What a close race it turned out to be, we always enjoy coming to the Casey track as it really suits our trikes, and the ExPats guys love to race there. The race was fought out between ExPats The Biff, TruBlu and TriSled's Easy Tiger, with the win eventually going to a deserved TruBlu, their second win (having won this event previously in 2006) - congrats guys!
There were also highly commendable efforts by Weeroona College's two Junior Secondary teams who finished 4th and 7th overall! Lastly, an honourable mention to the improving Ballarat Community/Harnetty racing combination who if it weren't for a few too many lengthy pit stops could have been fighting it out for 4th overall. We'll look forward to seeing these guys racing with us all around the country this year!
Oh, and what about that new FireTruck? Boy-o-boy what a different look from the old red bus we're used to seeing around the traps - what's going on there guys? Also great to see St. Margaret's School really getting into the spirit of HPV racing now, even to the point of their Galactic Fossils, aka HE1530 taking out the Veteran Community class. Even if there was only 2 entries in that class, it is one I'd like to see encouraged elsewhere too as there's still some life left in some of us old farts!
Even though the field was weakened by the no show from BYR (not wanting a repeat loss after last year probably ;-) and not having the DUSA guys there at the pointy end of the field, there was still some hotly contested racing from those of us who did make the effort to get there. Anyone seeing the state of our experimental Wonthaggi trike at the end of that race would know we had a bit more to do to get to the starting line than most teams. Thankfully we had the 2007 Murray Bridge canopy/fairing sitting idle in the shed, and we knew on the wide open plains at Casey it would be ideally suited to the task. The bullet-proof kevlar sandwich construction used in this canopy provides a very solid feeling trike. Henry commented he loved racing in it as he feel invincible in it, it just feels so strong and solid on the track. Of course that strength comes at a cost of another 4kg of materials. We'll be working to come up with something in between it and the Wonthaggi experiment which was much lighter, and a different material for later in the year.
Now, on to our report of how things unfolded for us in the ExPats camp...
With somewhat of a "pass the parcel" game to decide who was going to start the race this year we had no real idea who should be suiting up just 15 minutes before race start time. Our usual starter, Ty, didn't want to do it after what he considered an embarrassing start at Wonthaggi earlier in the year where first his badly damaged ankle prevented him from having the acceleration to stay with BYR out of the corners, and then total brake failure forcing him to pit a long way short of his plan. Problem was, no one else wanted to do it either. In the end, with all the other guys refusing, Team captain Ty finally gave in and got ready whilst The Biff sat on the starting line with no rider in it.
Not fully understanding the starting procedures, as he was too busy getting dressed with mere minutes to start time, Ty decided it best to sit just behind TruBlu on the parade lap and not accelerate until after they did. Even so, from a virtual dead stop he pulled out a 2:48 first lap and with the race under way he proceeded to slowly pull away from TruBlu. After 15 laps TruBlu pitted and their 2nd rider came bolting out of the pits with a string of 4 sub 2:50min laps just at the same time as our rear tyre started to go flat. Ty decided to pit as he was feeling it in the legs.
Kel jumped in smartly with our pit lap being a 3:39, our quickest in-change-out lap of the race. However, something was wrong. Kel, normally has no trouble pumping out the sub 3 minute laps at Casey, but he started with a 3:10 and then pushing harder and harder until he finally realised something was wrong as his times continued to blow out. From the pits we'd just assumed the cold he had was preventing him from performing. He pulled in complaining that the trike was fish-tailing around the corners, and was very hard to push. A quick look at the rear tyre showed why. Flat - the only thing his cold affected must have been his brain!
Normally a quick change to the spare wheel would be done and dusted in around a minute and we'd be back on the track and racing. Only problem was the only spare wheel we had was a smaller 406. When it was put in, the trike's tail end was on the ground, that wasn't going to work. Only thing for it was to change the tyre on the first wheel. Easier done if you have tyre levers handy. Not sure exactly how this came to pass, but Henry ended up slashing the tyre with a Stanley knife, I can only assume in an effort to get the damn thing off. Tube, and tyre replacement, wheel back in and we'd lost 15 minutes in the process. In a 6 hour race, even small incidents can be the cause of a lost race. A 15 minute one almost requires divine intervention to get back in it.
Still all was not lost. At this point we'd just lost 5 laps to TruBlu and Easy Tiger, but as Ty tried to motivate the boys - gain a lap an hour and we still had a chance. Off Henry rode with that intention in mind, a 2:54min out of the pits showed just what he intended. The plan... keep averaging sub 3 minute laps and let the rest take care of itself. That's exactly what he did. Henry was back in after his solid 19 lap stint with an average lap time of 2:59. Just what the Doctor ordered.
Azza headed off to try and do more of the same, and with a 2:53 out of the pits, followed by a 2:48 it looked like we were headed in the right direction. For the next hour and a quarter he kept churning out the laps at a good consistent pace. A stint of 26 laps at an average time of 2:57 proved he'd finally found a way to drag some speed out of somewhere deep down inside. Azza has always been capable of riding solid, lengthy stints, but always seemed to be a bit off the mark with his speed. Not anymore. Not only did he claim our fastest lap of the race, but his average lap time of 2:57 was also our quickest average lap time as well. Not only that, but it was quicker than TruBlu's 2nd rider (2:58 average) as well, in fact I'm pretty sure it was probably the quickest average lap time of anyone on the day! The boy has arrived, lookout!
With those 2 solid stints under our belt we'd managed to claw back just over a lap and a half in a little over 2 hours. Not bad, but not quite enough, and not quite quickly enough if we were to catch the leaders.
Not to worry though, Lachy in his second ride for ExPats, and 3rd race ever, was up next and he looked to be chomping at the bit to get going. One sighter lap out of the pits in just over 3 minutes and he settled down into the mid 2:50's range, and looked to be doing it easy. Until, without notice, he was in the pits after only 10 laps. Mad rush to get Ty ready to go again, whilst Lachy was helped from the vehicle with a nasty cramp in the calf. Knowing he had an important footy game on the Sunday he wisely chose not try and push through it. His shortened stint was still done at a good clip averaging 2:57. Hopefully his football commitments will allow him to race with us during the rest of the year.
This left us a little off our plan which now meant Ty & Kel would have to ride out the last hour and fourty minutes, about 20 minutes more than planned, and as it turned out about 20 minutes more than their legs really had in them after the flat tyre had earlier taken their toll, especially, as it would turn out, on Kel. Henry and Aaron we're still feeling a little sore from their stints, but Henry was on standby in case he was needed - just because he was lying curled up in a ball on the ground, half-asleep, doesn't mean he wasn't "ready."
Ty pushed as hard as his wrecked ankle would allow and managed another 13 laps. His 33 laps for the race being done at an average of 2:59 helping us to again climb closer to the leaders.
When Kel hopped in with a little over an hour to go we were now 2 laps behind Easy Tiger and 3 laps from TruBlu. A pretty much impossible task, but we weren't about to go down without a fight. Kel caught Easy Tiger and after about 5 laps moved past them and slowly started to pull away. All the while both trikes were slowly gaining on the leader TruBlu. With ~20 minutes to go Easy Tiger had caught Kel again, and with his legs suffering from that earlier fight with the flat tyre, he drifted backwards over the last handful of laps, still grinding out with every thing he had. Funnily enough, he later remarked that he thought that last stint had almost burnt off his cold - judging by the way he looked at the end of the race (see picture right) he was probably right!
So there we were at the finish, TruBlu deserving the first win for keeping their vehicle on track and circulating at a pace good enough to keep Easy Tiger and The Biff at bay.
Whilst that 15+ minute off-track delay after the flat rear tyre, and no spare wheel of the correct size, virtually put paid to our race chances, the ExPats boys fought it out to the finish. Reducing a 5 lap deficit to only 2 laps at the finish. With 63 laps under the 3 minute bench mark, compared to 54 for TruBlu and only 45 for Easy Tiger, we proved we were consistently the fastest trike on the track - we just didn't stay on the track long enough to make it count.
I think the ExPats boys went home happy that they fought it out, and knowing that they now had the speed necessary to be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the year. Tired, and just a little disappointed, they treked back home to Castlemaine and Maryborough to start plotting their next escapade in Tassie in a couple of weeks.