Here are some photos from the Brands Hatch round of the NG Road Racing championships, taken by official photographer Colin Hill...
Next up on our calendar was a trip to the iconic Brands Hatch circuit, with a three-day weekend consisting of Friday practice and Saturday/Sunday racing. We travelled down on the Thursday (which was Dave Snr's birthday!) and a clear run saw us arrive just over 4 hours later. By this point, all spots located near power points had already been taken, so we took the opportunity to setup in a central spot close to everything we needed.
In the week leading up to the event, sections of the track had been re-laid - so we had some fresh tarmac to enjoy!
Friday Test Day
First things first, we unloaded the van and then got setup. We were only testing on the RS660 Trofeo today, which meant that we could focus our efforts on the one machine. The morning started quite cold, so we used the track time to get reacquainted with the circuit layout. Contrary to what we expected, the fresh tarmac was lovely to ride on - but Druids and Clearways were covered in dust/dirt and was a bit sketchy until a clean line appeared.
Unlike at the previous Darley Moor event, the suspension felt extremely stiff at this circuit - so we proceeded to make changes to soften the front suspension setup (preload and compression damping changes). At Brands Hatch there is not a lot of braking done whilst the machine is upright, which may be why there is such a pronounced difference.
In the third session, we saw smoke on the entrance to Druids and on the exit saw a rider going around Graham Hill Bend with smoke pouring out of the exhaust - which turned into flames down the Cooper Straight. Not knowing what slippery stuff may be on the circuit, we pulled aside and then saw what looked like the "Ghostrider" in the distance - flames had engulfed the machine and the rider ended up in the gravel at Clark Curve. You can see the rider flash by at 0:28 in the video below.
With the lunch break arriving - and with free WiFi available in the paddock - we decided to watch some MotoGP practice sessions in-between our sessions :-)
We then focused on taking more notice of our braking/turning markers out on track and then made a few further suspension changes in Session 5, which again made a positive improvement. In order to validate that the changes were actually an improvement, for the final session we reverted to our "initial/default" settings. Out on track, the original settings did feel more "vague" than our new settings, but as we somehow managed to get 20 laps of track time in before the chequered flag was shown, we went even faster and managed to set a new PB of 53.31 which was great news!
Our final task of the day was scrutineering & signing on - where the technical team were unhappy with the Kawasaki Supersport camera mounting (as we expected as it was on the top yoke), but allowed us to carry a camera in the Supertwins races. With that done, it was time to nip to the Kentagon for a beer!
Saturday Race Day
We were the first out onto track in the 9am Supertwins practice session, where we didn't learn much due to the cold temperatures - but it woke us up and got us in the mood for the day ahead.
About half an hour later we took the Kawasaki Supersport out for the first time (after making some equivalent front suspension changes to the RS660 Trofeo). The Pirelli Supercorsa tyres fit to this machine felt nicer to ride on in the low temperatures than the Metzeler TD slicks, but that might just be because I have had so much prior experience with them... Out on track we were using the wrong gears in the wrong places - but that was resolved when we went faster later in the day.
Shortly after the Formula 600 practice we went out into the Formula 600 qualifying session - and went as fast as we could comfortably go - but some guys out in the session were flying! We qualified in 12th position (13th on the combined grid) with a lap time of 51.95.
Our final qualifying session was for the Supertwins, where we struggled to get a clear lap, but qualified in 3rd position in class with a 53.73 lap. This put us 7th on the combined grid.
It was now onto the races, starting with the Formula 600 race. When the lights went out we got a decent start, then settled in and got quicker. We managed to pass one rider to move up to 12th place, which is where we finished at the end of the 12-lap race. We set a New Personal Best lap time of 51.81 on the Supersport machine and had got our best-ever finishing position in the NG Formula 600 class!
Our final race of the day was the Supertwins Race. The mixed grids meant that we got to have a battle, albeit not with riders in our class. During the race we set a New Personal Best Supertwin lap time of 52.97 and finished in 3rd place! This was despite the quickshifter not working - a configuration issue fixed after the race - and the Traction Control kicking in at several points around the circuit. But once we reduced it from level 3 to level 2 the intervention went away!
Saturday night signalled the end of the weekend for Dave Snr, as he had to return home for some pre-flight COVID tests. We collected our trophy and then ventured back into the Kentagon!
Sunday Race Day
Sleeping in a caravan with two young children is not recommended! But despite our youngest doing her best impression of an Octopus overnight, along with some of the heaviest rain we've heard for a while - playing an impressively loud tune on the caravan roof - we did manage to get some decent sleep in! Little Kate turned 4 years old on the Sunday, so was treated to breakfast in "Hailwoods" cafe.
Our first job was to take the RS660 Trofeo rear wheel to A&R Racing to get the Metzeler TD Slick rear tyre flipped, due to it starting to show wear on the right-hand side. We should probably not be surprised after 50ish laps of Darley Moor, then 81 laps of Brands Hatch on the Friday test day and a further 30+ qualifying/racing laps on Saturday - but we do like to get value from our tyres!
We made a last-minute decision to take part in the Sunday practice session on the Supersport machine, which got us up to speed with a 52.73 lap. We had four races on the Sunday and had been burning through so much fuel (70+ litres) that we were risking running out - but fortunately Darley Moor marshals Jason & Joanne kindly took our gerry can and filled it up with Shell's finest V-Power so that we could get through the final day on track!
Onto the races and into Formula 600 Race 2. We got a good start and were straight up to speed - but there must have been less wind than on the Saturday, as our braking marker for Paddock Hill was no longer sufficient to pull up the bike in time for the corner. After running wide a few laps in a row we decided to pull back our marker which resolved the issue. The rear tyre started to move around during this race, particularly at Clark Curve and Paddock Hill, but we managed to set another New Personal Best lap time of 51.81 and finished the race in a best-ever 11th position! :-)
Onto Supertwins Race 2... Despite flipping the rear tyre, the Traction Control was still coming on at level 3 so we turned it back down to level 2 which allowed a much smoother ride. We again had a battle with riders from the other classes and when we got some clear space on track managed to set a New Personal Best lap time on the Supertwin machine of a 52.82 (over a second faster than we managed on the Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin) and finished the race in 3rd position.
A sunny lunchtime allowed us to grab a bite to eat, dish out some birthday cake and then let the girls play in the glorious sunshine!
In Formula 600 Race 3 we rode consistently and put in a series of fast lap times (very close to our PB). Despite the rear tyre now appearing heavily used on the right side, it wasn't massively an issue and seemed to be moving around slightly less than in the previous race. Another 11th place finish was a great result for us - but this rear tyre has seen its best...
Following lengthy delays in the Minitwin (an oil spill) and 125/250GP (an injury) races, we managed to get out for Supertwin Race 3, which was the penultimate race of the weekend's schedule. When we arrived on the starting grid we noticed that the "Top 2" from the earlier races were not on the grid... We got a decent start and became involved in an on-track battle until the red flag came out on lap 7. After a short break the organisers decided to call it a result - meaning that we had won our first NG Supertwin race of the 2022 season! This also meant that we have taken the lead in the NG Supertwins championship standings!
Back in the paddock, former Darley Moor champion Richard Wardle (who got a hat trick of Formula 600 3rd places this weekend) gave his hat to Kate as a birthday gift - which she adored! :-)
Another couple of honourable mentions must go to...
* Joe Connolly, who managed to get on the podium in the Powerbike race!
* Stuart Fitton, who was debuting his new Triumph 765 bike - but unfortunately suffered a head gasket failure during the weekend :-(
So with the fun and excitement over, we packed up, headed home and watched MotoGP until the early hours!
It has been a very busy start to the season for us, but we now have a couple of weekends off until a two-event weekend at Donington Park and Darley Moor on the weekend of 13th-15th May.
Other than our usual preparation, the Supersport machine will receive a new rear tyre and some new EBC GPFAX front brake pads - we'll see you on track soon!
Here are some photos from the opening round of the Darley Moor championships, taken by official Darley photographer Tony Else...
The Darley Moor season is upon us once again! And the good news for us is that, following completion of all preparation activities, we got to ride our new toy - the Aprilia Racing RS660 Trofeo!
We were once again graced with dry (but cold) weather conditions for the two days on track, with a Saturday test day and Sunday race day making up the weekend's activities.
Saturday Test Day
We pulled the bikes out of the van and gasped in horror when we saw the water temperature reading on the Aprilia RS660 show just 1C! Fortunately, the water in both bikes resisted the almost freeing temperatures and they escaped unscathed. Our first job of the day was to put the RS660 through the noise test (as it was the only machine being used on the test day), so we switched on the bike and pressed the starter button and... nothing happened! No starter motor whizzed into life, no noises were heard and nothing changed on the dashboard... After switching the machine off and on a few times Dave Snr coaxed the machine into life! Since then everything has run smoothly, so we're not sure what happened there - but we hope it never returns!
Out onto track and we needed to run the calibration procedure for the A-PRC system (Traction Control, Wheelie Control, Quickshifter, etc). The safest way we could think to perform this was to do an out lap and then run the calibration procedure on the paddock return road. So we hopped on the new bike for the very first time, briefly commented on how tall it felt, then went out onto track.
On the approach to the circuit exit we learned that the relevant menu cannot be accessed when the machine is moving - so briefly stopped on the return road, found the menu, kicked off the procedure, held the bike at the required speed, then immediately turned off the bike (whilst still moving) and waited for the stated 60+ seconds before restarting the machine. This gap left just enough time for us to be told off for stopping in a precarious location! Oops!! With all of messing around (or rather, necessary configuration) we performed, we only managed to put in a single flying lap - so didn't learned much more about the new bike except that the quickshifter worked and all of the levers were in an acceptable location.
We decided to use the second session to become more accustomed with the new bike. We set all riding aids to maximum (Wheelie Control on, Traction Control on Level 8) with the view to reducing them until they didn't hinder us. On the first lap, we exited the hairpin and once fully upright cracked opened the throttle... The bike coughed and spluttered and the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree! After a few seconds it dawned on us that the rider aids were being activated - they were a lot more easily invoked than we expected! Fortunately, the Traction Control settings can be adjusted on-the-fly, so we turned the setting down to level 7, then 6, then 5, and then settled on level 4. Following the changes, only when getting a decent drive from the hairpin (but only the hairpin) would the dashboard lights flash, so we thought that might be due to the Wheelie Control activating - we turned that off for the following session and it fixed the issue.
Next up was testing our preferences for the Engine Braking and Engine Map settings. In all honesty, we tested all three settings for both options but couldn't really tell a massive difference between them. At the time we were a couple of seconds off our usual pace, so that might have been the reason. It might be something to revisit in the future - but we don't think there is much performance to be gained from changing these settings.
Prior to our final session we double-checked that the "out of the box" suspension settings matched Aprilia's recommendation sheet, which they did except for on the fork rebound. For anyone interested, we ended up with the Engine Map set to level 2, the Engine Braking set to level 2, the Traction Control set to level 4 (reduced to level 3 by the end of the weekend) and the Wheelie Control switched off. With no big changes or configurations to test, we used this session to just ride and get used to the bike. By the end of the session we put in a 1:01.66 lap, which was just over half a second slower than our PB lap on the Kawasaki Supertwin which we've run for the past 9 seasons - which was a great indication of the bike's potential, especially as the sprocket ratio was so high that we were only able to run 5 gears down the half-kilometre-long Pope Straight!
Sunday Race Day
The Sunday started cold but the sun was occasionally shining! Our first qualifying session, for the Twins, was the second session on track. The air temperature was 6C so we didn't want to do anything too silly on a cold track. Once out on track we found there was a lot of traffic, so when we came across some free space we put in a decent lap of 1:02.09 to qualify 2nd on the grid. 2021 Darley Moor Formula 600 champion Albert Walker acquired the 2018 Darley Moor Twins championship winning machine over the winter break and was running very well on it. He took pole position with a 1:01.71 lap. Darley Moor regular Ian Robinson was also running an Aprilia RS660 for the first time at this meeting and qualified with a 1:06.01.
For the Formula 600 qualifying session we had a new pair of tyres to scrub in so took it easy for the first few laps. British-championship (and "Stars at Darley") regulars Richard Cooper and Milo Ward were competing in our class today. Half-way through the session Milo came passed so we (unsuccessfully) tried to hang on, but we did manage to qualify 3rd on the grid - ahead of all the other club regulars!
Next up was the first race of the Darley Moor season (and our first ever race on the Aprilia Racing RS660 Trofeo). We picked a 19th grid position "out of the hat" and then had shocking start! All weekend we had been warned that the RS660 can be difficult to launch, but we'd had some spirited launches on the test day so thought that it wouldn't be a problem... We now know differently! As the Allcomers contains a variety of machines - and most are slower than a brand new Factory-built racer - despite the awful start we were able to move up to 5th position by the end of the opening lap, then into 3rd position at the end of lap 2 (of 10 laps). Unfortunately, by this point the race leaders were 5.16 seconds up the road - so we decided to use the race to get some more seat-time and become more familiar with the bike.
We put in clean laps, got more comfortable, and it turned out that we were set new Personal Best lap time after new Personal Best lap time - with a best of an incredible 1:00.41! We caught up to the back wheel of leaders Jim Hodson and Albert Walker by the end of lap 7 and moved into 2nd place at the end of lap 8. With our overgeared machine we were able to match the ER650 speed on the straights but couldn't gain on them (but hopefully at Round 2 that will change!). We followed Albert and were thinking hard about where to attempt a pass, when he hit a false neutral on the entry to the hairpin on the final lap and ran wide to allow us through. From there we were able to take the win on our first ride - the thing that dreams are made of! The comeback through the field makes for a great onboard video...
Formula 600 Race 1 was next. From our front-row grid spot we had a disappointing start to finish the opening lap in 5th place, but managed to move passed Liam Weston on the second lap to move up to 4th position, where we remained until Ben Dale crashed out of the race at Park corner on lap 5. That elevated us to 3rd place, just ahead of a hard-charging Milo Ward in 4th. We crossed the line in 3rd place!
After a short gap it was time for Twins Race 1. Our race start went from "appalling" to "average" (which is at least an improvement!) as we were still trying to figure out how to launch the new bike. But we lost a lot less time at the start and were able to move into the race lead on the opening lap. We then tried to put in clean laps, which we did until the final lap, when we overshot into Park corner and thought we were heading into the gravel. Fortunately we were able to haul up the bike in time, then had our quick look behind us. Albert Walker was around a second behind, so we managed to get away with our mistake and take the win! We also secured the fastest lap of the race with a 1:00.94.
After the lunch break we were back with Formula 600 Race 2. A great start saw us finish the opening lap in 3rd place, just behind the 2nd-placed Stephen Parsons. We tagged onto Stephen in an attempt to move up another spot - but I wasn't alone - and what ensued was a 4-rider battle for the runner-up spot involving us, Stephen, Albert Walker and Milo Ward. The group was eventually split up on lap 7 (of 8) by unfortunate timing of a backmarker. A highly entertaining and hard-fought race, we would eventually finished 4th on track - however, as double-winner Richard Cooper decided to not be classified in the championship results, we managed to walk away with a 3rd place trophy for our efforts!
The final race of the day was Twins Race 2. With upcoming Isle of Man TT commitments Jim Hodson decided not to race. Fellow RS660-racer Ian Robinson retired after the sighting lap due to quickshifter issues. We finally got a decent start and got the holeshot and then led the race from flag-to-flag - but that doesn't tell the entire story. Once in the lead we put in consistent laps around the 1:01-mark knowing that in Twins Race 1 the other riders were averaging 1:01.3 laps - so thought that would be enough.
On lap 5 (of 8), we took a look behind to see whether we had created a gap but Albert Walker was right on our back wheel! With this knowledge we then increased the pace and reduced our lap times, putting in a race fastest lap of 1:00.50, which was enough to take the win! After crossing the line and arriving to Park corner on the cooldown lap, we saw Albert waving at us from behind the fence - it turned out that he had unfortunately fallen on lap 7 whilst chasing us. The pace was so hot that we won the race by 34.83 seconds and broke the Twins race record which has been in place since 2014!
To summarise, it has been a great debut weekend for the new bike - 3 wins from 3 starts! Backing that up with decent Formula 600 results has made this a fantastic experience. Looking back to our pre-season aims for Darley Moor, we have already made great progress as we have moved up to 2nd in our "Fastest Twin Laps of All Time" ranking. Albert Walker has now entered the ranking after his seriously impressive performances this weekend.
We don't have to wait long until our next outing, which is at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit with NG Road Racing on the weekend of 22nd-24th April. Except for the fitment of an R&G radiator guard (which has now arrived) there will be no machine changes occurring before that meeting.
As a closing remark we would just like to thank everyone for the interest shown in the new machine over the weekend. We don't think we have ever received so many visitors before - but it was great to talk bikes with everyone! It seems that people are interested to hear about the development journey we are embarking on with the Aprilia Racing RS660 Trofeo, so we'll continue to share more information as and when we learn it! :-)
It has now been two weeks since our Aprilia Racing RS660 Trofeo landed on our driveway, just before we departed to race at NG Oulton Park. We are glad to announce that our preparation is now complete and that the bike is ready to race! Here is the story of how we got there...
Our first job was to arrange for the required 300km of run-in to be completed. Fortunately, 59km of the initial run-in had already been completed by Aprilia Factory prior to the machine's departure - the remainder of the run-in was completed by OTC Dyno Centre in Widnes. Following the run-in, several "full power" dyno runs were performed - including "baffle vs no baffle" (which interestingly made minimal difference) and a true back-to-back comparison against our own Kawasaki ER650 Supertwin (straight as it was from Oulton Park).
The Aprilia is stronger than our ER650 everywhere except for 7000-8000rpm and has a healthy 10+bhp more at the top end :-) The fuelling, however, is very rich - this should mean that the initial throttle touch should be nice but also that there is possibly potential for tweaking out even more power.
We haven't rushed out to have the RS660 fuelling adjusted yet as we believe that there are quicker initial changes that can make a bigger impact. One of these areas is the final drive ratios (i.e. sprockets). All versions of the RS660 come equipped as standard with 17\43 sprockets. It is worth pointing out that along with our new machine, Aprilia Factory also provided a USB key containing 15 PDFs and an Excel file - to assist with the setup and maintenance of the machine. According to Aprilia's own information, this 17\43 combination will reach 162.92mph on the 11500rpm limit in top gear - a much higher speed than we are ever likely to see on UK circuits.
So we set about finding new sprockets to lower the ratio - and found that there is a distinct shortage of sprockets available! Eventually, we managed to find a 16-tooth front sprocket in USA (at Warhorse HSBK Racing) - which was shipped to our "Uncle Bill" in North Carolina who then forwarded it onto us - and we thought we found a 45-tooth sprocket in the UK, so ordered that only to be later told they had no stock...
The good news is that the well-travelled 16-tooth front sprocket has arrived, so the machine is now fit with 16\43 gearing (and is still good for 153.29mph in top gear) until more options become available. Following the fitment we checked the wheel alignment to ensure that everything was laser-straight!
When the bike arrived (and when it was at the dyno), the dash was set to Italian language. Once we managed to figure out how to access the "main menu" - which is accessed by press-and-hold a button to get to a screen, and then press-and-hold a button to get to the menu - we changed the language to English and checked out all of the available options. We also played around with the adjustable maps.
Our next job was to change the gear shift pattern from "race" to "road". The RS660 has both a quickshifter and blipper (which can be switched on/off in the menu), so we followed the configuration process in order for the ECU to recognise our preferred sequence.
The final changes we made were small ones - changing the clutch and front brake lever positions, so that they feel more natural.
Next up on the list were the mandatory safety essentials - draining coolant and replacing with water and lockwiring. It is unusual for us to have a brand new machine (that someone else hasn't already raced), so we took our time figuring out how we wanted the lockwiring to run, so that it was tidy.
We started with the main oil drain (carefully from two directions) so that lockwire could easily pass through, before deciding to drill a sump bolt in order to allow a very neat solution to that particular problem.
The oil filter was a relatively simple affair. A new 60-80mm hose clamp was acquired, then closed to desired diameter and the excess tail trimmed off (and filed for smooth corners). This was lockwired to an existing hole on a radiator support bracket.
The final item to be secured was the oil dipstick. This was drilled so that an R-clip could be attached. A nearby hose bracket was then drilled to lockwire against. Finally, the lockwire was covered in electrical shrink tube for a neat finish.
GoPro Camera Mount
Over the past decade we have mounted onboard cameras in a variety of locations - some easily satisfying the requirements of a club's scrutineer, others not so much. One piece of knowledge we have gained over the years is that "behind the screen" is a 'safe' place for a camera to be situated (rather than attached to the top yoke, situated on the front fairing, situated on the front mudguard, etc).
An issue we also found with our Kawasaki's is that the onboard camera blocks our view to the majority of the dashboard - something else we would like to avoid if possible! Following a lot of head scratching - and the creation of a rough mock-up - it was decided that a suitable mount could be created.
A piece of 10mmx40mm aluminium was our starting point. Two 5mm holes were drilled (20mm apart) and then tapped to M6 thread. Two further holes were then drilled to attach an alloy GoPro mount, before all excess material was then removed. The sturdy plastic dash cover was drilled, then a pair of black stainless screws (covered in threadlock) secured the new mount to the dash cover. We think it is another tidy solution to a problem that has plagued us for years!
Aim Solo Mount
We ordered and paid for an AiM Solo2 DL (with CAN bus connection) around 5 weeks ago. Due to the global semiconductor chip shortage, AiM are running behind schedule and are yet to deliver their flagship GPS laptimer to us. However, as we already have an "old" AiM Solo GPS laptimer, we can still take advantage of onboard laptiming until the new unit arrives.
As with the GoPro mount, we did not want our view to be obscured, so decided to make use of a hollow top yoke nut to mount the laptimer to. This was made from aluminium so that it was fairly light - it was shaped to avoid any issues and minimise the required material. As a bonus, with no laptimer fitted, the bracket reminds us of "Homepride Fred"...
With everything now mounted, we continue to have a clear view of the Aprilia dashboard & will still be able to capture all of the data and onboard footage that we have become accustomed to :-)
All that was left was to make the personal touches to make this bike feel like ours! Stickers and race numbers were measured up, ordered and applied.
New race tyres were purchased and fit at short notice by Ian Mackman - thanks for your help! With the rules for Darley Moor "Twins" and NG "Supertwins" allowing slicks, we decided to try some. As the start of the year is usually quite cool we opted for some Metzeler Racetec TD slicks (in 120/70 and 180/60). For wets we would have gladly fitted some Bridgestone W01 tyres - but we could not find any for sale - so instead opted for some Continental ContiRace Attack Rain tyres (in 120/70 and 180/55).
For the brake pads, we bought some of EBC's GPFAX pads which we like the feel of. We then discovered that the RS660 Trofeo comes fitted with the excellent (but expensive) Brembo Z04 pads! So they will gladly remain in the machine until consumed. Talking of brakes, we must mention that the HEL brake line setup that comes on the RS660 Trofeo is very tidy - it's just another little thing on this machine that has impressed us.
Plans For The Future
Due to time constraints (or other reasons), there are additional things that we want to install/test. Some of these are:
* Weigh the machine (including front/rear bias) - Due to "explosafe foam" being installed into the tank by Aprilia Factory (mainly to help stop fuel sloshing from side to side during riding), it is difficult to tell how much fuel is in the tank right now. Our previous measurements of the ER650 Supertwin and ZX6R Supersport machines were performed with 3L of fuel in the tank, so having an equivalent volume in the RS660 Trofeo when measured will provide more useful results.
* Fitment of an R&G radiator guard - at the time of writing we have ordered but not received this. Once received, this will be installed as a precautionary measure against rogue flying objects.
* Fitment of 45-tooth rear sprocket (and/or other options) - Once we have ridden the bike, we will obtain a better view of where we will need to go in terms of gearing. Our initial opinion is that currently we will be overgeared at most UK circuits, even with the 16\43 option.
* Fuelling correction - as the season progresses (and time allows), we may have a piggyback fuelling module installed. If we do, we will let you know the outcome.
* Machine development - with a much greater number of riders using an RS660 in 2022 than in 2021, we have no doubt that performance developments will be made for the RS660 (especially as it can now be used at the IOM TT). We will try to keep track of developments and apply any as we see fit.
David Carson Jnr,