Anglesey is a long way from Devon. This became more and more obvious over my 6 1/2 hour traffic-jam-filled journey to the circuit on an inclement Friday afternoon.
Roger had cancelled because of the flu. He sounded dreadful and had done for some time. His voice had become more and more hoarse and he couldn’t sleep for coughing, propped up on the sofa was the only way he could get any rest. His lack of spleen doesn’t facilitate recovery from viruses as far as I understand, being an important part of the body’s immune response. It has to be bad to miss a race meeting too.
So it was that I found myself erecting my tiny backpacking tent in what I understand now to be good Anglesey conditions: unrelenting high winds but without rain.
The wind is something else. I had heard about it but now I can really imagine what it could be like. The circuit is right on the Atlantic and the drive through Anglesey itself starts to give clues to the general conditions. A lack of trees and the prevalence of very gnarled bushes with what scant tenacious foliage they had swept at an acute angle an indication of life on this coastline.
Saturday was clear and dry. I went through Scrutineering and signed on.
Practice gave me my first taste of what was to come. When you rounded ‘Church’ corner in the middle of the long back straight you hit a wall of wind which made me think that the bike was seizing up. Then, on the third lap, it did seize up, though I caught it pretty quickly and rode back though to the paddock.
My first race was the ‘up to 63 unlimited’ which is my second choice event to give me another couple of rides. It’s almost collapsed as an event at the moment and there was only one other guy entered in this on a BSA twin. I don’t know what happened but I guess the people have all entered different bikes in different classes or simply stopped. The ‘up to 48’ class is better supported. It’s not a big deal as long as you are sharing the grid with a mixture of other classes and so there were plenty on the grid. All far too powerful for me, but I was starting on the back anyway just to see how it would run.
It was better, but it still nipped up accelerating out of Church corner into the back straight. I nursed it round and went back to the van.
A Scott owner, Bernie Dunmore, offered his assistance. We’d never met before but he spent the following few hours helping me get to the bottom of the seizure issue. It was puzzling because it was theoretically running richer than the optimum needle setting chosen on the dyno, and they seemed to think that I’d be running rich in the real world even at that setting. The wind was a considerable force though and maybe that was causing the engine to have to work so much harder that the engine was getting too hot? The timing had changed also, possibly jumping a tooth on the slightly-under-tensioned belt when it nipped up… the momentum of the rotor forcing the jump. I checked the fuel flow to the carbs and thought I noticed the fuel flow to one of them increase as I moved the feed pipe. Was it possibly an air lock in the flexible hoses? In plumbing, air locks can cause all kinds of problems. Maybe it was this? For good measure, I thought I’d go up in the heat range on my plug. Ken Inwood was there and I bought a couple of NGK’s, heat range 8. That’s two up from where i was. It shouldn’t be this but I needed to cover all the bases.
By this time it was the end of the day with one race left… I got out and it didn’t seize up. It was obvious that the torque I’d lost at the start of my rev range since changing from Methanol was causing me a problem as the engine wasn’t able to pick up in third when shifting up from second at 5000rpm as I rounded Church corner into the wind. It was bogging down and I was losing a lot of time here. I started to learn the track at last though and really enjoyed this last race of the day. The rear tyre, already pretty worn out by the end of last year, danced its last dance and I could feel it drifting though ‘Rocket’ but mostly through ‘Peel’ which is before the drop down the hill toward the left that leads into the corkscrew. I really enjoy racing tyres when they are finished… you can’t really carry speed because they’re not gripping any more but you can feel them drifting far earlier and it’s great fun. Fortunately, I’d arranged for Roger to send me up a spare with another competitor (as well as a new final drive chain from ‘The Chain Man’, Andy Forsdick)
I changed the gearing, just by a tooth on the back, to try and get into third before I hit the wind and then I changed the tyre. Unfortunately I ended up pinching the tube so it was a case of waiting for Ken to return in the morning.
I made a sandwich for my tea, and crawled into my tent.
Sunday morning. Overcast and windy.
I was first to get to Ken and he changed my tube, very graciously not mocking me for making a mess of doing it by myself. He did note however that the tube had been too big for the 90/90 profile of the Avon roadrider, undoubtedly a legacy from the days when we were running 3.25 section GP’s.
I think I had a race first thing, which was the big class. Again I just started from the back and just scrubbed my tyre in, taking it steady.
Things were better but still it was a struggle to pick up on the back straight. I resolved to just do the best I could, and investigate further when I returned home.
The next race came around, which was my ‘up to 48’ class. I was feeling a bit more like it by now and though I didn’t get a great start, I was suddenly at the back of some of the ‘up to 1983 Japanese 500’ class with whom we share the grid going into the ‘Banking’, the exit of which leads into the first part of the straight that leads to Church. The brakes are good on the Super Squirrel and I passed a couple on the brakes and got through the corner well. People were passing me down the straight at a fair clip, but it did seem that I could make ground going into Church and then also at the end of the straight into the very tight left hander. It was like this for a couple of laps, where I was hauling people in from this corner to the banking and then simply losing it as bikes came past me on the straight like I was standing still. I was especially hunting an RD 400 and a CB 450, I never got to the 450, but the RD 400 was incredibly quick on the straight and went past like I was standing still. I really pushed to keep getting past him on the rest of the circuit and in the end pushed too hard, losing the front end into the tight left at the end of the straight. I saw him later and he said that he’d thought I’d never get round after I’d outbraked him on the inside going into this corner. I said that I couldn’t argue with him because I didn’t make it! My fastest lap was quicker than the 5th placed Japanese class guy (on the CB450)but I would still have been second in my class to Tony Perkin on his Rudge 500 who was 2 1/2 seconds per lap faster than me… absolutely flying.
The radiator was damaged, the front mudguard and the right hand footrest but little else. The radiator was unfortunate as it’s never taken a hit before but sometimes these things just don’t fall in your favour. You have to push when you are trying to race an RD 400 on a vintage Scott.
In all, I really enjoyed Anglesey but left realising that I still had a way to go with the new set-up. I think I need more compression, and some more development to iron out the problems with the fuel system. I was due to take the bike to Roger’s in Leicestershire in readiness to take both bikes to Cadwell Park on Tuesday so that Steve Plater could do some testing. I thought maybe if I got home to Devon I could sort out a repair on Monday morning and drive up to Cadwell on Monday evening to be there for the test.
It would be a lot of driving but I thought I could do it. I said my farewell to Anglesey, resolving to return and headed home.