With apologies, this race report is compiled from my Facebook updates as I didn’t get an opportunity to write a separate report afterwards:
We had a superb test day on the Friday on the Indy circuit, with the bike going brilliantly and Simon absolutely on it. With relief we heard we were no longer a reserve, but had a guaranteed grid slot. Phew! We did a track walk of the GP circuit in the evening, which alleviated some of the nerves.
On the Saturday we had our first experience on the GP circuit, which is absolutely immense and huge fun. It was a day of mishaps for others. After being stuck with a slow F1 for over a lap, a red flag accident in qualifying on Paddock Hill nearly collected us, Simon’s quick reaction and driving skills avoiding the accident by mere feet. The bike overheated as we pulled into pit lane, but after topping up the water we only had one more lap, leaving us well down the qualifying table.
Race 1 was full of drama, with a competitor stalled on the grid on our racing line so evasive action and quick braking required, dropping us back quite a few places, then an engine blown by another competitor and oil round half the circuit, then an F1 spewing fuel over us for the last 2 laps. We were really finding our way and starting to get a feel for the bike, but on our last lap the red flags came out again.
Unfortunately it was our awning-buddies Sean and Mark, having had a racing incident with another competitor on the way into Clearways on the final lap. I’m pleased to say that after a very anxious afternoon and time in hospital for Sean, both seem to be merely walking wounded. The bike is looking rather sad though In terms of our race, Simon did some great overtakes and I think we finished 11th F2, 17th overall.
With several stoppages throughout the day our second race, along with all the solo races, was cut from 6 to 5 laps. We had a good start, but yet more incidents made for excitement – another blown engine, someone had dropped a *lot* of fuel around Druids. I felt the engine was flat but Simon disagreed and the time sheet proved me wrong, taking another 1sec off our fastest lap.
Sunday was a real change of fortune for us. The bad weather swept in overnight so Sunday’s warm-up session was very damp, with very little grip anywhere. We only had 2 laps, not really enough to do anything except reassure ourselves that MSV hadn’t reconfigured the circuit overnight. An F1 spun in front of us at Druids (nicely avoided by Simon!) and we heard of other pirouettes elsewhere.
Our first race was distinctly damp, and I’d already decided I was going to sacrifice the lefts to try to keep weight on the rear wheel. This is something I’m always nervous of doing, but works brilliantly as long as I can overcome the headology of thinking the chair wheel will come up. Simon was relearning the great grip levels possible on the wet tyres. Off the line the real wheel spun up dreadfully and we found ourselves in a huge bunch going into Paddock. Visibility was a real issue, and as we went up into the GP circuit the rear wheel was struggling to find any grip, even with me completely draped over the back wheel. Left-handers felt much better with me keeping my weight inboard, so that was a positive.
I could feel something was wrong within a couple of laps as the power seemed intermittent and Simon was struggling to keep us going. The same F1 spun in front of us at Graham Hill, collecting another outfit in the process and causing a red flag. We were sent back to the paddock for a very quick lunch break, before the race was re-run over 5 laps. We changed the tyre pressures to try to get more heat into them and improve grip. Simon wondered if the engine was cutting as we were hitting the rev limiter with the rear wheel spinning.
Again, a very poor start with the bike spinning up, and then a couple of laps in we also spun on the exit of Druids: a very neat 360 and we rejoined almost straight away. The engine was cutting out, and despite Simon doing everything he could to diagnose the problem while on the move, we retired at Stirlings. Water in the electrics seemed to be the culprit, so after making our way back to the paddock after the race (under our own steam) we stripped the fairing off to try to find the issue.
Simon went through everything, liberal applications of WD40 and contact cleaner, and the battery connectors tightened. The lanyard had been checked but didn’t seem to be causing an issue, and of course we couldn’t replicate the problem in the paddock – how frustrating!
The weather was variable all afternoon but eventually the warm breeze and sunshine started to dry the circuit and we switched to slicks for our last race. The warm-up lap was fantastic and we were both feeling confident ready for the start from the back of the grid, but within seconds of the lights going out we knew we hadn’t found the fault. Hand in the air, we retired almost before we reached the end of the start-finish straight, limping round the indy circuit before returning to the Hailwood centre to watch the rest of the race.
At least one other competitor had chosen to pack up and go home earlier in the day as their engine was cutting out too, so we wondered if it was just the rain getting into the electrics. (Some days after the event Simon finally tracked down the issue: a broken connector for the lanyard.)
However, although we had two DNFs on the Sunday we had a really positive weekend. Friday’s practice was superb, and the racing over Saturday and practice in the wet on Sunday gave us both a chance to feel the bike sliding about and learn how to control it better. We’ve quite a lay-off now, as we’re not out until the middle of September, but a lot of work will be going on in the background over that time.