This post is nearly as late as the bikes are crossing the finish line, from that you surmise that all didn't go according to plan.
It's so long ago now I hope I can remember what did happen, but at first all was well with the world, the bikes and the riders. Both Dave and James had a run out at the Jurby circuit and other than expected tweeks all was looking rosy. Practice at first continued in the same vain with both riders setting nice 111mph laps to get themselves more acquainted with bikes and the course conditions.
Working with James's mechanic Phil was great and it was good to get an insight into even more prep we could do on the bike prior to departure. I'd like to think he enjoyed himself at the Festival of Motorcycling with hopefully less pressure than the main TT event, but we did find some odd things that we never expected. Last year Dave (on Katy) kept adding preload to the Ohlins front forks, what James noticed was that the preload adjusters were winding themselves off whilst circulating the island, sorry Dave we have now fixed that with some locking wire. It certainly was an eye-opener working with Phil and his understanding of James's needs and with adjustments we tried to give James the best set up we could. It must have been reasonably good as James lapped just a few seconds outside the 888 Ducati lap record set by Mark Farmer back in 1993. As seems normal at the TT races things happen that you've never seen or expected, one event was that we lost the reed valve off the engine breather inside the air-box, it was quite simply gone to that great roadside pile of bits and bolts along the circuit. Probably alongside Dave's footpeg from the year before. A phone call to my friend Phil Colgan got him to finish the tooling he'd been working on for a few years to make these overnight, a replacement reed valve kindly gifted was installed soon after.
In the meantime, Dave was also working furiously on the 250 Yamaha again, as well as taking Emily out for a few laps. Sadly on one of the laps, at the end of Cronk Y Voddy straight, we had a catastrophic failure of the main bearing. This destroyed the main bearing assembly along with splitting the outer race of the bearing into two halves radially, along with that the super rare 996SPS twin pick up alternator cover was also destroyed. This effectively ended Dave's Superbike challenge, I simply don't have those parts to hand on the island and given the size of the van was unable to bring the spare engine, this has been rectified for this year as long as I can source the parts. Upon return inspection we can only assume that the brand new main bearing had failed causing the destruction. Nobody said it was easy.
James was having a better week with a 7th place finish on Steve Caffyn's 500 Honda. This was their first finish over the TT course for this class and we were all chuffed for them. Our Superbike race was delayed a day due to the weather which meant James and family had to rebook their travel arrangements and poor Phil was supposed to be elsewhere. But we prepared for the race as normal fuel, tyres and checks and more checks. The TV crew had been around and stuck cameras on the bike for ITV, we were ready to go.
We're all dressed up in our Alpinestar fire suits and James looks resplendent in his Dainese leathers even Michael Rutter says how good the Ducati looks on the start line. James asks Liz why I'm so quiet, she says "he's like that on race days", and I am more nervous than all week, this as always is the toughest part, 4 laps with a pit stop.
James speeds away as the starter gives him the customary tap him on the shoulder, a slight wheelie and he's gone. In the mean time we're in the pit area resplendent in our new blue fire proof suits, the fuel has been loaded in the overhead tank and Phil has tested the flow due to previous issues. We listen on the radio via the speakers in the stands as best can over the noise of departing riders and their machines to try and keep up with James's progress. The scouts do their thing on the old scoreboard and all seems good as James flies down Glencrutchery Road at a speed that makes me gulp! A few minutes pass and just before we expect James at Glen Helen we hear that he has retired at Ballacrye corner, rider ok. We get news that it's a mechanical issue and think we can get away to collect the bike and James via some of the back roads and before we even set off James is back, a kind marshal has run him back in her car, star power. He said it just started making a bit of a racket so pulled over, fair enough, bugger.
Liz and I do pop out and collected poor Katy and there is little to do except have a beer really. The diagnosis can wait until we return but we do have a date with a photographer for a piece in Practical Sportsbikes magazine so she gets to roll on Manx soil for one last time this year.
The autopsy finds that something had pierced the front cam belt cover and the debris has got between the belt and the front exhaust cam pulley causing of course a loss of timing and some valve to piston interference. Two bent valves are all that are required to fix after all, along with of course a load of new gaskets and renewed big end shells just in case. Not too catastrophic for the engine but enough to end our hopes of a race finish.
Until next time folks.