Congrats to the BYR boys on leading from go-to-whoa, they just kept grinding out the laps at a consistent pace and kept their dramas to a minimum of down time. A good performance from Tri-Sled who tried hard to catch them, and with Tru-Blu, The Grudge and Phantom GT-6 not far behind either.
It was expected to be a hot paced race, and didn't disappoint. The top teams just seem to keep improving and finding something extra. Exciting times to be part of the HPV racing scene in Australia indeed! St Margaret's School really impressed with their all girls teams, especially Lynx which showed the girls had come to grips with their trike and were pushing out some impressive lap times.
Three weeks out from the race and the "Shit had hit fan." Bearing no Grudges to our former teammates the ExPats boys set about building a complete trike from scratch without the guidance and years of experience our former frame builder provided.
With some engineering guidance from Daryl Stewart and welding expertise from Frank Crameri and Daryl the team made it to the start line at Wonthaggi with no time to spare. Once again the rush, and learning lots of new things along the way left the door ajar for silly, preventable, problems to rear their ugly heads during the race. Hopefully the boys have learnt these lessons, that others of us learnt 4-5 years ago, and make sure the next race is as incident free as some of our races last year.
Thursday Feb 29th, lunch-time, and ExPats regular from 2007, Ryan, called to say he'd couldn't ride due to ill health. With so many teams racing at Wonthaggi from Maryborough there just wasn't any spare riders available to fill his spot at such short notice. Mark did the ring-around to mates to see if anyone was keen for ride. Only Shane said yes - having once ridden a Trike in grade 6 and no longer being at school, it effectively meant we would still be riding one man down. Ominous start!
With an average age of 17 years, and the 4 most experienced riders having an average of 10 races under their belts, and the 4 others only having 7 in total between them, we expected some "issues" during the race, just not to the extent it played out where we lost just over 2 hours of race time to largely preventable incidents. The hay bale and tire throwing incidents by the local yahoo's during the night were just ridiculous and scared the crap out of riders, but thankfully didn't cause us any permanent damage.
With the waving of the start flag BYR put the pedal down and no one could stay with them for the whole track, their acceleration out of corners was very impressive! With them out front there was a ding-dong battle for positions 2 through 6 for the first 45 minutes or so. Expats, Tru-Blu, TriSled, and the two Tenacious vehicles battling it out for positions. Very good, exciting, and as far as I saw, clean, racing. Good stuff to watch.
It was during this that the first of our troubles struck - no brakes on the front! Ty had to pit quite a while before he'd planned. We stuffed around for 5 minutes trying to get them right, and eventually got Kel out on the track. Having done next to no training, and for a 24 hour event too, probably wasn't the best approach - he only lasted 14 laps and he too was in earlier than hoped, and... without brakes. Again! It was during this stint that an official came up to us to issue a warning for "contact," and to tell us they couldn't read our numbers - would we mind changing them to white ASAP. When Kel came in he vehemently denied hitting anyone, we'd leave that nonsense to grudge bearing ex-ExPats. Something they were later pulled up for during the night I heard?
Eight+ minutes later Mark (AKA Henry) was off for his first stint with only one front brake working after the cable for the left front brake was cut too short during repairs, and with no spares in the supplies box, it was that or lose even more time whilst a new cable was sourced. With a point to prove after Murray Bridge last year, Henry was determined to put in a solid, quickish opening stint. Aaron followed up with a good stint, trying to pick up a few of the places we'd lost with the first 2 extended pit stops. 18 Laps later he was in and Ty fronted up for a second stint to try and make up for having to come in earlier than planned... A good stint in the low 'teens was helping us stabilise our position in the field until...
Lach (a member of the 2007 EBT winning Delila team) in his first ride for ExPats, and second ever 24 hour trike race, headed out into the unknown with limited front brakes and a previously unseen track only to find... A new problem popped up. The new carbon fibre chain ring guards were far too flexible, and consequently, if pressure wasn't kept on the chain during cornering, a solid bump could cause the chain to drop off. Little, preventable, problems like this were to become a major theme throughout the race. 6 Laps, and with problems on every lap, Lach was back into the pits, where another 10 minutes of repairs were required. Ouch!
Four hours into the race and Tommy (also a member of the 3-Nil and Delila teams) was up for his first ride for the ExPats on a track he'd not seen before, and as we were to find out in 11 laps time... no one had brought the larger foam padding to help the pocket dynamo's legs push the pedals without over-reaching and causing a severe cramp in his calf. When he was dragged from the trike, his calf had locked up tight, it felt like it was literally made of 100 year old hardened wood! Things weren't looking any better as we fell further and further behind the rest of the leading pack lead by BYR kept pushing out the sub 2:20 laps.
It's a little difficult to tell the tale of how the rest of the race was unfolding as we were spending so much time dealing with our own problems.
Matty followed up after Tom only to be forced back into the pits 11 laps later with front brake failure again. At this point Tim & Kel decided to fix the issue permentantly.. Only to experience problems threading the replacement inner cable resulting in the need to rush back to the GreenSpeed service tent to purchase another cable. A little more frustration and 15+ minutes later, our last minute ring-in rider (who once road a trike in grade 6 many moons ago) Shane was ready to head out into the traffic. Three laps later he was back with us, his inexperience proving a bit too much.
Kel, Henry and Ty then proceeded to grind out 60+ laps at around a 2:15 average to steady the ship again. At last we were starting to make our way back up through the field. Aaron, Lach and Tom continued that good work until our first puncture of the day slowed proceedings for a lap. Matty was back out at around 8pm so we put the lights on before he headed out to avoid a mid-stint call in. Thinking ahead we thought, until...
Matt got confused by the three sets of LED signs being used in close proximity. BYR had their sign out saying "PIT LIGHTS," Matt thought that meant him, so arrived unexpectedly in the pits next lap with everyone, Matt included, confused as to what the hell was going on. Kelsey then decided all our future messages would be prefixed with "EX" to help riders decipher which message was from their team. A damn good idea, one I'd like to see other teams adopt as well.
We continued our rotations through the evening and were holding our place in the field comfortably, and slowly making ground on the few just in front of us. Continual little issues like dropped chains kept robbing us of that ground though. Despite our best efforts, we weren't making any ground on the leading 4 trikes, each of these little set backs kept costing us laps we couldn't make up.
All was going Ok though. Lach started his next stint at 2:30am but about 45 mins into it, Stewie came running down from the pits where he was riding to say Nug-Nug had crashed at the top of the hill, and wasn't getting going again. When we got the trike back to the pits a broken steering arm was found to be the problem. An improvised solution was quickly provided by Ty when the spare arm was found to require a different sized bolt... which we conveniently didn't have. More lost time & Laps, and a less than 100% reliable steering setup. Still, we soldiered on. Until...
A poor old tired official called Kel into the pits at 4:45am as he reckoned the light was "blinking in SOS mode." Turned out it was just due to the nose boom on the trike having cracked and the lights were merely bobbing up and down as Kel rode along causing the official to think it was blinking. At last, a problem we didn't have to fix! Just a few more lost minutes.
When Kel finally did pit, we noticed the floor dropping a little so we had to spend some more time attempting to re-secure that to allow the guys to continue circulating with a minimum of extra drag on the road. This was to continue as a problem until late in the race when we were forced to tie the nose back up with some rope - a trick we've unfortunately had to use in the past. We'll be trialling a new nose support mechanism next build.
It was during this fix period that someone finally found Ty's lost second drink bottle... it was stuck in the back of the trike lodged against the rear wheel! No wonder the lap times had dropped off a little. Add to that the news that as the boys were stripping the trike down on Monday evening they found a cable tie wrapped around the deraileur that was preventing a jockey wheel from spinning freely. Sheesh, talk about making the job harder for themselves!
Mid morning finally rolled around and Shane decided to have another go. He headed out and managed 10 laps, thoroughly enjopying himself in the process. They might not have been quick laps, but he brought the trike back no worse than when he left, and it gave the other boys an extra half hour of rest.
From there it was just a big grind to the finish for the boys. More struggles with the floor, another puncture, and poor Henry having the misfortune of the nose boom breaking completely on his first lap and having to push the trike around with the front half dragging on the ground all the way. He was back in after 6 laps absolutely knackered from the extra toll that had taken on his legs. All up though, he'd proved his mettle. He was there pushing out the sub 2:20 laps in the middle of the night when it was really needed.
He handed over to Lachy who was to do 20-30 minutes and then Ty to finish. Crammer's proved his strength though by pushing on through to the end with a canopy that was sucking extra out him with every pedal stroke. The big kid certainly has a huge heart - I hope we can sneak him off from footy committments throughout the rest of the year.
We'd also like to say well done to the marshalls, officials, and racers in general for what seemed to be a free flowing and relatively incident free race this year - much improved on the last couple of years.
So there we have it, a real struggle for this first run at the boys doing everything themselves. Lots of lessons (re)learnt, hopefully the rest of the year will unfold a little more successfully than the start. The good news is the trike frame itself held up well. We know it is quick in a straight line, and with the right gearing tracks like Casey and Murray Bridge will see a much better showing from the ExPats.
The canopy/fairing on the trike at this race was a new experimental one. It was made of a single layer of 50/50 hybrid kevlar-carbon fibre with some serious reinforcing and roll bars on the inside. This gave it that unique unpainted zig-zag tiger stripe pattern with the black carbon and dyed green kevlar. Discussions during the race seemed fairly unnanimous that more kevlar and less carbon was needed. The thin strands of carbon just shattered on heavy impact with the odd barrier. An extra layer of kevlar on the inside should hold that all together. For now, it looks like we'll just have to wheel out the double kevlar sandwich bullet-proof canopy from Murray Bridge last year until we build a new rig for later in the year.
Once again a big thanks to the support crew of Esther, Kelsey, Julie (despite her son Stewie, our normal pit-chief, racing for Speedy Trikes) Darryl, Tim and Mari for feeding, helping and encouraging the ExPats guys to get the most out of an, at times, disappointing weekend. The team couldn't function without their support!
To our sponsors, we are indebted to you for your financial support enables us to continue following our passion for HPV trike innovation and racing.
Lastly, what would an ExPats outing be without a funny photo of Henry, here he's sitting totally exhausted with Azza! More Happy Snaps Here