Travelled up to Croix-en-Ternois at the weekend for both the ProClassic Endurance race this is the second race in the series, and the continuation of my participation in the normal ProClassic race series. As the RG is in a thousand pieces in the garage, I only took the 350!
We arrived at the circuit Friday morning, and quickly set up camp in the pits. I had two free practises on the 350 Friday afternoon, and although it was running a bit hot, everything was OK. I jetted up from 330's to 350's Friday evening, as the plugs looked a little hot, and the weekend was forecast cool, plus we are nearly at sea level, so the air is dense.
The rest of the team turned up Friday afternoon, the fireman (Jean-Luc Robert), chief mechanic (Chris Gough) and 2nd pilot (Christian Dejardin). Libby was in charge of timing and filming of course!
Saturday morning I went out for the timed practise for the endurance (twice) and I was circulating in comfortable 1:04/05's which was good, so the bike was running well. Christian had just finished rebuilding his bike after Carole (holed piston). So after some carb adjustment he was running it in (a bit), and was also circulating well around the same times.
I qualified for the front row of the Unlimited/Classic race with a time of 1:03.9, a personal best which I was very pleased with.
The first race was Saturday afternoon, and I got a pretty good start just getting taken by the big four strokes, but making up most of the places at the first hairpin. I was running 5th for most of the race, but I got back a 1100 Suzuki a couple of laps before the end, to finish 4th (equalled my starting place).
We up jetted again Saturday evening, as I really wanted the bike to last out the 1.5 hours of the endurance race - now running 360's, these are the biggest I've got!
It rained during the night, and the second Classic/Unlimited race took place on a soaked track. I got a good start, and everybody was pretty slow due to the conditions. I was third for most of the race, but Jacques Danzer came past me towards the end, so I finished 4th again, although Jacques is not in my category. Two of the racers who finished in front on race one did not race in the wet conditions which allowed me to finish a creditable 2nd overall in the Unlimited category.
The Endurance started at 14:00 or there abouts, our strategy was simple, each pilot does 45 minute relays, so 3 pit stops. We were using both bikes, which suited me and Christian although we have a 2 lap handicap using both bikes. The other top teams in our category were using one bike, so we would have to get back at least 2 laps before being on even terms.
My first session was good, I managed to get out in front of our category, although of course most of the Superbikes came past, I was running 1:05's which was OK. I lapped a couple of the competition bikes, so I was happy with my session. Christian made good times also, and we were in the lead (almost) when I went out for the second time. I had been practising all weekend using the back brake in some of the heaviest braking zones i.e. the 2 hairpins and the left hander (Nr. 2), however at the begining of my second session, I didn't let my tyres warm sufficiently and I went straight on into the gravel trap at turn 2. It took me a couple of minutes to dig myself out, and restart the bike.
I had a nice fight with one of our direct competitors, overtaking and then getting retaken, and this lead me to take some risks at the end of the second session. I overcooked it going into turn 1 (hairpin) and the bike slid out from underneath me, doing a neat pirouette and coming to a stop just before the gravel. I picked the bike up, but it was leaking oil from the clutch case, I had holed the engine case!
I parked the bike up under the direction of the track marshals and legged it back to the pits with the transponder, it was only a couple of hundred metres, but I was knackered running with full leathers and helmet! I passed the transponder over to Christian and he was off for the remaining 50 minutes - I had crashed about 7 minutes before the end of my relay!
The pressure was on, Christian's bike had been losing a little gearbox oil, and his silencer was not looking that solid, so it was a stressful last relay, but he managed to coax his bike to the finish, and at the same time bring us back to within 32 seconds of the second place team - a well merited third place, and another cup (and cheque) for the mantelpiece!
I now have two broken bikes in the garage which hopefully I can get operational for the last race of the year at Ledenon in 4 weeks time!
Videos and photos to follow. Thanks to all the team, you are all appreciated!