Silverstone October 21st/22nd 2000

A fun end to the season. Silverstone was damp, but hardly the river it was last year. Andy Denyer proved his wizardry in the wet on Saturday to secure his third place in the 250GP championship, but left for a major drinking session saturday night, leaving me to win both races at the MCC meeting on Sunday.

With the 250 championship fully sorted, I had nothing to prove at Silverstone, but wanted to end my last full season with Bemsee on a high note. Next year I'll be mainly concentrating on the MRO series, although I hope to be back at a few rounds to show the young whipper-snappers the way round some of the circuits.

Friday Practice

What's this? We're at Silverstone and it's dry. Most strange. Gave me some good practice sessions, but since we've never ridden in the dry at Silverstone, I had no way of knowing if my best lap of 1:03 was crap or really good.

Saturday - Bemsee Race One

Sure enough, it rained heavily over night, and we were all out on full wets.

I got a fairly crap start, and the Samsome twins and Andy Denyer were in front. The twins - Chris and Nick - hadn't practiced the day before, and I was able to use my recent circuit experience to get past both of them, and set off after Andy. Andy hesitated on the straight pulling off a rad strip, and I was able to power past him.

We had a great scrap for a few laps. I kept wanting to do him at the end of the start-finish straight into Copse - but there always seemed to be yellow flags there. In total an unbelievable 53 riders crashed at Copse that day, so I guess it wasn't surprising!

On the last lap I snuck up the inside into Becketts. Sadly I missed a gear on the exit and Andy came back past. Perhaps luckily, since Andy was on a mission and would have been quite determined to outbrake me into Luffield - his strong point and my weak one.

Andy took a well deserved win, cementing his third place in the championship in fine style. I settled for second.

Saturday - Bemsee Race Two

Duncan was very unimpressed with me this time. "How dare you insult my hours of preparation by riding like a dick!" was the unspoken accusation. Yeah well, in my defence it was half-dry conditions. Give me wet or give me dry - I love either of them. But half-dry is pants. I still managed to get third place, but some way behind Andy Denyer taking another win, and championship runner-up Andy Mecham.

Sunday MCC Race One

It had been drying out after a wet night - and we had slicks fitted when it started to rain a little before our race. I went for inters, although about half the grid were on wets. This was good for the first few laps, although I could feel the grip wasn't good. The MCC club day is mainly for Classics, but as they run the day after Bemsee they have classes for 'Production' and 'Open'. Open was divided into up-to-250, and up-to-600. As a 250, I was gridded on row seven. I was confident of my chances in the 250 (and had cheekily demanded my first-place trophy the night before), but wanted a good overall finish.

It started to rain more heavily half-way through, by which time I only had a few bikes ahead - all 600's. It was getting VERY hairy. Becketts was fine, but they do downforce testing on F1 cars round Luffield and Copse. I was sliding out of Luffield, and just the merest hint of throttle caused violent twitches out of Copse (remember those 53 crashers!). I took it really gently in the corners, but was able to use the 250's superior braking to get past the next two 600's.

By this time the front runners had pulled a 10 second buffer, and there weren't enough laps left to catch them - though whether I'd have stayed on long enough to do so I don't know!

I ended up fourth overall and took the win in the 250 class.

One more to do - let's see if we can win this one outright.

Sunday - MCC Race Two

Comedy start routine. The lights go green, and stay that way for a brief period. Testosterone gets the better of judgement and almost the entire grid moves off. Lights stay red. Cheating wankers! I think, surupticiously moving my own bike back to its designated position. Some have a lot further to peddle back.

We go again, and I get a good start and pile into the pack round Copse. I ride round the outside, and by the third corner I've taken back most of my row 7 disadvantage.

It was damp, not wet, but I'd rather reluctantly chosen full wets over inters. A good choice it seemed. I didn't have any of the earlier race's scary moments, and I was really enjoying the race.

The 600s were quicker on driving down the straights, but they were braking much earlier than I needed to, so I made up several places. I was being conservative in corners, but exploiting the braking advantage.

Eventually I'd made it up from seventh row to second place. The leader was in sight, but it was only a six lap race.

So I was really pleased when he got balked by a back-marker all the way through the last corner - Luffield - on the last lap. I caught up and powered with all my might onto the straight. Maybe!

He approached the line and raised his hand in victory - just as I flashed past him! Who won? Too close to call!

In the end, they gave it to him - Craig Milner. Bernie reckoned there was half-a-wheel in it. But I had the consolation prize of the fastest lap - by a whole second at 1:09 - just five seconds off my dry practice time. And of course the first place trophy for the 250's.

What a good race. I really enjoyed it, and put in an excellent ride, if I may say so. The commentator was excited as he talked about "the little 250 coming from seventh row into second place".

A great way to finish the season. I'd only entered the MCC races because I thought it was before Bemsee, and didn't have the nerve to explain this to Tony and Carrol when I discovered it was after. But I'm very glad I did, this was a great way to finish the season.

2001 Preparation

Now the last race is over, I'm going to strip the TZ to little pieces (I can do that - I'll need help to put it back together!)

It's looking very rough at the moment. My various off-road excursions mean that the bodywork is battered and held together with bodge-tap, and the rest is liberally scraped or pebble-dashed at the moment. It was sobering being in a paddock with so many immaculately prepared 30 or 50 year bikes, when my "brand-new" bike was looking so dog-eared.

The frame and swinging arm are going off for polishing. I'm still bottoming the forks - even in the wet! So they're going off for some attention - and might just have to replaced by some Ohlins forks if they're declared crap (the 2001 TZ has improved forks to solve this problem).

New fairing and seat will have to be ordered and painted. The tank needs a large bollock-shaped dent removed (I don't remember any pain, so either testosterone overcame it, or perhaps it was a tyre wall after all).

Next year I'm concentrating on the MRO series. I'll be retiring the Bemsee 250 Crown - there are some rapidly improving riders in the class who I can see fighting for it next year. Andy Hyde is my tip if he stays in the country - and I hope he does. Neil Ronketti's got a way to go - but he's shown he can ride the TZ now and is improving rapidly. And every year a novice unknown pops up and tests the established riders' skills.

I'll be back for the odd Bemsee round - including obviously Lydden and Brands Hatch GP Circuit - just to show the young pretenders the way round. And I hope to do some "novelty rides". I have in mind outings on Jan's TDR, my TDM 850 in Singles, Twins and Triples, and hopefully an MZ. MRO for serious racing, Bemsee for pure fun!

We have a baby due in March (duh! Right at the start of race season!) So perhaps I won't have time to run loads of races. The MRO is great for this - there's around 10 rounds. I'm really pleased to have finally won a Bemsee championship - perhaps it's the last chance I'd have had to do it.

Of course, with the championship won, and parental responsibilities looming, I should be thinking of giving up racing.

Stuff that. :-)

Final Bemsee rounds:
Silverstone October 21st.

Roger Ford

Setup Notes
Gearing - Dry - Brands with high top
Jetting - err
Best lap 1:03.78
Miles: 150 total