RBRacing/Labman back to full strength at East Fortune Scottish Championships.

Gerry Johnson Just For Fun, RBRacing

Report by Richy.

The team, now back to full strength with my return, took the leisurely drive up to what looked to be a sunny East Fortune Race circuit near North Berwick, for a round of the Scottish Championships. The team were also one member stronger this weekend with daughter Skye making her first appearance at only 6 weeks old (such is her commitment to the team!!!)

For once RBR arrived in plenty of time to set up the “garage” and get both bikes through Technical Inspection in fine fettle, with Gerry and I both looking forward to the weekend’s racing, Gerry having fitted new carburettors to his bike and hoping for better performance, whilst it was my first visit to the circuit since 2009.

A full grid of over 30 bikes were expected to line up on the grid and although the RBR bikes had a class of their own they were also part of the race proper which included Post Classic Bikes (pre 1988). Don’t be fooled by their age thinking the bikes are slow, some of the bikes on the grid were producing over 150 bhp at the back wheel! Our little CB’s struggle to develop 50 bhp.

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“Where the hell are the starting lights?”

A night of heavy rain meant the team’s first practice would be a wet one. Wets were duly fitted and off we both went! The beauty of this club is that there is a practice and a seperate qualifying session which is quite unusual (normally just a qualifying). This meant the team could use the session to re- familiarise themselves with the track, rather than gunning for a quick time. We were both steady away in the wet, particularly myself, as I had a big crash here in the wet in 2008. Both riders returned safely with Gerry’s new carbs working well, seeming to give the bike better throttle response. He was also running some refreshed rear shocks which gave him more confidence. My own bike had been stood since March and I found the front brake was fading badly. A front brake bleed with new brake fluid along with new pads sorted that out.

By this time for qualifying the track was dry and “slick” tyres were fitted. The riders sped off on what was a frantic qualifying session, with both of us struggling to get a clear lap. The East Fortune circuit is mainly 3rd, 4th and 5th gear corners, so keeping momentum and corner speed is critical for a good lap time. Both riders returned safely knowing that they could ride harder, but that would be kept for the race whilst still posting very good grid slots. A good showing, considering the calibre of the other bikes on the grid. I qualified 8th and Dad (Gerry) 21st out of about 35 bikes. The times were close which meant the racing would be very competitive. Gerry was a bit disappointed as he went slower than last time out in May but I explained its only qualifying and at club level nearly everyone goes quicker in the race.

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“Nicely up the inside thank you!”

The first race drew closer with the team raring to go. One advantage of the little CB’s is that they get off the line very well compared to bigger bikes so we both would take advantage of this going down the back straight for the first time. As the lights went out there were a couple of jump starts on the front row which put a few people off but not Dad and I, as into the first corner I managed to get into the top 5 and Gerry had also made considerable progress.  As the race progress the little bikes were diving up the inside of the bigger bikes into the two hairpins whilst the big Post Classics pulled away along the straights – which made for some great racing! Gerry was starting to find his groove as he started to lap in the 1.13’s for the first time this weekend and I managed to get into the 1.09’s. The race ended with the number 56 bike of mine coming home in an excellent 9th place in front of some much bigger and faster bikes with Gerry coming home very well inside the top 20 from a full grid of over 30 starters.

The race programme fell behind so it meant our second race was to be carried over to the Sunday. This meant a packed schedule of three races on Sunday for the team. Myself, Dad, Mam, Ally and new team member Skye, settled down for a bbq and Skye to her first bath in the caravan!!

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Flat in fourth, peeling into the very fast first corner

Sunday morning came and some heavy rain overnight meant the track was damp with us both out for our race at 9.30am. A quick look at the track saw it drying very quickly and it would be almost dry by the time the race came round. Lining up on the grid for the warm up lap most riders have a chance to practice their starts going into the first corner. However, there was a big puddle of water just as the bikes “tip in” to the 80 mph right hander…….this would be hairy in the race and especially the first lap! The rest of the track however was in good shape. As the lights went out, we both got off the line well again. Going into the first corner I was 3rd and Gerry well into the top 20, we both decided to shut their eyes, stay off the brake and follow the guy in front through the puddle! It worked! As the front tyre gripped we were both away down the back straight for the first time. Unfortunately I got swallowed up by three bikes down the straight but then out braked two of them going into “railway” corner! Gerry did a “Jorge Lorenzo” and kept momentum hanging it around the outside of other riders!! We were both doing well and raising a few eyebrows against the bigger bikes! Managing to hold onto 5th for the first lap I then began a race long battle with fellow CB500 rider Alan brookbanks (who was on a powerful 4 cylinder 600cc machine this weekend), with Gerry in front of some of the guys who were beating him yesterday.


Not really interested in the racing…….

The damp patches were riding well and it was essentially a dry race as we both started to push a bit harder, Gerry’s target was to get into the 1.12’s and myself into the 1.08’s. This would mean Gerry  hanging onto the gaggle of riders just in front of him, and myself having a shot at beating Alan and getting into the top 5! The race ended with two strong performances from both riders. I managed to finish just behind Alan in 7th and Gerry finishing in an excellent 13th! My laps were in the 1.09’s flat and Gerry in the low 1.13’s. A discussion then went ahead as to how we could both improve lap times. Most time was to be gained in the 5th gear Esses, the first part taken at about 100mph. It’s what’s called a “man’s corner,” or one you take your brain out for a brief moment! I managed to hold the bike in 5th gear along the straight leading up to the “Esses”, as the little bikes don’t pull very well in top, and it would save time on changing gear. Gerry decided on the same.

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Out of the second gear hairpin

As the third race came round conditions were good and the wind had dropped a bit. Both riders were up for this one!! As the lights went out I managed my best start of the weekend and quickly got tucked in down the back straight into the big bikes’ slip stream. Gerry start was not so good in this one but got stuck in and some brave late braking saw him make up some lost ground. Holding 5th gear seemed faster down the straight as it allowed both riders to stay in the tow a bit longer, getting pulled along, even though the little bikes were nearly on the rev limiter. I enjoyed a race long battle with Alan Brookbanks but was determined to get the better of him. On the final lap I dived up the inside of him as we came up onto some backmarkers! Job done! Gerry was also going for it, beating many of his nearest rivals to finish inside the top 15 and doing a 1.12 in the process!! On return to the garage both riders were chuffed with the battles in the race and achieving their target lap times, at the same time upsetting some of the bigger bikes in the process!!!

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About to get hard on the brakes after the flat out “Esses”!

Time was knocking on and by the time the last race of the weekend came round they had reduced the number of laps from 10 to 6. This would probably favour us both as it meant we could “escape” before getting reeled in over the course of a longer race by the bigger machinery. With conditions near perfect and the wind dropping the bikes were ready on the grid. It was Gerry this time who got the better start, probably because he couldn’t see the lights as he had developed a bout of cold, and sneezing in your helmet is not good. I got another solid start and dipped underneath Brookbanks to hold 5th on the first lap, whilst Gerry was going well, circulating within the top 15. I eventually got my head down and set my fastest lap of the weekend at 1.08.5, to pull a small gap between myself and the 6th place rider. Gerry was going well, although he couldn’t quite match his time of earlier, he was putting in consistent fast laps. A small mistake running wide coming out of the hairpin off the kerb and just onto the grass meant me having to roll off the throttle, leaving Brookbanks a gap to come through which he duly did. With only one lap remaining the gap was too much for myself and I came home in a good 6th. Gerry also got mugged by a couple towards the end of the race but still managed a well earned 16th place.

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Richy up towards the front again

All in all a very successful and fun return to the Scottish circuit. The team would like to thank Labman for their continued support. It was apparent that the Scottish race commentator and fellow racers were certainly impressed by the little blue bikes’ presentation and speed.

See you in August!!

Gerry, Jan, Richy, Ally and Skye