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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Fun in the sun!! - Paeroa Battle of the Streets

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Paeroa was one of the reasons that I started racing. I told my wife that I wanted to do Paeroa (and maybe Wanganui) and that was the justification for doing other race meetings (rules say you have to do at least 3 track events to be eligable for the Streets).

Because of the tight time constraints with a Street Race, sign-in and scrutineering for Paeroa are on the Saturday so that Sunday morning it's straight into the riding as early as possible.

I was a bit nervous about scrutineering. I know they're a hell of a lot stricter than any club meeting. Seeing as I'd never been through such a strict one before I had no idea what to expect and was fully prepared to be told that I couldn't compete unless I did blah blah whatever. So I wasn't at all surprised when the scrutineer said the front end on my bike was crooked. He kept harping on about it but didn't reject me for it so I kept him focussed on that and he paid little attention to much else, basically wiggling everything to make sure nothing would fall off and not looking too closely.

What he wouldn't listen to was the fact the front sub frame is twisted and off to one side so the front fairing is crooked, making everything at the front of the bike look twisted.

Whatever, I was through that bit and just had to get my gear checked. The only thing I was worried about is the leathers I would be wearing for the races as I'd only worn them on the bike once before for about 10 minutes and they strangled my legs so that I couldn't feel anything below the knees. I'd had Sam from Celtic Leathers sort them out and also check over the entire suit and fix anything he found. However, I hadn't worn them since Sam had fixed them. Not that they were checking that leathers actually fit etc, but I was still apprehensive about them because the rest of my gear was right up to standard and wouldn't be any problem at all.

As it turns out I flew through the gear check without any problems at all.

Having signed in, been through scrutineering, gone back to get my newbies sticker and wrist band, it was now time for beer. Paul Duncan whipped out some cold ones and when those were finished I wandered off to get some more and we tucked into those. Although we were drinking we weren't getting silly and kept the number consumed very reasonable as the streets of Paeroa are scary enough without having a hangover.

According to Paul it's not a race weekend if we're not eating McDonalds so the four of us wandered off to the local Micky D's, which is brand new. It sits on the site of the old pub near the bridge in Paeroa. The Scottish restaurant seems to be quite popular with racers as we saw Scrivvy there, also Travis Moan and team and a couple of other faces I'd seen around the pit area.

One Grand Angus Combo (large) later we wandered back. I had a good look at turns 1-4 (I'd already looked at 5 & 6 earlier) and I'd figured there's 2 corners you do not want to get into fast. That's the left hander in the esses (turn 3) and the hairpin onto the start/finish straight (turn 6). A fast approach to those 2 is a slow exit (if you're lucky and don't end up in the hay bales) and they're very unforgiving corners so much better to brake a bit early than a bit late.

It was still light so I had another beer but the others weren't keen. They started setting up their camp stretchers and putting the sides on the Ezy-Up etc and once it was sufficiently dark I wandered off and left them to it. Unfortunately, it was now raining so I jumped in the car and parked it right next to the gazebo I was crashing out in so that I could keep my sleeping bag etc dry. I then moved the car back cos I didn't want an early bird turning up and pinching my parking spot!!

I live in an inner city apartment and have no trouble sleeping through the noise of large gatherings. Fireworks and LPG bombs is another matter. Somehow I eventually got to sleep, only to be woken by multiple big rigs, tractors and workmen dragging plastic barriers past. There was a non-stop procession of that lot from about 4:30am (a guess) until I bothered to look at my phone and found the time was 6:45am. I'd planned to be up at 6:00am and have a nice relaxing breakfast before cruising through the pre-race stuff. So much for that plan.

The rain had stopped sometime during the night and the road was nice and dry, which is a blessing. A quick trip down to McDonalds, during which I saw Michael (pit crew for the day) heading towards the pits and it was the traditional Sausage and Egg McMuffin Combo (stuff the hash brown into the McMuffin and cover it with Tomato Sauce then consume before it explodes all down the front of your shirt) and use their clean facilities and we head back to the pits to get our shit together.

Because of where I'd set up it was a bit difficult to get the bike stable on the stands so we put the bike on the road rather than under the gazebo, got the tyre warmers on and I wandered off to Riders Briefing while Michael sorted stuff.

Riders Briefing was quick and easy and we were told the newbies sighting laps would commence in about 10 minutes. For some reason I'd gotten it into my head that we'd be doing them at 8:30am but I was wrong and things were kicking off at 8:00am.

This meant a very quick change was in order and make sure the bike was ready to go. Michael earnt his meagre (as in non-existant) pay for the day by asking if I'd checked the gas yet, to which I replied "Oh fark". Want to look like a dick then run out of gas on the newbies sighting laps. That'll do it everytime.

On the dummy grid and sitting around waiting, watching the engine temperature rise and the pace cars doing laps (how come they do 3 laps??) then we're released. The pit straight is definitely bumpy and I immediately find that "this should be slow enough into the hairpin" isn't, hitting a manhole cover square on and wobbling out to the hay bails on the outside. Mental note - "don't give a rat's arse who passes under brakes, do not hit this corner fast. At all. Ever".

Blazing down the main street and through the kink and I immediately find I shouldn't hang wide on the right side when approaching the kink as the bike then goes up and over the change in camber, causing it to get a high speed wobble on which scares the hell out of me approaching the braking area for turn 1.

Turn 1 looks fine except for the STOP sign on the exit so I don't touch the throttle until I'm past it.

Into Turn 2 and it's surprisingly fast with lots of grip. Getting on the throttle too early will put you in the dip on the left hand side and avoiding the bumps is often the fastest way around a corner.

The road/track funnels itself into Turn 3 and this is the other corner where fast equals slow so I pick a fire hydrant marker to be my braking marker, even though it's a bit early. However, I do not want to be breaking when I hit the painted STOP in the middle of the road so slow is good.

Through there and it is immediately evident that slow is the only way to go through Turn 3, otherwise you will get Turn 4 all wrong and get reamed down the pit straight.

Into Turn 5 and it's clear that the bump is still there, although it seems that it's not as prominent as it used to be. Seems there's been a bit of work done to smooth it out a little.

Hard on the brakes for Turn 6 and bang it all the way to the bottom of the gearbox and watch people experiment with different lines and speeds through that corner, a couple of which almost hit the hay bales on the outside of the Turn 6 exit.

I could already tell I was going to have to do a hell of a lot of manual clutch slipping (no slipper clutch dammit) into turns 1, 3 and 6 otherwise the back end was going to be jumping around heaps.

Four laps of that and we get the chequered flag and head to the pits.

Lots of people reckon Paeroa Street Race is scary as hell, but that didn't seem too bad to me. Even though it was only the slow newbies session I didn't feel like the track was extremely narrow or overly dangerous. It just felt similar to other race tracks except it had a couple of corners that really needed huge neon signs saying "do not screw this one up". Really the only thing that made me nervous was the fact I was using a dark visor and it was still very early in the morning and overcast, so it was a little difficult to see.

I thought that, like every other race meeting, the practice sessions would be in exactly the same order as the listed races. However, that would be too logical and F3 was up after the Classic Sidecars.

Lining up on the dummy grid and there seemed to be a general reluctance for guys to line up near the front. I looked behind me while sitting there and there were at least 5 bikes. However, just before they let us out a whole bunch of the faster guys threaded their way through the dummy grid and went straight to the front.

Out on track and I followed a couple of the guys near the tail of the field to see what other people do. After a lap I found some room and settled into going a bit quicker, with each lap getting faster and faster.

Towards the end of the session a ZXR400 came up the inside of me exiting Turn 4. On this corner I tend to drift wide with the camber and then come back to the centre line to set up for the bump at Pit Entry. I'm sure he gave me plenty of room when passing but because I came back to the middle I nearly hit him. I wandered over afterwards and said sorry. He said there was no problem and we had a bit of a laugh about it all.

I'd pitted next to Jason McCammish and when I pulled up at our pit after practice I could see a whole bunch of straw hanging out the left side of his bike. He'd clipped a hay bale somewhere but couldn't remember where. I was just shaking my head as he was like someone who'd overdosed on Caffeine then taken some Speed for the hell of it. He was bouncing off the walls and couldn't remember Jacques Sheeite.

Second practice and I'm feeling comfortable with the track. I was actually more comfortable at Paeroa than I usually am at a race track. This is probably because I was there just for the experience and to have fun, already comfortable with placing last in each race if that's what happened. I wasn't there to break any records and wasn't about to toss the thing into the side of a building or power pole.

After the second practice I wandered over to see where I qualified and, not surprisingly, I'm last on the grid but not by much. That's promising as I wasn't riding very hard at all.

I'm thinking about changing the rear sprocket as it seemed likely the race order would be the same as the practice order, but this is a Street Race and they're a bit notorious for being a bit disorganised (understandable given the conditions - having to close public roads and the pressures that puts on the timetable etc). The race order will run as it is in the programme, which means F3 gets bumped up to the second race (and also thirteenth) of the day after the Posties and not after the Classic Sidecars as we had been in practice.

Luckily I decided to wait until after the first race to change the rear sprocket as I didn't think we'd have time. The call for F3 came and I would've been right in the middle of changing it if I had done it so it's likely I would've missed the race. Caution wins when uncertainty rules!!

Out for Race 1 and we got a full lap before going around to line up on the start grid.

I kick the bike into neutral and coast up to my grid spot and I'm still 5m away from where I'm meant to be when the Grid Marshal at the back raises the flag to indicate we're good to go. Errrr, wtf?? So I hurriedly stop, not checking if I'm still behind the line and kick it into first gear. Only it won't go into first!!!!

The flag drops, everyone takes off and I'm still stamping on the gear lever trying to get 1st gear!!!! Five seconds after everyone is gone I grab second and launch very slowly with lots of clutch slip and get to Turn 1 about 10 seconds after everyone else.

Right about that time I'm really pissed off and want to try and catch the guy in front of me and start to push a bit.

Not surprisingly, I'm riding more aggressively than I was in practice and make a couple of small mistakes that cost a disproportionate amount of time. You have to be so perfect around the streets because a tiny little mistake isn't tiny at all and will cost you seconds, not fractions of a second.

So, unfortunately, I didn't really make up any ground on the guys in front of me by the end of the race. However, I did get lapped and things got a bit tight when Jason passed me in Turn 5. He didn't hit me and it was in the middle of a race so I didn't bother saying anything about it as it was a perfectly legitimate move to make. It did surprise me because normally I'd know there was a bike somewhere there, but I guess I was just too annoyed at not being able to find first gear at the start of the race and wasn't as aware as normal.

Into the pits and I immediately climb out of my riding gear and start pulling the rear wheel off. A quick change over of the sprocket (2 teeth smaller as the 47 tooth is slowing me too much into corners) and the wheels back on and we tension the chain up. The tyre warmer goes back on and it's time to relax. Even though I've got lots of time until the second race (there's a lunch break scheduled after the first Formula Paeroa race) I wanted a good buffer just in case something went wrong when changing the sprocket. Turns out I needed that extra time just to cool down as the sun was now out and it was stinking hot.

It must've been seriously hot because the generator kept cutting out, even though it was sitting in the shade. Whenever we went to restart it we could feel heat pouring off the thing and decided to let it cool down for 5 minutes before restarting it. This helped, but only a little.

Our second race is called so I gear up and head to the dummy grid. I'd told Michael he will either have to hold an umbrella for me or find one of the Mobil 1 girls and get them to shade me. Seeing as he couldn't find one of the chicks he had to do it himself. At least he wasn't the ugliest holding a brolly!!!

A full warm up lap and I line up. The positions for this race are set according to where you placed in the first race. So it hadn't changed for me because of the gear lever mishap

Later on I found that when I'd put the bottom fairing back on after scrutineering it was in a slightly different position so the gear lever hit it if I wasn't moving. When I was moving, the air pressure made the fairing move just enough so the lever didn't foul it anymore. An easy fix but why the hell does all this shit happen on a race day!!!!

This time I left it in gear and held the clutch in until the flag dropped. I got an ok start, but not a fantastic one like I've started getting when lights are used. I passed a couple of guys but promptly lost those spots at Turn 1 where I was stuck on the outside. Following the guys in front I just tag onto them for a while. It's pretty obvious that the sprocket helped a bit, but I was still losing out big time out of slow corners so I'm starting to try a bit harder and push a bit when, in lap 3, I look down to see the dash flickering on and off. A short while later it dies completely.

The battery is dying again

I've got a spare but we didn't put it in because I was sure the original would last. It always had done before. I know better. It's only good for half a day now dammit.

This meant that the bike wasn't able to rev out so I wasn't able to use the power at the top end.

I pushed on though as I was either going to finish or stop somewhere. On the last lap Glen Williams and Terry Fitzgerald come blazing past me near the end of the main straight, well and truly gone by the time I get through Turn 1. There was a yellow flag out so I took it a bit cautiously. Up and over Turn 2 and there's a bike and rider down on the stop bank. From the colour of the leathers I thought it might be Glen, but I chanced a quick look and saw the bike was a yellow one so it wasn't him. For a couple of seconds I thought it might be Paul Duncan.

Thankfully, three laps of Paeroa takes less time than 2 laps of Taupo A1 track so I made it to the finish line and then slowly idled back to the pits. On my way to the pits I had a much better look on the stop bank at Turn 2 and confirmed that it was Paul. He was down but moving and he was holding his left arm. I thought he must've done a shoulder or something but I didn't really know.

Back to the pits I stopped to let the dude take my transponder off and he accidentally hit the kill switch. Needless to say there wasn't enough juice to start the bike again so I had to push it. But Peter Harkness was there and I talked to him as I pushed the bike back to my pits. Paul was riding Peter's SV in Formula 3 so I told him what I saw, hopefully emphasizing the fact he was moving and that he had enough wits about him to stay where he was and let the Marshals go to him.

Seems that Paul was pushing to try and get past Deano and touched his rear tyre, which immediately turned the world upside down and launched Paul 2 metres into the air. Deano was really worried as those two pit together and they're mates so he disappeared to see how Paul was.

The Ambo's (great bunch of people, as are the Marshals) shipped him off to Thames hospital (I think - I'm not 100% certain of that) and then he was sent to Waikato Hospital for X-rays to see if they needed to operate on his wrist. Sounds like it's not so bad that it needed an operation because they kicked him out and he was home in Rotorua by midnight.

Meantime, I'd raided the chilli bin for a beer and Michael and I went for a celebratory Hell Pizza. They were only doing 3 different pizzas so we chose one and it turned out much better than it should've. I guess they'd run out of something and decided to substitute chilli for whatever it was cos it had some spice and was damn good. I'll have to try and figure out what it was so I can order one sometime.

So, Mission Accomplished

I had a lot of fun and it wasn't as scary as people had said. Although I think that might be because I approach any race track the same way. That is, it's kinda like a colouring-in book. You have to stay between the lines or it's a fail. On a race track, you have to stay between the two edges of the track or it's a fail. At Paeroa, you stay between the two edges of the road or it's a fail. So I only ever see the surface I'm riding on and only have the vaguest recollection of where hay bales, air fence, barriers, buildings etc are. They're not important so I don't see them. I couldn't even tell you which parts of the track had lots of spectators and which didn't. If I do see those sorts of things I'm screwed because you go where you look and I'm obviously not looking where I should be.

The problem I have now is my justification for doing some racing just disappeared. As I mentioned, I told my wife I wanted to do Paeroa and possibly Wanganui (time of the year is the problem with Wanganui). Now that I'd done Paeroa I can't really justify spending money on racing. In particular, I can't justify spending the money that would make my bike competitive (it's only putting out 52 horsepower compared to 62 for an SV, it's 10-15kg heavier than an SV and the rider is 10-15kg heavier than most as well). It needs engine work to find some power and that's not cheap. Shaving weight from the bike means ditching the petrol tank (I'm sure it's made of lead) in favour of a lightweight fibre glass one, making a custom wiring harness to get rid of excess wiring and generally going over the entire bike to shave bits off everywhere and remake as much as possible so they're lighter.

As for me, I plan to make millions by figuring out how to drink beer and eat pizza while losing 15kgs (ahem).

Thanks to:
  • Michael for making sure I don't forget anything during the day (pit crew)
  • Corey for the leathers
  • Paeroa Promotions for a great event
  • the Marshals, ambo's, fire crews and all the volunteers that make it happen
  • Bret for talking Mobil into picking up the sponsorship of the event
  • my wife for not going bat shit (much) when I said "next year ..."
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Bruce and Doesjka @ Layer X

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  1. kiwifruit's Avatar
  2. skippa1's Avatar
    damn good read....inspires a try
  3. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by skippa1
    damn good read....inspires a try
    I'm glad to hear that. Giving it a go is always a good thing.

  4. Big Chim's Avatar
    Nice one mate!! bloody good fun aye!
  5. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    It's awesome fun. Problem is telling the wife I want to go back again next year haha.