Isle of Man - Manx Grand Prix 2013

After a short “decompression” from the ManxGP in 2012 I decided I needed to go back and I needed to ride a 2-stroke. Initially I thought I could ride my H2R and a TZ750, as they are in different classes, however, they schedule both class races at the same time, dang. So I concentrated on the TZ.

I decided to build a TZ especially for the event using an updated chassis produced by Denis Curtis Racing, which can be fitted with R6 forks, brakes and wheels to use modern rubber. I quickly sourced the R6 parts via ebay, and, that was the end of the easy part of the project. Now things got tough looking for an engine.

After producing 600 complete bikes and perhaps similar number of spare engines, you would think a TZ750 engine would be reasonably easy to find. Nope! So I began buying parts, I sourced Hoeckle cranks from France and a new improved gearbox from Australia. I like an engine with a strong foundation and these parts upgraded some of the weaker links in the TZ engine.

I then purchased a stock of used TZ750 parts from a friend in LA. This gave me most of an engine, however, I was still missing cases. After a ton of work, I found two broken sets in Australia and started a trusted friend with the Frankenstein process of joining them together, and then I found another battered set. Armed with a parts list, I pounded my personal network and ebay. I found all of the small parts that make up an engine from around the world, England, Germany, Australia and a variety of places in the US.

Whilst gathering all of these parts, I received the chassis from Denis and assembled the roller, with the R6 running gear. In the midst of the whole process, I found a complete disassembled TZ750 with a complete engine and used this engine to mock up the pipes etc. Shortly I was ready to transfer the whole pile of stuff to my tuner Scott Clough at SCR Racing.

Scott got the complete engine, battered cases, Frankenstein’ed cases and 20 boxes of parts, each box matched a page in the parts manual. I am so glad Scott is good with puzzles. He started with the top end, we had many cylinders, but quite a few were damaged in different ways and others had various level of extreme porting. Many of these parts had come indirectly from Don Vesco. Eventually we had two good sets of cylinders, an A set assembled on the bike and one for spares. After adding some Scotty porting magic, they were sent out to be Nicosiled.

Assembly then began on the bottom end using the complete motor as the template for assembly and some small parts I was unable to source. Lastly the paint went out for an early 80’s TZ style paint job. If Scott were not busy enough, I also binned my standard TZ750 race bike, while competing at Phillip Island Classic in the International Challenge, which gave Scott some repair work to complete.

Scotts brief on the engine was I do not need more power, however I need a really flexible engine with plenty of torque to ride the Island. Now did I mention that Scott is a very clever man? Well he gave me exactly that, 80+ foot lbs between 7,500 and 10,500, nice, however, he also gave me 150hp, un-fricking-believable. Massively big, flexible horse power.

Scott put in some unbelievable time to get the bike together and just 6 months after starting the project, the bike was ready for testing at Willow Springs during the AHRMA event, alongside my repaired TZ. I had one very stock TZ750E and one hot, trick bike, with more modern running gear and a massive engine. It was important that we hit this date as the bike needed to be shipped in June for the Manx and we needed to fully “sort” the bike before it left.

It was a colossal effort just getting the bike to the track for the first time thanks to help of many people, Denis Curtis for the chassis, Bill Holwarth - TZ parts, Tony Skinner – donor Frankenstein cases, VForce - Reeds, Millenium - Nicosile plating, Irvine Vincent – gearbox, Fondseca and Meadspeed – TZ spares, JP Mesire – cranks and ignition, Vintage Brake – pads and lines, Airtech – bodywork, Works Performance – rear shock, Race Tech – front fork setup and of course the biggest thanks to Scott Clough for his tuning magic and putting the puzzle together.

I ran the bike at Willow. We had one small issue that took some time to figure out. The tank did not have any fore/aft tags and it took me a while to figure out why the bike died after a lap or two. The tank was pushed forward and kinked the fuel line cutting off the flow. For the first laps, the power was outstanding and the handling close behind. This bike just worked. The small issue, now found, was an easy fix.

The bike was packed up in June and shipped to the Isle in a container with some other bikes from the US.

Build Dec 4 2012

Build Dec 23 2013

Cylinders Feb 2 2013

Body Design

Mock up Mar 2 2013

Willow Springs Apr 4 2013

Willow Springs Apr 12 2013

Lorraine and I arrived late on Thursday before the Manx and got to the track bright and early on Friday. The container had arrived safely and a couple of guys had unloaded most of the bikes and gear. Friday and Saturday were spent on registration, bike prep and tech before the first scheduled practice session Saturday.

This year I was the experienced guy and watched as three of our guys prepared for their first outing on the track. Rain came in and the practice was cancelled. The build up and then, the let down. I had been there and felt for them.

On Monday we finally made it to the track. After a year of working towards this, the TZ was finally on the track. Everything worked, the bike was super fast and the handling was excellent, I did two laps and on my second lap hit a 102.4 mph, faster than my best time from 2012. Watching my onboard video from the previous year had also worked as I knew the corner flow and instead of trying to figure out which way the course went, I was now only figuring out the fastest lines and how deep I could go into corners.

I came back chuffed and we “high fived” as the Newbies completed their first laps. Guinness was consumed to celebrate.

Over the week I only had a few more laps on the TZ through a series of weather delays, red flags and issues from trying to run the A1R in the other practice. I had upped my lap speed to 103.4 mph from a standing start and was now aggressively riding the TZ. The spots where the P&M used to wheelie last year now turned into jumps and just about every bump turned into a wheelie. It felt darn good.

Monday was race day. We practiced our fuel stop and readied the bike for the race. I had qualified 29th of the 40+ Formula 1 grid. I finished the race 16th overall and 2nd in the P1 (Privateer) sub-class, my overall race speed was just under 104 mph, including the pit stop and my fastest lap a 107.5 mph, I was chuffed.

This was quite a different Manx for me, last year I started with the shell shock of the course and during the event kind of got it under control. This year I started under control and ended my race with that far away, dazed stare. Going 160+ mph for long periods of time, with jumps and wheelies interspersed is quite a mental overload.

The TZ was a "tool", my Grandstand speed was 151 mph (nowhere near the fastest part of the circuit) and just 5 mph down on the largest 4 stroke. Scott did a fantastic job, the bike was fast, ride-able and reliable.

To give you a brief view of what it is like to ride the TZ, here is part of the circuit. You come out of the Nook to enter the start finish straight, this is super slow and slippery. The bike is very eager to accelerate in first and it is difficult to smoothly apply the throttle, standing the bike up right I short shift into 2nd.

Now out of the slippery stuff and upright I fully open the throttles, the power hits in 2nd gear, up comes the front wheel and I try to hold the throttles open for as long as possible as I see more of the sky, I change into third, as the power comes in again, the front wheel hovers a foot above the track. Accelerating hard I hit 4th, 5th and 6th just before the start/finish line.

You can see a fuzzy blur of people at the side of the track, but at 150 mph your periphery vision does not work. At 10k in 6th gear (165 mph) you cross the first traffic lights, the bike wheelies as you lean slightly left, this is followed by a crest as the road goes slightly right, you take off for a brief second. You now really start the steepest part of decent down Bray Hill, as the road bears left again and you prepare for the bottom of the hill.

Holding the throttle fully open at this stage still takes me a lot of will power, in my head I scream M F'er as I hit the apex at the bottom of the hill. You are crushed into the tank by the force of the dip and then rise out of the over side of the hill. Throttle still pinned.

At Ago's leap the bike wheelies hard in 6th gear for perhaps 50 yards, it lands for another 50 and you hit a crest again and the bike wheelies again. As it lands for the second time, I have the biggest grin on my face!

That is just 1 of 38 miles of similarly equal and intense fun. Now repeat that for 4 laps, well, you can see why I still have a far-away stare.

A1R in practice

A1R in parc ferme

Scott fine tuning the A1R gears

Ade Critten and Dave at Festival of Jurby with Dave's P & M Kawasaki

TZ with the slightly enlarged tank which was ACU approved. Many thanks to Rob Brew for loaning the tank to me. I could not have done two laps without you!

Start of the Formula 1 race between the refueling tanks

The Wall. This is why I love the Isle of Man.

Lap 4. Collecting bugs.

Steve Baker and Freddie Spencer interview over Dave's TZ750. Where's Dave? Parked at Glen Helen pub with a broken A1R.

Lorraine catching up on local news on the can

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