt that holds the footrest had come loose and the whole assembly was just hanging there. This was clearly a show stopper. I cursed as I cruised around for the rest of the lap, however, I kind of counted myself lucky that it happened right at the start of the race, as if it had come loose during the race, it could have seriously affected my ability to control the bike

....Shhh, I'm not here!

So all in all, I came away from the weekend in my first full meeting in 18 years with no blow ups, no crashes, three wins and a 3rd in the Rookie class, two 3rds in the Sub 64 class and two 3rds in the Two stroke Grand Prix class and narrowly missed out from adding another trophy to the 6 I had acquired over the weekend.
All in all, I was tired, but happy that I had last made the comeback that I hoped to achieve.

Returning to work after the hectic weekend was a massive culture shock.
The drudgery of returning to 'normal every day life left me incredibly deflated low and really quite uninspired.
I had once again discovered the overwhelming crash of emotions following a good weekend of racing. When people say racing is a drug, they REALLY mean racing IS a drug, such is the intensity of emotions that you go through. Once it is over, your brain becomes depleted of mood regulating chemicals and what you feel is very similar to the kind of lows drug users experience after coming down off a hit (or so I am told)


Although the week was very boring, I did manage to get a little news story printed about me in The Argus.

Look Mum, I'm a celebrity!

1 comment:

  1. An amazing weekend Scooby and so narrowly missing that final trophy was a real bummer. I was so proud of you. :-D