T Minus 42 Seconds
They say races aren’t won in the pits, but they can sure as hell be lost there. Johnny Cusack, Norton’s senior design engineer and Rear Wheel Man, gave Esses Magazine a step-by-step guide to the most stressful 42 seconds of his entire life.
» Every two laps of a TT race the top guys come in for a pit stop.
Cue the most intense 42 seconds you can imagine! Watched by millions on TV, we get to work knowing that one mistake might be the difference between winning and losing!
» When Cam [Cameron Donald] starts a race we’re already in position on the pit wall.
We start a timer and watch the timing clock on the leader board to keep track of his lap.
» Each rider has a light on the leader board.
When it goes on, we know Cam’s on Glencrutchery Road and will reach us in the next 30 seconds.
» There are five people in each pit crew;
the Rear Wheel Man, the Visor Man and the Fuel Man are the only people who can touch the bike. A fourth member is allowed to oversee the crew from the pit wall.
» The fifth member brings the new rear wheel from the tyre warmers in Parc Fermé.
We get the wheel about four minutes before Cam’s due to come in. When his leader board light goes on I spin the wheel out of the warmer and we’re ready.
» When Cam comes in, the Visor Man catches him and I put the bike on the stand.
This gives the Visor Man enough time to whip the fuel cap off. The Fuel Man sticks the nozzle straight in and starts filling.
» I check the bike’s not in gear.
This would lose valuable seconds as I wouldn’t be able to spin the chain on and off the rear wheel sprocket. I use a knuckle spinner/breaker bar to break the rear nut and spin the spindle out simultaneously.
» While I do this the Visor Man is replacing Cam’s visor, talking to him, and cleaning bugs and road debris from the bike’s screen.
The Visor Man is the only person who talks during the pit stop. Unless there are any issues, everyone else keeps their mouth shut.
» I remove the spindle and pull the red hot chain off to the side, careful not to catch it in the wheel.
I pull the wheel out. It’s covered in dirt, melted bits of tyre, chain fling and goo. It’s sticky, heavy and awkward – and way too hot to touch with my bare hands. The tyres run at up to 120°C!
» We’re wearing a fire suit, gloves and balaclava for protection, but it makes you sweat like crazy!
The new wheel goes in. I do this with one hand so I can use my other one to guide the chain on. Then I spin the wheel to run the chain back onto the sprocket. The wheels are race spec but, with the tyre and sprocket on, still weigh about 10kg!
» The spindle goes back in using the spinner.
I go as tight as I can by hand and then use the torque wrench. The tighter I get the spindle by hand the less time I have to spend with the wrench.
» When the new wheel goes in the disc can push the pads apart, so I reach around to the rear brake and pump it two or three times.
Cam needs the rear brake to work when he dabs it for the first time to control the front over the crests!
» Next, I grab the pressurised quick filler and give the bike 250ml of oil.
The filler uses a quick dry break and it takes between one and two seconds to inject the oil once the connection is made. I throw the bottle onto the pit wall, get the bike off the stand and get ready to push.
» By now, the Fuel Man’s about done.
He pulls the nozzle out and, in one smooth motion, uses a towel to soak up any spillage on the tank. As he does this, the Visor Man sticks the cap back in, makes sure Cam’s ignition switch is on, shouts; LIMITER to remind Cam about the pit lane speed limit, and runs around to join me at the back of the bike as I start to push.
» We push the bike as Cam hits the starter button.
The bike punches into the pit lane limiter and we’re done for another two laps.
Words: David Burton/Esses Magazine
Images: Duncan Kendall/Esses Magazine
This feature was taken from Esses Magazine’s Isle of Man TT Special Issue; it’s republished here with permission.
Order it at essesmagazine.bigcartel.com