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Shane - Superlite (#43)

FFS not again ... AMCC Round 1 @ Hampton Downs

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AMCC Round 1 at Hampton Downs signalled the start of Summer racing and the first race for me since Paeroa in February, 8 months ago.

This time I planned to get an unusually early start so that we're not rushed even if something doesn't quite go as it should so I'd set my alarm for 5:30am. That's an insane time to be awake. On the average work day my body might be walking around but my brain isn't awake until about 10:00am. Even then that's only after some breakfast and a caffeine hit.

I rocked up to Michael's place just after 6:00am, having made the obligatory stop at McDonalds for something hot and slightly disgusting. This time it was a Boston Deli Bagel combo, which is starting to nudge out the Sausage and Egg combo (tomato sauce covered Hash Brown stuffed in the middle of course) as my favourite for race days. I think it's because the tomato gets really warm and tastes just like Fried Tomato, and then they add Avocado Sauce as well.

Getting to the track there's almost nobody there. We see a couple of vans and that's about it. Wandering around I find Peter Smith unloading his stuff into shed #1 so stop to chat to him. Shortly after we decide to set up in the same shed, mainly cos it was already open. We quickly drag the gear and bike into the shed, after which I wander off to see if they're doing sign on yet.

There's a couple of blokes in there already, quietly waiting while the AMCC lady explained things to the dude with her. Not wanting to bugger around I grab a pen, find my name on the list and sign, fill in the details in my log book then seeing as mine was already filled out the guy checked things over and I ended up being the very first person to sign in for the day. Glad it was too early in the morning for anyone to be grumpy at the queue jumper!!

I dawdled back then we wandered down to pit lane to find out when scrutineering started. The guys looked at each other, scratched their heads and see "might as well start now". Back to the shed and we took the bottom fairing off, push her down to scrutineering and get into the very short line. After having done a couple of race meetings with the AMCC I knew what they'd look for and had it all sorted so the bike breezed through. Pick up the helmet, head over to helmet check and things are all good. A nice, cruisey start to things.

I knew sign on would be at 7:30am and the Resource Consent for the track means racing can start at 9:00am. Seeing as it was wet overnight and I figured they'd want to started as early as possible because there's a full days racing ahead and once you get behind on a schedule it's bloody difficult to get back on time I'd decided to leave the wets on. Usually the track is pretty damp in the morning with turn 6 being the wettest part so I thought I'd do the practice/qualifying on wets then change to slicks for the races. The weather forcast had said showers in the morning, so my cunning plan was to get a good time while it was damp and everyone else was sliding around.

What I failed to take into account was that I didn't know the actual time table for the day. Nor the delays getting started (something about not enough Marshalls available I think??)

The F2 practice was to be first on track at 10:00am with F3 out second. By the time I found this out it was looking a bit iffy to change the tyres, not that I'd found anyone with a bead breaker etc yet. Wandering around talking to people it seems almost nobody had brought anything for changing tyres. It was getting close to 10:00am and I didn't want to risk getting caught out still changing tyres when practice came up so I decided to go with the original plan and do practice on the wets. The problem is, the track was absolutely bone dry by the time F3 went out!!

So practice/qualifying wasn't great. I did a total of one flying lap with the bike squirming and sliding and trying to understeer me into the sand pit at turn one, turn four and turn six. Stuff that, one lap without crashing was enough for me. Seems I did enough to qualify 19th out of 26 or so, which was very promising seeing as I had been trying to keep it between the white lines rather than going fast.

Off with the wheels and we wander off to get the tyres changed over. After much wandering around and chatting it seems nobody had a tyre machine and there wasn't even anyone pit bitches who would change them for a few bucks. After much buggering about Kiwi Graham points out Glen Hessell from Cycle Treads, but he was up to ears in R6 fork internals so wouldn't be able to do it for a while. More walking and talking and it's looking like we might have to go find the nearest gas station with a machine to do it.

Eventually Glen finishes up with the forks so we get into changing the tyres over. Only F3 is being called up already. By the time the tyres are changed and the wheels back on the bike the F3 race is well finished, despite a big delay for an accident.

That does it, I'm bloody well getting some spare rims. It's not like they're difficult or expensive to find for my bike (the price will make anyone with a K series Suzuki cry), it's just money I don't want to spend. But missing races is far more costly in the end.

Because this was my first actual race for 8 months, I had a different set of tyres on (second hand ones that were two years old) and I'd had the bike dynoed and we'd found 15% more power I'd decided to take it easy for the first few laps to get back into the flow of things. Then, in the second race, I'd start pushing things.

After many stoppages for broken bikes, the odd oil spill etc Race 2 rolls around so I roll out with everyone else and form up on the start grid. However, because a couple of the guys in the first F3 race went missing (one guy went down and got run over by the other) there were a couple of empty grid spots and people from row 3 back seemed to grid wherever they felt like it. So I'm not really sure who was behind me.

The lights came up, held, went out and I launched. Got a good start that immediately pulled in two places but the guy immediately in front of me sat up and hit the brakes early for turn one, which made me get out of the throttle early and a bike went up the inside and another around the outside of me. I settled down and started to get into a rythmn and quickly found the tyres were nothing to worry about, despite their age.

Ironically, the thing that did make life difficult was the power we'd found on the dyno now made the bike squat alot more on the throttle. The tiniest little bit of throttle made the front end rake out so it suddenly wanted to understeer all the way off the track on the exit. Getting right off the side and hauling it around the corners didn't really help so I had no option but to wait quite a long time before I could use any throttle. Although I'd done a track day before this race I'd only done a couple of sessions on toally knackered tyres so they weren't exactly quick. So when I upped the pace suddenly the bike wasn't behaving the way I was used to.

By lap three I was riding around the handling problem and thinking about catching the guy in front of me so started to up the pace a bit. I'd reel him in a fair bit at turn one and then a few more meters through the next three corners. But turn five has always been a problem on this bike because the turn is so slow. I could use first gear but this always upsets the front going into the corner and uses too many revs for the cambe ron the way out so I use second gear. But this bike has far call middle range so I lose drive out of it and the guy in front of me pulls away a few meters. He gains even more in turn six because as soon as I touch the throttle the bike goes wide so I'm not able to get on the gas hard until I'm almost upright.

After chasing him for three laps I've made a little of headway but nothing significant and finish the race as we were in lap one.

The race was only six laps but I'm breathing as heavily as a pervert in a Glad Wrap factory.

Back to the shed and Michael sorts the bike while I get my helmet etc off.

After much sitting around talking and watching motorbikes go around we hear the news that the third round is cancelled so we bail out of there really fast. I think it's the fastest I've ever gotten away from the track. We'll be home in plenty of time to see the All Blacks kick the Aussies arses.

So, because I didn't want to spend $800.00 on spare rims (they're not Suzuki, Yamaha etc so they're easy to find and dirt cheap comparatively) I've missed another race. That's a real pisser and it's not going to happen again (even though we're heading into summer and it's unlikely to happen again .... maybe).

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