The short version
Up to fourth in championship, and the bike’s in 10,000 pieces…
The long(er) version
The Oulton weekender worked out well for Astro JJR racing, and the track action side of things can be dealt with in no time.
Rider Alex Olsen was amongst the pointy end of things throughout and doing what’s rapidly becoming his trademark job of harrying factory teams around the UK’s finest circuits, with a pair of podiums the fruits of his - and the team’s - labours.
Race one on Saturday was spent in a battle for the lead with eventual winner Billy McConnell, with the Australkian pulling a gap after a backmarker pass leaving Olsen open to an attack from third placed Keith Farmer. Farmer’s resulting pass was hard, fast and fair, while his subsequent wobble out of Cascades gave McConnell all the breathing room he needed to bag the win ahead of the two.
Come Sunday morning and, after the obligatory late start for the nearby Oulton church service (early morning worship, or an extra hour in bed - the choice is yours), there followed all manner of tyre confusion as the rain threatened before the entire Superstock grid trooped out on wets.
The perfect choice, although with a fast-drying track these were all less than ideal come race end, and it was a race end which saw Olsen in the lead for much of the race before being pipped by Farmer in the last few laps. Olsen stuck his neck out, but Farmer stayed away for a well-deserved win.
The background drama to all of this was the key players ahead of Olsen in the championship - Josh Elliot and Lee Jackson - both took early baths in the gravel meaning Astro JJR left Oulton Park having moved up to fourth overall.
Now we come to the off-track antics, which is how we arrive at the aforementioned ‘bike in 10,000 pieces’ moment. Not because it was cartwheeled into a tyre wall at 130mph, but because a full engine stripdown was ordered after race two by the kindly scrutineers.
“They wanted to measure some bits”, explained team manager James Jackson, “so I had a two hour deadline to get the engine out and strip it down to its component parts, a job made rather more difficult by the fact we’d never taken the engine out before - let alone apart - and by my toolkit being several miles from scrutineering, at the other end of the paddock”.
One long run and one long push with a huge toolbox later, the headscratching began as the strip against the clock got going.
“We managed it in an hour and ten minutes, thanks to some timely help from the Tyco boys. The hardest part was finding containers to put all the bits in - some of it even had to go in the washing up bowl out of my van,” said Jackson.
In case you were wondering, all the measured bits were officially measured up and found to, erm, measure.
The next challenge was getting the ‘bike in 10,000 pieces’ into the truck and back down South where it now needs putting back together.
“We were hoping to get to Assen,” added Jackson ruefully, “but I think I’ll be rebuilding a bike that weekend instead now” (there’s no official Superstock race at the Assen round).
“I’m not sure how it all goes back together, but I’m sure we’ll get there. The man from BMW said he’s going to send me a manual on DVD…”
What could possibly go wrong?
Will Astro JJR’s bike be back in one piece in time for the season closer at Brands? Will there still be a confusing selection of unused nuts and bolts left on the kitchen table after the rebuild? Will the team washing up bowl scrub up after its impromptu ‘parts bin’ duty to keep the all-important tea flowing?
And will Astro JJR hold fourth for the season?
For all this and more, you’ll just have to tune in next time.