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Back from the Ulster GP

Sun, 15 Aug 2010

Just rocked home after a really good cross-country blast home from Birkenhead docks. The VFR developed a weird hiccup this morning in Belfast on the way to the Norfolkline ferry terminal and occasionally feels like it’s suffering from fuel starvation – like a blocked fuel tank breather or something – but only around 2,000rpm and only now and again. It’s not consistent and the only way round it is to dip the clutch and give it a few blips and then it seems to clear its throat. Any other VFR1200 owners experiencing something similar?

Got to put a couple of things straight since my last blog.

According to the BBC NI radio news this morning,  the husband and wife spectators injured in the Superstock accident yesterday were watching the racing from their own front garden. Either way, wherever they were watching the racing, I sincerely hope they’re both OK – or at the very least going to make a full recovery. Jeez. Everyone who loves their road racing hates to see this kind of thing happen. Freak accidents, no fault of anyone's - innocent bystanders seriously hurt. I'd normally swear profusely now to add inarticulate impact but this is a family show...

And that would be a tricky legal position wouldn't it? I’m not sure what legal powers the race organisers have over people occupying their own land and property but surely anyone with any inkling of common sense automatically signs up to the fact that it’s a potentially dangerous sport by willingly putting themselves anywhere near the activities. Everyone knows the score. It doesn’t take a doctor of physics to understand the amount of kinetic energy at work when a 1000cc race bike has its cables stretched in sixth gear. And when a bike goes into a tankslapper and spits the rider off before cartwheeling its way to a halt, its trajectory is never predictable.  You think of these thing a lot when you’re spectating with your 13 year-old son, I can tell you. Are we safe here? What if two bikes tangle? Were are they going to go? Can I run for cover? Is there a solid willow tree to protect me? What if a chain snaps? Where will it go? High side? Low side? Just normal parental concerns, really. And self preservation.

Fingers (and toes) crossed for all concerned…

Secondly and much less important, the question of Aprlia Mille man with the battery that wasn’t charging (see previous blogs). Turns out the local dealer couldn’t offer a fix due to the parts needed, Italian holidays, etc. They did however – generously, I thought - offer to sell him a complete damaged Mille for a very reasonable £3,000 so he could rob his own bits off it.

His response was inspirational. ‘Why, when I’ve already got one broken Aprilia, would I want two?’ Can’t argue with him there, can you? Not sure he made it back to Diss but his fully charged spare battery just might have worked. Wonder if he’s torched it yet?

I’ve been to  lot of bike events over the years but, I have to say, with a day to reflect, the marshalling at the Ulster was amazingly slick – just the right level of iron fist and velvet glove to keep the crowd’s respect and to garner their utmost support.

We were sat with out legs dangling over the bank and milling about on the side of the road before activities started on Saturday morning – they use whistles (like in rallying) to let you know to get the feck out of there. A marshal strolls up the road and says to us all ‘we’ll be showing the yellow flag if you don’t keep yourselves tucked in, so you’ve only got yourselves to blame.’ Perfect, put the onus of responsibility on the crowd without having to get heavy handed. The marshal I watched  at the top of Deer’s Leap (we were directly opposite him) couldn’t have been more attentive if he’d tried – he spotted every smoking bike, every stability issue, every close pass, every off-song motor and despite having two or three mates nearby he wasn’t distracted by them. His mind was fixed on the job 100%. If I were going to race there I’d want to know they were all as good as him. Respect to the auld feller in the white coat at Deer’s Leap.

The final superbike race was delayed – mysteriously – for nearly an hour after all the riders had completed their warm up lap. We were stuck in our (safe) hole in the hedge wondering what was going on. Even the radio commentators were  confused. Turns out it was a spectator-based, pissed-up punch-up in the start finish area between two supposed mates. One bloke delivered a proper pasting and, scared and bloody, the battered recipient ran on to the track to escape a further shoeing. This obviously hampered circuit safety and the police were called. Racers manage an incredible 3m 20 second lap of the 7.4 mile circuit but it turns out that a diesel Ford Focus police car (driven badly) takes considerably longer to wind its way to the start finish area. The assailant was nicked and racing eventually got under way (with cold tyres and cool engines).

More news as it breaks...

By mark forsyth

See also: We're off to the Ulster Grand Prix, The Japanese oddity to naming teams, Aprilia did electric. 10 years ago....