2015 R5 Oulton Park

Following a 2 month break, Oulton Park marked my return to racing but it quickly became a very frustrating weekend. My aim was to break into the top 10 but braking gremlins put pay to that after my brakes failed twice, first bringing my qualifying session to a premature end after just 2 laps (leaving me 19th on the grid) and later in warm-up, again after 2 laps.

Between qualifying on Friday and warm-up on Saturday, James Adams #131, Nathan Owen #158 and I, spent 4+ hours stripping and rebuilding the brakes and were pretty sure we’d solved it, however we had not, meaning I managed a total of 5 laps during qualifying and warm-up.
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2015 R2 Donington Park

At Brands Hatch last month, I found my feeling of apprehension to be crippling and it showed in my riding and results. My head just wasn’t in the right place having not raced in such a long time. This month however, in the run up to Donington Park, my feeling was very much different, I was feeling confident that I could be competitive again and my goal was to get myself inside the top 15 in all sessions.

Warped front brake disc, this should be flat!
Warped front brake disc, this should be flat!

Test Day

Friday’s test day didn’t go quite how I envisioned and any productive track time was very limited due to braking problems all day, which included brake fade, no brakes, brake pads falling apart and finally a warped disc. Thankfully I had a spare OE disc which I fitted for the final session and I had no further problems throughout the weekend. My best lap time on the test day was 1:25.0.
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2015 R1 Brands Hatch

Brands probably went about as well as I could have realistically hoped, so I probably should be happy. With limited track time prior to this the first race meeting, the weekend became more of an extended test session if the truth be told.

2015 - R1 Brands Hatch
Exiting Clearways at Brands Hatch
(c) www.AE-Photography.co.uk

It was the first time I’d managed more than about 8 dry laps in a row without the red flags coming out like at Oulton Park (where I got 18 laps in all day!). Steve Reynolds (The Plastics Surgery) and I spent the whole weekend working towards a base setting – if that’s possible on something with virtually no settings.

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2015 Pre-season testing day 2

Oulton Park test

My second day of pre-season testing turned out to be a giant waste of time, money and effort, thanks entirely to some overzealous / stupid people crashing their brains out one after the other after another. The endless stream of red flags and shortened sessions did nothing to stem the lemming like behaviour as people crashed on out laps and in laps all flippin day.

I managed to clock up only 18 laps all day. On no less than THREE occasions I only made it to the end of pit lane before the red flags were brought out.

The only good thing to come out of the day was the discovery of how little ground clearance there was on the side that the exhaust exits on, the downpipes decked out immediately and I spent the next hour redrilling brackets and moving it all out the way.

That’s the way it goes I suppose. Roll on Brands Hatch.

2015 Pre-season testing day 1

2015 Pre-season testing - Day 1 (c) Alex James Photography
(c) Alex James Photography

I did it! I actually got to ride an actual motorcycle on an actual race track, I can still hardly believe it.

On Valentine’s Day 2015, a full 348 weeks (6 years 8 months) since I last rode on track and 120 weeks (2 years 3 months) since I rode a bike at all, at a cold and wet Mallory Park, I made a very steady appearance at a No Limits track day.

It was a bit of a culture shock as you can imagine. My first ride on an unfamiliar and as yet untested motorcycle, using very worn out wet tyres (having never used wets) on a wet racetrack I’d not seen since 2008. It was a lot to get my head around. Continue reading

Bike preparation is underway

Air filters - New v Old
Air filters – New v Old

Just thought I’d share some photos to prove that I’ve finally taken the bike off it’s stand, sorry I mean the trailer.

Stripping down and servicing my #1 bike for the first time
Stripping down and servicing my #1 bike for the first time

Having been unable to get my CBR400 running on any more than 3-cylinders when doing the deal for the CB500s, I chuckled at the irony when today I couldn’t get the flaming CB500 running either. I changed the spark plugs and air filter, added some fresh fuel and hey presto she burst into life – filling my garage with black smoke – which disappeared once the bike warmed up, woo hoo!

I’ve also fitted some new Renthal handlebars and grips, done a mini service and started to remove the much damaged exhaust system.

Renthal handlebars & gwips
Renthal handlebars & gwips

Bad bits – There’s a water leak coming from the water pump housing, so I’m hoping it’s just the o-ring and not the pump itself, as that’s a £150 fix.

I’m taking the bike into REPS Motorcycles on Monday to run it on their dyno and have a few servicing jobs done that are beyond my tool box.

My bikes have arrived

Following an epic day out on Saturday with my friend and 1998 CB500 Cup team-mate Steve Reynolds, owner of The Plastics Surgery, I am pleased to announce that I am now the proud owner of not one, but TWO Honda CB500 motorcycles.

Steve Reynolds, grateful for day release?
Steve Reynolds, grateful for day release?
Spare bike in the Landy
Spare bike in the Landy

One bike is already in race trim and requires minimal fettling, although we won’t let that stop us from stripping and rebuilding it, whilst the second bike resembles little more than a heavy lump of metal and plastic, as it doesn’t have any wheels or forks attached, so that made moving it around somewhat awkward and it made the trip back from Stoke sat in the back of Steve’s Land Rover (right).

There are only 10 weeks until the season begins, although Xmas and New Year are going to reduce preparation time to more like 9 weeks, so the pressure is really on now to get everything sorted in time. Wish me luck!

Back on a CB500 after 16 years

1998 CB500 Cup race at Donington
1998 CB500 Cup race at Donington

Yes, it’s true, 2015 will mark sixteen years since I last raced a CB500 – and 7 years since I last raced anything at all. I cut my racing teeth in the 1998 and 1999 British Honda CB500 Cups, finishing 4th overall as a novice in ’98 and then winning my first British championship race during the ’99 season, so it should come as no surprise that I have a huge soft spot for the 500cc Honda twin.

The series is now hosted by Thundersport GB, a club whose racing categories can all boast the greatest club racing talent and depth of field in the UK, and that is certainly true in the (now re-branded) Thundersport 500 category.

For me, 2015 will be a learning year (at least the first race), I’m rusty as hell and no spring chicken any more, bah humbug! It would be nice to score points from the start and then get in amongst the top-6 before the end of the season.