Top of the pile
I felt like I could have ridden the EVO bike round all day, but the chequered flag ended the fun. Not to worry, there’s still one more bike to go, the best of the bunch on paper – Luke Jones’ Supersport bike. The Supersport bike is actually one of the older model Triumph 675s – not something you’d still be fully competitive on in Superstock where modifications are limited, but in supersport there’s more scope to improve on the standard. Luke’s bike feels tall and narrow compared to the others, with a skinny, hard seat. Being the gent I am, I make a joke about him loving things up his bum crack and ride away before he can get a hand on the kill switch. From the seat, this feels like the smallest step up in power so far – the Supersport bike feels faster than the EVO, but really not by much. Then I let it rev all the way out to the shift light and the power difference is there, but still not the same as the step from TTC to Superstock. Luke has been having some fun and games battling tyre wear late in a race and this bike definitely doesn’t handle quite as sweetly as the EVO. Budget limitations have meant little testing and no datalogging so far for Luke and it shows in his frustration speaking about the suspension set up. It just goes to show, that however much money you spend preparing a race bike, you’ve always got to spend more to get the best out of it. And then more to develop it further. And then more to repair the crash damage. And more to refresh the motor, oh and let’s have another look at the mapping while we’re here. And, and, and; it ain’t cheap or easy racing at British Championship level.
With the setup in the supersport bike, it takes a little more effort to turn than the others, but mid corner nothing feels this stable. Where the EVO bike felt effortlessly fast, this needs pushed and shoved into a turn. But ridden with a bit of commitment and determination, it really starts to shine. You have to ride harder to get the best out of the engine and chassis, but the bike responds willingly, never getting out of shape or fighting back. The air bleed system used to reduce engine braking lets you throw it down the gears into a turn without the rear tyre trying to get to the apex before you. At a steady pace the Supersport bike felt tall, stiff and awkward, but the harder I rode it, the better it got. I then spent half an hour discussing suspension with Luke and his Dad, and the rest of the night trying to pull the budget together for another attempt at British Supersport. That’s the trouble with going fast, it gets right under your skin and leaves you unable to think of anything but going faster.
What a day. Riding back-to-back sessions on these four bikes, trying to get the best out of each chassis without being ‘that dick’ who carves up everyone on a trackday was intense. But what an opportunity – to ride the full progression from BSB Paddock entry level right up to the pinnacle of 600cc supersport racing in the UK and, arguably, Europe. At the starting point, the TTC bike is at a level we can all relate to; a few cost-effective mods and some time spent setting up the suspension have turned a great road bike into a superb track bike. The Superstocker is where development and tuning skill start to come into play. Top-spec suspension, at the same level as the Supersport bikes, mean the chassis is as good as either of the other two, more expensive machines. The powertrain modifications may be limited, but the boys at T3 Racing have made them count and it makes the TTC bike feel like a 400 in comparison. Following the law of diminishing returns, the further up the ladder you go from here, more modifications are needed to return smaller and smaller gains. The EVO bike was the one I didn’t want to get off, ever. It had the most sorted chassis, in terms of the development that has gone into it and Alex Olsen’s preferences being closest to mine. And so it should – the Supersport boys, EVO class included, get at least 30 minutes more track time per race weekend, combined with increased time allocation – by this point in the season, that’s a fair old advantage. The full Supersport bike was incredible, but very focused and a good example of how it gets harder and harder to improve a bike, the closer to the front of a championship you get. The impression I left with was of how simple the progression seems, stepping from one bike to the next. Each move up, you get a little more power, a little more room for competitive advantages to be gained and a little more complexity. From a rider’s point of view, it all seems easy, until you realize the people you need to beat get better and better with each step up. It’s never easy is it?
Jesse James Jones would like to thank:
Paul Bowling, ICEWATCH Ltd
Jason & Janice Pierce, SkillsArena
Phil “Crackers” Johnson, Debonair
Keith Roissetter, Infinity Motorcycles
Aleix Aulestia would like to thank:
Jack Lilley Triumph
Alex Olsen would like to thank:
Luke Jones would like to thank: