Here are some photos from the first Darley Moor meeting of 2017, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
The start of the 2017 Darley Moor club championships were greeted by fantastic weather, packed grids and action-a-plenty! We managed to come away from the meeting with a "full house" - both pole positions, four race wins and all four fastest laps! But the reality of achieving those brilliant results was more difficult than it appears on paper...
The starting point of our journey to Darley Moor Round 1, following our season opener at NG Brands Hatch just two weeks earlier, was the replacement and fixing of the broken engine and the broken radiator. If you were following our pre-season progress then you will be aware that we have a spare engine in identical specification, so the replacement of the engine was a bolt-out and bolt-in affair. The broken (black) engine has not yet been stripped but the common consensus is that the crank has snapped, probably in a similar fashion to the silver-engine crank that snapped in 2015.
Our Radicool race radiator was sent away for repair and fortunately the damage was repairable - even if the repair was not the prettiest. Before putting the radiator back onto the bike, it was given a good clean and then some preventative measures were taken in an attempt to avoid future damage to the radiator - some chemical metal panels were added to the areas where the radiator comes into contact with the fairing and the protective mesh was spaced away from the radiator core using small rubber grommets. Once the air filter element had been cleaned and re-attached, the radiator was ready to be fitted back onto the bike.
So the bike was fixed and ready to go! Unfortunately, our race van was still poorly so we had to use another rental van. But with no towbar it meant that the caravan and awning would not be making the trip to Darley Moor. Instead, Dave Jnr would attend the Saturday test day alone and sleep in the van, with the rest of the team travelling to Darley Moor on the Sunday for the race day.
Arriving to the circuit on Saturday morning, the race paddock was packed full! So we parked where we could find space - which was nearby to our fellow competitors Stuart Hall, Richard Fairclough and Mike Gittings. It appears that Stuart is following a similar path to us, by moving from a Suzuki SV650 Supertwin to a Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin - and his paint scheme also appears to be evolving in a familiar fashion too! ;-)
With the replaced engine and repaired radiator, we wanted to take part in the Saturday afternoon test session to make sure that all was well - and to give us the opportunity to fix any small issues before the Sunday race day.
Out on track, we were getting faster and faster and managed to put in a 1'03.40 lap (our PB lap is a 1'01.49) which was looking promising considering the conditions. But then our Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin just stopped dead - the dash switched off and all electronics were non-responsive. We were given a lift back to the paddock by the recovery van and then started searching for the issue.
A blown main fuse (30A) was traced to be causing the symptoms, so this was replaced with a new fuse kindly provided by Jonathan Trezins. We could not see any particular visual problems so started the bike - and it ran and showed no ill side effects, so we decided to go out in the following session to see whether the problem would make itself more apparent.
Out on track again, the bike was running well. After roughly five laps, we were going around the hairpin corner, knee-down, and opened the throttle - nothing happened! The engine had switched itself off so the bike was muscled upright and then run across the inside of the banked grass corner. When upright again, the bike was running again, so we headed towards the exit road to leave the circuit. By the time we reached the exit road the bike was doing all sorts of crazy things (ignition switch unresponsive, starter motor working on its own, etc) and Stuart Hall came alongside us shouting loudly. Thinking that he was asking whether we wanted a push back to the paddock we responded "No thanks mate", but when he started pointing at the bike we realised he was actually saying "You're on Fire!!"
With the ignition switch unresponsive and attempts to disconnect the visible connector blocks not making any difference to the continuing spark-show, the only option was to tug and pull at the wires until the electrical connection was broken. With the bike back to the paddock and the battery disconnected we took a closer look at the problem - it appears that a live wire wore through its protective sheath by rubbing on the cam cover and was then earthing onto the engine. The end result was that we had a big mess of a melted wiring loom and no running bike for the Sunday race day!
With the odds stacked against us, there was no other option than to call upon the services of Dave Snr to try and help us fix the bike so that we could take part in the Sunday races. Dave Snr travelled to Darley Moor on the Saturday evening and then rebuilt the top part of the wiring loom (circa 12 wires roughly 12 inches long) before heading back home to apologise to wife Steph for missing their planned evening meal out!
It was a spectacular show of dedication to our little racing team and the results from the meeting could not have been possible without the help and support provided on the Saturday night. So massive thanks to Dave Snr for going the extra mile!!
With the bike bolted back together (and through scrutineering), it was time to convert the hire van into accommodation for the evening.
Onto the Sunday race day - the sunshine was shining brightly and the weather forecast showed nothing but good things. First up (as usual) was the usual raceday task of noise testing. Having tested at Brands Hatch at 105dB and on the Saturday Darley Moor test day at 105dB, this should have just been a formality - until the noise tester declared that we had registered at 109dB (the limit is 105dB). The "assisting" testers thought that the "109" reading was too high for what they were hearing, so another noise tester with another noise meter was brought alongside - we repeated the noise test with the two testers side-by-side and got the results... The new tester registered "104" and the original tester registered "109" again. They concluded that the "109" meter was incorrectly calibrated and cleared me for racing!
Next up were the qualifying sessions... With multiple race classes out on circuit at the same time it is often difficult to get a clean and fast lap registered within these sessions - and these sessions were no different! We took advantage of the one clear lap we got in each session and qualified in pole position outright for the Formula Darley races and qualified in pole position in class (4th on the combined grid) for the Mini Sound of Thunder races.
Formula Darley Race 1
Our first race was the second race of the day - but a red flag in the first race (Peak Cup) meant that we were hanging around in the assembly area for longer than usual. When the race started we got a great start and took the lead into the first chicane, where we stayed until the race was red flagged on the 4th lap (of 6). The cause of the red flag was an engine failure of "2016 Formula Darley Runner-up" Kevin Bond, which caused him to highside and injure his ankle(s). Get well soon Kevin!
Formula Darley Race 1 (Restart)
The race was restarted over 4 laps. At the start Jack Petrie got a flying start and led into the chicane. We managed to pass Jack into Park corner and then held the lead until the chequered flag, winning by 2.09 seconds from Chris Moore on his Yamaha TZ250, with Stephen Johnston coming home in third place. Stuart Hall was unlucky to be given a 10-second penalty for a jump-start, which demoted him from 4th place on track to 7th place on the results sheet.
Mini Sound of Thunder Race 1
Our second race of the day brought another good start. We did our best to cling onto the larger Sound of Thunder bikes - and even managed to battle with a couple of them to finish the race 4th overall. We won our class by 17.25 seconds from Stuart Hall in second place, with Stephen Johnston following closely behind in third.
Formula Darley Race 2
This was the race of the weekend for us (as well as for many of the crowd!). Stephen Johnston got the holeshot into the first chicane, followed by Chris Moore and then ourselves in third place. Chris Moore took the lead into Townleys on the opening lap and then we moved up into 2nd position by the end of the opening lap - where we were 0.92 of a second behind Chris. We worked hard to claw back some time and at the end of lap 4 we had reduced the gap down to 0.21 of a second. On lap 5 we made our move at the end of the main straight, after getting a good drive from the hairpin and catching a good slipstream from Chris.
When we crossed the line at the end of lap 5 (of 8), we led by 0.13 of a second. With three laps remaining, the plan was to try to put some clean and fast laps together - but a lack of accuracy and taking too much of the inside curbs at the chicanes made for a bumpy ride. On the final lap we managed to put in a clean lap of 1'01.94 and took the win by 1.28 seconds. Stuart Hall crossed the line in third place but was 23.98 seconds behind - showing how hard we and Chris we pushing!
Mini Sound of Thunder Race 2
Our final race of the day was another enjoyable race, where we tussled with some the larger Sound of Thunder racers. After chasing closely for most of the race, on the final lap we were able to make a move and made an overtaking manoeuvre into the final corner on the final lap. We crossed the line in 5th place overall and won our class by 22.72 seconds from Stuart Hall, with Jason Wilkes taking a close third place.
As you can see, it has been a very busy two weeks since our last outing: with engine swaps, radiator repairs, electrical fires and rewiring - to sleeping in a van and having great race results!
Once again I would like to say a huge thank you to Dave Snr for the help received on Saturday evening, as without his help we would not have been able to achieve what we did at this meeting! I would also like to thank Stuart Hall, Richard Fairclough and Mike Gittings for allowing us to work from their awning on the Sunday when the temperature heated up.
Our next race meeting will be Darley Moor Round 2 on Bank Holiday Monday 1st May. As we managed to leave this race meeting with a working bike (for once!) we have four weeks to prepare for the next races! Thumbs up all around! :-)
David Carson Jnr,