Monday, October 22, 2012

Motocicletta part 3 – track side adrenalin rush

As I approach the gates my pit pass in my pocket ready to flash i'm greeted by nobody. The carpark is empty so I park my bike and grab my gear and follow the signs towards the pits. I pass race bikes of all shapes and sizes in various stages of assembly some more complete than others. Everything from little 2 stroke juniors to superbikes and many in between of varying conditions. As I head down to the garaged pit areas I see the familiar white bordered '115' painted across a shiny red half fairing and immediately remember the reason I'm here.


There is activity going on everywhere. The smell of fuel, hot engines & exhaust fumes fills the air. I can hear tools being dropped into toolboxes and tyres being seated on rim. Riders walk the pit area discussing their previous rides & setup changes. They wear leathers of varying condition from the well-worn to the brand new. To my left a woman is cooking sausages and to my right young children play with their motorcycle toys on the garage floor. This is grass-roots motorsport.

A very fresh morning calls for heated gloves

 I'm greeted by Stephen Littlehales & Steve Marino and introduced to The Two Daves & Daz the mechanic. Stephen & Daz are looking over the brakes as Steve Marino points out some of the battle scars as he explains that there was a little oops on the final lap at the previous weekends suspension set-up session. Smiling it off he adds that they're starting on P1 which is exactly where they want to be. I'm somewhat speechless in part from the cold ride up but more so as I take in my first real glimpse of the Sport 1000. But it's clearly business time, Dave "Simmo' Simpson the rider is in his gear and clearly zoning himself for race 1.
Ready for battle before race one


There are five races scheduled for the weekend. 3 Sprint races 8 laps each on Saturday and 2 TT races, 16 laps in length for the Sunday. Despite being a P3 class bike the Mototcicletta Sport 1000 has outright pole position. Simmo is stretching up and reaching for his helmet as Marino suggest I follow Stephen L to a good spot to watch. I follow him through the pits & main spectators area as I realise that we are going to the start/finish line on the main straight. Stephen is busily setting up his gear for timing and the Simmo's pit board as I hear a few rumbles and roars as the bikes are released onto the track. The roar of the Motocicletta Sport 1000s NCR exhaust defines pure aural pleasure for me.

My personal favourite view

The bikes take in a single warm-up lap before lining up at the start finish/line. From where i'm standing behind the Steves and Dave it cannot be more than 20 feet to the red beauty as the bikes assemble. The marshal signals and walk from the track as throttles go from blips to limiters and the lights go. Despite so many bikes screaming off simultaneously the titanium exhausts growl from the Motocicletta sport 1000 is clearly distinguishable over the mass of inline 4s. Turn one and I lose the red and white beauty amidst a mass of rear ends but I hear one of the boys yell "yeah!!" before I see Simmo come out of turn 1 in first place.

The business


The next 8 laps go by in what seems an instant amidst the confusion of me switching my attention between the amount of activity going on with Stephen swapping digits on the pit board & Dave calling times to a break each every 1:03 where I watch the bikes scream or more importantly roar past. Simmo takes a commanding lead and doesn't show any fault taking the win. Motociclettas first outright. Steve is already headed towards the pits and as Stephen packs away the pit board and we all return to the pit area. There are smiles , hand shakes and pats on the back all round as The bike is put up on stands, tyres cleaned and warmers put on before Dave drains & measure the fuel before refueling for race 2. Other riders & teams come in and congratulate the boys on the win, its fair to say the mood is pretty high.

 I'm still speechless as I get a chance to have a decent look over the bike. They say that so much is covered by fairings on race bikes but with the Sport 1000 it's all on show. You could stare at it for hours (and I do). It's not just the obvious upgrades like the full ohlins suspension, monobloc brembos, OZ racing wheels or that beautiful Titanium NCR exhaust that make this bike what it is. It's also the small details that draw you towards what is truly a bike you can lose yourself in. Small things like perfect race wiring, something Marino explains that he is pedantic about doing right.The titanium parts blend nicely amidst a mix of black anodizing, red gloss and matte white. I ask Steve what his favourite part of the bike is and he points out the clutch/exhaust header/battery tray area which as he puts it is "All Business". Everything about this bike is all business.


Even the lock wire is beautiful


The 5 minute call comes over the PA for race two and its game on again. This time I get to witness the sound from 3 feet away as the bike barks, bark is the correct word here because if you weren't expecting it the bark the NCR full system makes as the ds1000 fires up inside the pit garage reverberates of every steel wall. The red beauty is warmed up by Stephen L while Simmo suits up. I follow Stephen L back to the main straight as the riders once again roll out for a warm up. The process repeats but this time another front row starter jumps the light, Simmo doesn't and enters turn 1 down field. The race is quickly called and a full restart announced so by the time the riders round to the main straight its take two. This time around it's another great start and the 115 mototcicletta sport1000 is again in 1st position exiting turn 1.

 I concentrate on watching more of the race this time round occasionally glancing at Stephen L is displaying on the pit board. Ben "boof" Scott on an older model r1 is on the pace lapping close behind Simmo. You can clearly see where the vtwin excels on this short track with its lowdown torque and corner exits leaving the r1 behind.  But its on the back straight where with each lap I see more of the gap closed. Luckily as race 2 nears the finish a backmarker slows Scott enough to give Simmo a comfortable lead again. I can hear the commentator repeatedly saying "Motocicletta" in every way but its correct pronunciation and at times near trying to put the mozz on Simmo in first. Once again Simmo takes the win & there are smiles all round.
The racing was just as close for the kids


We return to the pits, this time there is a larger gap between races. Simmo gets out of his leathers as Ben the runner-up comes over and congratulates him. While competitive, the friendliness of the competition becomes clear to me. I watch as the bikes fuel is again drained, measured and the correct amount refilled. I soak up the atmosphere I realise that there is something extra special about the imperfections on a race bike. The wear and tear that make it beautiful in ways a street bike never can be. When I first read about this bike I was saddened to see images of it sliding off the track at Broadford but in the flesh any marks on SC pale in comparison to overall package. Any marks serve more as badges of honour, each has a story and forms a timeline to how the bike got to where it is. So many people strive to have an immaculate bike parked in their garage but this well used race bike belittles any street bike I have seen to date.

My kind of bling

The days activities break for lunch but there is still a mass of activity going on in the pits. One of the R6s beside us blew something and is being disassembled. Our other neighbors are doing a rear shock swap. Everyone chips in to help everyone, tools are borrowed, someone is busy so another steps in to help balance a tire. Stephen's family have arrived with an abundance of pastries and delicious food, everyone is fed well and with 2 wins from 2 starts the day is going well, there couldn't be a better result. The afternoon soon brings race 3 and Marino is conscious of making sure every nut and bolt is tight. "The V-twin vibrations mean you have to check if every bolt and nut is tight" he exclaims while nipping over the bike. It's clear to me that amidst the excitement there is an underlying pressure to make sure everything is 'right' and ready to roll for race 3.
Not a lot of life left in this tyre from one of the super stock teams

The bike is fired for the final time of the day and warmed as we head to the main straight, this time I watch from the grassy spectators arena which is elevated and has near perfect vision of the entire race track. The marshals leave the track and after a roar from the start Simmo is once again leading the race. This time Ben Scotts previous second place seems to have motivated him and he remains right on the motocicletta ducati. I hear the announcer mispronounce 'motosicklettas' for the dozenth time as he tried to put the mozz on simmo again. Luckily once more thanks to a backmarker the win is taken by team Motocicleta. Back at the pits this time there is more activity as the fuel is drained along with the oil in preparation for a service. Both wheels are removed and lined up for a new set of pirellis for day 2.
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