Saturday - Aintree.
This was going to be a bit of a testing day as I intended to try a few different bits on the bike (exhaust, carb settings, shocks).
The carb was sporting a new needle as the old one had become worn and the clip had fallen out. I fitted a shorter silencer to the exhaust, which Andrew had made for me to try it out. I’d replaced most of the electrics too after the problems at the last couple of meetings (coil, plug, cap, lead, condenser, and on/off switch). The bike started really easily which was a good start to the day.
Practice got delayed due to crashes in the first few sessions, including an ambulance job. The ‘up to 350 classics’ practice finally got out but was red flagged after a lap and a half. One of the bikes had gone down and was on fire!
There was a bit of confusion in the assembly area and I missed getting out in the repeat practice session so I went out with the over 350’s and Forgotten Era instead.
Practice was OK. The bike felt a little down on power, especially on the long railway straight where it wouldn’t rev out in top gear.
After practice we considered changing the exhaust back to the longer one but decided to leave it for the first qualifying session at least. Did raise the needle in the carb as the plug was looking very white.
First race was 250 qualifying - 5 laps.
I was entered in 2 classes: Classic 250 Single Cylinder (racing with the 250 twins) and 350 Single Cylinder (with the 350 twins).
I was given a good peg for my start position - 5th on the grid.
Got a really good start, I shot through the front row (a bit of a squeeze) and got into the lead for a moment or two till a couple of the faster twins came past into the first corner. As the race went on, although the twins were passing me there didn’t seem to be many singles coming past. The bike still felt like it was down a bit on power, but I realised that there must be a headwind down the long straight slowing me down, so maybe it wasn’t doing so bad. It was getting to about 9000rpm in top which I reckon to be about 90mph. I was pushing it hard and it felt pretty good.
Caroline was doing my lap timings and I was pretty consistent at 1:18.
On the last lap I had a couple of twins in front of me and nothing behind, but I was still pushing hard. Went into Beechers a but too fast and ran out of track (in 4th gear so doing between 70 and 80mph). Tried to stand the bike up as I hit the grass but it was too bumpy so I went rolling!
The medics at track side gave me a quick check over and sent me to the medical centre after recovery back to the paddock. The staff there splinted my thumb (using a couple of plastic spoons!!!) and advised me that I may have torn the tendon from the bone. X-ray required.
The bike had lost the right had (gear) footpeg, throttle, master cylinder, screen and fairing damage.
Looking at the official timesheet I was lying 3rd place in my class with only Roger Birkenhead’s Ducati and Dave Whitehouse’s Greeves ahead of me. I’d been doing over half a second a lap faster than the next single. Fastest lap was 1:18.251, 70.619mph. A few riders spoke to Caroline in the paddock afterwards and said I was riding really well - until I fell off!!!
Went to hospital in the afternoon. The X-ray didn’t show any broken bones but my thumb’s in a splint and might have to stay that way for 3 months to give the tendons a chance. Should know more on Monday when I go to the clinic.
Spent Saturday night sorting out the bike. Andrew repaired and helicoiled the gear change. Caroline fitted a new master cylinder and bled it through as well as sorting a bracket to fit a number board to the front (to run without a fairing). I swapped a throttle assembly over from one of the road bikes and did anything which didn’t require any strength (left wrist sore as well as right thumb disabled). We’d finished for the night by 11 so at least I could make a decision about Three Sisters in the morning.
Got up and went straight in the garage to see if I was going to be able to do anything. Could get my hand with splinted thumb into a large pair of gloves but I can’t work the throttle and brake and left hand not strong enough to work the clutch either so no racing for me today.
I guess it’s the right decision not to cause any further damage, but I’m still gutted!
Might head down to Three Sisters for a while then head to the Red Lion to watch the Superbikes with the Manchester branch.
Will keep you posted on progress.
Next scheduled meeting is at Aintree on July 12, but I don’t mind missing that one. My season there is effectively over. In round 1 I had a puncture which meant that I didn’t score points in the 250 S/C class (got a 4th in 350 S/C). Yesterday I scored no points. Three rounds remain, but I was planning on missing the August one anyway to race with CRMC at Cadwell.
The next one after that is in 5 weeks at Three Sisters, July 19 and 20. Round 3 on the Saturday and round 4 on the Sunday. I really don’t want to miss that weekend otherwise all my championship hopes for this year are out of the window.
Watch this space!
Thanks to everyone who came down to Aintree - sorry you didn’t get to see me ride more. And sorry to anyone who’s at Three Sisters today expecting to see me there.