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Slick Starts, Shagged Suzukis and Slippery Slitherstone: A Weekend at Silverstone

We arrived at the Silverstone Wing complex on Friday evening without any practice ready for a 9am qualifying session on a track virtually nobody had ridden before. I have a lot of track day experience at Silverstone but it was at a different pace, on a different configuration and a long time ago! As usual I was competing in the No Limits 1000 Cup and the Novice 1000 Endurance series along with Danny Shaw. I was looking forward to this one, Saturday was a scorcher and Sunday had enough rain that it flooded the track, making for an interesting weekend…

Race Starts

My biggest problem this year, save lack of talent, has been tragically poor race starts. I eventually decided it must have been the clutch and swapped out the standard item for an STM version and – as if by magic – problem solved! Not only does the clutch do what you tell it to off the line, it is an immense improvement over standard as a slipper, meaning silky smooth downshifts with no back-end dramas. Where before I would have been snaking into corners with the rear losing traction, now the bike stays perfectly in line. Excellent upgrade and I am delighted I can stop worrying about the bike flipping out or stalling on the line.

Wet Settings

I must start working on establishing wet settings for my suspension. The wet race (race 3) was a bum-clenching experience with very little grip and the harsh suspension just made my bike an absolute handful in the wet. It spat me out of the seat a couple of times and was shimmying round every corner. Fine for trackdays but not good enough for racing.

DSC_0487

Endurance

Well! We run a 2-man team in endurance which has pros and cons. On the plus side, we get to run two sessions each of 45 minutes which minimises pit stops and we each get 90 minutes of track time. On the minus side, it leaves very little contingency if anything goes wrong and is expensive.

The contingency issue kicked in when Danny’s GSXR went pop the race before Endurance started, so we shared my bike. That led to a couple of issues:

  1. Brakes – we ran out. I run a very small reservoir which empties as the pads wear – and my RC pads wear quickly. It is fine for sprint but not good enough for 3 hours, so during my second session the lever was back to the bar and I had very little brake. We refilled fluid and that got us through, but I need a bigger reservoir.
  2. Tyres – a rear tyre does not last 3 hours, so we had to change the tyre half way through. That takes a bit of time, especially when the boy changing it forgets to put the chain on and takes leg cramp while doing it….
  3. Fuelling – Liam Murtagh did a great job ¬†refuelling. We can’t refuel in pit lane unless we have full protective clothing, so we had to take the bike into the garage and use 3 x 5 litre jugs to refill. Not an ideal way for a quick fill and again, takes time.
  4. Gear linkage – a weak point on my bike, the setup means the shift rod fails eventually. This happened in our endurance race but we were very lucky – it happened 5 laps from the end of the 3 hours and left Danny in 5th gear, the best gear you could choose if you could only choose one. I need to work on a more robust setup.
  5. Race Start – my turn this time and it was poor. Reviewing the photos, my sprint to the bike was poor and we lost a lot of places early on. I clawed them back but I could have made it easier. However we did better than this poor chap…

DSC_5078

Three hours solid at race pace is very hard on a bike – I was delighted we made it to the end and it was great to see Danny jump on a strange bike and be on the pace straight away.

As for results, we qualified 12th of 54 teams and by the end of my first session we were 3rd in class. But with refuelling and wheels swaps etc, we inevitably lost time over the 3 hours despite keeping a good pace and no incidents on track. No safety car meant a fair race and we finished 6th of 15 in class and 25th overall.

Do you know, just reviewing the results for this blog I can’t help but think we did bloody well given the circumstances. Chuffed.

Solo

As mentioned, starts went from timid in race one to reasonable by race three. I can now trust my clutch to do what I ask and I don’t now drop 15 places before corner one. Again highlighted above, I need to work on wet settings to improve that, I went well but had a couple of near offs and could do nothing more than hold my position to finish 12th from a start of 15th.

So Race one qualified 24th – I just couldn’t get my head around the track. Went on to have a reasonable race with a timid but safe start and finished 19th, dropping 3 seconds off my lap time.

I also had a frustrating mistake in race 2 when I missed a gear, caused by a loose gear change linkage – I was running 13th and lost 2 places in one corner to 15th. I took back 14th place in the next lap but the race was red flagged meaning the result goes back to the last place I crossed the line. Qualified 19th, finished 15th.

Race 3 was wet wet wet and it was a matter of holding on and hoping attrition further up the field would hand me points for holding on. It paid off, from 15th on grid I finished 12th.

All in all a very average weekend, a few points in the bag but definitely a ‘could do better’.

Thank You

As usual, there are a few people who deserve my gratitude. As always, the ever-tolerant Heidi looked after me brilliantly. Heidi, Stacey Coles and Liam Murtagh did a superb job of support team for our endurance race. Three hours on pit wall is an endurance event of its own and Liam minimised the impact of our single-bike ‘strategy’ by being ultra-slick in the pits. Big thanks to you all.

Great to see Paul Chapman and his true gentleman of a Dad on Saturday, thanks for coming so far for another taste of club racing!

And a big thank you to Ian, Leslie, Lara and Erin Clarke who came to watch a very shambolic and wet race day on Sunday. Great to see you all again and it was fantastic that the girls were so interested! Hope Erin brought home a decent collection of Lewis Hamilton’s tyre debris…. Here are the latest candidates for Team Travis on their first trial rides:

Erin Lara

Next Round

Next round is possibly the last endurance race with my partner in crime Danny, but Cadwell is always a superb round and hopefully we will get a few of the old Aprilia gang together that weekend too. All welcome as always, get in touch for tickets!

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