Staff bikes: Yamaha TZR250 - On every other Sunday
You’ll probably think I’m a bit of a slacker for not starting my TZR250 blog until I’ve already competed in three rounds of this season. Which is fair enough, but in my defence, the start of the season has been a whirlwind – the first three rounds were separated by just 12 days each.
Even pre-season, it was hectic – I treated my ragged ‘n crashed TZR to a new-to-me frame without the twists, dents and scuffs the old one had and a cosmetic overhaul, and fitted in a shakedown trackday as well to make sure something important (like the swingarm, or the engine) didn’t fall out the first time I used it. It’s also been subject to minor improvements over last year too.
So frankly, I’ve not had time. But with a month until the next round, I can now fill you in on how the bike is going.
Round 1: Oulton Park
I love Oulton – it’s an awesome track. But this year’s visit started badly. Halfway round at Hizzy’s Chicane in practice, I caught fellow YPMer Andy Muse. I opted to follow him through rather than try a hard pass in practice. His bike then chose the moment I opened the throttle to die. I hit the back of him, and fell off.
My ultra-tough spare fairing protected the bike OK – nothing more than a snapped footpeg and lever. But as I got up, blood started dripping from my glove. My hand had been squashed under the bike somewhere, ripping the nail out and bursting the skin.
Bemsee’s chief doctor Richard Leigh patched me up, and as I was otherwise uninjured, allowed me to race once I’d found a new glove to fit over the dressing and proved I could hold a handlebar and brake safely.
The affect on my riding wasn’t too dramatic – towards the end of races my whole hand ached under the strain of braking, and I got two sixths. I narrowly kept the place in the second race – the clutch gave out, slipping everywhere. Another (usually slower) rider caught and passed me, but I kept in touch enough to make the time up at Druids and outbrake him in to Lodge, holding the place right to the line.
Round 2: Pembrey
Apart from being an arsehole to reach (six hours in a van) and having slightly crap paddock facilities, Pembrey is another excellent circuit. Grippy with big-balls fast corners, it’s easy to learn but harder to truly understand and go fast.
After fixing a gearbox selector shaft issue discovered in practice (with help from walking workshop manual Paul Norris) the first race went well. I finished sixth on the back of a three-way battle for fourth, and had another great race for 7th in race two. Day two saw me drop back to 10th, and fought back to 7th in the last race in a thrilling dice, but it’s fair to say I was disappointed I didn’t keep up my early pace.
Round 3: Brands Hatch GP
While my fellow racers salivate over the rarely-used, prestigious Brands Hatch GP circuit, I’m not fussed by it – give me the drama of Oulton or Cadwell. It’s a nice enough track, but it doesn’t blow me away.
Maybe my indifference was part of the reason I struggled in race one – although I finished 8th, I was losing time on the GP part of the track, turning in to early for the blind bends.
I gave myself a stern talking to, and upped my game. It didn’t entirely result in better results – I actually finished 9th later, but I had been dicing for higher spots before being baulked by a back marker on the last lap. Day two brought a 7th and an eighth with some great dices with Keith Roissetter and Andrew Pipe.
As I bought it, the bike was a proven race winner with a freshly-built Graham File engine, so it’s no slouch. Last season I switched to SBS Dual Carbon pads which have given me some of the best brakes in the field – this winter I made further changes:
• Bridgestone BT003RS tyres. The newest sticky tyres available for the skinny rims, I don’t think I’ve really made them slide yet. Other riders don’t get on with them – both my bike and riding style suit them, creating a big fat contact patch. I think I need to start being braver on the throttle to exploit the grip. They were also good on a wet track day, though I’ve only raced in the dry so far.
• MotoMaster brake disc. Last year I ran a used Brembo disc from a 916 when I couldn’t afford to replace the EBC I bent in a crash. So for this year, I’m using a Dutch MotoMaster disc – they were recommended by SBS as an excellent match for the pads. I’m inclined to agree – from flat in sixth to 15mph at Pembrey’s hairpin, I gained three or four bike lengths back on some people. I also have EBC’s new X-Disc to trial too – a back to back test is to come.
• Powder coating. Strictly an exercise in looking shinier, my new frame as well as my wheels and swingarm were powder coated by a local firm – frame in black, wheels in silver. It was fairly cheap – but they did fail to mask bearing faces and disc mounts, so careful use of paint remover in those areas was required afterwards. Annoying, but not the end of the world.
• Venhill throttle. Actually, I had one of these last year, but it was bodged together after I smashed it up. A new throttle for just under £40 was well worth it.
Cadwell is the next round on 26-27 June – before then, the TZR is devouring some more money. The pistons are at the end of their service life, so new ones need fitting, and I need a reliable temperature gauge. That lot will consume £200. I also want to find more speed – I’m going on Motorsport Vision’s new Rider Development scheme and trialling the Level 2 tuition to try find more speed and break in to the top 5. I’ll be reviewing that soon.