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Shane - Superlite (#43)

MOTUL 6 Hour Endurance Race @ Hampton Downs

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Iíd never done an endurance race before but I decided Iíd enter the first ever Motul 6 Hour at Hampton Downs with Steve Jones and Matt Reichenbach and see what it was all about. What I hadnít realized when weíd decided to enter was the date; they finally settled on the same day as my wedding anniversary, November 8th!!

Seeing as I was going to be racing that day both my wife and I decided weíd take the week following our anniversary off work and head to the beach. So instead of just the one day she gets to put up with me for a whole week.

Iíd never raced my bike as a 600 but I certainly wasnít going to be doing the endurance race on a 450, not with loads of litre bikes and 600s. So the weekend before Iíd entered the AMCC Round 2 in the Clubmans class so I could figure out how to ride it as a 600. After a Qualifying and 3 races Iíd gotten down to a time that wouldíve kept me in touch with the back of the F2 field and that was all I was after for the first time out.

The Saturday before the 6 Hour was a Play Day. Matt was going to see if he could figure out how to ride the 600 and get some confidence in it rather than riding the SV. Steve had to work the morning but was going to get out in the afternoon and do some laps to figure some things out. I was there just to make sure the feel for the 600 from the previous weekend wasnít a fluke.

Steveís first session ended with him saying heís out; heís not doing that - itís awful and dangerous. The back end was trying to overtake the front everywhere and it wouldnít stay in a straight line. We changed some settings and got him back out and he came in saying it was much better but still not right. Nicki Smith started coaching him on how to get around this particular track and got her riding gear back on so he could follow her to see where to go. I measured the suspension up and nearly fell over when I saw the numbers, so immediately looked to up preload at both ends by a lot. His third session he actually looked like he started to enjoy. He was using my lap timer which showed he dipped under the time so we thought there was a good chance heíd qualify.

The thing that made the Saturday totally worthwhile for me was talking to Graeme Cole and the advice he gave me about tyres. What he told me meant Iíd been going about things the wrong way and Iíd been wearing tyres out while not getting the maximum grip out of them.

Unfortunately, I hadnít organised a new rear tyre so at the end of the day I pulled the back wheel off the bike and borrowed Neil Nevilleís tyre changing gear so I could flip the tyre over and put the worn side on the left. I was going to have to do the entire endurance race on second hand rubber and there was a big risk of spending a lot of the race sliding around trying not to lose the back end. Normally Iíd use a tyre longer than the endurance race would last but usually itís broken up into short bursts across multiple days so if I get things wrong and the tyre wears out prematurely I can replace it. For the endurance race Iíd have to use it the entire day no matter what.

Sunday morning I get 10 minutes from home and suddenly wonder where my race licence is. We pull over by the side of the road and start digging through everything to find it. A few minutes later weíre heading home again, but I donít find it there either. We get back on the road half an hour late, firing off texts to try and get someone to check and see if I left it with my bike and tools. Eventually Cherie got back to me and said it was with the bike so I didnít need to get a day licence.

Sign-in was quick and easy but the rest of the morning just seemed to be hectic. Normally Iíd be cruising around talking to people but this time we seemed to be doing stuff non-stop with no time to relax.

Riders briefing felt very much like an NZSBK one. If anything wasnít perfectly clear and precise it got questioned and debated to the point of pissing people off. Eventually we make it through the briefing and everyone heads off to prepare for Qualifying.

Qualifying went according to the colour of the number on the bike. Red were first up, yellow next with blue last. So the order would be Matt, me then Steve. Both Matt and I were happy that weíd qualify easily enough but Steve hadnít done a track day, other than the 3 sessions the day before, let alone raced anything, in 18 years. It was his road bike with road tyres and saying the suspension is soft with damping best suited to a broad range of conditions is being generous. Needless to say qualifying was going to be a mission for Steve.

Matt was nervous, but he always is before getting on the bike. He got out there and settled down to put in a couple of solid laps before coming in a lap early so we could get the transponder swapped over. On the bike and down to pit exit I was the first there and nervous as hell. I kept telling myself itís just another Qualifying but things hadnít gone like any other race day so far so it felt very different and that gave me the jitters. We sat there while they held us for a short while, waiting for the track to clear. I think it may have been one of the Augustine brothers falling victim to a cold left side of the tyre at turn 3 that was holding things up. Thankfully for him it was just a minor lie down and after he got back to the pits they pulled the grass out and he was ready to go again.

Weíre released and Chris DeFiori has managed to push his way to the front and takes off like heís on a mission, followed by the bloke beside me. I head out and build up my pace over the first lap until I hit turn 1 at full noise. Usually Iíd do an out lap and one more to warm things up before pushing on but this time itís already fairly warm and Iím going to head in before the end of the session so we can swap the transponder over to Steve.

Third Qualifying session and Steveís out on track giving it a go. Jacob Stroud goes out but comes back in with a problem. They fiddle with the bike and send him back out but shortly after heís back in again so Andrew gets on it to see if he can pin down the problem, which immediately earns them a 2 minute penalty and last position on the grid.

Unfortunately, the changes in tyre pressures weíd made that morning on Steveís MV greatly improved the grip of the rear tyre, but it was too much for the suspension and now the bike was tying itself in knots. He gave it a good go but with the bike bucking and weaving all over the place Steve just missed out on the 1:19 required.

So, we were stuck. I was walking around trying to find out what the story is for us because we didnít want to go home. I talked to Des Berghan and he said he was in the same situation as they werenít sure the other two had qualified so we thought about combining the teams. However, as Gary Stirling is going shed to shed letting the teams know where they qualified, aggregate times putting us 22nd of 26, he reassured us that we were fine and we could start the race with two riders. I didnít find that very reassuring at all as it meant doing 50% more work with drastically less recovery time between sessions. I already knew I was going to be a worn out, broken mess by the end of the day but now I had to soak up even more punishment.

Matt and I sat down and talked it out and we both knew we were going to start the race no matter what. Weíd just have to suck it up and do what needed to be done, even it meant circulating at 1:25 or slower.

One thing that certainly wasnít going to happen was me doing the LeMans start. I flat out refused to do it and said Iíd start from pit lane if I was first up. Not only do I dislocate everything (shoulders, hips, fingers etc multiple times a year) making even a 10 meter run in motorbike gear risky but my bike requires the kill switch tether thatís attached to my glove to start. So either I pop a hip/knee/ankle and weíre done for the day or I take an extra few seconds of fumbling around to hook up the tether or I start from pit lane. Matt doesnít want us to start from pit lane so he gets to do the run and first laps.

With that sorted I get to hold the bike for the start. If something happens and we drop the bike before heís moving at least I can pick it up by myself.

Out on the grid weíre told none of those holding the bikes can leave the grass at all to prevent people pushing a bike halfway down the straight and getting run over.

Iím holding the bike up from behind and to the right, making sure that if Matt catches a boot or something while getting on he doesnít knock the bike over. The entire time Andrew Stroud is telling his team the transponder is still on the other bike so theyíre running around like headless chooks sending four people where only one is needed. Lucky for him there was about 90 seconds until the start otherwise he wouldíve been sitting there waiting while everyone else was gone.

The lights go off and theyíre all charging across the track. Mattís on the bike, it fires up and heís the 4th bike moving. Great start, but I shouldíve left the bike in gear for him - weíll know for next time.

Getting clear of the track we can see the bikes piling through turn 5 with Daniel Mettam in the lead. Out of turn 5 and thereís a bike down on the exit; Jamie Ward has had his usual first lap crash and the Team Forza Italia crew chief, Belinda Garrett, is charging down pit lane swearing.

Over the start/finish line and Stroudy has gone from the back of the grid to fourth. Itís difficult to find Matt but heís made it through the craziness of the start and first lap fine. Next lap Stroudy has hit the front and is proceeding to gap everyone.

Nicki has the Race Monitor app installed on her phone so weíre watching Mattís progress. Heís doing some steady times, making sure he lasts the day and doesnít wear himself out in the first laps.

After 20 minutes a full course yellow is out and the ambulance flag is shown. Matt decides itís a convenient time to do a rider change so Iím up. I get out there well before the pace vehicle passes the pits and head around to find the back of the queue, accelerating and braking a lot to get some heat into the tyres. I canít see who crashed but I can see the marshals walking back to the marshal station from turn 4ís exit. Next thing I know Chris DeFiori is beside me. I keep accelerating and braking, leaving a bit of a gap to the next guy. Out of turn 6 and everyone is accelerating away but Iíve left a gap so weíre over 100m behind and trying to make it up. I leave room for Chris to come past cos I know heís going to be quicker. Through turn 2 thereís a big cloud of dust on the outside of turn 3; looks like someone got bitten by Hampton Downsí resident cold-tyre Taniwha.

I settle into some slow 1:18s, partly because I want to last the day but mostly because braking with so much fuel is horrible. The momentum of all that fuel means the bike doesnít want to stop but I canít brake harder because that additional mass is sitting up high and makes the back end lift very quickly so Iím taking things easy while it burns down.

Gradually my pace picks up and I reel off a string of 1:15s before dipping down into a 1:14. At this stage I come across a slower rider who looks like heís carrying lots of fuel so I head up the inside of him into turn 4, hitting the brakes and my left hip immediately cramps up causing me to run straight ahead onto the grass.

I keep it upright, stretch out the cramp a little and ease back onto the track. Itís pretty obvious thatís the end of this session for me so I flick the light on to let the pit crew know and then do another 2 laps before heading in. The change over is good, the only problem is getting the transponder off my bike because itís in an awkward place. Thinking about it we really shouldíve moved the bracket while Matt was on track but sometimes the most obvious things are overlooked.

Mattís second session is a bit quicker and a bit longer than his first one. Heís just reeling off the laps, doing times that will get him home and staying out of trouble. His next time into the pits Iím away without drama.

Out on track the bike is feeling very front heavy and slow, it looks like weíve put too much fuel in it so burning it down is going to take longer, during which time Iím lapping slower. At one stage 3 bikes come past me all together and a couple of corners later thereís a yellow flag waving at turn 2 where two of those bikes have collided and gone down. Thereís bits everywhere but the riders are walking away so theyíre not hurt. I donít think the bikes were able to carry on because the next lap I saw the drone picking up their transponders.

The entire session Iím conscious of the cramp I got in my hip so Iím moving around less and finding places to relax. Itís a slow, frustrating session and by the time I start dragging my toes around turn 1 I figure thatís a good time to head in because Iíll end up catching a footpeg and crashing if I stay out any longer.

Turns out Iím earlier than expected but we get things done and Matt is back out on track.

About 25 minutes later Iím out on track again and weíve been a bit more careful with the fuel load so itís feeling much better, although itís still carrying enough to do lots of laps. After 4 or 5 laps I start getting a horrible feeling in my bladder, itís filling up and wants relieving. The feeling only gets worse. However, Nick Southerwood comes past me and taps the back of his fairing for me to tuck in behind. I canít stay too close to his SV because Iíd ram him on the straights so I let him get a little bit ahead. Heís setting a good pace and I just keep him in front of me, trying very hard to ignore my bladder. I follow him around for quite a while until eventually he goes really wide and slow at turn 5. Looks like heís got a problem changing gears. Passing him Iím starting to get seriously uncomfortable. Iím sitting way back on the seat and donít slide forward at all. I canít tuck in behind the screen on the straights because bending down is painful. Iím starting to shake trying to hold back the tide when Nick passes me again and pulls away. Either heís sped up or Iíve slowed down a lot or both. It doesnít matter because thatís the end of me for this session so I flick the light on, hope they see it in the pits and pull in the next time around.

I frantically pull my helmet and gloves off, abandoning everything on the floor of the shed and disappear out the back and into the toilet block. Itís such a relief it brings tears to my eyes.

At the track the mantra stay hydrated is heard all the time but it appears Iíd overdone it. I didnít know it was possible to over do that as I always assumed Iíd sweat enough that any excess water wouldnít make it to my bladder but I was most definitely wrong. Anyone who has ridden with a full bladder will know the pain. Trying to race with a full bladder is so much worse. You need to concentrate all the time but the only thing you can think about is relieving your bladder. You need to move to make the bike stop and change direction but you really just want to sit there with your legs clamped together. You need to relax so that you last the distance but thereís no way in hell youíre relaxing anything from the waist down.

During the next 30 minute wait I make three trips to the loos; the last time I was waiting with helmet and gloves on but I really needed to go again. I get my gear off and nip out the back but when Iím heading back to the pits I find Matt is already in with his helmet and gloves off so I hurriedly get mine back on and get to it.

This time out Iím so much more at ease, my bladder is totally empty so Iím comfortable moving around and also relaxing in lots of places. Weíd had a spillage when refuelling and had to syphon some fuel back out but the gauge was saying I had plenty so I settled down and was really starting to enjoy myself again.

I wasnít going as fast as my first session but I was getting quicker and quicker and finding more and more places to relax so I can last the enduro-distance. Usually I wouldnít have my weight on the seat through a corner, instead Iíd have my weight on the footpegs so the bike can move around a little if it needs to and I can control how much grip Iíve got. Having to spend so much time relaxing, Iím slowing the bike in a straight line, turning then just chilling out well before I get to the apex of each corner, staying really relaxed and stationary all the way through the middle of the corner and the exit. Each lap Iím surprised at how chilled out going fast can be and Iím developing new habits on the bike that can only be good later on.

Feeling a stutter on part throttle I look down and see the fuel tank is almost empty. That canít be right because the gauge said I had plenty when I left the pits and fuel consumption has been insanely good. Itís been looking like the bike can carry enough for about 1.5 hours riding at 1:18 sliding down to 1:14s below half tank and it was over half full when I got on so I donít know where all the fuel went.

I turn the light on, do a couple more laps and head in earlier than Iíd expected. Matt isnít ready yet so the change over takes almost as long as our previous one where I was in the toilet block. The lack of rest between sessions is getting to both of us and the changeovers are getting longer, the urgency has gone and now itís just a relentless grind.

As we roll into the last hour we decide to put enough gas in it so that I can go to the end and once Matt is in Iím rolling again, fully prepared to do the last haul to the flag.

Iím finding even more places to relax on the bike. It must look wierd following me as I roll through turn 1 nice and fast then donít move at all, staying in exactly the same position down to and through turn 2, finally moving to the other side of the bike for turn 3.

Something I am finding a problem is the stutter at about 80% throttle in the previous session is still there even though Iíve got plenty of fuel in the tank. I decide not to use that part of the throttle, rolling it on to about ? throttle then simply snapping it open past the spot where it stutters.

Times are starting to drop with the fuel load and doing so much relaxing during laps is making for a really enjoyable session. I catch up to Paul Garrett and marvel at how heís made it through the day. Usually short races tire him out really badly but heís been doing his share of the riding during this race and itís great to see. The previous weekend itíd been quite difficult to get past Paul but the more conservative riding necessary for an endurance race means I can push hard around the outside of him at turn 6 and clear him before the straight where heís fast again.

Soon after the bike starts to cough a little when I wind on full throttle. Within minutes itís bogging down badly when hauling out of turn 5, barely even flashing the gear change light before braking for turn 6 when itís usually flashing for half the straight. I do another couple of laps to see if it clears but it doesnít and a bike coming past me very closely convinces me to head into the pits rather than risk losing power and getting rammed.

Thankfully the crew and Matt were prepared just in case something happened so he got out there and rode the last 20 minutes to the finish, taking the chequered flag 6:01:12.789 after the start in 22nd place.

Everybody is clapping when the bikes enter the pits. Not just for the winners, but for everyone that finished.

The atmosphere in the pits is different to other race days. Nobody is packing up and leaving yet. Thereís plenty of beers appearing, lots of cameras around, lots of talking and congratulating each other and lots of relieved, smiling faces.

I wanted to do the 6 hour as I knew itíd help me with riding quickly again, because Iíd felt that Iíd lost the touch during the break from racing after breaking my collarbone. It definitely helped me find the feel for it again and also got me relaxing a lot each lap instead of being tense for 15 minutes straight. Itís no wonder I was feeling knackered after a single club race when I spent the whole thing stressing my muscles. Unfortunately, not moving much meant I was taking straighter lines into corners while braking and I was using lots of lean angle but not achieving faster speeds. Correcting problems with my riding on corner entry was something Iíd hoped to do during the endurance race but I ended up going in the opposite direction, keeping the bike upright as long as possible, getting the part where Iím leaning done quickly then getting the bike upright again.

One thing Iím very glad I did was to lift the seat height and lower the footpegs. The bike is a lot more comfortable after that and if I hadnít done it I probably wouldnít have finished the day and only been able to do a few short sessions.

A bit of investigation later on and I think Iím the victim of the well known and common fuel pump failure the second generation CBR600RR suffered from. A racing pump is on order so weíll see if that fixes the problem.

As for the fuel consumption in the fourth stint the fuel gauge is part of the fuel pump so the pump failing probably caused inaccurate fuel gauge readings.

We learnt lots and proved we could not just finish the race, but do it the hard-man style. Next time around weíll be a lot more prepared ahead of time, having a communication system worked out for the changeovers, locating the transponder for faster transfers, being a lot more precise with the fuel and using our own lap timers to keep track of things.

It was a big effort and wouldnít have been possible without these people. On behalf of Matt and myself, thanks to:
  • My darling wife who agreed I could go racing on our wedding anniversary and it only costs me a weekís leave!!
  • Cherie and Nicki for being our pit crew, especially Nicki who turned up to watch, saw we could use some help, got stuck in and helped Cherie the whole day
  • Matt's wife and The Little Pioneers
  • Gary Stirling and the Play Day crew for the best event of the year
  • AMCC, the ambulance crews and all the marshals and helpers
  • Neil Neville for the tyre changing gear on the Saturday
  • Graeme Cole from Red Devil Racing for the tyre advice
  • Steve and Nigel for the gas
  • Steve for putting up with the merciless wind upís from me and Matt
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Craig @ Grey Street Motors
  • MOTUL
  • Race Supplies














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Comments

  1. Tazz's Avatar
    Brilliant write up. Good effort all round guys.
  2. Mental Trousers's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Tazz
    Brilliant write up. Good effort all round guys.
    Thanks. It was bloody hard but great fun. I highly recommend giving it a go haha
  3. sugilite's Avatar
    Great write up! Awesome effort and congratulations for finishing such a tough event!