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Spirit Racing 2009
The New Racing Bike
Those of you who have read our Potted History, (which this section replaces), Spirit Games grew out of Spirit Racing and Entertainments - the games business was supposed to finance the bike racing. 30 years seems quite long enough to wait, so while we were marginally ahead last year £1,000 was invested in a Tiger Cub with which to contest the 200cc class in the Classic Racing Motorcycle Club.
This was sorted out just in time for the last race of the season, where it was discovered that there were all of six bikes entered in the class, the other five all being Honda twins. The bike and I came third in our very first race, an unexpected pleasure. The two faster bikes were a French father and son team, as the race was at Brands Hatch in Kent it was quite likely that they would not be at races further north.
So here we are after the first races of 2009 and very strange things have been happening. Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend it was of course raining as we crossed the border into Wales but then IT STOPPED! Astonishing. Saturday and Sunday were pleasant and sunny! And there were even fewer bikes in the class, a couple of Honda twins again, another Tiger Cub, and a Honda single which proved hard to beat - but that was achieved once. To make it worth the 400 mile round trip Sally had allowed me to take the 500cc Triumph which I have used on the road and occasionally taken round a race track since 1978, and that too found itself in a small class (its wheels make it ineligible for the up-to-1972 races which would be its natural home.) To give the aircooled 1970's two-strokes a chance of winning they have been separated out from the later water-cooled bikes - they weren't expecting to find an older 4-stroke among them, and were even more surprised to find that it is quite capable of keeping up. When a carburretor came loose on the bike that was noticeably faster in the group, the 500 got a win too. I could hardly have hoped for a better start to the season.
The very next weekend had the British Racing Motorcycle Club - better known as Bemsee - celebrating its 100th anniversary by inviting some of the older bikes along at their Brands Hatch meeting, so it was a must to go there with the bike raced with the very same club back in 1978. With much of the competition being on well-prepared and up-graded Manx Nortons and Matchless G50's I was never going to be up front, but the bike held its own against the less exotic entrants, and my lap times were comparable with the bikes's last trip there all those years ago. But I really am going to try harder with overtaking, 40 years of riding on the road has resulted in a built in courtesy which needs overcoming. This lack of aggression is nothing to do with old age, of course....
So, next is the Thundersprint at Northwich, a bit of fun where the Tiger Cub has been asked to appear naked and unadorned, let's hope the weather is nice again so it doesn't get cold without its fairing. If any of you are going, look out for number 148. I might let James Toseland have a go on it if he plays his cards right.
Back down to earth at Donington Park where the lack of fettling time took its toll and neither bikes nor rider were quite competitive. It's quite a tricky circuit to learn with blind and off-camber bends, fun though, and once again the weather held up with only the briefest of showers. I would start to suspect that advancing old age is to blame for a poor performance, but the day before the meeting was the Morini Riders club track day at Cadwell Park, where I equalled my previous best lap time.
It is only a couple of weeks till the Brands Hatch round of the championship, where I hope to do rather better. I have started some work on the cylinder heads, though this has been interrupted by the need to do some brick-laying for a friend's embryonic micro-brewery. Being competitive is all very well, but one has to have one's priorities in life. We're looking at significant quantities of free beer here...
Back to Brands Hatch where the Cub vibrated several bits loose, blew its head gasket and developed a misfire, which took out most of Saturday, but there was still time for the Daytona's races, where it was going well but not quite well enough to keep up with most of the Suzukis and Yamahas it is up against. Lap times were better than at Easter, though, which was encouraging, with just another second off required to be up with the class leaders. And the weather stayed more-or-less dry, but the wind got up in the night and the gazebo tried to fly away, only being stopped by dint of being attached to the van.
Sunday morning, and a cure was finally found for the Cub's misfire.
Disappointingly, it went no faster, replacing the head gasket having failed to cure the blowing. But much fun was had catching up on the bends after being left behind on the straights. This resulted in plenty of useful overtaking practice, though eventually finishing close to last.
On the Daytona, that extra second was found in the first Sunday race, resulting in a third place in class. Allowing for one bend having been tightened up since the 70's, that is as fast as I have ever been, which put a smile on my face.
Yes, there really has been a long gap in the racing. The August meeting at Croft was cancelled due to people who had chosen to live near a long-established circuit complaining about the noise, which has put a dampener on things, with increasingly stringent noise restrictions making it hard to keep the old bikes going properly. Of course, people with the sort of money involved in Formula One can make as much noise as they like...
The September meeting was at Snetterton in Norfolk, and while I am familiar with the circuit, that means that I am aware of the two long straights where slower bikes can get seriously left behind. It was also a busy summer both in and out of the shop, with precious little time available for working on the bikes, so I gave that one a miss.
One event attended was the Beezumph Rally at Cadwell Park, with two days of track sessions and socialising.
There was another racing Cub there, almost identical in performance to mine, and we were both going faster and faster until both bikes played up, mine having a gearbox problem. Lap times were down to within a couple of seconds of the winning time at last year's CRMC 200cc races there, which was most encouraging. The Daytona was also going quite well, but gradually throwing out more and more oil, getting rather too messy, so that new cylinder head really did need sorting out.
Cadwell Park October 2009
So, it is October and off to Cadwell Park once more, for the last race meeting of the year. The Cub's gearbox was fixed, the rest left alone apart from adjusting the timing. The Daytona had its new head on, which seemed to fit OK, but when it comes to potential oil leaks there is a world of difference between a few minutes of running in the back garden and several laps of thrashing round a race track. A quieter silencer that had worked quite well at Beezumph was still on the bike, but it was planned to use the marginal one if it passed the noise test - hard to predict as the results vary wildly from test to test. Bike and rider would need to be at their best to be competitive in the 500cc class. There was also the concern that a three day trip to Italy the previous weekend had left the rider half a stone overweight...
Well, it was certainly different from what was expected. On the plus side, the weather was astonishingly good for the time of year, following the pattern set at the early meetings of raining on Friday evening, clearing up with just a brief shower over the weekend. The track was very slippery to start with as a result, and yours truly fell off the Cub in the second lap of practice. The compulsory medical check was completed in time for the last practice session on the Daytona, while Jenny, chief mechanic and brolly girl, straightened out the Cub. The first race on each bike was fairly OK, the Daytona going well but needing just a bit extra as expected, the Cub going more slowly than last time out, but at least I beat Angie who had thoroughly humbled me at Donington, and there was a good dice with a Dutch Honda. Due to lots of people falling off throughout the day, the light was starting to fade by the second Daytona race, it didn't feel excessively dark but everyone's lap times were considerably slower. If I'd gone as fast as in the first race I'd have won the class instead of being near the back! But the bike was starting to leak too much oil to ignore; it was too dark to start work on it so the evening was devoted to eating, drinking and listening to a rather good band in the bar.
First thing Sunday there was just time to fettle the Cub a bit before its first race, on the last lap of which the plug cap came off so it didn't finish. Then it was down to rebuilding the whole top end of the Daytona engine with some new gaskets and plenty of silicone rubber. All went well at first, but it became apparent that more experimentation would be required to be sure of the new head fitting in a leak-proof manner, so the old one was hastily reverted to. It was back together and fired up with 5 minutes to go before the Cub was due out for its last race, no time to swap the silencer over but at least the oil appeared to be staying inside. The Cub's timing had been advanced to somewhere near the setting of a couple of months previously, and it did go rather better but the leaders were away into the distance. As it stands, there is no way the Cub and I can go that fast, even cutting down on the beer, pasta and ice cream. That Dutch bike was up at the front too, either he was just learning the circuit in the first race or one of the cylinders was disconnected... So, some thinking to do over the winter.
The Daytona went quite well, but not quite well enough - it was gratifying that the rebuild worked, but a second and a half per lap slower than in the first race made the difference between third in class and almost last. For a while I was catching the two bikes I needed to overtake but they started going faster - I can't help but think that I should have pulled my finger out and found that little extra speed, but it didn't feel as though I was not trying! More to think about over the winter, but first I need to sell lots of games so that I can afford to race at all...
We were so busy rebuilding the bike that we didn't get any pictures at the circuit so here is a link to a video of the event instead.
Spirit Games (Est. 1984, Lefglow Ltd) - Supplying role playing games (RPG), wargames rules, miniatures and scenery, new and traditional board and card games for the last 34 years
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