Gyles Fairclough's Racing Reports
Entry 1- Early 2007
Daytonatastic

This year we are entering a team to race a Guzzi Daytona in the Thunderbike UK series.  Mentioning this to anyone but Guzzi fans usually results in a torrent of abuse.  It seems quite a rare event to race a Guzzi so I thought club members might like to hear about it… This is the first installment in what I hope will be a regular feature in the club magazine through 2007.

The ThunderbikeUK series is run by Bemsee and the series throws lots of different machines together and imposes a power to weight restriction to promote closer racing.  The maximum power to weight ratio allowed is 1 SAE horsepower per 4 lbs, or 1.814kg.  The engine configuration of your machine determines a capacity limit and in some cases there are restrictions based on a machine’s vintage.  I won’t bore potential readers by trawling through each regulation but anyone interested can find the breakdown on www.thunderbikeuk.com – the website is undergoing a revamp at present.

The old guzzler can run unlimited displacement as an air cooled twin.  Unfortunately lack of funds means we can’t really take advantage of this rule by running a 1225cc Raceco kit, so she’ll be a stock 992cc all season.  To give an idea of competitor machinery, we’ll be up against the likes of the Ducati 748 and Honda RC30.  The Duke and RC30 are allowed to compete for the first time this year.  When I told my local mechanic (who used to spanner for the late great Steve Hislop) we’d be racing against RC30s he was in pleats of laughter.  Once he’d composed himself, changed from beetroot to normal skin tones and popped his ribs back in situ I tried to justify why we were racing the Daytona.   I obviously didn’t put forward a great argument as yet more thunderous laughter and many expletives ensued.  Bastard.  Some people just don’t get it.

The 2006 Thunderbike season was won by a Suzuki SV650 (and a rider)… and looking at the results table these bikes seem really competitive and are regularly bored to 700cc to take full advantage of their displacement limit.  Another potent contender in 2006 was the Kawasaki ZXR400.  Other Japanese machinery, a Buell, Laverda and some Dukes made up the grid in 2006, so basically a real mix.

Many teams throw literally 10s of thousands of pounds into their bikes.  To put this into perspective, a team competed last year with a very trick Buell piloted by Phil Read Jnr.  In 2007 the same team lost factory backing so won’t be competing!  This year Phil Read Jnr will ride for Alto performance running, from what I can gather is a very well sorted Laverda 750S.  We are somewhere at the other end of the spectrum, or perhaps just dangling off it.  We have one bike so if I crash/she blows up and we can’t fix her we are out.  But, let’s not concentrate on the negatives.  We also have no money and no real idea how to fix her in the event of a small to medium scale disaster.  At the minute we don’t even have a spare set of Marchesinis to run wets on… We are the definition of budget racing.  Violins at the ready folks… 

One thing standing between us, championship glory and global adoration (apart from a skilled rider, competitive bike and competent mechanic) is the licence side of things.  We have to attend a race induction day at Mallory in February before being granted a licence.  The aim is to make riders race aware, ensure they understand what gets a bike (and rider) through scrutineering and at the end of the day run en-mass race starts so no one shits themselves when the lights go green on the day!!  Bemsee have been really helpful and encouraging and these things should just be a formality (as long as I don’t crash at the induction day).  Isn’t it normally snowing in February?

Another slight weakness to our master plan is that we don’t know a single circuit on the calendar!  Brands, Cadwell, Snetterton, Pembrey and Lydden are the assigned circuits for Thunderbikes.  I live in Scotland (but Yorkshire born and bred) and given the opportunity can lap Knockhill at a respectable rate, but have never even set foot at any circuit for 2007.  It will be a steep learning curve racing against guys on superior machines who know every bend, ripple, bump and gravel trap of each of the circuits for 2007.  I hope I’m not the only person wearing a ‘shoot me I’m here’ fluorescent novice vest.

Here are the provisional race dates:

March 10th & 11th: Brands Hatch
March 24th & 25th: Lydden Hill
April 14th & 15th: Snetterton
April 28th & 29th: Cadwell
May 12th & 13th: Brands Hatch
May 26th & 27th: Pembrey
July 7th & 8th: Snetterton
August 11th & 12th: Cadwell
September 15th & 16th: Snetterton
September 29th & 30th: Brands Hatch
I’m not entirely sure where the original decision to race came from.  Doubtless the idea was beer fuelled but the main reason is that I’m not getting any younger and I’ve been talking myself in and out of racing for years now.  At this point in time, we’ve just recently had a baby, my wife is only working part time and we’ve moved house and doubled our mortgage, so as an astute professor of economics I figured now is the perfect time to give it a whirl.

The original plan, back in the day, was to race my old 1100sport carb, but the cost of developing a 2 valve motor is huge.  I don’t want to incite an onslaught of abuse from 1100sport owners (because I have one), but I think a stock 1100sport will produce between 70 and 80 genuine bhp at the rear wheel.  If you take a carb 1100sport weighing approx 205kg, to reach the thunderbike peak power it would need to make around 113bhp or make a 220kg sport injection produce around 121bhp.  This can be done no question.  Dynatech in Germany can build you a season-proof 120bhp motor from a 2 valver, but get ready to dig deep - 6,000+ euro deep. 

Shedding weight is obviously the cheapest option, and clearly a combination of upping power and shedding weight is the aim, but shedding a lot of weight becomes costly.  An 1100 Sport would need to trim down to a fighting weight of 165kg before threatening to breach any ThunderbikeUK rules and the Raceco Daytona race bike that won BOTT weighed 169kg after having lots of time, money and resources thrown at it.  Aside from just power, a sport carb has a couple of other negatives.  For one it runs an 18” rear so race tyres are harder to come by and more expensive but it also has the 180° twistgrip.  A standard quick action throttle would improve things but the definitive fix is a pair of FCR41 Keihin carbs which give a glorious throttle action and allegedly resolve the 1100sport’s spitting and coughing habits.  At £800 a pair, this would be a lovely but expensive option.

So, the decision was made to look for a ‘cheap’ 4 valve Guzzi.  For a time we looked at Centauros to strip and prepare for racing.  People report fairly impressive figures from Centauros by fitting hotter cams, head work and power commanders.  However, when push came to shove, we agreed development would always prove more expensive in the long run (unless you have the brains and kit to do it yourself) than buying the best and most suited bike we could straight off.  A Daytona was the obvious machine to go for. 

After a long search, a ‘98 registered Daytona RS finally came up for sale.  The original owner had traded the RS and a Centauro against a new Griso.  It was a fairly youthful 23k kms bike, 1 owner with full history and belts just changed.  She was stock aside from carbon front guard, k&n pod filters, cross-over and upgraded chip.  From ten paces she looked lovely though close up she was a little shabby with engine paint flaking and plenty of alloy furring, but who cares when you are racing it.  She even had a few spares and Edge rearsets.  I paid the cash (well, put it straight onto a credit card at 0%... thank you Mint) and rode the bike from London to Norwich at night in torrential rain and she never missed a beat.

I rate the 4v motor as one of the sweetest Guzzi motors.  I am fortunate to also have a ’92 1000ie so knew the 4V motor is ideal for fast road and track work.  They are not crazy fast but the motor loves being revved and are reasonably swift.  The RS has the ‘C kit’ with lightened and balanced crank, carillo rods, hotter cams and forged pistons and allegedly produces 102hp in stock trim (though I doubt it very much).  With better breathing, a 50mm race system and properly setup, along with what we estimate will be at least a 20kg weight loss, we shouldn’t be far off a genuine 100+bhp at the rear wheel without doing anything to the motor to effect longevity or personal finances drastically.

I had my other Daytona out at Mallory for the BMW/Guzzi track day in July ’06 and that outing proved to be another factor in deciding to race a Guzzi.  You’ve probably read in the last but one Gambalunga that some idiot crashed a Daytona.  Guess what?  That was me.  That said it’s the first time I’d taken the Daytona out and really really used it.  Plus if you don’t crash you aren’t trying hard enough.  The old girl was lapping Mallory at an extremely respectable pace (even though I do say so myself).  Sadly the article in the Gambalunga didn’t reflect that, but concentrated instead on the crash and mechanical issues.  Ho hum.  More of a spirited write-up required next time gentlemen because it was a great day out and really well organized… More guzzis this year please folks?

If you read the article you’ll also know John Luton stepped in and helped me with a gear lever from his 1100sport (not Daytona).  It would be rude not to take time to thank him again.  What an absolute diamond…  You could not hope to meet a nicer gent.  Thanks again John – maybe you can come and watch this season and bring the Sport in case we need to borrow bits ;-)

Racing, as you can probably guess, is not cheap.  For a weekends racing you are looking at about £500/weekend.  £200 tyres, £40 oil, £120 entry and £? on fuel for travel and the bike.  Lydden circuit is more than 800 miles round trip away for me… £500 a weekend leaves nothing for repairs or living costs so we’ll be sleeping in the van and eating kebabs.  That will be one smelly van. 
I would have to sell vital bodily parts to accrue funds of that magnitude so we sought sponsorship.  I must take a few lines to thank the companies and folk who’ve helped…

The main, and so far, only financial contribution has been from a software company called Geologix (www.geologix.com).  These guys produce wellsite geology software for oil companies.  Without them this whole venture would be dead in the water.  They have forked out enough to put us through 6 weekends racing.  Thank you Geologix – and should any of you Guzzisti happen to be petroleum geologists please get in touch with them !!!

Mike at Motocorsa (has been an absolute legend.  He’ll be sorting the electrics on the bike, fitting a power commander and getting the bike set up on the dyne.  Mike – thank you very much for your help.  I can’t compliment him enough and would urge all of you to use Mike for any work or servicing you need.  Also, thanks for the encouragement and advice over the last few months.

Motomecca have also kindly offered to assist me through the season with parts.  Thanks very much Paul. 

Pete at Reboot has been really generous and donated a vital component – Reboot thank you very much.

I’ve also got to thank John Baines of Baines Racing.  Again a great bloke and despite running a full time business he’s always had time to chat on the phone offering advice and encouragement.  A big Guzzi fan, John will be servicing my suspension and is even taking time out to come to Mallory on the induction day to help us set the bike’s suspension up.  Cheers John.

Bruce Rawsthorne has also offered race sub frames and fairings for the bike and his friend Amedeo of Raceco also offered his assistance.

Sorry, this is beginning to sound like an oscar speech…  just three more to go.

A brewery in Wylam, Northumberland is donating not hard cash, but beer!!  Check out www.wylam-brew.com.  This is superb beer – I had a free tasting session and fell over.  Wylam Brewery supplies beer all over the UK and they’ve kindly offered to sell beer to Guzzi Club Members with a 10% discount if you buy from them directly quoting your membership number.  I’ll post something on the forum about this.

My local bike shop helps me out with Putoline oils, tyres and general parts as well as mechanical assistance and has got me out of the brown stuff time and time again.  Cheers Tosh. www.tandmmotorcycles.com

Finally cheers to Chris – my team mate and best mate for unparalleled enthusiasm and encouragement during all of this.  Chris is also a Guzzi fan and club member.  He rides an 1100Sport but his gangly frame makes it look like a 50cc.  Chris often gets carried away and as a mechanic breaks more things than he fixes and has never finished a project he’s started so he’s an essential component to our team.  Chris’ main duties through the season will be shouting, smoking, offering dubious advice, arguing with me, shouting if you don’t take his advice, drinking the free beer and moaning that he is hungry again.  At this point I’m meant to reel off Chris’ genuine skills to the team but basically the above list encompasses everything. 

I will make sure we are on the Forum and will speak to Linda (webmistress) about setting up a dedicated thread for the race bike.  We would love it if you folks could make it to any race meets to cheer us on or just laugh at us.  If we come last, blow up, or crash, at least we can offer you a beer.

Cheers everyone,

Gyles