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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Bridgestone VMCC Round 6 @ Taupo

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What a great day for riding!!

On the Wednesday I'd done the test day at Taupo after having swapped out the left side brake disk because the bike had picked up a nasty chattering under brakes. I'd taken the front mud guard off and ridden down the street in second gear and could look down through the fairings and see the left disk wasn't straight so the Wednesday test day was useful to firstly see if the braking was ok now, reacquaint myself with Taupo and have a look at the surface as winter can be hard on the track. It looked like I wasn't the only one who wanted a look at the circuit as there were a decent number of bikes there, the likes of Jaden and Aaron Hassan, Toby Summers, Glen Orwin and others getting out onto Taupo for testing before summer as well.

I was surprised to see only one single seater race car and no tin tops there so we'd be doing every second session, meaning lots of laps all day long.

As it turned out the front end was still shuddering quite badly under brakes which meant I wasn't able to sort out braking markers all day as I had to button off early and only brake gently. This wasn't the only problem I was having though as I wasn't able to hit an apex all day long with the front end pushing wide mid corner before I got on the throttle, consequently I'd get on the gas late and I was just slower everywhere.

I fiddled with the tyre pressures to see if that would help but any improvement was marginal. I also richened the fuelling below 10% throttle between 9500rpm and redline as that had helped smoothen corner entry before but that also marginal. After 4 sessions of feeling terrible I merged the fueling map for over 50% throttle that had been produced on the dyno a month before with the under 50% throttle from the previous map and headed out for a final session, immediately finding the throttle nice and controllable mid-corner instead of being overly sensitive, snatchy and jumpy. Now the bike felt very familiar again but still had the best power of the newest map.

Feeling very pleased with myself for sorting that out I skipped the last session and headed home.

On Saturday the trip down was uneventful although we'd left later than I usually would have. I knew from Wednesday the BP closest to the track is closed for gas while they dig up the tanks under the forecourt so I stopped at the big BP on the old SH1 instead. At the track it was freezing due to the southerly wind that was blowing but it was dry and looking like being a wonderful sunny day. I got into a pit shed with Zane Brookes while Nicki Smith, Jason Nairn, Shane Ricardson and Leigh Tidman had the other half.

Skunk wanted to ride his bike for a change so Clive Banks was running the entire meeting and he made sure the instructions given at riders briefing were clear and easy to understand, although it was a long briefing.

For some reason I was really nervous. Sitting on the dummy grid looking around thinking "crap there's some fast bikes and some fast riders here" didn't help matters at all. When we were let out I was the last to exit pit lane like usual, however, I immediately felt the bike was steering like a chopper and running wide with it's nose in the air and realized I hadn't checked the tyre pressures. The day before Craig at Grey St Motors had put a new tyre on my other front rim (usually my wet wheel) and we'd left the pressure high because it's easier to let some air out than it is to put some in, but of course you had to remember to check the pressures before hitting the track. I went straight into the pits where one of the guys in the shed helped out by letting a few psi out of the front before I shot back out. Thankfully I'd only lost a minute or so which meant I could get a few laps in.

My second out lap was much quicker than the first and I made sure I wasn't slow when I hit the start/finish line for my first flyer. I went until the checkered came out and managed to squeeze in 3 laps, qualifying on the second row of the Superlite grid and very pleased to find all of the chatter from the front under brakes was gone. Looks like the original rim was bent.

Race 1
By this time things had warmed up a bit although the wind was still cold. I lined up on the grid where I thought I was meant to be but the problem is that there were two 43's on the timing sheet and originally I thought I was meant to be on the third row, but it turns out I was on the second row. So when I got to the grid I was still not 100% sure I was in the right place but everyone else seemed to be settled and there wasn't anyone trying to move me off the spot I was in so I forgot about it and got my head into race mode.

It was a split start with the 125GP's heading off first and the Superlite/Pro Twins setting off about 20 seconds later.

The 125's took off, the lights came up for us and we were off!!

Robert Whithall actually jumped early, stopped then took off well after the lights went out so I was past him straight away but Craig Sargeant got a blinder of a start, getting past me from the row behind before we got to turn 1. I started poking my nose up the side of him at a number of places but on the first lap I wasn't willing to push as the surface was still quite cold and the tyres weren't up to temperature. Onto the second lap and I went around the outside of Craig at turn 3 and promptly set about gapping him. Out of the A1GP corner and I hit the bumps where the old track crosses and ended up on the ripple strip, wondering if Craig has a camera onboard haha.

On the third lap the big blue SV with GSXR fairings of Jason Nairn appears right beside me into turn 5 and I'm thinking "where the hell did he come from??" He should be in the leading pack. Turns out his tether kill switch wasn't clipping on properly and had cut the ignition on the dummy grid so he had to push the bike back to the pit shed to get it started again and to also cable tie the tether on so it wouldn't fall off again. However, he got the wrong shed and then had to find the correct one. By the time he got started again pit lane was closed and he had to start from there, finally catching up to me on the third lap.

Because the others were so far ahead I ended up just concerntrating on doing my own thing until the finish, catching and passing Roman Rajek who was learning the 2 stroke 125GP of Team Aspire's on the fourth lap. At the finish line I looked back and saw that Nicki had gotten past all the others as well so she'll have an entire race of chasing me on her GoPro.

Race 2
After lunch the track was now toasty hot due to the very hot sun. When pit lane opened and CJ signalled us to go everyone was just sitting there looking around so I eased forward and ended up headed out of pit lane first, a new and slightly unsettling experience, especially when I saw concrete dust on turn 2 from the cars that had done demo laps during the lunch break!! Ok, this might be why everyone else was being slack bastards leaving the pits.

Even though I wasn't going quickly I slowed on the main straight and let a bunch of guys past me so I wasn't the first on the start grid and waiting for ages.

On the grid the 125GP's had started, we got the lights and took off!!

Neil Martin on the grid right beside me went vertical, momentarily distracting me so I didn't get a great launch. He got the front end down, took off and started pushing wide for the first corner, with me on his outside pushing me further and further to the right. I got out of the throttle before I ended up in the dirt and cut behind him, finding Nicki on the inside line, sneaking ahead on the exit. I start looking for places to pass her while she's trying to get past Craig Sargeant, who got yet another flyer. Nicki out braked Craig at the end of the main straight leaving me to try and find a way past him, eventually riding around the outside of him at turn 8. Nicki had made a gap of about 80m so I set about chasing after her, making up ground in some places, mostly under brakes but losing it in other places, mostly under acceleration. I was trying too hard though, making mistakes and getting off line so not really making any progress on reducing the gap. Eventually we crossed the line with Nicki 3 seconds in front of me.

For the second race I'd actually dropped the pressure a bit as it was higher than I usually have it. However, the bike was moving around a lot and it wasn't feeling as nice as I'm used to so for the last race I decided to up the pressure again, especially as all classes were actually going slower in their second race than in the first, even though the track surface temperature was higher.

Race 3
Got an alright launch but so did Robert Whittall, making it a straight out drag race to turn 1. With him having started a few metres ahead due to staggered grids he just pipped me, I cut across the back of him only to find Nicki on the inside yet again so I slotted in behind her. This time she got past Craig early leaving me to have a couple of looks at passing him but I wasn't able to get him until braking at the end of the main straight, by which time Nicki had settled into a rythmn and got a gap.

I started to chase her but on the second lap Joel Dykstra came past me, finally making up for a very average start. Tucking in behind him I tried to get dragged along but he was on a mission and I couldn't hold onto him. Nicki also passed Roman Rajek, putting 2 bikes between us. By the fourth and last lap of the shortened third race I hadn't quite gotten close enough to pass Roman so that was the way we finished.

End of the day and the pattern is the same as always - I qualify quite well then immediately improve by a second or two in the first race but then further improvements are either small or non-existant while everyone else gets faster and faster as the day goes on, with some dropping 10-11 seconds from their qualifying time. It's a pattern I'm finding very difficult to break. It does, however, mean that I make all of my improvements off the track between races after having analysised and thought about the previous race day.

All in all a great day to be riding a bike and I really enjoyed it.

Thanks must go to
  • my wife for putting up with noisy smelly motorbikes and noisy smelly motorbikers and ignoring our bank account
  • Clive, Skunk and all of the crew, marshalls and ambulance crew that made for such a good day
  • Craig @ Grey Street Motors
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Tony, Diane, Boaz and Eve for looking after my bike

Image from Annari and John @ JDAS
Race 2 first lap exiting turn 7


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