by Sam Matthewman.
Oliver’s Mount at just 35 miles away is my local and favourite track. Run by the northern club the Auto66. I’ve been racing there since
2000 picking up a fair few wins and occasionally holding the outright Course Record. Last year I took the record back from good friend and local man Dave Ward with a 42.28
The track starts from the paddock outside ACU Chairman Peter Hillaby’s house adjoining Farm Bends on the international circuit. A slight crest and off camber exit brings you onto the main start finish straight where you accelerate up to 4/5th gear up to about 120mph no more than 6 feet from the spectators fence before it is hard on the brakes for Mere Hairpin. A smooth quick exit is crucial to get the drive up Quarry Hill without too much wheelying. Accelerating hard under the footbridge brings you into a 4th gear fast left hander which on cold tyres which is pretty tense. As you come out of the trees and start to straighten up there is a crest just at the point of braking/turning/back 2 gears which can tie the bike in knots and make for an interesting approach to the final chicane. A quick 2nd gear left/right before driving to the line whilst trying to keep the drifting rear tyre off the grass and watching the clock ticking away.
Scarborough was a 2 day meeting on the 4th and 5th May, the Sunday being the National Championship Round, I had a rather large target on my back !
On the drive there Saturday morning the weather was dry, warm and sunny, perfect. I had my hopes on breaking into the 41 second bracket with the winter weight loss and new 1200 engine.
First practice and I knocked in a 43.1 second run, 2 seconds faster than the next man and less than a second off my hill record. Great start to the weekend. Then the sun went behind the clouds and pretty much stayed there all day.
I chipped away all day but only managed a best of 42.8 which was short of my personal goal of at least getting down to my record time of 42.28 and a little disappointed. However I was still 2 seconds quicker than the rest and took the class win and Fastest Time of the Day so couldn’t be too unhappy !
Now it’s traditional to go to the local “All you can Eat” Chinese in the centre on the Saturday night, which we duly did. 5 plates each later and we were stuffed even after tactically limiting the rice intake, the shredded chilli beef proving the overwhelming favourite. Next morning a pot of porridge in the warm sun was a perfect start especially after the previous nights Chinese was laid to rest !
First practice and I had my mind set on hitting a 42 second run straight off, a blistering run crossed the line in 43.4 ????? My first thoughts were had the finish beam been positioned wrongly that morning ? Confused I put it down to been one of those rogue runs that felt fast but was slow. Next practice I hit every apex and ran so much more corner speed and was rewarded with a 43.1, same as the previous days first run ? With a lead of 1.5 seconds there was nothing to panic about but my plans were quickly chasing after the Chinese !
I decided to revert to the same lower gearing used last year and see if it gave me a bit more drive out of the slow corners. First timed run I turned in too early to the blind first corner and ran straight off the inside of the track about 2 feet inside the apex over the grass and up onto the outside curb on the exit ! Not the best drive down the straight, but still managed a 43.6 keeping me in the lead.
The next timed run would be the final effort for the National Championship and subsequent Top10 positions so I had to pull my finger out as a 43.6 was far from safe.
With the lower gearing and pulling 5th down the bottom straight I clocked in a 42.98 taking the NHCA fastest time of the day and Top10 win.
The Auto66 runs continued through the afternoon leading up to their Top10 shoot out and points for the Top Dog Championship that I won last year.
Unfortunately in the 4th timed run whilst revving hard in 4th down the bottom straight there was an almighty bang and I instantly whipped the clutch in and freewheeled off the track at Mere Hairpin and into the pits. Thankfully it was during the right to left flick over the grid when the bike was upright so no real arse clenching moments !
At first I thought maybe the chain had snapped and wrapped around the front sprocket but no, then I knew what it would be, the poorly stroked crank that I’d had many issues with must of broke. A very brief flick of the starter button in the pits to turn it over a couple of times replicated the mechanical bag of spanners !
With 10 minutes to go before the Auto66 Top10 runs, a friend with a TL1000S, who I’d rebuilt his 1080 engine on the late evenings of the week before, offered me his bike to share as a thankyou, so a quick request to the clerk of the course for a bike change and I had a ride.
Not quite sure what I was realistically expecting on a totally strange bike with no time to even find the clutch bite point let alone how it handled and stopped. Having qualified first I was last to go, the clutch bit and up came the front wheel as I hurtled to the first corner, not the best start. The bike is quite a bit heavier than mine with no slipper clutch and despite my best efforts I turned in a 45.5 or something, the winner getting a 43.5. The Auto66 Top Dog series is only over 3 rounds so that effectively ends my chances of that !
But the big positive was the maximum National 10 Points and the engine letting go right at the end of a great weekend so not really spoiling too much. I suspect the engine was starting to go lame from late Saturday afternoon and hence the Sunday times just not coming despite the increased efforts.
That evening I pulled off the generator cover and sure enough the crank could be rocked and twisted in the main bearing shell confirming what I suspected.
With less than 2 weeks before the next round and pistons/barrel plating/new valves taking 4-6 weeks minimum I was looking at having no choice but to build a pretty stock engine from the vast collection of spares I’ve collected over the years. Thankfully a customer I supplied a 1080 bore kit to in 2011 came forward and said he hadn’t installed it yet and I could have it back as long as I replaced it, result !
So this week I’m frantically building up the best stock stroke 1080cc engine I can with time/parts I have ready for WiscombePark on the 18/19th May
No time to run it in or get it re mapped for the lower capacity, so lots of fingers crossed and laptop tweeking !
Oh, and I’m now momentarily leading the outright National Hill Climb Championship too……………