What I thought was an unbreakable engine after finishing the Snetterton round proved to be otherwise; after only 2 laps of practice at Oulton Park, it blew up!


Oulton is one of those circuits I love…when it all goes right. Last year my lap times on the ZX-10R were in the 1:42’s, so I was looking forward to setting a good pace this year.

Having had time to think about the bike’s handling issues and more time to fix the throttle response, I was ready to go.



Two bikes all set and ready to go…


It was a lovely sunny morning when I rolled out on to the Cheshire tarmac. First lap nice and easy, bike was feeling good. Then on to the second lap, bang went the motor. Luckily, I was at the side of the track and managed to get on to the grass quickly. When the smoke had finally cleared I could see a hole in the front of the crankcase. The con rod on number 3 cylinder had snapped!



Gutted, the shrapnel after the explosion! Remnants of our ZX10-R motor...


That was the end of the weekend for the ZX10-R. But thankfully, not the end of the weekend for me, although we were still in for a few problems ahead.

So, we parked the main bike and put the warmers on my old Golden Era Superbike – the Kawasaki ZX7-R. I had entered it in the Thunderbike Ultra Class because I thought that the bike could do with a good run for a change. I was glad I did otherwise I would’ve been going home.



With the ZX10-R back in the van, it was time to focus on the old champ again…


It took all day to get the bike to run properly. Not surprising really, as It had been stood for quite a while at home. After every session, it was off with the tank to tweak the flat-side carbs. The bike seemed to want to run on into the corners. The tick over was hanging high before settling down, and it was unsettling me.

The bike felt awful on the front as well. It was juddering as I braked into the corner. We checked the brake pads and they were well past their best. I had some new ones in the van, but that still didn’t solve the problem. So, we checked the head race bearings at the end of the day and sure enough there was a slight amount of movement. We dropped the forks out and with a bit of help from Peter Baker and a few of the other lads in the garage we cleaned all the bearings and replaced the old grease with new and when it all went back in the bike felt so much smoother turning the bars. A busy day again, but at least we had got the ZX7-R track ready at last. All set for qualifying on Friday.


Rain came early in the morning to dampen hopes of a good lap time for qualifying. I was second session out..

The ZX7-R has never been an easy bike to ride in the wet, but I just needed to get a decent spot on the grid for Race 1 as the weather forecast said it would stay dry for the rest of the day. We swapped the wheels for the wets and as I rode up to the to the holding bay I could feel the bike wobbling on the front. The front wheel I recently bought was slightly bent and I could feel it. I got back to the garage and Dad quickly pulled the other wet wheel and tyre out of the van for ZX10-R which fits with wider spacers. As soon as that was in I rode down to the holding bay – bike not wobbling – only to be turned away as the session finished. I would have to start at the back of the grid for the first race. Not where I wanted to be!

Anyway, as I’d entered the Powerbikes I could at least try the ZX7-R out in their qualifying session. I managed P22. Against all the Powerbikes I was getting murdered on the ZX7-R. The track was actually drying lap by lap with the sun beginning to come through and even though I would be at the back later in the Ultra class, I was really looking forward to it.


In Race 1, I was so far back I could hardly see the lights and when we set off I had to roll off. Riders were weaving in front of me and slowing up. Then I saw the yellow flags waiving and realised there must have been a staller on the grid somewhere. For safety’s sake, I just followed everyone through; dead last into the first corner. Then I got cracking, but it was a sketchy start with me passing riders and them coming past me on the power. We were all backing each other up. Not surprisingly, the ZX7-R struggles against the 170bhp limit in this class.



Keeping my corner speed up, I soon found form closer to where I used to be…


Still, I just had to keep the momentum going and overtook 3 bikes round the outside of Shell Oils at one point. That was fun! Once I settled into a clear position I could see the guys in front and started to make some head way, finishing 6th. I later found out that one rider was penalised for overtaking on a yellow flag and another disqualified, which put me 4th on the sheet.



A 1:48 lap placed me 4 th for race 2. I knew I could do better…


The bike felt OK but was still running on – like there was no engine braking.


After a wait that seemed like ages we were called for race 2: This turned out to be a complete nightmare. Not just for me but for the other riders too. They called us to the holding bay and kept us waiting while they collected fallen riders from the previous race. Why on earth they can’t let us know when the track is clear and call us then just seems to escapes me.



Sitting on the grid for 5 minutes is not good for any bike, but it’s worse for mine…


So, we’re all sitting there with tyres getting cold and my engine getting hotter and hotter. I also have no starter motor on the ZX7-R either. This is to reduce the weight, so I have to push start if I turn it off. I was just about 80 degrees when the Marshall called us to the grid. Problem then was they kept us waiting another 5 minutes and I had turn the engine off at boiling point. You wouldn’t believe it, but about 10 seconds after I hit the kill switch they flagged to start. Despair! One of the start Marshalls tried to help with a couple of pushes, but when the bike is that hot it will not start.

I had to push the bike off the circuit and watch from the side. The race was red-flagged after 3 laps and when I pushed it to start and ride it back…it started first time! Wouldn’t believe it, would you? I had to start in 10th place on Saturday.


Another frustrating day, so me and Dad went for a walk round the circuit to stretch our legs, talk things over and try to calm down. Walking round I started to think about the engine braking issue and decided that while the oil was out of the bike I’d get the clutch out and replace one of the plates with a thicker one. Nothing to lose, it was worth a try.

Well, it worked because in Race 4 the ZX7-R was beginning to feel like it’s old self again braking into the corners was so much better. After a fairly good start I was riding in 5th place. With the gap closing on the riders in front, I was enjoying the chase. Then one rider made a mistake at the chicane, and had to run on and this put me up to 4th. Then the other rider ran wide allowing me to take advantage and finish 3 rd. I was well pleased, and the lap times – a 1:45.9 – put me on the front row… where I like to be!



Just like old times, back on the front row again…


In the last race I got an even better start from the front row and was running second up to the chicane after Shell Oils. At this point the rider in front backed us all up and I lost my drive out and up the rise just after. This allowed quite a few of the more powerful bikes to come past me – it was hard work after that. Still, I managed to pass a few more and I didn’t know what position I was. All I could see was Mark Wilby and I was reeling him in lap after lap eventually overtaking him on the exit of Shell Oils. Pleased with the move I was in 4 th and on the last lap Wallington crashed at Lodge and I finished 3 rd again.



Two nice bronze medals from Bemsee…


A couple of medals for our efforts dulled the pain of the broken ZX10-R but when I think of how it could have been, it still nags at me. Mainly because, even if I just repeated last year’s times, I would’ve been in the top 3 at least.


I’d like to thank all the lads in the garage, like Peter Baker, Harry Hinchcliffe, my old mate Martin Stanier who came to watch and Andy Scanlon, who rides in the Extreme Class for their support, without there encouragement it would’ve been a lot more depressing that’s for sure.


Now we have to think about what to do with the broken ZX10-R, it’s not going to easy. Once again, a big thanks to those who have helped me so far and to all my sponsors.


Loomies Café and Shop

Wossner Performance Pistons

Vance & Hines

R&G Racing

OPIE oils

Cradley Kawasaki

TBR Performance

Maxton Suspension

OCS Engineering


Ritchie 71

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