BAD START TO 2022 SEASON LEAVES US WAITING TO JOIN THE PADDOCK
Since November 2021 we had been living in some sort of dream land. Except this dream actually turned into something of a nightmare. We have experienced problems in racing over 13 years but this debacle was to be the worse of all.
Supporters may be aware we announced the terrible news of Sam’s TC diagnosis in November 2021 but through his treatment and bravery, testicular cancer eventually left his body, finally, in February 2022. Getting the all clear was a massive step, just in time, to help gain some fitness back and get some early season testing started.
This episode was traumatic for Sam’s family and SCR race team and not the least, himself. But he got through it and now enjoys good health again. As life sometimes teaches us it is a brave man that disregards the risks of expecting everything to be rosy all of the time. Whilst not expecting to get cancer at the age of 31 it is a fairly common ailment at this period of male life. We are grateful he has survived and has returned to healthy life.
One week before this devasting news, also in November 2021, we had received an offer to run with NP Racing in the 2022 BSB Superbike class. Here the ‘dream’ started. Here the nightmare also began except we didn’t know it at the time. As it happened this offer to race in the top class actually helped the mental process of recovery for Sam’s TC. It gave him another reason to get through the tough chemo sessions and regain fitness in time to ride again.
By February 2022 we had already bought a BMW test bike from NP Racing and eventually tested it successfully at a cold Mallory park in early march. This second attempt followed a previous attempt to test when we had a day booked at Mallory the week before. Unfortunately it had blown its head gasket on the Lextec dyno the day before we hoped to be on track.
The Mallory test showed that Sam’s recovery wasn’t complete fitness wise. Finding the energy to complete 12 minute sessions was, however, achieved. This then left us with the prospect of getting fully ready for the first BSB test at Snetterton in April. In the time left we had high hopes that NPR were going to successfully complete the BMW superbike build, bring it to our launch night in April - the day before the Snetterton test - and then be ready for the good weather that had settled over the Norfolk plain for the opening test of the season.
Unfortunately the Superbike didn’t make our planned and important launch night. Due to NPR ‘delivery issues’ it was nowhere to be seen. Our booking at the Aston Martin showroom in Hatfield had been a major SCR logistical success story, introduced to us by one of our long term sponsors Matt Baxter (Echelon) as an opportunity for valuable PR and getting our supporters and sponsors together prior to the big season long awaited. No NPR superbike, but we still enjoyed many supporters and sponsors attending with a great blog interview recorded.
Travelling up to Snetterton circuit the next morning we had great expectations of a big day in the superbike class. Can you imagine how a journeyman rider, in the game for so many years felt on such an exciting occasion? Not only that but one who had just got through a life changing period of cancer recovery and put everything into getting fit again for this day to come?
By 10am the next day the circuit was open and dry. It was cold but the odd bike crept out onto the track meaning it was time to go at last. This first of three test days was an open pit lane situation meaning we could gain maximum testing time which was much needed for both new bike and recovering rider.
Technical issues stopped the whole process almost straight away. Having unexpectedly taken on another rider Joe Sheldon Shaw (NPR had unexpectedly decided to sign another rider) and complete the build of a second BSB bike meaning SCR were allotted the 2021 superbike for the day. Unfortunately this 2021 bike wasn’t ready, meaning our working SCR test bike was hauled out of the van and prepped ready for track. This is where it gets a bit complicated. The 2021 NPR superbike needed the link pipe from our own test bike to make complete (it didn’t have one), so time was needed to refit it back to our own test bike. Other issues were resolved and finally Sam got to spin some laps in the early afternoon on the test ‘stock’ bike whilst awaiting a resolution of the issues affecting the 2021 superbike.
Several times the 2021 superbike was readied for track (the link pipe travelled again between bikes) but each time it had an electronic fault at 12,000 rpm which couldn’t be resolved by Neil Pearson (who runs NP Racing) even with advice from the Motec engineer present. By the end of the day, no laps were possible on either superbike. A very frustrating experience for both SCR and JSR riders. Strangely NP announced it had been ‘a very positive day’! This alone registered major concerns. Emoji with hands out, eyes wide open and head in hands!
Days two and three passed in a further disappointing blur. With three sessions of 30 mins each day the superbike class enjoyed further good weather but the only laps possible were on our own test bike which was thankfully allowed by Stuart Higgs the BSB Director. On day two Joe Sheldon Shaw finally got out onto track but then crashed at turn 3 and there ended his experience on a NPR superbike. At the end of the day JSR decided to leave NPR due to the ongoing logistical and technical issues they had also experienced. Sam continued to spin useful laps on his own stock test bike but never got to ride the NPR 2021superbike more than an out and in lap to report it still had the same interfering electronic fault which sapped power and spark. The snetterton test became a completely forgettable experience overall with signs that our racing relationship with NPR might not work out.
With further discussion among the SCR team, supporters and sponsors we formed the opinion that we should give NPR another chance to produce a working superbike to enter the upcoming third BSB test at Silverstone in two weeks time.
At the beginning of the test week we were somewhat heartened to hear from NPR that both superbikes had been rebuilt and successfully passed dyno tests ready for Silverstone. Upon this news we paid to enter the two day test but could only expect to complete the first day as Sam had a personal event in Ireland starting on the second test day.
BSB Test day at Silverstone we attended early in the morning finding both superbikes waiting on their stands. First laps were attempted but, yes you’ve guessed it, the same fault was now apparent on the 2022 bike! FFS How could a single electronic fault affecting one bike have transfered itself to another?
We had the rest of the day to await some sort of resolution. There was ongoing diagnosis by NP via the Motec system, further ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’, consultations with others who know BMW bikes too but to no avail. No significant laps on the NPR Superbike were possible all day so we left deflated but knowing for sure this relationship with NPR had come to an end.
A really difficult, disappointing and expensive lesson has been learned here. Up until now we have always built, developed and raced our own bikes and teams. SCR has developed good relationships with bike and engine builders, suspension engineers and advisors in the BSB paddock. Taking the step to hand all of that over to someone else always has its risks. Goodness knows there are enough stories around the paddock of wholesale failures to warn the unwary. On this occasion we convinced ourselves for a time that we could help develop the whole SCR/NPR team by adding logistical help and paddock support with a keen and experienced rider willing to do everything to develop a successful NPR Superbike team.
But without effective technical reliability and the detailed knowledge available to fix issues when they occur, there is no team. There is no working bike or laps or times or races to enter. This project didn’t even get to a grid of any kind, it failed demonstrably before the first fence. In equestrian terms we had a lame horse. This lame horse also cost us valuable sponsor funding. Not good. In truth SCR can only share this salutary tale to warn others of the pitfalls of false promises, inadequate ability and out of depth management.
So what next? First of all we have begun the process of recovering some of our funds from NPR whilst accepting the risks for everyone involved including ourselves. Second we have kept our great sponsors and supporters informed that we have decided to enter the BSB Stock 1000 class in 2022 as soon as our test bike is sold. We have already found a good quality BMW for sale that has a good Stock 1000 spec and further news is coming of a tie up with a successful BSB Team who will provide us with quality technical support in the Superbike pitlane where we need to be.
Apologies for this length of explanation but you may realise the whole experience has been intolerable at times and speaking about it has been difficult. Those who know, know our situation hasn’t been anything of our choosing. We have done nothing wrong or could have done better. Sam worked tirelessly to make this situation work and, set against the odds, really deserved a better outcome. SCR and our supporters continue to work to get the season going again. We remain determined to put this behind us and work with tried and trusted technical support so that the very expensive sport of racing doesnt become needlessly more costly on so many fronts.
In the next week or so we hope to get many of the logistical issues sorted so we can go testing again and eventually get back to racing. The likelihood is that Brands Hatch is our first planned outing at BSB but testing track time will be required before then.
Thanks for your ongoing support.
Sam & Graham