I’ve been building the Visorvision SRAD for about a year, maybe even more, and the sole aim was to get it on the grid in this series. Old stuff floats my boat, I raced the K5 1000 last year and man, it rocks, but it’s not got that little bit of extra character that makes me go gooey. I’m like a Womble, I like things everyday folk leave behind. Like old SRAD’s!
Finally finished about 3 weeks ago, happily it made 25bhp more than when I first got it – now a healthy 137bhp on the Dyno. It did however have some major teething problems after a test at Donington 2 weeks ago – it was overheating badly and it snapped a weld on the cam sprocket, which made it run like a sick 250 with an 8,000 rpm redline!
TIG welding the cam and sticking a brand new 750 K2 radiator on sorted that out.
So, finally, we were ready to race.
2 small practice sessions were all I had to get up to pace on the day, which went alright – apart from the new Gear position indicator and ultra-slick HM Quickshifter not working (there’s always something going bandy when you’ve just finished a build isn’t there?!) Quickshifter was a linkage rose joint problem, which was soon replaced. The Gear indicator we suspect is a problem with the sensor in the gearbox, so we left it alone as we didn’t have a spare.
I rolled down pitlane in the sunshine. Held at the gate before we went out, a “summer shower” appeared and turned a dry warm track into a wet and greasy one. Brilliant. The only thing that I can find to love about slicks in the wet is I have done far too many laps like that* and am uncomfortably comfortable riding on them
*thanks to running in Endurance last year
The track was invisibly wet down Craner, and the shift from right to left was sketchy – the bike was moving around all on it’s own, and on a track that looked dry – miserable. You couldn’t really tell what was wet and what was dry so I decided that I needed to pop a banker in and then exit stage left. I was behind Mark Dicken (Dicko) who runs at the front of the championship, so my plan was simple; catch him, pass him, complete the lap, pull in.
I accomplished that mission and rolled into pitlane in P1. It was a gamble because the track was drying, but I had hoped the pace wouldn’t get that much hotter (Qualifying only had the time for a few more laps). I ended the session in P7 with just the 1 lap (2’10″) banked. Fair I thought – 2nd row and importantly, on the inside run to the first corner. Again the Quickshifter wasn’t working properly. This was fixed again with a tweak to the other end of the linkage
Race 1 (Saturday 4pm ish)
This was eye opening – I had no idea how good me or the bike were against the opposition, and I’d never done a race start on it (not even in practice). The 2 guys who run at the front of the series were in front of me on the grid. It was also my first proper race for over a year.
The warm-up lap gave me a good (and only) chance to get a practice start in. I applied mid revs (about noise test level, not massively high) and let the clutch go asap whilst winding up to full throttle. It flew. I have never got a bike off the grid as easily or as well!
The warm up lap was conducted behind Dean Skipper and Mark Dicken – the fast guys. I hadn’t seen Dean out on track before and the warm up lap was an early look at them both. I was happily surprised that I could see we were all trying and I wasn’t being dropped. The only obvious downer was in spite of the repair we’d made the Quickshifter still wasn’t working!
The real race start needed to be as good as the practice one, so I put the same revs/clutch plan into action at the lights and bang! – even better than the practice start, I flew past all of the front row barring Dean and Mark.
What followed was 5 laps of following these guys and watching them have a right ding-dong. They’ve ridden together all year and you could see Mark (99 R6) and Dean (GSXR750 K2) swapping places really closely but really competently (without anything to grumble about).
I was kind of surprised to be tagging along so comfortably, there were bits of the track I felt the bike and I were much stronger, and there were some bits which stretched me to hang on, but overall I was always there or there abouts (timesheets show we were within a second at the line on every lap)
5 laps into the 7 lap race I had a thought…. “you don’t just have to watch this any more, you can get involved” – I can’t remember exactly how the passing panned out but I found myself in front on the last lap.
I knew they were right with me so I hit the “wide mode” button in my head. Attacks on the last lap at Donington are standard issue because of the 3 braking zones that end the lap. I defended the Esses, then the loop. Just Goddards to go.
I got a good drive out of the loop and then took the fighting line into Goddards, if they were going to beat me to the line then they’d have to go around the outside, and I was happy that was a defendable position.
I rolled into the corner on the tighter line and was happy that
a) no passing move had come
b) no one was going around the outside AND
c) the front wasn’t overloaded.
I enjoyed a quarter of a moment of thinking “I’ve won this…”
Then I crashed.
I fell onto my front and skidded to the grass on the outside of the track.
It’s really easy to get too upset about shit like this. Sometimes I’m really happy I’m laid back, and this was one of them. If you think too hard about taking a year to get a bike to the grid and then lobbing it 4 seconds from a race win on it’s debut, you’d get really upset. So I didn’t.
Kick it straight and go again.
consolation – fastest lap in class at 1’42.6″
Race 2 (Sunday 2.30 pm 10 laps)
I had spent the evening thinking about the way to run the next race, and had settled on a different plan than just watch them for so long. I thought if I could get in front, then I’d have the pace to bugger off. Conditional to this plan working was to get a decent start and try and break asap.
Patched up with a new clutch lever the SRAD passed re-scrutineering. Race 2 was on Sunday and I’d had just 3 laps to test the bike, but joy of joys, it worked fine and the Quickshifter was finally working thanks to fixing a loose wire we’d found in the connector block to the PC3.
7th on the grid again it was another belter of a start using the same technique, made even better by having a seamless shift from 1st to 2nd with the shifter back in play. I was 2nd into the first corner behind Dean.
Being 2nd to the first corner was ideal, passing Dean before the lap ended was even better. I led across the line on lap 1. Immediately after that I saw Dean’s front wheel come up the inside into Redgate and I’ll be honest I made sure I shut the door quite forcefully and immediately. I was surprised and gutted in equal measure that I hadn’t “buggered off” in line with plan A.
It turned out that Dean harried me constantly on this lap and I think I lost the lead at the Melbourne loop (I say I think…in a busy race some of the exact details are washed away as soon as they arrive!)
Once he’d passed I couldn’t hang onto him. Yesterday’s ease of running at his pace was gone – inch by inch at every corner I lost ground and I couldn’t get back on terms. I had spent a lot of time with pen and paper working on sharpening up my braking markers and gear positions, and I felt my rhythm was better because of this, but the results weren’t good enough to deliver me up to Dean’s pace. Bugger.
So, with the battle for the lead dissipating I looked over my shoulder on the Dunlop Straight to see where Dicko was.
There are few things more disappointing in racing than looking over your shoulder hoping to see nothing and seeing a bike so close that you could extend a leg backwards and kick it. I was in a race alright.
The way the class structure works in this race is that Dean and Mark are in different classes, and my class was the same as Mark’s (Classic Superbike). So, to still get a class win, I just needed to beat Mark.
I hit the “wide mode” button in my head again and held him off for lap after lap of the 10 lap race. He made one pass on me at the Esses, but he ran wider and slower on entry than he would have wanted so I undercut him and took the lead straight back at the exit.
Every time I looked behind he was there. Right there. “GO AWAY!!!” I kept thinking. Now let’s be 100% fair, Mark is on an R6, and I’m on an SRAD 750 with a good chunk more torque and power. So I’m expecting to be able to break away down the straights and it just wasn’t happening, he must have been ringing the living daylights out of it coming out of corners and was playing to it’s strengths everywhere else. Mr Dicken, I salute your talent, perseverance and speed. Bloody annoying though!
Dean had moved about 5 seconds up the road come the last lap, so I only had the attack from behind to worry about.
Approaching the last corner here’s what my brain is thinking;
1) He’s right behind me
2) He’s NOT going to NOT attack (i.e he WILL!)
3) Take a tight line, defend it
4) Don’t be a twat, you crashed doing that yesterday
5) Ok, run in “very slightly” tighter and concentrate on drive to the line
6) Don’t crash. Please don’t crash.
Point 5 carried out perfectly and a 0.6 second lead to the line meant 2nd overall and a class win. Better!
Other consolation – fastest lap in class at 1’41.8
Race 3 (Sunday 6pm 10 laps)
My last chance to get the Flag to Flag overall win I really wanted.
I’d worked again on my markers and gears and I’d thrown a better (but not new) tyre in the rear.
In Race 2 down Craner in 5th gear the back end had felt less “sucked in” than I felt comfortable with. It’s a bumpy bit of track as you roll through the left at the bottom of Craner and if you’re not happy with grip with your knee on the deck at 120mph plus, it’s really not the happiest of places!
I hadn’t made a bad start on either the warm up lap or the races all weekend, and this one needed to be the same. Most unusually, it was again perfect! I was second behind Dean into the first corner.
Dicko was behind, Dean was in front – this was a re-run of race 2.
This time things were different – I was able to stick with him and wasn’t even close to dropping off. I’d tidied up my lines, my markers and I hit a really good rhythm from the start. It felt really fast, yet really controlled and if it is actually possible to enjoy a race when you’re in it, then I was enjoying this!
Craner felt better with the newer rear tyre and I had much stronger pace all around the section from Redgate to the Dunlop Straight. That section makes your hair stand on end if you think about it too hard, because you’re on the edge of the tyre for the whole lot, with masses of acceleration, braking and direction changes thrown in. Top, top fun to ride, and probably the best (and most challenging) 3/4 mile of track I’ve ever ridden.
So anyway, coming out of the Melbourne loop hairpin a few laps in I saw the outline of a bike braking going into the loop (a few seconds down) – it was Dicko! This was great – I had none of the Race 2 worries from behind this time, it was a straight fight between Dean and I.
I sat behind Dean and watched and waited. Every once in a while he’d look over his shoulder and I’d be there. I’d have waved if he’d looked for long enough!
The first time I took the lead I didn’t mean to; I was braking behind him into the Melbourne Loop and he did what he always did and peeled away into a wide entry, this time I was closer and more committed to a tighter line, it was 95% easier to just go past than to try and pull it up behind him, so I slipped through. I’d wanted to keep my powder dry and bounce him on the later laps, but whatever, now in front I thought I’d have a go at breaking him.
A battle ensued for the next few laps, we were strung together and neither of us was dropping the other. I remember coming out of Coppice right behind Dean, like within 4 feet, he was laying a Darky, I had the bike in a drift and the sun was setting at the end of the straight – I like moments like that which your mind takes a snapshot of.
We reached some backmarkers with me in front, at Craner, I had to cut it fine to keep the pace up. Passing another bike by inches, and I do mean inches, whilst you execute a big direction change, carrying a closing speed of 40mph or more is something you could and would only do in a race. The power of the plastic trophy can never be under-estimated.
It came down to the last 2 corners with Dean in front, there was a mess of backmarkers at the Melbourne Hairpin – Dean went wide, I went tight, we were metres apart. I nearly lost the front on the way in, the bike jerked up and flopped down again without a crash, I gassed it and the back then went as wild as the front had just been…not the drive I needed or wanted.
The last corner approached and I wasn’t close enough to make the pass on the way in, all I could do was concentrate on good drive. I got in and out of the corner cleanly, but it wasn’t to be, just 0.25 seconds behind at the line – 2nd again, Class win again.
Other consolation – fastest lap of the weekend across all classes at 1’40.778 Well happy with that! The only person who has set a faster Race lap at Donington this year, in both Thundersports GB or Hottrax’s version of this Classic Superbike series is Ian Simpson on an RC45 – for my 2012 debut and the bikes full debut, I’ll take that!
The bike fits me like a glove, it goes like buggery and stops, and corners exactly as I’d hoped it would. The harder you ride it, the better it gets.
Awesome piece of work from MSG Racing – and thanks so much to those guys. If you have a GSXR and you want it fast, for reasonable money, then take it to MSG Racing – they rock. They’re near Aylesbury and within 30 mins of 3 motorways the M25 (J20) M40 (J6) M1 (J8,9,11,12) ring 01296 632009 ask for Gav and say Paul Berryman sent you!
Thanks also to the guys at Pipewerx who made me a custom silencer to fit my Hindle Header pipes in 2 days flat for the NEC show last year. Not only is the can technically road legal with the slick fitting baffle installed, but it sounds as fruity as hell when it’s taken out! More than a handful of people over the weekend commented how good the bike sounded when on full chat!
Thanks to Neil Spalding at Sigma Performance for the slipper clutch which totally transformed the bike’s handling and contributed to it’s ability to get off the line like a whippet on Amphetamines. I was told you couldn’t get a slipper clutch to work on an SRAD. Good job I listened to Neil Spalding, because that was wrong.
Thanks to Dave Carnell at HM Racing for the Quickshifter, which only gave the amount of grief it did because Mr. Banana fingers here had removed the socket by pulling on the wires (and not the block itself) some weeks previously when disconnecting the unit in the middle of a track session….lesson – remove things properly, then they won’t break. When it was working it made the business of shifting without upsetting the handling easy. People think Quickshifters are about speed on the straights, but I’d say their biggest influence is actually getting snappy shifts made without shutting the throttle when you’re cranked over.
Thanks also to my other half, who I know hates the danger of this sport, but understands that I have an itch that occasionally needs scratching and gives me 100% of her support. If I didn’t already love you for a million other reasons, I’d love you for this alone x
Thanks for reading!
Director – Visorvision Ltd