Oh my ears and whiskers, imagine my surprise when who should park next to me was our old friend and ex NAST chairman, Cary Wadey. After a very early start for a run down the M5 to Somerset on May 12th I had only just rolled the ‘bike out for scrutineering when the familiar stone mason’s van appeared. He had been ordered to have some fun in the sunshine after many sleepless nights with new baby Willow. Andy Ball was also attending his first sprint, but almost didn’t, as he had pulled into what he thought were the pits on Friday night but had stumbled on a gypsy camp!
Despite being overcast the weather was dry and warm (at least during the day) and this had brought out many NSA racers for the few meetings available to them now that Shakespeare County Raceway had been forced to close its gates permanently. However, not only were there many familiar faces riding ‘bikes but several of Shakey’s staff were there to show anyone willing to volunteer!!! how to use the more complicated but informative timing equipment.
A leisurely morning, several coffees and equipment inspection with no fewer than 3 scrutineers available to speed things along and it was almost ready for the first runs at midday. Cary and myself were in the red group so had to wait a little longer to sample the rarely used runway. (For those not aware of the NSA queueing system, 3 coloured flags are used. When signing on you are given a scrutineering sticker the colour of one of the flags. The flags are displayed on the timing van and when your colour is shown you can take your place in the queue.)
First run of the day and Cary had not lost any of his banzai riding style and over the weekend he managed to gain some PBs the first of which was a 60ft time in the high 1.5s. This was remarkable considering the lack of grip. My first runs were an experiment in that I elected to leave in 2nd gear as I was used to spinning off the line in 1st. This was a mistake, as the lock-up clutch (which wasn’t fitted on the last outing at Westonzoyland) did a good impression of a twist and go scooter on a shopping trip. Plan B for run number 3 then.
Not wanting to miss a run while he changed wheels for a Shinko shod rim he decided to go out but with a limited burnout? I was having fun on the startline with a snaking, wheel spinning launch but handling issues forcing me to shut off 3/4 track.
During lunch Cary whipped off the wheelie bars and changed the wheel of the Suzuki in a time that would have impressed a Formula 1 team. In the Honda camp there was less physical activity but mental gymnastics on why the usually stable SP1 was misbehaving at speed? (On a previous occasion poor handling had been blamed on a rather large number board that I had attached to the wheelie bars which was acting as a wing and lifting the back of the ‘bike – very quickly removed, problem solved).
After lunch Cary was back doing what he does best – mono wheeling off the start line, frightening the onlookers and sometimes himself. While waiting to run I was still thinking about the handling issue when I realised that the front forks were strapped down which is the norm for a smooth dragstrip. More suspension travel may be of benefit on this surface so off came the strap. Still no grip on launch but the checker boards were now appearing more quickly in a straight line so there was only the problem of stopping before running out of airfield and riding on a public road!
Jo and Dave Smart had dropped by to spectate before a quiet break in the Isle of Man at the end of May and early June. Jerry Cookson had also decided to get a closer look as he vacated the timing van and took over startline duties.
After our allotted 6 runs Cary and myself made use of the track a few more times before the curfew and with encouragement from him I was riding through the full 1/4 but not attaining times the ‘bike is capable of as a result of gear change problems.
A bite to eat and a natter over a couple of beers and both Cary and myself were shattered. His excuse, being a new dad – mine was getting up at silly o’clock and old-age! An early night, but despite the very warm day, a cold one. Luckily I had packed a duvet and slept like a log but Cary was not as warm and had as disturbed a night as if he had been at home.
Sunday arrived without a cloud in the sky with temperatures to match the May Bank holiday highs the previous week. The pits had thinned out at the end of Saturday and only a few had arrived as replacements. With plenty of time to think through some of the issues with the Honda an extra 10ms was added to the air-shifter delay which solved the gear-change problem. Midday start and Cary was leaping all over the place but I was concentrating on getting grip for forward motion which we succeeded in doing with a series of 10s with the best saved to the last run of the day -10.2.
Unfortunately I will have to miss the next 2 events in Somerset but Cary should be keeping everyone entertained before a trip to Pendine to satisfy his passion for land speed events.