Wednesday, 18 December 2013

2014 Road Race Dates

Hi all

Dates for next years road race season are out so I can now start to organise which events I want to do. If I'm honest all of them but know that won't happen. Still is good to have them this early so that I at least feel the season is nearly here as am missing racing.

April 26th Cookstown

May 3rd Tandragee

June 28th Bush

July 5th Skerries

July 7th - 10th Southern 100

July 13th Walderstown

July 20th Cork

July 26th Armoy

August 2nd Mid Antrim

August 10th Cahir

August 13th - 16th Dundrod

August 16th - 29th Manx Grand Prix

August 24th Kells

September 7th Killalane



As you can see July is a hectic month, as is August. It does seem strange that Kells is on the same time as The Manx, so hope that is changed so as not to clash.

I also hope all of these go ahead as in the past some have not taken place for various, mostly financial reasons.

My plan is still to do the same races as I've previously posted but would like to do Kells and Bush as well if possible.

Still will give me something to think about over Christmas.

Cheers
Stuart

Friday, 6 December 2013

Road Racing News Coverage

Hi all

Not sure how many of you have seen the Road Racing News site, but they have a daily update for all things road racing, and today Stevie did a post on me, which was good of him.

Anyway you can find what he wrote, and keep up with the latest road racing goings on at  www.roadracingnews.co.uk

Cheers
Stuart


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Supertwin Update

Hi all

Well last weekend I was in Northern Ireland and so whilst there had a closer look at my new supertwin.

It was with much trepidation that I lifted the cover on my new toy as feared I'd had a case of 'the rose tinted glasses' when I bought her, but my fears were in vain, she's pretty tidy.

There are enough little things to fiddle with, so that will keep me happy as like to tinker when I can.

First job was to start her, but sadly the battery had gone flat. Luckily my box of tools that I posted, you can't take tools on Easyjet,even in the hold,  included a battery charger, so first job was to get to the battery and stick it on charge.

With that on charge I had time to look around and see what was what.

Noel admitted he was no mechanic, but still she was not too bad. The main thing being is she needs a good clean, and the best way to do that is with the fairing off.

Talking of the fairing, does anyone know what bike it's off? That may sound like a daft question but SV650's tend to use other race fairings on them. If you do know what it came off I'd appreciate it if you could let me know please?

With the fairing off I could see everything was where it should be and that there are just a few bits which I want to tidy up. The wiring loom is complete so will take out any spare wires, that way if you have a problem you don't have to fight your way through lots of wires that don't do anything to get to the ones that you need. I also like good bolts with not too many different types, just so it's easier to take things apart in a rush if needs be, you don't want to have to use 6 different spanners to take something apart if you have matching bolts which means you only need 3 to do the job.

I bought a few bits over with me so that I can make new spacers, footpegs etc ready to take back with me when I go over next.

I was going to bring the wiring loom back but thought better of trying to explain it at airport security, I had enough problems bringing back what I did, fingers crossed I don't get any problems on my return.

So anyway below are a couple of pictures of the bike as I left her, a bit different than the pictures in the previous photo's I posted of her.      






As you can see the exhaust can has taken a bit of a battering at some point and really this is the worst part of it, and even that's not too big a job to fix.

Between now and the next time I go over I've got some spacers, crash bungs and footpegs to make. I'm also waiting for various bolts to arrive, so still plenty to do.

Until the next time

Cheers
Stuart


Friday, 15 November 2013

Small Update & Some Pictures

Hi all

Just so you know I've not forgotten about you all.

Well my Supertwin has made it as far as Northern Ireland thanks to my Northern Irish Pit Crew, namely Kyra, Adrian and Joshua, many thanks to them all for that.

I also had word from MCUI President Jack Agnew that there will still be a 400 class next year on the roads which is great news as I do enjoy racing my 400. This also means that my 600 is now for sale, so if anyone out there is interested in a 2007 ZX6R with spare wheels and various other race spares then get them to drop me a line as she needs to go, sadly.

I'm off over to see the Supertwin next weekend so that I can have a proper look at her, expect an update next week, all being well.

I arrived home today to find a CD of pictures from Jimmy Windows, who has supplied me with some pictures I've already posted.

It was fantastic to see these ones as it brought back some great memories from this season. It does seem like an age ago, yet was only two months ago.

So here you go a selection of some great pictures.








I think you'll agree Jimmy takes a great picture so many thanks to him for these ones.

So until next week when I hope to update you as to how my Supertwin is looking.

Cheers
Stuart
 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Small Update

Hi all

Well after much research and scouring various web sites I've come to the conclusion that I will be racing a Suzuki SV650 in the Supertwins and Junior Support Classes next year.

So let me introduce you to my steed, oh I did mention I'd bought one didn't I?






Some of you may recognise this as Smurf Racings SV. Noel is moving up to 600's so decided to sell his supertwin to finance the move.

She's a 2006 model with uprated suspension front and rear. A Power Commander sorts the fuelling and an M4 exhaust takes care of getting rid of the gases. This together with some tuning means she's putting out about 84hp, which is plenty for me to be getting on with. There are lots of other modifications so only really a case of giving her a good clean and hopefully a lick of paint.

She also comes with spare wheels and all the sprockets needed for the Irish road circuits which is good to have.

I decided on a Suzuki over a Kawasaki, mainly due to price. I spoke with a tuner, who tunes both SV's and ER's and he said that there is not much to choose from in either. Colin reckons that if you sepnt £5k on building an SV, to build a similar spec ER would cost you £8k, this was apparent when talking to guys with ER's for sale.  To top it all he races an SV and had the second fastest lap at last years Manx Grand prix and came 4th in the race, so he knows what he's talking about.

Over the next few weeks I hope to get some better pictures and have a closer look at her, I've got to collect her yet, so don't hold your breath, but I will post some updates as they happen.

As whenever I buy a bike I start looking on 'The Bay' for any cheap spares. I found a Domino quick action throttle which was cheap and also two clip ons (handle bars) for 99p each, so the spares have started.

Anyway as soon as I can I will post up some more pictures and let you know how I'm getting on.

Hopefully speak soon

Cheers
Stuart


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

End Of Season Report

Final Standing, 

2013 Irish Road Racing Championships 

Supersport 400cc Class

 17th Place!



Well, that’s the season over and it has flown by, I can’t believe it was six months ago, April, that I did my first race of the year.

Many years ago I read about the Irish road race season and how you could basically race every weekend with racers driving from one meeting to the next during the week, then racing again at the weekend.

Sadly there are far fewer meetings in a year than there used to be, but it was still my dream to do a full season, so after many years of pondering whether to do it, I made my mind up that this was going to be that year.

My ambitions for the year were to finish and enjoy it,  I did both of those, so everything else was a bonus.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the racing, despite not setting the world alight with my finishing positions, but then again I was told on many occasions, that it takes three years at a circuit before you can start pushing. Obviously some can but they are few and far between, and signed by big teams.

I went at this as a professional amateur, as in I like my bikes and set up to look professional but funded entirely from my own pocket, and just out to enjoy myself.

Throughout the year I’ve met some fantastic people and had some great races so it was worth all the money and hours driving up and down the M6 to the ferries. I’ll miss stopping at Warwick Services on what seemed to be a weekly basis, so much so we stopped on the way back from Scarborough just for old times sake.

So apart from making a huge contribution to Opec by buying more than my fair share of diesel, what have I achieved?

Well the two main points, finished safe and enjoy it.

I’ve met loads of great people and it was sad to leave the paddock at Killalane saying goodbye to friends who I will next see in April next year, all being well.

It really is like a travelling circus, seeing the same people at all the races. None more so than when I left Belfast for Isle Of Man for The Southern 100. It was as if the entire paddock from Skerries had moved to Belfast to catch the ferry.

What else did I accomplish? Well my lap times improved throughout each meeting and was 2 seconds a lap faster around The Southern 100 course than I’d ever been so that was a huge moment for me. Sadly the lap times at Killalane didn’t improve from last year,  but that’s just racing.

I was also pleased to see that on the 400 I finished 17th in the 400 Championship, out of over 30 riders. This was especially good as through weather and mechanical problems I missed 4 rounds, so I basically raced half the season, so to finish in the top 20 in my first attempt was a great confidence boost.

Now, my plan at the beginning of the year was to do a full season for a year and then I could say that I’d done this. My goals changed to, just go back and race at the circuits that I enjoyed.

Well that basically means all of them.

Realistically this won’t be possible as it has cost me a huge amount of money, luckily I have six months to pay it all off just in time for the new season to start.

I’ve have been offered a bike to race next year at one event, so if this happens this will dictate what else I can do next year, I’ll keep you posted as to what happens.

I’ve also had the offer of leaving my van and bikes in Northern Ireland. This will of course save on ferry costs and also time off work, which is a huge help.

So if I had to choose which circuits I’d go back to? Well if I can do them all here are my favourites:

Cookstown
Tandragee
Skerries
Southern 100
Armoy
Mid Antrim
Killalane

I really enjoyed Cork, however it was an awful lot of driving and money for a weekend, whereas the others are close to one another so only one ferry for two races, although Killalane is on it’s own it’s only 30 minutes away from Dublin, and I really enjoy the circuit.

Walderstown was ok but not a brilliant circuit and being on the end of Skerries and The Southern it was a long week so didn’t give it my best.

Saying that if the offer of a bike comes to fruition and I keep the van over in Northern Ireland, this may change.

So that was my dream year of Irish racing and it was great and would happily do it again. I’m pleased I’ve done it and could kick myself for not doing it sooner, still I did finally do it.

There are so many people who I have met and have helped, it would take another blog just to thank them all.

But my special thanks goes to all the organisers of the meetings, the spectators and the racers who I’ve met and helped me. John, Stafford and James for helping me out. But outmost thanks goes to Kyra, Ann, Sandra, Adrian, Jack, Joshua, Gordy, John and Nanni for looking after us so well and making us feel so welcome when we've visited.

When I say us I mean me and Steve, who without I wouldn’t have been able to do half of this.

Steve really has been a star. He’s helped with booking travel arrangements, looking after the bikes, cheering me up when I need it and keeping everything in perspective. I really can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me this year, I truly wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. 

Hopefully this is not the last you'll see on my Blog as throughout the Winter I plan to build a Supertwin which I will race next year. I'm not sure if it will replace the 400 or the 600, I will have to wait to see what classes are running next year before I decide on which to replace. So hopefully I will chart the build progress of my new bike, which maybe a complete road to race bike conversion, or just a strip and check of a ready built race bike. 

But until then many thanks for reading and hope you've enjoyed it. 

Cheers Stuart

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Killalane Photo's

Hi all

Just received some excellent photo's of me at Killalane from John Burke.

I can see why photographers like it when racers wear clear visors. I never knew I had such a look of concentration as the one John captured.



Thanks once again to John for these, I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers
Stuart

Thursday, 19 September 2013



Scarborough Report

Well it was a bit of a non event from my point of view.

After an eight and a half hour drive we arrived at our lovely accommodation, thanks Steve, and I was straight to bed due to our late arrival.

We arrived at the circuit and finally found a spot in the paddock. We parked up in the sidecar area as there was no room at the inn in the solo’s area.

Bikes were checked over and it was straight out onto the circuit.

I’ve got used being taken around the circuit in the newcomers bus, where we are shown around by experienced racers, followed by newcomers laps so you can find out where the circuit goes. As I’ve said before, You Tube is ok but it’s only when you get out on the circuit that you really find what it’s like.

But sadly I didn’t have the luxury of the bus or the newcomers laps and it was very much like being thrown in at the deep end.

It didn’t start well as I missed the turning in the paddock for the holding area, so had to turn the bike around and try again.

The organisers split the 600’s into two groups. Being number 87 I was out with odd numbered bikes. This meant that I was out in the group with number 1, a certain Guy Martin.

Naturally he was in the first group whilst I set off near the back. Still it wasn’t long before I got to see him again, as he came underneath me into one of the corners, which then meant the other fast boys would be along soon, sure enough they were.

I like to take it easy on a new circuit as I’ve found that if you scare yourself on a corner it takes quite a while to get my confidence back to attack the corner and there is no use in flying into a corner until you know where you need to be for the next one.

The circuit was very damp in places and this was proven by on my second lap a rider was down at the hairpin.

I also found it difficult as there were no obvious signs of which way the circuit went. Usually you can see tree lines, telegraph poles etc which follow the road.

I did about 4 laps before I pulled in as felt I was just getting in the way and not learning anything.

My pit crew, which included James this weekend, wondered what was wrong. “It’s too dangerous out there” was my comment. Which when you consider where I’ve raced the rest of the year seemed a bit of an odd comment, but I stand by it.

I wasn’t sure about going out on the 400 but Steve asked if there was anything we could change to help, as he could see I wasn’t happy.

Anyway I went out on the 400 and still didn’t feel at all comfortable on it, so once again came in early.

Sadly that was it as far as my racing went as decided I really didn’t fancy it.

I just didn’t click with the circuit and said that if I came off at a circuit I liked then it would be ‘one of those things’, however if I came off at a circuit I didn’t like I’d kick myself.

I did feel bad as people had come a long way to watch and help, but they all said that it was me out there and if I didn’t want to do it there was no need for me to go out. Thanks guys, it meant a lot.

It wasn’t the end to the season I’d hoped for but there you go.

Still on a positive note I did get to walk around the paddock and talk 650’s to various riders, which helped as I have more information to base my supertwin purchase on.

Anyway below is a clip clips of the racing from Scarborough for you to have a look at, don't worry all were safe.



Speak soon

Cheers
Stuart

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Killalane Report

Well back safe and sound but slightly disappointed to be honest.

After being told that Skerries hadn’t had any rain since July, the only natural thing that could happen did, it rained.

So when we awoke on Saturday morning we did a lap of the circuit in the van to see what it was like. Most was ok but my least favourite corner on the circuit, the old graveyard, was still muddy. Not lumps, obviously but you could tell it wasn’t going to be as grippy as I would like.

The first practice was out on the 600 and was time controlled, which was handy given the conditions. Practice went well but the front didn’t feel right. I’d been playing around with the suspension and thought it was this. Thinking about it all I needed to do was adjust the steering damper, and all was well.

When I returned to the paddock my bike looked as though I’d been motor crossing on it, it was so dirty.

Second practice was also on the 600 and the adjustment I’d made worked which was good, but still didn’t have the confidence in the front until the last few laps. It takes a while to get confidence back in a bike after it’s given you cause for concern, and with only 5 laps of practice you don’t get much time to get it back.

I did struggle finding braking markers as the roads were still slippery, so found myself driving up to corners shaking my head as I was braking far too early.

I took the 400 out for one session and realised I needed more acceleration as was changing into top gear far too late.

I was going out in a second session but as I was in the holding area it chucked it down with rain and knowing how greasy it was before I didn’t fancy chancing my arm on intermediate tyres when it was really wet.

Sunday dawned as bad as Saturday and I was out in the 1st and 2nd races. Not ideal as I had to make a tyre choice for both races without seeing what the road was like.

I had intermediates in as Sunday was forecast as dry. As always this turned out to be the wrong choice as whilst in the holding area it chucked it down again.

As I didn’t have the wets with me it was back to the van but by the time we’d got the front out the bikes were on the grid, so missed the race. I was later told that it wasn’t as wet as it first looked as it dried up really quickly.

This was a shame as this was the race where I had the chance of finishing in the top 15 as was only a couple of points off and those above me weren’t racing that weekend.

Still I had the right tyres on for the second race on the 600.

All was going well, but still struggled with braking points. Then on the last lap the bike ran out of fuel. This was due to having to do 2 extra laps due to a red flag on the first lap, meaning the race was stopped and restarted. So it was another trip on the back of a travelling marshals bike back to the pits.

When I arrived Steve told me the bad news that my generator had packed up, which meant no tyre warmers or kettle.

I wasn’t looking forward to the second 400 race as it was turning into one of those weekends. Still I went out and got a reasonable start and caught and overtook a 650 which was good, and was catching another in front. Sadly the red flags came out again and it was back to a restart.

I got an ok start but 650’s off the line just have so much low down power that was overtaken by all those behind me.

I managed to stay with two 650’s throughout the race but try as I could I just couldn’t pass them. A 400 makes it’s power at the top end and so takes longer to accelerate, whereas the 650’s have low down power which helps out of slow corners. I found myself having to brake in the corners as the 650’s in front were that much slower and there is not enough room on the roads to go around the outside of them. Once we’d get to a straight they would just pull out of the corner and it would take me the length of the straight to catch up again.

Still it was a good dice and nice to know that I could stay with these more powerful bikes, even if I couldn’t get around them. I also got a better line around the graveyard corner, so felt I’d achieved something.

When I looked at my lap times from last year I was 12 seconds a lap slower on my 600 and 13 seconds a lap slower on my 400, compared to last year, which is not good to see.

Whilst walking around the paddock after the racing had finished I was looking at various 650’s to see what mods need to be done to make one competitive, as this is what I want for next year, when Steve pointed out that they were running 42 tooth rear sprockets and I was running a 47. This goes to show how power is made on different bikes. The larger the sprocket, more teeth, the better the acceleration but less top speed, the less teeth the faster top speed, but less acceleration. This clarifies that 650’s have more low down power than the 400 which is why I was struggling.

So I’m now researching which 650 to go for as there are two to chose from. Suzuki SV and Kawasaki ER.

Both have good and bad points but will no doubt come down to what the wallet will stretch to.

Anyway it’s off to Scarborough this weekend, another new circuit for me, where I will be out on both bikes, number 87 this time.

Here's a taster of what I'll be doing.

 

So if you are around do come and say hello, I hope to have the kettle working by then, especially if you have a 650 for sale.

Cheers
Stuart       

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Scarborough Confirmed

Hi all

I found out yesterday that my entry for Scarborough on 14th & 15th September has been confirmed, which is great news.

I also had a great time at Manx Grand Prix. Sorry I'm old school and still refer to it as The Manx and not the Classic TT.

Don't get me wrong I think anything that can promote road racing is good but fear that the classic will be a flash in the pan as can't see the excitement lasting over seeing classic bikes, and am sure lots of stars only turned up as this was the first year. I hope I proved wrong but we shall see.

My main concern is that if it doesn't catch on then The Manx will not be run as there is pressure to stop it and that would be a crying shame as without it lots of people will not get to ride the Mountain Course.

Still lets not dwell on that. I went with 7 others and all had a great time and lots marshalled for the first time which they all enjoyed. Hopefully they will marshal again in the future.

Whilst over there I had a keen look at 650 supertwins and found out quite a bit. So has given me food for thought as to what to look out for when I come to buying one.

Anyway I'm off to Killalane next weekend so as a taster here's an on board lap of the circuit.

I really enjoy Killalane, I've been there 3 times now so have an idea of where everything goes, so am really looking forward to seeing how I get on.

As with The Southern I can see if I've made any improvements over last year as I know what my times were like from then, so hopefully, like The Southern, I will be quicker.

Hope you enjoy the on board lap and speak soon

Cheers
Stuart

  

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Scarborough 15th September

Hi all

Well a bit of downtime until Killalane in September, don't worry I won't be bored as still a few things to do.

I've entered Scarborough 15th September and hopefully my entry will be accepted as other than that just have Killalane to go. Can't believe how quick the season has gone.

I've also been doing some research on what my options are for next year.

I've chatted to a few people and the plan is at the moment to tune the 400 a bit to see if it makes me any more competative and also see how the 400 class goes next year as sadly there are less and less 400's out there.

I'm also looking at getting a 650 to build a Supertwin as this seems to be a growing class.

I'm off to The Manx next week so hope to have a look around the paddock and find out what the best mods to a standard bike are to turn it into a race bike.

So hopefully this blog will turn into a 'race bike build blog' once the season has finished.

So if you hear of a 650 for sale I'd appreciate an email.

Speak to you all soon.

Cheers
Stuart

Monday, 5 August 2013

Mid Antrim Race Report

Hi all

Am back safe and sound from my last racing jaunt to Northern Ireland.

Mid Antrim is fairly close to Armoy so there was no need for sat nav, as we're almost locals now.

Arrived on Friday a bit later than I relised, I'd been going on what the web site said and not the instructions I'd been sent, still meant that the bikes were checked over in double quick time as we missed the masses.

Whilst Steve and his staff, Joshua, were busy doing this I went out on the newcomers coach.

This time there was only about 6 of us as it was a mini bus so not everyone could go at once.

Still it did mean we got the chance to stop and walk bits of the course, notably Alexanders Jump.

From the van it looked like a slight rise in the road, but on a bike it's a jump alright.

Anyone who has seen any of the road race reviews they did a few years back may recall Darran Lindsay get really out of shape over it. Still we were given some good tips on how to tackle this part of the circuit.

I went out for my newcomers laps on the 600 and really liked the circuit from the off. Apart from Alexanders, which is one of those places you think you should go faster, until you remember how out of shape you can get, apparently chatting to another racer he got it wrong one year and wobbled the rest of the straight after it before it sorted itself out, there was an s bend which was rather narrow, the rest of the course was fairly flowing.

I was back out on the 600 for timed practice and was on the slowing down lap when I ran out of petrol, or as I was told later 'put the perfect amount of fuel in', so I'll go with that. Sadly had to endure another lift in the back of a recovery van which isn't a great laugh. I was hunched over the front of the bike facing backwards holding the front brake on with the back doors of the van open, glad the brakes were ok.

I realised the gearing was wrong but there were still people who qualified behind me, which made a change.

Knowing this we changed the gearing on the 400 before I went out and went well.

When we arrived Saturday it was drizzling with rain, but had been told the track was still dry so headed off for the first race. We went out on the warm up lap and by this time the track was soaking and you could see spray off the other guys tyres. We got back round to the paddock gate and a few pulled in as guessed they didn't fancy being out on intermediate tyres.

We were held on the grid for 5 minutes and Ryan Farquars team changed the tyres on his mans bike. By the time we went for a second warm up lap the road was bone dry, I've never seen a road dry so quick, it was incredible.

I had my usual dice with Yvonne on her GSXR600 and she managed to overtake me on the last lap. As you go into the village there is a hairpin and even without looking behind you, you can see if someone is there, so saw her on a couple of previous laps before she got passed.

I think we changed the gearing too far and was slightly over geared, still I make a note of all my gear ratio's for future reference, so will know next time.

I did get a good start and was with a big group, but then made a mistake and dropped back. When I looked at my lap times my fastest was on the second lap, when I was still with the group. So I guess I must lose confidence in what I can do when not seeing others in front of me, or it's just the carrot effect of the rider in front?

So it was to the 400. I didn't get a great start but as we had a restart due to a red flag it gave me a second go at it and got a far better one. I had a good dice with a couple of guys on 400's and managed to pass one and make it stick. Shortly after I was overtaken by a guy on a 650, and once he got to the straights he just keep edging further and further away.

I did also make a mistake in the tight s bend I mentioned earlier and was thinking which bale to hit but just kept leaning her over and we got round ok, which is always nice.

I've now had a look at BHP figures and found a standard 400 puts out about 64 and a 650, 71, even tuned 400's put out mid 70's, so no wonder they clear off.

Anyone got a supertwin they'd like to lend me?

Talking of which I found the top speed figures for Armoy. The fastest 400 went at 133mph and mine was 109mph, so that doesn't help much.

Anyway back to Mid Antrim. The second 400 race went well and got a good start. I overtook one bike and was chasing another, when on the last lap I was overtaken by a 125. But it was a good race and wasn't lapped and was told there were quite a few bikes behind me, so am improving.

I am pleased with my progress and there were a couple of times when I nearly ran up the back of people as I was keeping much more corner speed than them, but once we got to the straights they just pulled away so am now considering what to do next year.

I could replace the 400 with a 650 or get both the 400 and 600 tuned. There are fores and against both options so am not sure what to do yet.

The ideal would be to take 3 bikes but there is just no way I could do that as running 2 bikes is hard enough let alone transport.

Still with only two races left it will give me plenty of time to consider my options over the long cold Winter months, as I will be staying in to fund next year.

I have to say that Mid Antrim was really well run and the circuit was grand, so that's another added to my list to return to next year all being well. 

Hopefully I'll get some pictures to post up, and will do that as soon as I can.

Until then

Cheers
Stuart
         

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Mid Antrim

Hi All

Well thats my weeks holiday nearly over.

Luckily I only had a couple of little jobs to do to the bikes so had plenty of time to see the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer.

This included a lap of the North West 200 circuit. I can see how they get up to such high speeds now as there is some long old straights.

Tomorrow I'm off to Mid Antrim so thought I'd post an on board lap of the circuit.

I'm glad I'm racing here as I've seen on board footage before and like the section through the houses.

Anyway hope you enjoy the on board and all being well I'll give you a race report next week.

Cheers
Stuart


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Armoy Race Report

Hi all

Well how's this for efficient, only hours after racing I'm posting, as opposed to my normal delay?

We arrived at the circuit Friday morning and did a lap in the van en route to the paddock. I know some do a few laps in a car of a new circuit, but I've found that a circuit is only really learnt on a bike as being able to learn one is best done on a bike as the road is totally different  once you can use both sides of the road.

The other thing is that it can put you off as the perspective from a van is a massive difference.

A case in point is a drop at Armoy. In the van it felt like you were dropping of the edge of the world in the van but on a bike was no where near as daunting.

Once all set up and signed on it was off for the newcomers trip.

Again this was an excellent insight on how to tackle the course and picked up some valuable tips.

So then it was my turn under the control of MCUI, the federation who run Irish racing, instructors.

A few years ago I came and watched racing at Armoy so felt quite odd actually racing there.

The circuit has quite a few leaps on it and so it takes a while learning, not only where the laps are but also where you land and what is next. The ideal take off for a leap may put you on the wrong line for the next corner, which at Armoy, at one corner, is on you as soon as you land.

I just took it steady as if you frighten yourself on a corner it takes a while to build yourself back up to it at a decent speed.

Church bends is a great section of the course and loads of time can be made up here.

My first proper practice was on the 400. Sadly I only got round 90% of the lap and had to pull in due to oil coming out of the bike.

Back at the pits it became obvious that I'd got a hole in my oil cooler. I hadn't had time between the last lot of races to replace my radiator guard which came off at the Southern, and as luck would have it a stone hit the cooler.

I got the 600 ready for the next session, but due to a thunder storm practice was cancelled.

For some reason the organisers decided to give a couple of sidecars a practice, as they were in a parade lap on Saturday.

Lots commented on the fact that this was a stupid idea as they knew weather was closing in so why not run a proper practice session for the racers rather than the parade lap?

Still this gave us time to sort the 400. Basically I removed the cooler and fixed a pipe in its place. I've heard a lot of people do this and the bike still runs cool enough, so gave it a try as I don't have a spare cooler.

Saturday we awoke to clear skies, so we continued with practice.

I only got 2 laps on the 400, due to the shortage of time, so then it was out on the 600. By the time I'd put the 400 on the stand and got the 600 down to the holding area they closed the gates, so I missed the session.

I wasn't the only one so there were a few annoyed people around.

There is never enough practice for a road circuit so to put two classes out, one after the other, which a lot of people take part in is bad organisation as there are some classes people don't compete in which they could've put between the two sessions, but hey thats the way it is.

So my practice on both bikes amounted to 8 laps, not a great start.

Still I qualified for two races, one on each bike, so not all bad, typically they were one after the other, so another mad dash between bikes.

So off I went on the 400. I made a good start and overtook acouple of bikes and had a good dice with Wee Roy, who I met at Cookstown, also on a ZXR and Yvonne from the ZXR forum. I followed Roy through the back section and saw him get both wheels off the ground, by about a foot, and realised I was about to do the same. Still I landed ok and was good to see someone do it and it gives you confidence to do the same.

Yvonne didn't come past me and I know she's been before so that was good for the confidence.

Next out was the 600. Again I got an ok start and followed Yvonne on her GSXR 600.

No matter what I did I just couldn't pass her. There were places we were both stronger than the other at so we were in a state of stale mate.

I follwed Yvonne at Tandragee and it was a great help and before practice she told me some of the lines to take around Armoy. So sadly she took the same lines as I took around the circuit, hence the difficulty I had passing her.

Still it was a cracking race and was smiling like a cheshire cat at the end, so couldn't ask for more.

As I've said before all I want is to finish safe and have a smile on my face at the end of a race, no matter where I finish, so both goals achieved.

All in all, I enjoyed the meeting as it was a good circuit with some good racing and met up with loads of good people.

I have to say I think the club tries to run too many classes for the window of time they have. This isn't just my thoughts but a good few people I spoke to whilst there.

But then it's a mammoth task organising such an event and I'm sure everyone thinks they have a better idea as how to run it, but I'm just grateful to those that do organise them.

Luckily I don't have too many jobs to do so I hope to have a bit of a break until Friday when I head up to Mid Antrim.

If I get any pictures I'll post just as soon as I can.

So until then.

Cheers
Stuart

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Armoy On Board Lap

Hi all

Well it's been a pretty busy week getting stuff all ready for this weekends fun and games at Armoy.

Luckily only had a couple of little jobs to do after last weeks racing marathon, so bikes are all ready to go.

So between now and Friday I will be watching this on board lap as much as I can.

I'm hoping to drive to the circuit on Thursday to get a few laps in, in a car.

Anyway hope you enjoy the video and speak soon.



 Cheers
Stuart

Friday, 19 July 2013

Skerries, Southern 100 & Walderstown

Hi all

Apologies for the delay in posting but have had a busy old time.

Out of 11 days I was racing for 8 so not had much time to send updates.

Skerries

Like most circuits this year, this was a new one for me. I’ve raced at her sister circuit, Killalane a couple of times but not Skerries.

I say it’s the sister circuit as it does share some of the same roads as Killalane, but not enough that my previous laps helped.

Again as a newcomer it was off on the newcomers coach, and we had a great talk by Andy Farrell, who got us off the coach at various points to show us the circuit.

I took the 600 out for the newcomers laps , followed by a 600 practice.

Then it was the turn of the 400.

All was going well until I tried to use a 600 braking point to stop her for the hairpin. The brakes on the 400 aren’t as good as the 600 so realised I wasn’t going to make the corner. I kept to the outside of the circuit so as to not get in the way of anyone else. This was my downfall as I hit some dirt, locked the front wheel and down I went.

Luckily apart from a few scuffs the only damage was a bent screw which holds the gear lever on, an easy fix.

During the rest of the session I started the bike and offered to ride back to the paddock, but was told I had to wait for the recovery van. I’d rather take my chances on the bike as I’ve experienced the recovery truck before and its not fun.

I changed the gearing for race day and it seem to make a difference to both bikes.

Sadly I missed a race as it was listed in the programme as a 250 race. I found out during the race 400’s were racing as well. I wasn’t too upset as it was the beginning of a long week.

When I went to the 400 race I found out they’d missed me off the grid and thanks to Steve, who managed to talk them round, I got on.

All was going well in the race and was having a good dice with another 400, when coming into the chicane on the last lap I was hit from behind by another bike. After 3 attempts I got the bike to steer around the chicane and managed top stay upright.

I heard after that the rider had come off the bike the corner previous and was hit by a stray bike. I never saw the bike, even after hitting it, so can’t confirm this. Still it was a good day and hope to race there next year.

Here's some pictures from Skerries


 I'd like to thank Jimmy Windows and John Burke for these excellent pictures
 

Southern 100

Racing at Skerries finished on Saturday evening so we drove north on Saturday evening ready for an  early ferry to Isle Of Man on the Sunday.

When we arrived at the ferry it was like the whole paddock from Skerries had set up camp there.

It was great to be back on The Island, despite the fact that the brakes on the van packed up.

Still we got to Chicken Shed HQ, our base for the week, and promptly set about swapping the engine in the 400. We had to sign on at Castletown that evening but on our return we carried on with the transplant.

The reason I wanted to swap the engine was that it was a new one I’d bought so just wanted to see if she ran ok under load, and as there is quite a bit of practice at the Southern it was the ideal time to do it.

The engine went in fine and ran ok so Monday we headed off for practice.

This is the 4th time I’ve raced at the Southern so should know where I’m going.

There is one corner which I just don’t get on with so this year was going to go for it. In the first practice I readied myself as I approached the corner, when the guy in front clipped the bank. He was ok and probably looked worse than it was but I decided that wasn’t the lap to attack the corner.

Still as practice went on I did summon up the courage and felt a lot quicker through there.

The 400 went well although it wasn’t running right, but this was down to the carbs rather than the engine.

After practice it was out with the new 400 engine and in with my race one.

Steve and I are getting very good at swapping engines now. I met up with a mate on the Island who said it would take him 6 months to swap an engine so found it amazing that we could do it in about 3-4 hours.

I had a good couple of dices during Tuesdays practice and so it was to race day on Wednesday.

This was a race on the 400 and it was a cracker. I was in a group of about 4 and was lots of overtaking, being overtaken, and the reovertaking. It went on like this all race so the chat with the others involved after was full of smiles.

I’d also managed to knock a second off the fastest lap I’d done around there so was very happy with that. I was later told that to do a 3 minute lap on a standard road engine was going some, so was proud of that.

Thursday arrived and on the way to the circuit I was amazed as to how many people were waiting already to watch. When we went to practice on Monday evening there were spectators waiting as we drove down. I’ve seen this before on race day but never on practice, it really has grown in popularity.

I was out first on the 400 and again was having a good race, when coming into the final corner the front wheel stopped causing an impromptu stoppie. OK I thought got away with it. I leant into the next corner and it felt like I had a puncture so rode to the paddock. Upon inspection Steve found that the radiator guard which protects the radiator from stones, had snapped off its mountings and fell onto the wheel, lodging itself between the front wheel and mudguard. So I was very lucky to have stopped when  I did as I’d hate to imagine what might have happened if the wheel had locked whilst leant over.

Even in the 3 laps I did before this I’d managed to knock a further second of my best time.

Sadly the 600 race was stopped on the last lap due to an incident, but up until then it was going well and was looking forward to my last two races.

It turned out that the 600 race was my last race as due to a further incident during the sidecars racing was cancelled.

All in all it was a good week and am pleased with the progress I’m making. Nearly all the circuits I’m racing at this year are new to me so it is nice to go to one I know so that I have a point to measure any improvement by.

Saying that, I think the time has come for more power.  

The Southern is a great meeting and is run very well, so thanks guys and hope to be back next year.

Walderstown 

Back across the Irish sea on Friday to race at Walderstown about an hour outside Dublin.

I did a lap in the van of the circuit in the van and couldn’t believe how short a circuit it is, just 2 miles, most of which was flat out, not in the van though.

Practice went well but confirmed my suspicions, I need a tuned engine as on the straights people were leaving me for dust.

I had have a ‘chat’ with the clerk of the course as , apparently, I was shown the finishing flag twice. However I saw only the last lap flag, as I was overtaken by William Dunlop, then shown the finishing flag on my next circuit.

Sadly it comes down to their word against mine so I just had to apologise and get on with it. Luckily I was cautioned and that was the end of it. However it was funny as after that they seem to make doubly sure all flags were shown in a more prominent fashion.

For Sunday race day I changed the gearing for more acceleration to help get off the line better and out of corners. This means that top speed is reduced so was hard to see guys I was catching up around the corners pulling away from me on the straights, more power me thinks?

Still it was a good meeting and was a good finish to a very long week, made even longer by the hot weather.


It was a hard week but racing was good and I met lots of good people.

So now a break of a few days and then its time to load the van and head off to Armoy and Mid Antrim

Sadly the ugly side of the sport reared its head at The Southern and Walderstown, when 4 competitors lost their lives to the sport they love, in 4 separate incidents. The paddock was a very sombre place to be as it touches us all.

As I always say the penalty far outweighs the crime when racing on the roads, a mistake you could make on a short circuit which makes you run onto the grass, when racing on roads could mean you pay the ultimate price.

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of those involved and also to all those that help when something like this happens. 

Cheers
Stuart
Glan Mire

Hi all

Some pictures from Cork, sorry for the delay but have been away, but hope they are worth the wait.




Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Southern 100

Hi all

well I'm gearing up for a very busy week away.

First of all its off to southern Ireland for Skerries, then a ferry to Isle Of Man for Southern 100 then a ferry back to southern Ireland for Walderstown.

I've done Southern a few times but not been to Walderstown before so I'll be watching the on board as much as anyone. 

Hopefully while I'm away I'll keep you updated as to whats going on but thought I'd post an on board of Southern 100 and one of Walderstown to keep you interested.



Enjoy
Stuart

Saturday, 22 June 2013


Skerries On Board

Hi all

Next meeting is Skerries so thought I'd post an on board lap of the circuit.

I've only driven around this circuit in a van but even from that I can see why its called Scarey Skerries.

Fingers crossed the weather will be as good as it is in this video.

Cheers
Stuart

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Cork Race Report

Hi all

Well back safe and sound from Cork, well Glan Mire really.

Arrived there ok and had a lap in the van Friday evening, then spent the evening in the pub wondering what I'd let myself in for.

The course was really tight and bumpy out the back and all the corners were dead stop.

On top of this the 1st corner dropped away at the apex.

So after eating we went for another lap, which confirmed my suspicions.

This extra lap gave me concerns about the paddock as a lorry had to be dragged out as it had sunk into the mud at the entrance to the paddock, and it had grounded out.

Woke up Saturday and it was wet. So wet in fact they set up a temporary paddock on the road. When we looked into the paddock there was a transit van sideways on buried upto its bodywork in mud. Still this did mean we had a great hard standing to put the bikes on.

Initially we were told there was a newcomers coach but as it was a new circuit, we'd all have to go out, so it was decided that we'd get extra untimed sighting laps, on top of qualifying.

Practice went well and the circuit was great fun. My concerns about the 1st corner were wasted as they put a bale where the road dropped so that was a great help. I found the best way to deal with the bumps was to stand on the pegs and just let the bike bounce around.

I had a good dice with a couple of 650 twins and even rode around the outside of a 400 on one of the fast corners so was looking forward to race day.

When we arrived we were told we couldn't use the road as a paddock today as they needed to keep it clear for emergency vehicles.

So it was on with the cling film to keep mud off the tyres whilst the bikes were wheeled down to be checked.

The inspection car went out before the first race and the report was that it was wet but no standing water, so I decided to keep intermediates on.

By the time my race started, second race, this had changed and there was standing water on the circuit. With no time for to change tyres I went out on what I had.

Start went ok and was keeping up with the group, then on the second lap my front wheel tucked.

This happened on a fast sweeping corner and was doing about 130mph, needless to say this focuses the mind.

Next lap, same place, happened again, then again on another part of the circuit, so decided enough was enough and pulled in at the end of the lap.

As I came in the red flags came out as someone had come off.

Turns out they came off where my front tucked and they had to cut the hedges down to get to either the bike or the rider, not sure which, so think I made the right choice.

Whilst waiting we fitted wets to the 400 as I was out in the next race.

After doing this we were told there was a delay to see what the weather was doing.

After an hour the riders were called to a briefing and it was decided that it was not safe to continue, so the meeting was abandoned.

This was a shame as was really looking forward to the racing but with Skerries only two weeks away I didn't want to have to repair a bike should the worst of happened.

It's sadly just one of those things with anything outdoors, you can organise everything but not the weather.

Most of qualifying was untimed, but I have had a look on the Cork Web Site for times but none have been posted, still there is a picture of me on their home page, which was nice to see.

I was also shown a picture of me in Road Racing Ireland Magazine, which is a nice feeling, albeit a small picture of me on the grid, but shows I was there.

On Saturday I met a photographer who has put some pictures on the facebook page Steve started, so hope he will send them to me, he said he would, so I can post up here.

Right well I better get started on getting ready for the next one, which is Skerries, 5th July.

As always I'll be in the garage if you want me.

Cheers
Stuart   

   

    

Monday, 10 June 2013

Cork Road Races This Weekend

Hi all

Well Cork is just around the corner so will be heading off later this week.

Finally got the correct brake pads delivered so will be fitting them tomorrow hopefully.

Then it's just a case of loading the van and heading our merry way.

Was a good call to fit my spare race engine last week, as the head is not yet ready for collection. Fingers crossed I'll have a couple of weeks after Cork to get it ready for Skerries.

As always if you are visiting the racing feel free to pop along and say hello.

All being well I will give you some good news next week.

Cheers
Stuart

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Another Tandragee Photo

Hi all

Yesterday I received another picture of me at Tandragee, so thought I'd share it with you.

This was taken after my engine went pop and the marshals were loading her for the trip back to the paddock. Once again my thanks Jimmy for the photo.

On the subject of marshals, I'd like to thank all those that give up their time to do this very important job over race weekends.

I'm sure you are all aware that they all do it for the love of the job and receive no payment for it, and without them there would be no racing.

Their job is sometimes very stressful, but they know how to keep cool should an incident occur, which allows the incident to be cleared and help sourced should it be needed.

Places like The Manx Grand Prix always need marshals, so anytime you are visiting I'd recommend signing up. You are given training and then stationed with experienced marshals, who will show you what to do if you are called into action.

Over the years I've introduced several of my mates into marshalling when at the Manx, and all have loved it and gone back for more. So go on give it a go. 

So thank you one and all for all the help you give all of us at some point during our racing careers.

Cheers
Stuart

Friday, 31 May 2013

Tandragee Trophy

Hi all

Well I have to admit I made myself a trophy to remind me of Tandragee, not that I'm likely to forget it any time soon, so thought I share my award with you.





For those less eagle eyed, it's my piston that casued me all my troubles, with matching valve stuck in piston accessories.

It now has pride of place on my shelf, along with holed piston from Southern 100, 2009. I'm getting quite a collection, but hope it stops soon.

Below are a couple of 'action' shots taken, again at Tandragee.


I always prefer wearing a black visor, but you can see why photographers prefer it when we don't. My thanks to Jimmy for these pictures.






 This weekend will be spent fitting my spare race engine as my blown engine won't be ready in time. This is no bad thing as it would've been to the wire getting it sorted, this way I have time to make sure everything is good and ready.

The blown one is ready for the head, but will still need valves lapping and the timing sorted, but this can be done at my leisure now, meaning I can take my time rather than rush it. 

I gave up with my new brake calipers. I tried bleeding them all ways but with no success so went back to my standard ones.

I decided to get some new pads for them and M&P have very helpfully sent the wrong ones. Oh well hope to get them exchanged and fitted before Cork.

Hope you are all watching the TT? Is hard watching it as would love to be there.

Oh well only another couple of weeks and it'll be Cork.

Cheers
Stuart

  

 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Hi

Well it's been another busy week here at Fort Hectic.

I took my engine away yesterday and was told it would be at least a week before it's done.

Still plenty to do in the mean time.

I put my new calipers on the other day and still having trouble bleeding them. Before I fitted them I replaced all the seals and gave them a really good clean and hoped this would make it easier. But after a couple of evenings playing with them they still feel spongy. So one last try with another bleed system and if that doesn't work, then its back to my standard ones.

A big box of goodies arrived from Kawasaki the other day, did you remember to buy shares?

So when I get time I can start fitting the bits.

I had fun and games getting the conrod shells as they don't just print a number on them, it's all to do with the marks on the crank and the conrod. Depending if there is, or isn't a mark on either dictates which size you need. Still sussed the code in the end and now have some standard shells to fit.

Once fitted I can then check with plastigauage as to whether I need a different shell, depending on the gap.

I hope to do this and have the bottom end sorted by the time the head comes back as this will need to be fitted, re timed and shims checked.

3 weeks until Cork you say? Oh well who needs sleep.

Still on a positive note my van has passed it's MOT and the regs for Mid Antrim have been issued, which are already completed and on their way.

Hopefully the next time I write the bottom end will be waiting the head.

Best I crack on.

Cheers
Stuart

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Hi all

Well its been a busy weekend in the garage.

I've found out that the valve guide had broken up, hence the bits on the top of my piston.

On advice of John I removed the other valves in the same piston and this turned out to be good advice as the other inlet valve was sticking coming out, so possibly bent.

I've also dropped my 'Weymouth' engine, as it's now know, from the frame and have given this a good clean, which it was very much in need of. It's not brilliant but at least can touch it without the need of gloves.

I've also made some radiator guards to help stop stones putting holes in the radiator, couln't believe how many stones I was picking up at Cookstown, so should help cut down on excess weight as well.

I've stripped the calipers I was having so much trouble bleeding, and found all sorts of nastiness in there, so hopefully they will bleed up ok.

I also did a couple of odd jobs on the 600 and as far as I can tell this is ready for my next race, so will leave well alone.

Doesn't sound much when written out like this, but it's been a full weekends work as it all takes time.

I've got a shopping list as long as my arm for bits, so buy shares in Kawasaski tonight as their profits will soar tomorrow. 

If I can get the valve guide fitted, something I don't have the tools to do, then hopefully I will get my race engine rebuilt in time for Cork which is rapidly approaching.

I can't find an on board lap of Cork, so it will be a few laps round in the van before the race, this also means I can't post one up for you to see what I'll be up to, sorry.

Speak soon

Cheers
Stuart


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Cookstown 100 on TV tonight

Have just discovered that highlights from Cookstown 100 will be on TV tonight. Unfortunately only on BBC One NI. 11:05 PM.

If you are not in NI you may be able to tune in on Sky (channel 953) or Freesat (channel 957) I think.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hi all

Well it's been another busy weekend in the garage. Yesterday Steve and myself popped down to pick up my 'new' engine and by 7.30pm we had it in my race frame.

Naturally I couldn't leave it alone so spent the rest of the evening connecting it all up.

This morning I put fresh oil in her, filled the radiator, fresh spark plugs and she burst into life first prod of the starter, result.

The guy I bought it from said he was told it was a runner when he bought it but never tried started it himself. Not sure how long it'd been stood but looked a while so am very pleased she went ok.

It needs a few bits doing, including fitting a helicoil as the thread has stripped on one of the water pipe connectors. Luckily Stafford, within seconds of hearing of my plight, volunteered to come and sort it for me. What a top man.

I'm now going to remove this one from the bike and put my spare 'race' engine in for Cork.

It will also give me a chance to give it a good clean as has years of road muck on it. 

Yesterday I also got around to cleaning the van up and think I brought most of Tandragee back with me, so will post that back at some stage. Van is faster too without all the weight in there.

Steve also told me that there are some photo's of me on their way from Tandragee as the lady we stayed with had some friends take some pictures from her garden during the racing.

So hopefully I'll get to post these up soon too.

Until next time

Cheers
Stuart

 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Competition Time

Tell me what is wrong with this picture and there's a prize for the right answer.


On a totally unrelated note, honest, I tried my hand at welding and milling whilst at Tandragee, what do you think? 
 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Investigations Continue

Stuart popped over this evening and helped me remove my poorly engine from my bike.

The temptation to remove the sump and have quick look proved to much, so off it came.

Fearing the worst we removed it and I expected to put a call into Steptoe & Son to come and remove the scrap.

But nothing. Well I say nothing, the oil strainer in the engine was clogged with sealant which had obviously been squashed into the engine when I rebuilt it.

Typically it didn't go on the outside of the engine where I could just've wiped it off.

So the theory now is I basically starved the engine of oil, but when I dig deeper I will be able to confirm that.

On a more positive note, I received confirmation of my entry to Cork, so have been busy booking ferries and will look for some accommodation in the next couple of days.

All being well I'm off on Saturday to pick up another spare engine, so we will see if that one runs so I have a spare to take with me to Cork.

Saying that I've got loads of time so should be able to rebuild my poorly one, yeah right, but then again who needs sleep?

It always amazed me the stories of race teams working until the early hours building engines before races, now I know how this happens.

Pass the Pro Plus

Cheers
Stuart

 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Cookstown Pictures


Hi all

When my bike broke down on Saturday I met a guy who had taken some pictures of me at Cookstown and he very kindly mailed them to me, thanks Jimmy.

He has also taken some at Tandragee but he has to sort them out but will send them over when he can and I will post them up as soon as I can.




I'd said that yesterday was going to be a quiet tidy up day as I have loads of stuff to sort out.

It didn't go quite to plan and I ended up taking various cases off my 400 engine to see if I could locate the problem.

At one point we came to the conclusion that it maybe the water pump, but sadly that seems ok.

This means the most likely culprit is the crank.

This will be easier to sort once the engine is out, so the plan is to take the engine out and put my spare in for Cork and hope I can get the blown one fixed to take as a spare.

I've got 6 weeks until Cork, seems like a long time now but am sure it will fly by.

Cheers
Stuart

Monday, 6 May 2013

Tandragee

Hi all

Back on line now as we had no internet at Tandragee, and to be honest I didn't stop the whole weekend.

Many thanks for all your comments and well wishes. Mark, don't make comments that may come back and haunt you, but it's a deal.

With heavy hearts we left everyone at Carmean Road and set off for Tandragee. We popped into Draperstown to say hi to Owen at Slim's cafe, but sadly we missed him.

We'd been told that the paddock was already a swamp on Wednesday so we took the van up to the paddock on Thursday evening.

We were greeted by a tractor towing people into the paddock, and it was so muddy. I had nightmares about what it would be like by the time we came to leave on Saturday.

We got set up and Hazel, our host for the weekend, picked us up and took us to a great pub in Tandragee.

After breakfast on Friday Hazel lent us her car so I could do a couple of laps.

What a circuit. It's called the mini TT due to the variety of corners, and it certainly lives up to its name.

There is one right hand corner that has a 30 foot high bank opposite. At the top are fence posts, which have bales on to protect you. I was later told that riders have gone up this bank and cleared the fence at the top, one to watch then.

After getting the bikes checked it was off for a very informative lap in the newcomers bus. We had three top riders giving us a guided tour of the circuit, pointing out apex's breaking points etc. This was a very worthwhile trip and lots stuck with me.

The weather again wasn't on our side for practice so it was another round of guess the tyre, not a great way to learn a circuit.

Like all road circuits, the circuit itself doesn't care if you are a pro rider or a newcomer, it will bite anyone who makes a mistake, and unlike short circuits the bite will always be a painful one.

I did scare myself on the first left hand corner as it tightens up, so ended up laid over with brakes still on heading for a bank. Luckily I remembered the old saying of look where you want to go, not what you're going to hit, and managed to get round ok. I was later told that if you are going to crash on a corner, it's not a bad one to crash on as you just end up in a field.

After a few laps I was lucky to follow Yvonne from ZXR forum, and I could see from her lines how to link the corners, which was a great help, so thanks for that.

By the end of practice I started to build confidence, so much so that I went for an overtake at the last corner.

On the newcomers coach we'd been told to watch this corner as it sucks you in and is easy to miss the breaking point, if you are not careful.

Just to prove the point I out braked Wee Roy, and overshot the corner. Luckily the escape road leads down to the paddock, so I made it look like I meant to do it. Still must've given Roy a smile as I'm sure he knew what would happen before I did.

We packed up late, in the dark, and was helped by my 'fan club' of Jack, Josh, Kyra and Adrian who'd come down to watch practice and then came along for race day too.

I also saw Ian, a marshal, who I'd met on Isle Of Man a couple of times last year, and I gave him a wave as I went passed him during practice. Being a flag marshal he has to sit with his back to the racers and look down the circuit. Next lap I came round and he obviously knew when I'd be coming, as he sat there with his back to me and gave me a thumbs up, which made me smile.

So to race day.

It was another early start but the weather looked to be on our side, so it was another round of change the tyre.

Last week it was tyre warmers all round but this week everyone was wrapping their tyres in cling film to stop the tread getting clogged up with mud on the way to the holding area. It was so muddy in the paddock that some of the top names refused to come to scrutineering as it was too muddy for them, so they had mats laid down so their bikes didn't get muddy.



Aficionados amongst you,James, may think this is WW1 battlefield, sadly it's the paddock. Sadly this wasn't the worst of it, in some places it was up to your knees.

First race was on 400 and I was really nervous about the race as I still felt I didn't know where I was going.

Luckily my fears were in vain as the circuit felt so much better on Saturday and it all seemed to come together. I had a good dice with a chap on a 650 and this boosted my confidence as well.

There are a couple of crests on the circuit and hadn't really noticed them in practice, but come the races I was airborne on every lap on both the 400 & 600.

The 600 is geared for about 160mph and on a couple of occasions I was flat out in top, and still went for another gear, so will fiddle with gearing should I go back next year.

Sadly in the second 400 race my bike died and came to a halt.

I was out in the next race so the marshals flagged down a travelling marshal to give me a lift back to the pits, where I jumped straight onto my 600.

By this time I grown to love the circuit and had a great run round and hope to be back next year.

I shouldn't be too despondent about the event as everyone I spoke to said it takes 3 years before you can really start pushing. That and my lap times improved throughout the weekend.

In practice my fastest time on the 400 was 4:39 and in the race it was down to 4:09. Likewise on the 600 it was 4:37 and come race day it was down to 4:00, so a massive improvement, even Stafford would be proud of that?  

I'm back home now and on top of having to sort the 400 out I have to wash everything as I think I must've bought a fair size chunk of Ireland back home with me as everything is covered in mud.

Oh well I've got 6 weeks between now and Cork and I'd only be bored otherwise.

Whilst at Tandragee I saw Susan who runs Skerries and she confirmed my entry for the racing which is great news.    

My plan this year was to do as many races as I can and then next year, all being well, go back and do selected ones. Well so far I want to go back and do both Cookstown and Tandragee again. At this rate next year could be an expensive one too!

Speak soon

Cheers
Stuart