Monday, 9 June 2008
Nogaro is a small village in the South west of France, and for those of you that know Circuit Paul Ricard - well this one is Circuit Paul Armagnac another famous spirit - those guys obviously wanted to market their alcoholic beverage with the circuit scene in the sixties & seventies. Well the Circuit of Nogaro was once used for the French Grand Prix, and they have recently completed a renovation, increasing the pit area and renewing the pit boxes. So although not quite as pro. as Le Mans, it is a circuit that is well organised (good loos and showers), and with plenty of space. We were sharing the weekend with the Promosport boys, so there were stacks of people, and a good number of spectators over the weekend, which was free (for the spectators at least!).
It's about 8 hours drive for us from Grenoble, so we left Thursday evening, stayed overnight in Nimes and then arrived at the circuit at around 13:00. If you remember I had squashed my left hand expansion chamber, and one of the guys (Raymond Fabulet) was going to get it repaired, and luckily he turned up just after we had installed out stuff, so before lunch, on went the expansion chambers, this would give the gasket paste enough time to dry before practice at 17:45.
Practice came and the bike wouldn't start, we eventually got it going with a rolling road, and then it seemed to be running OK, however after the second or third lap, I seized at the end of the long straight (over a kilometer), unfortunately I didn't stop immediately as the bike restarted after I let the clutch out. I went around another 2 laps with the bike slowly getting worse, and finally I pulled into the pits after 4 laps.
The result was a slight seize on the left cylinder (again!!!!) and the piston was vaporizing as a large chunk was missing all the way down to the rings (exhaust side).
I spent the rest of the evening stripping it down, and then got really pissed off with a screw that was not loosening so we went to eat with the Arnold group, who were staying at a local gite - Cassoulet is the typical fare of the region, and we had a great meal with them, along with a proposition to use their spare bike - also a Yam.
Saturday, I finished stripping the barrels of my bike, and gave them to our only professional mechanic who prepares a GSXR for one of the guys. Laurent Badie, persuaded me that he could have my barrels ready and post them back to me in the wink of an eye so that I can be ready for Le Vigeant in 2 weeks! Lots of advice on why the bike seized, however another RD350 had exactly the same problem so we consoled each other. His machine had seized on the right side.
The "mulet" or spare bike, is a recent RD350 YPVS, however it really needs some tender loving care, however it starts first kick, and runs and doesn't seize! I used it for the timed practise and the 2 races, and although there was a horrible vibration coming from the forks, it worked fine.
I even tried putting my front wheel on it to help the vibration but it didn't really help, dropping my tyre pressure down to 1.7 bar in the second race did help slightly.
My lap times improved all weekend ending up with a 2:04.8 fastest lap, whilst the GSXR's were going round in 1:44.1 - fastest time. The first timed practise (where I seized) I managed a 2:09! I could have gone much quicker with my bike, but I was really happy to have learnt the circuit (a very fast circuit with a super fast straight), and also to have participated.
The cherry on the cake was an unexpected 4th place in my category only bettered by the 3 TZ 350's - EXCELLENT points. The other RD 350's were pissed off, as they were so clearly faster than me when running but hardly anyone was capable of finishing the 2 races - hence the 4th place! Excellent! One of my direct competitors seized twice after having found some spare barrels and pistons (300 Euros) in a local breakers yard! He was extremely unhappy to say the least!
My cylinders should be ready in 5 days with 2 days for the post, so I should be ready next week.... Some 8 days to find the reason for the seize. Speak to you soon!