Qualifying position: 7th
Superpole race: 6th
Race 1: 6th
Race 2: 6th
Championship position: 4th
How’s this for two-wheeled variety? Over the last four weekends I’ve raced in the GSX-R Cup at Misano, raced a C90-engined TZR125 at a moped endurance race at Lydd, rode around the New Forest for three days on a mountain bike, and finally raced my beloved R1 in the sixth round of the MRO Powerbike Championship at Snetterton.
Nothing can prepare you for racing at Snetterton as it’s a very fast, very scary place. If you’re on Powerbike pace your average lap speed is around 100mph, so should you be unlucky enough to crash it’s going to be a very, very big one. It’s also a bleak windy, inhospitable place to live for the weekend if the weather isn’t on your side. Lucky for us then that despite a shaky start when we turned up in artic conditions on Thursday night, the rest of the weekend turned out hot and sunny – a god send when you’re address for the weekend is a one-bedroom tent.
Friday practice was all about getting into the groove and adjusting to the high speeds. Getting black flagged on my second lap of the first session with smoke bellowing out of the back of the R1 wasn’t a good start though. It turned out that with the changes I’d made to the gearing the back wheel ended up closer to the back of the swingarm than usual. There was plenty of clearance with the bike up on its paddock stand, but down the fast Revett Straight rear tyres ‘grow’, and mine grew enough to rub on the swingarm badly.
This coincided with the oil light coming on and I thought I’d blown the old girl up! I changed the front and rear Renthal sprockets to get more clearance on the back wheel (whilst still keeping the same final drive) and the problem was solved – although I had to ride the rest of the day with a seriously squared-off knackered rear tyre, as I wanted to save my new rear Dunlop slick for qualifying and the races. All this was made worse by the strong winds, which made fast corners like Corams… interesting, shall we say.
It’s been a steep learning curve getting my R1 to work with the Dunlop slicks this year. These tyres are pukka, specialist racing tyres designed for racing bikes. Although the grip is immense, stick them on a road bike like mine and you can get into problems with instability. Thanks to help from Richard at Maxton Suspension and a good old fashioned bit of trail and error with suspension settings in practice we’ve finally got the R1 to work with the Dunlops, and can now get the very best from the incredible grip they give with zero instability. I’m not going to say how we’ve done it because it’s taken months to figure out but suffice to say the solution has been the total opposite to what I though it would be…
The pace was, as usual white hot at the front with the likes of John Paul Scott, Rob Elsmere, Peter Baker and Kieran Blair setting blisteringly fast lap times on Saturday’s two qualifying sessions and Superpole race. I ended up qualifying 7th and finished 6th in the Superpole race.
Sunday’s two races were a revelation for me as the leaders dragged me around nearly two seconds faster than I’d ever been around Snetterton before. I managed a best lap of 1:10.3 which I was pleased with despite only getting 6th place in each of the two main races. Best of all a gaggle of us were all battling for 2nd and 3rd place, which was big fun. Big respect has to go to Kieran Blair, who cleared off on his GSX-R1000 and won all three races over the weekend convincingly.
Even bigger respect has to go to my R1, which actually felt better the harder it was pushed. As well as being more agile and manoeuvrable than the ZX-10Rs, GSX-R1000s and Ducati 999 we were up against, the best bits about the bike was its poise in the heavy braking zones. SBS Dual Carbon racing pads have loads of feel and power, the Sigma slipper clutch lets you glide smoothly into the Esses and Russells and the Stomp tank pads help you hang on for dear life as you scrub off massive speed at the end of the Revett Straight.
Snetterton really does freak me out. Even on the sighting lap before the race my feet are bouncing on the pegs with nerves and I can barley keep up with the pack…and then the lights go out and its heaven. After the race I start shaking again with sheer excitement, relief and wide-eyed exhilaration.
Having the weather on our side, three good races and a bike and rider still in one piece at the end of it all made Snetterton one of the best races of the year, even though I didn’t manage to repeat the wins I had at Brands and Pembrey.
The R1 is back in road trim now and by the time you read this I’m off to do a track day with Focussed Events at Brands (Thursday 12th July) with my brother on his GSX-R750, which should be a laugh – then it’s back down south for a Sunday morning blast to Rye…I might see you there.
The next round of the championship is at Brands GP on 21/22 July, where I’ll be riding something very special instead of my bike. Watch this space…
Performance Parts Ltd
Rod Harwin Racing.
PJB Technical Services
Ben, Rookie, Trev, Alison, Mark, Tony, Bruce, Andy, Exit Racing.
2007 YAMAHA R1
Engine: Std motor with Micron full exhaust system, set up by BSD using a Dynojet Power Commander. 169bhp at the rear wheel. Regina chain and Renthal sprockets. Dynojet Quickshifter and Sigma slipper clutch.
Chassis: Maxton rear shock and fork re-valve. Ohlins steering damper.
Standard 17-inch wheels shod with Dunlop racing slicks
Galfer wavy discs and standard Yamaha calipers, SBS Dual Carbon brake pads and HEL braided lines. Standard Yamaha levers, Gilles rearsets.
Pattern fairing, screen and tail unit by ANR UK. Stomp tank pads.
R&G crash protection.