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Shane - Superlite (#43)

Garth Spooner Memorial R1 @ Taupo

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It's been so long since I raced at Taupo I was really looking forward to it. Chances are it was going to be cold (cos it's Taupo) and wet (cos it's not Summer yet) and I felt like I was totally unprepared but I was still looking forward to it. I really like riding at Taupo because it's so different to Hampton Downs. At HD it's all straights connected by corners except for turn 2 into 3. Even turns 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 they're far enough apart that they're treated like separate corners. At Taupo, turns 1-5 are a single series, 6-9 are another and 11-13 are yet another series and with each if you get the first turn wrong you're screwed for the rest so getting it right every time is a must.

Saturday was a track day and I wanted to get some practice in as itís been over 18 months since I last rode at Taupo so we got away to an early start to make sure we got there in plenty of time.

I skipped the first session as I was only wanting to do 4 out of the 6 for the day and Taupo can tear the crap out of Metzelers when itís cold. So I went out in the second session and things felt awful. I was cramped and couldnít move around and it felt extremely slow.

The second session was marginally better now that I had stretched out a little and the track was getting a bit warmer. However, I was definitely having trouble with braking so I measured the suspension sag and reset it to something a fair bit firmer.

The third and fourth sessions were much more enjoyable and I was feeling a lot more comfortable on the bike with my last session being my fastest of the day.

There was still one more session left but I wasnít going to do it so once signing in and scrutineering for Sunday started I got that sorted out and all I had to do in the morning was turn the tyre warmers on.

Sunday was looking like a much better day, clear skies and the promise of lots of sun although in the shadows it was still icy cold.

I was cross entered into ABJ and F3 with the ABJ Qualifying first session of the day.

Both Qualifyings went well although I was still feeling slow and it showed with times toward the back of the grid. We hadnít put any fuel in before F3 Qualifying so I cut that short to make sure I didnít run out of gas and be the first person to get slapped with $400.00 fine. The Metzelers really donít seem to like Taupo when itís cold, a fact backed by stacks of shredded K1s and K0s in various sheds though out the middle of the North Island.

I was up for the first and third races out of six so there wasnít much time to sit around.

Heading out to the grid for ABJ race 1 I was feeling good and was happy to have a grid position on the rights side so I could aim for the outside of turn 1.

The lights come up and .... Matt Reichenbach directly in front of me jumps the start by a mile and out of the corner of my eye at least 2 others have as well. The lights go out and I get a reasonably good start but things are a mess because of the guys that jumped. Somehow everyone gets away without any crashes so I aim for the outside of turn 1. I'm around the outside Lee Cummings and Blair Robson but the mess on the start grid has moved to turn 1 and there's bikes everywhere on all sorts of lines and I have to back off to avoid hitting anyone, losing the places I just gained. Turn 2 and things are only marginally better, Blair Robson getting squeezed and almost taking out the backend of the bike in front of him.

Turn 3 I'm trying to go around the outside of Lee while he's trying to go around the outside of Blair, neither of us making it far enough past. Turn 4 things are marginally better again but turn 5 the group in front is going 3 wide and that doesn't work. Everyone makes it through though and things start to spread out a little on the short blast to 6 and 7.

Iím all over the back of Lee Cummings but as we pass the start/finish line I can see the starter holding out a sign. I canít read it clearly but I see a ď3Ē is the last digit and wonder if itís a warning for cutting the dodgy chicane a little bit (about 0.5m as I was unsighted by the bikes in front and didnít quite get onto the correct line). This makes me back off a little, enough that those in front of me start to pull a little gap. After a couple of laps thereís no other warnings and Iím not caring anymore so wind it back up, making the biggest gains by taking the correct line into the chicane. By the last lap Iím almost close enough to put a move on Lee but Iím too late as the chequered flag comes out.

Into the pits I wander over to the start box and talk to Paddy who tells me the sign was for ď33Ē, not ď43Ē so I shouldíve kept going hard and gained some places.

About 4 laps into the next race the red flags come out and the Superbikes and 600ís are into the pits. After a couple of minutes theyíre all sent back to their sheds while everyone chills out. However, the delay gets longer and longer and itís obvious the Paramedics arenít moving the rider, rather theyíre waiting with him until an Ambulance arrives. Due to the number of sporting events on in Taupo itís over an hour before an Ambulance turns up. However, even then theyíre not moving the rider. While standing next to a Marshal we hear an Air Ambulance has been called for and theyíre going to land it on the track right next to the rider. Once the helicopter turns up and lands they power down straight away and now the guy has 8 EMTs and even more marshals getting him comfortable and ready for transporting. Eventually heís in the helicopter and away to Rotorua, but by now itís after 2:00pm.

After lots of hurried discussion amongst the officials a riders briefing is called and weíre informed that the accident wasnít fatal and the rider will survive, itís just that his injuries were so painful he couldnít be moved. In the end heís released from the hospital 3 days later so his injuries canít be too major.

At the riders briefing weíre informed that all of the ABís and BEARS races have been dropped in favour of squeezing in 2 very rapid rounds of races. Weíre back into it with just 4 classes but it means everyone gets 2 races for the day while those of us lucky enough to be in the first race will get 3.

Weíre up second in F3 with a reshuffled grid and Iím not feeling the greatest. Itís difficult to concentrate, Iím tired and listless and having lots of problems getting my head back into it. However, I line up on the grid hoping Iíll come right soon as the lights go out.

Iím all the way over on the left, which is the worst place to be at Taupo as turn 1 gets jammed up fast and you get locked in while everyone rides around the outside.

The lights go out and I launch but suffer the Drag Racers nightmare - tyre shake. Tyre shake happens because tyres need to slip a little when youíre launching. If they donít then the tyre deforms, the tread staying still and the inner tyre is moving making it distort around the wheel. Shortly after the tyre releases and snaps back to shape causing the vehicle to bounce. It feels a lot like bunny hopping except itís not the engine thatís causing the bounce, itís the tyres.

Tyre shake makes for a bad launch so Iím behind the pack going into turn 1. Settling down I try to set a good pace but Iím really not into it and the bike is starting to slide around a lot, 6 days on a set of tyres is just too much. Iím gradually reeling in Peter Woodford when, on the second to last lap, Leigh Tidman comes flying around the outside of me into the dodgy chicane. He quickly passes Peter and Matt Reichenbach as well before taking the chequered flag. Iím right beside Peterís wheel across the line.

That bike of Leighís, a WR450 engine in an RS125 GP bike frame, is virtually unbeatable on Taupoís track 2 and Leigh was laying down times that wouldíve put him 2nd in most of the F1 races ahead of everyone except Andrew Stroud and Connor London.

After that race I decide to pack up and head home, not realizing that I was suffering from fairly bad dehydration. Had I figured it out earlier I couldíve done something about it and done the third race, but when youíre suffering from it you donít realize you are.

After much analysis of things Iíve concluded that I need more room on the bike for my legs so padding the seat and lowering the footpegs are the two options Iíll be looking into. I also need to less trail on the front end without messing with the weight distribution as itís super stable, but that makes it difficult get around tight turns, such as turn 1 and turn 7. Unfortunately changing the trail without changing the weight distribution means getting different triple clamps and because of the relatively short production life span of my bike thatís proving to be very difficult.

The next month is going to be exciting as Iíve got the 6 Hour Endurance race at Hampton Downs where Iíll be running the bike at itís full 4 cylinder 600cc.

Thanks to
  • my wife for not yelling at me too much for racing with titanium bits in me
  • Cherie for all the help in the pits
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Tony, Diane, Boaz and Eve for looking after my bike
  • Craig @ Grey Street Motors
  • Dusty @ Leda Leathers for the awesome custom race suit
  • Steve @ SPJ Art and Design for painting my helmets

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