After half a day practice on the Ninja650 minitwin bike we thought we would use the BMCRC Snetterton round as a test weekend to get Row fully bedded down and make any adjustments required so that we would be ready for the rest of the season against the minitwins boys. The minitwins weren't running at Snetterton so Rowan was entered in the thunderbikes grid comprising mainly of Ducati 748, 996,998,1098 machines with a smattering of older Japanese bikes of up to 1000cc, we knew that around Snetterton with its two longs straights the little ER6 would struggle.
We trundled up on Thursday evening got the garage sorted out and bedded down early, the bike looked very cool in its black and Green colour scheme.
Friday dawned after a rather sleepless night spent listening to the pitter patter of rain on the Van/gazebo/garage roof, the track was awash by the morning. We fitted the wets to the the bike and then watched the first round of test sessions, Rowan sat out his first session as we waited to see if the rain would stop, we had a lot of new things for the bike in the back of the van but with it raining it wasn't worthwhile fitting it, things like new brake discs and new front suspension really need to be tried in the dry! Rowan went out in his second session to see where the track went as he had never been around this version of the Snetterton track, he came back to confirm all was good with the bike and that it was wet!. After lunch the weather started to dry up and the old currant bun was peeping by the clouds. Row went out on wets on a less wet track than the morning,. He came in after the session to say that the rear was moving around a lot, so that wet weather tyre was consigned to the bin! by the next session it was dry so Row went out on a dry set up to start to see what he and the bike was capable of (still none of the new bits fitted) after a frantic 15 minutes spent watching Row mixing it with Triumph955i's and Ducati 1098's it was back to the garage smiles all around "they could blast me down the straight but I could get em all back on the brakes and through the corners" was Rowans comment, we get down to some more technical feedback and agree that Row can go a lot faster yest before we make any changes to the bike.
Saturday - race day and after a much better sleep we both feel up for it, but it starts raining again and by the time Rowans qualifying session is called it is drying, we know that there is a dry line and agree to use the dry tyres - Row goes out for the session comes past once then disappears - bugger!! I have to wait the whole session ...... I wander up to the scrutineers bay and the recovery truck arrives, Row hops down "lost the back going into Richies corner, I had three slower riders on the dry line so I went on the damp bit and it let go" so we are both pretty cheesed off! we get the bike back to the garage remove whats left of the bodywork and give it a good wash down to asses the damage which turns out to be a fairing half, footrest, handlebar, seat unit, and a sheared bolt in the front master cylinder and a new dent in the tank. So I set about removing the bent and scraped bits and replacing - readjusting etc, I have to get the fibreglass repair kit out and re-glass the seat unit and a crack in the brand new belly pan, I am not bets pleased with Row but in hindsight he has to learn...........
By the time all the repairs are done we have missed the first race and the place is now bone dry and sunny. Row has to line up last on the grid for the second Thunderbike race.
Row gets a blinder off the line and I see him go right up the inside of the pack into the first corner (after nearly tailgating another rider in his haste!!)
They disappear out of sight and I have to wait for some 90 second before they re-appear - I count them through and Row is in 15th place after one lap so he has made up half the field in that time! The race carries on for 9 laps and each lap Row is making a couple of places up running out in an excellent (from his start position) 9th! when he gets back to the garage we have a raft of the thundersport boys come into the garage asking what the bike and who the rider is! Rowan's lap times are within a second of the minitwins lap record and within a second of the race winner!! Row still says he doesn't want anything done to the bike as he feels there is more to come from himself, I leave well alone.
Off to the cafe for a well earned meal and a few beers (that's me not Row, he's off with his paddock mates)
Its raining again - bugger so much for our test weekend we haven't managed to try any of the stuff we need to and I don't want to change anything for the wet. Row goes out and does a wet warm up including a wet race start, he takes it pretty easy just getting the wet lines sorted out.
Race1 so Row is in the 9th grid position and he wont have to carve through the pack. - GO - Row gets a blinding start and is 2nd into the first corner! out on the back straight he get overtaken by some of the faster bikes and comes through the start in 4th - next lap he has managed to dispose of two of them and is getting behind the 2nd place guy, 3rd lap and he is right on the 2nd place guy and giving him a hard time! this is gonna be a bit of a battle as Row can brake later and corner faster but every straight they get to the more powerful Ducati748 has the legs on the little 650 Kawasaki, they go through to start the 5th lap Row slip streaming everywhere he can - then he doesn't come through the start for the 6th lap, my heart sinks, has he binned it again?, I walk up to race control to find out he has retired in a cloud of blue smoke.... at least he didn't fall off and is safe. I walk up to the recovery area where the marshal tells me that the chain had snapped at the end of the back straight and Rowan had entertained the marshals with his off road abilities as he tried to get the bike stopped before the barriers!. Row arrives back at the garage, the bike is covered in oil "that was a bit dodgy Dad, I was just cogging down at the end of the straight when it clattered and I lost all the engine breaking, I had to grass track it, using the back brake to slow me down!)"
I strip the side of the bike down, the chain had broken and taken out an oil line that runs in front of the gearbox sprocket, not something you would carry as a spare! the chain was brand new as was the split link so I don't know why it would happen, the chain had also sawed through the rear chainguard and hugger, so not a lot of damage really but I dont have a spare oil line so its game over for us this weekend.
Looking back we think we have the pace to run with the minitwins boys (the class that Rowan will be running in for the rest of the year) and the bike itself has huge potential which we haven't tapped into yet, Row has proved he can ride it and is impressed with the ER6's handling and the way it puts the power down. We still have lots of improvements to come ready for the next outing (I did say this was a test weekend!)
We will be out again at the end of the month at Brands Hatch GP circuit BMCRC's premier race meeting of the year and Row will be out with the correct class - wish us luck!!
We will be at Haselmere motorcycles on Saturday 14th along with the bike, feel free to come along and have a chat.
Rowan and the bike are also featuring in an exhibition at Havant arts & heritage centre East Street, Havant, Hampshire P09 1BS take a look if you are in the area....