Hit by illness, work commitments, and football finals finding enough riders to make a team is turning into a struggle. With less than 2 weeks to go the last minute push is on to have a semi-decent team available for the 24 hour race. With 3 different frames and fairings available having a vehicle available isn't such a challenge this time around. Whilst we had planned to build a new chassis based on the lessons we'd learnt from our experiments throughout the year where we'd raced 3 different models of frame, and 3 different builds of fairing we really wanted to put it altogether in a single package to be as competitive as possible. With the loss of Ty due to serious illness some of the impetus for pushing that forward disappeared to the point where it became readily apparent that with less than a full complement of fit riders we weren't going to be competitive at Murray Bridge this year. Perhaps a legacy of racing at every event (bar Maroondah in 2007) in the last 2 years?
Oh well... there's always next year, so look out in 2009, ExPats are looking to have their best year ever. There will be new ideas to test, maybe a new fairing design (don't hold me to that - it's a maybe), and potentially a couple of new riders and Ty back on board to help us field very competitive teams wherever we compete.
One item of good news filtering in this week was the Azza and (mainly?) his Dad, Darryl have been busy build the ExPats team a new race trailer. Hopefully it will be painted and ready for viewing on the weekend. With an easy slide out tray for trike, good storage room underneath and on the sides it will help make all the trip to S.A. next weekend, and over the coming years, all that much easier to organise!
Update: Sun, Sept, 14th
A short training session was held at Maryborough today with NugNug and TheBiff doing the rounds until a blown tyre put TheBiff out of action - who goes training without taking at least one spare! We were joined By Gareth & Dale from Stawell who came over for a few laps and to check out the kind of trikes we build & race. A short sharp session showed most of the guys had good pace lapping in the 1:50's, with a smattering in the 1:40's and Kel having one hot lap at 1:38 after he'd finished his stint and swapped trikes.
Just when we thought the team had finally been settled, we find out that one of the guys has pulled out as he didn't think he was fast/fit enough. Just what we need in such a time poor week ahead. Some indecision over the seat position had Kel & Jordan feeling a little cramped, Kyle and Henry loving it (they're just a tad shorter than the other guys though) and Aaron not really caring - and he's the tallest one of the lot!?!? Have a look at some more photos of the HPV trike training session.
With the fairing for another team finally finished at 11:30pm Sunday night, and the reinforcing for our race fairing also done, we're making progress... However, Kel & Aaron have SAC's coming out their rear ends all week. Ty is working way out the other side of Melbourne all week and Tim has a huge work backlog so finding enough time this week to do quality prep is going to be hard. That said...
Update: Tue, Sept, 16th PM
We finally sorted the last of the riders out tonight and with transport etc also now arranged it was time to concentrate on getting the trike race ready.
Kel and Aaron fitted the running gear and took it for a short test then mounted the fairing and are, as I write this, trying to paint the trike. I say trying as the big compressor in the shed has shit itself for some reason and is shorting everything out. They've fallen back to the old smaller one which is struggling to provide enough pressure to do the job properly. Mick is coming over tomorrow to go over everything again to make sure nothing has been missed. Just waiting on the new front wheels and tyres and we'll be set to go. Feels a bit odd really, not used to being ready this far out from a race. That's often because we build everything new for a major race, this time around we're using a frame we had ready to go and have reinforced an existing race fairing so whilst the work load has been less there's been less manpower to do it too.
Update: Wed, Sept 17 PM
Oh no, they didn't! Oh, yes they did! They really did take naming the trike to the next evolutionary level... from Dangle Berry to Morning Glory
Unlike some other teams that run for cover with their trike when a sightseer spots their new vehicle out for a test run we're happy to show it to all and sundry now. Of course it's not a new design so there's no real mystery here, except that it's interesting you can't see the front profile of trike here. Gone is one of our trademark looks. People who were at Maroondah would have seen the look on the old NugNug trike that we tested there. We've even improved on that a little to give much better visibility and air flow.
With the paint job finished, windows in, electrics run and tested, and sign-writing applied Kel & Henry appeared quite pleased with themselves tonight. Morning Glory is almost ready to load on the trailer and ship of to South Aussie tomorrow arvo. A short list of minor things to attend to Thursday and the job is done.
The Journey begins...
With the team moving over to South Australia in 6 different vehicles at different times, it sounded like a somewhat disorganised start to the weekend, but it wasn't, that was just how the cards fell when it came to matching people up with the times they were available to leave. Thursday, straight after school finished, Kel , Aaron, Jordan, and Henry were supposed to head off so that they would be in Murray Bridge before the gates closed at Sturt Reserve at 10:30pm. However, there were a couple of hurdles to be overcome before that could happen.
You see the boys needed to take the trailer and trike with them so that they could do scrutineering on Friday before the rest of the team started to arrive later in the day. It was only on Tuesday night that they realised they didn't have a vehicle with a tow-bar to actually take the trailer and all four of them! Neither Henry's car nor Kel's ute had a tow bar, and whilst Azza's 300ZX did have a tow-bar the thought of all four of them stacked into it for the trip over, plus the likelihood of it not being able to climb over the gutters, made it too a non-starter for the show.
Tim had booked the wagon in for a service and repairs on Thursday, which now meant a favour had to be asked of the guys ar Parsons Motors in Castlemaine to squeeze it in on the Wednesday so that the car would be ready for the boys to take on the Thursday. When it came time to pick it up there was a list of other problems the mechanic had found that they said needed to be fixed in the next couple of weeks. When it was explained the vehicle needed to tow a trailer to S.A. and back that weekend, he just rolled his eyes and said, "well you better have it back here first thing in the morning to get the urgent things taken care of before you go."
Whilst all this was happening we were also still waiting on our order of wheels and tyres from HRTC to turn up as they also needed to go with the boys to be fitted for scrutineering. Chasing them up was proving difficult though as Ben @ HRTC seemed to have left his order until the last minute. We received an email Thursday morning from him saying he'd lost his phone, but the gear would be at the Castlemaine depot of BenBal freight at 3PM.
Well all of it except the tyres for back wheel, which he said we'd have to source elsewhere. Tim quickly texted Ben Goodall from Trisled who said they'd sold out, as had GreenSpeed! Shit, shit, shit... Surely the whole world wasn't running 451 Stelvios? Luckily Daniel at Dragon Cycles in Maryborough had some still in stock from the EBT last year, so one more problem could be ticked off the list.
Ok, this could still all work... Pick car up at 3pm, pick Mari up from school at 3:20pm, get back home in time for the courier to deliver gear, ring Kel and get him to pick up the tyres from Dragon Cycles, then get to Maryborough as soon after 4pm as possible. Sounded like a plan...
With what seemed like too many things to do before then and not enough time to do them in Tim was left scurrying around town trying to finish work in time to put said plan into action. The first couple of steps went as planned, and by 3:30 Tim and Mari were back at home waiting for the courier to deliver. As they were still at 4:00pm when the guys waiting in Maryborough for transport were rung to say the gear hadn't shown up yet. Ok, so all we have to do is ring BenBal and ask if we need to go to the depot to pickup. Only problem was it turned out they don't actually have a depot in Castlemaine! When asked whether a parcel from HRTC had been dispatched today the lady on the other end of the phone just laughed!
Why? Well it turns out that Ben had sent the email after losing his phone, but before checking with BenBal to see if they could deliver to Castlemaine today. When he got there to arrange it it was too late as their truck had already left! Not the first time he'd done something similar she said. The woman on the phone merely informed Tim that Ben had then just left their office with a funny look on his face. Shit! Can't contact him and don't know where the gear is. Do we leave now or wait a bit longer?
Just after that a txt was received from Ben, who'd now found his phone again, to say that Todd would be bringing all the gear with him on Friday. Todd usually rides for the HRTC team so I assumed that Ben must know how to get hold of Todd and make this happen - although I wasn't feeling over confident given what had transpired so far on that score. So, just to make sure a phone call was made to Todd to confirm things. He said that Ben had indeed rung him and that he was bringing the gear over to him asap. Hoping this would work out Ok, Tim & Mari headed off to Maryborough to drop the car off so the boys could get underway. Things were at last starting to fall into place, or so it seemed...
Todd rang just after 5pm to say he had the gear and had arranged for his brother to drive him over to Murray Bridge early Friday morning so the gear would be there for the guys to fit on to the trike for scrutineering. Well, most of it was there... tyres, wheels... but no tubes. Shit^3. A quick phone call to Mick ensured that he managed to get all the the tubes we needed from the TriSled tent at the track. Ok, time for a couple of deep breaths and on with the show...
We arrive in Maryborough with the boys keen to hook the trailer on and go. Only problem is we needed an adaptor to hook the trailer on and it had been removed from the wagon. Down the street to Lyle Eales store to get one, back again... only to find out that Tim had purchased the wrong bluddy one! Daryl then accompanied him back down the street to make sure the correct was purchased this time
Plugged in, test the trailer lights and the boys would be on their way a little later than hoped for, but at least on their way. Well they would have had the lights worked correctly. Turns out that Daryl had checked the lights with his cars and they were fine, but the rewiring that Castle Autos had done on Tim's Falcon must have been faulty - might explain why we couldn't get everything to work on Henry's trailer we used for Round 2. Not to worry, between Stewie and Daryl there was sure to be an answer. Kel took the trailer for a spin around town to try and wear the ball in hoping it might just have been and earthing issue, to no avail. It looked close to working, so Tim and Mari hopped in Henry's car and headed back to Castlemaine to load up their gear and wait for Ty to arrive later that evening.
Several hours later Kel, then Henry rang to say they were leaving the wagon at Henry's parent's place as at first they couldn't get the right lights to work, and then all of a sudden nothing worked... bluddy Stewie probably (just kidding Stewart!) Henry had bargained with his parents to take their car, and Tim was to swap his car over with them at 5am in the morning.
Even though we'd arranged with Andrew McLachlan to let the security people know the guys would be arriving late, when they got to the front gates at the track there was no-one in sight to let them in. Eventually a security guy arrived who at first refused to let them in, and then wanted to charge them $20 a head to get in - or so Kel said, he's renowned for getting things a little basakwards at times though. Eventually they got it and setup for the night... now if only Kel and Henry had remembered to take some bedding with them. It's believed they shared a blanket as their only warmth for the night.
So... a few hiccups, but things were moving forward and we still thought we had a plan.
That plan involved Daryl & Ester leaving Maryborough around 5am and taking Stewie, Kyle and James, and maybe Ty depending on when he got home, and whether he then kept going through to Carrisbrook for a special cuddle from Kelsey. However, Ty didn't arrive home in Castlemaine from working in Melbourne until about 10:30pm by which time he'd been driving for 10 hours, plus done a full days work and was both mentally and physically exhausted. Despite Tim pleading with him to just go to bed and leave from there in the morning, he insisted on dropping his dog off at his mothers place, going to Stewie's parents to pickup the massage table and then driving to Kelsey's - another hour plus of driving on top of everything he'd already done for the day. It's this very same attitude that put him in hospital after Maroondah!
So off he headed into the night... About 30 minutes later Tim received a phone call from a very angry woman. Ty's mother had rung to say that Ty had just come screaming into her house waking her up... he'd somehow managed to drive over his dog whilst coming through the front gate and up the drive at the farm. It looked like the dog's leg was broken and that Ty was on his way to the vets. Tim left to meet Ty and Simba there around 11:30pm. The vet said he couldn't tell if it was broken, but that it probably was. All he could do Thursday night was bandage it up in a heap of bandages and give Simba some pain killers and a shot to help him sleep. However, he needed to come back in Friday morning at 9:30am for x-rays and further treatment. There went the leave early part of the plan for Friday.
Luckily Simba was cleared of any breaks, just bad bruising on the bone that will lead to arthritis later in life - still much better than it could have been. Still a $300+ bill for Ty's pigheadedness only served to painfully remind him that sometimes parents really do know best!
Ok, so now we're ready to go, right? Wrong... Turns out that Josh couldn't get Friday off work and as he is like another brother to Ty & Kel Ty didn't want to leave him behind so he arranged to pick Josh up from work and head over in the work van later that afternoon. What Ty didn't say at the time was that Josh working down near Melbourne and needed to be picked up at around 3pm, not lunch time.
Regardless, Tim & Mari headed off and were in Murray Bridge 5 hours and 15 minutes later with only a quick wee stop in Horsham along the way. They arrived to find the guys with the pit tent set up in pygmy-half-height mode with the strong winds threatening to blow it away - much like they did to Ty and that camping tent last year! With not much needing to have been done to get through scrutineering the boys had had an unusually relaxed day, so much so that it was only about 15 minutes beforehand that Kel & Henry remembered they hadn't setup the sleeping tent as requested and so hurriedly did so.
With practice having started just before Tim & Mari arrived the whole place was alive with action everywhere as they walked into the track. Morning Glory was out doing the rounds with the new guys getting used to it, and other guys re-acquainting themselves with the Murray Bridge track and with dealing with hundreds of trikes on track at the same time. Given our depleted riding list we had on board for this event Kyle who'd ridden with us here last year and had just finished football for the year. He had good aerobic fitness but limited time in a trike. Todd on loan from HRTC who'd had to pull out of the race due to Ben's work commitments, James a youngster from Maryborough on his first ride outside of the EBT track, and Jordan from Bendigo in his first official ride for ExPats after he'd approached the guys at Maroondah.
The rest of the team was made up of the usual core four of Aaron, Kel, Henry & Ty - who'd somehow convinced us that even as weakened as he was from his illness he'd still be a better option than yet another unknown/untried outside rider. In hindsight we should have insisted he didn't ride as he could only cause himself more damage. You'd think after the last year or so he'd be starting to realise he really isn't superman after all!
We were fairly confident that the trike would run well as it was basically Dangle Berry with some minor mods and a reinforced fairing. It had good acceleration but in the process we'd traded off a little top end speed, speed that would actually have been more beneficial around this track than the acceleration gains it provided.
In an effort to get a decent spot on the starting grid, Henry attempted a flyer after his first practice stint only to run into a heap of traffic and have to give up. Kel went out and decided to have a crack at a quick lap as well, until he got 3/4's of the way around the track and found out he really wasn't anywhere near as fit as he thought he was and he too was shut down, although still posted a quick enough time to get us to 15th on the grid - much better than the last place we had to start from in 2007!
By the time we'd finished practice and put the gear away it was a quick rush up the road to get to Dundees where we'd had a reservation for dinner. The early riders had already gone with Daryl & Ester, and when the rest of us arrived we only had ~20 minutes to gorge ourselves at the buffet before it closed. Too much food too quickly wasn't the best way to approach getting a good nights sleep. With feeding done it was back to the track and off to sleep for most of the riders - Kyle deciding to stay up texting and sitting in the cold for some reason (he seems to have lots of lady friends!)
Mick, Stewie & Tim headed off back to the pits to put the race wheels & tyres on and do a check over after the practice session to make sure the trike was ready for the race. Whilst there we had a visit from the Barrossa Boys up the pits a way, and our perennial neighbours at AIPP events, the Deakin guys. After swapping sit-in's and yacking about trikes and stuff for a while the trike was finally deemed ready to go and we prepared to call it a night.
That's when Ty and Josh finally arrived, just before midnight - only problem was they couldn't get in. Tim ran up to the gates to find out why, only be told there was no real problem, just that the boys had no money with them! With that sorted we could finally settle down for the night. As we were leaving the pits it seemed odd that the Murray Bridge High School pits next to us - the Circus tent arrangement - was locked down tight and it had a security guard standing watch over it. We had to wonder if this was because the locals didn't trust us out-of-towners, or knew they couldn't trust certain elements of their own community?
Race Day Arrives
After taking the opportunity to have a bit of a sleep-in Tim arose to find that whilst (thanks to Ester's forward planning) breakfast had been provided for the boys, they'd taken Ty's work van and gone down the street for a second breakfast (you know about 2nd breakfasts don't you? ). The morning went quite peacefully, and it's something we're not quite used to, with no mad scurrying to get ready for the start. The deakin boys on the other hand were still sawing things until past midnight, and Mick reported seeing activity in the BYR pits when he went for pee in the middle of the night. One last check over of the trike and with Kel suited up to start the race we were ready to go.
With all the trials and tribulations over getting riders, and ill-advisedly using ill riders, our expectations needed to be tempered this year. As has been said on the Phantom Forum previously, anyone that finished in the top 5 this year would have performed a helluva good job, and so that was the top end of expectations for us, well all except Ty who was still in dream-land, thinking that if riders were prepared to push themselves past their limits we could still win. Broken record that one, look where pushing past limits has got him this year!
The mad-dash Top 12 Shoot out was about to get under way, so it was time to get down to the start/finish line to grabs some photos. On the way it was surprising to Steele jogging around the track, an unusual way to do a warm-up lap we thought, only to have him say he was off to the pits for a warm up stint on the spin bike as he wasn't needed for at least 20 minutes. With what appeared to be some confusion over who was going to doing their lap when, he was eventually called back a little sooner than he expected - only thing to do was... Yup, sit on the road and have a rest. Even though he said afterwards that he was told he'd be riding second last, instead of last as his fastest lap in practice the night before should have afforded him, he wasn't phased, and sure as hell didn't affect his speed as he came past us the first time at the start of his hot lap - he was really moving! A short 2 minutes and 16 seconds later he was back with us with yet another lap record to hang on his belt.
With Tim out with the camera and the rest of the team either perched around at their vantage point atop the van at ExPats Lookout just before the hairpin corner, and just up the road from BYR hill, or scattered around the track, there was no one in pits for about the first 25 minutes of the race - luckily we didn't need to pit during that time. However, it also meant we didn't have accurate lap times for first part of Kel's stint, which was less than satisfactory - note to Tim, about time you got that automated timing system built. Something like the excellent system that Team Bluebird's Luke has built is envisaged, time and motivation is all that is required - it is on the ToDo list along with lots of other projects as well!
With each of the riders expected to do roughly hour long stints we were somewhat surprised when after a little over 40 minutes Kel was in the pits, something must have gone wrong! Whilst Ballistic had turned into him at speed at the apex of the hairpin (and come off much the worse for wear for it we found out later) the only thing wrong, as we were to be reminded a few more times over the next 23 hours, was that he'd overheated himself by pushing harder than his only somewhat fit body was prepared for coming out of it's Winter hibernation. Whilst the sun was a welcome stranger on our backs, it looked like it might make our struggle a little harder this year especially with the leading 3 trikes of TruBlu, BYR and BlueShift having pulled away almost a lap on the next group of us, Ballistic, DUSA, and TriSled included. So even whilst Kel's short 14 laps stint was done at an average of 2:54 we'd lost ground to the leading three who were obviously hell-bent on breaking that magical 1000km barrier, and well before the 24 hour mark at the rate of knots they were currently travelling!
It never ceases to amaze how our guys, for one reason or another, turn up to races under done and then wonder why they can't hold the pace of the teams with fitter riders, and this year a couple of more aerodynamically efficient trikes made that equation even harder to balance. Undaunted, we didn't expect to win this time around, a top 5 finish was our aim - well those of us still in the land of reality that is. Ty, still suffering from the serious illness after Maroondah where he lost 7kg of muscle in a week (didn't have any fat to lose in the first place) and could barely stand upright a week before hand, was adamant that we didn't come all the way over to Murray Bridge to not try and win the race. "Just you wait and see, when I get out there...blah, blah, blah," you'll see what happened there soon enough, for now back to the race itself. As a stark contrast right when he was saying this the Yorke Shark was just passing our pits at a speed slightly slower than walking pace.
Second up was Jordan in his first official ride for ExPats. A student at Bendigo Christian College, and with a little HPV racing under his belt he was keen to get out there and prove his mettle. He'd certainly looked good in the two practice sessions we'd held in the prior two weekends, but what would race day deliver? Jordan had never done battle in this kind of traffic before, but with a road & track riding background we felt sure he'd adapt pretty quickly, and he did. Whilst not quite as quick as Kel, and perhaps a little slower than expected based on his training form, he also was in much sooner than expected - under the 40 minute mark. His average of 3:00 minutes per lap wasn't bad for his first effort. The bigger problem was that we'd now fallen well behind where we expected to be with rider rotations, and even further behind the leading bunch.
It was time for someone to step up to the plate and pull a bit longer stint. Henry was in next and he headed out in the carnage to try and restore some sense and order to the rotation schedule with the directive being to stay out there at a slightly slower pace and make it past the hour mark. That's exactly what he did, well after he took off out of the pits in a great rush. Henry managed a solid stint at almost an hour and 10 minutes at a 3:05 average. Whilst we weren't quite sure where this put us in the overall scheme of things - boy do we miss the constantly up to date wireless results of the Vic based races - we knew that if we could just keep circulating around the 3 minute mark consistently for the next 21 hours we'd be in the mix for a shot at that top 5 finish we were hoping for.
With other teams having flat tyres and stacks that slowed them, we seemed to be holding our own in the second bunch for the time being.
Fresh from another successful footy season (joint winner of the league U17 B&F) Kyle was in next. With only a little riding under his belt recently, and memories of last years event where we had shocking cramps, it was going to be his underlying football fitness that would have to carry the day for this powerful little dynamo. You'd never have known he'd had little riding recently though for he was straight into the low 2:50's before drifting out to just over 3 minutes by the end of his exactly one hour stint (at last someone rode to schedule!) with a 3:02 average. Solid and consistent, that was to be the ExPats mantra at this years AIPP.
Sidenote: Steele was finally out on track for his first stint for TruBlu around this time, and absolutely tearing up the track averaging in the 2 minute 30's for many of the laps we had a stop watch on him. Also interesting to note was the long awaited, well by some of us anyway, showdown between Stainless and BYR's Rowan Nankervis, both out on the track at the same time. Sparks were sure to be flying, and in the early stages, despite the BYR race report not mentioning a word of it, Steele had the edge over Rowan from what we could see - certainly enjoyable racing to watch, even if we couldn't hold their pace.
Next in was Ty. Yes, he was still crook, more so than he realised, and really shouldn't have been riding - but you try telling him that! He doesn't listen to anyone, and used the rationale that his bad ride was still better than someone else whom we would have had to conscript locally. Normally he'd be right as the kid can gut ride on no fitness and still pull good times, just as he's done at the 6 hour races for the last 2 years. Problem was, he wasn't just unfit this time, he was physically (and in hindsight, probably a little mentally as well ) depleted. This wasn't just a case of pushing just past the limit to get a reasonable performance out of his body - something he'd promised not to do. He was just going to go and try and cruise around at a reasonable pace. A 3:13 out of the pits, our 4th quickest for the day, should have rung the alarm bells that he wasn't riding to plan. Then his laps times were all over the shop. A couple under 3 minutes, then up around 3:19, then 3:00, then 3:17. What the hell was going on? Turned out we didn't have long to wait to find out. Ty was in the pits in just over 30 minutes, totally spent. As soon as he was out of the trike it was out the back of the pit tent for his usual Chundergutz routine, and then again a few more times. He was white as a ghost, and actually admitted he couldn't do it. If he got a clear run he could kind of keep the pedals ticking over, but if he hit traffic, or as on one lap got sandwiched between two Primary school trikes who would back off and let him out to get going again, his legs just didn't have any power in them to get the trike back up to speed. As difficult as that realisation was going to make it for the rest of the guys to carry his work load for the rest of the race, hopefully, he's finally learnt - you really do need to be fit to do this caper properly. Maybe if we can get his ankle reconstructed over summer he might find the motivation to get back into the kind of form we know he's capable of.
When he did come into pits he was saying something about the chain ring guard... mea culpa! In an earlier report about the Round 2 start debacle with the corflute chain ring guards failing, Tim said that he'd make sure that wasn't an issue again. Oops! Ty had made a new set of corflute guards for Maroondah, and they'd actually worked, so we went with the same ones again. However, somehow they'd given way now and the only answer was to rip the damn things off altogether. Surely the more experienced riders wouldn't have a problem, they know to keep pedalling through the corners to make sure a bump/chainwhip doesn't cause a dropped chain. Surely? Not to be. A few dropped chains were experienced from here on which did costs us a few minutes here and there. Probably not quite enough to have caught Ballistic, but then again...
With that short stint, and expecting to be without Ty for the rest of the race, it was time for someone else to stepup and perform this year. Next in was Aaron and you could see from the steely determination on his face as headed out into the traffic that he wasn't going to let the team down. For the next hour and a bit Azza sat consistently either just under or just over (depending on traffic) the 3 minute barrier. With his first ever crash at Maroondah behind him he seemed to be more at home in the traffic and less worried about avoiding that fateful outcome. Or in his own words - "More inclined to SAV it through any gap he could find." And, no, I'm not 100% sure what SAV'ing means . His stint ended with a 3:03 average and help stabilise the ship again.
Around now was when we were due to do our marshalling stint up the top end of the course, just after Channel 7/Crash corner. Josh headed off with the knowledge that someone would be up to relieve him after a couple of hours. Stewie and Andrew made their way up there well before then and were only too happy to take over. When it came time to relive them, Stewie was so in his element with the walkie-talkie that you couldn't tear him away
Now, we were about to venture back into the unknown a little with two knew riders. Todd was up next had ridden for the ex-ExPats at Wonthaggi at the start of the year, and more recently with HRTC in Round 1 & 2 of the Super Series. He obviously knew how to handle our kind of trikes, and was comfortable in the head-in fairing, it was just a matter of how fit he was, and how he handled the traffic. Well, any fears we might have had were well and truly unwarranted as Todd settled into a pace that averaged out at 3:03 for an hour an 10 minutes. Finally a couple of solid back to back stints. Todd was in and reporting that the ride felt great, and that he still had plenty left in the tank for later - something we were going to need.
Sidenote: Steele and Rowan were still at it, still throwing laps in the 2:40's and 2:30's and according to our stopwatch, Steele was still winning the battle having lapped Rowan once at this point.
Our next rider up, and last in the rotation was young James. He'd turned up to the last training session on the previous Sunday in Maryborough with Kyle and had gone out for a reasonably solid half hour then at around 2:05 at the Maryborough track. Whilst that isn't a blistering pace around there, we decided in the end to go with him over a couple of S.A. based guys for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we'd seen him ride our trikes, and he was football fit so had a good cardio base. Secondly, he was a local and we're always trying to uncover more local talent as maybe someone who will come on in the next couple of years to take a regular place in the team. Still it was a risk taking someone so young, and who really didn't have the race experience we usually prefer, a risk that if it didn't work out meant we'd be down to 6 riders.
We sent him off at around 6:20pm, glad to have him out there before the darkness descended so he could get a better feel for everything whilst he could still see where he was going. We didn't expect too much from the kid, but he did manage a couple of laps around the 3:05 mark, but for the most part they were quite a bit higher than that. We realised we were going backwards compared to the top end of the field, but he was doing as well as we could have expected. He certainly prove he had the stamina for a youngster with a stint of almost 1 hour 20, at an average lap time of 3:18 - a good effort when all was said and done. We realised we'd have to hold him in reserve for maybe one more short stint in the morning if we were to regain a place in the top 5, as by now we'd dropped down to around 7th or 8th, we needed a boost to start climbing back up the leader board.
Oh, yeah... Steele was still out there, still sub 2:50's. He'd obviously been doing a lot of training since Rounds 1 & 2 when he rode with us and only managed hour long stints He pitted some time shortly after this and from what we saw, and timed, he had had the wood over Rowan in their first serious head-to-head. In fact I'd say that stint at well over 2 hours was probably by far the fastest ever recorded at Murray Bridge! You sure you don't wanna ride with us a little more often Steele? Sorry Ducky/Brenton, just teasing
With darkness approaching and with it some cooler weather it was hoped that with Kel in for his second stint he'd be able to regain some of that lost time. A 3:00 minute dead out lap (which given we were a the start of the pit lane was pretty damn quick) followed by a 2:47 indicated he meant business this time, and despite a couple of laps where he was almost stopped by traffic resulting in over 3 minute laps his hour and quarter stint was still completed at better than 2:55. We were still behind on the rotation schedule, but slowly working our way back into the picture. Bring on the night, with the cold, and the kind of conditions where trikes fog up inside. We were confident we'd pickup ground then as other teams succumbed to the conditions.
Jordan was in next and was keen to redeem himself for a shortened first stint, and do just that he did. The first hour and 15 minutes were at around the 3 minute mark, some under some over, then all of a sudden he must have hit the wall a little as his lap times dropped off 10 seconds a lap and started to drift out towards the 3:15+ mark. At an hour 30 he was back in the pits with a solid night time average of 3:08 under his belt and no more ground lost to the bunch we were chasing.
In the middle of doing this rider change, Tim got that uneasy feeling in his trousers pocket... the phone was ringing. It was Race Director Gerry. "Er, can you hang on a minute Gerry, just doing a pit stop" phone tossed aside and trike back on the track Tim picked up the phone to hear Gerry still talking... oops! Apparently someone had complained about our new sighting blinking led light on top of the roll bar. It was oscillating White 1 second, off 1 second, Red one second, off one second. Gerry informed us that this was a breach of the rules as it looked like it could be a tail light. "Whhaaaattt???" We only ran red last year and that wasn't a problem then. Bearing in mind that this light was oscillating between the colours, slower than a tail light does as well, and was far higher than a tail light is supposed to be (according to the rules), surely it wasn't a problem? "No, we're cracking down on the rules this year Tim, please rectify it asap." Aargghhh, whatever, next pitstop the flasher was turned so the red part faced backwards and only the white faced forwards. Made it a bit harder to pick out of the oncoming lights, but what really pissed us off was that for the next 9 hours of darkness 3 other vehicles were allowed to keep circulating with actual red tail lights pointing forwards, and one other that whilst it face to the rear could still be seen from the front.
Now, Ok, this isn't a biggie in the grand scheme of things, but to say to "we cracking down on it this year" but only for one team, us, is a bit rough. All or nothing I say! Oh, and if this was someone's idea of just trying to annoy us, I have a solid kick in the nuts waiting for you to collect
TruBlu, BYR & BlueShift were still clearly faster than us out on the track, TriSled and GT-6 also were throwing in a smattering of quicker laps, but their times seemed to be all over the shop at times. We just kept grinding out our consistent pace, staying out of trouble and marching ever onwards towards dawn...
The bandana'd Henry was back in for his second stint now and he had a funny look about his eyes when got in the trike, not like a man on a mission, more like a "get out of my way, I'm comin' through kinda look," with a cautionary reminder from Tim he was pushed out into the fray were he settled on a mid 2:50's pace for the first half his stint, until around that half way mark his times all of a sudden jumped the north side of 3 minutes but stabilsed again at 3:04 pace. Good, consistent stuff, and with our good neighbours, the Deakin crew, starting to have fogging problems the 5 laps advantage they had over us didn't seem such a mountain anymore. Henry quickly caught ground on those in front of us as reduce visibility had the Deakin guys back in the pits what seemed like every couple of laps for a manual wipe down, and the occasional replacement of a fan/motor.
Somewhere around this time as we were looking down towards the hairpin corner, into all the oncoming lights, and the huge spot lights that lit that part of the track leading up to our pits (the ones that Tim Rochford so skillfully destroyed the traffic lights to previous night) there was an almighty BANG, then dust flying everywhere, and then more crashing & crunching noises! Someone had hit something hard and would surely have come off second best! A couple of the pit crew ran down the track as quickly as possible to help whoever was involved. Turned out someone had given TriSled's Chic-a-Chow a tail tap coming up that little straight and caused them to lose it, hitting the road, dirt and fence at a great rate of knots. Rider Tristan was pretty banged up too, didn't know where the heck he was or what had just happened. One of the boys went around to the TriSled pits shortly after and Tristan was reported to have been concussed with a cur to head as well. Not the kind of thing we wish to be seeing. It's hard enough in the day time to weave through traffic, let alone in the dark without someone seemingly deliberately trying to make your racing life harder.
At the pointy end of the field, TruBlu were back in for the second time in what seemed like, well, not long at all, with no front light. BYR went whizzing past with the right half of their fairing peeled open like it had been attacked with a can opener. The following lap we had to jump out of the way as they came screaming into the pits - something that happened far too often guys, that pit entry speed was closer to 40kph than 15! I know seconds saved are precious, but fair "suck-of-the-sav" guys. They had to borrow part of the pits area as their peeled open fairing wouldn't let them ride on the actual ashphalted pit lane. Didn't look good. We'd had similar issues at Wonthaggi at the start of the year when we also tried a single layer Carbon/Kevlar hybrid fairing that got ripped to shreds in bingles. It's a painful and expensive lesson to learn, especially when you're used to a kevlar fairing that just bounces back out again in most cases. Wondering if Chooka is "cocking his leg" on the remains of the BY08 fairing here? BlueShift on the other hand were busily doing what they do best... circulating at pace, staying, for the most part, out of trouble and eating up the km's.
Only the slightest bit of fogging could be seen on the sides of the BlueShift & TruBlu fairings (oh and not a hint of fog on ours, by the way) although Deano was later to say that their new split venting at the front had actually restricted visibility enough on the sides to cause one of their guys to crash. However, when compared to the recurrent fogging problems of BYR they certainly didn't appear to have any major problems. BYR's manual internal windscreen wiper was kind of working some of the time according to their race report, but it sure didn't seem all that clear as they sped past our pits. Then again, their riders are probably used to riding with less than perfect visibility at night - imagine how hard they'd be to beat if they could actually see where they were going at night! There is a secret to non-fogging, and I'm sure they'll stumble on it soon enough, until then we'll take what advantages we can get, when and where we can get them
Kyle was in for his second stint now and after a couple of slower sighter laps to get used to the night time riding he was again back in 3 minute range, some laps under some over, with a couple of traffic problems causing a couple of significantly slower laps - but it was the same for everyone now. With 223 trikes on the track, at night, some vehicles fogging, some riders not being in the right place on the track... stuff happens. A sprinkling of sub 3 minute laps and then his times drifted out and it was obvious he'd be in soon after an hour and a quarter, Azza was prepped and raring to go.
With a 2:52 first full lap out in the darkness it looked like Aaron might be able to pull some more time back on those in front of us as problems seemed to be hitting everyone else, some minor such as lights etc, some more major like the broken cross member on Chic-a-Chow (and the severe beating its fairing was copping this race as his hour and half stint wound up things were looking good on the problems front, touch wood. There's no way a non-composite fairing would have survived its two major bingles, IMHO), and it's a credit to it that it still finished the race going as quickly as it was. The job that the Perkins Racing Workshop did on building the fairing for TriSled showed just how good a vehicle can look - and... you can have your own Chic-a-Chow look-alike Avatar Racing HPV too as TriSled are now selling them for only $8900 each! Or... you could buy two complete X1's from us for less
After a mini-sleep, Kel was back in again, but judging by his state of alertness and enrgy levels after waking, we weren't expecting one of his bigger night rides. Even so, he still managed an acceptable hour long stint at 3:06, and then it was back to bed and not to be seen again until late morning, and even then he still didn't want to get back in the trike if it could be avoided. He too has realised now that proper fitness is required to ride at the levels he typically reserves for the Energy Breakthroughs. By this time we'd worked our way up into 4th place and were starting to pull away from the teams behind us, but treading water as far as those in front were concerned. Somewhere during the night Ballistic managed to get back in front of us, although every time we had a stopwatch on them they weren't going that much quicker than us - although with a lack of riders that was about to change.
It was now nearing 3:30am and we were running of short of riders with any fuel left in the tank. Todd fronted up for his second stint with instructions to back off the speed a little and try and stay out there a bit longer to give the other guys a bit more rest, instructions he followed to the letter with a 90 minute stint completed he handed over to young James for second stint.
Waking from a deep sleep early in the morning probably isn't the best preparation for your second stint at an event like this, but James got out there and did his best for an hour at around 3:20 per lap.
Henry then returned from a sleep raring to get out there and pickup some lost time, only problem was he struck trouble on lap two, probably a dropped chain, other than that the rest of his hour long stint was at good pace. We were holding steady at 5th place whilst the fight up the front of the field hotted up with the lead seemingly changing without rhyme or reason - at least from our vantage point in the pits.
Kyle jumped in for a shorter 3rd stint, and for the second time in a row at the start of his stint, he was in the pits reporting a dropped chain. His slower times showed that the lack of riding fitness had finally caught up with after his sleep, still we were looking Ok with no major issues to report.
Aaron turned up after a good (enough) sleep, obviously well fed and watered as he headed out to battle again, a dropped chain on lap 2, which for some reason he too saw the need to call into pits and show us - The core 4 guys can usually put them on without stopping, just keep pedaling slowly, reach forward, grab the chain, feed it back on and keep going - they get practice at that in the training frames. A solid hour stint at just over 3 minutes was holding us in 5th, with Ballistic still pulling away a little, and the teams chasing being held at bay by 5 laps at this stage. Still no real problems, and that, as much as anything else, was what was keeping us in the hunt.
Surprising, after about a 20 hour sleep... well Ok, not that much, but twice the amount anyone else managed, Ty was back in the pits and demanding to have another ride. Being short of riders no one really wanted to argue, so out he went, managing to average around the 3 minute mark for the first 10 laps, and then bang he hit that wall where his body just refused to go. Just as he came around the hairpin he pulled to the inside of the track sharply, with the lid open. Shit, had I spoken too soon about the problem free run? Stewie and Aaron immediately legged-it up the track to see what the problem was only to be stopped dead in their tracks as Chundergutz let hurl out the opened door, all the while still pedaling along - a courtesy he didn't think to afford Steele at round 2! Still, like the nutter he is, he kept on pushing for another 15 laps after that, occasionally managing to drop back near 3 minutes. Predictably, when he pitted he was totally spent, had to be dragged out of the trike, and after taking a minute or so to compose himself, managed to get upright just in time to make it to the back of the pits where old Chundgergutz was at it again... and again... and, well I'm sure you get the picture. Not a pretty sight and, finally, proof positive to him that he really shouldn't have been riding this weekend.
Speaking of not a pretty sight at this point in the race, I couldn't help but be reminded of years gone past at Highview when we ended races with more duct tape on the trikes than anything else. Watching the HP Racing trikes go around, which not only looked like the Highview trikes in shape, they also had copied our patented use of duct tape as well! Corflute is light, and done well, the way BlueShift does, is a good alternative to building fairings our of composite materials, but... done other ways, and with what looked like several race incidents, the end of race look isn't too happy.
Somewhere around this time, Whilst there was only young Mari doing the time keeping, Daryl, Ester & Andrew starting the pit cleanup, and Kel sitting there kind of getting ready to ride, but hoping like hell he didn't have to, we had a visit from the BlueShift commander in chief who'd apparently being wronged on the track recently. Dean made his feelings on the matter felt and a week or so later we'd sorted it all out and are happy to report we're looking forward to racing again soon
Todd headed out hopefully to ride the last hour out. A dropped chain caused a slow lap 3 laps in, but the rest of his times were either just under or just over the 3 minute mark, until... he was in! Cramps had stopped him dead in his tracks.
Kel wasn't really ready at all... By the time he was out on the track we'd lost a little more time, but no where near enough, for the TriSled boys to be able to chase down this raggedy, and I quote, "bunch of hacks with only 6½ riders", with only 40 minutes of racing left, as long as Kel kept circulating we'd pull off what would be a finish above and beyond what was expected by us, and others, with the disastrous lead-in we'd had. Sure enough Kel managed to keep to a sub 3 minute average and hold our 5th place in this history breaking race. A total of 970 km covered by the ExPats boys with limited fit/capable riders was as good a finish as we could have hoped for. Look out next time around though when, hopefully, we'll be back ready to play with the big boys at the head of the field!
Congrats to the TruBlu boys on their win, and to them and BlueShift team on smashing that magical 1000km race mark. The consistent pace they showed all weekend was sight to behold. Congrats also to Steele on the Top 12 shoot-out flyer lap, a 2:16 is pretty damn special Stainless, pity you didn't quite nail the the fastest lap during the race to complete your trifecta at all rounds this year - you know you have a seat with us any time you need a ride.
All the talk now is that next year will take an even bigger effort with one fool () even predicting that 1100km might be doable! The common consensus is that something around 485 laps next year, in a clear run weather and incident wise, will be required to win, time will tell. What I can tell you is that this years result will most likely prompt another round innovation and experimentation with the leading teams all trying to find an edge to help them stay competitive.
The pit crew, with barely a smidgeon of reluctant help from the riders, had the pits packed away fairly quickly, and we headed up to the presentations to watch the TruBlu boys receive their well deserved trophy. Pitty there wasn't the opportunity to get all the team up there for the presentation as in the first two rounds. Whilst those of us with jobs to get back to on Monday morning headed off the ExPats party-boys headed out for a fun-filled night with the Deakin team, and the TruBlu pit crew. Highlight of the evening was apparently when Henry felt the need to cool his nuts off with a glass of ice at the Pub - he was seen shortly after legging it out the door at a great rate of knots eagerly pursued by the barman.
The only downer for the weekend was that the opportunity to catch up with a few of the Phantom Forum regulars like Jenna and Geoff went begging for a lack of not being able to track them down at a mutually convenient time!
The trip home for some of us was a little less uneventful than it was for others. Whilst Daryl had narrowly avoided a nasty incident on the way over when he went to overtake a car & trailer just as the trailer blew a tyre, he was the unlucky one with the caravan blowing a tyre on the trip home. A sight that was barely even briefly acknowledged in the dark as Tim, Josh and Mari shot past them near the top of a rise without even realising it was them! Honestly, we would have stopped to help had the driver not been so focused on the road and not recognised the faces in the headlights.
A special thank you to Daryl for the excellent work in building us a new trailer for transporting the race trike and gear around in, it's made that task much easier, and will get a good work out over the coming years. Also to Ester for her, as usual, excellent management of the riders feeding & sleeping schedule, and for trying to get Tim to eat more than (lolly) fruit over night. Mick as usual this year did an excellent job in the pit chief roll, ably assisted by the ever reliable Stewie, and our head marshall and funny-man extraordinaire Josh. Thanks to Mari for help in the pits and with timing. Also to Andrew for making the trip over from Ballarat with Mick and being willing to do virtually anything he was asked to help - very much appreciated.
To our fill-in riders, Todd (and his brother for driving him over) and James, and semi-regular Kyle, thanks guys, we couldn't have managed such a good result without you! To our newest recruit, Jordan, we look forward to having you onboard at all races next year, and to hopefully welcoming a few familiar faces back too.