Greg - NZRRC R3 & R4 '03/'04

No Hair Racing Race Report National Road Race Champs Rounds 3 and 4, January 2004 (aka 'Bob and Greg's Big Adventure')

It's hard to summarise 2 weeks crammed full of action in one or two pages, but here goes...

The adventurers: Bob Knight with wife Nevina, and son Hayden. Greg Percival with son Alex.

Monday January 12th Auckland - we loaded up Jane's Nissan Safari and the mighty 'No Hair' race trailer and set sail for the South Island. It's 650km from Auckland to Wellington and we arrived in the early evening at my brother Mark's home to spend a few hours before catching the 12:30am sailing on the Inter Islander ferry service. Arriving in Picton 3 hours later it was all plain sailing with a very smooth crossing of the notorious 'Cook Strait', but I spoke too soon as after driving off the ferry at 4:30am heading for Blenheim and travelling at about 80 km/h the right rear wheel of the Safari sheered thru all six wheel studs and went up into the wheel arch. I managed to pull off the road without disaster and luckily the Koromiko cheese factory has an early morning crew working. They managed to find 2 bolts that were long enough to hold the wheel on, so off we went at 30km/h stopping every 500 metres to tighten the bolts, it took until 7am to arrive in Blenheim a distance of only 15km.

In Blenheim, Bob & Nevina's friends Bert & Pauline came to our rescue providing accommodation and garage for repair work to the Safari. The local Nissan dealers had new studs and wheel nuts available, so by the next day we were well rested and ready to head for Christchurch via the Kaikoura coast (spectacular coastal scenary, whale watching, seal colonies, crayfish[lobster], etc...). Driving along we spotted a few seals down on the rocks so we stopped for some photos. I was climbing along the rocks first closely followed by Alex when suddenly a sleeping seal jumped up at me from behind the rocks. Nevina & Bob almost fell over laughing as they saw me almost jump on top of Alex as I tried to escape.

We got into Christchurch home of Ruapuna race track on Wednesday night and set up our tents at the holiday camp...a great way to save a few dollars except this holiday camp was alongside the main trunk railway line. We sort of got use to the noise but early one morning (2am) a family of hedgehogs instigated a raid on Bob & Nevina's tent which woke us all up.

Now to the mc racing...

At the previous round in December I had run a big-end bearing in my motor, and had purchased a newer 2nd hand motor from Henderson Motorcycles. As I was down on power in the 1st two rounds I decided to trial the race-kit camshafts from my old 600 engine, these needed to be ground down by Franklin Cam Services in Pukekohe to fit the 400 head. Geoff Merryweather kindly assisted by testing the engine on his home-made dyno (with computer analysis) and we discovered that there was a poor carburetion 'hole' at 6500rpm but after that good power all the way to the rev limiter at 15,500rpm...but we hadn't track tested it at all !!!

It was Bob & my first time at Ruapuna race track which is 15+ corners over a distance of 3.44km with one long straight and 2 smaller in-field straights. Thursday & Friday were both practice days and it took me a while to learn the track. My best time on day 1 was 2 mins, 2 seconds which dropped to a best lap of 1:51.283 in the last race on Sunday. The cam shafts worked ! Previously Bob's bike had the edge on me in straight line speed, now I had the edge on him. Disaster almost struck when my Shoei helmet failed scrutineering due to the number having worn off inside. Derek Hill & Haldane Motorcycles came to the rescue with Derek lending me his spare helmet for the 1st qualifying session, and Haldanes had a brand new Arai overnight for me in time for the 2nd qualifying session (thanks to Chris & Vanessa & Mike?).

The Ruapuna track seemed to suit my riding style and in the first race I finished 12th out of 15 entrants with Bob close behind. Race 2 on Sunday morning turned out to be wet which gave us North Islander's a small advantage as it hardly ever rains in Christchurch. I managed to creep up to 9th place in lap 8 (out of 10 total) and was catching 8th place when the bike started to stutter on the slow corners. Nursing the engine I knew there was something seriously wrong but luckily just before crossing the finishing line for the 9th lap, Andy Bolwell the race leader passed me and out came the chequered flag just as my bike died and I rolled to a stop. If Andy hadn't passed me I would have stopped on the last lap finishing last in stead of in 9th place...I thanked God for that one!

What had happened?? I had forgotten to check the petrol (yes, egg all over my face). Race 3 was much more fun as I started to get more use to the track, the sun was out and the track warm and dry and I finished 9th again managing to pick off a couple of the locals. The 12th and two 9th placings moved me to 9th overall for Round 3 and 9th also in the championship.

At the end of racing, we headed off to explore the inland route to Invercargil via Mt Cook and Queenstown. The scenary in this part of the world is awe inspiring, at Mt Cook the Southern Alps stretch away in both North and South directions and we hiked for about 90 minutes up the Hooker Valley to Lake Mueller which is at the base of a glacier. Large chunks of ice were beached all around and every so often we heard the sounds of avalanches in the distance due to the Summer sun. Hayden decided to run back to the car park which took him about 50 mins and almost killed me trying to catch him 5 mins behind (still struggling with mid-life crisis).

The next day we drove to historic Arrowtown for lunch, then on to Queenstown to ride the Gondola's and view the Remarkables across Lake Wakatipu. The weather was hot and dry and the boys decided to go for a swim in the lake. The lake is ~400 metres deep and stays cold all year, so it took them awhile to get into the water (especially Alex, Hayden had to splash him first). We carried on to Winton about 30kms North of Invercargil and Teretonga race track and visited our ex-neighbours Pat and Maurice who's hospitality was beyond all expectations, not only dinner two nights in a row but use of their worker's cottage for the four nights we were in Invercargil.

Back to the racing again...

Chris flew in on Friday afternoon to lead the pit crew and analyze our lap times (and also talk to everyone else at the track). Bob and I had only just recovered from 4 days of racing and we were again on a new track which was again different from the North Island tracks and Ruapuna. The Teretonga track is much shorter with one long straight going into a 200 degree almost constant curved and banked sweeper. This exits into a short straight then a series of flowing corners, finishing with a 75 degree 'elbow' back onto the front straight. Bob got into tune with the flowing corners very quickly and set the fastest lap time during practice and the first race.

The high-light for me was the 3rd race, I managed a very average start and as I turned into the sweeper Bob came around the outside of me. He was carrying more speed than me and got past as did John Crawford on a Suzuki 400. John had beaten me in the first two races so I knew I had to stay on their tails to have any sort of chance.

As they slowed for the elbow back on to the front straight, I braked very late and was right behind them. They both tried to pass each other side by side down the front straight which gave me the ideal wind protection to gain speed behind them. As we neared the 200m breaking marker Bob moved to the middle of the track and I passed them both on their right side.

John got in front of Bob on the sweeper and was after me. Later Bob told me that John had run off the track briefly trying to catch me, but by the 10th and final lap John tried about 3 moves to pass me on the final few corners. I managed to close the door on him each time, and at the last elbow he tried to go around the outside of me...I knew I had the race in-hand as he had to go a few metres further than me to the finish line. Even though it was 9th place, it felt like a real victory and a great way to finish the series. It was also the first race of the series that I hadn't been lapped by the race leader!

The 9th, 10th, and 9th placings gave me 9th overall for Round 4, and moved me up to 8th in the championship, so a geat way to finish the series as originally I thought I'd be lucky to be in the first 15. Bob finished 15th in the series after missing four races earlier and was within 0.3 to1.5 seconds of my best lap times at each track so he obviously has a lot of talent hidden inside especially as he has only been racing for 15 months!

After the racing finished we headed back home staying in Timaru, then Upper Hutt and finally 1600km later arriving at Bob & Nevina's home in Auckland on Tuesday night. Total distance travelled was ~4000km... needless to say we were tired but with big grins on our faces...even in your mid 40's you can still have a BIG adventure!!!

A super big THANKS to everyone that helped us: our sponsors, Haldane Motorcycles - the tyre specialists, WEBDES.CO.NZ ez-Site DIY web site, and SSSLodge - for REAL Horse Power (and the use of the Safari), Derek Hill, Adam Inta at Henderson Motorcycles, Bert & Pauline in Blenheim, Maurice & Pat in Winton, and Mark & his boys in Upper Hutt. Almost forgot to add whoever it was that loaned me the 14mm socket to tighten my brake caliper just before I went out in the last race at Ruapuna (another Blonde moment!).

Cheers, Greg

No Hair Racing

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