The first round of the BSB 2021 season which tied up with the World Superbike Championship at Donington circuit came and went without major incident two weekends ago. Brilliant layout, fast, flowing and horribly slippy in the damp and wet – a regular feature of this elevated, East Midlands Airport locale. Matched with a fairly horrific weather forecast even the deeply cynical could be forgiven for the expectation that this may be a tricky, problematic expedition.
But, hooray, it went pretty swimmingly – some water around but not on our sessions thank goodness. It may seem that we don’t like the wet but at Donny we don’t like the wet for the many sliding heroes we frequently witness at Macleans, Coppice, Old hairpin and Redgate corners – well actually add Goddards and Melbourne to that (almost the whole circuit then).
We rode our luck and enjoyed a dry track for all of our sessions. This meant we could focus on developing the limited suspension data we had from last year.
Our budget isn’t big enough to have made use of the BSB test day offered there earlier in June but having attended this place so many times – Sam #3 first rode a bike on track here aged 13 – it’s like home in some way. It has some excellent sections which suit the brave, smooth rider. Getting on the gas hard up through Old Hairpin to Mcleans corner is….. well, a real gas to the senses. Watching WSBK bikes sprint down Craner curves, throttle pinned, leant over right then left, then hard on brakes, is a racing spiritually beautiful thing. What motorbikes were clearly designed to do in the hands of such gifted pilots.
Our first visit to the circuit on Friday practice went well. The plan was to stay out all session, get plenty of laps in and return data laden so we could analyse and tweak accordingly. And so it transpired. The pace was not to full potential but the very first laps on the GP circuit on the V2 built more good track time and proved the bike was behaving itself although suspension needed adjustment. Electronics worked!
Two main issues came out of this first practice and into the second qualifying session later in the day. Getting on the gas hard up through Swantz was not possible. The rear kept stepping out and losing traction. This had been a factor during our experience in October 2020. Quizically on our data sheet we had noted ‘ Rear stepping out – sag? Preload?’ meaning was she too hard in the rear and not loading the tyre enough? The scrubs were still in quite good condition when viewed in the awning later. Smooth and unragged. Great for tyre duration but another sign the tyre was not working hard enough, not biting or gripping the circuit surface providing drive forward.
The Ducati V2 chassis is eminently stable and rideable. The power plant has more than enough grunt to break the rear away if not set ideally. Not a bike that can easily highside the rider (except in the wet and low gear corner exits), it still deserves throttle respect for the unwary. In this situation we needed to put more load down onto the rear to increase friction and grip. The 9.5Kn spring was correct for rider weight but if too much preload was present the squatting down on the throttle would not be enough to transfer load through the chassis’ pivot. We made the adjustment and during qualification some improvement was felt but not enough to show on the tyre surface. When the tyre is really working the degradation is clear, on this occasion it was still bone smooth.
Qualification achieved a solid 8th place with less than 0.5s between us and 4th. The first race also went well with a great finish in 8th. After so much worry about the weather, pre season woes and little constructive testing apart from eradicating all the electronic failures this felt like something of a victory. At last!
Further feedback from the rider and chassis measurement indicated more adjustment was required. Lack of confidence with rear grip was costing drive out of corners and instability on hard gas. By measuring the sag at the rear it was apparent that we were at the bottom of the useable range. Andy at Kais suspension more or less confirmed our ideas were in the right direction and, with more data shared with Josh Day (Championship winner 2020), our sag and shock length were both changed significantly going into the second race.
With no Sunday morning warm up to test the settings we had rolled the dice and were also rewarded with a dry track – again! There was rain around and up to an hour before the grid assembled it was trickling out of the sky, threatening the party. But with some warmth and sun it was soon dry again. The run to the grid was manic, so much equipment to shift and without scooters being allowed, (thanks wsbk/BSB) a real cart horse pull at the trot. As soon as the bike arrived on grid, following two sighting laps (one with a ride through), we were good to go.
Electing to use the 4th tyre as another new rear probably saved us places as did the new set up. The changes were on point, giving the drive required, losing another half second a lap, gaining a place from the 9th position start. Overall, two solid finishes without incident and points in the bag. From where we were a few weeks ago this was a good place to be. A good weekend at Donny, now theres a rarity!
Our next issue is to sort a down on response engine. It is running fine but initial reaction to full throttle could be sharper and stronger. Our budget has been so tight that the regular cam and valve timing is overdue. Going into Brands GP in two weeks time means this is now an essential service and race item. Ideally a full engine refresh would be best but, again, budget constraints mean we have to complete another two rounds and hope she can hang on in reliability. Then we will have to assess whole season costs to come and hope we can also fund rounds 5 – 8.
Thanks for all the help and support we have received to make this season start possible:
Matt and Lisa at Echelon Consultancy who we hope to see at Brands GP, Jay and Steve at Acorn Plating for their help in getting the bike decked in new graphics, assisting with bike prep and the wonderful cup cakes beautifully bedecked with SCR, Acorn Plating and Ducati colourings!
Tony Homer worked on the bike all weekend and a new arrival Denise, (Tony’s nurse) mucked in with teas and supper as well as showing an adept approach to the check list.
Despite Rick Hackett being mega busy, the bike is going into JHP Ducati Coventry for its essential timing service so we hope to be more competitive at the big circuit which is Brands GP on the weekend of July 24/25th July.
Thanks for your continuing support and please feel free to donate any small amount via our race ifuel fund below:
Sam Cox & Team
Since our test at Brands Hatch Indy circuit the SCR team have been getting the bike, kit and truck ready for the season start at Donington. Here we will be supporting the WSBK schedule. The BSB Round one at Oulton park was not on the Ducati Tri Options programme nor is the next one at Knockhill (such a shame!).
Donington has always been a favourite circuit and we have set some good times there. The flowing, fast sections suits #31’s style and I believe he still holds the Triumph record there from T3 days. The biggest contributor to any issues we have had there is usually brakes and their performance. The circuit layout demands heavy braking at many corners: Old hairpin, Esses, Melbourne loop and Redgate. Heat and resulting braking fade is the destructor of braking power and this derives from the heat building up over a race period. Making sure we get the best stopping power requires Brembo Z04’s pads, fresh Brembo fluid and a super clean race disc set up.
Having raced at Donington last year we have set up data ready to use but since the Brands test our outlook on suspension has altered somewhat. The rear shock spring choice for Brands started at 9KN but after two sessions changing to 9.5KN provided more stability coming out of clearways and better drive. In fact the set up at Brands ended on a no stress feel and times were good. Gearing is actually exactly the same at 14 : 41. This would give straight line stability with the longer swingarm length and, with softer rear preload, plenty of squat and grip – hopefully!
The weather forecast at this moment looks potentially good but there is the chance of heavy showers due to the combination of Atlantic low and high pressure. Wet racing is never great but we enjoyed (for a time) a promising wet endurance race in 2019 at Donington where lots of laps provided good practice and performance.
NEW ASSOCIATE SPONSORS
The big news going into this first round and looking ahead to the whole season is the support of a new associate sponsors. ‘Friends of a friend’ stuff got word that our budget is really tight this year. Jay and Steve, via their company Acorn Plating Ltd, has had involvement in Triumph Triple Challenge days and are still avid race people. We greatly appreciate their support of our team as it will ensure we can compete to at least round 4 covering some of the costs and outlay required. Jay and Steve will definitely be a welcome sight in the paddock providing BSB Covid rules allow the attendance of supporters and the public. At Donington it looks like the whole paddock is accessible so spectating will be at last be allowed. The Covid related restrictions still apply however and the paddock has all sorts of rules to keep us away from our Globally based competitors!
In relation to the DTOC competition this year our hopes are for more top 5 finishes. In the shortened 2020 season we were nibbling away at this and achieved a 5th position at Oulton park where a 4th was possible but for some electronic interference on the quickshifter. At Donington we finished 6th twice but on another day it might have been 4th‘s too. The season’s championship position of 6th was a great first season achievement against some really stiff front end performances from Josh and Levi Day with strong performance from Pinson, Best and Shoubridge.
In 2021 our attention turns to the arrival of the ‘Stalker’ in the Ducati Tri Options class. Chris Walker, like John McGuinness is back on two wheels so it will be really interesting to join track with this BSB legend. So many times we remember watching Chris in our own early days at BSB (2012). He must be around 60kg so we will be giving away 20kg in weight; our game must be hot to keep pace with this pocket rocket!
Setting up and checking the bike over is now complete and ready for the journey to Donny. Airfilter, clutch, chain, brakes and hydraulics are all sorted with the same gearing as the last test so no changes for calibration to complete. Suspension is always critical but this year we have a base set up to start with and with notes from the 2020 races another tweak will hopefully settle a twitchy rear end and a front adjustment will keep the bike in the corner longer. With only 0.8s a lap short of last years winner (Josh Day) Sam is not far off the front but this year the big change is we compete on the full GP circuit. With the Melbourne Loop and Goddards added to the national layout both these corners are not favourites due to their precarious exit areas being high side territory so caution doesnt favour the brave here. Last lap lunges can be too much for watching team members here!
Our season continues to be supported by a range of people and businesses who have provided us the start we need in 2012:
Echelon Consultancy, Matt Baxter and Lisa Stevenson remain avid supporters of SCR in the DTOC again this year. Sadly missing out on our favourite annual trips to Assen in 2020, due to covid, they will be in attendance at most rounds this year as main sponsor guests.
Steve & Jay, Acorn Plating. Stepping in to help SCR recently, Steve and Jay are keen BSB followers and love a day out racing. They are attending Donington over the weekend and will be VIP guests of SCR, great to have them onboard!
DRC Leathers, Jay Dexter. Jay and team have provided a superb race suit for the 2021 season (see pics). Their repairs and service has always been first class and we thoroughly recommend them for a tailor made product that is smart and protective.
Rick Hackett, JHP Ducati Coventry . Rick & team have been brilliant in offering on hand technical support to SCR. We have had several issues with the electronics on the V2 but hRick's ability to identify issues and provide recommendations is unsurpassed, his attention to detail on a tricky exotic bike like the Ducati V2 has really helped us keep on track.
The SCR team remain the same with the exceptional loss of Iain Rowatt from 2020 (team vacancy exists), the only other change is our race number has changed from '31' to '3', that a lots of places right there!
Sam Cox, Rider, Athlete
Graham Cox, Goffer/gaffa
Frankie Ridley Fink, Wardroom attendant, Pitlane time keeper
Tony Homer, Technician and head psychologist
Wish us luck!
Sam & Team
#3 Ducati Tri Options Championship
Our second outing of the season following the Oulton Park difficulties brought us to Cadwell park with No Limits racing. Investigations on the V2 had shown a completely shagged out battery and another unknown problem presenting itself: a weeping petrol tank.
JHP Racing at Ducati Coventry had fitted us out with brand new Lightech rearsets and during the process of checking the bike smelt petrol which was leaking from around the bracket attached to the underside of the fuel tank. Apparently a common problem whenever 959’s and now a V2 have had front end related damage. The bracket is deformed and then cracks right next to the spotwelds holding it on.
Without further support from JHP we wouldn’t have been racing at Cadwell. They donated a spare petrol tank to make the weekend happen, supplied a new battery and dynoed the bike ready for track. All seemed well.
The weather wasn’t entirely kind to us with a mix of showers and sun all weekend. Needing to get some laps in, Friday morning practice sessions were attempted to test the bike. This is where the previous electronics problem revealed itself again. After a few laps the dash began flickering. Although the bike was running its condition was getting progressively worse so we re-examined connections closely to prove it was probably a loom connection issue going into the dash unit.
As it happened Richard Spencer Fleet was sharing our awning for the weekend and had experienced a gear sensor issue so was already at JHP in Coventry getting it fixed. Whilst he was there we asked for him to pick up a spare dash if there was one. Once this was returned and plugged in the problem was finally sorted – there were no further issues.
Saturday morning brought qualification but the track was wet. Opting to sit out and start from the back of the grid anyway the first race passed off without any issues. In the first race, Sam made a great start and moving through the field without issues Sam made it up to 13th ready for the second race of the weekend.
Again the weather scuppered our plans later in the day, more rain left a space on the grid where #31 should have been but the number of DNF’s proved that conditions were tricky.
On Sunday another mechanical issue raised its head in the last race of the weekend. Expecting to hit the front and get a decent dry race, Sam didn’t come round on the first lap. Fearing the worst, doom and gloom permeated our thoughts – what a shit weekend! Fortunately there was no crash but a locking up back brake. The push rod lock nut had worked loose and lengthened itself thus unable to let off the pressure which resulted in a severely restricted back wheel. Feeling all momentum seeping away Sam had pulled over at the top of the circuit and thoughtfully called us from a marshalls post to report all was ok.
Goodness! The start of the season has seen a rash of issues all presenting themselves neatly one after another. Since the weekend at Cadwell however we have had the fuel tank bracket welded correctly, bought a new dash, reset the back brake, replaced the clutch set, oil filter and oil and checked over the bike ready for the next outing at Brands.
The outing to Brands now took on an air of hopeful expectation for some clean, unrestricted laps in preparation for the forthcoming BSB season. Ducati UK had organised a Ducati only track day for punters and set aside a special group just for the Tri Options riders. Thankfully the weather was fair throughout the day with a dry and relatively quiet track. Perfect. Would the bike behave itself?
Garaging up with Seb Bulpin we ended up having a successful day. First day of 7 so far planned without any bike related issues and the sun shining all round. With scrub tyres onboard our lap times were promising and good enough in respect of no previous set up data for the Indy layout. Nevertheless we developed the suspension, ran the bike accordingly and got down to a competitive time at the end. Throw some new tyres into the mix and the resulting time would have been a low 48s.
Thanks must go to Rick Hackett (Ducati Coventry) for further help getting the replacement parts in time, lending us the tank (plus repairing ours) and dash to resolve the issues and always being on hand for advice and help. Many of the Ducati owners at Brands knew both Rick and his Dad, John, from their own racing history so we are glad to be associated with such a top class team.
June is fairly quiet on the track front for SCR. We travel to Donington for the first round in the Tri Options Championship at the end of the month for the WSB round there. Our main issue now is raising funds to actually afford to race in 2021. We have the bike sorted again, the equipment to race her and the transport to provide a good base in the paddock but our race funds are lower this year than before.
We have sufficient funds to complete the first 3 rounds but after that we are unsure of our ability to find the £1500 per round to compete. Cutting corners usually creates more problems and we are already stretching our budget to keep the bike in first class condition and test her effectively.
We must find more support if possible to complete the season. In the past we have enjoyed support from known contacts and their companies and this has seen us through to run the team and keep wheels turning. After Covid we are aware that things are difficult across the economy and that racing can appear a luxury for some. With this in mind we are looking to raise funds from our own, any new sponsors and any sources presented us. If supporters have any ideas or can help please get in touch.
Last year we demonstrated the ability to compete to near podium levels and this year we are working to get back on the podium and push for further top 5 finishes in 2021. Wish us luck and get in touch if you would like to get involved?
OULTON TEST was a test!
Due to Covid our initial season test to Spain in February 2021 had been cancelled. The BSB Championship dates were also being pushed back so that we do not start racing in the Ducati Tri Options until the beginning of July. Strange days and frustrating for the whole team including our sponsors Echelon Consultancy, all itching to get back to the circuits.
With our eyes on a stretched budget we had also decided to not attend any of the very expensive BSB Tests in April and May. These four separate dates have now become pricey days out at £400 entry plus tyres making each excursion a 1K outing. Fine if the track time is good but in the past they have amounted to sitting in the van or garages waiting for either the temperature of track to rise or rain to stop. In the event the first test passed with good weather at Silverstone but there was not much for us to learn there anyway – also the teams were made to use the dreaded ‘special’ Pirelli tyres again and we had good data from 2020 already.
At the Snetterton 2nd BSB test this week the weather again played a big part in cancelling the show with only 2 dry sessions out of 7 so we missed that pleasure as well as the 10 hours driving the truck to get there and back. As it happened we spent the time repairing items on the team vessel ready for some dry use in the summer months.
On to our first track test at Oulton Park recently. We arrived late afternoon and set up the awning. (The bike had been checked over already at Ducati Coventry JHP having all the error codes removed from the ECU and the engine was running normally. The software checks were necessary due to the many electronic items being replaced and repaired since the big crash at Brands in October.)
In the morning with everything looking good, including the weather forecast (or so it seemed) we hoped for some tracktime to shake off the Covid induced cobwebs. Session one on Friday didn’t amount to much as it was wet and cold and we skipped it in favour of the drying conditions. Session 2 out of 7 looked a safer bet. The bike was warmed through as usual, all nuts and bolts checked including pressures and full race checklist. New rearsets had been fitted and despite there being geometry issues with chassis fitment they seemed to work well. On further immediate adjustment to suit the rider position (lower than estimation) it wasn’t possible to select 2nd gear or go up the box either. We have subsequently entered into an Ebay dispute with the manufacturer of these and got a full refund!
Back to the paddock to find that these new rearsets either struck the chassis to the rear of the pushrod or wouldn’t set to the correct rider position because of their faulty geometry. With last years (Spider) set reinstalled our third attempt at tracktime looked promising. However, after one sighting lap #31 came straight back into the pitlane reporting that the dash had gone all ‘White’ but the bike was still running except the quickshifter. Agreeing to run manually and keeping the engine running we finally got some laps in albeit at a tentative pace as the circuit was still not fully dry.
On return to the paddock another inspection revealed the beginning of a day long problem which was never fully solved. The bike seemed dead on the ignition but after disconnecting and reconnecting the battery it came alive again. It also started. Our analysis continued and we considered that either the dash was faulty, there was an electronic breakdown somewhere or a loose connection.
There now followed a frustrating day. Each time we tried to ride the bike around the paddock or to track it resulted in the same response. Partial dash operation and a dead period where there was no electrics at all. We spent hours on Saturday inspecting fuses, connections and the loom. In the end we decided to leave for home as by Saturday afternoon the heavens had opened more than once too. Not a great experience but at least these issues had been discovered before it really mattered in our preparation for BSB.
Once at Ducati Coventry JHP Racing in the week, Rick Hackett had a cursory look over the bike before plugging into the Ducati software. His inclination was to replace the battery (why didn’t WE think of that!). Of course it fired into life and seemed OK again – yet to be fully checked for errors or dyno but a good sign. WHY didn’t we consider the battery? With reason it had been starting the bike fine and was charged prior to leaving for the circuit but Ducatis are known to develop battery problems when left over winter. Ours however was removed from the bike in November and left in storage ready for use. We had checked it once more via voltmeter and there was no reason to suspect impending failure. Batteries can develop faults on their own volition at any time and as we write we hope that was the problem. A £70 battery is ten times cheaper that a new V2 dash!
Our next outing is at Cadwell this coming weekend (15/16th May). A full No Limits race meeting over three days where hopefully we can resolve these issues and get rolling again. We have also a day booked at Brands Hatch on May 26th where many of the Ducati Tri Options bikes are expected to test.
With all our experience coming together with last years Ducati V2 based rider development and data collection we will definitely be in a good position to push for front positions in the Ducati Tri Options Championship. Josh Day will still take some beating as well as Pinson, Best and Chris Walker – yes the Stalker has entered the Championship in 2021 and was running well at Snetterton although he has some work to do make the top 3! It will make for a really interesting mix of talent and great racing.
Thanks for your interest and support, look out for our latest news here and on our facebook page: Sam Cox Racing. If you are interested in getting involved or supporting the team get in touch 07904439270.
Sam Cox & Team SCR