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Shane - Superlite (#43)

2016 Suzuki Series Round 1 @ Taupo

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Last race day I was having problems with handling after changing the bikeís geometry while, ironically, chasing improved handling. Iíd been getting the opposite of what I was expecting; dropping the front made the steering heavier instead of lighter, the back end was coming up under brakes as if the front was sitting up higher, a neutral throttle through corners was pushing me wide instead of bringing the front in.

Figuring out how to fix these problems meant talking to Robert Taylor from KSS a few times and then changing multiple settings, something that isnít recommended. However, with the Taupo Suzuki Series round fast approaching I didnít have the track time to be able to test each change separately so I was going to have to take a gamble and hope the changes were enough.

One of the long list of things I had to do with the bike before heading to Taupo was to clean the brake pistons. While doing so I discovered the pads had worn much quicker than expected and there was no way theyíd last another race meeting. Heading into Honda Hamilton late on the Friday afternoon I found out there werenít any on the shelf so theyíd have to order them in for next day pick-up. Saturday was looking busier and busier by the second.

Saturday I had a million things to do before getting to the track by 3:30pm to sign-in, get set up, do scrutineering etc so it meant I wasnít able to go and support my regular pit crew, Cherie, who was doing the Half Iron Maori in Napier. She and Kari were taking on something they never thought theyíd do and it was great seeing their dedication and progress over the last few months.

On Sunday my wife and I had the most relaxed race day morning ever. We werenít leaving at 5:00am for once, the early morning view out of the motel window was the stuff of romance novels (so Iím told) and it all felt positively luxurious.

At the track it was relatively tight with four of us in a pit shed. Frenchy was a life saver, testing and labelling my electrical gear as required by the Health and Safety rules, something that had been on my list for Friday/Saturday but hadnít happened.

At Riders Briefing we were told the Qualifying sessions would be 20 minutes instead of the shorter sessions listed in the programme. This pleased me as I needed time to properly bed in the brake pads. However, it meant that we had a long wait until we got on track so there was going to be lots of time for the nerves to get me.

Heading to the dummy grid for Qualifying Iím nervous, aware that the brake pads havenít been run in yet, feeling like the bike is crooked and itís obvious that virtually everybody is waiting in the sheds to try and avoid traffic.

Iím out on track cautiously testing the brakes and getting heat into the tyres. After a lap and half I up the pace and start working on a lap time but things arenít feeling fast. Iím starting to push on but thereís fast guys coming past me on a regular basis. Theyíre giving me plenty of room but usually I time things so that I donít see any of them until the end of the session, giving me plenty of time to work on a decent time without any hassle.

A number of times a lap Iím wondering what the hell Iím doing out there but I keep plugging away, pushing harder and harder until I start making mistakes. Once that happens I head into the pits as Iím more likely to go slower or crash than go faster.

Once the times are up Iím disappointed to see that Iíve only gone as fast as my last club meeting, a time which puts me in 21st place, much slower than I shouldíve been going and behind guys Iím usually right with. To make things worse Iím right on the inside, somewhere I donít like to be in such a big field as everybody is usually braking in all sorts of random places for turn 1. Usually itís far better to be on the outside and brake as late as possible, carry more speed and not get caught up in the pack. Of course itís only possible if nobody crashes and takes you out but Iíve never been taken out yet.

The thing I hate about the large meetings is the amount of sitting around waiting. Lots of people get straight out of their riding gear into something much more comfortable but I donít normally bother because getting in and out of my boots is more hassle than Iím willing to put up with, so I just sit around in my leathers feeling nervous and complaining a lot.

It takes ages to get to our first race, F3 being the last solo class before the sidecars.

Rolling down pit lane to the dummy grid thereís a lot more riders waiting than there were for Qualifying.

The lights come and Ö crap they went out quickly!! Weíre off!!

I got a decent start but right beside me Rob Edwards on an SV got an excellent start. Thankfully I had a clear path to move to the outside, catching Rob and everybody else at the end of the straight.

I aim for the outside of the group, braking much later than all of the others. Unfortunately, thereís a huge jam of bikes at turn 1 forcing Rob and a couple of others wide and blocking me from going around the outside of everyone.

Out of turn 1 all of the other bikes gain a few metres so Iím stuck at the back of the pack. Weíre going 2 and 3 wide into most of the turns, everyone trying to pull an advantage on everybody else.

End of the first lap Iím part of a group of 5. Weíre all dicing, trying to get past Rob who is the least experienced racer in the group. He almost gets cleaned up by one of the others trying to take the outside line on him into turn 5. Once past Rob he waves an apology and gets on with it.

End of the straight I use the top end speed to get past Jase Augustine but it makes me slow through the last chicane so Jase gets good drive and takes the inside line into turn 1. I retake him around the outside of turn 3 but he goes around the outside of me at turn 5.

I make a couple of little mistakes, letting both Rob and Jase gap me a little bit. Settling down I work on getting back in touch with them. Again I pass Jase at the end of the straight. This time I hold him off for longer but he still gets me back.

End of the main straight I pull ground back on both of them but I canít get them. Onto the start/finish straight Jase is lining up an inside pass on Rob so I move further left and take both of them under brakes. Iím really late braking and run wide, fully expecting to see one of the other two taking advantage of the gap I left but they donít appear.

I really start to push hard, fully expecting to see one of the SVs poking a wheel up the inside somewhere but it doesnít happen.

Things are feeling really good. Iím on the limit of the tyres through turns 4, 8 and 9, the rear end pumping on the exits. Out of 4 the pumping turns into a tail wag when I hit the brakes into 5. Into turn 7 the brakes are getting snatchy because my timing isnít quite right, the weight not transferring quite fast enough.

Ahead I can see Steven Gregg. The last time he was in front of me I ended up with a broken Clavicle, he got a front wheel to the chest and Drew got a bike to fix so I decided to prevent that from happening by catching and passing him.

Iím pushing hard but the day has gotten really warm and Iím cooking inside my leathers. Iím reeling Stevie in but he passes Mike Cross and they both up the pace a little. Theyíre both quick enough that I canít close the gap before the end of the race so I end up finishing 18th, three places ahead of where I started.

Cruising back to the pits Iím roasting and super pumped up on adrenaline. Iím also sure something has gone wrong as my handle bars are both hitting the fairings when they shouldnít be. It turns out I was riding so hard that both bars rotated backwards about 10 degrees and dropped down the forks about 3mm.

Iím so hot I go through the bother of getting my boots off and out of my leathers while talking to Frenchy. He tells me he was impressed with how I rode that race and Iím really pleased to hear that as he goes hard and respects those that donít give up. Thatís the icing on the cake and that race was the best Iíve ridden for ages.

Looking at the results Iíve gone against my usual pattern of barely improving on my qualifying time by knocking 3.8 seconds off it for a new PB!

Tightening up my handlebars it turns out one of the bolts has stripped the head so it wouldnít do up properly. Asking around I eventually have to replace it with a cap screw instead of the usual socket cap, but at least itís the same pitch.

By the time we get to our second race things are running very late so we have to hustle.

Out on the grid Iím sure this will go the same way as usual. That is, everyone getting faster in the final race except for me, but Iím not going to back off.

This time Iím ready for the lights, although it doesnít help as the result is almost exactly the same as the first race. Iíve moved over for the outside line and again the mass of bikes in turn 1 makes Rob push wide and he blocks me again.

As in the first race all the bikes with bottom end pull a couple of metres on me out of turn 1 but this time Stevie has gotten caught up and is now immediately in front of me. I latch onto the back of him as everybody goes 2 or 3 wide into corners again.

I canít quite make a pass at the end of the main straight so I look for the inside into turn 1 when everybody sits up and watches Richard Banís bike doing cart wheels off the end of the straight and into the pit lane exit.

We know itís going to be red flagged but you race to the flag so we charge through the infield until the red comes out at turn 5.

After a slow procession back to the pits weíre all sitting at the dummy grid waiting when they send us back to our pit sheds and announce that the Sidecar race has been moved forward and ours has been postponed by 15 minutes.

After the sidecar race we all roll down to the dummy grid but weíre held up. There are two ambulances there but theyíre both dealing with Richard and arenít ready to cover our race. Itís going to take at least another 15 minutes before theyíre ready but weíve already overrun the deadline for shutting down so our second race is cancelled.

Over the PA we hear that F3 will get an extra race at Manfeild to ensure we get the same number of races as everyone else but thatís no use to me as I wonít be going to Manfeild.

Packing up we have to wait to get the car near the shed and once we do we get blocked in so packing up is slow, leaving time for a much needed beer. We wander around the pits for a while and eventually hit the road, extremely pleased with how things have gone.

Iím looking forward to next yearís Suzuki Series.

Thanks to:
  • my wife who laughs when I tell her weíre spending a romantic weekend in Taupo ÖÖ at the race track!
  • Craig @ Grey Street Motors
  • Stefan @ DL Consulting
  • Frenchy for the electrical testing
  • all of the volunteers and Cemetery Circuit for making it all possible

Photo: Hamilton Motorcycle Club

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  1. Dreama's Avatar
    Great write up, really good to see someone posting one here again. Well done.