I had my first go at the NZSBK National Championship on the 5th & 6th of March 2016. What a awesome experience! It was great to be out on the grid with the best riders in New Zealand and in races which saw the supersport record at Hampton downs fall by a significant amount.
The meeting started with a practice day on the Friday prior. This was essential to get a bit of familiarity back with the track and a good day to set the bike up to suit this track. Hampton Downs is unfortunately a bit far from my home so I do not get the chance to practice there as often as I would like. The Friday gave me time to steadily improve and work through the suspension issues to ensure I had a platform I was happy to race with come Saturday.
I was feeling good in the practice on the Saturday morning, building into a quick tempo and feeling comfortable from the get go. Unfortunately I got a bit ahead of myself and tried to tail onto one of the front runners. This rushed me into the final turn pushing me fractionally wide and off throttle at a point where you need to be tighter and on the throttle to stop the front from overloading. Off line and throttle sent me sliding into the dirt at quite a rapid pace. Unhurt I ran over to the bike to kill it and prevent it running on its side potentially ruining the engine. Looking down from the tyre wall I realised I had quite a bit of work to do in order to have it ready to qualify in about 40 minutes time. Once back to the pits I thankfully had a few hands help me get the bike ready. Starting with the fairings off, we moved on to replacing the front intake bracket, Exhaust system, tank off - vacuuming out the airbox, back wheel out to change to the new rear tyre for qualifying, replacing the bent bar and realigning the front end, going to race direction to sort out a timing issue, re-scrutinising ....like I said, thankfully I had some extra hands! I got everything ready just in the nick of time and qualified 15th on the grid. Race One went well , I finished 13th – higher then where I had qualified so a good start. I was buzzing coming back into the pits, the intensity of national level racing was awesome and bettering my Personal Best was another satisfying step forward.
When the racing was done and dusted it was time to unwind with some of the fellow racers and trade stories over a couple (not too many!) of beers and look forward to the next days races.
Staying with my mother in her motorhome meant I was well fed and watered leading into the last day of the meeting. Shortly after the riders briefing the nerves were gone and I was really keen to get out there again. Race Two of the meeting I was thrilled to accomplish my goal of a top 10, finishing 10 overall. Up from my qualifying spot of 15th It meant a lot of passing as I worked my way up through the field. Having been used to club racing (normally sprint races of 6-8 laps) I was really enjoying the longer races and looking forward to the 15 lap TT race. I got a poor start in the TT race and lost positions. This left me stuck behind traffic for the first couple of laps but once past them I was able to put my fastest lap of the race and my new personal best around Hampton Downs in on the 4th lap. 1:08.6 - I was rapt to finally be in the 1 minute 8 bracket. I was able to put my head down after this and focus on putting a string of consistent lap times together. I managed to follow and pass another 2 people once through. I liked having the time to plan out strategies and slowly make time over people, gauging how much time you have to recover with how many laps you have left. Coming through the field I finished in 9th. The final race started in much the same way, a bad start left me with work to do. After coming through the pack again I once again found myself with a gap to the next two riders fighting for 9th. Again I put my head down and went about closing this gap, which I did so over the next few laps. Once within a second or so of the first of the two riders I had a sudden lapse in concentration where I was thinking of a good spot to put a pass on. This lead me to turning in too tight, hitting the bumps and loosing the front.
It was a disappointing way to finish but overall I was happy with my performance and the improvements that I had made. I am now planning to do the 2017 nationals and cannot wait to head down to race the south island for the first time and give the full series a proper go.