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Greg - 300km Endurance RaceNo Hair Racing Race Report
Well we did it!!! Bob and I survived the 300km endurance race around Pukekohe Park Raceway last weekend.
It was a busy time with last minute preparations for the race seeing a few late nights for me at home but with the help of Henderson Motorcycles preparing a spare set of wheels for the wet weather tyres everything was in place for Saturday morning.
We had two 10 min tyre sessions then a 30 min qualifying session on Saturday and as Bob had not ridden the R6 on the track before I sent him out for the first two sessions. The weather was perfect with a dry track and very light winds so Bob started out doing 1min 19 sec lap time which quickly dropped to 1:10.9 before lunch time. His fastest time on his 400 was 1:11.9 so I think he was quite pleased with the R6 and his progress.
After lunch we had the qualifying session so I went out to see if I could do better and maybe move us up on the start order. I clocked up 18 laps and managed 2 laps just in the 1:06's the best being 1:06.8 which I was reasonably happy with. My personal best on the old Thundercat 600 had been 1:08.2, so a 1.4 sec improvement on the new bike was great for me! We qualified 17th out of 18 in th 600 class so hopefully could only improve on race day.
Bob had to make an appearance at a party in Pauanui about 90mins drive away so he headed off early after we had packed up. Alex, Karl Rear and I headed home to get an early night.
Next morning the alarm went off at 6:30 and looking out the window we saw there was low cloud and rain, the complete opposite of the previous day. We got out to the track at 8:15 and Bob arrived a little later. The track was wet but we needed to scrub in some new "dry" tyres so I went out in the second tyre session and found it very slippery especially over the hill onto the front straight. Chris and Stella had arrived to be our pit crew which was great as both had experience at the 4 hour in 2000 so they suggested we do some dry runs of refuelling the bike. We had brought Alex's MX refueller but found that it spilled too much fuel due to the shape of the tank inlet and ended up using the refueller that we had built for the 4 hour. As the track was still very wet and more rain looked to be on its way we decided to put the "wet" tyres on for the race.
Before lunch, Nevina, Kyra and Hayden arrived and much to my surprise Jane turned up to make sure we weren't doing too much chick spotting. Kyra had agreed to be our "Brolly Dolly" and looked very attractive (especially to Karl!), she had to parade with the other "Dollies" (who were mostly paid to be there).
The race start was scheduled for 1:45pm so we pushed the bike down to the grid to form up for the "Le Mans" start at 1:15pm. We found our spot 2nd to last underneath the bridge and set the bike up on its race stands. The track was starting to dry up quite quickly and Chris suggested we switch the tyres back to dry. I didn't think we'd have enough time but he and Stell raced back to the pits and came back with wheels and tools and within a few minutes had the wheels changed. It was the right decision as the track dried out with only a couple of wet patches when I went out for the two warm-up laps.
This was to be my first "Le Mans" start as Chris had started last time in 2000, so Bob held the rear of the bike on one side of the track as all the riders lined up on the other. We left the ignition turned on so that all I had to do was run across the track, hit the starter button, engage 1st gear and away...and luckily it all worked to plan. The R6 starts so easily that I had the motor running while swinging my leg over the bike...click into gear...go! I managed to make up almost half the field as others took longer to get away.
Turn one came up very quickly with about 15 bikes in front and close to 15 behind, I tried to stay relaxed as we had 300kms to go and didn't want to tangle up with anyone else on the first few laps. Those first few laps were pretty hectic with lots of worries going through my head, but I managed to settle down into my own speed and remembered to watch out for Alex, Hayden & Karl with the lap board. My biggest concern was that I wouldn't be fit enough and get cramping in my braking hand so I decided not to try any super late braking at the hairpin. On a good day I can hold off until just after the 100m mark but to make sure I would last the distance I started braking about 130m out. Needless to say, lots of people passed me under brakes but I was more interested in finishing the race.
We had calculated that we'd need 3 tanks of gas so I had 39 laps to do before Bob's turn. After about 25 laps I felt pretty good and figured I could do at least the full 39, so when I saw the 38 number on the lap board I waved my leg at the boys and came in next time around. The boys had been putting up the lap times too but I really only had time to read the lap numbers...it turned out that I had got down to a new best time of 1:06.1. (also I got my knee down right around turn 3 ... stop laughing Dave Cole).
I came into the pits and refuelling went like clock work, only losing about one and a half laps. Bob jumped onto the bike and settled down to 1:09's (faster than he had ever been before around Pukekohe). Bob then did a whole bunch of 1:08's with the best being one lap in the 7's at 1:07.94. As we were watching his times (me recovering on a chair in the pits), a rider went down on top of the hill at high speed into the crash bales. The safety car and ambulance came out and so everyone slowed and no passing was allowed. Chris called the boys to see if they could signal Bob to come in for refuelling as it was almost his scheduled time to come in, he'd been out there for 30laps.
The safety car kept circulating and Bob came in on the second time around and as he slowed for the pits we were all waving at him but he missed us. I yelled out 'BOB' and he turned and stopped, looking a bit like a 'possum in the headlights' I could see he was still focussed on riding. We managed to push him back to our pits and refuelled. I kept to the 40kph pit lane speed and then hit the track as fast as I could to catch up to the safety car and tail of riders.
The safety car stayed out another 3 laps then we were all off again for the final session. I got back into my rhythmn and clicked off 7 laps in the 1:07's then one in the high 6's when rain struck first at the hairpin. As you can imagine at close to 280kph you don't have much time to see how wet the track is and lengthen braking distance accordingly but for the next 20 laps my lap times were all over the place as sometimes the hill would be wet, other times turn 3, then the hairpin with the track drying out in-between.
It was fairly intense and a few riders over-cooked it and crashed which was the last thing I wanted to do so close to the end. At one point the leaders (Stroud, Rees & Love) passed me coming out of the hairpin and through the left hander on their 1000's, then I realised I was actually catching them coming up over the hill. I thought "WOW I'm catching Andrew Stroud who came 11th in the rain at Philip Island 2 weeks ago in World Superbikes"...then it dawned on me that it probably wasn't a good thing and backed off a little. The hill was very wet and slippery and the rear wheel did a few little slides down the front straight but I was OK :-)
A few more laps then Ross Mackay went down spreading mud and grass over the track at turn 3 leaving just a few inches of clean track to hit for the next 3 laps...I saw the lap board show 99 then 100 then 101 and was thinking there must be about another 10 to 15 laps to go. 102, 103, hey there goes Stroud, Rees, & Love and the white flag is coming out...awesome!!! One more lap and we've done it...don't do anything stupid Greg...down the back straight, through the hairpin, left, more left, right over the hill, chequered flag...YEEHAA!!! 105 laps.
We all came around and stopped on the track for prize giving for the fasties and general bull-shit session for us slowies. Someone had the results and we had finished 13th out of the 600's and 21st overall (having beaten 5 of the 1000's). Bob and I were pretty pleased with ourselves especially as we ain't the youngest out there and Bob's only been racing for 3 years.
The other great thing is that the whole race was live telecast on Sky Sport so we can sit down and watch ourselves being passed every 8 or 9 laps by Stroud, Rees & Love :-)
Of course the riding was only a small part of the race, we couldn't have done it without all the help of friends, family and sponsors. So a huge thank you from Bob and I for Chris & Stella Wiltshire, Kyra, Hayden & Nevi Knight, Alex & Jane Percival, and Karl Rear.
And don't forget Henderson Motorcycles who supplied us with an incredibly fast Yamaha R6 (same top speed as those Suzukis & Kawasakis at least) and Pirelli Tyres that never lost traction in the dry (and only a little in the wet).
SSSLodge, ezSite.co.nz, StarCraft2000 thanks for your support too!!
Bye for now, Greg
No Hair Racing