International Classic Grand Prix
Rijeka 8th - 10th September 2017

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Rijeka was the fourth round of the ICGP Championship, I had a big points advantage and could tie up the Championship here, but years of experience have shown me it ain't over till it's over.

Never having been there before a few weeks before the event I flew out there and did a trackday to get to grips with the track.

Good job really because the timing of our flight there meant we missed the free practice and would have to go straight out in qualifying.

Eddie, George and the team had driven down the previous few days before and were set up waiting for or arrival, we called in late in the evening just to make sure everything was good to go and arraigned what time we would be there in the morning.

It was a beautiful day but there were storm clouds in the distance that looked quite threatening, the forecast was good but looking at the dark grey clouds we weren't too sure. We had to guess the gearing as we were running a 250 primary gear setup so no one had a reference we could use.

Right from lap one I knew we were under geared big style. Coming onto the start finish straight I was already in top gear and even before the finish line the bike was revving way over maximum revs. I wasn't sure what to do, there wasn't time to pit and change the gearing so stayed out, however you don't want to end up part throttling at maximum RPM as you could seize the motor so just kept it pinned until the braking zone.

 

The circuit is over 40 years old and hasn’t been re surfaced since then so it was now quite bumpy and a little broken up in places, this made the bike jump around over some of the sections making it quite difficult to keep the motor on full song.

 

Returning to the awning after the session was over there were few issues we needed to address before our second timed session. I was almost 4 seconds quicker than the next man on the grid so we had a comfortable cushion, but I always want to have the best bike under me regardless of my advantage as it just makes it so much easier to ride in the end.

 

The bike also was vibrating and the clutch/gear change didn’t seem right so we had plenty of stuff to look at overnight. As the revs had been so high we changed the gearing and pulled the cylinder off to check the pistons etc, all well there. The gearing we put a 16 tooth front sprocket on replacing the original 15 tooth one and finally replace the clutch friction plates as a precaution. The vibration was traced to a broken battery terminal of all things, I had reported the tacho was playing up with the needle jumping around and this pointed to an electrical problem.

Ally went to work tracing stuff and discovered the terminal broken, this would in effect cause the motor to cut in and out at random revs and times, all made sense in the end.

The following day Qualifying was more about finding a set up rather than a time, softening the rear shock off the absorb the bumps better all seemed to go very well and only did half a session to save the engine ready for our first race later in the day.

Before we knew it was time for race one and with the warm up lap done we lined up for the start. Red light out and off we roared, however the bike just wouldn't pick up cleanly and bogged as I finally released the clutch. Richard Piers-Jones made the hole shot into turn one but I dropped it under him as we rolled up to the apex, but once again the bike bogged out the corner and he re passed me into turn two. I followed him round for the next couple of corners until the back straight where I slip streamed him onto the straight passing him. Settling down into a nice quick pace I slowly opened up a gap as the laps ticked by.

 

 

The bike seemed to have top end power but the midrange was not regular and felt dull from time to time.

However I took the win and with it the Championship because the second man home Jean Paul Lecointe could draw with me on points if he won every remaining races and I didn't get any points, but I would still win overall with more race wins.

Eddie and George were made up, we had done exactly what we had come to do, win and get the European 350 Classic Championship.

I was still struggling to come up with why the bike didn't perform like it normally does, but Eddie assured me it may have been just a case of being a bit too rich because the temperature was higher than in qualifying.

We had a nice meal that night at a local restaurant and discussed a plan for the next day which looked like being very wet if the forecast was to be believed.

 

Sure enough we woke up to torrential rain that had been going all night, the track was very wet for warm up, normally wouldn't bother going out but as the motor/carburetion was playing up I did a few laps to get a feel for the conditions and check the bike out. There was plenty of grip but the temperature was now quite cold so we decided to run a soft compound front tyre to give me more confidence at corner entry.

It was late in the day before our race so we watched a few races to see what the other riders made of the conditions. It was a round of the European Supermono and it was good to meet up with some old racing friends including the Jawa team I rode for in 2008, they had at last got the 'new' engine they had been working on over the last 10 years. 800cc, 5 valves with radial porting – all very interesting with forward and rear facing inlet ports and side port exhausts… Also meeting the Kramer team that are changing the face of the class with what is in effect a production Supermono based on the KTM690 engine, once again all very interesting.

 

 

Race two was going to be a very different event, the wet does tend to bring different riders to the front.

I knew I was going to be there or there abouts and now with no pressure I could ride round and enjoy the whole thing from a different perspective. I made a great start and the motor seemed to be much better so the pick up out the corners was (thankfully) nice and smooth. I kept an eye on my pit board as I could see behind me due to the spray and slowly opened up a large gap by the end of the race. Jean-Paul had issues with his visor and dropped down to forth place with Richard Piers-Jones in third but a brilliant ride from Stefan Tennstadt on his Baker-Rotax 250 came home in second place.

 

No lap records this time but two wins and the Championship in the bag not a bad weekend at the office really.

 

Next round is the final one at Almeria in October lets hope we can come away with another couple of wins with some great racing thrown in to boot.

See you there!