European Classic Endurance - Alf's Motorcycles

Spa Francorchamps 1st - 3rd June 2016

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Spa was the second round of the classic endurance series with Alfs Motorcycles.

We had a disaster at round one, down in Paul Ricard with Mick Man crashing out in his session then Jonny B breaking down in his - leg which meant we were dead last at the finish.

 

So we were hoping for a better result at Spa.

I always enjoy riding Spa whatever the occasion as the circuit is simply awesome to ride, fast and challenging with the best atmosphere of any circuit.

Alf had rebuilt both machines completely and they looked very smart with new fuel tanks this time made of aluminium not carbon.

The normal event format at Spa was free practice, then qualifying and night practice all on the Friday then Saturday being very relaxed with warm up late in the afternoon and the race starting at 20:00 running to midnight.

So a nice lay in for everyone.

 

The bike went through scruteneering no problem and we were all very optimistic about a good weekend.

Alf had been busy, not only rebuilding the bikes but doing a few modifications we had asked for after Paul Ricard.

I had complained about arm pump as the AP brake lever was non adjustable and I was at full reach braking.

 

Resulting in me suffering in my session.

Alf had found an adjustable lever to try.

 

Also the age old problem of a heavy action throttle that most of the machines suffer with using the round slide carbs, and Alf had managed to make an improvement for both.

Free practice went well with Mick and JB both favouring the practice bike over the race bike; as the engine felt 'sharper' out of the corners.

There was little difference in top speed so we ran it mostly through qualifying also.

 

For some reason the bike wasn't as quick as it was the previous time there, Alf couldn't explain it as we had the same gearing, tyres and engine set up but it would only get to 9,500 at the end of the main straight where as last year it would easily hit 10,000 rpm at the same point.

This translated in our qualifying time was down by almost 2 seconds putting us 7th on the grid for the start.

Qualifying didn't go 100% incident free as I managed to high side coming out of La Source hairpin; hitting the white line didn't help but there was little damage other than a master cylinder and a bashed tank.

The night practice went without a hitch with only a few adjustments to the headlamp and side lamps to keep the boys busy.

 Saturday morning and the weather was beautiful, bright sun and no wind so we all had a relaxed breakfast and lunch with little to do on the bike before warm up.

I had decided not to go out until there was a long delay in the race program due to a massive oil spill round almost the whole circuit, I can't imagine how anyone could ride round some much of the circuit spilling so much oil and not feel anything was wrong.

After racing restarted riders were coming in saying how awful it was so I changed my mind and did the warm up. They were right, the oil started as you crested the hill after Au Rouge and was right on the racing line all the way back to the chicane back at the pits, amazing really.

This would make the first session very interesting to say the least.

 

Anyway, it was soon time to suit up again and make my way to the start line for the race, I was starting then Jonny B then Mickman.

Jonny held the bike while I did the Le Mans start and after the practice start we lined up again for the main event.

Flag down and we sprinted across the track, it's only 12 meters but I was knackered by the time I jumped on board, the bike fired up and off we roared down to La Source for the first time. I was in fifth place exciting the hairpin but passed Stephan Mertens and Peter Linden (both Phase One machines) by the time we crested Au Rouge for the first time. I got a great tow down the straight and was up behind Sam & Steve Neate on their Honda's at the end of the straight. In front of them was the Boliger Kawasaki leading and after a spot of late braking I was leading into 'Ba$tard left', the Boliger machine had another go at me exciting the double left of Pouhon but I out dragged him down to Campus.

I then put my head down and pulled a lead on the pack for several laps until the Fastre Suzuki caught me. We had a tussle for the next couple of laps but gradually he pulled away as we started to catch the first few back makers.

 

Keeping an eye on my pit board I kept consistent laps up until I saw my countdown sign start, 5-4-3-2-in. Roaring up the pit lane to the garage box and handed over to JB, there was some oil on the gear lever which was making the gear change a little difficult for me but there was nothing we could do other than mop up the oil and get Jonny out.

Refuelling the bike and out he sped to start his session, the boys were chuffed as I was leading at that point because Fastre had pitted with a problem just after I had lost sight of him.

We were still buzzing for a while but after only 6 laps JB went missing, it came on the timing screen rider 59 stopped at turn 7 which was the end of the straight but there no other information.

 

Did he crash, breakdown what…? After what seemed like ages JB and the bike ran down the pit lane and into the garage, Jonny said “it felt like it seized”.

 

Very unusual so the boys got to work looking for reasons etc. Alf took out number 4 spark plug and said “bugger”, there was a huge amount of aluminium deposit on it, so looked down the plug hole with a camera only to see the end of a con rod instead of a piston top, not good news. For some reason that cylinder had nipped up and as Jonny slowed down it had destroyed the piston and we were out.

There was nothing anyone could do other than park the bike and have our evening dinner, Uber disappointing at another poor result.

 

The up side if there was one JB was unhurt, the bike hadn't been crashed so it would take an engine replacement only to get ready for the last round at Aragon in October.

 

It was great however to see John Neate's machine with Steve Neate and John McGuinness take the overall win.