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MCN's Michael Neeves races MRO Powerbikes rnd 2

By Michael Neeves -

 27 March 2007 14:56

MRO Powerbike championship. Round 2 – Lydden Hill 24th/25th March 2007.

Blimey, Charlie that was good fun! After a torrid time at the first round at Brands Hatchm - getting knocked off in practice, struggling with bike set-up, qualifying badly and just scraping into the top ten in the races - I thought the step up to the MRO Powerbike Championship might be a bit too high for me. But Lydden has proved there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for me – and for once it’s not the train.

I’ve been completely knackered lately from weeks of travelling for the day job (I’ve been away testing for MCN every week since the beginning of Feb – three times to Italy, a Germany, a Spain, France and an Australia – I’m writing this now from Monza testing the new MV F4 312), prepping the R1 and racing it. Despite that it was one of those weekends where everything turned out right from the off.

Lydden is my local track, for a start. Until I moved up to work for MCN I lived in Ramsgate, about 20 minutes away from the circuit so I’ve raced and done track days there a gazillion times over. Also, my bike was looking a bit smarter than usual, as my friend Rookie and I spend the entire previous weekend preparing the race bodywork (a right pain after it got mangled in the Brands practice crash) and painting it with Halfords finest spray paint. It’s ‘appliance white’, set off with a touch of Nissin red, if you’re interested – and jolly nice it looks too.

The stickers were all made and applied by V2Mal – including the Colin Edwards-style race numbers, which set the whole thing off. Every time I’ve ever put stickers on a bike they look like they’ve been fired out of a machine gun so I’m well impressed with the way the bike looks.

I missed the Lydden practice day as it was held on the Thursday before the meeting instead of the Friday and I was working (they aren’t allowed to run more than two noisy days in a row), so my first time out was in qualifying on Saturday morning. Without any set-up time the bike misbehaved over the bumps and bounced off the corners, but miraculously we managed to qualify in provisional pole position. With drizzle coming down in the second practice session I managed to keep my spot - my first ever pole in this or any other class, for that matter!

The Superpole race at the end of Saturday was held in the wet, and again without any practice on the bike in the wet, I was pretty pleased to come away with a 4th. For the two dry races on Sunday I bagged a 5th and 6th and managed to be a second quicker than I’d ever been around the track before, breaking into the 42secs around the tight little Lydden circuit (which is actually a mirror image of Brands if you look at the track map). Staying within five seconds of the leader is encouraging, especially as I write; I’ve turned the R1 back into a road bike and am riding it to work!

To be honest the R1 is so good it’s flattering me. It’s so easy to ride fast and has incredible agility and power. Much of it is down to how good the R1 is out of the box, but it’s been made even better by the Maxton suspension work, the incredible grip from the Dunlop slicks, the extra get-up-and-go from the Micron end can, and the power of the SBS brake pads. The Stomp tank pads are a revelation too, helping me grip the tank with my knees under hard braking with minimal effort. 

Junking the standard clip-ons in favour of beautifully machined Harris Yamaha GP-style replacements is a big deal too. The bars are longer and aren’t locked into one position like the standard ones, which means you can have them at any angle or height you want. I’ve set them nice and wide, which gives me more room to move about on the bike especially at full lean, and loads more leverage to put the bike where I want to on the track.

I spent a day at Calafat recently doing a test on some new Ohlins suspension for MCN. Test rider and ex-WSB rider Anders Anderson was there, as was Yamaha’s test rider and ex-WSB star Jeffrey de Fries. I picked their brains all day about set-up for the R1, as well as bugging Richard from Maxton all through the race weekend (he’s at the end of the phone for all of his customers) and ended up with a brilliant set-up around Lydden. We even got the new size 125/80 x 17 Dunlop slick to work properly too, which was a relief after struggling with it so much at Brands.

There are still a few things I need to sort out before the next round at Cadwell, though. I need a spare set of wheels for my wets. Rod at Rod Harwin Racing loves nothing more than seeing me part with my cash for changing my tyres at the track, even though he tells me I get a ‘special’ deal (amazingly he manages to process card transactions so quickly that the cash is debited from my account before I get home from the track!). I need rearsets to stop disintegrating the toes of my Alpinestars, and a bit more power in the shape of a full exhaust system from Micron, which is coming soon. I’d like to give 16.5 inch wheels and tyres a bash sometime soon too.

In the meantime, it’s back on with the road bodywork, swap the Dunlop slicks for Pirelli Diablo Corsa road tyres and put the gearing back where it was, ‘cos I’m off to the Nurburgring on the R1 for Easter – now that’s going to be fun!

Next round: Cadwell 28th/29th April

Thanks to:

MCN
Yamaha
www.benjyalloys.co.uk
V2Mal (www.visorvision.co.uk)
Dunlop
Maxton Suspension
Micron
Dynojet UK
SBS Brakes
B & C Express
Harris Performance
R & G
ANR UK
Regina chains
Phoenix Distribution
BSD
Rod Harwin Racing
Ben, Rookie, Alison, Mark, Tony, Bruce, Creature, Fatty Franklin

The bike:

2007 Yamaha YZF-R1

Engine: Std motor with Micron end cans, set up with a Power Commander by BSD. 169bhp at the rear wheel. Regina chain and Renthal sprockets.

Chassis:

Maxton rear shock and fork re-valve. Ohlins steering damper.

Standard 17-inch wheels shod with Dunlop slicks (195/70 x 17 rear, 125/80 x 17 front).

Standard brake discs and calipers, SBS Dual Carbon brake pads and HEL braided lines. Standard footpegs and levers.

Pattern fairing and tail unit by ANR UK – paintwork done courtesy of Halfords spray cans done by me and my mate Rookie. Graphics, including Edwards-style numbers by V2Mal. Stomp tank pads.

R & G crash protection.

Harris clip-ons.