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With the first round over and three weeks until the next meeting, we thought tuning the engine would be a simple task, but how wrong we were…

 

 So, if you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know we removed the engine straight after the first meeting. The head and barrels were stripped and cleaned and we set about ordering some parts. We were promised the required bits within a week, so things looked pretty comfortable. The cams were sent to Kent Cams who re-ground them to their race spec and returned them within 4 days, most impressive! The JE pistons were coming from America, so we had to wait 7 days for them. Throttle bodies went to X-bikes who bored them out to 40mm and replaced the butterflies, again within the week; it was all going so very well.

 

Next to arrive were the pistons, so that evening I set about preparing the engine for the rebuild. I excitedly unwrapped the incredibly shiny JE Pistons and set about offering them up to the barrels...thud....hhmmmm...interesting, try again….thud...they don’t fit?? Pause, hold head in hands and scream “Nooooooo!!!!” they had sent the +1 size, unbelievable. This was a disaster, at this point we had two weeks till the next meeting and a phone call to the suppliers confirmed the worst, I’d have to wait another 7 days. This meant we’d only have a week to get the engine back together and rebuild the bike. That doesn’t sound bad you say? Throw in your day job and things start to get a bit tight!

 

We tried to get as much of the work done before hand meaning when the pistons turned up, we could get it back together as quick as possible. We dry built the head so we could get all the new valve shims ordered, which again Kent Cams did within a few days, but at this point and without the pistons, we were struggling. There really wasn’t much we could do, so we sat patiently waiting.

 

 The Tuesday before the meeting came and halfway through the morning a box arrived. Yes, it was the pistons and yes, they fitted!!!! That evening we re-built the engine and timed in the new cams. The following day we slotted the engine back into the chassis and also had to fit a supplementary radiator. Even as standard the little Kwaks tend to run hot, so with a few more ponies, she would melt. We fitted a scooter Rad which had modified mounting brackets to fit the ER6. This went on much better than I thought it would in fact, it turned out the radiator was too good!! (More on that later).

 

Then, the heart stopping moment. The one that unless you’ve built engines, you can never grasp. The point of start-up. Now, no matter how many times you’ve checked it all and no matter how many times you’ve spun it over by hand, you still hate this point. Will it start? Will it make some funny noises? Or maybe not do anything?

 

With a turn of the key she fired first time, thank god. At this point I was a very happy man, very happy indeed.

 

Next we modified the front of the air box and fitted an air scoop, so the bored out throttle bodies could get some more air in. Then modified the standard radiator so it sat just above it to get some nice fresh cold air. The bike sounded totally different, a completely different and more aggressive tone.

 

 The bike wasn’t back together until the last minute, in fact it was the day before the meeting. This meant no dyno time to make sure she was fuelling right. We simply richened the top end of the rev range a tad on the Power Commander and hoped for the best.

 

A sleepless night and the 2nd round of the season was here.

 

 The day started wet, but the track was drying in the breezy conditions so we opted to run some dry’s. The first qualifying was for the “Formula Darley” class and by the time we got out, the track was pretty much dry apart from the braking points to the last corner. Two laps in and I had a problem. The temp gauge was staying at 55 degrees, which was simply too cold to allow us to push the bike. I pulled in and pleaded for Duct tape from someone at the side of the track and whilst one of the marshal’s held the bike, I put a couple of strips on the lower Radiator.

 

With only 4 minutes left to get a flying lap in I went back out and pushed on. The bike felt fast, but I was struggling to get it to stop. I think I had one flying lap when braking into Paddock, the front end started shaking violently. I pulled in and went back to the pit.

 

On closer inspection the front standard brake disks had warped, they simply couldn’t take any more!! They had already done 12,000 road miles and a couple of track days had obviously pushed them too far. So we removed the ones off our spare wheels and fitted some new Performance Friction pads. Of course these really needed bedding in, but we were out of track time so they’d have to be scrubbed in on the warm up lap of our first race....talk about testing times!!

 

 We rolled round to the grid for the first race and amazingly we’d qualified second on the grid...eh?? How did that happen??? With the new brake pads to scrub in on the warm up lap, I went around gradually increasing pressure. But the brakes felt terrible, no feel and no power..oh dear.

 

 We lined up on the grid, visor down, select first, stare at the lights, revs up....go!!!! The bike shot off the line, the front skimmed the floor as I toed second gear home, nothing came past, into the chicane, down to park hard on the brakes, yes there still rubbish!! Up to the esses, still in first, the left hander, then hard again on the brakes into the hairpin, still in first...strange the others must of got a terrible start I thought?? Down the back straight, hard on the brakes again, through Paddock and across the line....still in first place..Ok, what’s happened to the rest of them???


 

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I led for the next four laps and with each lap the brakes were getting better. Then, heading into the last lap Brad Vickers came past. I sat on his tail unit up to the hair pin, but he was really good on the brakes and I couldn’t get past. Then firing out of the hairpin I think Brad hit a false neutral so I moved to the outside and drove past. The little Er650 is much faster than last meeting!  I stayed on the outside and kept my head buried behind the screen and braked for the last turn. Just as I thought Brad came up the inside late on the brakes. I stayed wide in a hope that he was too hot in and aimed to power it through the turn to the finish line. Brad did go a little deep, just a touch, but enough for me to get under him. We both stood the bikes up and twisted the throttle cables as hard as they’d go. Then making it over the finishing line with 0.008 between us, I took the win. The first for 19 months and the first at Darley moor for almost 7 years...

 

 What a relief. All the work done to the bike and all the late nights were worth it. The bike was ace and we went on to win the second race as well, although that was much tougher. What a top day and a great second round of the championship. A massive thanks must go to Carole Nash for all their help and support, Rob Vernon for all his advice and my wife who's had to put up with me not being at home whilst building the bike. Thank you and onto round three. 

 

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