Hurtle Goes Racing - The Importance Of Spares

Author: Dave Roberts   Date Posted: 22 November 2018 

Ducati Pantah Clutch PartsThe Pantah is a beautiful thing.  It sounds great, I've come to agree that it looks good, even though I was not completely sure about that at the beginning, it attracts attention, and it pulls like a train.

Ducatis have always been renowned for their handling, but their reputation for reliability has been a bit dodgy.

This one has actually been pretty good in most cases.  The bike ticks over and goes when I ask it, but as with anything that has lived a long and productive life, there are glitches.  The mechanics have been good, but time after time, a forty year old joint in the wiring would give out.  These are fairly easy fixes, once you find them, but for the first couple of years of racing it, every weekend I'd find myself searching for a tiny little problem with a test light or a multimeter.  Things like pulling apart the killswitch and cleaning all the contact surfaces are no great big issue, but they take a moment and that moment can mean missing a practice session or a race.  A couple of times we found tiny issues that weren't the bike's fault at all, but something had been. 

So after basically a couple of years of really good reliability and a motor that revs way beyond it's redline, sweetly and honestly, we'd found all the little hiccups we're likely to find, and for this year, it's gone every time.  The option to sit between the sessions and drink in the atmosphere then approach your own track time in a calm, even handed way is just what this racing caper is all about.

But every so often, something is going to go wrong.  Last meet, on practice/tuning day, I'd been trying something.  The bike has been getting better and better, but I've not been going any faster.  If the bike and rider combination isn't getting any quicker even though the bike is getting better, then the rider part is failing.  As an example, Steve is about my pace.  I started a little after him, and we've both had our struggles, At the end of last year, I'd got down to about 64 seconds around Collie.  Steve was about the same.  He's built his bike up too, and it's going better than it used to.  Meeting before last he was down to about 60 seconds, mostly beating me but because I'm pulling harder, he was finding me hard to pass, so if I got the right start, I'd still beat him, even though he's quicker.  If he got past, I wouldn't catch him.

Thinking this through, I came to the conclusion that I needed to make more corner speed.  I've got better suspension than I did, and I've had more time on track, but somewhere in my mind, there's a switch that's not flipping on and making the pace.  Up I went and after some discussion with other people, I decided to put on the safety vest so everyone would know I was to be treated with caution, and headed out with the simple change to my process.  Don't use the brakes.

Clearly, the brakes are there so you can get your speed up through the straight bits, and hold that speed for as long as possible to get round quickly, then you throw out the anchors, get down to a speed where the corner is achievable, go through and hit the gas again.  It doesn't take an Einstein to see that without brakes, you have to back off a lot earlier, and if you want to get anywhere at all, you hold the corner speed as best you can.  Without reaching the top speed, you're bound to be slower.  What I found though, is that you think your way through a corner and spend more time and brain power making it right.  After just 2 sessions up there, I was making 65 second laps.  Without brakes I was only one second a lap slower.

Something that made me very happy was that during the session, I had broken my rules.  A couple of times at turn 4, I'd been setting up the corner, and guys on more modern machinery had come past me under brakes.  They had all the goods to get round faster than the heavy old 1980 machine, but they'd thrown it all put so they could get round, and I'd had to brake to stop belting the back of them.  The system apparently works (for me at least).

My third session arrived.  We started the bike and I slowly approached the pit opening.  As the track opened, I clicked it into first gear and the thing stalled.  My mind was doing lots of things about how to get round corners faster, what if I could actually get round faster without brakes than when I used them last meet?  Into neutral, fire up the V twin, and pull the clutch.  Nothing.  I'd snapped a clutch cable.  The only thing to do was take her back to the pits and fix the cable.

Now the point of the post is that if I'd had a cable with me, I'd have missed the one session.  As it happened, my cable ends are not standard size.  No one had the right gear to do the soldering.  I had less skills than I needed.  The Pantah clutch is incredibly heavy so the first temporary fix some guys in the pits had, lasted one pull.  Then Marty appeared out of no where and given that he's been making dodgy bikes run for about 300 years, he pulled a fix out of thin air.  Thin air and a couple of hours.  The couple of hours were crucial.  If I'd got 2 more sessions that day, my improvements in the cornering department could have been pretty significant.  A piddly little cable brought all that to an end, my track day was over.

So Team Hurtle is going to Phillip Island to race the Island Classic.  If I wait til I'm championship material I could get very old.  I'm going to grid up with the greats, and then compete as best I can to see how far from the back I can get.  To be honest, I don't really care how far from the back I get, it's Phillip freakin' Island.  When I arrive, in the crate with the bike will be spare levers, spare footpegs, spare brake pads, spare high tension leads, coils, a battery, fluids, a master cylinder, and a bunch of other stuff.  These things aren't mightily expensive, and I really can't risk the weekend ending over a tiny mishap.

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