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Shane - Superlite (#43)

2015 AMCC Round 2 @ Hampton Downs

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Last time out didnít go well so this time I was looking to have a much better day. Iíd identified the problems and had come up with a solution, namely lowering the footpegs and putting a seat on the bike to give me a lot more room for my legs.

Making the bike more comfortable means less effort to move around so Iíd use less energy and wouldnít get worn out, both of which will be very important for the upcoming 6 hour endurance race. Round 2 of the AMCC series was going to be a test day for me, both for the improved ergonomics and also for my first time racing my bike as a 600.

During the week Iíd converted it back to 4 cylinders, put new brake pads in and cleaned the brake pistons. However, while I was doing the brake pistons the piece of wood I had between the pistons to stop them from popping out too far fell out while I wasnít looking and one of the brake pistons came out. Instant puddle of fluid on the ground and lots of swearing. It took an hour to sort it out. On the bright side Iím sure it was well overdue for a change of brake fluid anyway.

At the track I was feeling pretty nervous. I had no idea how different it would be racing, as opposed to just riding, a 600. Because Iíd never ridden a 600 at Hampton Downs I decided Iíd enter Clubmans, figure out how to ride the bike and then move up to F2 if I made enough progress.

Climbing onto the bike it immediately felt weird because of the new seat but also because I could only touch the ground with one foot. I guess thatís what itís like to be short. However, I donít need both feet on the ground so I ignored the problem.

Out for Qualifying I head down pit lane exit, give it some gas and immediately find out just how much difference a single cylinder makes, the bike is a lunatic now. Turn 2 I brake early but it seems like itís too late and the bike feels out of control. I remember not to gas it when I normally do, waiting until Iím upright and pointed roughly in the right direction before opening the throttle again.

I manage 4 laps before the flag comes out, none of which are remotely fast as Iím still figuring out where to brake, Iím very cautious with the throttle and the bike feels like itís out of control anytime the throttleís closed.

Before this meeting I knew that itíd be braking that Iíd have the most trouble with. I didnít realise quite how much of a problem braking would be as the bike was lifting the back and bouncing on the brakes in the slower corners and shuddering a hell of a lot into the fast corners.

Sitting down and thinking about things I added a full turn of preload to the forks. The damping was fine and the air gap at the top of the forks is perfect but I needed to get some weight off the front so it wouldnít dive so quickly. I wasnít going to move the forks just yet so a bit more preload should help.

Lining up on the grid Iíve got Nick Olsen to the right and Tony Hoghedge to my left who is lining up on the car grid instead of the staggered bike grid.

The lights come up and weíre off Ö. nice and cautiously. Iíve never done a race start on the 600 and donít want to loop it. It felt fine until the front came up very suddenly and I slammed the throttle shut, instantly losing some vital ground to the others. Into turn 1 Iíve got Paul Garrett taking the inside line and I end up ninth.

Taking it easy I fall in behind the pack but Varun Kohli passes me on the inside into Turn 2. I get him back on the exit of Turn 6 and set off after Nick Olsen and Simon Ramsdale as well.

Turn 1 is surprisingly easy to figure out as itís exactly the same as on the 450, just braking about 80m earlier, so I bang it down 2 gears, let the brakes off and sail around the outside of somebody. The only problem is the bike is not behaving itself on the brakes, shuddering at Turn 1 and at other places itís constantly lifting the back end off the ground.

Into Turn 5 Iím on the brakes late and the back comes up way more than it has been so I ease off then get on the the brakes again, only to have the back end come up once again. I ease off once more and have a third go at slowing down. By this time Iím almost off the end of Turn 5 so let the brakes go and turn it, getting around the corner but losing plenty of ground, although nobody behind me is able to take advantage.

I quickly find myself behind Anas Matar who pulls a gap up the hill but Iím braking way later than him and use lots of corner speed to get around him at Turn 1 for sixth place. Now Iíve got Douglas Oxenham and Paul Garrett off in the distance.

I try to settle down but braking is still a big problem and making any ground on the other two is very difficult. I pull some ground back but in the end Iím across the line in sixth place.

Despite the problems with braking my lap timer shows I was getting faster and faster each lap, knocking over 3.5 seconds off my Qualifying time. Fix the braking and things should improve quite a bit.

To do that I need to lift the front a little to stop so much weight going forward. Seeing as dropping the forks down through the yokes is a bit of a mission I opted for adding some more preload again. If that didnít work Iíd have to suck it up and lower the forks. I also added a bit more air to the front tyre so that itís a bit more rigid.

Race 2 and Tony has decided to line up in the correct place this time.

Off the line and I get a better start than earlier. However, so does everyone else and I head into Turn 1 with Paul Garrett charging up the inside of me. Into Turn 2 I follow Paul up the inside of Nick Olsen and start looking for a way past Paul, but there arenít any opportunities up the inside as he takes a tight line into every corner, braking all the way, turning quickly and using the low end and mid range acceleration of the Triumph. So Iím going to have to find a way around the outside of him but before we get to my strong parts of the track he overtakes Douglas Oxenham on the inside of Turn 5. Paul almost loses out to him in Turn 6 as Douglas tries to go around the outside but doesnít quite make it.

Into Turn 1 I go for the outside of Douglas but donít make it. Iím looking up the inside and outside to try and find a way past but it isnít until weíre back around to Turn 1 where I again go around the outside and this time I make it easily. I should be behind Paul again but heís snuck past Anas Matar (Nas) so I pull back the gap to Nas and Iím all over him out of Turn 6 but the power of the litre bike has me losing plenty of ground. However, into Turn 1 I go even later and faster than usual and exit the corner ahead of Nas. Funnily enough I donít even notice that the braking is now significantly improved and almost all of the problems have gone away.

This time Iím definitely behind Paul so I have to figure out the tricky problem of where to get around him. I canít at the slow corners because the 675 has too much low and mid range for me to do it. I could at Turn 6 but Iíd have to make sure I was well past him in the first third of the corner as heís always accelerating more than everyone else from there on so if I havenít made it in the first third I wonít make it at all.

In the end I canít do anything until Turn 1 again. The biggest problem for Paul is since he doesnít have the use of anything below his rib cage turning the bike at high speeds is really difficult so he has to slow it a lot before turning. This leaves an opportunity on the outside of him.

After getting past Paul I go hard to close the gap to Damian France. For someone wearing a newbies vest heís fast and itís not all bike.

By Turn 1 Iím close enough to Damian but heís dragging everything on the ground to stay in front of me so I donít make it around him. I close back up into Turn 2 and ride around the outside of him at Turn 3 to set up a block pass on the inside of Turn 4.

Out of Turn 5 Iím slow because of the defensive line I take but heís fast, able to drive past me on the run to Turn 6. Out of 6 and up the hill Iím not able to pull it back so Damian takes a very good third place with me in fourth.

This time the bike was much more settled and only lifted the back a couple of times so I added another turn of preload on the forks so it sits a little higher. The magic change that sorted it all was adding another psi to the front tyre. Because Iíd changed to using an actual seat instead of a thin piece of rubber on top of the fairing I was sitting up a lot higher. Under braking this threw more weight to the front, making the tyre collapse and the front end would do crazy things. Adding a bit more air made the tyre stronger so it didnít collapse.

Lining up for the third and final race Iím keen to have a good one as the bike felt great.

I get the best start yet, making it to Turn 1 ahead of most of the row in front of me, exiting Turn 1 in fifth place. The front four are setting a good pace but Iím slowly clawing back the gap to Douglas Oxenham until Turn 1 where I make up a heap of ground on him and go right around the outside into fourth place behind Nas. Heís using the power of the litre bike so he gaps me out of corners and I canít make up the gap on the brakes and also pass him, so we get the concertina effect every corner. Out of Turn 6 Iím all over the back of Nas and the power difference is less pronounced at higher speeds so he doesnít pull away as much as youíd think. I go for the outside of Turn 1 again but donít make it past him and have to tuck in behind.

I line up on the outside of Nas around Turn 3, driving hard to get the inside line for Turn 4. Braking nice and late I stuff it into Turn 4 for a block pass, accelerating hard up the hill. Now Iím in third and Paul has been riding my coat tails the whole way, taking advantage of the gaps Iím creating to get past others and heís up to fourth. Meantime Iím all over Damian France. I try to push around the outside of him at Turn 1 again but, like previous efforts with Damian, I canít get past him there. Tucking in behind him Iím looking for gaps but it isnít until Turn 6 that I stuff it up the inside on the brakes. Iím too deep though and run a little wide, leaving an opportunity for Damian to take the place back.

Into Turn 1 and I run the wide line again, carrying a lot of speed that I use out of Turn 1 on the inside line so that weíre side by side heading for Turn 2. Iíve got the line so Damian has to accept third place for now.

The gap to Derrick Zhu is around 8 seconds and itís now the last lap but Iíve got some clear track; Iím flying.

Into Turn 2 I make a slight mistake, getting into the corner too early and having to stand it up which runs me wide for 3. Iím offline and running wide out of Turn 3 so try to make it up into 4, but make an even bigger mess of it all, running very wide and gifting Des Berghan second. Getting it all back together I aim for the inside line into Turn 5 but Iím too far back so I have to get out of the throttle and Des gets some free meters on the exit. Turn 6 Iím trying to make up the ground but Des has too much of a lead and Iím not able to get close enough to him before the finish line. However, even though I made mistakes over half of the lap it was still my fastest lap of the day, dipping under the 1:15 cut off for Clubmans.

A great dayís riding and most of it was because Iíd fitted a seat and lowered the footpegs. Now the bike feels positively luxurious and moving around is no longer an effort. Even changing gears is much easier now I donít have to twist my leg around to find the gear lever.

Most people find it hard to step up to a 600 but because Iíve already done tons of laps on it and had the chassis and suspension well sorted adding the extra power didnít cause me any problems. Every lap was faster than the previous and I dropped almost 6 seconds off my Qualifying time so Iím confident I wouldíve gotten down to a time that wouldíve had me kicked out of Clubmans.

Next up is the practice day and 6 Hour Endurance race, after which I put the bike back to a 450 for the Suzuki Series race at Hampton Downs.

  • my wife
  • Cherie for all the help in the pits
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Tony, Diane, Boaz and Eve for looking after my bike
  • Craig @ Grey Street Motors
  • Dusty @ Leda Leathers for the awesome custom race suit
  • Steve @ SPJ Art and Design for painting my helmets

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