Team Ixion Race Report

Rider: Roger Ford
Bike: Aprilia 1000 Mille

Track: Brands Hatch
Date: 9th/10th March 2002

Borrowed Bike
James' Loan Bike
Season restarts at Brands, where it finished last year. My best result yet in the MRO, in spite of having to ride someone else's bike, and having a nasty cold.

Getting the bike ready (or not...)

Aprilia's have something of a reputation for wearing their valve seats rapidly, so regular checking is recommended. I booked mine in at Wheelpower to have them checked and adjusted as needed. After dropping it off there, I received a call from them: "err - did you know your rear balancer shaft is in three pieces?".

No warranty on a race bike, of course, so I ordered the parts for 150 pounds (retail 200) from Aprilia Racing. Except that there were none in the UK so they'd have to be ordered from Italy, and would take "two to three weeks" to arrive. These are, of course, Italian weeks and not to be confused with the normal seven-day versions encountered in these parts.

Eventually, they arrived, and Wheelpower fitted them and checked the valves. More grief - two of the valves seats had got burnt. Apparently I was lucky not to have dropped a valve.

Anyway, more ordering chaos, and it became more and more evident that the bike wasn't going to be ready in time for Brands. A desperate email to the Team Ixion list, and James Dening came up with a very kind offer to let me use his ex-Dez Chand bike for the whole weekend.

Mike Edwards collects the wreckage
Mike Edwards collects the wreckage

Friday Practice

First problem - James' bike uses a road gearchange, and I'm used to an upside-down race change. I thought I could probably get used to it, but was afraid there'd be at least a few wrong-way changes!

Fortunately Daz Jones came to the rescue with his spare MiHil rearsets - which allow you to reverse the change. I covered over Dez's "82"s with some gaffa tape and my "77"s, and fitted my steering damper and wheels.

I spent most of the day following Daz, he would push hard from the off and chasing him was keeping my speeds up. I was quite impressed to find we were both faster the Steve Booker - although this later turned out to be a temporary effect caused by a big off in the first session.
A sorry affair
A sorry afair
I was slightly less impressed to find that we were both slower than new-boy (well, new to RSV's) Steve Bullimore, who was flying on his first day out on the new bike.

Mike Edwards, sharing a garage with us, was unlucky enough to be taken out by an anonymous rider (though you can call him "Jeremy Goodall" if you like), and suffered a smashed up bike and bruised confidence for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday Bemsee Supertwins Race One

Tyre choice was difficult for this, as it rained hard then dried rapidly. On the row in front of me, two bikes had intermediates, one had full wets, and the other had slicks!

Nasty conditions - mostly dry, but very wet off line. Druids had a dry line only a foot wide. I hate conditions like that, and felt like a was riding like an idiot. I thought I must be almost last, so I was very surprised to find I got 8th place. Seems like most of the others didn't like it any better than I did. Daz Jones put in a good ride, then retired on the last lap with a stuck-on rear brake, putting him on the back of the grid for race 2.

Result: 8th. Best lap 55.82

Saturday Bemsee Supertwins Race Two

This was a bit more like it. A properly dry track. I rode far better in this one, and managed to put in two overtakes on the last lap - an unlikely outbraking manouevre at Paddock on 996-mounted Craig Barker, plus a drive around the outside of Neil Simpson on an RSV at Graham Hill.

I was somewhat disappointed to find that this was only worth 9th place - one place worse than before!

Daz did amazingly, passing me early in the first lap from his back-row start, and getting into sixth by the end of lap one, and third by the end.

Result: 9th. Best lap 52.88.

Sunday - MRO

I'd been suffering a bit of a cold and sore throat on Saturday, but woke up Sunday to find it far worse.

Free Practice

Three laps to scrub in the new tyres, and I pulled in. It wasn't worth wasting the tyres for a small bit of extra practice.

Qualifying

I'd been suffering problems with the front end bottoming-out, and this really showed up during qualifying. I'd been trying to get past Chad Hashmi, and went for it at Paddock by leaving my braking really late. But that just meant I ended up turning in hard on the brakes, with the front locked totally solid. Scary! I drifted wide and only just managed to stay on the circuit. For some reason, Chad let me past after that one! I was struggling to get below 53s, and in fact only managed it on the penultimate lap when I tagged behind Steve Bulimore, and put in a 52.9. Still slightly lower than Saturday practice, but would have to do. It put me in 10th place, on the third row.

Qualified: 10th. Lap time: 52.9

Before the race, on Clive Horton's advice, I added 20ml of 10w fork oil to each fork. It worked perfectly, stopping the forks bottoming out without changing the feel otherwise.

RSV Garage
Daz does his "Tower of Pisa" impression in a garage of RSV's
MRO Race I got a decent start and we soon settled into a rythm. Steve Booker was starting to disappear off at the front, but there was a pack of some seven or eight of us behind. I was hoping I'd be able to make an attack on some of them, but they were starting to pull away a little bit. Eighteen laps is hard work, and by the last few I was starting to tire.

On the 16th lap, I nearly lost it. I thought I'd fluffed a gearchange, and changed down another. I knew I'd got it wrong, but tried to let out the clutch gently. It wasn't gentle enough, and the back end locked and skipped out. I was flung off the seat, but just managed to hold it. Neil Simpson took the opportunity to leap past. To make up for this, though, front runners Paul Beasley and Jarrod Frost took the kitty litter exit at Paddock.

That left me in eighth place. Two places better than my previous best - and this time it was eighth out of twenty, rather than tenth out of thirteen!

I was extremely relieved to be able to give James his bike back in one piece, with all of the fairings intact! I reckon that eighth place on someone else's bike with a nasty cold was quite a result.

Result: 8th. Best lap: 52.27.

A huge debt of thanks is due to James Dening, without whose selfless offer of his bike I'd have been unable to compete at all. Cheers, James!


Next Meeting: Oulton Park, 1st April.

This one should be interesting as there's no practice. I love Oulton, but it takes a bit of getting used to. It normally takes me a whole practice day to get up to speed - so expect a pretty shoddy qualifying time!