Wednesday 5 October 2016

Looking back at the 2016 Classic TT

Well it’s the 1st of August and finally all the parts, well I say all the parts, that is to say all the parts except those I haven’t got or I need to make are here. Maybe I should say I have most of the big bits but the devil is in the detail, it’s always in the detail. We leave for the Isle of Man on the 18th, the race is 30 days away. Err……holy crap. Many projects seem to take a year or two to finish a project, let’s see if it can be done in a couple of weeks.

It begins
The Ciderman Wayne has been able to pop over for a couple of days to give project Katy a kick start, he still has one foot bigger than the other from his whoopsy at the TT so maybe kick start should also read differently. We have two days to tinker on Katy before heading off to Silverstone with Liz for a ladies only track day, in two days you can get something that resembles a pretty finished bike. The frame, engine, forks, swingarm, suspension and wheels all go in pretty quick and hey presto, she’s a roller. We get on with other jobs like the shark's fin and holes in dashboards for clocks, bang on clip-ons, rear brake, Brembo goodies and sub frames but you run out of things you can do if you don’t quite have everything. Without an extra pair of hands I wouldn’t have got the engine into the now traditional build room (read conservatory), so thanks to Wayne for taking the time to pop over. 

The Silver Fox pops in.

Emily, work in progress.
  Whilst reading this you may ask “where’s Emily?” She’s fine, a refreshed engine with pistons bought and sent over by proxy for me by Mark Roberts in San Francisco complete with an air pressure sensor, thanks to Mark and the big 888 family. The top end of the engine was refreshed by Louigi Moto and has been back on the dyno and still makes, as expected, 117rwbhp. Emily is parked in the garage, she was a relatively easy fix and proven bike and everything fits where it should. She’s already good to go.
Of course as someone said to me just recently "90% finished leaves you 90% to do", which sounds odd but is sooooo true. I need to get the air runners fitted so I can mount the ECU, if I can mount the ECU I can work on the loom position but I need the air runner bobbins made so I perform those tasks. The four aluminium bobbins, easy to make but I need a lathe and I can’t get on the lathe till the 11th. I can’t even test fit the fairings as they hang off the same parts, it will all fit of course, it will, no really it will. I tinker over the next week with little odds and sods and order titanium fixings to make me feel like I’m getting somewhere, but am effectively stalled. In the meantime Peter of Oronero fame stops by to drop off a few carbon goodies and to assemble a new crankcase breather box for the sub frame. It’s interesting to see inside the breather box and see the carbon plates that baffle internally to collect the oil vapour allowing it to run back into the engine. As is the way with these things and Peter everything takes a little longer, time seeps away and he stays over so that's a good excuse for a curry. The 11th comes and I get an hour on Mark's lathe to knock up the bobbins, no problem except in my haste I make one back to front, it will have to work for now and I’ll come back to it after we return. Having got these parts this sets in motion another cascade of little things that set you back. 

Now I have the ECU in place I can fit the loom, the problem is, and I didn’t see it coming, is that the 888 cases use temperature senders in different locations to the ST4S donor cases I’m using. The ECU water temp is in the wrong place and the dash gauge water temp sender doesn’t exist, with a Corse loom that is made to fit there is no room for positional changes. Having tried a few different fittings, including one fitting sent over from Germany I chew over the problem with big Chris at Louigi Moto. He suggests that we could use the later type oil temp sender on the strainer and I can make an extension for the ECU water temp sender. It all sounds so easy but it all takes time, tick tock. We don’t have time or the money for the Plan A colour scheme so Plan B comes to the fore, that’ll be red then, the old trackday fairings I already have along with a fibreglass seat unit that weighs a ton. Still, this was always going to be a development year and anything solid will do for the Isle. The fairings are fitted, brackets are fettled, just missing a belly pan, more of that later………………..a whole lot later. Fuel tank fitment is a bastard, more of that later too, I have to dremal away access slots in the now even more leaky air box to be able to bolt the tank down. Fuel line access is pants and tight on the air box, it also fouls the throttle bodies, please just one job give me a break. If anyone who reads this knows where you can get 8mm fuel hose with a pre moulded 90 degree bend please let me know. Battery box OK, new battery from Carrot Cycles very OK, radiator bracket OK, front wheel spacer OK, alignment of rear sprocket not OK. I have a different output shaft fitted to the gear box so need to set the spacer for the sprocket, but it’s just not checking out. I then realise I have the wrong sprocket carrier on the rear, which is probably why when I bought the bike the front sprocket was back to front. No problem, I have another and once fitted I can get the front sprocket within 20 thou without any more adjustments or parts, hooray. A few more days holiday off work and working in the garden sunshine Al Fresco and we’re nearly there, no chain, no brakes (who needs ‘em) but with three days to go she turns over and is at Louigi Moto's workshop for the prestart check over.  It’s Tuesday morning and by 11am she can go on the dyno, just fit a chain and hey presto, I said hey presto! Chain fitted and tweeks made but hey presto no spark, fiddle around, no spark, different plugs and then leads and then ECU and then different coils, no spark. Substitute a complete 996 SPS loom, draped like Christmas decorations around Katy, we have a spark. Tick tock, old father time moves on and with telephone help we find that the two wires that feed the coils have got cut in manufacture whilst being crimped. 

Feck, feck, feck
 It’s just one of those things, it just happened to those two wires only, everything else checked out from the ECU. Thanks to Papa Louigi once again for his time and input to the project. All fixed, but by now and like the flat batteries through the day we’re too late to get on the dyno, but she runs and was shown live on Facebook in her moments of birth, oooer. 

  Wayne is on the boat to the Isle a day later than us and volunteers to collect Katy before travelling up to try and get her a run on the dyno. It turns out that Mr Dyno hasn’t the time even when we leave Katy at the workshop for the extra day. Hey ho, we'll run with a standard 996SPS chip for the twin green injectors and plan to at least see Mr ‘Slick’ Bass on the Isle for a mixture run as soon as possible.
We are by now already on the Isle with Emily and courtesy of Lloyd and Jason we have our pitch all set out, a few enquiries are made and we have two of the posh white garages in the main paddock area, these are to house my two 888s, Dave Hewson’s TZ250 along with an RC30 with a rider from Canada. I never got to meet the said Canadian rider as his RC30 dropped a valve on the first night of practice and flew home again, what a pisser for him. We are all nice and cosy and as the weather is appalling, we settle down in the caravan to wait out the rain, there is now’t to be done until Katy arrives. Friday comes and so does Wayne with Katy.  With regards to the belly pan that was to be mentioned later, this was collected by Wayne in a hand over from the ever time teasing Peter somewhere on the M6, just cutting it fine again. The belly pan has been made from pictures of Katy with metre rule, a bit of Emily’s existing pan, some 916 and guesses, just another 'fingers crossed it fits' moment. As expected Saturday's practice is cancelled which is good for Katy but not for the ready to rock Emily and Wayne, I’ve yet to see a Manx Saturday practice, maybe next year. Of course this is good for Katy as we hide her away in Dave’s friend Denis’s secret HQ garage just off the bottom of Bray Hill (you’d never find it), an ideal location for the finishing of bikes with power tools, materials and benches to hand.

The pan.

 Wayne has brought over some spare brake lines, Dave has tyres and oil and it all seems good, but the closer you get to your goal the harder it gets. To be honest I really can’t recall what went on over the next few days, with help from everyone, Dave, Adam, Sam and Liz we just get on with those tasks that need to be done from the big like brackets for the said belly pan to some tape under the kill switch as it moves. The original handle bar was made of Swiss cheese that came with the Harris clamps I prefer to not make holes in parts that don’t need them. The belly pan fits inside the road fairings and these need the return on the edges just ground off to get the fairing to close together and the pan is suspended on four brackets inside. The fit is as snug as, and will certainly do the job. Fuel line fitment is again adjusted to stop fouling the throttle linkage as we fit quick connectors in, little point really as Dave is the only one with fingers that can get the front bolts to start, the whole job takes an age, not very racy. Dave also does a set up and bolt check over Katy so I’d just like to point out it wasn’t my fault the clip on came loose at Glen Helen.

Looks finished, but this is just a test fit.
 Monday comes and we pop up to Andreas to see the legend that is Mr Bass, I explain that she still needs another heat cycle being so new and all so I drum the throttle in the bay with one finger in my ear until Slick passes me come cans. She does sound good though. She certainly smells rich as I warm her up, but that’s what we expected and with the 25% mix of race to pump fuel we are able to run, thanks to the generosity of Guy Burton of Burton Engineering, we shouldn’t have the same detonation issues we had with Emily a year ago. This will be just a power run, Slick is a Power Commander guy and I prefer old school EEPROM so it will be what it will be with standard chip for now. 

It hurts

Yep she’s running rich and making 131rwbhp with some tyre slip on the new Dunlops. Slick shows me some other dyno runs of another famous racer and see that with what he calls a “dyno tyre” an increase in power from 91 to 98bhp, quite stunning if you need to brag down the pub. Katy’s tickover is piss poor to say the least but Rich in the meantime is on the case and already has plans for another chip to be burnt prior to flying over Thursday, but as they say on Forged in Fire “She will run”.

Tuesday comes and all Katy has done is run on a dyno and up a lane in first gear so by getting a number plate made we head off to a quiet location somewhere on the Isle of Man for Dave and Katy to at least get acquainted. It’s quite twisty, very scenic and I suspect that the front wheel pawing the air is a good thing as I warn other motorists that they may meet a motorcycle coming at speed the other way, but that they will hear her first. Dave's only real issue is that the seat is too low for his long legs, an easy fix after a visit to the everlasting Denis Trollope. She goes, stops and turns, of course this is all relatively low speed stuff so tweaks will be made. Scrutineering is now a double whammy with two bikes to see through, I leave Tommy and Wayne with Emily and Dave and I see Katy through, two clean sheets and we’re off to the pit lane, credit to the team. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to just say that a lap or two later all was well, ha. Dave skips off the line and pulling second the back wheel kicks and the next we see of him, he is sweating profusely having pushed Katy back into Parc Ferme. It turns out that the chain adjuster has given up and the rear wheel has pulled forward on the chain side. It may be my fault not doing up the rear spindle tight enough or just component failure, either way that’s tonight's show over for Dave although Wayne and Emily have a good run. When Wayne gets back I ask “What do we need to change?” he replies “Nothing boss, she’s fine” and shakes my hand.  He does admit to a little fist pump after passing through Joey’s corner after his off at the TT, it’s a mind game after all. Roads open and Dave heads off to knock up some aluminium laminate plates at secret HQI call Ross, a near neighbour of mine, to nip around to Jenny my neighbour who is looking after the cats, to get the keys to get in the garage to go to the top drawer to get a pair of OEM adjusters, then Wednesday ride over to Papa Louigi to drop them off as he’s flying over Thursday, phew, got it? All the spares in all the wrong places! 
Wednesday, there is an open testing track day at Jurby so we head up there early to fit the new home made adjusters and have a better shake down.   We share the early morning cool air and blue skies with Mick Grant on a 250 and Jonathan Rea on his WSB bike. Dave declines our teasing to show Jonny the way round, he was probably worried by Mick Grant as well, tee he. Testing goes well but two issues are apparent, one is that the gearing is too short, even at 15-37 Dave is running out of revs on the back straight on a short circuit. Even if the sight of Katy popping the front wheel in the air between turns is cool it’ll never do on the Sulby straight. I have a 36T rear sprocket but that is about as small as they go. The other issue is that the oil cooler is just not getting hot without the diverter spring fitted so I ask around on the Isle to see if there's one to be had, nope, there's not even one in stock at Moto Rapido. So ask Papa to pack one of those with the now filling bag of spares. Because we only have some home-made adjuster plates and the temperature issue I decide to pull Katy out of tonight's practice so Dave will have to make do with the TZ. In the meantime Wayne does some more laps and seems very happy with the Dunlop tyres he is running this year, all quiet on the Emily front.
Thursday, Papa arrives and drops off a bag of bits including a new EEPROM. I just get on with fitting the parts to Katy in preparation for tonight, I’d like a day off. Papa Louigi makes a few tweeks and now Katy will tick over. Speaking to Dave later in the day he thinks that even with a 36T sprocket we’ll be off on the gearing and asks B&C Express if they have a 34T available, they call back later and yes they do but the machinist doesn’t work Fridays, ah bugger. During the day I notice that there is a possibility of the road style rear suspension rocker fouling the inlet spigot on the crankcase breather box, I pull out the spigot and replace the unit with some silicone hose to feed the reed valve in the air box. As you may have noticed Wayne is clocking up the laps and Dave is not, well not on the 888 anyway. The race is only 5 days away with 3 more sessions to go, cross everything. Scrutineering passed again for both girls, we hatch a plan to get both the girls and boys off the line together for photographic purposes, we’d hoped that Wayne could slip out with Dave but Milky is having none of it so Dave waits for Wayne’s group to be called and they set off together, so cool. 


They run together to Union Mills and Dave pulls away on the more powerful bike but through Ballagarey Dave notices that the left clip on moves and although he considers carrying on he has to pull in at Glen Helen to borrow a 6mm allen key of the marshals. He still posts a 97mph lap after passing through static yellow flags over the mountain and rolling off throttle as Katy just revs out, she’s fast. Katy also returns with a light coating of oil all down the left side, my silicone hose breather plan sucks and blows oil out of the air box, refer to need to baffle oil mist as seen earlier. Wayne and Emily do another lap without any drama thankfully for the team.

Friday, Dave makes some enquiries to B&C but not a lot is going on, Jon the machinist texts Dave to ask if there is any joy, Jon says to leave it with him. Jon comes in on his day off and sends Dave a photo of the sprocket being machined. Huge thanks for taking the time to get us out of a fix. In the meantime we apply to the clerk of the course for Wayne to move forward two groups to start officially with Dave and we are granted our wish. I also have another box of carbon from Oronero, this one has the larger breather box the same as Emily and means that the road rocker will miss the spigot, another day, another job to get it fitted. Scrutineering goes pretty well, Katy gets an advisory that the left footpeg rotates and although not loose we attend to the issue with some Loctite. Now the footpeg was a bit of a sod to undo, it wasn’t loose and the screw had to be undone all the way. Cleaned and refitted tight with Loctite the peg didn’t spin any more, but as Dave approached Schoolhouse corner the bloody thing had gone! Dave limped back via the Laxey coast road, Wayne did more laps and tweaked the suspension. I’m not sure if it was this evening but on one Wayne had made suspension changes before a two lap session, he pulled in after one lap as the handling was completely off, he said he knew by St Ninians that is was wrong and was surprised that an awful lap still equated to 105mph, not bad for a bad one.
Saturday, starts very well. Dave arrives already with the 34T sprocket in hand, it’s soooo tiny! We shorten the chain and fit the wee blighter, we also fit the spare alloy footpegs of shame to Katy for today's session, it’s getting all a bit shit or bust. Dave has also had some problems with clutch feel so as I have another slave cylinder and pushrod of a slightly different length we fit that to improve travel. It’s not until we get onto Glencrutchery Road that we are told the advertised one lap session is now two so we tell Dave to stop in for some gas. Dave completes one lap and stops for a splash and dash of fuel and complains of the hard work she is compared to the TZ, really? From standing starts Dave does a pair of 112mph laps, stonking. We now have oil mist on the right side of the bike, FFS. It’s traced to the small oil seal that sits around the clutch push rod on the basket side, it must have gone when the new rod was fitted. But it’s OK Ducati John of Leeds is on the boat on Sunday and offers to bring over the spares we need, all this cutting it fine crap is doing me in. Wayne takes the day off, and why not.

The errant seal.
Sunday, plans were to go to the festival at Jurby for the first time, maybe next year. I get the rear wheels out of Emily and Katy ready for new boots and John arrives with the £2.56 seal that could have ruined the day. All parts duly fitted the bikes get the once over and an oil change for Emily, both bikes have qualified and somewhere in the week Wayne has notched up a personal best lap of 109.905mph, having set an informal goal of 110mph, that’s close enough. Nice job Wayne.
Monday, race day. The day starts well with sun and not much breeze, I start Katy up to double check that the oil seal is holding and it all looks fine, this is one bike that will never rust. We final fit her fairings and Wayne and Emily are called up to scrutineering ealier than us for once as on race day the bikes are called in reverse order, this turns out to a god send. Now we are that close to the start of the race what could possibly go wrong, I pop one of our lucky Koala mascots from Phil Whitton in the screen and I just flip the throttle to hear the butterflies snap shut, they don’t. 

All hands on deck.
Now as mentioned earlier I have had the fuel lines foul the throttle body assembly before so immediately thought that the hoses had moved even though they were secured with tie wraps. It’s not the fuel lines though, the butterfly pivots seem to have seized in the bodies and they only move if pushed into place, certainly no good for a race today. All we can do with around 80 minutes to the race and 10 till scrutineering is strip off the fuel tank to get under and see what is going on. I start barking a few orders around, wire cutters, 8mm spanner, gaffer tape “what colour?” “I don’t care what f***ing colour” etc etc. A liberal dose of GT85 and WD40 seem to do the trick but I’m still worried as to why they have stuck at all and will it happen again? We use Dave’s spindly fingers to get the bolts started again and send Phil Colgan over to keep scrutineering open for us, we’re coming! All done Jez and I take Katy up for inspection, it seems to take an age when Jez explains that the scrutineer thought Katy was one of the post-race parade bikes and had put on the wrong sticker so was going to do her again with a keener eye, FFS get on with it the race starts in 50 minutes!  

Hurry up!
   We leave the bay finally with the appropriate sticker and hurry over to the holding area to get Katy’s tyres on the warmers as quick possible As we push, the tannoy announces that we are now able to fill our refuelling rigs, we’ve not even got our fireproof gear on yet. Tommy and Gab are already sorted at Wayne’s pit as we pass to ours, big Adam passes up the jerry cans to Jez after a neat fuel flush to check the line we get ourselves organised for later, tape, tools and tie wraps. Then back to the bikes for their final fuel top ups, last year we found out how much fuel expands on a hot day losing half a litre at least into the overflow pot and belly pan so this year we leave both bikes short by 3 or so litres to avoid the problem. 

As we’ve missed quite a few sessions we have a surplus of 115 octane race fuel so I pushed the ratio to 50/50, this will only help the bikes run cooler during the four lap epic. The 15 minute siren goes and shortly we are off to Glencrutchery Road to line up in our start numbers, these are allocated in an unknown way as Wayne is at 61 and certainly quicker than quite a few ahead of him. I never know quite what to say to the guys at this point, just a nod will do, they have enough to think about in the next hour and 25 minutes. I walk alongside keeping away and close to the wall, close enough if they need anything, far enough away to be out of sight.

Dave's away at 28 and 330 seconds later so is Wayne, we retire to the pits and try to listen to the commentary. Bits of info drip in and we have to rely on the scouts manning the ancient scoreboard for location as we can’t even see the girls in the family area from our location towards the end of pit lane. Both the pairings boom down past the pits and sound fecking awesome against the backdrop of Jap wailers, the only other noise of note is the rotary Norton screaming like a two stroke banshee as she flies by. The arrows move, the bikes are still going, we wait for the light at Cronk na Mona to come on, we’re ready with balaclavas atop our heads. An experienced Jez Hill is on the fuel, Adam Collins gets visor and drink duties, I’ll just clean the screen and will be on hand for anything else. The light comes on and then Dave is in, but there really is no rush, it takes quite a while for 20 litres of fuel to gravity feed itself into the tank, I’m done, Adam is done and we wait those last few seconds. I step to the rear just in case we need to push start but fuel cap on and boom they’re off, Dave exits close behind Tim Monett (30) who he will circulate with for the next two laps. Jez and Adam go for an ice cream whilst I drift up to Wayne’s pit to help if required. Earlier in the day Emily’s battery seemed to have given up the ghost and we’ve had it on charge all morning, I may need to push. 
The waiting game.

 Wayne is in and Gab, Tommy and Grant move into action, I think during the stop Gab makes a mistake as I hear him say “Sorry, sorry, fuck off” in his Italian accent. Wayne pushes the button but she doesn’t start, I start to get over the wall but the ever present Tommy pushes for all he’s worth and boom they’re off. I’m just concerned that this may be an underlying problem to do with charging that has not been seen through the preceding week. In the meantime Wayne gets a good mention when the commentator gets excited by his angle of lean through Glen Helen as he zips around the outside of another rider, he has made up around 30 places by now. All we can do now is be ready in case either stop on their third lap for any reason, but again the arrows move and both boom down Glencrutchery Road, lovely. One more lap to go and we get out of the hot overalls on this fine day and wait at the expected time near the end of the return road, tick tock, time passes and then boom we hear Dave and Katy coming home. He does a sneaky burn out and returns to Parc Ferme where we are by now to greet our first hero home. With all we’ve been through the pair have done the job and initially we’re told we are in 15th place, brilliant! My phone rings and it’s Guy congratulating us on the finish, I say thanks but my mind is already on Wayne and Emily, he’s due in, tick tock, boom there is only one other bike that sounds that good and she’s next to me so Wayne is home and my skin tingles now just thinking about it, two away at the start and two at the finish. Wayne pulls into Parc Ferme too and it’s free hugs all round for the team. It’s just brilliant.

Hanging on.
Team grins.

More team grins.

Don't ask me!

Home time

After the dust has settled it turns out that due to 4 disqualifications the lads have moved up the order to finish in 11th and 23rd, nice for us but not so for the riders that have hung it on the line for nothing. That gets a well deserved silver and bronze replica each for the lads and a few drinks too, for the whole team. As for the two girls, an oil change and some suspension work to do, an even more improved belly pan is being made, change of colour scheme and if I can find the parts I might just build another engine, any sponsors? 

Onboard with Katy and Dave 

A huge thanks to all involved and in no particular order,
 Wayne Axon, Dave Hewson, Liz Evans, Guy Burton, Rich Llewellin, Frame Fab, Oronero, Sam Young, Adam Collins, Tommy, Jason, Jez Hill, Gabriele Pezzotta, Grant, Ducati John, Ross Alkins, Pete Sutton, Big Chris, Mark Barrett, Mark Roberts, Denis, Carrot Cycles, B&C Express, Motul and anyone else who knows me.

Maybe see you all next year.

1 comment:

  1. Fan-bloody-tastic!!! Awesome job Stafford and Team. You should be massively proud of yourselves!!