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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Hamilton Motorcycle Club Winter Series Round 1

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Racing in winter is usually an exercise in patience punctuated by sudden bursts of frantic tyre changing, but the first round of the Hamilton Motorcycle Club Winter Series was much more relaxed than most.

The weather during the week had been absolute crap with weather warnings and road closures all over the place and, unfortunately, a funeral. Due to the unexpected nature of the funeral I was going to have to get the bike ready on Saturday before the Sunday's racing, so if anything didn't go as planned I wouldn't have much time at all to sort the problem.

The main issue I was having was the oil level in the forks was too high. This was causing the front end to sit too high under brakes, bringing the back end up so I wasn't able to brake as hard as I'd like in most corners. The cure for this is, naturally, to lower the level of the fork fluid a little. Just a 5ml change in the fork fluid can make a dramatic difference to the handling of a bike and I estimated that once I'd removed some the bike would still ride a bit too high under brakes but removing more than 5ml without good advice is asking for trouble.

To lower the level of fork oil I was going to have to pull the forks out of the bike, tip some out, measure out 5ml then tip the remainer back into the forks. Simple enough to do and I've got some 5ml syringes from the Fibreglass shop to accurately measure the amount I want to remove so it wasn't a drama. However, as usual it didn't go quite as smoothly as anticipated because I accidentally popped the hose off the top of the brake master cylinder for the brake fluid reservoir. Even though I put the hose straight back on as soon I squeezed the brake lever a huge air bubble got sucked into the master cylinder with an instant loss of brakes. I almost compounded this error by pumping the brake lever before remembering the front wheel still wasn't on so the disks weren't between the calipers. However, thankfully, I realized and got the front wheel back in. This then led to bleeding the brakes for an hour trying to get all of the air out of the system.

I was also going to change the rear sprocket to a 1 tooth larger as the 200 section tyres I've been getting are taller than the 190's, so it changes the gearing. Unfortunately it appears I didn't have a 47 tooth rear for the CBR, only for the old Triumph so I spent an hour searching for something that I don't actually have.

On the plus side the bike was all back together and ready to go except for the bottom fairing, one of the bolts for which is lying in the grass at Hampton Downs. It's a tricky bolt to replace as it's very long and quite small. One of these days I'll replace the spacer with a bracket so I don't have to find such a long, thin bolt.

By this time I was lured out of the shed by the promise of hot pizza and cold beer and I was definitely feeling like I needed to take a break.

After the pizza and a couple of beers I really wasn't keen on heading back out to the freezing cold shed but I sucked it up and went to finish loading up the bike and gear.

Sunday morning and it's very wet and cold outside but clearing. The forecast is for a fine but cold and overcast day and it was looking like they were going to be spot on.

Sign in was painless and scrutineering is spot checks through out the day so no waiting in line except for the Clubmans guys, every one of whom had to have their bike scrutinized. Sorting out shed space was as simple as talking to Gary. The only line was to see the MNZ steward who was checking helmets and that only took 2 minutes.

So it was looking like the HMCC had gotten that side of things well organized and it was a painless process with the only grumbling being about the lack of decent coffee available at that hour. As this series is aimed at getting new riders involved having things nice and simple makes for a good introduction for them.

Race order had the Junior class (pretty much anything under 750cc that isn't a 600/675 SuperSport) up first so after riders briefing I had to get my act together and be ready to go.

HMCC were going to be doing things slightly differently with a single blast of a hooter to signal the 5 minute call and a double blast of the hooter to signal the 2 minute call as well as both calls over the P/A. Once pitlane opened it would only be open for 30 seconds before closing again so the hooter was to ensure that people didn't miss the calls, as can happen when using just a P/A. It's simple but very effective and having spent a full race day as a competitor using the system I'm very happy to do so again and hope other events adopt it.

Being first up I didn't know how wet the track was but going on past experience I knew it'd dry quickly. I'd been caught out by the quickly drying track in the past so I left the slicks on for qualifying. Turned out it really was wet enough for wets, but would only be that wet for 30 minutes at most so I was wobbling around trying not to slide off the track and ended up circulating about 40 seconds slower than my PB. After the fourth lap I bailed back to the pits as Gerard Pijfers on an RGV had lost the back coming out of the turn 6 sweeper, pushing too hard for the conditions and I didn't want to do the same. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be the slowest qualifier though as I'd passed a couple of guys that were looking very wary of the conditions.

Even though I was on slicks in the wet and wobbling around incredibly slowly I still managed to qualify 10th out of 15. Had I put on the wets I probably would've qualified on the front row going by my previous times on them at Hampton Downs.

Race 1 and the warm up lap showed there was a definite dry line all the way around but getting off line could be very slippery, especially at the sweeper. I decided I'd start out slow and see how things went for the first lap as the track was still cold, then maybe up the pace a bit if it felt good.

Lining up on the grid we'd been told there were problems with the lights so they may have to resort to a flag start and as it turned out we were using the flag.

The flag dropped and we're off!!

I immediately got the jump on the guys on my row and passed Phil Oades on an LC350 on the row in front as well. I slotted in behind Blair Lambarth on an SV650 through turn 1, not able to get enough drive to pass him on the run to turn 2 so I went for the outside around turn 3. However, he had a big wobble on cold tyres which pushed me well wide and almost onto the grass causing me to back out of the throttle so I couldn't drive up the inside to turn 4. After that minor scare I decided to wait until one of the straights to use the top end power. Coming out of turn 6 I fed it lots of throttle and drove around the outside of Blair on the exit, comfortably crossing in front of him before the top of the hill.

The group in front got stuck in straight away while I was still taking it fairly quietly so they put a big gap between me and them before I'd started to pick up the pace. By that time it was too late to catch them so I settled for maintaining the position I was in until the end of the race.

Although I was well off my PB I was still pleased with how the race had gone as I was very comfortable and able to improve times each lap. As I had guessed the air gap in the forks was still wrong so braking for the slower corners was difficult but for the faster corners the air gap in the forks wasn't so noticeable.

Race 2 I was keen to up the pace as the track would be bone dry. The early sun shine had disappeared behind thick cloud so the track was still relatively cold so we left the tyre pressures as they were, the lowest I can run without any bouncing at the front or the rear squishing to the point where it stops the bike leaning anymore.

I got another good start with Phil Oades pulling monos almost all the way to turn 1. I didn't quite make it far enough forward to get past Blair Lambarth but this time I set myself up to drive hard out and easily passed him up the inside before braking for turn 2. Heading up to turn 4 and I blew past Nigel Lennox on his CBR400 as it sounded terrible.

I could see young Jacob Stroud a wee way ahead and started to try catching him. I'd gain a little bit on him through turns 2-5 but at turn 6 the much lighter rider and bike were a lot quicker, gaining distance through the corner and consequently the first part of the straight while I pulled a fraction of it back at the end of the straight. However he gained more than I could pull back and quickly opened the gap so I just settled for punching out good laps to the end. At about lap 3 I could see droplets on the screen and on my visor but I ignored them and didn't ease up at all.

Getting off the bike I had a little bit of an adrenaline buzz going on from having lots of fun. While I was mostly racing against myself it was still really enjoyable to get out there without the usual restrictions of a track day and have a blast.

Later on I noticed the droplets on the screen hadn't dried yet so gave it a wipe and found it was brake fluid. Looks like I hadn't left enough of an air gap in the top of the reservoir and it was pressurizing and spitting fluid out. I really need to put something around the reservoir to stop that.

For the final race the starter held us on the grid for quite a while, but eventually he dropped the flag and we took off. Once again Phil Oades was trying, unsuccessfully, to hold the front down in the first two gears. But this time I managed to pass Blair Lambarth before turn 1 so I started to pour it on to try and stay with the front group.

Unfortunately they were a good 2 seconds a lap faster than me so I quickly lost contact with them and settled for trying to improve my lap times each lap.

On the second to last lap Guy Webster on an RS125 came right around the outside of me at turn 6, leaving me thinking I must be getting lapped as he should've started on the front row. Getting just a bit pissed off I chased after him hoping he would tow me to a faster lap time. I was getting a bit confused though as he wasn't pulling away from me as he should've been if he was actually lapping me but in turn 6 I saw another bike trying to ride around the outside of me, but this time I was having none of that and fed it lots of throttle all the way to the finish line.

Turns out that both Guy Webster and Jacob Stroud had to start from pit lane as they missed the 30 second window before pit lane closed.

With the Triumph I had a whole raft of stuff to take to the track but with the CBR there's so little we're all packed in about 15 minutes. The longest part is getting out of my gear, into clothes then packing my riding gear away while knocking back a well deserved cold one.

Great day and an excellent job by the Hamilton MCC. Things were well organised, there was very little stress and it ran relatively smoothly. Looks like they over estimated how long it would take to get through the programme though as the second and third races were shortened by 1 lap but it was better to get all the racing done before it started getting dewy and slippery than to risk it and have bikes crashing. I haven't seen so many Clubmans racers before and there were also some wonderful Classic racers getting out for a mid-winter blast.

I'm really looking forward to the next round.

Image from Phil Smith (clmentie)

click image

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  1. BigAl's Avatar
    Good write up Phil.

    I was on the pit gate for 1/2 the day and had to hold up young stroudy and co as they had missed the 30 sec interval, bit of a bugger but same for all.

    All the riders were having a ball and luckily the weather behaved.
  2. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    Phil?? I think you're mistaking the photographer for me.

    I'm sure it won't be the last time he misses the start of a race. Happens to everyone at some point.
  3. Voltaire's Avatar
    Good write up, excellent day. I managed my best time at HD on my 40 year old BMW....need about 10 more HP....50 ain'e enough.