Date for your diary: 21st April 2018

Team RADAR Racing of Andy King and Alun Thomas are hosting a pre-TT open day on Saturday 21st April 2018, at The Bell On the Common pub (Broughton Gifford, Melksham SN12 8NX). Activities start from mid-day with Andy and his sidecar there all day, the Wadsworth’s Shire Horses putting in an appearance, a raffle, other TT racers past and present, my TT talk and lots more. Do come along, bring the family, and talk all things sidecar and TT with us!

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Retirement was over-rated

Done and dusted! I was delighted to be asked to race at Thruxton in the last North Glos meeting of the year with Andy King. I’ve wanted to work with Andy for a number of years but the stars have never aligned – until now.

(c) Marion Carnall

(c) Marion Carnall

I’ll admit up front I was very nervous – not about Andy, his riding or his sidecar – but about whether I could still do the job. Still, Andy wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I couldn’t work with him. He has Canadian Jeff Gillard on the side for TT2017, so this was all about just running the bike to ensure any recent gremlins had been exterminated, and also clock up an extra signature.

We were extraordinarily lucky with the weather, having a fine, overcast day. It became chilly later on but the threatened rain didn’t come in other than a few minor spots and a short burst in one of the solo races.

It was my first time back on an Ireson since my first outings in 2009 with Bob at Mallory, then Thruxton. They’re famously stable in lefts, considered to be straight-forward to passenger as not very twitchy. My nerves weren’t helped by knowing Trevor Ireson himself would be there, but there was no option than to pull up my Big Girl Pants and get on with it! That chicane… that chicane… I am still (after years of racing) over-working parts of it.

We had an inauspicious start to practice when the bike died on us in lap 2 – a quick furtle under the seat unit revealed the fuel pump connector had come adrift. Easily rectified, but as we’d completed fewer than the mandatory 3 laps of practice I did check in with Race Control to make sure they were happy for us to join the back of the grid for the Qualifying race. The NG meeting clashed with meetings at Brands, Darley Moor and East Fortune so it was a small grid of 6: two F1s and four F2s. A shame for the spectators, but exciting as Rick Lawrence was also out of a 3-year retirement and back on the side with Roger Lovelock.

Thruxton QR resultFrom the back of the grid Andy kept us out of trouble as two of the other F2s clashed briefly coming into the first corner, but then we quickly settled into 4th place, behind Rob Handcock / Ken Edwards on their F2 with the two F1s streaking into the distance. This was only a 5-lap race, enough for me to reassure myself about where the track was going, and re-discover arm pump. I was fighting the bike instead of working with it, and struggling to find the handholds intuitively. My head wouldn’t let me move confidently enough going into Church to get the forward handhold on the outside of the fairing, sacrificing grip. Andy likes to slide and spin the rear wheel so he was in control, but it left me frustrated at my inability.

That Chicane...A fastest lap of 1:33 was several seconds off Andy’s fastest lap, but he also felt the gearing wasn’t quite right. Kenny Williams was also in the camp with us, so I had a masterclass from him about ways to manage the sections where I was struggling. The general consensus seemed to be that I wasn’t completely incompetent (grin) but that I could make life easier for myself.

A visit from friends in the early afternoon was a welcome diversion, after which we changed the gearing for a livelier combination and prepared for race 2. This time we took our appointed grid slot of 4th, and in my head I was mentally prepared for the 7 laps ahead. Andy had a blinding start and we found ourselves leading the pack into the first few corners – elation! It didn’t take long for the F1s to come past, but gratifyingly w held off Rob and Ken’s bike for a couple of laps before they came past. As each lap unfolded I found the sequence of moves for the left-handers became easier, although I still wasn’t getting it right round Church, needing the fairing handhold to be a little further back (it’s cut for Paul Skinner, who has much longer arms than me).

Off the start - hole shotAs we approached the start-finish for the last lap I looked for the yellow and black flag… but there was none. Had I mis-counted? Maybe I’d got myself confused. Either way, I knew there was at least one more lap to go. Oddly though, the bike started slowing. Initially I wondered if Andy thought I had tapped and was backing off. Just 5%, just enough to save my arms, but I was worrying about whether the team behind us would catch up. Another lap and there was the last lap flag – but Andy was definitely significantly off the pace. Then the engine started mis-firing and sounded dreadful: I couldn’t see or smell any leaks, couldn’t see smoke or identify any easy fix. I spent that lat lap worrying in case we were caught from behind, but fortunately we limped round and took the chequered flag safely as 2nd F2 again.

Thruxton R2 resultOur lap times were a couple of seconds faster: still some pace to find, but a good day’s outing.  Andy called me the next day to confirm the data was showing an issue which could be caused by the battery dying – a relatively easy fix and nothing catastrophic.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxed day’s racing, and I’m very pleased to be back in the saddle. I’ll be doing a couple of club rounds with Andy later in 2017, but the focus now is on getting him and Jeff safely to the TT.

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Well that didn’t last long…

I’m coming out of retirement – whether permanently or not – for a North Glos meeting at Thruxton on 8th October 2016. I’m really excited to be on the side of Andy King, someone I’ve hoped to race with for several years. All spectators welcome!

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Hinxworth ‘Village Voice’ May 2016

I’ve been sent this very lovely write-up from Patrick Forbes, appearing in the Hinxworth “Village Voice” publication following my talk to their WI a couple of weeks ago. Thank you!

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A film to watch out for

Have you seen this promo video for “3 wheeling”,  filmed at the 2015 TT? On release later this year.

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Chew Valley Gazette – April 2016

Big thanks to the lovely Chew Valley Gazette for the coverage in their April 2016 edition.

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Teams looking for support in 2016

In no particular order, here are some of the sidecar teams who are looking for support and sponsorship in 2016:

download2016 TT: Wayne Lockey & Mark Sayers ‘Real Racing F2’ – (£110 club – and start number 11 at this year’s TT!) – Bob was my first driver, so I have to admit to being a bit biased here in supporting them 🙂

F2 club racing: Joe Gaunt & Lizzie Quinlan ‘Largo Racing’ – (any amount)

British F1 championship: Ben Holland & Lee Watson ‘Team JH Racing’ – (from £60)

2016 TT: Mark Saunders & Marc Maier ‘MS Racing’ – (pledges from £50)

F2 World, British and Club championships, 2016 TT: two teams from the Founds family ‘Team Founds Racing’ – (any amount) – Alan Founds/AkiAalto start at number 7 for TT2016

2016 TT: Matt Dix & Shaun Parker ‘ Team Dixie Racing’ – (£20) Start number 12 at this year’s TT

If you know of other teams looking for support this season, please send their details and I’ll update the list. Thanks!



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2016 update

The racing season is about to kick off, and for the first time since 2009 I don’t have a licence. It’s an odd feeling: I am envious of all those out on circuit and miss the social side, but also there is a freedom in having weekends to do other stuff! I’m about to start the 2016 talks season, all over Herts and Essex, and (for the next couple of years) in Somerset. More info here.

TT numbers are slowly being announced: there is no official list until the programme is printed, but some teams have chosen to publish their numbers already. Estelle with her new passenger Freddie go at #25, with Fanch and Bruno at #34. Is there a particular team you’re following, whose number you’d like to know? If so, post here or on InkyAnn Racing (Facebook) and I’ll see what I can find out.

For those of you who’d like to follow the sidecar world and find out more about some of the teams and characters, from local club racers to those at the TT and championships, tune in to Sidecar Radio which is presented by Slow Phil.

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A Christmas treat…

I do hope it’s not too soon to mention the C-word? The perfect antidote to all that left-over turkey, yet another mince pie, or those awful relatives is to take yourself off to Mallory Park for the famous Plum Pudding Meeting, on 26th December. This will be the 41st, quite a tradition! Details and tickets can be found here (Mallory Park website).

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Winter blues

With the cancellation of the Mallory Park event at the season end, the UK sidecars will be finishing up at the Auto66 Sidecar Bonanza at Cadwell Park this weekend. With a great selection of both solo and sidecar classes, this promises to be a great event for spectators.  Don’t forget the clocks go back on Saturday night…

Unfortunately no taxi rides at Cadwell but I’ll let you know as soon as I hear of any in the 2016 season at any circuits. Team Leblond won’t be at Cadwell, but I’m meeting Francois in about three weeks wen he has a flying visit to the UK, for a catch-up. In the meantime, how about a quick read of this great magazine article about Estelle and Melanie? You’ll need to be able to read French I’m afraid!

I am still giving sidecar talks around the country – predominantly in Herts & Essex, but as I’m resident in the Bristol area for the next 12 months I am available there too. Just contact me with any queries. My speaker fees are being donated directly to the Rob Vine Fund on the Isle Of Man.

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