|Gyles Fairclough's Racing Reports|
|Entry 2- Mid 2007|
Since the last write up, so much has happened that I am having problems recalling everything. So much to do, so little time. Last time I put pen to paper the bike was about to head south to Motocorsa to be prepped for the year. Mike had kindly offered to sort the electrics for me since we could ditch a lot of unnecessary bits and bobs the race bike wouldn’t need. Mike also recommended fitting a power commander since he’d had a lot of success with them.
Mike’s popularity meant he was hard pushed to cram enough hours into the day to work on the Daytona along side all his regular bread and butter jobs. I have to thank him enormously for his help. I am not sure Mike had appreciated the Guzzi had literally been a stock road bike one month earlier and all I had done before he got it was fit a bigger exhaust and get rid of clocks, lights and fit race fairings so there turned out to be far more jobs to fix than he’d originally anticipated.
On the first dyno run at Crescent Suzuki the bike didn’t behave itself…. I sat at home like an expectant father. Ever the optimist I had prepared myself for three figures at the back wheel. Mid run she decided to pop one of the fuel injection pots off and dirty air filters meant she was running too rich. The results sent a wave of depression over me when I was told the Centauro that Motocorsa are selling had given far better figures.
My memory blurs here, but I think on the second run once the filters were clean and the injection pots were back firmly in place we discovered she had a faulty potentiometer. Having never heard of such a device, Mike explained this basically tells the ECU how much gas to give…. It is all down to millivolts (or volts – I can’t remember – my pea brain only stores so much information)) but from what I can remember a perfect potentiometer should allow 4.86Mv where ours was giving 4.36Mv. This half a volt (or millivolt) means the ECU isn’t given the go ahead to allow full gas. (Sorry Mike if this explanation bears no resemblance to the one you gave me at the time)… Anyway, in a nutshell, Mike fitted a new one. Actually, he fitted it in his workshop, not a nutshell.
Third dyno run and we are still way off the mark. 85bhp at the rear wheel to be exact. My depression sinks further. Mike suspected valve timing after he’d had excellent results from a Centauro he’d gone to the trouble of setting up correctly when he’d changed its belts. It turns out the RS had one pot out by 4degrees and the other out by 6 – all within factory tolerances but no good for a race bike. Mike fixed this and the next run loomed the following day….Alas the Guzzler didn’t play ball again and only managed one power run before urinating oil from an oil feed spraying oil over the Crescent Suzuki dyno. 95 at the rear wheel showed potential if she’d stay in one piece for the run. Mike had to buy Guinness as a way of an apology and mop up the dyno room before making a hasty exit. The advice from the dyno man…. Go and strip the bike, rebuild it and blueprint the motor then bring it back. “It has a healthy heart but I fear it is possessed” were his parting words…. He then explained he’d been setting up a Duke 748 that week for the Thunderbike series and it was making 40bhp more than the RS. Great news.
All these delays and complications meant we couldn’t get the bike back in time for the Mallory CTC course. One of the rules is that you must turn up on the bike you intend to race but with much groveling, Bemsee agreed to let me turn up on my Daytona road bike to sit the course.
Ever punctual, we turned up at 2am on Saturday morning and drove straight onto the circuit and into the pits. It was surreal driving straight onto the course in the early hours. We parked up and got our luxury accommodation organized. Chris then suggested a beer but I suggested bed… so we got some shut eye. My 3 season sleeping proved useless against the February weather and I froze all night whilst listening to Chris snoring away in his all singing Himalayan North Face bag.
Next morning we had to go through scrutineering first thing. I can’t portray how nerve wracking this is. We queued in a line of race bikes with our bog standard Daytona with gaffa taped lights. It was really heart warming whilst in the queue that the only people the officials seemed to stop and chat to were me and Chris and the Guzzi. “Good on you….”, “Great to see a Guzzi here”, “Bloody hell mate…”; “You’ve got your work cut out…” were the more common phrases. The actual scrutineering was fairly text book (for me and Chris). Basically the bike and I failed on every checklist…. No lock wiring, no bellypan, no numbers, no transponder, no dog tags etc etc… Using our unrivaled charm and persuasion they let us through anyway based on the fact this was only the licence day.
The actual day was fine and combined regular track and classroom sessions. Really hectic but really well organized. It gave Chris a chance to get to grips with generator, tyre warmers and egg butties (the latter still needs work). He was a massive help and the day would have been a nightmare had I been on my own.
The Daytona was handling really badly all day with squidgey front shocks and a pogo-ing rear… but she lasted the distance just fine. A few guys commented on how well the Guzzi went whilst sat astride their brand spanking Triumph 675s (or similar) which was heart warming.
Allan and John from the Warwickshire branch came along to watch which was nice and Allan bought us lunch. Cheers mate.
The scariest bit of the day was without doubt the practice start. This had been built up all day and by the afternoon everyone was pretty nervous. In the classroom pre race start we had a final run through of the race start sequence. We also had a talk through from some seasoned pros about controlling wheelies and wheel spin off the lights. I smiled at the thought of the Guzzi wheel spinning off the lights and rearing into some huge power wheelie. In the actual start the lack of power proved a god send – wheelies and wheel spin are two things you can rule out so I just concentrated on the lights. As they went out the Guzzi pounced through the pack whilst R1 riders wrestled to tame their machines. 3 laps later the Guzzi ended up coming in around 15th from 26th on the grid. Not so bad.
With the licence out of the way, everything went towards gearing up for the first race. There are a lot of forms involved in racing and being as ill organized as I am…. this became a headache. After a while Bemsee knew my voice straight away when I called with stupid questions. They are very patient people.
The other headache was the bike. Basically Mike worked his bits off to get her to me in time for the first race. I ended up picking her up from Mike on some M1 services near Silverstone on a blustery Friday night a week before the first race at Brands. I drove back to Scotland with my mind reeling about what needed to be done… new tyres, lock wiring, belly pan, new pads, fresh oil – all within a few days. I also had some alloy subframes donated from Bruce Rawsthorne I wanted to try and fit – plus a new exhaust system.
The wheels bit was easy… but whilst on paddock stands (wheel-less) the Guzzi slipped off the front stand in the night and punched a hole in it’s sump. I woke up the next morning to see the Guzzi sat on its sump with oil all over the garage floor. After much swearing I got the sump off and a local guy welded it for me – back on and filled with oil she seemed oil tight. The lock-wiring is a bit of a pig on the bike. To meet regulations every bolt, behind which resides oil, needs to be lock-wired. An R1 needs the engine drain plug, oil filler and oil filter lock-wiring. The Guzzi needs a few more than that… bevel drain, level and filler, gearbox drain, level and filler, 2 engine oil banjo bolts, the sump bolt with the magnet, all 4 oil feed banjo bolts for the oil cooler and the engine filler plug. That is a lot of lock-wiring which needs patience and a steady hand bearing in mind the thickness of the heads of the banjo bolts. For once, this task went quite smoothly. Lock-wiring is actually quite a soothing job once the drilling has been done.
The Raceco system was fitted – this is a gorgeous bit of kit – 50mm bore with oval titanium cans giving the bike a healthy bellow. The BSM system was fine for a road bike but Mike said it was 50mm into 45mm then back to 50mm so not ideal. I have run the bike on Putoline oil which I reckon is really good stuff and been advised to not run anything other than a 20/50 for racing as the oil gets v hot and thins whilst racing.
Although I had assumed everything was in shape, in the final hour the RS develops a leak from one of the front braided hoses which had a small ‘nick’ in it (Chris swears blind I drilled it when lock wiring but I didn’t). Motomecca come to the rescue again with new lines and with these fitted we were ready to rock…
I headed south from Scotland and picked Chris up in Norwich en-route. We prepare an undertray (out of a shower tray – you think I’m joking) and headed to Brands on Friday night via Guildford where we picked up our new (to us) generator. We arrived in the early hours but unlike Mallory we had to park the van up in a lay by and sleep there until morning before we could get on the circuit. I must say, my new 4/5 season bag kept me as warm as toast but I am still struggling to work out what the 5th season is?
Next morning we drove into the paddock but couldn’t find a space anywhere. Most guys had been there since Thursday night for practice so everyone was nicely bedded in. I forgot to send my form off in time. Doh! We parked where we could and the bike and I passed scrutineering with no real problems. I signed on and then we just kicked back and I tried not to vomit with building nerves.
We had hours to kill so mooched around the paddock and met up with some mates we’d made at Mallory who were also racing Thunderbikes – Simon on an old FZ750 5 valve Yam and Phil on his Laverda 750S. Both are great guys and it helped calm my nerves jabbering to them for a while. These guys are the same as us in the budget racing sense. They were parked next to Alto Racing who were running another 750S Laverda piloted by Phil Read Jnr. These guys are at the other end of spectrum having put 78K into the development of their Laverda (yes – you read correctly seventy eight thousand). I have to confess, to my surprise, these guys were spot on too and really delighted to hear we were running a Guzzi.
Time passed and eventually we were due to head out onto the circuit for practice. I have to paint a picture here…. Take one very nervous rider who has never ridden Brands Hatch, put him on a bike he has never ridden in anger and give him 15 minutes to learn a track he’ll have to race round within a couple of hours. Not a great combo. Add to this a belly pan that decks out on every bend and a petrol filler cap that pisses petrol out of the front, back inside the fairing and then into your face. Finally factor in guys that are literally flying past you that have either been racing for years – or at the very least had a full practice day the day before. Not nice. I left the track feeling rather depressed and stinking of petrol feeling very slow indeed.
We then had a few hours to get the bike sorted… we re-fitted the filler cap seal and then set about trying to sort the belly pan. For some reason we had an angle grinder and drill in the van so the task was fairly easy (is this standard equipment in the Guzzi toolkit?). An hour later we had inhaled ½ kilo of fibre glass dust each but more importantly ended up with a highly modified belly pan using Gaffa tape which is a racer’s best friend. Zip ties are a racers second best friend and using these delightful items we fit the belly pan in situ.
We then had half an hour or so before the race start so I mainly tried not to vomit and walked three miles back and forth to the toilet block to go for nervous pees !!
Oh my god. What am I doing here? I line up at the back of the grid since I was a late entry – 27th. We run through the starting sequence, and the race starts…. I am racing !!! I still don’t know the track and the bike is dragging its arse on right handers. My foot brake pedal is dragging too and I can feel the bike’s rear lifting when cranked over. I try not to lose ground but don’t want to go nuts. How dumb am I going to look if I crash first outing? I manage to pass one guy and seem to be able to ride at the same pace as the next guy without major issues. Petrol is still pissing in my face. I come in 26th.
After the race, Phil riding the Laverda (not Read Jnr – the other Phil) walks up to see us. He brings me a results sheet and seems amazed I am not as high as a kite after my first outing. I still feel slow – but he is a lovely guy and points out my fastest lap was faster than the next five guys above me which really did make me feel better. We are doing 58’s at best, which sounds crap but bearing in mind our situation and using my full arsenal of excuses I decide it wasn’t so bad and cheer up a bit. We discuss options for scientifically setting up the suspension (since it feel too soft) and ramp compression and rebound front and rear to maximum. Maxton eat your heart out.
I am happier now. I am going to push a bit more now. We start 26th and I get past a few folk on the first bend. This is the first time I’ve hit paddock bend in the midst of a group of other riders. Paddock is a swine – its an off camber bend that drops away so you can’t see the apex – one second you are hugging the right kerb and the next you are way over left . I sneak past a couple more at Druids and we seem to be running better. Then the field thins and gaps appear and catching anyone else seems unlikely. I am riding harder now feeling better each lap. The bike seems to dive through its travel far too easily when braking pre-corner and it feels unsettled tipping it in. I haven’t got any corners mastered and I am losing loads of time on the start finish. I feel good coming off Clearways and I think I am on the gas as soon as possible but braking for Paddock is a nightmare and I’m way too early on the brakes – I reckon a good second plus could be saved if I had my braking point mastered. Druids is the best one for me and I am hard and late on the brakes and I feel the back end squirming. The bike still feels awkward though and I feel awkward on it. I am still fairly prone in the saddle and for some reason dragging my knee doesn’t seem right… Anyway, we finish 16th from 26th. I feel like I’ve come 6th and feel the buzz I expected, but never felt, after race one. I think I might have even punched the air – how stupid would that have looked to the crowd? That said, the marshals give me a huge cheer as I exit the track and I don’t see them congratulating any other Japanese machinery.
After the race I feel great and we move the van down in amongst the masses in the paddock where we chill out with a beer and check the bike over. A couple of the marshals wonder over to look at the Guzzler and we chat about the bike for a while. “If it were down to sound” one of them says, “you’d easily win it… what a glorious noise”. We cook, chill out and chat with Simon, Phil and Steve our new found buddies and fellow thunderbikers. It is a lovely feeling staying in the pits – difficult to describe but really unique. We are living the dream.
I feel faster now and the bike feels better… Chris said I look fast and Chris doesn’t praise for praising sakes – believe me. I leave the circuit feeling a lot more confident for race 3.
I get pulled in for sound check. I rev the bike as instructed and they frown and stare at some kind of device rudely thrust into my exhaust !!! They ask me to rev her to 5,500rpm. I tell them I don’t have a rev counter (it died on a previous dyno run) and that I’m using the rev limiter as a guide (it comes in at 8,200 with a Creedon chip and the Daytona red lines at 9,000 so it is safe enough even though we are losing 800rpm). They don’t believe me so I show them and they have to let me go….
I then spend some time getting ready for the race. Some of the Guzzi guys come along for Sunday and they come and say hello and help drink some of our free beer which seems to go down a treat. I am getting dressed and I put on my Hislop t-shirt and I remember thinking, the last time I wore this I crashed my S3 in Switzerland and broke my hand. Don’t be stupid – it’s a t-shirt Gyles. I keep it on but it feels odd. Each time the thought enters my mind I tell myself not to be so stupid, I’m not going to crash.
I have crashed. Lap 3 on Clearways… no rider error I promise – just banking over more and more each time and either the belly pan or brake pedal lifts the back wheel and spits me off. I remember watching the bike as I am sliding along thinking “oh look, she is staying on one side – good”. As she hits the track edge she flips and lands on her other side in the gravel. Bugger. The marshals call for re-enforcements as two of them struggle to lift her and then she is unceremoniously dumped against the tyre wall. I feel like saying – “hey, come on, have some respect, it’s a Guzzi” but I stop myself and watch the race instead – the lead guys are flying. Another guy comes a cropper at Clearways and gets tangled with the bike as he slides and needs help from the paramedics. I peer across at the Guzzi and notice the silencers look full of gravel.
The van collects me and my fallen comrades after the race and I get taken back to the scrutineering bay. Chris arrives looking very ill after running all the way to Clearways and back to the paddock. He informs me it’s the first time he’s broken into a run for over 4 years. I fire the Guzzi up and she seems to belch a good few kilos of gravel over the paddock floor. I am told what to fix by the official and he says I can race in the final race if I manage to sort her out.
The fixes were easy… so we are back on the grid again. On the sighting lap the bike seems to cough a few times but I try not to think too much about it. The race starts and we are going well enough but again, misfires…. More and more misfires. Power, no power, power, no power – it’s like riding a bucking bronco. I have to pull in so signal my failure to other riders and pull into the pits. It seems like fuel – or lack of. When we get back to strip the bike Alan notices one of the relays has come loose – it’s the relay to the fuel pump. Pushed back in situ she barks into life first crack. We check by loosening it and sure enough she misses again. Well… they’ll be zip tied in place next race. It’s a learning experience. Simon and Phil arrive back on cloud nine after a great scrap in race 4. They immediately come over to check all is well. Cheers guys.
So, round one is over and partial success. We are way off the pace of the leaders but realistically we were always going to be… we are however competitive in the lower ranks so I feel happy at that. The bike is slow and we are losing on the straights and into corners because of ground clearance. The bike has been great though and has held together superbly.
It is now Wed 21st and we are three days away from the Lydden race. I had some good news yesterday when the bike went to YPE Power – Edinburgh to be dyno’d and have the Power Commander set up. All dyno’s differ so are only useful as a before and after tool. On the Crescent Suzuki dyno the Guzzi produced 95bhp at the rear wheel. At YPE it made 89bhp. After some superb tweaking and setting up by Stuart she is now belching out a healthy 106bhp at the rear wheel with massive gains in the mid range. I can’t wait to get out on her.
Please visit the forum as we now have a dedicated entry for the Daytona and if you can make it to a race it would be great to see you there. Come and say hello…
Sorry for all the typos and errors in this article – it was a hurried evening’s composition.
Thanks for all the support and best wishes from everyone.
Cheers, Gyles & Chris
PS:- if anyone has some Marchesinis sat gathering dust in their garage I would dearly like to borrow/buy them as we still have no wets !!!