Pembrey Round 2 May 25/26th.

Let the racing begin
Molly's in the blue suit.


Pre-Race Practice 24th May 2002: By Molly

Since I was visiting relatives in Wales I decided to do a couple of hours at Pembrey on my spare race bike. Gareth kindly offered to be pit crew and time keeper for the session.

We arrived at a windswept and wet Pembrey having taken more than six hours to get there due to the high winds and wet conditions on the motorway. There were 11 teams there, ten of which were competing on the Sunday and a team called Krusty Burger who were reserves. The fist indication we had of the high wind was when we got the bike off the trailer, a gust of wind blew the bike over but luckily it landed on Gareth who managed to hold it. The track was wet in places and Hatchets Hairpin had a nice little lake. I went out on a session and put in 17 fairly quiet laps getting down to about 1:16 while learning the circuit, the team on the TLR were clocking about 1:10's. The weather had improved a bit from showers to intermittent drizzle and the track had started to dry out. I decided to go out on another session and start to "wind it on", Hatchets lakes was still there but the rest of the track had some dry lines. By now I had managed to get down to 1:11's and was overtaking the other riders thought about coming in but I said to myself just a few more laps..............bad move.

I had just exited from Dibeni and had started to open the throttle and drift out at Paddock bend but got too heavy on the throttle, the bike was going for the grass so I got a bit more throttle and cranked the bike over but the foot peg dug in. I pointed the bike at the grass and said you go that way as I went tumbling down the tarmac in spectacular fashion at about 130MPH. I tore up my suit a bit and totalled my helmet but apart from a few bumps and bruises I was OK. The bike has a scratch and will need a new clutch lever and the gear lever needs straightening. Tough bikes these ZXR's.

So when you feel it's time to come in....come in.

Team UKRM - KRC Endurance Championship - Pembrey - 25/26th May

What a Champ.

I arrived at the circuit late Friday night with Mike, and the van with Andy Bonwick and the Garage Pixies got there shortly afterwards. We met a rather dishevelled Cit, who had been there for hours, waiting to see if his tent was going to blow down. The weather did not look good.

Up at 7am the next morning, and we pulled the bike out of the van. First job was to fit the shiny new bodywork, which we did easily enough. On went the new tank, splashed in a couple of litres of fuel, wouldn't start. Turned out the outlet from the tank was the 'main' (instead of 'reserve') outlet, so we quickly whipped it out and cut it down. Now the bike ran ok. We then set to setting up the pit. There are no pit garages at Pembrey, all the teams work under awnings. We are sharing with Online Racing (no 75), who brought their Tescos gazebo thing. Due to a short pit lane, each "garage", which has to be used by two teams, is only about 7' wide, so everyone has to be well organised.

Free practise was meant to start at 9:00am, but no teams were ready by then - I think the first bike went on track about 10am. We also had to get our kit and the bike scrutinised and sign on, etc. Mike rode the bike to the scrutineering bay, and it passed without problem, but when he got back to the pit he told us that the forks were twisted in the yokes, obviously from the crash last time out at Snetterton. Mike sorted it out properly, while the riders kicked their heels, but eventually we got out on track at about 11am. Molly Gower had spent the previous afternoon at a practise session at Pembrey, and had got in about 40 laps, so she was back of the queue for track learning time. She'd also crashed her bike, but it was ok, and so was she, tho a bit bruised. We really should have got her bike scruitineered too (more later).

The track was damp but drying when we went out, so we used some old Rennsports just to learn the track. These soon cooked up as the track dried, so we switched to slicks. In the meantime, we mounted up the shiny new Michelin Pilot Race tyres that Simon Batey had generously donated to the team - there tyres were going to be our new intermediates.

After lunch, there was a short untimed session, then 6 timed sessions - two for each rider. I decided to put a few laps on the Pilots, in order to scrub them in. They were cold, but I said "It's ok, I'll be careful". Hah! As I pulled away from the pit, using minimal revs, the rear span up. "Hmmm", I thought. I arrived at the first hairpin, slowed down to 15~20mph, and as soon as I started to turn in, the front went away and I was down. It was like I'd hit oil! The marshals helped me pick the bike up, it started (eventually), and I rode it back to the pit with no right hand foot rest. It was misfiring... Mike and Andy attacked the right foot rest assembly, managing to cobble together a decent working system out of the spares we had. We threw some different wheels in (no *way* was I riding those Pilots), and I went. It was immediately clear that the bike was unhappy, running on three until full throttle and 8k revs. I came straight back in, and we started looking at the engine, checking plugs, wires to coils, etc, eventually deciding to bite bullet and have the carbs apart. One float bowl was full of crap - dropping the bike had obviously disturbed it all. We also suspect that the new tank had had quite a lot of rust in it. Anyway, the bike was now running ok. But we had lost four of the six timed qualifying sessions, and the rules stated that each rider had to do 3 qualifying laps. I'd had a quick word with the race officials, and they were happy for us to get each rider out for the minimum, even if in the same session, so I caught the last of the fifth session, and wobbled round, determined to bring the bike home. We then sent Molly out in the final session - the pit board team were told to give her three laps and bring her in. The bike was on slicks. It was starting to rain. Molly did her 3 laps, and we sent Andy out. It was raining harder. The track was wet. Andy did his three, and came in. Brave bloke. But, the bike was running very well, and we'd qualified. Plum last.

By this time, everyone was mentally and physically exhausted. The amount of work put in by the whole crew, but in particular Mike, to get us out there was incredible. We retired to the bar... That evening, Andy offered to scrub in the Pilots in the morning warm up. As I said - brave bloke.

So, up at 7am, again, into the pit, and we set out our stall. It had hissed down with rain most of the night, but now the sky was blue, and the wind had dropped. The track was wet, but was obviously going to dry out with bikes on it. We got the Pilots in the tyre warmers good and early, and when Andy went out on them they were lovely and warm. Andy went out and did about five laps, and then brought it in, reporting that they were good in the wet when warm, but started to go away as the water cooled them down. Hmmm - not very good as intermediates then. But the weather was looking good, so we waved two fingers at fate.

Time was ticking, and soon the pit lane was open for the formation lap. We left the Pilots on, as the track was already drying, but not dry enough to start on slicks. I lined up at the back of the Le Man style row, and then we went off for two warm up laps. Andy held the bike, the riders waited on the other side of the track, and we got the 1 minute board....and then the flag.

I was across the track and away before the first half dozen bikes next to me, and weaved my way through the traffic to make some more places before the first corner. 44 bikes going into a first gear hairpin is quite entertaining, I can tell you. A few got me back down round the first lap, but the pit board crew told me I'd made a good ten places. The tyres had lost a bit of temperature on the line, and I had a couple of left hand slides on the first 3 or 4 laps, but then they were up to temperature, a dry line soon appeared, and I tried to settle in. A couple of laps later, the fast boys started to pile past, and for a few laps it was all a bit depressing. I was turning between 1:08 and 1:10 - these blokes must have been right up to the 1:00 pole pace from the off. But then I started to catch some other people, and started to enjoy my racing. I posted a best of 1:07, and shortly after saw my board give me the 3, 2, 1, IN signs. That hour had passed pretty quickly. The bike was refuelled, Andy was on it and away.

Andy settled into a rhythm quite quickly. He'd never seen the track before this weekend, and the problems on Saturday meant he'd not had as much practise time as he'd liked, but he managed to post a few 1:10s, and the rest weren't far off. I went for a walk to chill out, and on my way back noticed that it was raining lightly. As I walked, I watched the bikes going round. I couldn't see Andy. I waited at one spot, and watched every, he's was definitely not there. I ran back to the pit to see Andy pushing back in - he'd crashed at Spitfires behind the pits (short push, at least), trying too hard in the damp.

The pace car was out because of this and another crash at the fast Honda curve, so the crew feverishly started trying to fix the bike. Again it was just the right hand foot rest assembly that was damaged - the brake lever and bracket were bent, and the footrest shaved to about 2/3rds of its original length. And then an odd thing happened. The pace car brought all the bikes to a halt on the start/finish straight, and the race was 'paused'. Water was flooding onto the hairpin, and they'd sent the fire engine to pump it off. Feverish work continued on the bike - we knew that once an official halt was called, we wouldn't be allowed to work on the bike. But we'd got most of it done before an official came and told us what was going on. By now the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, so we had a rear slick ready to go on, electing to stay with the Pilot front which was working well. We laid all the tools out, waited...and as the race started behind the pace car, we finished the bike in about a minute and sent Molly out.
By now Andy had stripped off his leathers to reveal the damage to his knee - it wasn't pleasant (skin gone almost down to the bone) so we sent him off to the medical centre. He came back with a nice bandage and instructions to visit A+E - apparently he has a 70% chance of getting an infection, so even Andy will probably take this medical advice seriously.

In the mean time, Molly was clocking up the laps.

This bit by Molly
My first session was kinda strange I was being attacked by vegetation and dirt for about 6 laps. When that went away I started to wind it on and got into the 1:11's but it was like Snetterton all over again with people crashing. I was alongside two other riders at the Esses and had just started to tip the bike in when I saw these two in the corner of my eye virtually elbowing for position, I dug in and they hit each other and went straight on to the grass. The pace car came out but not because of that bin but the guy who lost it on the next hairpin.
I was behind the pace car coming down the straight daydreaming and forgot about the "Hairpin" I only just made it around. Can you imagine the embarrassment of binning it behind the pace car?
The next 20 minutes were fun but the overall pace seemed to have slowed down which could be due to the long time the pace car was out. Things started to hot up again and people started binning again so out came my old friend the pace car. I brought the bike in for Champ to have a play.

Molly came in on schedule, the bike was fuelled, I hopped on and was away. I got up to speed, but the fast boys felt *very* fast here - it seemed more noticeable than at Snetterton. These guys were blowing past me *way* off the racing line (which I was hogging), still going much faster than me. I was pulling regular 1:07s (with a best of 1:06. Ok, it was a 1:06.99, but that's still a 1:06 as far as I'm concerned). Then I got into a good dice with Vicky on the Genesis Rider Training YZF750. I caught her quite slowly, and it took me a couple of laps to get past, as we were obviously turning similar times. I then had three laps or so of clear track, when who should appear alongside me but Vicky again. She obviously hadn't gone away. So I chased her again, and as she out-braked herself slightly into the hairpin I came alongside on the exit, gave it an extra helping of beans and wheelied past her! The next lap the pace car came out again, and she came alongside and gave me a big grin and a thumbs up. Later, after the race, it gave me a good reason/excuse to go and have a nice friendly chat with her....
The pace car again brought us to a halt while they pumped more water off the hairpin. Apparently the water floods off the surrounding grass onto the track there. This time it was only a 10 minute stop, and we were away again. The team gave me another few laps and then called me in.

Andy Bonwick, despite his injuries, had elected to go out for another stint, and had a good session, posting his best time of 1:10:08. He said that every time he banged his right knee slider onto the tarmac, it hurt. Lots.

We were into the last hour now. Molly climbed on with 40 minutes to go, with instructions to bring it home - we were lying in 36th place, and the team in front were eight laps ahead, and the team behind were two laps down, so there was no need for any heroics.

Moll's second session, by Molly.

The first rule of endurance racing is to bring the bike home.
The second rule of endurance racing is to bring the bike home.
The third rule of endurance racing is to bring the bike home.

The last session was actually quite good, the very fast boys were still dicing and carving out their own lines but it all started to get better natured, I saw 1:11 appear on my pit board and thought let's try and knock the seconds off...but my knee gave a twitch and reminded me about Friday, the tyres were starting to complain and my instructions to bring the bike home kept ringing in my ears, not that I could go any quicker mind but it's a good excuse ;o) So long as I wasn't lapped by the teams behind us we would retain our position. I had no chance of making up places unless someone binned but if *I* binned it I would have been lynched so common sense prevailed. My highpoint of the session was when Mike Edwards came by at Paddock and I decided to see how long I could stick with him and learn something at the same time. It went something like this: a) The Esses: Jeeeze this is bloody fast going into to here and the bike couldn't possibly get over any more, but I did stick with him b) Brooklands Hairpin: Shit I'm going to bin it, the back did start to slide out but I still managed to pull it around with my knee almost clipping the tall inside kerb. c) Speedway straight: I was still on his tail and probably in his slipstream and kept with him going into Woodlands which just goes to show how competitive our bike can be. d) Woodlands: Now going at "eeeek (I'm going to die) speed" on full throttle and the bike now starting to get very bumpy and very very twitchy with me wrestling with the bars, but I still hung on. e) Honda Curve: Now approaching this at a very very silly speed indeed, I'm really having difficulty pulling the bike over, my kneeslider was screaming for mercy but I still had Mike in my sights. f) Park Straight, Mike disappeared off and left me shattered. The huge difference between me and him is how smooth he was and how simple he made it look :-(
I had a chat with both him and Dave Woods, Mike said that he was enjoying his racing more now. I told him that my family didn't like me racing and at 51 they think I should take up golf. Mike told me to keep at it and you're never too old to race, Dave agreed and said "see you at Snet". Nice blokes Mike Edwards and Dave Woods. Bloody fast though.

Time ticked away, we got to the last few minutes, and then the flag came out for Dave Wood as he wheelied down the straight to take the win (by a massive *eight* laps)
When the checkered flag came out I felt a massive relief that we were still running, the cool down lap was great with all the riders patting each other and the marshalls clapping as we went past. Coming into the pit lane with a fairly complete bike was great...we had finished. I felt proud to be part of the team. Believe me it's all about team work. The riders have it easy

As Molly came round the whole team were on the wall to give her a cheer - we'd finished! Amazingly, there had been no retirements, so all 44 starters came home, making our 36th place seem acceptable - if there'd been the level of retirements that there was at Snetterton, we'd have been in the mid 20s. Except we were also one of the retirements at Snetterton. Ah. So, we finished our first endurance race. This weekend was incredibly hard work for everyone concerned, and I'd just like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved. What a great team effort Riders Neal Champion Andy "Iron Man" Bonwick Molly Gower Crew Mike "Hero" Horton Steve Packer (aka Burnt) Ian George (aka Gyp) John Wright (aka BigJ) Suze Lidbury Wik Ryall. Helpers Pip Elly Simon Batey (aka Eric the Brave) Simian Cit (I don't even know his real name) Apologies for typos, omissions and factual errors. This is all from memory, and I'm feeling a bit knackered right now. I'm sure I'll be corrected by those with better memories than me, and Molly and Andy can fill in some information about their stints.