Well. What a weekend is all I can say.
My second round for the season, and I guess given there is four races in a round, the start to my 5th race!
Where to begin…
As most of you know, I’ve been riding for just over 2 years, so to throw myself into racing seems like a bit of an odd thing to do. But I came to the realisation after many track days and road riding hours, that the track is where I find my safe haven. No on coming cars, random pedestrians or the odd Pukeko to cross my path, just other mad-men not wanting to touch me just as much as I don’t want to touch them! I taught myself to ride with the likes of YouTube, so teaching myself race craft was in the same method…
Round 1 was a test of ability for me. I hadn’t been on track for almost 8 months, and I had yet to even sit or ride the bike I was about to complete a lap on. I was a bundle of nerves, with admittedly no idea what to do or how to handle the X4R. My orange fluro ‘noob’ vest became my holding hand, knowing other riders would be sure to give me a wider birth than usual. I qualified 34th at a time of 1.41 (National track) and felt happy about my achievements over the day, like cracking the sub 1.30 mark!
Round 2 was to be another story. I’d gotten to know the bike a little more, so it meant pushing her just that little further into the limits. I set two goals for the day. Get another sub 1.30, and to finish up in the top 15. I expected to crack the time goal, but never in a million years did I expect to crack the placings… Well well well…
Out we went for qualifying. Epic day, sun was shining, and I knew I had to ramp it up a gear as the majority of the class were also competing in the junior 250 production, which meant they had at least one session under their belt when I was about to start out on my first. I tootled around a bit at the start to get the feel, until, out of the blue, I spot a little figure with a pony tail hauling right past me… Is that another LADY?!
Naturally, my competitive streak kicked in, if she can do cornering at that speed, what’s stopping me?! And off we went on an epic game of cat and mouse. Kendal was impressive (thanks for the introduction after qualifying!). She built in me the confidence I was lacking at every point prior. She was FAST, and not just on the straights, but in every aspect I could imagine. Eventually I managed to catch her and do a quick overtake, but she soon had me back behind wishing I had more legs on the uphill straight. Them darn single cylinders…
Surprisingly, despite her epic riding, I managed to qualify just ahead at a time of 1:27.214, with Kendal right behind on a 1:27.575. I didn’t just crack my sub 1.30 goal, I bloody smashed it! (Thanks Kendal!) This slotted me into 10th place on the grid… How on earth did I go from 34th to 10th in the space of one round? I’m not too sure, luck?!
Race 1 was up. And I realised very quickly, I still had no idea on how to do starts… Oh man, why did I go for a quick qualifier when I couldn’t even get myself off the grid! It was a bit of a shocker, I took off slowly and carefully, pushing myself back into 18th place.. I literally let 8 people ponder on past while I was having a cup of tea. Oops. Over the course of the race, I got myself back another 2 spots to finish 16th. Not a bad effort, but certainly took a toll on my mental state. I averaged a 1.28 for this race, the bad start really didn’t set my head into the right frame.
While waiting for Race 2, I took this time to go pester some pro’s and do some googling on how to start. It sounded simple, hold the clutch out with a bit of throttle until she bites, and then away you go. Now to put my google research into play.
Race 2 was up. I’m pretty sure every other rider behind me could see how much I was shaking when the lights went up. All I was doing was focusing on the bite point of the clutch and keeping the revs up! Lights out, and away we go, wait wait wait… Is that a good start?! I bloody did it. Kept my holding place of 10th and ignored the bundle of 38 riders into turn 1. Being in the mid-pack meant I had to keep pace, no time for my usual scenic tiki tours around any of the turns. There were some epic battles to be had. My partner (Luke, #17 Fluro) right on my tail at every corner, and Kendal just in front. I had to keep him behind me while focusing on catching her – then of course the stream of other riders that popped up time to time. It was epic. I crossed the line a smidge behind 10th and 11th to take 12th place. I was beaming. On arriving back and having a look at SpeedHive for the placings, I realised I had done one better over the qualifier and cracked a 1:26.459. Holy Moly.
Race 3 was set to be the Le Mans start – which actually went rather well… until, like the last round, it was red flagged. We were all ushered back to a grid start. Uh-Oh, not my strong point. I think I got a little too excited, because as the lights went out, you guessed it, I dropped the clutch a little too quick and stalled. Ugh. Quickly got myself going again, and off I went at the back of the pack around turn 1. There was no hope in hell for me to claw back my 12th spot finish from race 2, but I did my best. It was like a game of Mario karts. I’d focus on one rider, catch them, and go for the next. I kept this focus until alas, I crossed the finish line at 17th. I think I was more proud of my overtaking efforts than anything else at this point – my own personal achievement, the best type!
Race 4 came around pretty quick, and by this point in time, I was rather tired and very sunburnt. I knew I had one last chance to get in a top 15 finish to grab some overall points to lead me into the overall top 15… I was hopeful, but with two poor races, not very confident it could be done.
I decided to go for a steady start, which cost me a few places, but better than a stall! I pondered off into turn 1, and decided it was time again for my Mario karts antics, picking off rider one by one. It was tough. These boys were only getting quicker… I managed a few overtakes until alas, I see my point of interest… Kendal and Luke (partner). I knew these two were sub 15th, so it was time to tackle them. I was catching up quick, but not quick enough. Kendal had me on every straight (them darn GTRs!) but I knew I could get Luke. He was head checking at every moment, and on every straight saw me taking a tow in his slip stream. On our final lap, he checked once more to see me right in behind, flipped the bird at me (thanks babe) and away we went into turn 1. It was all or nothing for me. I couldn’t let him have another win over me! As we entered turn 6 (a kick ass sweeper) I went in full swing with no brakes.. probably a dumb move in hindsight, but I caught him at the tail end and waved as I overtook him on the straight… revenge was sweet 😊 Walked away with Kendal in 11th, me in 12th and Luke in 13th. It was a bloody brilliant battle. I also secured my fastest time for the day at 1:26.406.
I finished the day with a grin so big I just couldn’t contain it. Sure, I didn’t get a podium finish, but I smashed my goals – and that’s all that matters to me.
One down fall for the day was the unfortunate event that occurred to my brand new SIDI boots… Completely shaved the toe off, oops. Luckily I’ve got some of the best sponsors around who were very closely watching my race day updates on my story, so before I could even ask, they had a set of fresh SIDI’s with some metal sliders ready to roll out the door on Monday. The plastic toe sliders just didn’t make the cut!
Racing like this wouldn’t be possible without the immense support from the cup sponsors, and the number one organiser, Ken Dobson from MTF Barry’s Point. He has been my biggest encouragement to get into racing, and is just a downright amazing guy.
Without the support network in place, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today, so a massive thanks to Motogear [Darbi], SIDI, HJC, Rev’IT! NZ and UN4SEEN Decals for supporting me in the ways that they do. You guys are legends. I love you. And of course, Los_Squid (Luke) for just being there to help my bike up onto the rear stand after every race, holding my hand when I have some wee trantrums, and bringing some epic battles to the field.
Wrexer Productions (Maxim) has done an amazing job on the photo’s provided, so be sure to hit him up for some sweet snaps!
Until next time!