James has never let the glamour and fame of World Championship racing get in the way of being a down-to-earth, funny-as-fook, all-round good bloke.
Earnshaws, my local bike shop in Huddersfield, has occasional midweek bike runs out and this time round I went along. Me and a pal of mine, King, went - him on his nearly brand new Fazer 1000 and me on an FJR1300, sports-tourer thing, I borrowed from the shop. The night were billed as a ride out to Bridlington, which is about 85 miles from the shop. Fish and chips on the seafront, that sort of thing.
It started raining, drizzling a bit really and we stopped at Squire's Cafe a famous bikers' place. We had a cup of tea and a chat with some of the lads there, but by the time we had arrived we were wet through. All the lads from Earnshaws were like, "Oh, are we going to make our way out east now if we're all wet?" I said "Am I bollocks going back to Huddersfield. We were promised fish and chips in Bridlington, so I'm gonna have fish and chips in Bridlington!"
So we all set off again and had a belting ride from there on in. That FJR1300 was a really good thing. You can scratch on it to a point, but you could read a book, it's that quiet behind the screen at speed. King wanted a shot on the FJR, so we swapped. He said to me, "There's only 1000 miles on my bike, it's not run in yet, so be careful with it." I jumped on his bike and wheelied it right through the gearbox!
The Donington Supersport race was a bit disappointing really, to have come so close to a podium and not get there in the end. There was a great crowd, weather were good and after winning at Monza, I was really looking forward to a result. But it's funny, fifteen minutes into first practice and I knew it weren't to be. The bike were great in Italy, but on the day it just didn't suit Donington - nowt changed except the track. Paolo Casoli, my team-mate, is really good at Donington and I knew soon enough I wasn't going to beat him there because his riding style doesn't promote the same chatter I was getting from my bike. Plus he rode really well, and he deserved his win. In a way, I wish I had been in with no chance of getting a podium because I were so close. But it was points and a year ago I might well have jumped off trying to go for the win.We had a Speedfreak trackday at Donington midweek after the race and now as a regular thing we have four guys who are not so much roving marshals as roving instructors, who are all good steady instructor types, who are a calming influence on the rest of them. We've just bought four sets of Texport leathers, all matching helmets gloves and boots and so on for them. The boys all asked for their names to be put on the back, so we sorted that out with the suppliers and then they said to us, "Can we have some badges on as well?" We said, "What do you mean badges?" They replied, "Well, any kind of badges - we're not bothered. We just want some of them cloth badges covered by clear plastic, so they look like trick race leathers." So we got Lloyds Lifestyle to sew anything on them. The boys were all pimping round all day in these leathers, which fitted lovely by the way, and do look good.
I've been getting involved a bit with big Rob McElnea in a bike shop called Macsport Motorcycles, in Brackley, and we've been busy putting some old bikes in the window. I've got an immaculate 1975 RD250 and a similar Fizzie and they're going in there on loan. I went down and the whole place was going from strength-to-strength. It's going to be a really nice shop. It didn't look much at one stage, but it's getting really good. There's going to be a little cafe and a few racing bikes, like my Boost Yamaha and Mackenzie's old ROC Yam. Plus some spanked up and broken race bits, all with a story to them and that. So it will be a right good place.
Me and Shooey share this little aeroplane, as I've maybe told you before. My sister was camping in Cornwall, so I decided that we would have a bit of a fly down to a place called Truro. I had arranged to have a day down there, with another friend, who had to go to work at the last minute, so I went on me own. It was a superb day when I flew down, and we had a great time, so my sister said, "oh just stop down here for the night."
Trouble was, we awoke to find fog everywhere. I couldn't take off - for two whole days. It was Thursday when I went down and Saturday when I got back. Like the saying goes, time to spare, go by air. But I was glad I didn't try to fly in weather like that because your first mistake could be your last. Me dad always says you're better off standing on t'floor wishing you were flying than, in the air wishing you were on t'floor, and not knowing how to get down.
We played with the band on same day I got back from Cornwall. A right good do it was, too. I was sitting with Andrea, and some people she was speaking to, during a break in proceedings. This young lad came up to me, trying to look older than he was, looking a bit earnest and furtive really. He said to me, right funny like, "Do you have a bird with you tonight?" I said, "Why?" And he said "because my bird's mate will go wi' you, if you want..." Groupies! Finally! I pissed myself laughing and turned to Andrea and said to the boy, "have you not met the wife?" He was like, "Oh shit..."
The band scene has been busy because the lads played a gig when I was in Germany for the Lausitz race. The atmosphere in the place was brilliant apparently, but the toilets were right at the back of the hall, with none at the back of the stage. Jep the singer phoned me with the details, saying 'You missed the best gig of the year!"
Turned out that before they went out for the final encore, Big Bob the guitar player needed a piss, so he went to the side of the stage looking for somewhere to go. He found the fire escape outside and went to pee down the stairs - but he tripped and fell down them instead.
He dislocated his two fingers and knocked himself out - but the other lads didn't know until it was time for the encore and he never showed up. Jep went out, saw this figure at the bottom of the stairs and started shouting and swearing at him to get his arse back on stage. They had to get the ambulance and everything. He had a night in hospital, too. Poor bugger!
The race wasn't too great for me at Lausitzring, but when you qualify as badly as I do generally, you're asking for it, being stuck in the middle of the pack, so I don't blame anybody for what happened. But still load of old bollocks really. The circuit wasn't that bad, but with all the temporary cones and makeshift track markings it seemed to me that they spent a lot of money to make the new Carnaby!
We went to a party after the race at the Kawasaki hospitality tent, where they had this big mechanical bull thing, painted up to look like a Superbike, and the winner of the men's competition was Colin Edwards - a Texan. No doubt he'd done the real thing at some time in his life back home. Anyway, they just could not get him off of the thing. They tried as hard as they could, made it go as wild as possible but he was fantastic, absolutely brilliant. Honest, he looked like a professional wild bull rider!
Andrea, horsewoman that she is, ended up winning the woman's competition, and all the Italians were lauding her, shouting "Il Campione!"
She was really badly knocked about by the bull though, because it wanged her off and swiped her on the way down. She won it though, but she was horrible to me after. She said, "Well, that trip wasn't a complete waste of time. One of us won this weekend - at least one of us can do the job!" Bitchy or what!I'm getting my old LC done up now, properly restored, because Mackenzie has been in my head about it. He's got one all restored now and he reckons we should all meet up on them and go hang about outside his local chippy. So I'm trying to get the dead right new original exhausts - and I'm struggling a bit. It's V-reg, mine, one of the original ones, because there were only 150 of them brought into the country on V-Reg. It's sooooo nice! When I look at it, it is still a nice looking bike. Not an old looking thing at all. Or maybe it's just me showing my age?
Misano in Italy is next fixture for the racing, and then we have a big lay-off until we head to Brands Hatch for the British round on July 29. It's gonna be a big one.See you there.
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