SPA 4 Hour Endurance 2012

Then the fun really started with our European trip. Everything had been staged at my parent’s home. After a cup of tea and saying hi to my Mum and Dad, I went to check out the bike and the parts. The bike looked great, but it did not fit me and there was nowhere to fit the second battery for the lights. Fortunately my Dad is a welder and we made some mods to the frame to move the seat back, relocate a frame cross brace and fit another battery under the seat. The day after my buddy Jeff arrived and we mounted all the lights, switches, fuses and added the wiring loom. Then the first test, how long would a large Shorei battery last with all of the lights on. Well it last 70 minutes, which meant we needed some careful battery management.

We headed over to Spa, via the Chunnel on Wednesday for registration and tech on Thursday, practice Friday and Saturday and the race starting at 8pm on Saturday night finishing at mid-night. My co-rider was another Jeff, he and I had shared some incredible races at Mosport and we had struck up a friendship chatting over the races and moves over beers. His father and brother joined the team as well as Mike and Hurley, who happened to have a European vacation planned at the same time with his wife Brenda. We all met at a café in Spa and had a few beers and a meal.

Registration and tech was long, different but eventually non eventful and we set up our pit in a garage shared with two other teams. Some AHRMA friends in the next slot. Well, our garage mates had obviously done this before, they had full cooking equipment, picnic tables, even a tent in the garage…. We had chairs but little else. They had sophisticated pit boards, we planned to use the top of a folding table, we just laughed at how relatively unprepared we were.

Friday we made it on the track, the bike ran OK, not fast, but OK, but the forks bottomed badly on the brakes, we added preload, thanks to some modified sockets. Then a misfire started, the bike spitting and popping quite badly. Despite this we managed to qualify about 25th about of 70 teams, including the mandatory night sessions. The P&M although not fast was very stable and, I guess was fast enough. The lights were not super bright but bright enough.

Saturday came around and we practiced more, the misfire got far worse. Thanks to some other Brit racers we diagnosed the issue as the ignition box and they lent us another unit. It worked and the bike ran well. We fitted LED lights to the bike to make it easier to spot and mounted a small clock on the tach, our plan to pit on each hour. We practiced our pit stop made more complicated by the fact we needed to swap batteries on each stop for the total loss ignition and lights.

At 8pm we lined up, you start with a dead engine pushing the bike to fire the engine. Jeff took the honor of the first leg, unfortunately the new ignition made the bike very hard to start and we were 67th out of 70 bikes into the first corner. Over the next hour Jeff pulled us back to 32nd, excellent!

On time he pulled into the pits and our team did a great job, 4+ gallons of fuel, two battery swaps, screen cleaned and bike checked over in 45 seconds. I jumped on happy to be in the race. I quickly got into a rhythm, still working my line on El Rouge the signature corner of the track. After what seemed like many laps, I checked the clock, it was 25 minutes into the hour, just the length of my normal sprint races! A couple more laps in, the “Headlamp on” sign came up, so I flicked on just one light, I would have been fine with nothing, but I guess people need to see me. As the light continued to diminish, the red flashing LED on my helmet became an issue, the reflection on the screen was way too distracting. I pulled in as my hour came to an end. I had moved us up to 16th.

Another quick pit stop and Jeff was off. I sat down stretching out, but Jeff returned, the bike had stopped. We tried for the next 90 minutes to get a spark, but there was nothing. Dang, game over, the ignition had completely failed. We opened up some beers and celebrated anyway, getting an early start on the riders coming in at the end of the 4 hours.

Looking at the lap times, at the pace we were running, we were on track for a top 10 finish.

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