|Gyles Fairclough's Racing Reports|
|Entry 3- Late 2007|
There seems to have been an unacceptable gap in write-ups in the magazine. If I remember rightly the last gambalunga entry we were about to head down to race at Lydden back in March! For new folk who’ve recently joined (or for those who’ve simply forgotten) we are running a Guzzi Daytona RS in the Bemsee Thunderbikes series. She is stock aside from a Raceco exhaust system and a powercommander III and she happily produces 105bhp but still weighs a rather lardy 218kg wet. This is my rookie season and the bike had been a stock road bike months before we started racing at the beginning of 2007.
I don’t bore prospective readers too much so I thought I’d just offer a quick recap of the races we’ve done since the last write up.
Lydden: March 24th & 25th
The second meet of the season. Lydden is like a Father Ted circuit with Father Ted facilities. We arrived on a damp dreary Friday evening after driving through severe hail storms and had a relatively dreary weekend weather wise. I picked up my first point in a damp first race (15th) and then raced a second wet race (my first ‘wet’ race) finishing 16th. It was another turn up and race weekend where we had no experience of the track and fifteen minutes to try and learn it. Months on from the start of the season I realize how naive this approach to the first two races actually was. This is fast club racing and you can’t turn up fresh faced on new tracks and learn them while you race. Race three I bailed out after suffering horrendous brake fade and had a ‘lever to the bar’ moment – fortunately traveling up hill towards the hairpin. Once again the Alto boys dived in and helped – new HH EBC pads and a quick bleed and in Race 4 I realized the advantages of having a bike that stopped.
Snetterton: April 14th & 15th
Again a new circuit to us… but we decide to ditch the ‘turn up and learn it on race day’ strategy as it clearly makes life difficult. Instead I turn up bright and early on Friday morning to try and get my head round the fast East Anglian circuit. The first few laps were a bit bewildering but we soon got into the flow and by session 3 I felt really good on the bike and as corny as it might sound something really clicked. I was riding far more aggressively and by the end of the day I actually felt competitive. By Friday evening I felt great (no doubt aided by the Wylam bitter) and eagerly waited race day.
First race on Saturday didn’t go too well though. Race 1 I cooked the clutch off the lights and managed to ride/coast a massive 300m to the first bend! I pulled in as I couldn't select any gears and smoke poured from behind the starter. After a second or two I managed to hook first and headed back out but again but alas - no gears by turn two so I had to pull off and watch the race from behind the barriers. The Guzzi sulked, propped against the barrier stinking and smoking. The marshals gave me some jelly babies to eat and I watched the race from the outfield.
Most folk assumed the worst for the clutch and that our weekend was over with tales of broken plates. There were some desperate calls around to see if I could get a new clutch (within driving distance) but no joy. It seems lady luck might have been shining though since race 2 got cancelled on Saturday down to delays and was re-scheduled for Sunday first thing. Although this annoyed most entrants this actually worked in our favor as it gave the bike chance to cool down and for us to do some fettling. I’m not sure about yours, but my Guzzi has self healing properties. By late Saturday afternoon I as able to totter round the paddock and the clutch seemed ok.
Sunday morning bad luck returned. I missed practice as she was blowing fuses EVERY time I attempted to start it. Once we’d built up a knee high pile of 15amp blown fuses we decided the problem was there to stay. With help from Ben and Aaron (Alto Performance) we finally got her fired up and with seconds to spare went down to the holding area. We were so late we missed the sighting lap but were allowed to join the race from the back (where we’d have been anyway after a DNF in race 1). With clutch preservation in mind I tore off the start line with all the forward momentum of an asthmatic pensioner but after nursing her round the first couple of bends the clutch seemed OK and we were in business.
Snetterton, for those who don't know, is a long open track with a monster back straight and long start finish. It also has some very fast open corners. The RS would really shift down the main straight and we picked off a few folk before we’d finished the first lap. Much to my amazement we were also out braking AND out cornering folk. Our much more aggressive hang off and knee down style seemed to work well and through the bomb hole and round Corams we were really motoring. We went from last on the grid (27th?) to 13th in 6 laps – my highest position yet. I was delighted.
Race 3: was gutting since the bike coughed and died on me in the holding bay and when I went to restart her she blew the dreaded fuse again so we were out and back to last on the grid for race 4.
Race 4: Our best race to date and my best motorcycling experience so far. We went from last on the grid and by lap 5 we were upto 11th. We were lapping at a very respectable pace and I was pushing myself and the old girl as hard as I could. Lap 6, of the 7 lap race though, and durrrrrrrrrrr, the motor dies on me - FUEL !!! is my immediate thought but I am certain Chris put plenty in.... I roll off the track at the jelly baby stop and post race endure another lift back in the van. Even though we didn't finish we put in a best lap of 1:20.037. To put this into perspective, that lap time would have put us 9th and Phil Read Jnr on the £80,000 Laverda best lap of that race was 1:17.8 - so the old girl was running just 2.2 seconds behind on what is quite a long track. We were absolutely gutted not to finish but elated at what we'd done !!! This was now my best experience to date. That night we got very drunk.
So, we left Snetterton knowing we could go quick but the bike was dead and Cadwell was two weeks away. The mechanical bits were easy to fix. I fitted a new clutch and sorted some other odds and sods. Sadly myself and Chris have the combined electrical expertise of an amoeba so we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the RS’s electrics so the days ticked by and after endless phone calls to folks Ben of Alto offered to take time out to look at the bike on Friday – the day before Cadwell. To cut a long story short he fixed it – tidied the wiring, installed a new ECU, a new rectifier/regulator (electrex) and we were back in business. Back to my mum and dads by 11pm and then up at 5am on Saturday to drive to Cadwell…. Another new track and no practice.
Cadwell 11th & 12th August
Cadwell, the UK’s mini Nurburgring. A really great track to turn up and race at with no experience of whether there is a left, right or straight on coming. Still… fortune favors the brave/stupid. I got the usual fifteen minutes to ‘learn’ the circuit but I’d put a softer spring on the rear and it felt so awful I just tried not to fall off. As soon as we finished practice the old spring was re-fitted.
Race 1: Cadwell is such a complicated track my plan is simple. Get a really poor start, let everyone past and try and follow some riders and accept race one will be a case of learning the circuit.
After I’d done two or three laps I felt more than comfortable following the two guys in front so I decide to try and move up the field… so I pass a few folk. 21st to 15th and another point in the bag much to my surprise! Best lap 1:51 which is pretty slow.
Race 2: Much the same but 10 seconds faster overall (race duration) and upto 14th!
Race 3: Sunday morning and a murky, foggy Cadwell dawns. My lap times don’t seem to be improving that much and still no better than 14th. I have a couple of excuses in my arsenal… my main one being that a contact lense came out mid race so I had to race with one eye closed. Honest Guv! It popped out and stuck to the inside of my visor all race.
Race 4: Sadly a 16th place but 2 seconds a lap faster than the previous race and we’ve knocked off a whopping half a minute off our race time.
Cadwell was great. I really really enjoyed it and felt we’d put in a solid performance. I could have sworn we couldn’t have gone much quicker there. The weekend was very sociable with a lot of guys from the club over. Much beer was consumed (not by me of course, ahem… cough) and banter enjoyed. What also made me tremendously happy was the bike started 4 races and finished 4 races and not a sniff of unreliability.
Snetterton: July 7th & 8th
Last time out Snetterton had been a roller coaster of emotions. We knew we could go well but had been plagued with reliability issues. The 4 starts, 4 finishes at Cadwell made us confident for the second round at East Anglia. Despite having raced here before (for the first time this season) we still did the practice day. A relatively uneventful but extremely productive day was had.
On Saturday the old Snetterton curse reared its ugly head and again we are struggling with electrickery problems (after a trouble free practice day). Much waggling of wires and scratching of heads ensued. I spray everything in WD40 (my sum worth in fixing electrics). Phil from Isle of Wight Nutters race team drops lucky and wiggles the guilty wire or the Guzzi just decides it DOES want to go out and play. We are back in business.
Race 1: Fully fired up from the last minute fix (the bike) I was off like a scolded cat and managed to finish 11th. I was absolutely elated. We also dipped inside 1:20 and beat a few guys we’d never beaten before who were a lot higher up the rankings. Our race time was 9:37 for 7 laps and our only successful finish at Snetterton last time round was 8:28 for 6 laps so we were motoring.
Race 2: 10th and close to getting under 1:19 now !! Top 10 !! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would run top 10 against these riders in my first season. My race time drops by 9 seconds.
Race 3: 11th ! Does this knock on the door off consistency?
Race 4: 12th. Perhaps I am getting tired… but we leave Snetterton bagging some really respectable points and with an enormous confidence boost.
Snetterton was a great weekend. We had a lot of folk turn up – mates, Guzzi club members, work colleagues and family… We also spent a lot of time with the other racers and had a great weekend nattering with the Isle of Wight Nutters and Phil Read Jnr who’d nipped the Laverda’s motor in Saturdays practice so was bike-less for all of Saturday. Phil is a great bloke and has raced for years (including BSB). He is straight talking and it was praise indeed when he congratulated me saying I had beaten a whole load of bikes I should never have beaten.
Cadwell August 11th & 12th:
Back to North Lincolnshire. We’d had a solid ride last time at Cadwell but with the Guzzler now seeming reliable (a new ECU fitted again) we took advantage of doing the practice day on Friday. The practice day really gives you an edge (we missed practice last time round at Cadwell) and by Friday evening I was feeling good. The morning had started slow for me though… I found myself following slower riders around the circuit in a trance. ‘Chunky’ Churchill who races an SV700 even came upto me and said ‘cummon Gyles you can go loads faster than that’.
The Thunderbikes field had dwindled along with most others (cash issues, folks on holidays, injuries etc…) so we were mixed with Clubman and Rookie 400s to make a full grid. 400s are pesky little blighters and they seem to crash a lot so I wasn’t looking forward to getting mixed up with them. Their times round Cadwell are virtually the same as the Thunderbikes and based on my lap times from Cadwell earlier in the season I was going to be stuck in the middle of them. Thunderbikes started at the front of the grid – separated by a clear row and then the 400s in their respective championship positions.
Race 1: We were going really well. We finished 9th (highest place yet) with a 1:46.4 which was two seconds faster than my previous fastest lap. This was now my best racing experience to date. The race finished early with the red flag out on lap 5. I hate returning to the paddock past the ambulance with a rider down. Nasty. Not one 400 made it past me.
Race 2: Pretty poor… I put fuel in the bike for the race – get ready and go to start the bike to warm her up. To my horror she is smoking badly. She never smoked before. As I head out onto the circuit and out for my sighting lap she is pinking so immediately I assume fuel. We complete the race in 11th but the bike is grossly underpowered and pinking like hell. Thanks to Shell for that. They sold me a lovely Diesel – V-Power mix and then told me tough luck when I tried to pursue them over this. I’m not sure if any of you would consider riding past a Shell garage in favor of another station but I certainly won’t buy Shell fuel again. How can a company be so negligent and then so unhelpful afterwards?
Race 3: Sunday. Another 9th! We pick up the pace again and we are now into the 1:45s (1:45.4) and going really well. Overall race time is 10 seconds quicker than yesterday. Garry Budgen, championship leader crashes out but last years champion, Rob Wittey, decided to spoil the fun and join in on a borrowed 748.
Race 4: Yet another 9th.
Cadwell had been even better this time around. A circuit that shouldn’t suit the heavy Guzzi had produced some of our best results to date and more points. If you compared our first race times at Cadwell with our latest times we’ve knocked off a whopping 50 seconds from our overall racetime. Onwards and upwards.
Snetterton: September 15th & 16th
The penultimate round and our favourite track. After chatting to John Baines he recommended refitting the airbox for Snetterton. He reckoned folks just junk them and fit pod filters but this isn’t really ideal for an injected system that ideally needs a pressurized air feed. In actual fact I can’t say if it worked or not. Based on our lap times we ended up running a best lap 0.7 sec quicker than any previous but, that said, we’ve been getting faster and faster all year each time we re-visited at a track.
Again we had a consistent weekend with three 10ths and a 9th. I did experience major frustration for the first time though. Through the corners and on the brakes the bike will not improve – or at least ‘I’ can’t make it corner harder or brake later. Down the straights though, I am getting hammered by faster bikes. There was a guy this weekend on a 748R which was running bang on the power:weight limit. Down the back and start-finish straight the Guzzi wouldn’t even hold his slipstream and he’d clear off into the distance. Into Russels chicane and into Sears I could get past him but as soon as we’re on the straight he’s past. The Guzzi is still way off the power to weight limit. I weighed her this weekend at Snetterton and she is 217kg and producing 106bhp. At this weight she’d be allowed to produce 119.6bhp or we could shed 24.7kg.
In a weeks time I’ll be at Brands hatch for the final round. I am second in the rookie championship 3 points adrift. If I can get my head round Brands and perform as we have done for the last three rounds we should win the rookie championship. If not, we’ll come second because we can’t be caught realistically by the third place rider.
I am so glad we decided to go ahead and race the Guzzi this year. It has been a tremendous experience in virtually every respect. Racing a Guzzi has been harder work than running a sorted jap bike but has been all the more rewarding for that reason. If there is anyone out there in two minds and wanting to race next season I cannot recommend it enough.
A huge thanks to Chris for his support and to all of you who’ve come to cheer me on and helped during the season. I cannot thank my lovely wife enough for backing me and enduring week after week on her own looking after our extremely lovely but extremely tiring two year old.
See you back out there in 2008.