Since Brands Hatch its been a busy old time - Everyone who watched at Brands said I looked like I lacked power from the front running guys and the ones I was immediately dicing with. This was something I needed to address - as everyone knows the bike just hasn't felt like its performed right since the rebuild.
So it was decided with the trip to Dynotech the Tuesday after the meeting I had to change something - the decision was to remove the second base gasket and use the cylinder head off my second engine.
So all was done before the visit to Bramley - we ran it up on the dyno and bearing in mind they ran it in 2001 the first time I had the Swarbricks on and it made 56.3 bhp. The best reading was 51.3 - Not good. I chatted to them about what had changed, and about the warning of my pistons hitting the heads on my original head.
But for me my next move was to put the bike back to what it was before the crank rebuild - i.e. 1 base gasket and my original skimmed head. The reason for the lack of power at the top was due to lower compression, introduced by the standard head.
Dale kindly agreed to help me get the bike stripped - Al at Sterlings had taken my forks in to rebuild them after the fluid leaks at Brands and I also ordered a set of float valves to stop the fluid pouring out the carbs at will - £17 each!
So Thursday came and we sorted the carbs out and all that was needed now was to replace the head - Paul Hodge came round to say hi and drink my beer while we got on with the job. Now the fun started. Once we took the head off Dale noticed a chip out of the crown of the piston on the Right cylinder and further inspection could see some scoring of the bore - this was not my year. Never before have I had so much trouble.
My plan now to get the head and old pistons inspected by Dynotech and also to check the condition of the bore - to see if it needed treatment or not. This was done on Friday and after speaking to Dave Hammond, Neil Ronketti, Crackers and Dynotech it was thought the bore would be fine.
On Saturday I ordered a new piston which came in on Tuesday the guys at Dynotech kindly rescheduled to see me on Wednesday. collected the forks from Al on Monday afternoon and spent many hours in the garage getting it all back to normal firing it up at 10pm on Tuesday evening - ah music to my ears
After work on Wednesday a return trip to Bramley, to get it back on the dyno - ran it up for about 15mins to 'bed' the piston in before doing the runs - it was like being in a waiting room - the bike in the dyno room, me praying for an extra 10 percent power.
So the time came when they opened the door to the dyno room, ear defenders off and they showed me the screen to confirm 55.4 through the gears and its running rich. Fecking superb - that was more like it - and its running slightly rich due to me putting the jets up earlier in the year - if I down jet I should break the 56 mark and how happy was I. The bike also sounded great and the fuel stayed in the carbs - Result - Now all I had to do was make sure I turned this extra power into results.
The paddock as usual starts to move around 6am, I managed to grab some extra Zzzzzz's till 7am when I finally got up - Once again the forecasted weather of showers did not look like it was going to happen - The first job was to get scruited which was uneventful - Bally helped me out while I got my clothing checked and he got the bike scruited - top man. Signed on filled the bike up with fuel and got ready for practice - I took the tickets up to the gate and a kind lady (step mother to Stuart Wallace) gave me a lift up there and back.
Practice went well - I had a close one at the elbow - we were sharing with the Rookie 4's and I was behind a 400 going into the elbow he lost it on the exit and went down. Oh my god I have been here before and ended up in the tyre wall last time - I sat it up, yanked the anchors on the front locked up - I was heading off the circuit now the bike in front of me and the rider heading towards me.
Eventually a flaying arm hit the side of my bike and I just managed to avoid the bike and crashing as I left the tarmac. I rejoined the track a little further up the hill after grass tracking for a while. Good job I'm so alert at 9:30 in the morning.
The bike felt ok, the hairpin didn't feel as slippy as last time here - I felt comfortable enough although a little nervous at the prospect of 32 TZR and LC's lining up on the grid.
Poor old Bally still had troubles with his bike, but Shirley Ellis came to the rescue again and lent him her spare bike - he had to get re-scruited but once all ok - at least he was going to get out and get some points. Nice one Shirl.
This was a big grid, so many old names back to the roots of TZR racing, Scott Allaway, Neil Ronketti, Andy Bryant, Daz Mowat back out again, Paul Ling, and last years winner Simon Tomlinson back to show us all how to do it - Could he push Rand to the limit?
Race 1. - Gearing 14/44 - Row 1 Position 3 - Dry
I took my 3rd place on the grid that I had grabbed back from Frank at Brands with the other usual suspects on the front row, Tony, Jon and obviously Frank to my right, Bally, Martyn white and Keith on the row behind. I just prayed my bike held together after all the hassle over the last 2 weeks.
Again I was nervous as hell - ran the warm up lap and re-assembled on the grid - The flag man gave us the nod and the lights went to Red and then green - here we go.
Tony and Jon led into Pilgrims with me and frank fighting for the next 2 places, along the back straight and Martyn white came underneath me as he always does into the elbow. The first couple of laps saw the 4 of us fighting it out then Martyn got past Jon to promote him to second. On about lap 4 Darren came by me and I followed him for a couple of laps - then I made my move, at the harpin, but took a wide line and he got me back on the exit, the same happened again on the next lap - I knew I was screwing up, but I couldn't hold the line round the hairpin.
I have the utmost respect for this guy, he won the championship a few years back and never have I been able to stay this close to him, or even make a move on him - I was enjoying it.
The bike was running superbly, I could feel the extra horses along the back straight and up the hill - I knew I had to get by him before the hairpin so made my move at the elbow and made it stick. Then with 3 laps to go we came across the back markers - Daz was obviously all over the back of me like a rash, and he played the perfect game - he got the better of me going into paddock on the inside line - Nothing I could do - as we came round for the next lap I was all over the back of him, tempted to make a move at paddock, but we had a back marker right in front of us Darren took the inside line and I had to go round the outside, but the slower rider saw Darren and picked it up, forcing me even wider.
That was it, he had the advantage, the last flag came out and I towed him all the way round - Tony won it, Martyn was 2nd, Jon 3rd, Daz 4th and me 5th - I had no idea what was going on behind me, but I was pleased with the result - another 5th - The front 3 had lost us, but we finished with less than half a second in it.
Now I have to say Wayne had the ride of his life, he has never been to Lydden before ever and he brought it home in 6th with a lap time of 48.22 - for his first time ever I have to say that was the result of the race. Keith was 7th, Frank 8th and Tomo in 9th again a good result considering he started at the back of the grid. Bally brought Shirley's bike home in 12th which is not bad at all considering he has never ridden it before and has a reported 49bhp limit.
Checked the bike over - all seemed fine, fuelled up and left it for the next race. The only thing we did was to change the right hand foot peg - I had started to demolish the slider on my right foot of the new boots - not good - But I hooked up with Keith and he gave me the spare sets I had bought last week - we figured by putting a smaller peg on that is slightly higher I would save my slider and used a piece of duct tape on it to see if my foot was still going down in race 2.
Lunch came and went and then our second race for the day came around. bally replaced some parts on his bike and all seemed well for race 2.
Race 2 - gearing 14/44 - Row 2 Grid Position 5 - Dry and Sunny.
Back to row 2 for this one just behind Tony and Martyn who got that excellent 2nd in race 1. Assembled on the grid, ran the warm up lap and got ready to go again.
The lights seemed to be on red for ages - and then green - got off to a good start, with the leading pack into the first few corners - I was 4th behind Martyn with Jon and Tony ahead - I was faster into the corners than him , but couldn't make the move - then before I knew it Tomo came under me at the Elbow and a lap later Bally came by me - that was my wake up call.
I took him and chased down Tomo, I caught and passed him going into the elbow on the inside and he had to pick it up, as I drove up the hill the red flags came out - John Severs, Shirley's partner had gone down heavily at Chessons, the ambulances were out and we gathered on the slope down to Paddock.
He was eventually taken to the med center while we hoped he was ok - Quite what is going through Shirley's mind at that moment god only knows.
We were gridded as we crossed the line before the red flags that changed the order somewhat I was put back to 6th, and tomo was on my left in 5th with Bally on my right in 7th - 1 warm up lap and 5 laps - this was going to be a mad dash.
I got a good restart and was again up with the main pack on the second lap I was 5th behind Martyn white who I wanted to get past - I got good drive down the hill out of the hairpin and kept my outside line - I went across the front of him and just prayed he held his line otherwise it could have been quite nasty - but he is a solid rider and did just that. I must have got away from him as I chased the pack now in 5th - Tomo was hard after Tony and with 2 laps to go, Tony finally gave way and crashed at the hairpin, leaving Tomo to lead, Jon and Daz following with me in hot pursuit - I was close to them but as I tried to get better drive out the hairpin, I could feel the rear breaking away - This slowed me down a little and they just eeeked that bit away from every time - but I crossed the line in 4th - That'll do.
So it looked like Tomo won the race, but actually for the first time I have ever known it they aggregated the times as a two part race and the win was handed to Jon Puk, Daz 2nd, Tomo 3rd and me 4th - Martyn 5th, Bally 6th, Keith 7th, Frank 8th and Wayne 9th a bit more freaked in that race due to some slides.
So day 1 over and I was happy - consolidated my 3rd place a little more as Frank was down the field a bit - Simon left to go, and we watched the afternoons races with beer in hand - I have to say I watched the clubman's 1300 races and Supersport 600 races - there is a Guy called Bob Collins on a 600 and he is a talent I can tell ya - in the Clubmans 1300 he finished second - he is that good, he is likened to Shakey Byrne when he started out - A talent that will be on a TV near you soon - Oh did I mention he is a rookie in his first year of racing and is now holding the lap record for Lydden on a 600. At the end of each race he entertains the crowd with one handed, one legged wheelies followed by stoppies in the exit lane. Simply amazing....
The heavens had opened in the evening and the sun was struggling to come out to dry it all off, we all walked the track, mainly to kill time as the racing was not starting until 1pm - it was very slippy where it was wet, but as long as it didn't rain those patches would be dried up.
Denise's Sister and Brother in law turned up to watch including a friend of theirs called Chris, so thanks to them for coming along.
Race 1 - gearing 14/44 - Row 1 Grid position 4 - Dry
I had watched the practice and the first race and nothing seemed slippy out there, it was starting to warm up now - I used the warm up lap just to bring the tyres back to temperature and waited for the lights to go Green.
Got another good start into Pilgrims, but had my nose chopped off by 1 rider which affected my drive up the back straight - Turning into the esses, Martyn came under me - and forced me wide and Bally was also trying to get round me so he was forced to sit it up affecting his drive up the hill. Tony was starting from the back row due to his DNF, so it was only going to be a matter of time before he would come by, just when really ... I was with the leading pack pretty much all the way, again just losing my time at the hairpin as the back just kept sliding out as I got on the power - So I was holding 4th and then as I approached the elbow on about lap 7 I just caught a bike out the corner of my eye on my inside - Who could this be - it was a green bike and sure enough it was Tony. I followed him for a lap and he took such a wider line round Pilgrims and Chessons - he was so far out how he stayed on I'll never know, but he was soon with the bikes ahead and dropping me slowly - he got past Darren and Tomo and was challenging Puk for the lead, but Jon held him off to the line - Again I was less than a second behind Darren but still not good enough to get past him. So final result was Jon, Tony, Tomo, Daz, me, Martyn, Bally, Mark Foster, Keith, Wayne rounding off the top 10.
Frank got 11th and was just struggling to find his pace he just couldn't put his finger on it - it felt as fast as last time here, but the times are slower.
The wind was picking up, I wandered round to see Keith, who was down jetting slightly in an effort to get some more power from the bike - like Frank he just complained of not being able to get 'on it' - After speaking about his troubles the best thing for him is to call in a favour and get his bike Dyno'd to get a starting point. Bally was complaining of a binding brake so I offered some help on that - In all honesty, I didn't do a lot apart from distract him and pump the lever a couple of times. Looks like a dust seal had gone and was binding on at least one piston, but it was certainly a lot better.
So before my final race - Denise helped me take the gazebo down, before it flew away - Everything was pretty much packed - just need to get the bike loaded in after the race and then everything else around it. No lunch today due to the late start so my second race seemed to come round a lot quicker that Saturday.
Race 2 - Gearing 14/44 - Row 2 Grid position 5 - Dry
Gridded in 5th again due to my race 1 result - ran the warm up lap and waited and waited for the green to go - off into Pilgrims and I'm tucked in behind Tomo who made a mistake or something happened at the first corner and sat his bike up - That forced me wide and affected drive to the Elbow - but I got there before him - Bally also had a near miss going into the back of Tomo, but somehow managed to save his front end slide as he yanked the brakes on - I was running in 3rd as we got out of the elbow, so not sure where Daz was, I stayed with Jon as best I could and even made a move on him a couple of times - once at the hairpin,. and once at the elbow, both times my gear was wrong and lost drive so he had the better of me both times - but I was with him all the way, until I ran wide at Chessons and Tomo capitalised - He got on the inside me at the elbow and took 3rd - I did all I could to get past, I was snaking it into the elbow, as I did all I could to get my speed down, I could stay with them but not get by them but not past and it stayed like this for the next 5 laps or so - The bike was absolutely on top form, I felt like I was taking Pilgrims faster than ever and just holding a nice throttle all the way round, til it felt safe to get back on the gas - As we hit the last lap, I didn't really think I could get past, but I was pushing all the way, Through the elbow I got great drive and saw John take an evasive move to his left to stop his nose being cut off from Tomo on his left hand side - I saw the opening and took it I gassed up the hill, left my anchors as late as I dare and squeezed in between Jon and Tomo - 3rd - Now I normally drift wide here - I just held it as tight as possible and took off down the slope in a defensive position mid way in the track, I prayed in that split second that Tomo would not get on my inside and push me wide, he didn't I held 3rd to the line .49 of a second behind Jon.
Tony won it Martyn was behind Tomo in 5th, with Bally, Wayne, Daz, Mark and Richard Newman bringing up the top 10.
I have managed to consolidate my position a bit more in 3rd place due to the results this weekend and now have a 42 point advantage on Frank, but as I say after every week its still early days and I'm 129 points behind Jon, whose excellent results this weekend pushed me further behind him. After Gary and Denise helped me pack the van, I went to see Wayne who was over the moon with his result in the last race.
I watched the last SS600 race again to see Bob Collins romp home in pure style - you could see the whole of the crowd in total awe of this bloke - what a fantastic way to finish a fantastic weekend.
Thanks to Alan at Sterlings for doing a top job on my forks they are better than ever now, and also to the guys at Dynotech for their help and advice with regards my engine issues - Thanks again to everyone that turned up to watch and help out especially Gary and Denise who stayed the full weekend, and helped out with anything that was needed.