High and dry, wet and wild
Taylor Mackenzie gets to grips with the Bathams Superstock bike in changeable conditions as he goes it alone at Silverstone and Oulton...
WHILE MICHAEL WAS at Goodwood, Taylor Mackenzie took on the task of upholding our honour at Silverstone last month. He’d been struggling with front-end feel on the S1000RR, but we got to try some prototype parts from K-Tech at the meet. Their 2019 fork internals were a revelation – they’ll be on sale next year to the public, too. Taylor said they totally transformed the bike, improving the fork stroke throughout , especially at the bottom of its travel.
He went fastest in the first free practice session, over 21 laps, but the rear tyre was starting to blister. For FP2, we made some changes to the electronics settings, ending that session fourth. Knowing we needed to complete a two part, 100-mile race on the Saturday (two 24-lap runs with a pitstop between), and a further 24-lap race on Sunday, we needed better tyre life, so opted for the new Pirelli they’d made available from Thruxton. Taylor was instantly better – he was lapping within two tenths of his fastest lap on lap 23 of the session, at the end of a race simulation, so we knew he had the tyre for the race.
But Saturday brought rain, which was an unknown for Taylor on this bike. We softened everything up, but he had no feel on the wet track. He qualified fourteenth...
Thankfully, the track dried for the 100-miler on Saturday; he went from 14th to fourth with a really mature ride, and in part two got the holeshot and led after turn one. But it all went pear-shaped when he outbraked himself into turn two... He’d finished part one with less than two litres of fuel, but was straight out for part two with 19 litres. That kind of thing makes a difference. It ended with a sixth-place finish; he was fast, consistent and fighting for the podium. Good lad.
Sunday’s 24-lap race was dry, and Taylor got away fast. We knew Farmer and McConnell were struggling to make their tyres last, so the plan was a top-three finish. He was running in a strong third place, broke the lap record on two consecutive laps... and then a gear selector broke. Our second DNF ever. He couldn’t select third gear, so we just parked it and concentrated on getting everything sorted in time for Oulton Park the following weekend.
I could have replaced the selector but instead we chose to fit a brand new 5.2 BMW engine – a replacement for our TT motor – to Taylor’s bike. Basically, me and Michael opened up a very expensive cardboard box back at the workshop that day...
It was wet for all of Friday at Oulton, and Taylor had the same issues with feel that he’d experienced at Silverstone. He was outside the top 30 in FP1 and FP2... We tried softer springs and various settings but couldn’t make the bike work for him.
Taylor weighs 65kg, so we asked Michael what he weighs. He came back with some bullshit about not weighing himself in 10 years, but basically the extra weight of Rutter and his airbag-equipped race leathers must be adding 25kg. That’s why Taylor couldn’t get a grasp for the springs.
Thankfully, there was a dry line for qualifying so we went back to the dry setting and he qualified in third. In Saturday’s race, we were fourth – the top four were covered by one second over the line. He was able to use all of the fork travel but struggling to make a pass.
But on Sunday we changed the front end setting again. Taylor was blown away; he even said to me, “We’re going to win today.” True to form, it pissed it down for the race. We didn’t have a wet setting, and fitting completely different fork springs would have been a huge gamble. In the end, we opted for wet tyres and settings midway between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, not really knowing how the race would pan out.
He sat there in seventh for the first half of the race, then slowly started picking riders off. At mid-distance he was the fastest man on track, and he eventually passed Joe Collier for third.
Now all we need is a wet trackday to work things out in the long-term. But it’s good to be back at the sharp end, fighting for wins.
‘Taylor was blown away. He even said to me, “We’re going to win today.” True to form, it pissed it down for the race’
Taylor Mackenzie is sitting top 10 in the championship, and he’s only raced at three rounds...
With a mature head on young shoulders, he chipped away and got on the podium at Oulton Park Taylor gets his shit together ahead of the race