Ever get jealous of Mr Whitham’s seemingly endless days of fun? Well you can relax, because by anyone’s standards James has been a one-man calamity zone this month!
I don’t know whether it’s just bad luck or fate that’s punishing us for something, but this month, everything me or the missus touched seamed to turn to shit !
It all started to go wrong when I was asked to go to Donington with a mate of mine to help him get up to speed on his new supersports bike. Johnny has entered this years Manx Grand Prix and to qualify for his “mountain license” he needs to compete in six club meetings and get a signature for each to say he’s finished in the top half of the field. He’s done some racing a few years back, and although I’m fairly sure he could qualify quite easily anyway, he wanted me to give him a few pointers at a couple of trackdays...Just to make sure.
I borrowed an R1 Yamaha and off we set in Johnny’s van for a day of coaching. Even though it was cold and blustery, as you’d expect in February the forecast was for the weather to deteriorate as the day went on so we were keen to get out on track as soon as possible. By the third session it had started to spit and a lot of people, including Johnny had decided to come into the pits to see which way it was going to go. 20 minutes later it hadn’t got any worse, and although there were definitely spots of rain in the air the track surface didn’t seem to be getting wet at all.
My student was a bit nervous so I told him I’d do a couple of laps to assess the track conditions. The track looked dry and there still felt to be a reasonable amount of grip to be had...So I pulled in and delivered a peptalk about how this was “mental” rain...i.e. it existed mostly in the mind because the wind was drying the surface as fast as the rain was landing and we should go out and do some more laps .
Two laps after going back out, just as I was starting to think the tyres would have some heat in ’em I opened the gas coming out of Redgate and the rear stepped out, then gripped and before I could say “oh bugger” it’d flicked me over the top. Funny thing was, once I was in mid-air I seamed to have loads of time to think about things...how I would have to tell Shoey about his R1 being a different shape...how I would have to endure the “walk of shame” up a pitlane full of punters with grass sods hanging out of my leathers and how I was getting a bit old for all this nonsense.
News of this embarrassing episode spread faster than the bubonic plague...even as I’m getting changed out of my trashed leathers texts are flooding in...everything from “the old magic’s still there then ?” to “did he spot your deliberate mistake?”...mates eh...
In my defence, before I throw myself on the mercy of the court I have to say that conditions were tricky, and if you discount off-roaders and the Goodwood gatepost debacle it’s been seven years since I crashed a bike. In a weird kind of way it’s good to know that I still bounce !
On arriving back at home one day I got out of my car and neglected to apply the hand-brake properly...or leave the car in gear...and with a drive as steep as ours this is always going to end badly.
As I clicked the kettle on to make myself a nice cup o’ tea I heard a crunching sound and then a couple of seconds later a car alarm going off...my car alarm! The errant motor had gone down my drive, through a dry stone wall, down a two foot drop and onto my decking.
The third mechanical trauma I encountered was the clutch falling apart on Andreas horsebox. As “sods law” dictates it happened during morning rush-hour with a horse in the back.
I had to borrow another horsebox, struggle through the traffic jam that we’d caused and help Andrea swap the by now very nervous “Patsy” from one wagon to the other. Then I put the thing in bottom gear, left the hazards on, turned the key, the engine fired and off we went at 4mph. The hardest part was timing the traffic lights so I didn’t have to stop...Oh, and putting up with the wrath of the other road users. If you were caught in the mayhem that morning I apologise . . .
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