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13th October 2006 

Brands Hatch II (The end of it all?) 

Long awaited; the last time we were at this iconic circuit, it was painful. This episode was equally agonising, but in a different way……..

I was late back from a long, and somewhat trying, African trip; arrived home late Thursday evening. Friday morning we loaded the camper, minus the dog, and headed for the track. Arrived to find the in-laws guarding a suitably sized spot and parked up; right in front of a small tent, whose occupant was clearly enjoying the solitude. Dinner, a glass or two of the grape, and Maz arrives; moaning, naturally, that his garage is not yet set up. I point out the force 8 gale and invite him in for a Stella.

The bike has had a quick check over and oil change since Ronnie stepped up to the plate following my "off" at Druids last time we were here. Time limitations have prevented further investigations, upgrades or rectification.

Following bacon sarnies the next morning we head to scrutineering for the inevitable, "where’s the drain plug" interrogation and meet a few of the marshals, who are running a sweepstake on which bit falls off next. Hmmmm. Turns out that the front "50" is displayed in a non-regulation size. Despite protestations that the S1 is hard to mistake in a sea of SVs, the bureaucrat insists on larger numbers. It was even suggested by another officer of the club that the bike is so slow down the straight he could probably read the chassis number rather than the number boards……bastid!

Maz applies larger identifiers over coffee back at Camp Begger.

Saturday practice….. a lap or two easing back into Brands; the front end is a bit squidgy and wriggling on the entry to Paddock under heavy braking, a bit of chatter from the rear exiting Clearways, getting better at Paddock each lap but way early on the brakes into Druids.

We adjust tyre pressures (forgot to do them when cold, so we are guessing a bit) and out for race 1.

A thorough disaster! a somewhat average start with the overly slack belt jumping teeth leads to slipping a few places on the short sprint to Paddock. Holding my chosen line there I witness an SV going into the gravel on the exit. Up the hill to Druids and I gain a place on the brakes; only to lose it as I run wide on the way out. Dash down to the left hander at the bottom of the hill and the field is already starting to stretch & thin out. The front runners are very fast! I settle in behind a red SV and follow it round for a lap; he is fast through Druids but holding me up round Clearways. I take him on a smooth outside line on the next lap only to be passed again 1/3 the way down the straight. Was I late on the power on the exit? I get the better line through Paddock and brake later into Druids……open the throttle at the apex, the rear end chatters, I accelerate away….then the bike screams as it hits the rev limiter – it has dropped out of gear!. I reselect but time is lost and the SV goes past…. Fuck! I get him on the way out of the Graham Hill lefthander and stay in front until the straight where he goes past….. Front tyre is wriggling and squirming on the way into Paddock and the rear is hopping as I leave it until almost too late to jam on the excellent Harrisons in an attempt to retake him. Side by side out of Paddock but I lose ground up the hill, late into Druids…closing, closing. Open the throttle on the way out and I think I will have just enough to win the inside line into the left hander. 2nd drops out again and I lose half a dozen lengths. We carry on swapping places until the 8th lap and I see the blue flag…Fuck!!! I am about to get lapped…. ‘kin ell, that hasn’t happened before! Rob Wittey comes flying by like I am parked, followed rapidly by places 2 & 3……. Didn’t enjoy that at all. Race thankfully ends a minute later and back to the garage. Can’t resist blipping the throttle on the way through the tunnel….makes everyone jump and I feel slightly better.

Back in the pits we discuss the woeful lack of speed and the gearbox issue; arriving at nothing conclusive. The rear tyre is horribly gouged with a nasty furrow of missing lumps over a 3rd of the surface on the right side. We decide that the pressure is low and the tyre is "folding". We also, for the first time this season (I know, I know) make a note of the suspension settings and the changes we are making. Maz changes the gearbox in an astonishingly short time and we turn to Kim’s coronation chicken for lunch, in order to restore a bit of decorum to the proceedings.

Race 2 – Rear tyre 3psi harder, hi speed damping 2 clicks back, lo speed also 2 clicks out and we attempt to sound like we have a clue what we are doing. Another so-so start with the belt making a very disturbing racket as it slips again at launch….and a similar result to the race. I am a second a lap quicker but it only delays the inevitable lapping by one lap. Very grim….the bike is getting slower and slower down the straight. However back to the pits, the barbie and a beer call; banter is the order of the evening….

Sunday morning, practice is reduced to 3 laps in an attempt to get everyone out and still finish the day at a reasonable time. I dispatch without a transponder and arrive at the assembly area to be faced with a "you will be reported". Check the bothered pocket and find that it was not specified in my leathers. Quite honestly 3 laps is hardly worth the effort; back to the pike wagon for a bacon sarnie. The rear tyre is still showing horrible wear in a band approx 1/3rd in from the right side of the tyre, the gouges are getting deeper and the back end is becoming increasingly unsettled at the exit to clearways. The wear is attributed to a lack of pressure and another psi is pumped in.

Race 1 Sunday - I am feeling better and the start is rather more exuberant; the typical dice with the usual suspects ensues and a litany of gear issues follow. It really is very frustrating to lose several lengths when the throttle is rolled open and all you get is a lot of noise and a lack of thrust. Embarrassing to hit the rev limiter for whatever reason……the bike has a certain "tone" that alerts the crowd! I am braking much, much later into corners and carrying much more speed through them. The front is writhing under pressure and rear-end slides are becoming the norm. But the straights still seem to be getting longer and longer….. lapped again!!!! The only benefit is that as the leaders come past I can see their lines; this time as we are all entering Clearways corner I resolve to follow Rob’s line…… he is smooth and slick and the Buell will just not hold the same track. I am fighting to keep it on a similar radius; the bike is porpoising and seems to change geometry as the throttle is opened…… ‘kin annoying but Rob is gone……

We discuss this in the pits after the race and Maz informs me that, due to Erik’s rubber mounted swingarm, the rear wheel adopts a rather different arc through the corner to the front when pushed hard. Apparently the factory race teams insert a metal spacer into the isolators to negate this effect; we haven’t done so and this seems to explain rather a lot….

Despite changing pressures the rear tyre is getting worse and I elect to seek advice from Rod the tyre supplier…. He laughs and decrees a new one is required (shock!). The reason for the missing lumps is, apparently, that the suspension is way out of adjustment – the shock is "pumping down" and the bike is forced to use the rear tyre to move instead of the suspension. This explains the "chattering" from the rear on the exit to Clearways. We change the tyre and back out some more rebound damping, both high & low speed. Bike done I go to watch some racing and have lunch with Gill. We ponder this and postulate that and meander back to Camp Begger…. to be confronted with "get yer lid on!" Bemsee have advertised lunch separating the races today and then decided to bring us forward – typical, I am normally suited up and ready to go when they declare a non scheduled lunch break on Sundays. I spin up the bike and hurry to the assembly area. Just in time, I assume 19th place on the grid (Oh, the shame of it). The final race is slightly better than the preceding but I am still taken from behind by enough of the leaders to understand how a rent boy feels…… 15th place - the best of the weekend…..

The Buell seems to be losing power again, much as it did at Snetterton On that occasion it turned out the cylinders & pistons were eating themselves, cause yet to be established. The upside is that they were replaced by Revolution Performance FOC. The worrying thing is that it seems to be happening again. The engine, despite being of a relatively lowly state of tune, has always required to be run on high octane, heavily leaded, "Avgas" to avoid pinking. Odd given the modest power output. I am starting to think that a lack of dyno time and attention to the ignition setup is the root cause of the problems and that Avgas is merely masking the symptoms. Plenty of Buells produce more than the paltry 90 and a bit bhp that we do and run on normal fuels.

Lessons learnt this weekend :

- suspension setup is crucial, and the reference to a baseline setting is vital; a click here or there has a huge impact on the track, notes really need to be made religiously at every change.

- Harrison brakes work. They suffered no fade or performance degradation at any time, despite the increasingly desperate, late braking being employed due to the engine power decay.

- The header pipe has fractured at the collector box again……. although Peter Moltmann’s front mount design works very well and should be embodied as a standard fitment. Braze the mount to the header, it has lasted longer than anything else.

Maz is not going to have a chance to look at the bike before Lydden and the Thursday practice makes it a 5 day weekend; a long time off work. I am reluctant to run the bike with its deteriorating engine, so it seems that the season is now over - prematurely, rather disappointingly.

Huge thanks to all those that have come along to support this year, it has been much appreciated and has made the effort worthwhile. We set out to build the best tuber that we possibly could. Whether we achieved that remains open to debate but I think that we built a very nice looking S1 and adopted an evolutionary approach to upgrades by changing the original bits where needed and when they broke.

Lessons learnt this season :

- The engine turned out to be hugely under specified for the job – Standard T’storm heads and the Screaming Eagle cams were never going to produce the power we needed.

- The race kit exhaust proved woeful and we broke a set of headers somewhere at every meeting until PPIA’s modified pipe was installed…..

- AST make a damn fine shock, the prototype failed but the manufacturer acknowledged the problem and have improved it in accordance with feedback received. All that can be asked. Highly recommended

- Metmachex swing arms are great, but the unnecessary advertising strut that they incorporate is crap, failed and led to a black flag at Snetterton. Their only response was "our welds don’t fail" I look forward to meeting that particular individual, preferably whilst I have his failed component to hand.

- Rubber mounted swing arms are such a bad idea that the factory don’t use them in performance situations. Even sounds silly when one says it…..damps vibes on the road but no good for a track tool.

- Maxton forks are a great improvement on the stock item. Having said that, the difference in "early Tuber" WP & "late Tuber" Showa items after modification is like night & day. WP suffers by comparison

- The TwinTech ignition that we use is great, and very sexy looking, but apparently requires precise tuning in order to avoid the expensive and inconvenient failures we suffered with the top end, perhaps too adjustable unless plenty of dynotime & know how is available to set it up

- Mikuni HSR42 carb improves throttle response no end, but I did snap the stop off it whilst trying to get more power from the wheezing donk!

- The Standard Manta tank is so badly designed that it requires the fuel to be almost full to prevent the engine cutting out due to fuel surge. The small tank, ½ full with a very long fuel pipe solved the problem

- The standard S1 frame required extensive bracing to make it barely adequate for the track, with hindsight an X1 frame is a better starting point as most of the mods are already incorporated and the rather better exhaust routing it allows means that the heatshield is not required.

- Revolution Performance stand behind their product, no matter whose fault the failure was – good people.

- factory rear sets are very badly positioned. They are set so far back, to prevent their extreme width from limiting ground clearance, that they cause testicular discomfort, lead to rider fatigue, have a lack of leverage and give rise to a total inability to look good in photographs.

- PFM brakes are great, shame that they can’t be obtained anymore.

- Harrison brakes are great, look great and are available off the shelf . A tad more fiddly when it comes to changing pads/wheels, but do the job, plus they are nice people. Highly recommended.

- Harley dealers are of varying quality, we have been supported by some great ones this season, big thanks (in no particular order! ) to Black Bear, Harleyworld, Manchester Harley & Buell and DG20. If you are going to buy a bike, make the effort and buy from a dealer that is enthusiastic & knowledgeable, these are.

- Buells fun roadbikes but have no business being on a racetrack, almost every component specified by Buell and the ludicrous philosophies espoused by Erik seem flawed. From the concept of moving a very heavy engine HIGHER in the frame in order to fit a lightweight silencer underneath it (mass centralisation?), to the rather shoddy practice of mounting the swingarm in a fashion that allows the rear wheel to be several degrees out of line with the front under intense cornering situations, is inadequate.

Basic physics renders just about every claim totally false… "Trilogy of Tech" - the engine is too heavy and way too tall, intentionally badly positioned and mounted, the wheels are significantly heavier than other bikes in the paddock, a fact commented on almost every time I took them for a tyre change, the budget braking & suspension systems are a disgrace and the early tuber frame flexes in almost every direction. The XBs seem to be a step in the right direction…. weight is lower and more rigidly mounted, suspension is a more conventional layout and power output seems enhanced – but you may as well buy a European or Japanese bike and have it done properly anyway.

MYTH – A Buell is derived from a race philosophy – BUSTED!!!!!!

One of the Beggers summed it up with his characteristic wit

"Erik Buell – more Marketeer than Engineer!" (pet)



2nd August 2006

An evocative name and an historic location,.....  

...Brands Hatch - of all the circuits hosting Thunderbike this is the one with the most presence, and the one I most want to race at....., the end of July could not come quickly enough!  

At last we packed, everything, including the dog, into the camper and headed East on Thursday. My in-laws were to look after the dog as race tracks don't allow them on the premises....we had arranged to meet them at the circuit entrance but we were a bit early and they were a bit late. As it wasn't a race, test, practice or anything else day I decided to smuggle him in and meet them inside. No problem the gate jobsworth was not tall enough to see in to the camper and the dog kept quiet.  

We drive down to the paddock to select the premium site, but are disappointed to find the area all tarmac with nowhere for visitors to pitch tents etc and I do fear it is all going to get a bit too upclose and personal with the neighbours, most of whom are driving Transits and towing Caravans.... we opt instead for a nice private grassy compound a little away from the Paddock, overlooking the circuit and close enough to the assembly area, and park the camper in the middle of the grass to claim as much area as possible.  

My in-laws arrive shortly after, having told the gate nazi that they were here to collect a dog...."no dogs allowed at Brands mate, you must be in the wrong place".... no, they say, they have phoned their daughter and she said that they are inside with the dog.....a genuinely slapstick few minutes occurs as the security guard put an APB out for " the dog"....happily there are now enough competitors arrived to cause distraction and we all assure jobsworth, when interrogated, that no one has a dog inside the gate....how could they possibly when such diligent staff are manning it..... Dog is successfully smuggled out.  

Camp is soon pitched, popup garage with the flash new floor erected - bike on it's stands in the centre - Tools dug from the lockers, camper slideouts extended, awning out, Barbie assembled, Maz arrives, In an effort to keep the Buell area as Buell as possible I wander over to a caravanner that has pulled in and looks to be setting up to pitch for the weekend…. I tell him that he is more than welcome, of course, but we are expecting a large Geordie contingent later in the day…. “Geordies you say!……thanks for the tip mate, I’ll park in the paddock” and he drives off…..Geordies arrive soon after, Fins wanders in...I have a couple of glasses of wine, enjoy Gill's catering and retire earlyish in order to feel fresh for the next days practice sessions...... racing at Brands spins round my mind all night like an overexcited schoolboy. Maz labours away changing the stock shock for the fantastic looking new AST unit and the Maxtonised X1 Showa forks.  

Up early the next morning we miss the first couple of practice sessions due to fannying with new tyres and a few bits n bobs, not to worry, plenty of practice time remaining. Weather is stunning, if anything a little too hot, track temperature is starting to rise and hits early 40s by mid morning..... At last we are ready and I line up in the assembly area for a 15 min practice session....can't wait to see if Paddock Hill bend is everything they say - it looks great from the stands but the view from on track is often very different - we are let out in several staggered groups for a rolling start from pit lane, even though this is "only" a test day, everyone is wearing number boards and it doesn't take much for the red mist to come down... definitely not a regular trackday with all the niceties that they demand, we are out in the same groups as we will be racing with for real tomorrow, and each corner becomes hotly contested .....  

Accelerating out of the pits we join the track at the end of Brabham Straight, just dropping into the offcamber, downhill twist of Paddock Hill Bend...fairly gently the first time though and we are still accelerating up the hill into the 180 degree Druids corner....if you can imagine a 180 kickturn on a skateboard at the top of a ramp, then this is the motorcycling equivalent...another blind corner you enter accelerating up a hill and it seems to tighten as the ribbon of tarmac unwinds and drops back down the hill.....exciting stuff!...... down the hill towards Graham Hill bend the S1 digs in and squirms as I open the throttle, accelerating to the left hander at the bottom. the SV just in front.... as I get on the brakes, slow and peel in, trying to sort out the best line a blur of silver and black flashes very close down my inside and cranks over into the bend...... 'kin ell aggressive stuff indeed for the first lap of a test day..... a bit too aggressive as it turns out - the bike lowsides and there is a puff of dust as the bike slides into the gravel just in front of my wheel as I exit the corner right on the smooth track a couple of inches from the unforgiving kerbstones........down the short straight and fast into the left hander....at least it seems fast to a newbie until an SV comes around the outside and disappears into the long triple apex right hander of Clearways...... seems to be two schools of thought here and I opt for the " go wide and smooth" option.... knee is down, bike is stable and it seems a good choice, although I was overtaken on the outside, chatting with 'gaffer after the session reveals that I am not going wide enough.….….. at the exit I am hard on the power as early as possible to get maximum drive into the start finish straight, fantastic noise......... it is almost not worth getting back fully on the seat as the Clearways exit is quite long and the straight quite short with Paddock at the end of it....flat out in 4th I change up and hit about 5k in top with a cheek hanging over the side of the saddle before backing off (too early as it happens, but I am learning yet another new track) and peel off into the bend....the corner opens up as you hit the apex surprisingly early and get on the throttle, running wide to the kerb and plunging downhill, still next to the SV I have stuck to since starting the session - he is normally a bit faster than the Buell & I and it seems like a good ideas to follow him for the session.... up the hill and back into Druids.....fantastic racetrack….. and I start to get the lines, start to pick up the pace and enjoy myself..... a few laps later, and a few yellow flags as another couple of riders get Paddock wrong..... I am getting up to race pace - faster and faster into Paddock, braking later later.....and then the shock bottoms out at the bottom of the hill starting the climb towards Druids! wtf is that all about...... the session ends and I return to our pit......pleased but puzzled by the rear end, is this just like "the bump" at Mallory and indicates that I am going fast enough or has picking up the pace revealed a problem? Bike sounds a little different on the slow ride back to the paddock.....  

Anyone that gets a chance to ride a Buell through the tunnel into the pit area at Brands should grasp it with both hands....!!! really!!!  

Back at the race tent a closer inspection it transpires that the wrong spring has been installed into the new shock and that is allowing excessive travel and bottoming out when the speed starts to pick up......also reveals that the bike is leaning far enough over into the right handers that a flat has been worn on the rear shock retaining plate......now matches the lip of the race can outlet that has been scraping the tarmac occasionally..... Maz labours with the shock spring change, ably assisted by Gaffer, a bolt snaps and all is held up a tad, but few more riders end up in the kitty litter and the sessions are running late anyway and we only miss one..... we also install the last remaining exhaust front mount, snapped in the first session... really must find a solution to that problem....  

After lunch and out for the next session, the track is becoming vaguely familiar to me, the suspension is starting to work well although some more adjustments to fine tune are needed. The track surface is getting hot and tyres are becoming "greasy" after a few laps… both ends are moving about under power and braking, particularly out of Clearways. into Paddock and into Druids...still working on the best defensive line here and I settle for the middle of the track and making myself as wide as possible..... not the fastest way round, but I get good drive out of this corner and if I can defend the mid corner position against the much lighter and nimbler opposition then it seems easier than spending time retaking them elsewhere on the lap...  

A few laps into the session I am passed by one of the frontrunners on the straight and I decide to make an effort to stick with him as long as possible, see where his lines are, learn as much as possible.... incredible entry speed into Paddock but it works! I become aware of the very high temperatures achieved by knee sliders laid on the track all the way round a well taken fast corner.....exciting stuff!..., running very wide on the exit with the throttle open and I am losing a little ground up the hill, concentrate on breathing and arrive at the turn in for Druids several hundred rpm higher then the morning laps.....hard on the brakes, front tyre hanging on though I don't know how....down a gear for engine braking and to carry trailing throttle though the bend ready to get it on at the earliest possible moment.......False Neutral!!! no engine braking, no connection between rider and rear wheel at all.... very unsettling I apply a trace of rear brake in an attempt to settle the bike and carry on round the bend.....watching the Suzuki pull away I daren’t reselect a gear as I have lost count where the lever is and the rear wheel may lock as I let the clutch out..... everything scraping I run wide over a rather bumpy kerb and reengage drive as I begin to pick the bike up, rear squirms a little, complaining at the cack handed treatment,.... power down the short straight to the left hander and get it perfect....what a buzz...... a flick left through Surtees and back into the Mclaran/Clearways/Clarke affair.... 'Gaffer's advice ringing in my ears I go very deep before apexing the first portion..... knee is dragging....along with something metallic, seems fast.....erupt from the bend, power on, glorious exhaust note booming, tyre spinning up slightly.....SV back in sight!..... not a race but it feels like it and I am as folded up behind the flyscreen as I can get down the straight.....late late late into Paddock following the line learnt last lap, slight wiggle from the bars on the exit....over eager and holding on a tad tight I suspect.... through the dip and shoot up the hill into Druids....determined not to make the same cock up again I am on the brakes slightly longer and turn in slightly earlier, change down and.....fuck, fuck, fuck it.....exactly the same lack of drive............ freewheel round the bend, not quite as scary this time but I feel a bit silly.......round the circuit again and this time I am trying very hard into Druids as I know Gill is timing this session..…...positive stab on the lever and find nothing again...... banked right over time slows and it seems that there is no way round the bend this time, the kerb is fast approaching and everything is scraping....either going to be a lowside or, worse, catch the kerb and get flicked upright.... I make the decision to stand the bike up and get on the brakes in the split second remaining before I am on the tyre wall.....Sky, Grass, tyres and Marshalls swap ends a couple of times but I am clear of the bike and lying on the grass, Marshalls and Paramedics are there instantly....very comforting it is too.... but having applied a neck brace and back board they refuse to take my helmet off.... some gravel & dirt has collected in it and is dropping into my eyes and mouth..... I yell at them in my best command voice and the lid comes off... I can breathe..... Pretty blond doctor arrives and organises the group, I am carted off to the medical centre in the back of the ambulance....there is a bit of grumbling about allowing stout riders on the track as the medics are panting a bit...... Dave calls Gill to let her know it is not terminal as I am asking about the condition of the bike, but she should come down to the med centre.... once inside I continue to be impressed at the efficiency.... top of my leathers are off (still not sure how they managed that without scissors) gas & air is applied to patient (good stuff that is)...get felt up by the blonde and a broken collarbone & a couple of ribs are diagnosed.....Dave suggests that I would probably have made it through the corner if I had just kept on leaning.........,thanks Dave.... not sure if he is getting his own back for being made to carry me to the ambulance......but he is probably right and a more experienced racer may have made the decision differently.....I still think I was right...........one of the paramedic girls is frighteningly practised at getting men out of leathers and putting their trousers on.... I am in the back of the ambulance and on the way to St Marys for X rays.... there is a nearer hospitable but it has received several of the morning's offs and has decreed that the next batch go elsewhere...... I am in, seen by a doctor, X rayed, put in a sling with a handful of pills and sent home very quickly.....impressive stuff...as I am leaving another Brands victim is arriving with an arm in a sling...... Clearways apparently but he is slurring a bit due to getting some painkillers that I missed out on......  

Gill takes me back to the track to find that Maz has cleaned out the mud from the manifold and the motor runs, forks are straight, and apart form a flyscreen held together with cableties, our last race header being fitted (Sorry Ali, it did the longest so far!) and some missing paint from the seat unit the masterpiece has survived intact and is ready to go.....A few more Beggers have arrived and the tent city is starting to look like a UN relief effort......I indulge in some pain relief from Johnny Walker and go for a chat with Maz.....There is a bloke that is a dynamite racer, Maz has known him for ages, ACU National licence holder, loves racing.....but he is several hundred miles away in Manchester......Maz bells the ringer, I call the Bemsee management re the rider change, they are as helpful as ever.... Cheers Dave & Bernie - again! - and Ronnie hits the M6 Southbound!! Racefest will have racing after all. Bike fixed, rider changed...time to indulge in the fantastic lamb that Gill has been marinating, grilling and turning into kebabs..... Stella flows, nonsense is talked and I get to discover that the majority of Beggers travel with an inventory of pills that would put Boots to shame..... Bikers of a certain age rock! More people turn up, including our Cloggie cousins – good to meet you chaps, particularly nice to be able to shake ASTRonnie by the hand., great product with support that most manufacturers can only dream of providing…and a great night is had by all,........I retire to the camper high as a kite and looking forward to seeing - and hearing - the S1 on the track....  

Morning arrives and I am sore.....broken bones and hangovers are not a great combination.... more pills and I go to meet Ronnie...and get things organised for the practise session, the only and all to brief opportunity he will have to ride either bike or track before racing...... he seems unfazed. Practice time arrives and it seems strange to watch someone else ride the S1 towards the track, but it sounds great.... It has changed radically in appearance since the beginning of the season, somehow looks more purposeful now, and I watch it rumble towards the pits, scattering spectators before it....I hear it long after it has disappeared from view, cool stuff indeed....up in the grandstand the sidecars finally finish their lunacy and it is time for Thunderbike practice....I am on the edge of my seat....I look round and see anticipation on the faces of a large part of the TeamBegger T shirted crowd......the first bikes roll into view, sounding crisp and businesslike, accelerating away from the pits...SVs, a Laverda or two, Phil & Matt’s XB with the awesome "StarWars" sounding open primary....then, there she is!!!! Number 50.... open frame, no fairings, slightly battle scarred but drowning out the rest of the field with the exhaust note........ fantastic.....I sit dumbstruck as Ronnie takes Paddock for the first time.....obviously getting used to Buelling and the track take concentration and I watch him experimenting with different lines....unfortunately the session ends all too soon. We rush (not very quickly with broken ribs) back to CampBegger for a debrief....Ronnie seems charmingly bewildered by the immense amount of interest generated by a very brief practice session... questions come at him for every angle, he does his best to answer but needs a kip in the back of his van, he arrived late last night..  

It is decided to leave the bike as it is and see what happens in the first race, rather bizarrely scheduled later than we are used to...normally race 3 & 11 (or similar) we are 11 & 22 today so have a long wait....tyre warmers go on and Gill produces bacon sarnies,,, I get to watch some racing for a change and take the opportunity to study some lines....  

Turns out that one of the woodenfoot bikes has developed a problem with the headgasket on it's big bore engine.... Yoffi returns to Southampton to pick up a spare from Tubbs....above and beyond the call Darren, well done..... there can't be many better places to break down on a tuber than outside Maz's (albeit temporary) workshop with several dozen enthusiastic Buellers around… 

Race 1 - finally arrives mid afternoon, warmers are off and Ronnie heads towards the assembly area..... we head towards the grandstand to watch.....almost all the Beggers have arrived and "Race a Buell naked" is being sported almost everywhere I look..... the S1 is starting 18 on grid of 34.... the revs rise, flags and lights change and they are off....Ronnie gets a decent start and moves up a couple of places....as they come past the grandstand and peel into Paddock I am treated to the incredible noise of the S1 cracking and spitting, totally unique on the track.....and the deafening roar of yelling Buelligans, totally unique in the grandstand.......following the start Ronnie has some excellent dices with a few other bikes but it is obvious that he is still learning the bike & track and slips back a little, the bike doesn't seem to be getting the drive that it should out of corners, particularly noticeable exciting Graham Hill bend..it looks overgeared and we decide to swap the rear pulley for the next race......getting noticeably faster towards the end of the race he pulls a couple of places back in the corners and finishes 15th...Pukka job . First time I have had the chance to study the rest of the field during a race, I shall never cease to be impressed with Phil’s line through Paddock…consistent & aggressive…a joy to watch. 

Back in the garage Ronnie again seems bewildered in the interest everyone is showing.....seems that racing a Buell is different in every sense! Maz changes the rear pulley and fettles..... time drags on until the next race but is filled in working out a plan for repatriating the BigBore S1 to Holland...,it is now clear that despite everyone's best efforts it needs a bit more than can be achieved in the field.. the AA put up a decent bureaucratic fight but are finally convinced that it is easier just to load it up and take it to the ferry port.....OK they finally concede, but not until tomorrow.....  

Race 2 - a bit later than advertised and it is getting on by the time the bikes are on the grid..... seems to have been one of "those" weekends for crashes with the inevitable hold ups to the race schedule.....another great start from Ron and the gearing seemed to increase the drive out of the tighter bends, particularly noticeable on the short straight linking the two left handers. An increasingly confident performance saw places gained – good show, I was hoarse by the end of the race. 

Happy Buelligans return to CampBegger for a thorough debrief, dissection and general congratulatory session, let the festivities for Racefest begin! I think that there are more than enough photographs, caption competitions and lurid descriptions of the evening’s debauchery else where on UKBeg site, suffice to say everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I can say that a Begger do is a bad place to be with cracked ribs…”only hurts when I laugh”  ….Bastids!.  

Big up to the lovely Mrs Robin who volunteered herself and Robin (still doing penance for posting unguarded comments) to man the Barbie….Top Job….and well done Gill for doing the rounds with a box of sherbet fountains and a couple of bottles of Vodka….. “Want a Sweety little Boy?” seemed to be the line….don’t think she had many rejections…. 

Somewhat surprised to see the XB poking out of the garage later in the evening, hope that Maz sorted out whatever the issue was Matt… 

Sunday morning eventually turned up, light rain overnight had blown away to be replaced with yet another spectacular day….. Due to endless cabbagery we missed the early morning practice and being rather more noticeable than the XB Ronnie got sussed as being definitely not a Forza Extreme rider….denied!.. not the end of the world but a bit silly nonetheless 

Race 3 – Having waited all morning, just as we were getting the tyre warmers off Lunch was announced and they went back on, nothing like getting yourself in the zone then having to stuff down a ham sandwich and do it all again an hour later…. Ronnie still seemed unfazed! 

13:55 Ronnie rolled out of Camp and we went towards the grandstand……after yesterday’s exploits many heroics were expected, and if the rate of progress could be maintained as Ronnie became more and more familiar with the bike & track…. A total of about 20 mins seat time so far on both the S1 and Brands and improving all the time….. 

As the flag dropped Ronnie gets a dream start and moved way up the grid to 7th or 8th… I lost count as I was yelling so much (painful with damaged ribs!)….unfortunately the race was stopped almost immediately when someone went straight into the gravel at Paddock…..took the marshals and ambulance a while to clear the track but reduced distance 7 lapper started again 15 mins or so later….after the previous dynamite start we were all on the edge of our seats…Ronnie was forced to restart from his allocated 13 spot on the grid but got another blinder and was 9th or 10th into Paddock the first time…, the bike spitting and snarling on the overrun and generally giving the attitude that a bit of space was required….coupled with a bit of rear end sliding out of the corners it seemed to work!…. Ronnie was working hard and seemed to have Phil Read on the XB firmly in his sights by the end of lap 2… very close and awesome combination of sounds….. the jet like whine from Phil’s open primary almost being swallowed by the bad tempered growl emanating from the tuber tailpipe….next lap round I could hardly breathe as Ronnie made his move and took the XB through Paddock Hill….the S1 wriggling around on the exit….grandstand roaring with delight……. Real racing!  Ronnie stayed in front round Druids but couldn’t hold on and the XB came past by the end of the lap…. A fantastic duel that continued for the next few laps, Ronnie not quite having the opportunity to pass again but almost stuck to the XB…. Inspiring stuff…. Ronnie came home 11th 1.5 seconds behind Phil….seemed clear that the bike was sliding around and misbehaving towards the end of the race…the suspension being set up, roughly, for me…..some 5 stone heavier…… 

By this time the schedule had slipped so far and the races were running so late that Ronnie made the decision to leave in advance of the last race…. He had a long way to drive, a very recently delivered new baby and a full days work on the Monday….. a very talented, likeable, modest and charming man…..not a bad builder either I understand….. 

As the excitement drained away most of the Beggers followed suit and by 5 the PikeyWagon was the only trace of CampBegger. Maz, FS, BA, FF and I watched the last round of the Tbike to cheer Phil on….but the race was very late starting due to oil on the track and most of the racers were a second or two off their previous form…… 

Big thanks to the Marshalls and paramedics at Brands and all the other tracks, very reassuring that these trained & enthusiastic professionals are on hand to clear up the messes that occur. 

Things learned this weekend…..crashing hurts….and never go through customs next to a UKBegger! 

Shame that due to the crash we didn’t get to fit the Billet brakes, really looking forward to trying them out. 

Excellent weekend, thanks to all that came, helped, and enjoyed….I had a ball!


12 June 2006


If you think it is all going well...... you can't see the whole picture!

We pull in to the Snetterton paddock Thursday evening.... Norfolk must be the only place on the planet where Caravans get held up in traffic...a pox on tractors. Maz & Tom have been there for a while guarding the primo site - a grassy knoll overlooking the garages and start straight, with a great view of Coram curve and the exit from the chicane. Unload the pikey wagon and stake out as much space as possible, the empty tent ploy pays dividends at this point and plenty lebensraum is scored.
Up early on Friday morning, clear blue skies and already hot at 7am, cold shower at the Snet provided facility and back to the camp to be faced with Maz...he really isn't a "morning person".  Bacon sarnies then deal with the bureaucrats, get signed on, issued with stickers etc and ready for the first practice session. Bike looks great, get the rear tyre put back on the right way round, quick prefilght and off we go. 

I have never seen Snetterton before and it is back to the steep learning curve.  It takes a few laps to learn the sequence of bends stuck at either end of two vast straights, and a couple of "shit, that 90 degree right hander shouldn't be there!" moments occur. Once the sequence has been established then lines can be worked on, apexes sorted, entry speeds & gears worked on etc. The rear end is wriggling excessively on the exit to left hander's....and the bike seems down on power....odd. 15 min session soon over and back to our pit, get off the bike and have a quick look round, left boot and leg are covered in oil, as is the left side of the bike!  first time I have seen a fluid out of place on the masterpiece. A brief examination reveals the culprit, the catch can breather is soaking wet and dripping oil, we wipe everything down and go back out. More of the same, times picking up a little as I settle in to the track and it becomes a bit more familiar, I cut the session short as I glance at my again oil covered leg. Back in the pits the oily left side syndrome returns and the catch can has a significant quantity of oil in it. Maz concludes that we are getting deterioration in the bores and the resulting significant blow by is causing pressure in the crankcase, blowing very oil laden air out, the built in Y piece "inertial separator" isn't doing it's job catching oil in the catch can and it is blowing out the filter. We elect to route the breather hose directly into the catch can and go back out. The rear end stops misbehaving on the left hand exits now it isn't covered in oil, but the engine still seems down on power and I could almost read a novel in the time it takes to get down the back straight. As the pace picks up and lines are being learned the deficiencies in the the previously good Maxton modified front end start to show. We know that the forks were bottoming out at Mallory (tie wrap test) but the much hotter ambient temperature is making the oil thinner and they are now bottoming out hard enough to leave marks on the fork bottoms. This is causing a few handling problems under heavy braking, especially at the right hand section of the Esses, the entry to Chicane (Russel Bend) and I am getting a nasty wobble at the bottom of the bombhole, a fast right hander with a dip in the middle. Maxton have said that they have fitted their heaviest spring and live with it, not good enough.  Next session a misfire starts occurring on the straight following the right two right hander's and during the last part of the long Coram curve, Following my Cadwell experience I diagnose fuel starvation but Maz looks in the tank, tells me there is plenty in there and I am a cabbage. We decide to check the filter on the fuel tap and the tank proves remarkably light upon removal........finally I hear those magic words from Maz "I was wrong" and tell everyone that I meet for the rest of the day that I was right!  We are forced to run the bike brim full of fuel for every session/race now due to the appalling tank design, 37lbs of fuel rather than the maximum 10 lbs that we actually need for the race distance, the extra 27lbs of weight is at the top of an already heavy bike (at the reckoned 6lbs = 1hp we are 4.5hp down) and further upsets the handling, losing any advantage through the tight bits of the track. After lunch I ride two more sessions before the front exhaust mount snaps in two places and a tiny crack starts to appear in the unsupported header, and we miss the last practice of the day, shame as having scrubbed in the new inters I was going to try the slicks for the first time. During the afternoon Geordie Mick and the delightful Karen have arrived with an enormous hangar of a tent and a huge wardrobe of trendy outfits and Gill's parents arrived with the campervan completing the TB compound.

No one in the paddock has a mig welder it seems (they don't have Buells!) but my Father in Law Bob knows the track quite well and hooks Maz up with a welder in a shed down the road making race car chassis, can't do it that evening but "come back in the morning, no problem" as the practice session is just after 9:00 a very early start is music to Maz's ears... We get the bike through Scrutineering and settle down to an excellent dinner provided by the MiL and a couple of bottles of very good "2003 president XV" then off to the pub for a swift half. Matt arrives as we are having Dinner and takes the remaining space at the TeamBegger compound.

Another early start (damn that last "1/2" in the pub last night!), Maz & GM return with a welded bracket around 08:30, it would have been 08:00 but Geordie Mick insists on changing a couple of times in order to get "the look" before driving Maz to the welder....All bolted up, tyre warmers off, helmet on, practice card remembered, bike fires up and..... disaster!..... the rear exhaust is missing both retaining nuts and the bike sounds terrible..., how the fuck we missed that at the end of the previous day I don't know. Ridiculously we don't have any spare 5/16 UNF nuts and we miss the mandatory practice session....No one else in the paddock has spare UNF nuts either (they don't have Buells) and none of the two wheeled parts departments have shown up yet. A call to Steve at Black Bear yields the normal excellent service and 4 spares are dispatched by driver, Thanks Steve - much appreciated! The girls at race control take pity on us and allow us entry into the first race despite missing the mandatory race day practice as we were at most of the previous day's test sessions, Cheers Bernie.

Race one, mid morning -  The assembly area is sweltering as we all sit in leathers & helmets, engines running under the hot sun waiting to be allowed onto the track, finally I line up number 14 on a grid of 18 starters, a quick trip round for the sighting lap and back for the main event, Marshall lowers the flag and points at the lights in a dramatic fashion (I think he practices the "cool point" in the mirror), concentrating hard on the lights and remembering not to wheelie, revs rising all around, excitement building....Go,Go,Go!... I get a good start, small wheelie but holding my own, maybe even gaining a little in the first few yards.... then the bike hits the limiter but slows, the riders behind on the grid flash past me.... missed gear? false neutral? broken linkage? broken gearbox?...it finally dawns on me as I roll to a halt at the end of the straight that the belt has snapped.....Standing on the inside of the first corner I get an excellent view of Phil aggressively piloting the XB round and finally hear the jet like noise from the open primary, nice. I go back to the Scrutineering bay in the back of the breakdown van (very nice girl in the back holding the bike in place...I think she is provided just to console poor souls like me)... pushing it back to our pit from there is hard work in the sun, still in leathers. I arrive and throw a few toys out of the pram as yet another genuine Harley part has proved inadequate. We do however have a spare new one and the value of Maz's excellent frame mod is soon revealed as the belt is changed in record time, someone does offer to time the event but Gill is serving lunch and it gets forgotten about as we debate whether the result is a DNS or DNF as I did actually cross the start line but we aren't sure if it was under power or coasting........ Matt quips "told you the belt would snap, you want a chain drive"....

Race two, 4ish in the afternoon - Encouraged by the morning's start, all 20 yds of it, I line up at the very back of the grid as positions are allocated by previous result (DNS as it turns out)....the same routine with the pointy marshall, same excitement building along with the cacophony of engine noise all around...lights change and a decent start, front end goes light but no wheelies and I make up a couple of places into the first corner but the leading group is already pulling away and the race dissolves into the normal groups, I concentrate on those immediately around me and braking very late into the second right hander I carry a bit more speed than the rider in front and take him on the exit...result!... I am starting to enjoy myself....frustratingly he comes past me 2/3rds of the way down the straight, attempting to make up ground I brake later than ever and am right on his tail into the left hand section of the esses but I am carrying too much speed into the tight right hander that follows it, no run off and a very vicious curb on the exit and get the line slightly wrong...he is 2 lengths up coming into the bombhole and pulls another out as I back off slightly when the forks bottom out..... round the long right of Coram curve I gain again and we are close at the exit to the chicane.....he pulls away down the start finish straight but I hope he is still catchable through Riches at the end, I gain but not enough to pass..........short straight then braking so hard I feel the forks clang on the entry to Sear corner and I get great drive out of the corner using all of the available track, the rear tyre wiggles satisfyingly..... but the straight looms ahead, shimmering like a desert highway in the heat haze and the SV pull away beyond reach.......coming through Coram this time I hear a slight metallic "ting ting ting" over the roar of the engine and wind noise....braking hard into the chicane I see Phil coasting to a halt on the right side of the track..... the SV is well down the start/finish straight by the time I enter it and I resolve to brake even later and use every last inch of track into Riches....heeled well over I hear "ting ting ting" again, this time a little louder......WTF is falling off this time!!!? I sneak a look down but don't see anything obvious but slow slightly, noise hasn't changed so it's not the headers or can, "ting ting ting" again through the next right hander and I am on the straight with plenty of time to glance down but can't see anything wrong.... every right hander the "ting ting ting" starts earlier and earlier until I am going round virtually upright, still not last I am determined to at least finish.... I see the yellow flag with a black cross being waived at the end of the straight but don't realise what it is....next time round it is waived more aggressively and is accompanied by plenty of pointing....it's for me! fuck! black flagged out......I stop at the same point as last race and watch the last lap of the race from the sidelines, looking at the dangling ruin of the Metmachex swingarm brace hanging just above the ground and a chewed up rear pulley....at least this time I don't have to push it back to the TB pit.....it would have stayed at the side of the track had that been the case.  A few more toys go of the pram now I have someone to shout at and I am only cheered by repeating Matt's earlier remark to him when I find out it was the chain coming off that stopped Phil on the second lap.  The Metmachex brace has sheared at the  joint welding the bracket to the Swingarm and caused a DNF....., not nearly good enough for a supposedly top quality race component and very disappointing...makes me question the quality of the other welds holding the back end on and I shudder to think about the consequences of one of them failing. The catch can is 1/4 full of oil after just 6 laps and a brief oil analysis shows some glittering metal particles in the lubricant. Due to the black flag we have to go through Scrutineering again before being allowed back on the track and this flags up a problem as the brace also acts as the required "sharks fin" protective chain guard device required by the ACU, the tech inspectors are reluctant to pass it until we point out that we don't have a chain anyway and the rules don't specify a belt guard.....confronted with this logic they nod and we are good to go again.

Saturday night we have a great time as the red flows freely, Stella is consumed and I incinerate stuff on the barbie. Gill and her Mum play a blinder keeping glasses topped up, food flowing and clearing up after me. GMIW notices that the Diggerlid matches the outlaws Suzuki pit bike perfectly and jamming it on his head he proceeds to thrill the crowd with derring do..... hope the pics came out as my vison was blurred with laughter...

Sunday dawns and another dream weather day demands plenty of sunscreen...... I wonder if I can get a refund on the wets I bought in March...... I go out for the practice session at 09:10 but am denied access to the assembly area as I don't have a practice pass (!!!) ignoring the 10mph paddock speed limit I ride to Race control, grab one and the gate Nazi can't think of any other reason I can't go out.... Practice is uneventful, nothing falls off, not particularly quick but I will be starting race 3.

Race 3 - Bike is on stands and tyre warmers are wrapped and just switched on, we are race 3 this morning....when I notice Matt & Phil getting XB ready.... Fuck it, Thunderbike has been moved to race 2 and no one told the competitors.... out in a rush with half warm tyres, track and ambient air temps are high and we have a warm up lap anyway. Number 19 on a 20 place grid with only Phil behind me as his Buell failed before mine in the last race.......I get a good start and make up a couple of places as Phil goes hurtling past us and half the pack and they gain lengths down the straight, into the first corner it is my first time "in the pack", I take Paddy's advice and stick out elbows, shoulders & knees and no one has room to get past...into the second corner the pack is already stretching into a line as the obviously faster bikes pull away and then into the long straight the line snaps, forming  gaggles of riders involved in their own little scraps, I am at the back with a familiar Laverda close behind and an equally familiar SV just in front, they have the straight line speed advantage but aren't quite as committed (irritated?) braking into the corners. The Laverda creeps past down the Revett straight and is a couple of lengths ahead when he brakes and I go sailing by him and inside the SV, braking hard for the tight right, front tyre squirming, rear skipping as it goes light, elbows and knees out and it feels great! knee scraping though the corner and I am within mm of the kerb on the exit, keeping it nailed into bombhole I hit the rev limiter and am forced to change up mid corner, upsetting the already bottomed out front end and I feel the front slide, keeping the power on the back spins up and drifts allowing the front to hook up again and it is an almost perfect entry into Coram....I remember to breath...... into the chicane, forks clattering as the extra weight of a full tank (and a bacon sarnie) take their toll.....into the right hander easily enough but the bike feels ponderous flicking left, power on, hit the rev limit like a numpty and lose a precious split second as  I change gear....glance right at the pit wall and see plenty cheering Buelligans before I crouch behind the flyscreen down the straight........inevitably the white SV draws level on the outside but I decide to brake very late, block his line and he follows me round and I am still ahead into the tight right....I get a great line through, early on the power on the exit and repeat the scenario at the end of the straight.....I have lost count of the laps but think we are on 5 from 8.... I swap places with the SV a couple more times and finish 17/20.... no trophies there but didn't break down or get flagged out either!  back in the pits the catch can has oil in it, but not as much as last time.....

The program says no lunch break on Sunday and I am getting back into the sweaty leathers again when Maz returns from the bog having heard an announcement that there will now be a 40 minute break before we are on again.....

Race 4 13:50 ish - I am number 18 on a grid of 21 and get another decent if not spectacular start and the race settles down into a replica of race 3, similar groups and I am swapping places with the same old faces in pretty much the same old places.....we are well off the leaders pace......all is going well and I am ahead of the 4 place group into the chicane on the second last lap.....braking very very late I get it all wrong, the front end is squirming on the very edge of adhesion, I feel disaster coming if I turn in now and end up inspecting the quality of the trackside horticulture & general maintenance...amazing how slow you go on grass as I watch the SV navigate the chicane and blast down the straight before I am back on the track.....the Laverda comes past halfway down the straight as I am still accelerating...... I catch him coming round the fast right hander but can't overtake until I catch him again on the way into Coram curve and lead him across the finish line..... 18/21........ return to the paddock to be greeted by clapping & grinning Buelligans and get a beer & snog from the wife, life is good!

Going to race control to get my Numpty card signed I find out that it is not races or meetings that count towards losing the cabbage jacket, but DAYS that you actually finish a race, so I only get one line filled in instead of two.... makes the belt snap and swingarm failure even more annoying as it means more time in the cabbage jacket.

Failures this weekend -
1 - Broken exhaust front mount 
2 - Small crack in header
3 - Top end suspected of eating itself
4 - Belt snapped (resulting in a DNF)
5 - Both rear exhaust retaining nuts fell off
6 - Metmachex swingarm brace snapping (DNF)
7 - Crankcases coming apart and leaking oil.
(on top of two broken race headers and a broken race air filter, replacing the brakes, swingarm, shock, barrels/pistons, airfilter, ignition system, camshafts, roller rockers, rocker covers, venting system, assembling with decent gaskets, fork internals, removing the charging system, modifying the frame, Nallin front engine mount, pro series rearsets, adding a steering damper etc etc)
Discoveries - Fuel tank so badly designed that it results in a 28lb weight penalty at the very top of the bike, a problem solved even in RD250s from the 1970s and preventing the exploitation of the short wheelbase and flickability through the twisties, Maxton Suspension doesn't work and is bottoming out compounding the handling woes.  Harley Belt drives are constructed from chewing gum. The Pro Series rearsets are the most uncomfortable things known to man outside a Gynaecological ward. Maz's frame mod for the S1 is excellent. The AST shock is fantastic. Good Harley/Buell dealers are Great, are enthusiastic supporters of their products and well worth frequenting, even if they're not necessarily the nearest one.
Conclusions so far - This is a no expense spared project, using only the best components that could be specified, and assembled by a pedantic expert, it has approx 6 hours total use on it since it was built to an exacting standard (would have been more but it has broken itself and ended every practice session early, except Cadwell, sometimes during the first run of the day).  I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is never going to be vaguely competitive, even in a contrived class designed for it such as Thunderbike, and it is all too familiar for the DNF/DNS list to include one or both Buells contesting the series, we have started 6 races and so far had 3 DNF/S.  I was chatting to the bloke coming second in a series using a CBR600....changes the oil every weekend and has washed it once this season.....
Big thanks to everyone that came to support, good to see so many TB shirts in circulation!  Black Bear for rushing the nuts up to us, cheers Steve, Inlaws and better half for providing sustenance & support, Maz & Tom for keeping the disintegrating, but still great looking, bike going through the weekend, Bernadette at Bemsee for the help with the practice discrepancy.

Pictures in the photo section, Let's hope it can redeem itself at Cadwell in July!


19th May 2006

Fine day out at Cadwell, my first time there on a bike and I am looking forward to finding out if it's reputation is deserved. We arrive at 08:15 having collected the bike from the Emporium the night before, complete with Maz's exhaust mod.  I am in the novice group as that was all that was available when I booked on Wednesday evening. Briefing is the normal common sense affair, soon over and we unload the masterpiece in light showers. Excellent! A chance to try out the wets, first time I have been on them. Gill and I change wheels, normally a pretty straight forward process but changing the rear pulley takes time. Novice group is called last out of three groups so we just have time to torque everything up and join the line, other novices are looking at the race numbers oddly. Out on the track I find that they are excellent tyres with extraordinary grip but the track dries out so quickly it needs to be pissing down and be almost running water to bother with them.........First lesson of the day is that it takes time to learn a new circuit, full of confidence in the new tyres I overcook the entry speed into the turn just before the mountain and end up doing a bit of grasstracking.... no harm done and seems to have cheered the marshall. That session ends and back into the paddock "which group would you like to be in" asks the organiser?   intermediate the choice on the basis that I am unfamiliar with the circuit and I want some overtaking practice.......
We change wheels again, back to the Supercorsa Pro "intermediate" tyres for the second session as the wets are tearing themselves up on the dry areas of the track. Bike is running well and I am beginning to learn the corner sequence, nothing is worse than giving it a handful down a straight, cresting the hill flat out, revelling in the sound and feel of the bike.....to be confronted by a corner that is not the one that you expected!.....heavy, heavy late braking into "Park" corner, front tyre squirming and I go past a whole gaggle of bikes, heeled right over I hit a perfect apex, knee slider wearing rapidly, and accelerate towards Chris Curve feeling good....one way to find out where the braking markers are!... unfortunately I was a bit busy to note them exactly and cock up the entry next time round.....  Spend the rest of the session swapping places with a Fireblade and an Aprilia Mille, good fun until I encounter a misfire a couple of laps later when accelerating down Park straight....clears itself and then reappears on the next lap. I come back to the paddock, have a quick look but can't see anything obvious and call Maz....plenty of good advice and electrickery checks later we are ready for the next session and bugger, exactly the same thing happens in the same place....always under full throttle towards the top end of the rev range on Park  straight... plug breaking down under load? bad contact somewhere? We check all the electrics again in time for the last prelunch session...and it happens again!! back into the pits and we think again...fuel starvation - blocked jet or fuel filter caused by crap in the tank and preventing peak flow at wide open throttle? .... We are scratching heads in the paddock and decide to take the fuel tap out and have a look. Taking the tank off to drain it reveals that it is down to well under a quarter full......and notice that it doesn't have a balance pipe....we postulate that through Coppice, a fast left hander, the fuel is being pushed to the right side of the tank, uncovering the fuel tap, immediately into Charlie's, a fast right hander, the fuel is trapped in the right side of the tank and the carb full is exhausted by the time I am a few yards down Park straight. That is the theory so we fill up and the problem goes away. Not that the bike needs another 20lbs of weight at it's highest point but it does highlight yet another design deficiency....even Gill's old 1976 RD had a balance pipe....
During the break we get a stream of visitors coming to ogle the bike, we have parked in the pit area with the hottrax instructors and it has taken everyone a while to find us. Comments range from "Eeeee, its 'kin lovely" to .....a slightly annoyed "....'kin 'ell it's a Harley! I've been passed by a 'kin Harley!"... several riders comment on how great it sounds when it goes past them....<<<<slightly smug>>>>>
Lunch over and I am gaining confidence and learning more & more each lap, the Buell is excellent through the technical sections, hairpin especially, but the start/finish and Park straights do seem very long.............as the day progresses I find that I am getting confident enough to pop the odd wheelie coming over the mountain, another reminder of how much time they lose you as the rider I overtook on the entry overtakes me as I am showing off....  Coming back to the van following the first after lunch thrash I find KevMean come to our rescue with spare plugs (I forgot to bring any :oops: )......what a fantastic place Buelldom is!  We stay on intermediates throughout the rest of the day and I am impressed by their wear rate, just as well as the onsite tyre supplier is out of 180 rears. At his suggestion we reverse the rear tyre for the last session......put the tyre on back to front, in the opposite direction to the arrow....this seems stupid but he assures me that this is not a problem and is common practice with Diablos.... I am slightly dubious but the track is dry and the right side of the tyre is deteriorating.....we refit the rim (Gill is getting rather good at this now) and off out on the track....a gentle first couple of laps expecting the rear end to be like riding on an ice rink....and then it is forgotten, I am back up to normal speed...seems to work!.... I have another grasstracking experience, exiting the hairpin this time, but stay upright. Couple of laps later I exit the chicane to find the track blocked by a very crashed motorcycle and lots of plastic, the session ends early. Been a bit of a day for it, both ambulance and recovery truck have been busy.
Coming back to the paddock slowly the bike sounds slightly "odd" and the oil pressure light is flickering....put the bike on the stands and the source of the noise is obvious, the exhaust heatshield has all but disintegrated and is hanging by a thread, oil pressure light will turn out to be a switch problem I'm sure......We load up (thanks for the help Kev) and head back to the urban wasteland
Back at the Emporium the bike is safely back in Maz's tender loving care and he is relaxing a bit now that he has inspected it and confirmed that I haven't broken anything....  all three of us are gazing at the S1, I never get tired of looking at it, and over a Stella we discuss what is left from the original WL apart from the concept... just about everything original has been changed or modified, either to prevent component failure of because of it. The problems today have been caused by suspect fuel tank design, a failed OE heat shield and an OE switch......  We will get round to drawing up a complete list of mods and I'm sure that Maz will be happy to replicate any & all on other road Buells...

Brands Weekend 13/14 May 

Martin has been suffering from an "issue" with his left knee for the past few weeks, caused by dropping a 440lb motorcycle on it and sliding up the track when the OE front brake proved inadequate and locked up, Following the racing at Mallory it swelled to the size of a football, very unpleasant! that has caused us, on Doctors orders,  to miss the first Brands meeting of the year unfortunately. However, now well on the mend and we will be at Snetterton for the next round. 

Post Mallory bike inspection,

Just about everything on the bike is as it should be, no oil leaks, weeps or puffs, bits fallen off (except the air filter from the start line incident!), tyres holding up remarkably well, all is good - but................Exhausts seem to becoming an issue as it transpires that the lovely new, polished Buell Pro Series headers have fractured in exactly the same spot as the first set....and they have only run for 27 laps of the track! Given the rarity (not to mention cost) of these we will have to come up with a better solution than carrying a vanful of spares, Maz is on the case and we are confident of a sound engineering solution before the next race!


30th April 2006

The confessions of a virgin…..despite the desire to be handled with the traditional dignity & care….. it didn’t quite turn out that way!

We turned up, ahead of schedule for a change, around 4pm at Mallory Park to be met with fluorescent jacketed jobsworth's and a car park full of of white trannys…vans, not undeserving NHS burdens…. Parked up and had an hour to watch Classic cars on the track…an E type coupe, DB6 and a Cobra dicing round the track…pitifully slow but looked great…

Finally ushered in to Mallory’s infield that serves as a paddock/pit area and setup the pikey wagon (embarrassed emoticon) and start asking the endless "where’s that, what now" questions spawned by unfamiliarity…finally find that Tech inspection (scrutineering as was) is as far away from us as possible and that some buffoon has decreed that bikes must be pushed there, not ridden…not that the sound of a race bike could be heard over the incredible racket of 500 generators rattling away…(rolling eyes)….Decide to get the bike done asap to save on last minute hassles the next day. On the way to tech inspection I get stopped by girl asking if she can take a photo of the bike "it's gorgeous". The scrutineer is impressed with the S1 as well and goes out of his way to comment on the level of preparation, nice to be complimented for something at this stage. Funny moment when the official is struggling to decide if our bellypan is legal or not... they must hold 5 litres of fluid it seems and ours doesn't....Maz points out that the Buell only has 2.5 us quarts of Harley's finest coursing through the oil system (didn't actually call him a cabbage, but I know that look!)...."what about coolant?" counters the jobsworth.....we both look at the engine, he immediately shuts up and puts a sticker on the bike... Good to go! I ride back to camp pikey, noise be damned. Too lazy to get my personal gear inspected this evening, we open a bottle of red and Gill produces some remarkable catering....life is good.

Wake the next morning bright & early....weather a bit overcast and there was some rain overnight but the paddock is dry. Maz at 7am a joy as you would imagine. Bacon sarnie's on the barbie, several coffees and squeeze into leathers for a jog down to tech inspection, get fondled by the nice ladies and collect a pass sticker....no comments regarding the level of preparation for the rider.

Practice at 09:46..(really...not quarter to but 09:46)...much like any normal track day, released from pit lane for a few reasonably spirited laps of the track, not counting but probably 10 or so. The first time I have been on track with a group of bikes that are all reasonably similar in performance.....test sessions & track days normally have an eclectic mix of stuff...from fast ridden R1s to bimbling Bmws and classic Hondas.... this is different....and good. It becomes rapidly clear that the front row of the grid is there for a reason... either the riders are very light and hugely competent (they are) or the bikes are not conforming to all the hp/weight rules (don't know)....plenty fast. I am still suffering with an injury to my left knee sustained during the Edwina's incident with the standard brakes over 3 weeks ago but it loosens up a bit and I begin lapping fairly consistently at 01:13/14... well down the field and it seems slow compared with our test sessions but the track is configured with the new chicane at the exit to Gerrards for race day, not the slowest there, it will do for now.

Back to the pits feeling reasonably good, realising that I am too old, fat and unfit for this. More tea and Maz checks over the bike again. We decide that tyre pressures are about right, shock needs a little more compression damping so up 2 clicks. More tea.

Race 1 - the main event is here at last, on with the cabbage jacket and up to the pits to wait. Out of the pits, form up on the start straight, I am number 10 on a grid of 17...no idea how that is decided, pot luck it seems. Marshall releases us for the sighting lap....faster than I expected but then everyone is running tyre warmers and just want to get on with it....just over a minute later and we are back on the grid, engines revving, Marshall gets out of the way, points at the red light, engines revving and tension increasing......green, GO!!! ....disaster!!!! I pull a huge wheelie in my eagerness to get going...as the front end rears up I see a vision of Maz in the top yoke and he is saying "Cabbage"...all the inspiration I need to get the bike under control and get on with it.....by the time the front wheel is back on the track the entire field are dots in the distance....work to be done as I am now last by several hundred yards....a rather more spirited entry into Gerrard's than normal and the distance to the pack backmarkers is not increasing anymore, brake way later than practice into the chicane, awesome grip from the Pirellis, incredible feel from the brakes with the new race pads fitted, tyre squirming slightly, flick right then clumsily left, into 2nd and the front end goes light on the exit as I power up the short straight to Edwina's....I am catching someone!!!, ignoring my previous braking markers I brake late, smoothly through the chicane and flat out through the sweeping right left and into the hairpin...my favourite part of the track and where the S1 shines...I am not quite close enough to pass yet, but not far off, tremendous drive from the exit and through the bus stop, flat out in 2nd, 3rd, 4th....and I pass the rider in front coming into Gerrard's...Woohoo, no longer last and several others are now in view...several laps pass and I have passed 4 or 5 others, made some mistakes and been re passed by 1...an SV and the only other rider in the field with the naked & erect posture.... I follow him for a few laps, confident that I can squeeze pass if I relax a little and cut down on the schoolboy errors that creep in from time to time....we catch a rider in front of us, my target passes cleanly and I fanny about thinking too much and get caught behind, a slower lap and I see my target pulling ahead now he is past the rider holding me up......I get right up the exhaust of the blocking rider in front, almost run into his backend entering the busstop and I go for the overtake on the exit, breathing hard...instantly can't see a thing!!! flat out in 3rd and the visor has completely misted...I slow a tad, don't make the overtake & crack the visor a little on the start finish straight and it clears.....my next plan is to brake very late into Edwina's and pass there....it almost works...I out brake the opposition but can't move my right foot, it is stuck to the foot peg, I am never going to be able to get off the bike to make the exit and I am going way to fast to keep an upright posture, I will run out of ground clearance.......so I brake into the run off area....and stop....left foot down and look down.... the heel guard has cut through the stitching on my right boot and I am impaled on it....Fuck Fuck Fuck...I go to join back into the race but the Marshall points out that it is the last lap and anyway I will have to wait until the last backmarker has gone past.... up to 10 or 11th from a disastrous start and the 1st Race a DNF due to a stupid issue. 01:11 and a bit the fastest lap...

Back to the paddock for a debrief and race analysis, get stopped by several people asking where we are parked as they want to come over and look at the bike, plenty of "thumbs up" from spectators.

A few minutes later grinning Buelligan's return to pikeyville from all points of the circuit and information is gathered...constructive criticism is a vital part of the learning process and I want to hear it all...need to be smoother here, bit wobbly there, duck your head down the straight etc etc ...all taken on board and gratefully received...biggest tip....don't wheelie off the start!! What an arse, we have done two test afternoons with the bike, one track day session and I have done several track days on other bikes....not once did I even consider the start procedure, it has always been a sighting lap or two then straight into the "fast" stuff... how can something so obvious get overlooked.....

Post race inspection of the beast shows absolutely nothing wrong with it...not so much as a weep of oil or cracked exhaust or loose nut, but I have bent the rearset mount in my struggle to free the right boot, a few taps of The Emporium's specially calibrated hammer and all is straight, offending heel guard joins the scrap pile...woohoo!

Paddy Yates & Essex are a mine of information, having been there and done that for several seasons and the tips are flowing thick and fast, all useful stuff and I drink it in. Best tip of the day is Paddy's "wind up the idle to a couple of thousand rpm to minimise the engine braking and force the bike through the hairpin more aggressively".... excellent plan!

Lunch is spent sitting around with the rapidly swelling left leg elevated, chatting, piss taking, strategy session...etc...

Race 2....the organisers have wised up to what is what and I am back at number 14 on a reduced grid of 15... only the other Buell is behind me as Phil had an issue in the first race and also "DNF"........This time for the start I am just about flat on the bike with plenty of weight forward over the front end, Marshall moves, revs increase, lights change...and I wheelie away from the line!!!!!! cretin!!!....not as badly this time but so slow!...into second and the front comes up again...this time my right knee makes contact with the airfilter and knocks it off....but I am away again, not quite so far behind the others this time but still last by a good margin......all due to cabbage hands on the clutch lever... into Gerrard's and I am visibly catching the 14th rider and passed him (her as it turns out) out of the exit to the new chicane and off in search of the next one, catch him at the hairpin and am all over the back end of his bike through the busstop, he gets a better line into Devils Elbow and I trail him down the straight into Gerrard's, out brake him into the turn and lead him out of the hairpin, don't see him again. A couple of laps watching the next pair coming closer and things are starting to settle in and I am a bit more relaxed, picking better lines and trying to be smoother, silly mistakes are still being made but I am now conscious of them and once you can see the problems you can work on fixing them....lap 5 (I think) and the pair are now a trio, a Laverda 750, one of the tricked out minitwins and the S1....I swap places with the SV a couple of times and the Laverda starts to edge away as we are holding each other up....I finally make a decisive pass on the Suzuki at the hairpin, Paddy's advice is paying off, and I drive through the busstop in search of the Italian, aware that the short race is in it's final stages....he is halfway down the straight by the time I am out of the left hander and I barely brake into Gerrard's, rapidly catching him (yes, I found the "bump"). He is exiting the chicane as I am entering it....I am a bit closer still at the entry to Edwina's (Ooooerrrr) and gaining still at the hairpin, I fluff the exit from the busstop, missing a gear and catching the toe of my left boot on the tarmac, he edges away and escapes...I spend the rest of the last lap getting back into the same position, determined to take him out of the busstop but don't quite get close enough.....If only it was a 9 lapper! finish 11th out of 15 starters...Both Buells cross the line albeit me without an airfilter and Phil stuck in 5th gear... best lap 01:10 in the last lap of the race....

Back in the paddock I attempt to claim the airfilter "fell off"...the bent bolts with bits of carbon fibre still attached tell the whole story of the knee/bike interface and Maz goes to reclaim the bits from the start line Marshall that picked it up, the K&N is intact, the cover scrap. The post race check reveals no other problems, catch cans are empty of all but a tiny bit of condensation.......this is the second race kit filter that has been trashed and we are going to be looking to the aftermarket for a solution, probably a Forcewinder...open bellmouth is considered but it turns out that none of the ladies present are wearing the required stocking to attach to it...

The bike is truly a work of art and is continuing to attract a stream of admirers, it stands out amongst the identikit SVs and the hugely fast but tedious looking IL4s.....the Streetfighters crew stop by for a look at a real one now that they have gone the fairing and clip ons route for their "naked racing project".... nice people and we chat for a while...the heavily modded Gixxer expired in practice but will be back for Brands they tell me. They plan to take a few snaps of the S1 for inclusion in a future article on racing ..... Big up to Maz and Tom for the tireless and perfect preparation, parts donation and ongoing fettling.

After all had departed for the day and the last race was over it became clear that my left knee was getting worse & worse and the swelling was going beyond a joke. What had started the day as merely painful when on the bike was now producing a serious limp. I made the decision to cancel Monday's racing as I need to be flying on Wednesday morning, apologies to all that had booked time to come watch and support. Difficult decision as I am starting to enjoy racing and Monday was scheduled to feature the extra race lap...I would have had the Laverda for sure.....

Many thanks to all that came to support, Paddy, Steve, Alison (thanks for the header!) & Steve, their friends with matching hats, Adam & Paula, Ellie, Norm, Gaffer, Essex, Bill (Smartuki builder, fellow pilot and all round petrol head) and my lovely wife Gill who provided magnificent catering and puts up with all the silly ideas that I have......It makes the whole experience worthwhile to know that one has the support of friends...

Things learnt..... 1 - don't skimp on gear, the Arai that misted up was their entry level version I use on the road... the one I used in the later race was the far more expensive version donated by Yoffi and is now the dedicated race lid...even matches the orange "Cabbage cover" bib...... 2 - practice all parts of the race!! a split second gained here & there by improving lines & technique through the technical sections can be pissed away by fluffing the start........... 3 - Don't ignore the doctor and race with medical issues, they will not improve with use and will probably get worse ....doh!

Still plenty to learn ... but we have now popped the cherry!

Official timings etc available here at Mylaps.com


25th April 2006

As a final stage of the race prep, the bike has now been on the dyno to confirm that its output meets class rules, 4lb per rwhp, and it  does....just! Magnificently specified by Maz, the engine is producing 110hp/90ft lbs and weighs in at aslightly lardy 445lbs...we chose to go this route rather than save weight in order to minimise the disadvantage produced by Martin's weight and inability to stop eating pies, even though it does make the suspension, tyres & brakes work harder. This is of course subject to variations on different dynamometers, prevailing atmospheric conditions etc etc and will be very hard to police accurately. That said, it is only going to be an issue for race winners, no one protests the backmarkers so it will be a nice problem to have if we run into it!

Our new Harrison Billet Calipers should arrive this afternoon and will be installed as soon as possible. Looking forward to trying them out on the track.

First race for TB is this weekend at Mallory Park. We think that we have done as much as we can and are as prepared as we can be.....easy to say if you've never done it before and I am sure that there are a whole raft of things that we haven't even thought of that can go wrong. (Spen seems to have been a bit busy to provide any insight or tips of late)...but screw it, we will  see what happens.

12th April 2006

Mallory testing day ....

A great afternoon at Mallory, the bike is settling down nicely, lap times are improving and becoming consistent and I didn't fall off for a change, although plenty did.... (Mr Read for example, at exactly the same spot that got me last week, poor soul).... and I don't think that a lap went by without the caution flag coming out at the hairpin...

Extraordinary thing is, after plenty laps last week, a trip up the road on it's side and plenty laps flat out this afternoon.... not one oil leak....utterly dry, even the catch cans are empty Remarkable! Had plenty of visitors leaching over it in the paddock this afternoon, and plenty of compliments on the outstanding presentation, including a classic "sounds great when it goes by" and "it looks great from behind" from a couple of other riders.....very cheering. If you haven't seen it, nip up to the Emporium for a viewing, well worth the trip, or come to Mallory on the 30th April (tell Maz the fork bottoms need polishing if you would, and take some Stella!)

Not sure I have the killer mentality of a proper racer though.......came into Gerrards in the middle session with everything "just right", entry speed perfect, outside a couple of plastic faired types, knee slider disappearing rapidly, bike rock steady, feeling good......and discovered an ancient 4 cylinder Honda halfway round, had to back off and follow it for a lap, the noise was fantastic...

Oh, and I'm glad I got rid of the TL, bloody things are merely mobile chicanes....  Pictures on the Photo page

10th April 2006


Braking news.... TeamBegger has a new sponsor .... Harrison Billet, renowned manufacturers of machined billet callipers and ductile iron discs, make a twin disc setup to fit the original fork leg mounts on Real Buell's and have agreed to support us this season. Good looking kit from genuinely enthusiastic and well informed people. We will be installing their brakes as soon as possible and are looking forward to the performance increase they will provide on the track, in addition to the stunning looks they will provide in the pits. Should be worth a second or two a lap if their performance matches their looks. 

A big thanks to Harrison Billet 

5th April 2006


At last!! TeamBegger finally hits the track. .........At the weekly Mallory Park test day we discovered that this bike goes every bit as well as its looks suggest.  We were there simply to shake out the bugs and put a few gentle-ish miles on the newly built engine before setting up properly on the dyno next week. After several sessions of near race pace lapping, the bike was as oiltight as we expect of a motorcycle prepared by Maz; not a drop of oil out of place. The big bore kit endows the the bottom end of the rev range with serious grunt and the Twintech ignition not only looks great but is easily adjustable. 


An excellent first track sessionthe bike needs less tweaking tha expected and we now have a good idea of what she will be capable of when fully dialled in. Even a lowside incident at the entry to Edwinas couldn't ruin the day, but has focused attention on the need for better brakes.


Erik was not right on the braking front!  A  single front  disc, even when an EBC prolite disc replaces the standard SS one, is inadequate for high performance useespecially when a larger than average rider is on board. The susceptibility to fluid boiling (the lever was coming easily back to the bars after only a few enthusiastic laps during the Mallory test session) and the torsional load imposed on an already hard worked front end dictate that TeamBegger will be using twin discs from now on.  

29th march 2006


The first race of the Thunderbike series opened without Teambegger! This less than perfect start to the season was caused  mainly by conflicting work schedules and the late delivery of some crucial bike parts - the situation is now remedied and  we are looking forward to the Mallory round as the TB debut and season opener........ who wants to be early to the party anyway! 

Attached are a few pic's of the long awaited engine & suspension parts.... we will be up and running soon! more pictures as usual in the photo gallery


Jan 7th 2006

Two things to report today......

1. The S1WL is now residing at the Emporium. In the time it took me to drive home I expect Maz will have taken it apart completely!

2. I arrived home to find the post on the mat - an ACU entrant's licence for Team Begger. We can race

*More News!*

See the Bike page for a picture of the S1WL at the Emporium ... or what's left of it!

Jan 3rd 2006

Went to VOSPA, or whichever ridiculously acronym'd agency is now overcharging for a non relevant test, to "MSVA" the S1. Just because it is destined to become a race bike in the sound of thunder series will not prevent it (her?) from being registered, passing a daylight only mot & appearing at the odd Buell meet or Gloucestershire backroad in the coming year. I/we were, however defeated by bureaucracy & incompetence. I had re-installed a standard exhaust (not THE standard S1WL exhaust according to Maz 'cos this one is black) to meet the noise levels legislated by the fun police, successfully argued that a forcewinder is unlikely to gut a pedestrian that may innocently appear in front of such a quiet motorcycle and got round the excessive exhaust gas issue....only to realise that I had not changed the headlight. Bugger! Beardy at the test centre would accept no amount of begging, bribing or threatening - it has to be changed to meet the ministry code or it would create a situation "more than my job is worth" (a figure I would probably pay given the weather). A quick trip to Halfords revealed that they only now sell push bikes for brats & enormous "ICE" to chavs....no good for the current crisis, motor factors all shut for the Nov - Jan "Xmas" holiday (undoubtedly soon to become a "vacation", probably for even longer) so I now need to borrow a complete unit (only takes 2 minutes to change) or spend the rest of the weekend in a parts shop attempting to get a unit that fits. 

Use the unit from the Black Pig I hear you think, an X1 will fit an S1. Yes, it will but having borrowed a unit (from my old X1 that was still at the dealer's where I traded it) for that to go through the SVA that also has a US dipping headlight.... Yes, I know....

Jan 4th 2006

Progress now being made....although towards the street rather than the track. MSVA passed, MOT got and when the Post Office finally wakens from it's ludicrously long seasonal slumber and delivers the relevant form from Customs, it will be registered. Curious I know but I thought it would be a good thing to do before taking it all to pieces. The odd blat around the quiet Cotswold lanes or UKBegger meet may be a bit of fun in the summer on a race bike. Not sure where the removable reg plate will go....is it legal to have it on the back of one's jacket?