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Cadwell saw the joining up for the rest of this season of X-Bikes and STP Racing in an effort to take the best from both teams and see if we could develop a strong challenge with the MV Agusta’s for the last few rounds of the Championship and Cup competitions. And so it was that the MV of Martin Buckles lined up alongside the MV of Chris Burns, both bikes having been prepared by Chris at X-Bikes.

Martin Buckles

Martin started the Free Practice session on his familiar #58 bike, and the familiar soft tissue shoulder injury not fully healed. That said, he’d been looking very impressive when we came here a short while ago on the MV Owners Track Day. Martins weekend got off to a flying start with a spectacular 5th place in the first session, less than a second behind pole sitter Jon Kirkham. Very impressive indeed. Martin also gave some valuable feedback that enabled Chris to refine the changes for the first qualifying session later in the day. Martin was also 3rd fastest through the speed trap in sector one so clearly the bikes are well up with the best in terms of power.

In qualifying one Martin quickly found another couple of tenths but such was the ferocity at the sharp end he ended up in 13th place. What was really unfortunate was the front end tucking in up in the wooded section which saw Martin land awkwardly on his bad shoulder again and taking a very hard impact through the straw bales. When the bike came back it looked quite extensively damaged with most of the things that should be on the right side completely missing.

Chris took the bike back to his workshop during the evening and it was worked on overnight, returning to the circuit pretty much rebuilt by 14:00 on Sunday, in time for qualifying two. How these guys have a big crash and then just get back on like nothing happened is, I guess what separates the people that write about it and those that do it.

After the accident Martin found over half a second to put him in the 1min 32 seconds bracket between John Boy Lee and Luke Quigley, impressive stuff but now relegated to 16th on the grid. Once again some good feedback gave Chris some ideas about how to find a confidence inspiring set-up for the race on Monday. But first we have the Monday morning Warm Up to deal with. This is supposed to be a quick 10 minute shake down to make sure the bike is race worthy following overnight fiddling. Although the overall times were slower than for the qualifying Martin showed great spirit with 14th quickest and a promise that the race would go better still.

Cadwell has what must be the most frightening start line in the world. The track looks about 2 metres wide with 4 bikes pretty much abreast, there is no room for mistakes here. Once off the line the next hazard on the thin track is the outrageously fast first left hand uphill corner. What the statistics cannot show is the drama of the race. Martin got a pretty decent start, and just as he was tipping in to the first corner at well over 100 mph another rider clipped him and he went flying off the track and over the grass. All I heard was a large cheer from the crowd as Martin skilfully road half a lap on the grass before getting the bike, still upright and intact back onto the circuit in last place. From here on it was head down and bum up as he chased down the pack ahead. Martin managed a 32.751 which was the 9th quickest lap out of all the competitors that finished. What would the result have been had he not had that trip to the grass. Well done Martin, a shame you had to ride so hard for no result. Better luck as we go to a circuit many think will suit the MV Agusta.

Chris Burns

As always, Chris was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of getting on the bike and racing again. His enthusiasm for the job is an inspiration to us all. In the Free Practice session Chris was quickly into the 1 minute 34 seconds bracket but was still finding the bike a bit of a handful in many places round the track. Fastest across the Start/Finish line clearly the bike didn’t lack power, and also second quickest through the first flowing high speed section showed that the bike had low speed handling deficiencies. Chris finished the session a rather disappointed 16th but with a lot of feedback to give. Back at the workshop all the finest minds we could muster put their collective wisdom into trying to sort the handling dilemma out. A radical solution was suggested, to lower the ride height of the bike both front and back so that it sat closer to the ground. Along with some other tweaks to the front and back that was it.

Qualifying one saw Chris improve from a 34.319 seconds to a 33.6, a whopping 7 tenths improvement although this dropped Chris back one place to 17th. However Chris was much happier with this set up and a few more adjustments, spring changes and thicker fork oil should see the job done. Roll on Qualifying session two tomorrow.

Qualifying two was clearly going to be very important for Chris who was languishing down in 17th place a the beginning of the session. The plan was to get a feel for the new set-up, come in and make any tweaks that time allowed, test those adjustments and then come in in the last 10 minutes to stick a new rear tyre in and go for a good time. With just 6 minutes to go Chris came in and the new rear was duly inserted. As in all good fairy tales the overnight changes, and the new tyre allowed Chris to find some good pace and he went over 1 second quicker to post 10th place on the grid by the end of the session. This is the best qualifying position we’ve had all year so naturally we were delighted, al of us except one person that is. Chris, being the pro that he is wanted to continue developing the bike until we found the next bit of time he needed to run with the guys at the front, so it was back to burning the brain cells and midnight oil to get an even better set-up. It was gone 11pm before the engineers called it a night, once again the forks having been dropped out of the bike and the ride height lowered again.

Race day Warm Up arrived, and it was very early with deep shadow on some parts of the track, plus it was colder than anyone had ridden all week end. Chris managed to get on the back of a group of three other riders including Glen Richards who is leading the series at the moment. Chris was able to stay with that group for the session which boosted his confidence immensely knowing that he could race at the pace of the guys at the front. As it turned out Chris was 9th quickest in the session just one thousandths of a second behind the talented Ben Wilson. Now we were all feeling good about the race to come.

All that was left to do was some routine tidying up and a quick engine oil and filter change and we were ready to roll.

Chris had experienced problems launching the bike all weekend so it was no doubt in the back of his mind as they lined up for the rather cramped start. As the light went out Chris immediately dropped back as the pack came past him and all the good work in qualifying counted for not much. By the end of the lap he was 17th and on lap 2 he was 15th. He then stayed in 15th which surprised all of us rather, and when he dropped to 16th we knew something was wrong. Eventually he pulled in to the pit lane to tell us that he had clutch slip right from the start and it was now bouncing off the rev limiter in 6th gear. As he only normally uses 5 gears at this track it was clearly too bad to continue. Taking the positives from this though, we know that Chris on the MV is very fast indeed through the quick sections of the track and a place like Donington would suit the bike better than Cadwell anyway. The bike is much closer to being set-up to a competitive standard now and all we can do is look forward to a great weekend at Donington Park.
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