I eventually got the bike finished and took it down to Paul at Dynobike in Malton for him to work his magic on it, I left it there for a day or so then went to pick it up with the news that we had 116bhp which I was happy enough with he’d also fitted the quickshifter which makes things a little easier on my hand so we were ready to rock.
A few days later I was off to Cadwell Park for a trackday with my mate Derek Heron who was making his return to the track after a lengthy lay off, the weather was good and things started off pretty slowly as I was just getting used to riding in that position again. It was open pit lane so we could go on and off the track as we pleased, the first few sessions went by pretty fast and I was starting to get the hang of it although everything felt alien to me after riding the ER6 for 4 years. After lunch the track was a lot quieter and I tried to pick the pace up a little although I was still just taking my time and still getting used to the Honda but things were going good and the bike felt spot on, by the end of the day we were both knackered but had a good day and I’d done what I needed so was happy.
Scarborough, Barry Sheene Classic meeting
Just over a week later I was at Scarborough for the Barry Sheene Classic meeting, the weather was good and I was riding at No 7 which was ironic given it was the Barry Sheene race, I went out in first practice and everything felt awful I couldn’t get comfortable I was struggling to find braking points nothing wrong with the bike it was just me, timed practice didn’t go much better again I struggled with braking I could catch people up then just had no confidence to go past, I got stuck behind MCN’s Chad and just couldn’t get past eventually I got by then coming down the hill I braked a little too late, lifted the back wheel and had to let the brakes off in the end I ran wide allowing him back through and that was my session over. Feeling really down I returned to the paddock and felt like putting the bike in the van and going home as I couldn’t see how I was going to turn my day around, to add insult to injury Michael Minns came along with the times and I’d qualified on the back row in 16th place, I decided that I would just use it as more practice to get a better feeling for the bike and see where we ended up.
Leading my mate Mike Minns in practice. | Photo: Chris Machin www.oliversmount.com
As we lined up on the grid for race one it was like friends re-united on the back row, there was me, Michael Minns, Derek Heron and another mate Rab Davie who was making his début.
The lights went out and I made a decent start picking up a couple of places, the first two laps went pretty much the same as practice and I struggled to make up places then I got carved up coming down into farm bends and lost a place, this must have triggered something in my brain and I thought bollocks to this because straight away I started to pass people easily and moved my way through to the front of the group, I could see another couple of bikes in the distance although they must have had 3 or 4 seconds on me but with my new found confidence I pushed on and caught them within 4 laps, as I got on the back of them my arm was starting to pump up but I kept going and got past Deggsy after a slight collision coming out of Mere hairpin, I was now right behind Mark Goodings and made a move on the exit of Drury’s I thought I’d made it stick but he came back underneath at Mountside, I made the same move again a lap later but this time held onto it and made it to the flag to finish 6th which I was over the moon with.
Unfortunately I had to start race 2 from the same grid position so I made another decent start but this time started moving through straight away, by half race distance I was up to 6th and chasing down Deggsy in 5th, once behind I followed him for a couple of laps then made a move up the inside into Drury’s and then pulled away slightly to finish 5th . I was as happy as larry with my race results especially after the way things had gone in practice so things were looking up and I felt much better on the bike.
A week later and I was off to the Isle of Man for the Southern 100 now usually Susan and the kids go everywhere with me but this time they were staying at home as Spencer is at school now so I had the help of my mate Steve Abbott aka “the Bitch” for the week, I met him at Heysham and we got on the boat only to have a run in with this tosspot Kiwi who didn’t want to move his helmet so we could sit down, after we sorted that the journey was spot on and the Irish sea was like a mill pond. We got down to the paddock and got set up then headed up to signing on and just made it in time for the final briefing before going for a well earned pint or two.
The weather on Monday was tremendous and after going for a famous Southern 100 full English we went back and sorted out the rest of the stuff and made sure that the bike was ready for practice later that evening, I took Steve down to the Calf of Mann as he’d never been before and had a coffee before heading back to chill. 5pm quickly came around and we took the bike for scrutineering then put it in the holding bay with the tyre warmers on ready to go at 6:30, they put our board up and the first couple of laps I was just getting a feel for the place again then I got stuck behind a couple of slower riders on fast bikes and it was back to Scarborough where I was just lacking a bit of confidence to go past, anyway the session ended and I was happy enough. For the 2nd session I got out near the front and it was much better I managed to get some good laps in and felt good although there was still room for improvement but I was happy.
Wheelieing past Joey’s Gate. | Photo: Ken Barnett
Tuesday morning was again tremendous weather and after giving the bike an oil change and a good check over and clean we went for a ride around the Island as we had a few hours to spare, after chilling out a little we got the bike scrutineered again and ready to go out. We were out first as there was only one session tonight as our first race was later, I got out early again and got in some real good laps and was eager to see the time sheets, I was over the moon to see I’d knocked off 7 seconds from the previous night and averaged 100mph lap which put me on row 7 for the 1000/600cc race. My dad, brother, Trevor and Mick Anderson came today just in time for the race and they couldn’t have picked a better week, I made a good start but then a bike moved over on me and I had to shut off which let two or three past, on the run into the first corner I was probably a bit tentative and I can honestly say it’s the most insane start to a race I’ve ever been involved in, I made it through then got stuck behind a guy on a Kawasaki who just wanted to put himself into every hedge/wall possible so I quickly got past him and got my head down to catch the group infront, when I got on the back of them I was behind Alan Jackson on his very trick Moriwaki Moto 2 bike, I was faster through the bumpy back section and he and the others had quicker bikes so pulled a gap down the straights, we yo yo’d like this for a few laps until he got past the Aprilia in front then it was my turn, I got right behind him coming out of Church bends and stayed in his slipstream for as long as I could and got a good run on him through Stadium corner slipping up the inside into the last corner, I got on the gas quick and thought I’d made it stick as we went onto the last lap but he zapped me right at the end of the straight I braked later and nipped back up the inside but I was a gear too high on the exit and he got past again, I never really got close enough again and finished 19th but was 5th 600 so I was happy with that, we later went for a pint or two after watching Ian & Carl Bell finish 3rd in the Sidecar race. Wednesday was yet again a scorcher and after sorting the bike we just chilled out in Castletown with my dad and the boys, they were drinking but I had to stay sober as I was racing again tonight, I was on row 5 for the 600cc race and on the inside of the track which is the best side to be on, I made a good start and tucked in behind Conor Cummins and Davy Morgan, they were pulling away slowly but I was hanging on as best I could then I went into the last corner a little hot and ran wide messing up my drive onto the start/finish straight, I lost one place but was right behind him when the red flags came out after a big accident involving Dan Sayle through the Black Hole, I was a bit disappointed after making such a good start but was pleased to hear that nobody was seriously hurt, the race was abandoned and wouldn’t be re-run.
David Bell Accelerating out of Castletown Corner alongside Paul Smyth. | Photo: Mick Anderson
Wednesday night was spent prepping the bike ready for Thursday morning’s race and an early night was had. Thursday was the hottest day of all and I was looking forward to the race, I was of from row 5 again and made another good start tucking in behind Conor and Davy again, I hung on for as long as I could but they eventually disappeared and I lost one place to Lee Vernon on the next lap then Mark Parrot and local Andy Fenton came by a lap later, I hung onto them and again could pull them back in through the back section but their bikes were faster than mine and eased out a gap on the straights, eventually they gapped me enough so I couldn’t make a move and I settled down to finish 13th which I was over the moon with I also knocked a further 1.5 seconds off my best lap time so happy days. I had to see if I’d made it into the Solo Championship race as it’s by invitation only so I was glad to see I had back on the 7th row.
I made a good start but again was a little tentative going into the first corner and got eaten up by some 1000’s down the next long straight, I spent a couple of laps sorting myself out then got my arse into gear and started to push on I outbraked Paul Smyth at Cross Four Ways then got on with the job of passing the two 1000’s in front, I got a good run on Dennis Booth through the bomb hole and made the same move again into Cross Four Ways he came past again on he run down to Stadium but I slipped up the inside into Castletown corner only to be blown away down the start finish straight, I then built up again and repeated the move into Cross Four ways and it was like déjà vu for the rest of the lap, Booth passed Paul Duckett and I knew I had to follow if I had any chance of moving up so I got as close as possible through Joey’s Gate and made a move up the inside into Ballabeg Hairpin I then had a real good run through the back and outbraked him into Cross Four Ways, this time I managed to stay ahead and after a couple of clear laps had broken clear, I’d also closed in on the 15th place Aprilia of Dave Smith. Within half a lap I was on his back wheel and feeling really confident, I tucked in behind him and as we approached the bomb hole he slowed a little, I was on a slightly different line to him which allowed me to go straight through and pull a little gap then disaster struck not half a lap later, as I braked for the last turn just as I was going to tip it in the chain snapped and that was my race over with only one lap to go, I was gutted as I’d rode my arse off but that’s the way it goes sometimes and on the whole it had been a cracking week so I was happy. After the long push back to the paddock we got packed away and went down to the square for the presentation night and a well deserved drink. The ferry home the next morning seemed to take ages but we got home and I was over the moon to see Susan and the boys and tell them all about it.
The exact moment my chain snapped caught on camera. | Photo: Dave Silvester.
Scarborough for the Cock o the North
The following weekend we were at Scarborough for the Cock o the North and I was looking forward to it after such a good week at the Southern, I was now feeling comfortable on the bike so things were looking good, first practice went well although the times weren’t great but I had a good run in timed practice to qualify 11th but there were about six of us within half a second of each other so it was looking good for the race. I made a good start and got through an extremely busy first corner to be inside the top ten but as we came onto the start/finish Ben Wylie had crashed and half a lap later the red flags came out, we weren’t sure what they were going to do but they eventually postponed the race and put the sidecars out first so I returned to the paddock and put the warmers back on. We had only been in 10-15 minutes or so when they called us up for the Open 1000cc race so I headed back up to the grid, after sitting a little bit they set us off on the warm up lap I came out of Mere hairpin and the front wheel came up so I just kept the power on and it dropped just before the bridge as I peeled right and went under the bridge the front tyre just let go and before I knew it I was off and sliding up the road, the bike hit the fence spun round then bounced back off and hit me, when I’d stopped sliding I jumped up and got off the track my leg was hurting a little but the bike looked pretty second hand and I knew that was it for the weekend there was going to be no easy fix to get out in the next race. They took me to the medical centre for a check but I was ok so we packed up and came home very disappointed as I’m sure I could have had a good weekend but it wasn’t meant to be.
My next race is back down at Scarborough for the Gold Cup in September so at least we’ve got a few weeks to get the bike sorted and it’s not as bad as I first thought so that’s a good start.
I’d just like to say a big thank you to Steve Abbott for all his help at the Southern 100 top boy and he’d make somebody a good wife also thanks again to Newcastle Motorcycles for all their help and all my other sponsors I couldn’t do it without you.