Chez TT Racer

Gary John­son is tak­ing it upon him­self to build his TT Su­per­stock & Su­per­bike, in his house. The mad­man…

Fast Bikes - - CONTENTS -

I“f a job’s worth do­ing, it’s worth do­ing your­self” – said some­body with far too much time (and prob­a­bly money) on their hands, some­time, some­where. For the 2017 TT, Gary John­son is tak­ing this ap­proach him­self, eschew­ing join­ing an es­tab­lished squad for the Isle of Man’s main events, and in­stead build­ing both bikes for Su­per­stock and Su­per­bike – in his house. When we say house, we of course mean lounge, con­ser­va­tory, kitchen, or wher­ever he has a spare square inch of space. So, what on earth pos­sessed him to take it all upon him­self? What goes in to build­ing TT rac­ers ex­actly, and why do it in his home, hmm, Gary, do tell? “I don’t know, be­cause it’s de­stroy­ing me right now”, said Gary, “the pres­sure is get­ting far too great, es­pe­cially with peo­ple not de­liv­er­ing goods on time and so on. Us­ing a new model means wait­ing for stuff, be­ing pissed off, and as I’m not fac­tory sup­ported aside from the help from friends and good peo­ple in the in­dus­try, it’s all on me, which is ren­der­ing me pretty use­less and there’s less than six weeks to go un­til the TT! I’m hav­ing to lean on peo­ple, my dad has just taken a bike over to Max­ton sus­pen­sion for ex­am­ple, then there’s all the or­gan­is­ing, the lo­gis­tics, the board­ings, the colours, it’s be­com­ing a night­mare. If my bikes were sat ready ev­ery­thing else would be so much eas­ier, but we’re work­ing through it, we’ll keep plod­ding on!” Okay then! You’ve cho­sen the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for both classes, so, why at home and why Suzuki? “I’m do­ing this at home as we were go­ing to be work­ing long days and nights. My garage is taken up, like a lot of garages, with a load of crap. Now my up and down­stairs bed­rooms are both stor­age and the lounge and con­ser­va­tory is per­fect, so bought some floor­ing and at least we’d have some­where comfy to work in rather than freezing our nuts off in the garage.

“I’m build­ing both bikes in the con­ser­va­tory, and my Su­per­sport bikes are cur­rently in my garage, all in vary­ing states of not be­ing fin­ished! I’ve cho­sen the Suzukis for a cou­ple of rea­sons. One be­cause they’ll ac­tu­ally be both very sim­i­lar, with just a few dif­fer­ences. The other is that I know al­ready they’re good!

“I also wanted to do this my­self due to my ex­pe­ri­ences in the past, so now it’s all down to us, rather than join a team that doesn’t do ex­actly what they say, or don’t lis­ten to what you’re say­ing. Kawasaki was a con­sid­ered op­tion, the bike is known to me and in hind­sight would have been easy to sort out. But many guys ride them and I’d seen dyno runs of the GSX-R and it looked handy.

When I got it I went for a quick rip around the vil­lage and it felt re­ally good, it was easy to ride, a long way from be­ing a race bike but still good. I did con­sider the BMW, but not the Yamaha R1 as it’s not shown its po­ten­tial yet in road rac­ing. Orig­i­nally I was only look­ing at Kawasaki and BMW, but I was strug­gling with a throt­tle is­sue on the Beemer and if I was in a Ger­man team who couldn’t fix the is­sue, what chance did I have of get­ting it sorted on my own? I didn’t want to stum­ble through an­other sea­son like that, which kind of tripped me into the Suzuki thing.

“With Michael Dun­lop also on a Suzuki, there’s more pub­lic­ity with run­ning one, which is a bonus. I could have been on with it al­ready if I’d have got­ten stuff promised while other teams did. But I didn’t. I have about £ 20k of parts cur­rently sat in the wilder­ness some­where, and bikes sat here with no wheels or swingarms in. But I’m stay­ing pos­i­tive!”

Clearly! So, the Su­per­stock bike, what goes into turn­ing your stan­dard ma­chine in to a TT stocker then?

“Well, the very first port of call is the sus­pen­sion, what to use? I’ve been in­volved with K-Tech for a few years with good

re­sults, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive feed­back, as with just about any­thing else. But I de­cided to have a clear mind on what I want, so I’ve gone down the K-Tech route, but also Max­ton and Bi­tubo, too. I’ll test them and see what I pre­fer, I’m buy­ing it all and am a free agent to choose what­ever I feel com­fort­able on which is the big­gest thing at the TT re­ally.

“Next up is what to do about the ex­haust and the ECU. There’s a Yoshimura sys­tem avail­able, but I’ve also got in­volved with Jeff at Pipew­erx, he’s sound as a pound. I’ve got the stock sys­tem and want to keep the ex­haust valve in the front with Jeff al­ter­ing the pipe from the down­pipes on­wards. I have a full stain­less Yoshi’ sys­tem which came as a pack­age with one of the bikes from Pete at B and B Mo­tor­cy­cles who has helped me (the other came from York Suzuki Cen­tre), with that and a bit of money for the bud­get. So I’ll be able to try all of these back to back to see how they fare. In ad­di­tion to that my friend (and ti­tle spon­sor) Steve at Re­ac­tive Parts has a full Ar­row sys­tem for me to try, too. So I’ll make the choice on what works best for me, not for brand­ing or any­thing else – what­ever works goes on my bike, that’s what I’m us­ing, and that’s that.

“For the ECU there’s a few flash­ing them, like Woolich in Aus­tralia who’s do­ing it for Hawk Rac­ing. I don’t know if I’ll have that soft­ware at my dis­posal yet, so I’ll also ask Dyno­jet for their op­tions, and also Paul at PCR Rac­ing. Again, I have to pick and choose what’s work­ing and what can get sorted in time of course.

“For all my af­ter­mar­ket parts, like levers, brake pads, fair­ings, pad­dock stands, body­work and ev­ery­thing else like that, I’ve gone to Re­ac­tive Parts. He sells some of the best high-end gear avail­able, it’s real qual­ity. And then there’s quick-shifters, like the Trans­logic unit, which I hope will be be­com­ing a blip­per sys­tem be­fore the TT but we’re work­ing hand in glove with that. Last thing is a quick-ac­tion throt­tle, as the gasser is push/pulled by a ca­ble which works a servo, then Samco hoses, GB Rac­ing cov­ers and Hel brake lines. And that’s about it for the Su­per­stock bike, it’s just ev­ery­thing comes with an as­tro­nom­i­cal price and a long, long wait.”

Sounds good, with lots of help, but also frus­trat­ing wait­ing so long. What’s dif­fer­ent with the Su­per­bike?

“The Su­per­bike will be fin­ished late, en­gine-wise, but I’ll be stick­ing in some Yoshi’ cams, valve-springs and other parts, plus some ba­sic port­ing, which will help make it nice and healthy. I don’t know who’s do­ing this yet ex­actly, but it’ll get done! I re­ally don’t want to lose the en­gine char­ac­ter­is­tic that comes as stock though, that smooth torque curve will pay div­i­dends at the TT and help with sta­bil­ity too. I’m not go­ing nuts, I’ve had 234bhp BMWs be­fore that get rinsed by my Su­per­stocker un­til it was above fourth-gear, so what a waste of time as you just have to brake harder. I’m also look­ing at up­rat­ing the clutch to a Suter item, who will loan me one to de­velop for

them, which if it hap­pens I’ll be over the moon about.

“Chas­sis-wise, I’m al­ter­ing the stan­dard swingarm and Har­ris are sup­ply­ing a Brembo un­der­slung caliper for the quick-release sys­tem. But I’ll be run­ning stock swingarm piv­ots and so on, so es­sen­tially I’ll be build­ing one bike across two and when I test my Su­per­stocker I can then repli­cate the sus­pen­sion and set­tings onto the Su­per­bike. I’m keep­ing it sim­ple, I can test the stocker till the cows come home, rather than start­ing with new yokes, light­weight wheels, su­per­bike forks and link­ages, point­lessly over­com­pli­cat­ing things when some­one like Hutchy has proved he go quicker on a Stocker than a Su­per­bike.

“At the end of the day, we’re rac­ing around a mo­tocross track in rel­a­tive terms rather than a bil­liard ta­ble GP cir­cuit, so the stock stuff is de­signed for the road (and has been proven just as good on the roads) whereas things like ex­pen­sive Öh­lins forks are more rigid and lighter with less flex. So many rac­ers are go­ing back to stock yokes and so on, for more feel. I’m us­ing stan­dard wheels as if they’re good on the Stocker, they’ll be good enough for the Su­per­bike es­pe­cially for the TT. If it was the North West 200 or Ma­cau I’d maybe up­grade the brakes a bit more as you’re us­ing them a lot more.

“But with cost ver­sus per­for­mance gains, you can eas­ily spend £70,000 to go no faster. The stan­dard brake setup is fine for the Stocker, so will be fine, again, for the Su­per­bike. The stan­dard brake pads are ter­ri­ble, I pulled them when I went out for my ride and noth­ing hap­pened! All it needs is some Brembo rac­ing pads to sort them out, the rest of the stock kit is great, I’ve also got some Lu­cas pads to test them out too.

“Then I guess I may change the switchgear to some smart but­tons from Ac­cos­sato or sim­i­lar, which may come from the same place as the Suter clutch. And that’s it, the Su­per­bike isn’t much more dif­fer­ent from the Stocker, I’m try­ing to keep it smart and sim­ple, it makes sense do­ing that.”

So, how much have these two race bikes set you back, roughly?

“The bikes are the stock GSX-R, not the RR, so they’re around £13,000 each. Then once all the parts are added up, even do­ing this cheaply you’re still look­ing at (very roughly) around and over £20,000 for the Stocker and well over £25,000 for the Su­per­bike when you add in the en­gine-work at around £5k, swingarm mods, Brembo caliper and so on, and prob­a­bly a lot more when I re­ally think about it! Ac­tu­ally, I for­got the tank al­ter­ations, a ma­jor part where my bike has to go off some­where and that’ll be around £1,500 per tank to add on. That be­ing said, I’m buy­ing loads of dif­fer­ent stuff to test out, so when I choose what I’m us­ing af­ter ac­tu­ally test­ing the things, I’ll be able to sell a lot of stuff to make some money back.”

And how many man hours are you putting into this en­deav­our?

“It’s ba­si­cally tak­ing up my en­tire life, and as things come in late, time in the work­shops, sorry, con­ser­va­tory, be­comes more in­tense. Just an­other rea­son why we’re keep­ing the vari­ables be­tween bikes to an ab­so­lute min­i­mum, we’re not rein­vent­ing the wheel, let’s stick slicks on and go!

You only have to look at how some peo­ple spend years and for­tunes try­ing to re­write the rule­book to suit them­selves and get to a re­spectable pace, can tie just them­selves in a knot (an­swers on a postcard as to who ex­actly he means with that – FB). I’ve got six weeks left to do what some man­u­fac­tur­ers have been do­ing for years”.

It sounds like you’re get­ting some help though, luck­ily?

“Ev­ery­one has been so good to us. My dad has been re­tired for years but is tin­ker­ing away with things. He works slow, but me­thod­i­cally, and when I put him on some­thing I know it’ll get done right and I can for­get about it. I’ve got a me­chanic full-time who worked with me on the BMWs, who’s now liv­ing with me in my spare room. We get up in the morn­ing, have a cof­fee and get on with the job. He does stuff while I go take care of things, like my re­cently sliced open hand and this ir­ri­tat­ing ear in­fec­tion that won’t piss off. I try and keep ev­ery­thing work­ing, go­ing for­wards, keep my head above wa­ter, ar­rang­ing an oil deal with Mo­tul, sort­ing the team lo­gis­tics, the de­signs, and all the time try to ig­nore the fact that I’m ac­tu­ally the one who’ll be rac­ing the bikes. I’ve had to get up even ear­lier to train too, it’s taken over ev­ery­thing though I try and switch off by 10pm. Even then, my brain keeps on tick­ing over!”

So, we guess that this is all go­ing to be worth it in the end, then?

“I hope so! I’ve been an­noyed with what some of these teams have de­liv­ered to me over the years, I’ve proven when on the right kit I can per­form with the best of them, where on poor kit I strug­gle to get in the top five. I’ve got a de­cent set of Su­per­sport bikes from East Coast rac­ing too, we’re work­ing with John Trig­ger and Luke Sta­ple­ford and his World Su­per­sport team on those Tri­umphs. It’s a con­stant bat­tle on ev­ery front, so is it worth it? We’ll find out, I’ve stressed more the last two years with what I’ve been de­liv­ered, so if I can make it a quar­ter bet­ter by my­self at the TT that’ll be a quar­ter less stress. So I’m flat out busier than I’ve ever been, but I’m less stressed, strangely.”

And there you have it, do­ing the TT fam­ily style, in­clud­ing build­ing the bikes at home, not some­thing you’d ex­pect a racer of Gary’s cal­i­bre to be do­ing. How he fares, or whether he even gets fin­ished in time, re­mains to be seen. Sadly, test­ing didn’t quite go to plan ei­ther – the day be­fore we did the shoot at his house, Gary crashed one of his Suzukis on spilt oil at Don­ing­ton! Not an ideal start, yet this hasn’t di­min­ished his drive to be ready for the TT, not one bit. How­ever we wish him the best of luck and, no, Gary, we don’t have any spare change…

A lit­tle pre-heat­ing never hurts!

We won­der where he got those work mats from? Hm­mmm...

A pic­ture, luck­ily, can­not con­vey swear­ing...

Some­how he still man­ages to smile!

So­fas be gone!

An in-house me­chanic is a must!

Garage, or tyre shop?!

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