Wednesday 9 September 2015

Is it better to have raced and lost than never to have raced at all?....

Well I guess it's time for the wash up meeting. As mentioned previously, there was an issue, as thought, with the front cylinder spark plug. With that replaced all seemed well and Friday evening's practice was upon us and we were ready to go. So it did until we had a call from Wayne in Ramsey, the message was that there was oil everywhere, not good news. Speculation was from big ends to just an oil line, so off in the van via Laxey with Tommy to collect the stricken Emily and see what needs to be done. As stated she was fairly liberally coated with oil that appeared to have come from the breather and had splashed around the air box and over the sides. Back in the pits, as if we weren’t there already, we started to access the damage and clean up. She still turned over by hand and nothing really seemed to be amiss until we checked the compression, rear 160psi, front 0psi, sorry zero psi!! Not even a breath of compression what the heck is going on?

So off with her head I hear you cry, yes we were nearly crying too when we looked inside.

Detonation I’m told, or pinking if you’re old like me. Possibly caused by our use of pump 97RON fuel from the island or maybe something else yet to be determined. At this point all seemed lost, I don’t have a spare engine on a stand (plan for next year) let alone a piston lying around, it all seemed over.

But never say die, I made a call to Tony who we were staying with as he used to own an 888 SP4 and just maybe he had a part lying around. Blimey, he said he might but would have to go to the shed for a look. As it was getting late, I asked Liz to take Harriet back and see what Tony could find. When it rains it pours! I get a call from a landline on the island 5 minutes later, the van has stopped very quickly and won't go. I ask Wayne to nip down and see what's going on, he returns to inform me it looks like the cam belt has gone. Well that's all we need, I honestly can't believe it. I go back with Wayne and we tow the van to a local car park near Quarterbridge where it remains for several days, we have other tasks to complete.

Moving on, WE HAVE A PISTON!! OK we have a piston but it's not identical to the other, one is cast, one is forged, they don't weigh the same and the crown is different, the gudgeon pin is a different length but hey

The bore of the barrel looks fairly good, the Nikasil plating has survived as all the piston and rings have exited upwards and not past the skirt. This has of course left its mark on the head. There are a few bits of ring and a load of pits to be cleaned. Rich Llewellin dives in with gusto and a small ball peen hammer and other tools to flatten and fettle the head into better shape. It's not pretty but it really is s*it or bust. 

Things do start to come together but there are still a few things to sort, the height of the piston means we really need a set of base gaskets to set the deck height, we don't have any and can't fettle the entire head away to stop it hitting. The gudgeon pin should be 60mm long, we have a 50mm one, so we have a nose around. Did you know that the pin from a Matchless G50 is 20mm diameter and 52mm long, you do now, and it has a tapered lead into the bore to save weight. Well that kinda works for us, less weight is good and longer would be better but it really is s*it or bust. Talking with the old boys around, back in the day you could use PTFE slugs either end of the pin to stop float, but you can use cork! Liz enquires at the Egli Vincent garage next door if, as they are French, they might have a wine cork going spare? After choosing the cheaper of two bottles we have some cork and a 4mm slug is made to fit between pin and circlip.

As for the head clearance problem, when we arrive in the morning (by bus) Rich is making a head gasket from sticky silver tape, but just before I left the house Tony had wandered in saying would this be of help? Holding a head gasket in his hand! Yes please, and placing this with the original one gives us just the right amount of squish to run. 
Now I know this is not ideal, but it is still s*it or bust you know.

Emily is duly re-assembled and cleaned as oil seems have gone everywhere. Timing belt adjusted, battery box refitted and fresh oil with a new filter. She certainly turns over by hand so at last two new spark plugs are installed and the fuel tank refitted. A boost from the battery pack and .........she runs! Awesome.

We go through a heat cycle and all seems well, in fact she sounds quite chipper all considered. Final checks are made, lock wiring is completed and just a day or so after a disaster she is ready to go complete with fairings. Quite remarkable really.

Earlier a photographer who passed our garage had asked where the other Ducati was, he'd been tasked with getting a story on a Ducati, well Alf's Motorcycles had failed to attend for the 2nd year so if we could get Emily running that would be a story, as he gazed upon our old piston and snapped our donation tray. The good news is we raised £19.37 which we donated to the Injured Riders Fund.

So with a running bike Wayne and Emily had a photo shoot to attend, Wayne complete with his leathers looked resplendent with a nervous smile in the evening glow of the pits.

Late on the Sunday the Egli Vincent team gift us a few litres of 101RON fuel as does Ian Sinclair, we have just enough for about a 50/50 mix of 101 and 97RON for the race. All we can do is prepare as if all was normal. Monday dawns and we arrive at the paddock to find that due to a communications fault all sessions are delayed, in the end about 4 hours are lost on a beautiful day for racing. Wayne goes through his preparation once and then again, it is very frustrating, but then that's the island for you.

Finally we get the start time and go through scrutineering for the last time, apart from a small piece of lock wire on an exhaust spring Emily has passed every time with ease, can she beat the course?

We set her up in Parc Ferme and apart from bit of fuel overflowing in the heat all is well.

When the 30 minute warning goes we are allowed to fill the hoppers in the pit lane and go through a final brief with Tommy and Gab. It's all a bit of a rush as we have to be here to fuel and want also to be Parc Ferme warming the bike and just checking one last time. Still all seems good and escort Wayne as far as we can towards the start line, a last good luck and Tommy and I leave Wayne to do his thing.

No going back now I guess, and we can only watch from the sidelines as Wayne gets off to a cracking start, I can see the front wheel hover as he set off towards Bray Hill.

Sadly the end was not far away. After coming out of Ballagarey Corner, Wayne feels that the power is dropping and the temp is high, so he does the right thing and pulls off at Crosby. Wayne suspects the old head gasket has failed, if there was an Achilles heel the island will find it. A shame but this is the most unforgiving place on man and machine. So we pack up and we go home courtesy of the RAC, but that's just another chapter in the story, we'll be back if the island will have us, bigger, better and a little wiser.

My thanks go to everyone involved, but in particular to Wayne, Richard, Liz, Harriet, Tommy, Jason and Gab for putting up with a grumpy old man.

1 comment:

  1. Great effort from everyone, and great to read. I hope the damage isn't too bad when you strip the engine. Let us all know what you find inside.........