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Shane - Superlite (#43)

HMCC Putoline Winter Series Round 2 @ Taupo

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Usually over winter Iíve tended to ride the odd track day and do the occasional race day. However, after the operation to remove the plate on my clavicle Iíd missed everything at the start of winter. Also, with all the changes at Hampton Downs, the Winter Series has moved to Taupo and Play Day are no longer able to run there. The MotoHD days arenít too badly priced but with the amount of rain we had over winter I had little motivation to get out of my nice warm bed. So by the time the HMCC Round 2 rolled around Iíd had precisely one race day in 12 months.

The Test Day started off a complete and utter shambles. The PA broke so there was no way for the track staff to let everyone know which session was out and when. That and a couple of red flags saw Sloane Frost on track with Street Stocks/Juniors, both still circulating while the recovery vehicle was out there. It didnít take long before a Riders Meeting was called and a few things were sorted out, including which flags meant what.

Once that was all sorted out and the track staff started using red and orange flags to show us which session was up things settled right down and the only problem we had to deal with was the wind. Out the back of the pit sheds it was gloriously warm and sunny, a beautiful spring day; on the other side of the sheds it was a bitterly cold, very windy winter day in Taupo.

Out on the track the wind made life difficult. Not only was it cooling tyres a lot, it made the bikes move around all over the place. Turn 1 entry was fine, but mid-corner the wind would hit and the bike would push and dip unpredictably. Into turn 2 the wind would catch the front wheel and make the bike dip suddenly. Turn 8 the wind would catch us square in the chest so we were acting like a parachute.

Later in the afternoon Matt Dunlop wanted someone to follow him for a while so I volunteered. Out on track Matt is nice and smooth, setting a good, quick track day pace. Heíd pass a couple of slower riders and Iíd have to wait a little before getting past them, then pour on the pace to catch him back up. It was the most fun session because I had a target that I could chase.

With a large number of entries the HMCC crew wanted to get as many people signed in and bikes through scrutineering as possible on the Saturday, which was fine by me otherwise Iíd have to show up early.

Sunday morning, for the qualifying session I wait until everyone else has left the pits before heading out. I follow Steve De Groot on the Ducati 600 for a lap, warming up the tyres and loosening up. After passing Steve I start to push things more and more. It feels fast but Iím getting ragged, so itís probably not fast at all. I decide to head in before the flag comes out when Leigh Tidman and Nathan Jane come past me, both of whom head into the pits as well.

Back in the pits I thought Iíd done reasonably well but the timing sheets show I was slow. I shouldnít really be surprised after almost a year of not riding.

Lining up on the grid the marshalls are sorting people out. Chris Cain is coming back towards me so I signal him to go forward into the spot in front thinking heíd lost track of the rows and the empty spot was meant to be his. The marshalls move through off the back of the grid, the flag goes up, it drops and weíre off!

I get an ok start, only losing a metre or 2 to the 650s on the same row as me while blowing past Chris Cain. Jon-Michael Tauri is on my outside into turn 1 and Iím slotted in behind Grant Erskine; Chris Cain goes around the outside of us but canít make any progress until turn 2 where he darts up the inside of both bikes in front of me. Through turns 3, 4 and 5 everyone is still trying to sort themselves out but Iím staying out of it, not wanting to get into any incidents in the first lap of the first race.

Things start to settle down a little and I for the moment Iím happy to watch Grant Erskine dicing with the other 2 in front for the spot. Eventually he loses out when he doesnít make it up the inside of Jace Augustine and Jace cuts across his nose into the final chicane.

Onto lap 3 and Iím all over the back of Grant. Driving hard out of the turn 7 hairpin I blow past him around the outside of turn 8, using my normal, much faster wide line into the dodgy little chicane onto the back straight.

Iím quickly up behind Mike Cross but canít find a way past him through the infield. His SV gets good drive out of turn 7 and I can only draw level with him before having to concede into the dodgy chicane. However, on the exit I run it wider, turn it faster and get on the throttle hard, crossing over behind Mike to draw up beside him before braking for the final chicane where I comfortably take the spot.

Jase Augustine is next and I quickly get up behind him, driving hard through turn 3 to take the inside line into turn 4. Steve De Groot has pulled a gap so I get my head down to see if I can pull it back. Into the dodgy chicane I brake hard, and the forks bottom out hard and the bars start slapping, all while heading for the tyre wall. I get it under control and get back into it but Iím wondering why it hit the bottom of the forks so hard as it hasnít done so since I got the fluid level sorted out.

End of the race and I had pulled back some time on Steve but he was just too far ahead. A fun but fairly slow race where things were starting to feel good in the second half even though I was more than 2 seconds a lap off my usual pace around the short track.

Back in the pits, after having a look at the bike I found the right fork has fluid on it so it looks like Iíve got a blown fork seal.

For race 2 Iím not sure if the fork seal had been leaking for a while or just for minutes so I decide to try it out and see how it feels.

Out onto the grid and Iím sitting there with my visor up and the bike in neutral, waiting for the Marshalls to clear the grid. Iím watching them walk down the edge of the track expecting them to disappear off the back of the grid before signalling to the starter, same as they did in the first race. However, when theyíre halfway along they turn and signal and the flag comes out!

The flag drops and Iím scrambling to get moving but I get a bad start and pretty much everyone rides straight past me off the line. Into turn 1 and Iím heading around the outside of the pack, but thereís bikes changing lines and jumping around all over the place so I only manage to pass Chris Cain. Into turn 2 and Chris comes back up the inside. I let him have it as the 125s are so nimble and fast through the infield so Iíll have little chance of keeping him behind me, especially while everyone is going 2 or 3 wide.

Things start to settle down a little and Iím tucked in behind Mike Cross. The bike is ok under brakes provided I donít go too deep and late. However, the 3rd gear right handers are bad news, the front end pushing wide no matter what I do. Iím getting frustrated because I can only hold onto the back of Mike rather than quickly picking him off and going after the next target.

After a couple of laps Iím resigned to simply finishing the race rather than crashing. Once itís finished and Iím back in the pits I ride straight out the back of the shed instead of getting it back on the stands and putting the warmers on.

An early end to the day but two days on the bike after not riding for almost a year mean Iím totally worn out.

Packing up and heading home we get 10 minutes up the road before someone comes flying past flashing lights and beeping their horn. We pull over to find the gas can had come loose and was dragging along the ground spilling fuel everywhere. After sorting that out we pull back onto the road and I see a ute pulling into the gateway we just left. Hopefully we donít get chased by a farmer angry about all the fuel spilt in his driveway.

Thanks to:
  • Cherie for taking time out from training to help out at the track
  • My wife for putting up with all the bike stuff
  • Craig, Haylee and Vanessa @ Grey Street Motors
  • HMCC for a great event
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting

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  1. MadDuck's Avatar
    Was a great day. Always happy to help out when I can