ExPats in Tassie 2008
Tasmania, RACT Salamanca 6 Hour Challenge, Sunday April 27th, 2008
Not the kind of start you wish for just prior to heading off for a long weekend away from home HPV Racing... A phone call from Ben Harnetty of HTRC to say the tyres we'd ordered for the race in Tassie had been stolen from him! Whilst we were very sorry for Ben to hear about the theft we were equally worried about finding some replacement tyres before we left for Tassie.
This resulted in a quick ring-around and run-around to find some replacements, as the only tyres we had left were the ones we ran at Casey a couple of weeks back, and we know what they went through! Two front tyres were borrowed from Carrisbrook Primary, and Aaron purchased the biggest, thickest, heaviest, ugly looking 20" 451 I've ever seen. Well, the back tyre from Casey was still Ok, and we now had a "spare" of sorts - so that'd have to do... Surely we were due for a bit of luck?
Late Friday afternoon and the ExPats boys were sitting in the lounge room in Castlemaine, lazily playing XBox games, when it had to be pointed out that a) they weren't actually ready to leave, and b) Team manager Tim informed that he wasn't going to finish the job of getting everything ready for them! They quickly attended to loading the trike in the back of Kel's ute, and finished loading all their race gear with a "that'll do, we'll fix everything else when get down there."
With only a rough idea of how to get from Southern Cross station in Melbourne (where they were to pick up fourth rider Matt) to the Ferry pier off they headed. Sure enough the country boys managed to get a little lost in the peak hour traffic in the City but eventually made their way to the Spirit of Tasmania in time for departure.
Like last year, the boys didn't quiet have their sea legs and no one got more than 2 hours sleep on the trip over, and all were feeling a little seedy on Saturday morning when they docked in Devenport. A leisurely drive down to Hobart, and location of the Hotel they were staying at eased things though. With an early rise on Sunday needed a quiet night was the order of the day. Sunday morning came and the trike had to be readied for the race. Almost everything was given a quick once over, with, as we were to find out later during the race, not enough attention being paid to some details. Some lessons, it seems, take longer to learn than others! Remember Terry's catch phrase guys... PPPPPP - Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!
The ExPats boys were riding The Biff which performed quite well at the recent Casey HPV festival, but which is setup for tracks like Casey, Maryborough and Murray Bridge - high speed tracks where you need to carry your speed. This was the same fairing/canopy that survived the battle at Murray Bridge in 2007, and whilst it is incredibly strong, it isn't the lightest trike we've raced, and that wasn't going to work in our favour on this rejigged track around the wharf at Salamanca Place.
Prior to race start on the Sunday, there was a novelty event of a ~100m sprint, from a dead stop, around a corner! With our heavier trike not really suited to the changed course this year - shortened the back straight and added more corners - to try and slow us mainlanders down we didn't have very high hopes in this event. With Kel having a sore leg from school footy on Thursday, Aaron hopped in for the sprint, and managed a 3rd placing behind the amazingly quick Greenspeed VicCountry entry. Seeing how quick VicCountry was in this sprint event had the boys a little worried for the race.
With young Matt Leonard (on loan from the Tri-Sled racing team) not having ridden this trike before it was decided he would be the only one to take the trike out during the practice session to get a feel for it. Although Matt and the Pennisula boys have one of our older race trikes, the new generation trikes are a little different, and the more comfortable he felt before the race, the better. It was during this that it was discovered we'd lost the bottom 2 gears, and with all the turns and twists on this track those gears were going to be needed! Kel quickly adjusted the deraileur so those gears were available - and just as well as the boys only ended up using the bottom 3 gears for the entire race! So much for having impressive top-end speed in our trike, it was never going to get a chance to show it!
Matt wasn't the only newbie on board for ExPats this trip. Well travelled HPV Racing campaigner Mick McTigue from Ballarat had flown down on Saturday to help man the pits for the boys during the race. We're indebted to Mick for his time and efforts, and look forward to having him with us in the pits throughout the races for the remainder of the year.
Race start came and Ty suited up for his usual role of getting us under way. With the modified Le Mans start being used this year, where the riders were to stand beside their trikes and an assistant had to run across the track and assist them into the vehicle to get under way, some confusion was expected, and... ensued. For an as yet unexplained reason, Ty was a bit slow getting in and under way - we pride ourselves on our pit stop changeover speed, you see - VicCountry lead the way with us 3rd. After the first lap VicCountry had pulled out to about a 5 second lead that took Ty a couple of laps to pull back, whereupon he then ploughed heavily into a barrier and lost virtually a complete lap to VicCountry. He then put his head down, dug deep and over the next 25 laps, not only caught the leader, but passed them as well. VicCountry pitted, and Ty continued on to ensure our lead was enough to safely allow a rider change, and quick vehicle check after the barrier whack. On pitting he jumped straight out of the trike and to the bin where he proceeded to show everyone what he'd had for breakfast.
Aaron was in second, and after his recent stunning stint at Casey, big things were expected of Azza. When he pulled out we were still just over a lap in front and Aaron continued to put down some consistent laps. Surprisingly, at the time, he was back in the pits much sooner than expected, a solid 33 lap stint wasn't too bad though. This tight twisting track with its constant acceleration, brake, corner, re-acceleration requirements was starting to take its toll on the boys legs. However, we were still almost 2 laps clear and everything was on track.
Matt was in next for his first ExPats ride, and ride the little fella did! He was sent out with instructions to find a good rhythm and sit on a fast comfortable speed for as long as he could. Matt continued churn out lap after lap, and at one point during this stint he did almost 30 laps on end at around 59 seconds. He was in the zone and had obviously found his rhythm. When he came in after 49 laps we were 3+ laps in front and he'd done a very good job of stabilising things for the team.
Kel was in next and was told to use his power to push the lead out as much as possible. 40 laps into this stint we were ~6 laps in front when Kel came around the pit corner and unexpectedly didn't turn. At quite a clip the trike ploughed into a barrier that didn't move. He'd hit it so hard that out bullet-proof fairing actually had a small fracture in it as the frame mounting plate had been the point of contact and it had pinched the sandwich layer resulting in a small tear - fairly easily fixed for the next race. The bigger problem was what had happened! The boys jumped the barriers on to the track and pulled the trike back in. Kel said the steering just locked up and wouldn't budge. It was then that it was discovered that the lock nut on the steering bar hadn't been done up tightly during the wheel alignment that morning (doing things up tightly ring any bells Azza ;-). Once discovered, this was quickly fixed, and Kel went back for another 5 laps to give Ty time to get ready to do his second stint. During this repair stop we lost a couple of laps off our lead.
Things were looking a little troubling at this point, we were only around 2½ hours into the race and we'd gone through a complete rider rotation. Maybe 4 riders weren't enough for some 6 hour races? The boys were a little worried so with than in mind...
Ty headed out determined that despite his upset stomach, and the toll the first hard stint had taken that he was going to grind it out for as long as possible. Knowing that he can push himself well beyond what is considered sane, and with a left ankle that needs surgically rebuilding, anything might have happened. Lap after lap he kept grinding it out. During this stint VicCountry pitted and changed riders 3 times and some 80 laps later Ty pitted having totally blown his legs, but also having put us another 4 laps further into the lead.
The plan was for Aaron to ride for as long possible, and then Matt to finish off. Kel's leg still wasn't feeling the best. So Aaron headed out and proceeded to keep pace with VicCountry, however, after 30 laps he unexpectedly pulled into the pits yelling the left crank was loose. This wasn't good. Knowing that we'd had this problem once before, it was quickly tightened and he was sent back out with fingers crossed it wasn't a repeat of that previous problem. Even though the stop had played havoc with Aaron's legs he ploughed on and managed another 26 laps of racing before he had to pit.
Matt headed out with instructions to ride as hard and long as he could as we now only had one rider with one fit leg left to ride after him. Matt settled into a good rhythm just over a minute a lap and held on as long as he could. During this time VicCountry was taking a handful of seconds out of our lead every lap. Fingers crossed the lead was big enough to hang on, and that the re-loosening crank held. Matt ground out 39 laps until with around ~18 minutes to go until race end the crank needed tightening again, and Matt was spent!
Kel took off with instructions to go fast - in hindsight probably not the smartest move given the crank situation. 7 Laps into his stint and with ground gained on VicCountry on each lap things were looking Ok, until... He yelled to the pits coming past that the crank was loose again. He continued to pedal a few more laps just letting his left leg rotate with no power on it. Then it was so loose he had to pit. He was already in the nose of the trike when it came to a stop, the crank was re-tightened, fingers crossed, he headed back out. A few more laps and it was loose again. It was stripped, nothing was going to fix it this time. He continued to ride with just the right leg providing power until with 1½ laps to go the left crank completely fell off the bottom bracket! So with one foot now resting on the floor, he rode the last lap in 58 seconds with just his right leg providing the power...
Thankfully, we'd done enough and held on long enough for victory over a surprisingly quick VicCountry team.
Many thanks to Gary Adderton and his team of helpers and the sponsors; RACT INSURANCE
Department of Education Tasmania, Bicycle Tasmania and Road Safety Tasmania, who make it possible for this race to happen. We wouldn't be there without you - thanks!
Gary mentioned to the boys that if they could get 40 vehicles next year they'd look to move the event from the wharves out on to the roads which may allow some racing more like we're used to. To do this though they need more teams from the mainland to make the trip over for the weekend. If planned well in advance very cheap airfares are available, and support vehicles can travel quite cheaply over on the Ferry. So if you've considered going in the past, we here at ExPats Racing highly recommend you put it on your racing calendar for 2009 - it's a great weekend and if travelling by car there are lots of great sights to see whilst you're over there as the ExPats boys can well attest to from their night of celebration on Sunday evening and stop off at the Cadbury factory on the way home :-)
For some more of the sights seen along the way, some happy snaps of the race and a picture of our trike The Biff doing just over 100kmh, have a look at the happy snaps page, or go check out our usual HPV Race Photos Gallery.
PS: Henry... you were sorely missed buddy!