Wellllll... what a few weeks it was! Lessons learnt (again)!
It all started just 3 weeks before the race when what should have been an updated fairing design should have been completed and on the new trike being trialled... but it wasn't. You can read about that story here. Not a good feeling arriving to a race with a trike that had never been ridden before.
Come race morning in Murray Bridge the team had a trike that wasn't ready to race, and 4 team members to arrive. Two who had a football final to play (against one another as well!) in Maryborough VIC that morning, one who had his year 11 formal ball the night before, and one who likes to do things "just in time." Six and half to seven hours of driving after playing football isn't the best preparation for a 24 hour race, but as always, we just have to work with what we're dealt.
The race to get the trike on the track by the 11:30 grid formation time was basically a lost cause for us. Too much to do, and we we're rushing. The back wheel was being stubborn and wouldn't go in properly. It seems the new kevlar sandwich canopy is much firmer around that area and there just wasn't enough give to get the quick release hub to tighten properly. Decision time... cut the canopy open or... the decision was made to just swap the quick release to the other side where there was a little more clearance and go with that. However, in the process it still didn't get done up tight enough.
Ty, as usual, went out to start the race after having been in hospital earlier in the week due to tonsillitis, exhaustion, the flu, and work related health issues. However, the wheel delays meant we were now at the back of the grid. Oh, well, it's 24 hours, time enough to work our way to the front we thought. 17 laps later Ty had us only a minute down on the lead, and pitted for Kel to takeover. Never having seen the track before, and still feeling a tad tired from the night before and the long drive over that morning, he took the first lap slowly, and then went to put the foot down... Bang! The back wheel fell out of the drop outs, mangling the derailer in the process. Kel was next seen running down pit lane carrying the trike in his arms.
With no spare derailer, Tim ran around to the service tent where Uncle Beno seemed more concerned about him having a heart attack than about his urgent need for a new derailer. With that returned to the pits, it was then discovered that the damage was more severe than first thought. The derailer mounting point on the frame was stripped so there was no way to secure it. A hole was cut in the side of the canopy to try various things to no avail. The only choice left was to weld it on permanently. So, off to the welding area the trike went.
With James, our trike builder, asking the welder to just use little tack bursts of the welder to avoid damaging the new derailer... a request totally ignored, the idiot then gave it one almighty burst and melted the pulleys in the new derailer. Shit! At this point crew member Josh was sent for another run back to the pits to get the old derailer. The plan being to salvage the pulleys from it. This all took a lot of time. All the while Kel standing around burning up nervous energy. Josh went for another run to retrieve the seat and extras so the trike could get under way again, and by the time Kel was back pedalling we'd not only lost over an hour and a quarter, but the race as well. As if that wasn't enough time lost, during the night the floor fell out as well and took us another 10+ minutes to gerry-rig a solution.
All we could do now was work our way from last place back up through the field and try and get a top 5 finish.
Dom was next up and riding for the ExPats for the first time. He jumped in and did a solid 17 laps averaging under 3 minutes per lap, something he wasn't going to be afforded the luxury of trying to emulate again later due to team members falling like nine-pins.
James fresh from his footy grand final the previous weekend and not having ridden anything since Wonthaggi at the start of the year was next up and while he only managed 11 laps, he was also averaging under the magic 3 minute barrier. We were starting to climb our way back up through the tail of the field.
Kyle, also in his first ride for the ExPats was next up and did a solid 13 laps just over the 3 minute average, with several individual laps under it - a solid debut that didn't even hint at the cramping problems that were to strike him later in the night.
Iron man Potta was next up and he ripped out a quick fire 23 laps, and like Dom, he also averaged under the 3 minute barrier for those laps. Whilst we weren't making head way on the 26+ laps we lost with the derailer incident, the leaders weren't getting away from us either, and we were now carving our way back through the field.
The boys kept rotating through the list, with Henry being saved for the night, and Aaron still not there from the footy match. When Henry's turn did come, he performed solidly averaging just over the 3 minute mark until a major cramp in his calf caused him to stop dead, and not ride again until just before the end of the race. Ouch, so much for saving a couple of riders for over night!
Aaron finally arrived and followed Henry out on to a track he hadn't seen before just as night was falling. He settled in and cranked out a solid 26 laps at a 3:12 average which helped to give the other guys a break.
Ty, Kyle and James then rode themselves into leg trouble, this situation was only to worsen overnight as rider after rider succumbed to cramp and leg problems. The seat must have been at a slightly different (and obviously bad) angle to be causing this many problems. It was up to Potta and Dom to sacrifice some speed over night and just stay out there for longer stints at reduced pace to try and hold on until the other guys could front up again.
Around 6 am things looked really grim. Kelsey had been over to the tents to try and find a rider to take over from Dom who was just going round and round and round, hanging on as long as he could. She came up empty. We had no one to ride next! Tim decided he'd had enough of the night shift pit duties and went to lay it all on the line to the sleeping riders. Ty was informed that he simply had to get up and take over, Kel and Henry were told they had to find a way to ride, Kyle managed one more stint, as did James before he had to leave to get back home in the morning. Things are a little blurry after this point as the writer finally retired for a couple hours of sleep, and some how the riders managed to keep going.
As we started to close in on those above us, Ty managed to coax another sub 3 minute average stint out of his legs. Potta, Henry, Kel and Aaron kept the laps ticking over hoping that in the last hour a big effort to keep to sub 3 minute laps might see us climb into the top 5.
Then the wind came. Not that it affects us much, with a low, heavy, solid trike that now sticks to the road like it's on rails, we can just keep motoring on through anything. We love the wet as well. However, with the race sensibly called off under the circumstances, we had to settle for climbing up off the floor in last place after an hour, to 8th place overall, and 6th in the Open Community Category-4.
Congrats go out to the BlueShift team, and to Dean on the vehicle - it looked very schmick, sounded super smooth all race and whenever I put a watch on it always seemed to be on the pace. Congrats also to Tim and the GT-6 boys putting in a solid 24 hour event, and to the Tru Blu and Tri-Sled guys for another solid performance, they seemed to be on the pace most of the time as well. Not sure what to say about Ballistic, based on this, so won't say anything...
A special mention to the HPRacing boys (above right) who, like us, put in a big effort just to get their vehicle on the start line. It looked to be circulating Ok for the first half of the race. I suspect something broke over night that put paid to their plans though.
With our time outages, we only managed roughly 21 hours and 30 minutes on the track actually racing out of the 23 hours of the race. To do just on 400 laps in that time wasn't a half bad effort from the boys. Look out next time when we'll arrive a tad more prepared, oh, and no more jinxing predictions from Nige to haunt us, please. Heck, next race we even plan to allow an hour somewhere in schedule to actually paint the trike, that all white look was just as it came out of the molds.
Some positives to come out of the race:
New steering geometry works a treat! VERY happy with that. The tyres at the end of race showed no uneven wear signs, and look like they could go another couple of thousand km's easily.
The extra width that everyone suggested we needed in our track now makes it possible for the trike to corner without fear. First 24 hour race I can recall in the last umpteen years that we haven't gone over at all!
Kevlar sandwich construction is pretty damn strong. Needs some reinforcing along the join line, and we can probably drop a couple of kilos where it doesn't need the extra strength.
A big thanks to the support crew of Stewie, Kelsey, Josh, Julie, Esther, Darryl and Mari whose pit crewing, massaging, and feeding helped the ExPats guys to get the most out of their under-prepared bodies & vehicle. Next time... We'll make sure we come prepared, and fit. Look out in '08. In the mean time, 6 of the ExPats riders will be riding at Maryborough in Novemeber, and the rest of the guys are involved in pit crews etc so keep a look out for us around the traps. Feel free to come up and say g'day, we're not that mean, just fair dinkum when we're on the race track :-)
It seems even the pit crew needed some work on their "glutes" during the race, and least I hope that is what Henry is doing for (to?) Josh in this pic as I just found it scattered in the middle of the photos on the camera!