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Shane - Superlite (#43)

BRM Pacific Club Summer Series Round 4 @ Taupo

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I'd been looking at the weather reports and it looked like the Friday & Saturday track days at Taupo were going to be wet. That and the fact I'd been horribly ill so I hadn't even been near my bike for nearly 2 months and had lost any sort of fitness I ever had meant that riding 3 days in a row would probably be a bad thing. For those reasons I took a day of annual leave and headed to Taupo on the Wednesday for the open test day as it was going to be a beautiful, sunny day. It also meant I'd get a couple of days to recover.

Wednesday turned out to be a perfect day to ride motorbikes. The only blemish on the day was a very large slide followed by a tank slapper coming out of turn 7 in the first session. I think it was a combination of low track temperature, worn tyres and pressures a couple of pounds too high that caused it. The slide did, however, remind me of why I was there that day; not to do fast laps but to change the way I sit on the bike. The CBRs are built so they ride nose down arse up with a lot of weight forward. This, combined with my natural tendency to ride a long way forward means I've been overloading the front wheel and not able to maintain decent corner speed. To sort this out I have to sit much further back on the seat when braking and turning into the corner.

Changing position on the bike also helps as it is set up for Paeroa - lots of rake and trail to keep the front end stable as I don't have a steering damper. I would usually run a lot less rake and trail at the front for Taupo but the days between the PMCC round and Paeroa are very full so I wasn't going to get the chance to change it back and get it set up properly. It made the tight turns very difficult but I'd rather put up with it than have a steep, unstable front end at Paeroa or running out of time and having to rush things and get the setup wrong.

Craig at Grey Street Motors is a good bugger. On Friday he came in on his day off and opened the workshop to change my tyres for me.

Saturday turned out to be total crap as it rained pretty much the entire day. Also, I'd discovered the left fork seal was leaking and had to be changed before it completely let go so as soon as I'd found a spot in a shed I had the fork out and had the seal replaced. By the time I'd got it sorted and back in the bike I'd missed the first two sessions but the rain was lightening up so I threw the wets on and got out for a ride. As it was the first time in two years that I'd ridden on wets it's fair to say that I wobbled around. After that the rain got worse again and I wasn't keen on crashing with the PMCC series the next day and Paeroa a week later so I ended the day having only a single session. Still, it's better than others who didn't get any laps at all.

I also got to talk to Dave Moss for a bit about the 450 triples, among other things. It seems the triples are really starting to take off in the States as bikes like Dave's VFR428 were getting pretty rare, with the majority of them being over 20 years old and only 4 bikes entered for 2014. However, it's looking like there's going to be about 20 of the 450 triples entered so the future of the SuperBike 450 class is safe.

Sign in and scrutineering for the next days racing started at 4:00pm but I wasn't able to as I'd left my licence at home. We were going to head back home anyway as there was a large concert in Taupo that day and the nearest available bed was Rotorua. In which case it was considerably cheaper to spend an extra 45 minutes in the car and just go home to our own bed.

Sunday morning was looking to be a beauty. The rain had stopped Saturday night and there was a bit of a breeze to dry the track out. I went straight to sign in and found they didn't have an EFTPOS, which meant I had to go and find an ATM. Having done that I got back and found that I'd entered the wrong amount and still didn't have enough cash so I asked my wife to go back and get some more.

For this event I'd entered Superlite and cross entered into Asian Bikes Junior (run with Post Classic Junior), with the AB Junior being the first qualifying and Superlite 3rd qualifying. This pleased me as my first session of the day is always crap so I could use the AB Junior qualifying as a warm up.

First Qualifying session and I'm not with it yet, feeling like I'm not settled into a routine and a bit stiff, not to mention I hadn't had the obligatory McDonalds on the way to the track. Needless to say I managed a very average time, putting me 8th on the grid.

Soon after we're out for Superlite Qualifying and I'm immediately feeling much more settled, relaxed and moving freely. I start getting quicker, bringing my lap times down. At one stage Leigh Tidman came past though the A1 corner followed by a couple of SVs. Into the sweeper and I hear a sound out to my right and realise Scott Moir is about to blow past me, hopefully not as close as he often does.

However, for some reason only my first three laps were recorded with the two later, much faster laps not recorded. I have no idea why this happened but as it only recorded my slowest laps I qualified a very disappointing 17th out of 21!!

First race and I get a great launch, only to have Peter Markham-Barrett's NSR300 on the row in front of me pull 3 wheelies in an effort to get moving, each of which turned him slightly more to the right and into my path. I shot past him before he crossed in front of me and powered off down the straight to turn 1, almost making it past Peter Woodford but I couldn't quite get there so I had to give way but stayed tucked in beside him nice and close. However, he saw what he thought was a crash happening in front of him and wobbled, causing me to get out of the throttle and stand up. Turns out nobody went down but Peter recovered a lot quicker than I did and pulled a couple of metres on me. Chasing him, I soon hear that NSR and wasn't sorry to see him get past me as his record so far was 1 finish from 2 sessions.

I backed off a little as I didn't want to be too close if the NSR went down. However, a short while later Blair Robson got past me with a sweet move into turn 7. A lap later Russell Forrest comes up the inside of me into turn 1 but front end chatter pushes him well wide leaving me to turn inside him and get moving. However, he's put a CBR600 engine into his CBR400 frame so it's not short of grunt and he caught and passed me a short while later.

Chasing Russell I find it very difficult to get past him as he's making the CBR very wide and it's got the horsepower on the straights to stay ahead so, despite being all over him, he managed to hold on until the finish line, leaving me with a 7th.

I was going to take it easy in the first race as the AB Juniors isn't my main class but, as it turned out, I put more effort into it than I intended and ended up having a great time.

Soon after was the Superlite race. There was nobody in front of me on the next row and someone on the row in front of that was missing as well so when I got another great launch, passing a bunch of bikes off the line I found myself with a nice big empty space around me. However, this only lasted until the first corner when I was suddenly surrounded by bikes. Through turn 1 I could see a helmet underneath the nose of my bike so someone on a 125 was literally leaning on my front wheel. Turned out it was Rogan Chandler doing the "rubbing is racing" thing. However, with Rogan there I couldn't do anything at all so I had to back off to get some room to stand it up and open the throttle. However, that meant Roman Rajek on another 125GP could follow him through so I lost another place.

Tyler Firn was going even quicker and managed to get past me. However, out on the straight he sat up and put his hand in the air which surprised the hell out of me. I thought maybe his engine had done something and might be losing fluids so I shot to the right and ended up down the drag strip. By the time I turned around and got back out there I was dead last by more than the start/finish straight, which pissed me right off.

Knowing I didn't have a hope in hell of catching anyone I cruised around keeping an eye out for the fast guys. Looked like Scotty had gone missing so Leigh was out in front with Gavin Veltmeyer behind him and Gav Pelham further back so I pulled off down the drag strip and sat the last lap out knowing I was already going to score a DNF (more than 65% of race required).

Thoroughly annoyed with how that race went I pulled into the pits to find Peter Woodford's SV had stopped just after the start as the stupid tip over sensor had come loose. Personally, I'd remove the damn thing, install a lanyard kill switch and rely on that to cut the engine if the bike goes down.

My third race was the AB Juniors again and lining up on the grid there was only one bike on the front row. I got a good launch and got to turn 1 just beside Peter again, but this time I could hear that NSR to my left so I made sure to let him wobble past me. His record for the day was still finishing only 50% of the sessions he started.

A while later I'm heading into turn 7 and Nick Southerwood shoots up the inside of me, but at the same time Robert Whittall went up the inside of him and there wasn't enough room for all of us. I guess they started from pitlane. Once they cleared out I had nothing to focus on, the track in front of me clear, so I was left to my own devices. Unfortunately, with nobody to chase down I wasn't able to concentrate, making mistakes which were reflected in my erratic lap times, eventually finishing 7th on track and 6th in class.

The final race for me is Superlites, for which I get another excellent start and find myself in another relatively clear patch all the way turn 1. This time Rogan is a bit further ahead so I didn't have him leaning on me. After sorting ourselves out Roman uses the 125's superior corner speed to get around me at turn 8, but I use the CBR's superior straight line speed to get up the outside of him into the sweeper, giving him a hell of a fright. The 125's corner speed won out though and he managed to hold me off until the slower corners through the infield. By this time Peter Woodford caught and passed me. This surprised me as I thought he was having a blinder and was so far ahead I couldn't see him. Turns out he had a shocker of a start and was riding hard to catch me.

Once I got over seeing Peter I got my head together and latched onto the back of him, noting that he was slower than me through 3 & 4, at the A1 and down the main straight. The only place I could get close enough to pass him was going to be down the main straight. On the second-to-last lap I got on the throttle nice and early through the sweeper, driving hard for the inside and drawing up along side him at about the 300m mark. He got enough of a surprise that he lost track of his braking marker and pulled up too early, whereas I left it as late as I could and got into the left hander a bit too fast, scrubbing off more speed than I'd like to get around the right hander. After this I put my head down and got out of there, pushing and making a bunch of small mistakes, all the time expecting to hear that SV. Crossing the line I was relieved to find that Peter hadn't been able to come back at me at all, finishing 4 places ahead of where I started.

Overall I had a great week riding despite the rain on Saturday. I wasn't surprised that I was losing focus at times, but I'm very pleased with how I came out of it all physically. My starts were fabulous and I was making up quite a few places off the line. First lap is as crap as ever, with me not finding any grip until the second lap. The changes I made to how I sit on the bike are feeling ingrained and natural now and I'm not dropping back into old habits.

Thanks must go to
  • my wife for putting up with noisy smelly motorbikes and noisy smelly motorbikers and ignoring our bank account
  • Nigel, Rebecca 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


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