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MCN's Michael Neeves - MRO Powerbike Championships at Pembrey

By Michael Neeves -

 31 May 2007 10:16

MRO Powerbike championship. Round 5 – Pembrey 26/27th May 2007.

Qualifying: 3rd
Superpole race: DNF 
Race 1: 3rd
Race 2: 1st
Championship position: 4th

When I won my first ever MRO Powerbike race on my R1 last time out at Brands Hatch, it was the first time I’d won a race for 14 years.

But somehow (and I’m still not sure how) I only had to wait 14 days for my next one, when I won Race Two at the Pembrey round last weekend. I think I might change my racing number from five to 14.

Before I go on though I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the staff at Bemsee for such a well organised event, and specifically all the marshals, recovery and medical crews for having to endure the most miserable wet, windy and cold weather imaginable on Sunday; all so we can go out and play on our motorbikes.

You’re all stars, especially ‘Stormin’ Norman Lowes who is the last friendly face we see before he lets us out of the collecting area and out onto the track.

Living in the paddock for a weekend in the awful weather, huddled up in freezing cold awnings is a pretty miserable experience for the riders, but again even worse for all the helpers, friends, families and supporters, who don’t even get to do the fun bit of riding the bike. You’re all mad!

Back to the racing and Pembrey was the first time we’ve had all year to actually do a full test session on the Friday before the meeting.

For two of the previous races I’ve had to work, and for the other two I either got knocked off at the beginning of the day (round one, Brands) or the sessions were blighted by bad weather (round four, Brands).

We’ve never really had time to dial the Maxton suspension in to suit the Dunlop racing slicks, which can affect the bike’s handling quite substantially compared to the road tyres the R1 is designed to use.

Although seriously grippy, the Dunlops have a very tall sidewall, a steep and pointy profile and have a very stiff construction. All this affects the R1’s stability and steering characteristics.

It took all day Friday, the first qualifying session on Saturday and half way through the final qualifying session to nail the set-up and then the R1 just sailed around the track with phenomenal grip and poise; it was a revelation and good enough to let us qualify in third place, just a few tenths behind pole man John Paul Scott on his Ducati 1098.

I was hoping for good things in the Superpole race at the end of Saturday, but it all went horribly wrong when a bunch of us fell foul to Pembrey’s walking pace Turn One hairpin.

I got shunted from behind when I was almost clear of the corner in third position and went into second place man Peter Baker; six of us ended up on the floor. With the race fairing hanging off, the screen broken and the fairing bracket bent it was game over for Saturday.

Although we got the bike repaired for Sunday’s two main races (luckily the tank wasn’t marked, so when I turned it back to a road bike earlier this week you’d never know it’s been on the floor) we couldn’t do much about fixing the weather – it felt more like mid-January than the end of May.

Although I quite like the wet, I’d rather have a dry race as we’d spent so much time setting the R1 up. It’s definitely more fun to ride in the dry than skate around with your heart in your mouth in the wet too - not to mention nicer for the people helping you.

Without any wet-weather practice race one was all about learning how to ride the R1 at this wet, puddle-strewn track.

Things that definitely helped me were the new Sigma slipper clutch I’ve just had fitted, which helps keep the bike nice and stable when changing down through the gears – especially helpful in the wet when braking for that Mickey Mouse hairpin.

The reduction in engine braking is also good on the approach to the tight corner which leads onto the back straight, where you’re braking and changing down while still leant over.

I ended up finishing in third place behind winner John Paul Scott and Michael Thompson in second. I raced with Michael in the Forza Extreme championship last year and now again that we’ve both moved up to the MRO championship.

He’s a tough competitor, awesome in the wet, and the sight of me seems always seems to be a red rag to him for some reason.

For race two I came out of the first corner in second behind Scott and managed to squeeze past him for the lead after a few laps; I then got my head down to try and pull away.

I really should get someone to do a pit board for me because out front I never had a clue how many laps I had to go or how far the person behind me was. With around five laps to go that man Thompson appeared and took me into the hairpin. Arse.

He initially pulled quite a decent gap on me but once I’d got my composure back I caught back up. On the last lap I managed to squeeze by along the start straight, but he got me straight back again into the hairpin.

I’d planned to stay behind until the final corner where I could get slightly better drive and have another go along the straight but he turned the wick up again, pushed a bit too hard and lost the front on one of the left-handers behind the pits and crashed out.

I didn’t have a clue how far behind the next man was so kept on pushing to cross the finish line three seconds ahead of Scott.

To win another Powerbike race is something I’d never thought I’d do again in my wildest dreams and it certainly made the long drive back home to Stamford less painful than it otherwise could have been.

Now after three race weekends in a row (I did a guest ride on the KTM Super Duke Battle bike at Snetterton BSB round as well the other weekend) I’ve got a few weekends off to do some normal stuff like see my friends and watch some bike racing on the box.

I’m out again in three weekend’s time doing a guest ride in the GSX-R Cup at the Misano WSB round (fingers crossed it will be a bit warmer there) then we’ll be looking forward to the next MRO round at Snetterton. I can’t wait.

Next round: Snetterton 7th/8th July

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

The bike:
2007 Yamaha YZF-R1
Engine: Std motor with Micron full race exhaust, set up with a Dynojet Power Commander and quick shifter by BSD. 169bhp at the rear wheel. Regina chain and Renthal sprockets. Sigma slipper clutch.
Chassis:
Maxton rear shock and fork re-valve. Ohlins steering damper.
Standard 17-inch wheels shod with Dunlop slicks (195/65 x 17 rear, 125/80 x 17 front).
Standard brake calipers and Galfer wavy discs, SBS Dual Carbon brake pads and HEL braided lines. Standard levers and Gilles footrests.
Pattern fairing and tail unit by ANR UK – paintwork done courtesy of Halfords spray cans in my garage by my mate Rookie and me. Graphics, including Edwards-style numbers by V2Mal. Stomp tank pads.
R & G crash protection.
Harris clip-ons.