Team Ixion Race Report

Rider: Roger Ford
Bike: Aprilia 1000 Mille

Track: Snetterton
Date: 4th May 2002

Going well in the club races until I crashed (again), which sadly knocked my confidence for the MRO round.

Friday Practice

Hey, Snetterton and the weather's nice? What's going on? Either way, I built up slowly to a reasonable but unimpressive 1:16, dipping into the 15's occasionally.

Saturday Race 1

This was probably my best - and certainly my fastest - race of the weekend. Since I'm not a contender in the Bemsee championship, I had to start in eleventh place on the grid. But I managed to get "in the groove", was feeling really good on the bike, and riding it like my old 250. A couple of laps in, and I was up to fifth place and close behind the leaders. Sadly, it wasn't much use as the race was soon red-flagged.

I hoped we might be regridded in race position, but we were back to our starting places. I hoped I'd be able to maintain the momentum and get the position back.

In the event, I didn't seem to be riding quite as well, and the front end of the bike seemed to be flapping around as I exited the corners. "Odd" I thought, and ignored it for now.

I was tusselling with John Rhodes - normally a very quick rider - but this time he was clearly having bike problems. I was easily pulling out on him on the straights, which just doesn't happen with the closely matched Aprilias (it later emerged that he'd had a plug cap fail). We scrapped until the last lap, when I was in the lead, but screwed up at Russel's chicane by braking late - too late - in an attempt to stop him getting past on the brakes. That messed up my exit, and he was alongside me on the straight. I crossed the line a wheel's width ahead, which I wouldn't have managed if he'd not been down on power.

That gave me sixth place - not tremendous, until I saw the laptimes. Regularly in the 14's, with a best lap of 1:14.27. The best I ever managed on my 250 was just into the 13's, so finally I've managed to get close to my 250 times on the big Prily. And if I'd managed that time in today's 250 race, I'd have come second.

Position: 6th. Best Lap: 1:14.27

Saturday Race 2

My sixth place put me in the middle of the second row for race 2, and I was thinking "all I have to do now is get a decent start, and I'm up there". So sure enough, I get a rubbish start, with the bike wheelying repeatedly before I get it under control, letting half the grid past. I got quite a few places back, but struggled to get near the leaders.

I'd mentioned before that the bike had been flapping around, but this time it seemed worse. I was beginning to get scared that I'd get into a tank slapper and get thrown off. I don't think it was actually worse, it's just that last time I'd been concentrating more on the race, and just riding through the problem, whereas this time I was focussing on it.

I had a good dice with a Fireblade rider (from the Powerbikes overflow who were gridded with us), who would accelerate away from me down all the straights, and then usually let me past on the brakes at the end.

Position: 7th. Best Lap: 1.15.16

Towards the end of the race, my rear tyre felt like it was going off - and sure enough when I pulled off it was torn to shreds.

Flapping front end and wrecking tyres? Time to go see Clive Horton of racing lines. I confidently expected him to take a look at the back tyre, nod sagely, and prounounce "three up on the rear rebound and two off the front compression" or some such mysticism. In the event, it involved lots of tooth sucking, plenty of comments like "well there's obviously SOMETHING wrong", but little in the way of concrete, definite advice.

He did suggest reducing the compression damping, and after a bit of blagging I managed to get out at the back of the Clubman's Shootout grid, an excellent fun race, mainly scrapping with "Wreckless" Rob Elsemere who was out doing something similar. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to finish the race (not being a clubman, and all) so I had to pull off early.

Sunday Race One

Sunday started off wet, but Snetterton's track dries fast. Game of the day seemed to be "who can trash their wets fastest". When the Powerbikes went out, there was a large dry line all the way round. Yet fully half the grid were on full wets. At 250 pounds a set, I reckon that grid must have destroyed the best part of five grands worth of tyres in one race!

Conditions were very changable, and a shower shortly before our race had everyone wringing their hands over tyre choice. In the end, nearly everyone was on treaded intermediates, though a couple of brave souls were on slicks, and about three were on full wets. Slicks was actually the correct choice.

It was a good race, particularly in the closing stages. I'd been scrapping with Alan Stephens on another RSV, and Richard Holmes on a GSXR1000. On the final lap, it was Holmes, me and Stephens. We were approaching a backmarker and I thought he might hold up Holmes enough for me to sneak up the inside at Russels. Sadly, he just blocked the inside, allowing Stephens to get around the outside of me. Meanwhile, Neil Simpson appeared from nowhere and plowed through the middle of us, overtaking myself, Stephens and the backmarker in one impressive move. Bodacious riding, dude!

Ninth place, but at least I beat Daz Jones...

Position: 9th. Best Lap: 1:16.15

Sunday Race 2

The weather was dodgy Sunday afternoon. I contemplated not going out - I felt like I'd had enough practice for the MRO round. But I'm generally crap in damp conditions, so I decided I could probably use the practice. In retrospect, it wasn't one of my best decisions...

It was really hard to guess what tyres we'd need, though in the end I settled for intermediates. The collecting area showed a nice mix of slicks, inters and wets - and the sighting lap indicated that it was in fact almost completely dry, and slicks would probably have been the right choice.

I got a fair start and got stuck in immediately. I got bulked a bit round Riches but did two people in Sear. Then at the end of the straight I tried to consolidate it by overtaking Alan Stephens up the inside...

I can only guess that there was a damp patch under the bridge. I'd been braking for some time when the front wheel suddenly let go and dumped me on my arse. As I felt my brand-new crash helmet hit the tarmac I thought - not for the first time - "OK, that's it. You don't have - and can't afford - another helmet so you're out for the forseeable future".

Of course by later in the day I'd found a supplier of new OGK helmets and handed my credit card over only to start the whole foolish business all over again.

Position: DNF. Best Lap: None completed.

Monday MRO

OK, so this is the flagship race. But I'm not going to write much about it because I was riding like crap after the crash the day before.

Much of the race was lonely, and it only livened up towards the end when Paul Parkinson overtook and we were able to have a bit of a tussle.

The really annoying thing is that my best time from Saturday would have given me the second fast lap of the race. As it was I could only manage a 1:16.92 and 16th place.

Position: 16th. Best Lap: 1:16.92

Gearing: 15/44