There is no doubt that the track at Howton Court, Pontrilas is pretty impressive. They’d altered the track for the classic bikes, but with a nice jump, a tabletop and some steep drops it was rather impressive.
It was a British Championship round, so plenty of entries and there was a busy feeling to the paddock when myself and girls turned up. Howton Court is only 5 miles from home, so the best journey of the year, though still managed to fill the van completely 🙂 Gazebo up, the girls started fixing breakfast as Wayde, Saffron and myself walked the track. Watered that morning, it was impressive with some steep drops, a tabletop and a very impressive ski jump near the start-finish. Also, new to me, was a gate start, which with the jumping of the elastic at the previous meetings this year would make it more interesting.
It’s a modern track and I was wary as I took the MX250 out for first practice. Despite some last minute tuning on Saturday, the bike still wasn’t running right and was sluggish when pulling away. Going out early was a bit of a mistake, as the watered track made it very slippery and ended up search on the outside of the corners looking for grip. Took it pretty easy on the way round, but still interesting and especially the ski jump.
Back in and grabbed the now running SC500 and took it out. By now the track had dried considerably and the racing line was beginning to become apparent. The bigger Yam was pulling well up the hills, but struggling with the braking and cornering. It was all a bit difficult.
After 1st practice, the track side advice from Gavin and Mark (not riding because of injury) was to give it a little more on the ski jump, so gave it a bit of welly in third on the SC500 and went a few feet. The only problem was the landing, where the suspension qualities of my ankles were brought into question. They were numb for the next half-lap and it hurt.
Back to the pits for liquid and further discussion on bike set-up. I was planning to run both bikes and attempt 6 races. With 5 lap races, this was looking like a very ambitious schedule given that I was knackered after practice. Needed to fix the silencer in position as it had detached itself from the main pipe, increasing the throaty roar of the bike.
My first race was race 4 and under 250cc race and it lasted about 1 meter as the split link in my chain failed. Ah, not the best, so at least I wasn’t too tired for over 250 race….
Got the SC500 off the line pretty well as it reared up and then bit across the metal gates, and hit the first corner in about 5th. Still hard going and steadily lost places through the race until I ended up 2 from last at the end (well that’s where I think I ended up). I’d lost the rear silencer again, this time it actually feel off. Not being too similar in shape and size to a torpedo, that Skyway Spark Arrestor isn’t the lightest and most efficient silencer on the market, but should have a chance of finding it. I also lost a side panel, which was recovered a little while later near the start.
More of think on the tuning side needed with some suspension and steering adjustments probably needed.
Back in the paddocks and whilst Tim Manton was wrapping his bike around the fence and a spectator in the first British championship race, along with Mark, I set to work on fixing the MX250. To my surprise I found the spare split link in the tool box and after a quick adjustment we were back in business.
For the SC500, decided to take half of the fork oil out to improve the amount of travel and increase the damping (the manual says 30w / 150ml for each leg, heavy oil and too much of it). Also did some adjustment to the clutch level to make it less of a stretch with the fingers.
Saffron also set off in search of the SC500 silencer and in her a style all of her own return 10 minutes later with silencer after asking marshals if they found anything from her dad’s bike. Excellent.
After delays waiting for the St John’s Ambulance to return and then lunch had some time for a break and also to do the various fixes. The under 250 race actually saw me get away from the line, although the start was the normal, recently, abysmal one. However, the bike was going well and felt a lot easier to ride than the 500 round the track. Getting any form of drive out of the corners wasn’t easy though but was going okay. That is until I lost the use of the throttle cable on the 4th lap. At least I wasn’t too far from the start, basically the ideal spot and got the bike back to the van with time to spare to get the 500 out.
Wrong gear from the start, but the bike seemed to be handling a lot better, though I was still struggling with the breaking into corners, especially on the long down hill. Back brake was virtually non-existent. More work to be done here. A few missed gears meant I was pretty slow, with a flying Shaun Lovegrove not far behind me.
A bit of a break (4 races) and it was time for the last 250 race and headed up to the start. Whilst waiting in the box saw Paul Cullen take a heavy fall coming off the ski-jump, with a front wheel landing not going right. He didn’t move quickly so a run over found him lying on his back obviously having knocked himself out. Luckily he was just heavily winded and was after a few minutes was up and about.
The race itself was my best of the day (ie I finished and wasn’t last) and despite a poor start had a good race with Sam Gittoes and a couple of others. The bike, when in the right gear was going well, but it didn’t have the top end power that it should do. Unlike the 500, the 250 was handling well and was able to get the inside line on corners and turn quickly. No doubt I was handling the bike better also.
Got to the line for the last over 250 race, but alas the bike refused to start after I’d forgot to turn the fuel tap on. No bother, but it would have been nice to give the bike another session.
And finally (but not least) was Wayde’s last race, with a great ride which involved _the_ Graham Noyce only passing on the last lap. Excitement central and provided a great finale to the day with a superb last lap (youtube clip below)
It was 18h00 time we finished and luckily only a short journey home, with a stop at Lock’s Garage for ice cream. Emptied the bikes and did the clean up with plenty to ponder. If anything, Pontrilas had showed up the short comings of the suspension and the Rock Shocks on the rear of the 250 were leaking fluid and were not providing much in the way of damping. The forks on the 500 had also failed, so a revisit / rebuild needed here also. It’s not a small list, with the target of getting them done before Abbeycwmhir on 9th May.