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Greg - NZRRC 2008 Rnds 1, 2 & 3No Hair Racing Report - from Greg
Castrol Superbike NZ Road Race Champs - South Island Rounds 1, 2 & 3.
After a few months of preparation, January and the start of the National Champs were here!
I very much need to recognise all the help our sponsors have given the team...Pirelli Tyres made sure we had everything we need exactly when we need it with very good pricing support. Henderson Motorcycles helped immensely with dyno tuning of my bike and ensuring we had a full collection of spare parts in case the worst happened. Motul Oil support to guarantee we had fresh oil for every meeting and of course Jane's support allowing me to be away for almost 3 weeks. A big thanks for all your help!
The last time I had competed was 2 years earlier and as I'm one of the slowest riders out there I struggle with justifying being out there with NZ's best riders. To them, I'm a mobile chicane which they need to avoid every 8 or 9 laps!
So, why am I punishing myself again? The answers are that it's an amazing experience and holiday. The best way to appreciate the skill and team work of the top riders is to be out on that track when they come past holding 10 or 20 kph more corner speed, tyres sliding and their bike working at maximum suspension capability. For a few seconds as they come past, you can try to keep up and push yourself to achieve the same results usually reducing your own lap times in the process. I do most of the engine prep work on my bikes and I can gauge how well my engine is performing by seeing if I can match the speed of the top bikes down the straights, this year I think I've done quite well as even the latest 2008 Yamaha R6's only just sneak by me in a straight line.
Ultimately, the reason I'm competing again is for self improvement, 2 years ago I did all 15 races of the championship and failed to score a point which was very disappointing so my focus is now on improving my personal best lap times at each of the tracks (incidentally I've returned from the first 3 rounds with 11.5 points!).
Round 1 Ruapuna
January 10th, our convoy (Phil Snowdon and partner Andreana, with Steve & Mike and their RS-250's) took the ferries to Picton and headed South to Christchurch. We were very fortunate to have accommodation with Andreana's parents in Papanui and the trip down was uneventful (unlike previous years where I've had wheels fall off and tyre bow-outs). The weather was hot and dry on the Friday for unofficial practice and it stayed like that all weekend getting up to 37°C on Saturday.
My previous best at Ruapuna was 1 min 46.3 secs (yeah, stop laughing) and in the first practice session I managed a 1:46.2 and over the weekend my best dropped to 1:43.13 while trying to catch Gordon Pullen in Race 1 (Dennis Charlett set the best time of 1:33.581 in practice). Being the first round of the Championship everyone was going pretty hard to get points on the board so both races on the Sunday had a number of crashes and both were restarted. Out of 21 riders in the 600 class on Friday morning there were only 13 finishers at the end of race 2. No very serious injuries for those riders but it meant that both Phil and I got into the points straight away. I picked up 1.5 in the first race, and 3 points in the second. I almost caught up to Gordon in one race and had an exciting front wheel slide exitting the hairpin. My race fitness wasn't good enough to try and make a pass on Gordon and at the 12th lap I had to watch him slowly pull away again.
Round 2 Levels
The next weekend was at the Levels Raceway near Timaru about 2 hours drive South of Christchurch. Andreana's South Island connections proved valuable again as we set up our tents just down the road from the race track with Andreana's friends Vicky and Shaun and their family in Pleasant Point. We got in some practice on Wednesday afternoon, but Thursday was wet with it clearing again on Friday.
My best at Levels was a 1:14.9 and over the 3 days we were there this came down to 1:13.8 so a bit better (Dennis again set the best at 1:06.556 in race 1). I qualified last at Ruapuna and also again at Levels but luckily my starts have been great and usually beating 2 or 3 people into the first corner. Phil was going well at Levels in practice and qualifying with Aria Lawrence getting past me too. In both races I tried to keep up with Aria but her lines were too smooth thru the corners and I started to realise that my riding technique entering and exitting corners is not good enough for the South Island tracks. My style (or lack of it) suits the more "stop and go" corners at Manfeild and Pukekohe's hairpin.
Dave Cole had loaned me a set of Ohlin's equipped front forks which felt vastly better than the standard forks...better is also different, so it took me awhile to get used to not bumping and shaking my way thru the corners :-)
Phil had a little tumble in Race 1, sliding out his front wheel. He came thru without injury but the bike rolled when it hit the grass and damaged the rear sub frame and exhaust. We worked hard to get it ready for race 2 but I couldn't get the exhaust connector pipe completely straight and Phil had to race with the pipe in the way of his right foot. I picked up another point in race 2 finishing 15th.
Round 3 Teretonga
The last round came up all too quickly...way down South at Teretonga near Invercargill, the world's southernmost race track. 1:10.848 was my best time to beat from 2 years earlier (weather had been pretty bad, that's my excuse). I got into the 1:08's in practice, then 1:07 in qualifying (last place again) and my new best of 1:06.21 came in the first race (Dennis set new lap record at 59.949 in race 1!). Again I got great starts in both races but had to watch Phil & Aria come past as I whimped out in the first corner. Aria, now on Shaun Harris' bike was improving quickly. Phil managed to keep her in sight for awhile but she got away. I had Phil in my sights and slowly caught up to him on about the 12th lap. He backed off a little early for turn 1 and I went up the inside and managed to slow him down enough to beat him to the chequered flag. Race 2 started pretty much the same way but this time I couldn't get close enough to Phil. This was partly due to having to avoid Nick Cole sliding off at the exit of turn 1 in about the 10th lap. Both Phil and I picked up another 4 points each from the 2 races.
It all ended too quickly with prize giving on the Sunday night in Invercargill then having to pack up our bags and drive back to Christchurch on Monday. Next morning we were up early to catch the 2pm ferry back to Wellington. I had Steve's bike to drop off at Palmerston North so it wasn't until 9pm that I left his place and headed North. Not feeling particularly tired I drove the rest of the way home getting in at 2:45am on Wednesday morning.
After the first 3 rounds I'm sitting in 16th place and have 11.5 points. Best of all, I've lowered my lap times at all 3 tracks! Now all I have to do is keep the old body in race fitness ready for Manfeild on February 22nd/23rd. Work needs me in Australia the week before as well as the week after so it looks like I'll be flying in and out for the race weekend. The other big questions for me are....can I stay in front of Phil and can I get back the 2.5 points deficit I have with Aria...maybe, as I know Manfeild and Pukekohe well, but will be hard to pick up more points with a few extra local riders sure to turn up.
Hope you can all make it to see me qualify last again...I think it's all worth it, cheers, Greg