If anybody had told us at the start of the season that this year was going to be anywhere near as tough as it has turned out to be I would never have believed them.
We knew the change to compete in the SuperBike class just one month before the first round was going to be a challenge but we had agreements and assurances from everyone we needed to in order to have everything ready in time.
If there is one lesson to be taken from this experience it is that if there is a product available immediately buy it and use it. Once the product you actually want arrives simply sell whichever one you no longer need. Too many races have gone by where we have been racing a glorified SuperStock bike because the promised parts just haven’t arrived for one reason or another.
Ordered and promised from Marchesini in Italy in time for the first round. After several months of silence it was confirmed that our wheels had been made, albeit to slightly the wrong spec., but then sold to someone else. More months passed before part of the shipment eventually arrived at the start of August.
Two front and three rear wheels out of the five full sets that were ordered. Although still a whole kilo lighter per wheel compared to the stand in items we had been using, the wheels that arrived were road specification magnesium rather than the race specification magnesium that we had specified.
At least Ian at Mode Performance (the UK Brembo importer) had been able to source some road specification aluminium wheels for a few rounds so we could take advantage of the 16.5″ tyres that everybody else uses. We also managed with just one set of front discs for the first three rounds which added to the difficulties.
The five sets of correct wheels have been re-ordered and will be here at some point…
Electronics & Data Logging
After several years using the Yoshimura kit ECUs we had planned to use the Interceptor Pro system from Dyna Pro for 2010. It is essentially a very capable mini-Motec like device with an added data logging capability.
Unfortunately Dyna Pro’s supplier struggled to deliver and we started the season with the stock ECU and no fuelling adjustment before fitting an early pre-production box during the first race weekend.
The guys were really helpful but each revision of the firmware was late and we have not yet received the version that will allow us to alter the ignition timing, implement the traction control or utilise the data logging.
We did get as far as fitting suspension potentiometers to the bike four rounds in to the season once the updated firmware arrived only to discover a fault with the recording system meant we couldn’t actually save the data anyway.
We have finally bitten the bullet and ordered a replacement Yoshimura ECU and race wiring loom for the number one bike which, once we have sold the remaining bikes from 2008, will be used in conjunction with a stand alone 2D data logging system for the rest of the season.
Shortly after placing the order we learnt that the production Interceptor Pro unit had just arrived so we will be utilising one, along with the suspension potentiometers, etc. we already have, on the second bike by way of a comparison.
Most privateer teams opt to buy bikes built by some of the larger teams the previous season rather than build their own. Only two privateer teams took on the task of developing a SuperBike from a new 2009 model bike, a sensible move considering they were released under a month before the start of the season. As we soon learnt, there was a very good reason for that!
With no time to do any major engine modifications for the first race a safe SuperStock spec. motor was built and then fitted with Yoshimura camshafts. This resulted in a usable increase in power over standard but essentially only a small improvement over our bikes from the previous season.
When time allowed, i.e. once we had stopped having to rebuild and repair bikes in between each round, we made some bigger modifications to the cylinder head to increase the compression and hopefully gain some more power.
Now that we have a longer break the engine has had a full strip down and refresh. This will be followed up by getting the crank balanced and undertaking more work on the rest of the motor. We also have some new air box velocity stacks to try which should improve things even more.
The new electronics will also let us run a higher rev limit to make better use of the power the engine is already developing. We are also looking to get the standard generator modified to reduce the amount of resistance which should provide more power throughout the rev range.
If we can source a close ratio gearbox at a decent price we believe it will make the power much more accessible whilst out on the track although funds remain very tight.
The team have struggled with accident damage from three separate incidents this season, none of which have been out fault, that have conspired to use up valuable budget. This has prevented the development of some aspects of the bike as well as using up crucial funds earmarked for the last few rounds of the season.
The first round was undoubtedly the unluckiest. Without even completing a single racing lap our bike was written off in an incident involving Tom Tunstall’s rider-less bike. Neither our fault or Tom’s, he had fallen off some two hundred metres further back only to see his bike sit up and continue on before ploughing in to the rest of the field.
With nowhere to go Matt hit the side of Tom’s bike destroying our machine and severely damaging the other bike. In fact we salvaged just the engine, the Ohlins rear shock absorber, the rear wheel and the swing arm. Any questions about where our budget went for the final third of the season need only look at the staggering repair bill for rebuilding essentially a new bike, including the brand new 2009 spec. Ohlins gas SuperBike forks.
Round two at Oulton Park saw Matt fall avoiding another rider who had slowed and moved across the racing line. Another costly incident that left us with a troublesome electrical problem and without enough wheels to cope with the changeable weather come race day. Needless to say the weather wasn’t on our side either that weekend.
A troublesome frayed wire to the fuelling box, a result of the accident at Brands Hatch, caused us to be down on power until after the Donington race when we managed to track it down on the dyno. Another broken wire to the quick shifter at Thruxton, again as a result of the accident, gave us more excitement, effectively stalling the engine at 120 mph round one corner that we were lucky to escape from.
The final crash was the most minor of the season and involved Tom Tunstall yet again. On the second lap of the first Snetterton race Tom’s engine blew up depositing oil on the track right in the path of our bike which was one of several to crash at that point resulting in a red flag. A hasty repair in the pit lane and Matt made the restart and was fast enough to earn our first SuperBike Cup podium despite the forks and front wheel being out of alignment and juddering around the right hand corners during the race.
With no experience of the new forks and no testing time the team were left with educated guesswork for the first round. The Indy circuit at Brands Hatch is short enough not to highlight some of the major issues with the suspension and Matt did a great job of riding round the problems he was having.
Round two proved more of a challenge, a much more complex circuit that Matt last rode over five years previously on a 125cc Aprilia, plus lots more technical issues with the bike leaving little track time to work on a good suspension set up. It was at this point we realised just how crucial data logging was in setting up these SuperBikes.
Each round we made gradual improvements to the bike but it was only at Snetterton that we felt that we had really made a significant break through with the geometry that allowed us to turn in and hold a better line.
We now have a new Yoshimura suspension linkage and kit Showa rear shock to try on the bike the next time out that should provide a lot more rear end grip although we will be waiting to have the data logging fitted first (lesson learnt).
We started the season with long term rider Matt Bond who took the step up to the SuperBike class having never ridden one just as the team had never built one before.
With a promising ride at Brands Hatch before the accident, a good come back at Donington and then an excellent display at Snetterton showed glimpses of what the team are capable of. Unfortunately the demands of having to work for a living, make time for racing and his fitness training had taken their toll over the past few years and Matt opted to retire after his inaugural podium at Snetterton.
After missing a couple of rounds whilst we looked for a replacement rider we opted for a stand in for Brands Hatch to help us develop the bike before making a decision for the rest of the season. As it turned out we had to find another rider at the last minute and with no testing time it was decided to step back and spend some time testing the new set up before continuing.
The team have a couple of riders interested in racing for the rest of the season but are busy searching for sponsorship to cover the costs involved.
2010 and Beyond
Having raced internationally for several seasons the return to the UK was always going to be challenge. Everything from learning new tracks to building and developing a SuperBike for the first time has been a massive learning curve.
The team are busy rebuilding and setting up the bike ready for some further testing. Plans are also in progress to prepare for the 2010 British SuperBike championship with a detailed sponsorship plan and road map to put all the experience and learning from 2009 to good use.
With the bike remaining the same for 2010 there will be no last minute rush to be ready for the start of the season so everything can start to be put in place as soon as sponsorship is secured for the season.