Dubai Featured Ride: Two Strokers smoking Ferret & Eddie at the Dubai Autodrome
Dubai Autodrome, Fri Jun 21st 2013 – ‘Full On with the Ferret’ AKA Darren Rycroft Blog: Some time ago now, I was up at the Dubai Autodrome to take a few images of Eddie Gilmore’s stunning Yamaha TZ250 race bike. As he had completed the restoration of the bike it was time for it to hit the track for a final shakedown and setup, I had agreed that I would rock up to the track and take a few pictures for him.
Now, for those who are unaware as to what the TZ is, quite simply it is a purpose built racing machine with all the usual road bike accessories removed to make the bike as light as possible. There are no lights, kickstarter, starter motor or auxiliary circuits, barring for those necessary electrical components that are required to keep the machine running once started, this incidentally is done by the old fashioned ‘Bump’ starting process! Primitive maybe, but on a pure racing machine, it’s the ‘standard and only option’
It was during this track session that Eddie mentioned that I should turn up with my leathers and take the TZ out for a session at the next track day. Of course, I gladly accepted his kind offer, not knowing when this would be. Eddie is a busy chap and tying down a track day session together when all were available could prove a task in itself. And so the months passed by, as did the track days until last week, two nights before I receive a message from Eddie, “are you coming up the track on Friday, the wee bike is ready for you to ride” A message or two later, job done, Eddie would be riding his ‘Tiddler’ Honda RS125 & I would be gracing the seat of the stunning Yamaha TZ250….Oh yes, it was on!
The bikes in question are as follows;
Yamaha TZ250 4TW – 1999 With Kit ignition and race pipes – April Systems Curve Changer. Originally sold by Dennis Trollope, the machine has competed in the past at the Ulster GP, North West 200 and a multitude of other top road race events under the Billy McKinstry banner…
Honda RS125 NX4 – 1996 With the later 2004 fairing kit – Quick shifter and Marvic magnesium wheels to mention but a few items…
Friday 21st June, 3.30pm I am sat in the briefing room in the ‘gentlemens’ corner. It’s just the seats are soft and comfy and perfect for us ‘old chaps’ as opposed to the hard uncompromising plastic seats for the rest of the riff raff collective all sat patiently waiting for our guest speaker, Mr. Michael Prophet to deliver one of his trademark ‘do as your bloody told’ speeches. He has a polite manner about how he goes about his business but mark my words, he does what it says on the tin!
The day is as hot as hell and twice as humid…Typical, still, after finally getting all the stars in line, I wasn’t about to shirk my responsibility as a journo (for today) and gathered my riding kit from the car. The oven temperature was just into the 40 Deg C zone and humidity somewhere between wet & very wet, making life very difficult when it came to slipping into my leather race suit and boots. I imagine by the time this process was completed, I was at least a kilo lighter…The best was yet to come!
Eddie informed me that unfortunately, the bike didn’t have the tire warmers as he was using them on the RS125, damn, how the hell was I supposed to get the tires up to temperature? Having raced many years ago in the UK, in the cold & wet, without ever owning a set of tire warmers, I wasn’t fazed by his announcement, shrugging it off with “I will take it easy for the first lap or two then”
Then the announcement was made, ‘5 minutes till track open” I pulled on my helmet and gloves, strode over to the bike and dropped onto the 5mm padding called a seat. Another thing I forgot to mention, race bikes were not built for comfort at all. The token gesture on the seat unit wasn’t there for comfort, merely to stop your backside sliding off mid corner having you scrabbling for control again, it was for the ‘grip factor’ Eddies brother Sam was on hand to do the push starting duties which, with the RS 125, all he had to do was blow on the back of Eddie as he sat there and hey presto, the little single cylinder chimed into life with a puff of smoke and that familiar two stroke ring ting ting! Seconds later, I was dropped off the paddock stand and with a gentle push I dropped the clutch in first gear and the TZ 250 chimed into life also…The sound of these two machines in the pit garage brought back fond memories when I raced in the UK and the grids were full of the same noise and smell. This was it, the real deal again, back on a real race bike on a great circuit for the first time in a few years. The smile inside my helmet must have been visible for all to see as we smoked our way down pit lane and out onto the track.
The National circuit was the chosen layout for today’s track day, this was the perfect track for these bikes, one long straight followed by a series of long, fast flowing bends with the uphill link section in the middle to test both the bikes agility as well as mine! I did give the tires a couple of laps to warm up and followed Eddie around so we could get a few side by side shots of the bikes on circuit. The photo duties were ably taken up by my lad Connor who, despite the hot, no, very hot conditions, managed to capture some great images of the both of us, individually, as well as together, as planned. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
After the 3rd lap I decided it was time to see what this machine could really do, passing Eddie and with a clear track in front of me I began to try to settle into a rhythm. Noticeably, direction changes happened almost with the thought process, you thought about tipping it into a corner and the bike was already laying down, the speed of this action caught me out initially and I found myself picking the bike up again otherwise I would have clipped every apex way too early. The heat of the day was having an effect on the bikes; both the TZ and the RS were both suffering at the top end of the rev range with the TZ not pulling pas the 10k mark cleanly and struggling to get to 12k. Discussing this in the pit after the first session it was decided by Sam & Eddie that the fuel mixture should be altered slightly to lean it off a little. This was duly done and we were ready for the second session. That was after cooling down in between the following two groups having their share of track time. I dunno about the bikes overheating but the riders sure were!
Again, the 5 minute warning came. We dragged our leathers on, slotted on the helmets and headed off down pit lane for the second session. Eddie led the way again for the opening lap or so before I decided to get my head down. This time hitting the straight, the bike pulled much better, I looked at the rev counter and saw it sweep past the 10k mark with ease, up another gear and it was pulling past the 11k mark and all the way to 12k…Problem solved. The bike was on a mission. Dropping down four gears and rolling it into the fast off camber turn one was much faster this time, dropping down to turn two and up a gear as we headed uphill to the very fast right, left right section taking us to the tight 2nd gear right hander, back up another gear and heading to the long double apex left hander which would then take us to the very sharp right uphill link section. The bike felt so much better, pulling cleanly and sounding like a banshee, and that was from inside the helmet, god knows how she sounded at trackside! Braking into this right hander was a doddle; the bike is so light that the brakes retard the speed with ease (no engine braking on a 2 stroke engine). Dropping it into the corner it changed direction faster that I could slide across the seat unit, once again, catching me out as I tipped in too early again. Up through the bowl section and then through the fast right hander before dropping down to turn 16, the braking markers came up quickly, dropping 2 gears and sweeping onto the straight, I tucked up as much as possible to gain as much speed as I could down the straight. Later I was to find out that this little flyer would propel me down the straight at 190kph, which, for a 250cc motor is pretty damn good!
All too soon we completed the session and rode in for a quick chat and to make sure all was well, apart from the riders overheating again, all was well. The final session would come all too soon, and once again, I found myself trundling down pit lane with a huge smile. In the pit, I had been chatting to one rider, Matias who was actually riding the much bigger four stroke engined KTM RC8 machine. A great handling, modern day track weapon, capable of eating smaller bikes for breakfast. He had decided that in the last session and this session, he had enjoyed following the little smoking TZ so much that, even though he could have romped past on the straights, he actually had more fun following and chasing me on the rest of the circuit than he would have by overtaking me on the fast straight. Praise indeed for the little machine.
The final session was a repeat of the last one but, this time, I felt that as the temperatures dropped, the bike got faster and I found I was more relaxed on the bike. The laps flowed and everything seemed so much easier, this was confirmed by Matias at the end of the session when he told me that he had followed me at 190kph. After 6 laps or so, I raised my left arm, left the circuit via the pit lane and trundled into the pit area. I was finished. The bike would have gone on and on but for me, I was exhausted. Over two years away from the track, a very hot and humid afternoon had drained me totally and I was happy to hang up my leathers after having a great ride on an awesome bike.
I have been very fortunate over the years to be able to ride some special bikes, loved and cared for by their owners but, all with the same philosophy, such machines are to be loved and shared by those who can appreciate what they are. I have now added another remarkable machine to that list, all thanks to Eddie Gilmore. The affable Irishman, well known around the pit by many, is steeped in road racing history. Being born in the North of the Emerald Isle, he grew up with road racing on his doorstep and formed a lifelong relationship with bikes, racing and the people involved in it. He carries that enthusiasm with him wherever he goes, his brother Sam shares those times too and is always happy to get stuck in and get his hands dirty, as an ex-sidecar racer, he probably has less marbles than the average road racer, choosing to leave them in the helmet bag as he sits in the ‘chair’ at the mercy of the driver, inches from the floor at speeds you cannot comprehend. Special people with special stories but as down to earth as you will ever find…
Huge thanks go out to Eddie Gilmore for making this happen, to his brother Sam for his help up at the circuit and to my lad Connor for giving up his afternoon/evening to take some great images, one of which for sure will soon be found framed on my wall…