With the thought of our 2008 visit to Wonthaggi still lingering in our memory where our experimental carbon/kevlar weave fairing literally fell to bits and cost us so much time off the track we never had a chance - the lessons had been learnt and the ExPats boys were determined to put in a better showing this year. Even with the usual BYR crew replaced by their pit crew, parents & friends there were still going to be enough challengers to keep it more than interesting.
With Brock, Kyle & Matt joining the usual crew of Ty, Kel, Aaron, Henry & Jordy for the year we finally knew we had the engine power to match it with anyone over 24 hours. The only unknown was whether the changes to the trike chassis to better suit Wonthaggi would work in practice under race conditions. The last minute alterations to the seat had your writer a little concerned that the larger guys might not be as comfortable as originally planned, time alone would tell.
With the process of building a trike now a pretty much know quantity in terms of time there was never any real sense of urgency about starting from scratch the Wednesday week before the race. A good deal of talking and thinking had been done at the CJ's house since Casey to ensure we had a good grasp of what was wanted in terms of handling & acceleration, the only task was now to see if it could be built to deliver.
Kel took ownership of building the chassis again and by Friday of the same week had a running vehicle ready to be tested. Basically it ran and felt sound. Now for the new steering setup. After barely being sighted all week, Ty showed up to weld up the new kingpins and make the other changes that they'd been talking about. After much fiddling, and the occasional bit of swearing, the changes were done. Some comments were made about the strength of the backing plate locking pins, but they were quickly brushed over with a "they never fail" (and to be fair, on trikes that aren't pushed quite so hard, they don't). Gremlins Ducky likes to call them, however I guess it's to be somewhat expected when you build everything experimentally from scratch ourselves and are constantly trying new ideas & tweaks to find those extra few tenths of a second a lap. Still, the credo build it so it can't fail should be the starting point.
Anyhoo... the new trike was ready for the race by Wednesday evening. As mentioned above, some modifications to the steering geometry where being trialed, along with some other changes in the chassis to help with acceleration out of the corners around the testing Wonthaggi track. Perhaps too many changes at once to really know what worked and what didn't, but the boys felt the need to try and build something that should work well around this track. Something that as the race unfolded seemed to have been proven in theory.
Now to take care of the other recent problem where at Casey 2 brand new front wheels were used only to find one of the bearings had been put in slightly skewed. This wasn't picked up at that event until almost 2 hours into the race by which time the 10-15 seconds a lap we were losing was too large a margin to claw back permanently. This time Mick decided to just replace all the bearings on another set of new wheels - just in case. Just as well too as yet another bearing wasn't "right" and was grating as it turned.
With a new custom hand-built LED headlight retro-fitted into a Cateye EL530 casing so that it fit on the same mounts as our usual lights, we knew there'd be no problems come scrutineering this time around too. With Mick devoting several hours during the week all the i's were dotted and all the t's crossed. The boys that were there early enough on Friday went through scrutineering without a hitch - with the light measuring 30,000+ on the light meter. Mick then invited them to measure the standard EL530 that was running in parallel with the custom job and was told that it also passed the requirements (the 9000+ for running 2 lights). They were even passed without the need for an external roll bar...
However, hearing some mutterings up pit lane they decided to be extra sure about that, just in case someone decided to have a whinge during the race, and went and got Ewan Cole to come over and check it out with Ty sitting is his normal riding position. He's said it was only just "legal" but that is passed. This was revisited during practice the next morning when whining in pit lane obviously reached a higher pitch and we were forced to mount an external roll bar. C'mon... stop whinging about these kinds of things - if it gets passed at scrutineering, and is rechecked and still Ok, let it go. Take yours off as well, we couldn't give a hoot. If you feel it is safe for your riders with the strength of the roll cage around the head area, and it's close enough to the rules to have been passed at some point in the process - let's race. Or better yet, get the rule changed to reflect the structures we build to protect our riders. Yes, TSCO I know you spent a lot of time getting your S-Chair to meet the 150 clearance above the head, and depending on what seating profile we run we can be clear of it too, or we can run it closer than that which is more often the case. Hell, as John Taylor has pointed out to me a few times, the race cars the current rule-dreamer-uppers love to so oft quote don't have any such requirement, 50mm I'm told is considered sufficient, and truth be told when properly constructed is probably safer in a crash than having extra space for the head to be violently whipped around in.
Does anyone actually have any documented proof that having this all important 150mm space, and failing that, an external roll bar has actually helped prevent an injury?
We realise full well the need to have rules that protect the little kids, and the inexperienced vehicle builders who know no better. However, surely as our sport matures, the time has come for a recognition that the elite end of field might need things a little different. Hell, bicycle road racers only have a helmet and gloves, and look at the trouble they get into when they stack and do you see any sporting bodies mandating body armour for them like down hill mountain bikers use? By all means have the over protective rules in place to protect open frame vehicles, and those of somewhat more flimsy construction, but it's about time the rule makers also acknowledged the thousands of dollars of research, development and time that has gone into the teams at the pointy end of field's vehicles that makes them far safer than anything else out there. There's a reason we use Kevlar skin and carbon reinforcing ya know, sheesh! It's to protect the valuable cargo. What scares me most is seeing some crashes where riders manage to get a hand, arm, leg of several of the above out of the vehicle and in contact with the road or a barrier and them being seriously injured - perhaps the parents of those riders should give the organisers a serve for allowing such vehicles to race - they've obviously passed the scrutineering requirements but as basically defective, in my mind, as they don't adequately protect the riders!
Sorry about that, it really gets my goat, and the message can't be delivered often enough, or loud enough, as far as I'm concerned. Now back to the actual Wonthaggi HPV race report...
When Daryl & Ester arrived on Friday arvo, after an exhausting 5.5hr drive from Maryborough (it should only take 3 and change on a good day) they were pleasantly surprised to find the pit tent, generator, tools and everything else setup and ready to go. Nice to see the "kids" growing up and finally taking charge of these things to leave the rest of us to take care of the important stuff like food, massage, support and photography. Daryl & Ester also had Clancy, Matty Eales & Jeremy on board - these three guys are still at Highview and often ride with the ExPats team when we field a second team at the 6 hour events, and Matt has rode with the team at Wonthaggi in 2008. This year though Matt & Clancy were on loan to the Barossa Boys for the race, and Jeremy was riding with the NOS guys, also mostly from the Maryborough region.
It was around this time, mid-arvo, when Tim was expecting to pickup the spare wheels from Hardings Cycles in Bendigo, drop off a birthday prezzie to Ty's GF, Kelsey, and be back home in time to pick Mari up from the school bus and with Josh onboard as well... head off towards Wonthaggi.
Of course, everything had been travelling so smoothly all week, you know something had to brewing at some point, right?
Uhuh... it was just about to start... [deep sigh]
Thinking it'd be best to do the other chores in Bendigo first, and call in to get the wheels on the way out turned out not to be such a smart move in hindsight. When he arrived to pick them up, a rather blank look was all that was waiting... "Oh, those wheels... could you come back in a little while, Ash is working on them now." Sheite! Ok, couple of deep breaths, go for a walk, get something to eat & drink. Go find a birthday cake and take that into Roger David where Kelsey was working, singing happy birthday at the top of your lungs for good effect, yeah that's the ticket. Take the mind off things, the wheels will be ready when they're ready... 3 o'clock: "not quite ready, soon." 4 o'clock: "almost."
Shit, shit, bum, damn, stuff it... Wanted to be on the road ages ago!
Finally left Bendigo about 4:30pm, heading for Castlemaine. Made good time to home. Mari was almost ready, and Josh is always ready, well kinda. Only problem was... Simba (Ty's dog) was still in the house! Shit Ty, WTF!?!?
Frantic phone calls to try and locate Ty followed. Eventually tracked him down only to have him say "I tried ringing mum to see if she'd take him for the weekend, but couldn't get hold of her." And... ??? Your backup plan was son? "Don't have one."
Shit, shit, bum, damn, stuff it...
By this time it was now after 5:30. Frantically trying to find the phone number of the kennels Simba boarded at during our annual summer trip to Warrnambool this year. Not in phone book under dog/cat kennels. Couldn't remember their name either. Quick Google didn't find what I was looking for either. It had to be that kennel as Ty didn't know where Simbas current vaccination documentation was. Finally, tracked down their number, and had to convince the guy it was the same dog that had been there less than months ago, and that he'd had his shots just prior to that. Ok, he said, but I close for the night in 10 minutes!
Grab Dog, run to car, speed off out of town to the kennels arriving at 6:00pm on the dot just the kennels owner was closing the gate and looking down at his watch shaking his head. Little did Tim know that that was the easy part over with. Simba, thanks to his soft-hearted (headed?) owner has had a lot of training/handling around other dogs you see. Ty has said to take 2 chains, as he'd snap a single one. Ok, had that under control, but as soon as he got a whiff of the other dogs, it was lucky there was 100+kg on the end of the chains as anything less would have been dragged along behind Simba as he went absolutely nuts!
Most embarrassing, especially with the kennel owner guy looking the display and again shaking his head. Somewhere along the way down to the kennels Simba managed draw blood from Tim's right hand and reopen a gash on the left thumb - something that gave the first-aid people plenty of practice mending over the weekend as every time he attempted to change a tyre of grip & twist something it would open up again. Finally, after a huge physical struggle - not the best thing for a guy with a crook back in the first place to be doing on the eve of a weekend of racing and driving - Simba was caged, and it was only then that the owner pointed out the blood all over Tim's hands. Then all the other dogs started going berserk as well - it must've been the blood right? Couldn't have anything to do with the full male lab that had just been dragged in there half choked, and yapping like it was the end of the world could it?
By the time Tim arrived back home, got patched up, and tried to calm down a little it was getting on towards 7PM. Mari & Josh were ready to go, but now Tim wasn't, and in his somewhat distressed state, a few things were forgotten. Some were understandable, as they were things that usually went in the car towing the trailer, things that just belong in the pits, deck chairs, esky's etc. The boys had headed off in the morning with that car & trailer though, so all Tim had left to forget were simple things like his phone... remembered before leaving Castlemaine proper, so returned to get that. Around Woodend he also realised he'd left his medications behind. Oh Shit. 2 of the last 4 HPV events ended in migraines, and that was WITH the medication on hand. Oh well, past the point of no return, just have to go to hospital if pain became unmanageable was the only solution at this point as it was now past the time we were supposed to be in Wonthaggi and we weren't even to Melbourne yet. But, wait... that's not all he forgot!
Shit, shit, bum, damn, stuff it...
That dog episode had really reeked havoc with the grey matter, he'd also left behind is contour pillow, the one the helps avoid the neck pain that causes the migraines in the first place! Around 8:55pm we spotted shopping centre on the outskirts of Cranbourne, the one where a few years previously, in teaming rain, Tim had lead a cross country, "we're from the bush, get outta the way," expedition through the carpark, over roundabouts and curbings just to get to La Porchetta. Finally, a stroke a good luck, the Harvey Norman store was the only one still open, although the two guys in the shop looked like they were heading to shut the doors as we entered, and luckily, they had some contour pillows (not the right one, but beggars sure as hell couldn't be choosers at this point in the evening) on sale! After finally getting Mari to agree on the colour of the pillow slip to go with it [another deep sigh] we were on our way again with the only cloud hanging overhead being the lack of medication.
No sooner had that thought passed than it started to rain. Great, just what we needed. Luckily it was to pass and the rest of the trip to Wonthaggi progressed smoothly until about 8km out we got stuck behind some old grannies who where surging on the straights and slowing (but without brakes somehow, probably just faulty brakes lights) when anything that looked remotely like a corner might have been approaching. This at least got everyone awake and fired up again - ready to get the team and see how things had unfolded for them during the afternoon. Oh, and to have a few choice words with Ty about a certain D.O.G. as well.
Thankfully, our tent was already setup so it was just a case of unpack, and go for a walk to catch up with everyone. Mick and the pit crew spent some more time Friday night in the pits going over the pre-race check list, preparing the spare wheels, and putting the new tyres on the race wheels. It was with some misgivings we were heading into the weekend with only Kojaks available having seemingly run out of places in Oz to source the no longer produced Stelvios from. A worry, that as it turned out was well founded, and not just by us, but by several others teams during the race. The Kojaks don't corner as well, and sure as heck don't last anywhere near as long. They may be a tad quicker in a straight line but the lack of control & grip in a corner under load, and the unpredictable nature of when they'll blow more than negates any speed benefit they may have held. More on this subject as soon as our investigations and correspondence with others brings something to the fore. Stay tuned things are in motion.
By around midnight most of the team were trying to get to sleep on the oval, something that as it turned out was easier on Friday night (even considering Jaqui's helpful "what part of STFU don't you understand's" to the noise makers on the oval) than it would be Saturday night. Luckily there were the security guards to keep Tim company as he walked around and around the track for another couple of hours - still trying to de-stress from the evening's "entertainment."
Morning rolled around and once everyone was fed and watered it was time to prepare things for the practice session. Whilst preparing the things in the pits the LED display we use to keep the riders informed of their lap times and to convey messages at night was missing. Yup, you guessed it, still in the cupboard back in Castlemaine yet another forgotten item that usually goes with the trike. That was going to make it interesting/difficult to keep the riders informed of goings on. Shirley, there had to a cheap'ish replacement display panel available in Wonthaggi somewhere.
So whilst the crew got ready for practice, then started practice, and as luck would have it, finished practice, Tim & Mari went scouring the town to find a suitable replacement. First stop, the Jaycar store in town that've been so helpful in previous years with batteries and all things electric. Unfortunately, they no longer stocked the exact model we were looking for, but did have those small hand-held fan lights that display a message - not quite what we were looking for.
Next, stop across the road to the Tandy/Foons Photographics store. They did have a LED display unit that looked like it would do the job, it had a couple less characters in the display, but at this point beggars couldn't be choosers. The only down side was that it was powered by a 12 volt DC convertor running from the mains. That'd mean having a cord attached permanently that would have to be dragged out to the side of the track leaving it trailing over pit lane - not quite the ideal solution. The chap on Foons tried to convince Tim of the merits of a small invertor that could be hooked up to a car battery to power the display. Again, not quite the mobile solution we were looking for. Given this unit was programmed by a hand-held infrared remote control that docs said it required a constant 500ma of current when on, and much lower trickle fed to power just the IR when in standby mode. Thus the thought that if we could get a matching power plug, and rig a harness to a 12V battery, it should a) work, and b) with a sizable enough battery - but not a car battery ferchrisakes - have enough juice to power the display for the ~12hours or so it was needed. So, before committing to the purchase, it was back across the road again...
The lady in the store wasn't quite sure what we were looking for - either that or it wasn't being explained very clearly. One of the guys in the shop offered to help out, but without the specs for the display panel wasn't able to give a 100% guarantee that they had what we were looking for. So back to across the road to borrow the power supply and the docs for the display panel, and back to Jaycar. Whilst we were gone, the chap that obviously did the tricky stuff in the store had also been called into action. When he looked at the power supply he said it was doable, and to go get the display whilst he gathered together the needed parts. A quick call to Mick to check if brought the soldering iron didn't give a convincing enough reply, so we promptly borrowed the store soldering iron to join the power supply adaptor plug and wires, hooked up the battery, gave it a test run and we were in business. The generous staff in the store also threw in a couple of spare 2nd hand batteries that were showing they could hold 12V's as spares just in case the one battery we had wasn't enough. Just as likely that they sensed a chance to offload some lead-acid batteries and save themselves the cost of disposal - still it's the (enunciated) thought that counts right? Regardless we now had a working solution, which when couples with some duct tape and a milk crate actually provided us with endless amusement overnight as we programmed it from the deck chairs and turned it on and off as people looked on at it amazement - sitting there with no strings attached and seemingly updating itself whenever needed. Ah... the wonders of modern science The only problem left now, was getting a box full of batteries, the display, and some other gear that we'd bought back to the pits on foot. Time to return empty handed, pickup a car and back down the street, then back to the pits by which time we'd totally missed the practice session.
Thankfully, no one had gone out and done anything silly or pushed too hard during practice so the only thing that needed doing whilst we'd been away was that the officials had now decided that we did indeed need to run the external roll bar, and resubmit that to the scrutineers. At least the boys had come prepared for that eventuality and had the roll bar ready to fit, got it checked and we were finally set to go. Time do a quick check of everything, check that Ty had settled on a riding order that made sense, and a plan that would see the riders get through the first rotation without undue stress given the prediction for temperatures in the 30+ bracket predicted. With that seemingly all in place it was time to grab the camera and head off looking for some opportune shots as the race prepared to get underway.
As race start neared and the trikes, riders and crews were forming up on the grid the ExPats boys were talking it quietly, and taking their time to grid up too. So whilst other teams were getting seating and drink bottles arranged on the actual starting grid, we'd done all that in the pits and rocked up to the start line ready to race.
With Ty, our usual starter, not feeling fit enough to take up his starting duties he'd handed the reigns over to Brock to get us under way. So as the official vehicle crossed the start/finish line and the riders put their legs into it TruBlu blasted around the first corner with, surprise, surprise, Helter Skelter in hot pursuit. They'd obviously done a Kel at Murray Bridge the previous year and timed their assault on the start line just right by jumping the gun a tad just prior to reaching the starting line and having enough pace to jump from fourth row on the grid and be passing a half a dozen vehicles by the time they reached corner 1. They were hotly followed by Brock in Flat Nakka for the ExPats, Son of Tiger and Silver Bullet from Weeroona, assumedly with BJ Harris in the riders seat - for a 15 year old that large lump of a lad certainly has a big future in HPV racing if he puts his mind to it! Lap 2 saw TruBlu pulling a couple of trike lengths away from ExPats with Helter Skelter and the others following in a close train behind. It was on, and so it remained for the
next 37 minutes as Rhys in TruBlu kept Brock at bay by a second or two before he pitted and Brock cruised past and held the break at around 1 minute 30 until just before the end of his stint when he put the Fresh Racing-Trisled teams Son of Tiger a lap down - a very satisfying feeling that must have been to have overtaken his former team! A more than solid performance given the quickly rising temperature to have pumped out just on an hour at an average lap time of 2:11!
Also of note was that at the 26 minute mark into the race BYR went a lap down - yes it was only their "oldies" but moments like that are rare, and still worthy of mention
Henry was in second and took over right where Brock left off, continuing to lap in the 2:06 through 2:16 range gradually pulling away from the field until at only 4 laps into his stint he put Fresh/Trisled a 2nd lap down, and then before his stint was over, he put them yet another lap down whilst till holding his advantage over TruBlu. After a solid 50 minutes, the heat was taking its toll on him too and he pitted before cooking himself. In fact when he got out of the trike he was looking a little too hot so the other guys were cautioned about going too hard in the heat - just keep it moving, and do what you can without over heating was the message. We also open a front air vent to try and get a little more air flow through the vehicle
That said, Kyle was in next and with a quick change over was back in the race and quickly making up for the time lost in the pit stop, taking between 5 and 10 seconds a lap off the field. By his 5th lap TruBlu had pitted again and he was a lap and change clear at the front of the field again, an advantage he held and built on all the way to the end of his 50 minute stint. About half way through he put yet another lap on the 3rd placed Fresh/TriSled and another lap further back to S-Chair, and 1 more lap to Barrossa Boys where Matt & Clancy where still waiting for their first rides.
By this time everyone was suffering from the heat with all the leading teams riding in shorter and shorter stints. Despite this, Ty was adamant that having the front air vent open was slowing us down, we left it open for now agreeing to tape it up when he got in later on.
Kel was in next and headed out into the heat determined to show he'd come prepared and fit at Wonthaggi for the first time in his life. What he didn't count on was the effect the heat, and more importantly the last minute changes to the seating angle (done to suit a whinging Ty mind you) that had his larger body scrunched up a tad too much through the diaphragm preventing proper deep breathing - exactly what was needed to help cope with the heat. Despite both, he did his best for 35 minutes before having to come in unable to push any more in the heat without the ability to get fresh air into his lungs. Still, with the aid of a blown tyre at the end of his stint just as Steele was starting his stint for TryBlu he finished his stint 3 laps in the clear, with 3rd & 4th still 5 laps back and 5th 8 laps back. He did manage to record our fastest time for the race during this stint even though he wasn't trying to push too hard.
All seemed to be working well with the changes we'd made to try and cater the vehicle more specifically to this testing Wonthaggi track - 3 and half hours in and, for the moment, 3 laps in the lead, things were about to start to change a little though as Steele prepared to get back out on the track for TruBlu...
We all know we'll lose time every time the man of Steele gets out there and gets going, but what we didn't expect was that the heat would take just as big a toll on him as it did everyone else at that time...
Aaron was in next, and despite his first few laps being sub 2:10 he quickly drifted out north of 2:15's then to 2:20's and we knew something was wrong. We weren't sure if it was the trike, the heat, something else or all of the above. Still he soldiered on as best he could before being forced to come in after a short 22 minute stint in the "oven on wheels." Turned out it was the heat, and like Kel before him, probably the seating change too. Our lead had been cut to 1 and half laps, S-Chair had snuck into 3rd the rest were holding steady.
Queue Ty. We taped the air vent up as he requested and he headed out to do battle with the second half of Steele's stint, quickly matching pace with him, and then all of a sudden he was 10, then 15 seconds a lap quicker than him, the heat had taken it's toll and Steele had to pull in as well. We thought we'd found his Kryptonite Little did we know at the time that this would be the thing to spark him into more herculean efforts later in the night. Still for now, Ty was doing his job and pulling away from the rest of the field again. Maybe he was right about the air vent after all? The his times started to drift out into the 2:teens whilst TruBlu's new rider was averaging just under 2:10. All of a sudden after only 28 minutes, Ty too was in - he jumped out of the vehicle like a frog, as he often does - everyone knows not to stand too close to the trike when it comes in with him riding as he's always ready for a quick exit - unless covered in spew. Struggling to breathe, the only words he uttered were... "Open the bloody air vent!"
No real damage done, still a lap and change up on 2nd with 6, 8 & 9 laps to the placings behind - a hot pace was being set for such a hot day - at 4:10pm we'd already covered 109 laps. The heat shortened stints had also played havoc with the planned riding roster, so we'd have to improvise at some point to try and make up for that. Hmm... all the bigger guys were struggling, the shorter guys seemed to be performing better in the conditions, so... time to put in a pocket rocket in Porpy
Matt headed out whilst there was still some sting in the sun, but hopefully it would start to cool off whilst he was riding and we'd get back to hour stints which is what we'd originally planned for the first stints before the heat hit. Matt quickly settled into a rhythm before without warning he didn't come back past the pits when he should, in fact no one did, something else was going on out on the track at the same time as everyone was forced to slow to a crawl for a couple of laps before resuming race mode. He quickly settled back into the groove and kept grinding out the laps for just over an hour. During this time Jeremy was out in NOS for his first ride and seemed to be holding a reasonable pace. When he came in he came back up to the ExPats pits and when quizzed about how he went, he said "I'm just happy to sit (hide he meant) here and help out in the pits thanks." He did front up for another 2 rides before the race was out, but made it clear his preference was to be riding an ExPats trike in the future.
When Matt came in we were almost back to 3 laps in the lead again. A slightly slower pit change than normal therefore wasn't too much of a worry as Jordy prepared to head out. Being the tallest in the team, it was going to be interesting to see if he also was afflicted with difficulties with the redesigned seating arrangements. Jordy was quickly into stride sitting around the low to mid 2:teens, before drifting out a little towards the end of his 33 minutes stint - hmmm, cut short again. Still only TruBlu was taking any time off us at that point and it was only a few seconds lap. The lead over the rest of the chasing bunch was holding steady at 6, 9, & 11 laps. We knew Jordy was fitter, and probably faster than this stint had shown, he just couldn't quite find the right position to maximise his power. Damn, bloody seat changes were handicapping half the team. Note to designers: more work required on a solution to suit everyone's seating position needs before the next race!
As the heat had dropped off a bit now, Ty suggested that he and Aaron jump back in now to try and make up for their shortened stints not too long ago. Whilst this may have worked fine for Ty, who is known to push himself through all kinds of barriers with scant regard for his health, in hindsight, it probably wasn't the best idea for Azza. Still, that's what the captain directed, so that's what we did...
Aaron jumped back in for his second stint, and it was immediately evident in his times that the short break hadn't allowed him enough time to recover from the heat. A second short 24 minute stint in the mid 2:teens saw him back in the pits with a shocker of a cramp that required Daryl to drag him from the trike and needing a decent break before fronting up again - bloody seating arrangement strikes again?
Time for a dose of "do as I do" from Captain Chundagutz perhaps?
So at around quarter past 6 in the evening Ty headed back out to do battle with around a 3 minute, or a lap and a quarter lead. What followed was a short, sharp 45 minute stint where he was clearly the fastest trike on the track and at the end of this quick follow up stint he extended the lead out to just on 2 laps again. Now all we had to do was pretend we'd only been through a single rider rotation and hope that the larger guys would find the going easier over night.
Thankful for the cooler conditions Brock was back in the saddle for his 2nd stint now and quickly settled into a sub 2:10 average and was again taking time off the field until... without warning, he was back in the pits with a blown front right tyre. We weren't quite ready for him in the pits and with the right hand side being a bit tighter than the left, and the hub getting slightly stuck in the rush to get it off we ended up taking a bit longer to get him back out on the track than planned, thankfully, he was feeling fine and was ready to keep riding. That 5 minute lap had allowed TurBlu to wipe out, and the take the lead though it 3wasn't to be for long as Brock quickly settled back into good pace and with the help of a rider change for the opposition we were again back in the lead. By the end of his hour long stint Brock had us virtually a complete lap back in front again. As Ducky would say though, there was a feeling that the Gremlins were circling, and sure enough a lengthy pit stop to change yet another blown tyre and to quickly check for any other mystery problems lost us all the time gained and it was now neck-and-neck with the BluCru.
Henry was next up for his 2nd stint, and riding without his trademarked green flouro headband was determined to put in a decent stint. With the times for everyone drifting a bit now at 8pm as the darkness descended upon us Henry managed to eke enough time gains to put us almost a lap in front again at the end of his 50 minute stint. He emerged looking quite spent, maybe he had pushed a little too hard in the heat in his first stint. Time to get a rub down, some fluids & food and hopefully a good rest before he was called on again.
Kyle was up next and knowing that Steele couldn't be too far away from re-entering the fray he was determined to make the most of our lead and build it while he could. Little did we know that despite his early stint efforts where despite being one of the taller guys he was finding a way to get his body to perform well and consistent churning out times from 2:08 through high 2:teens. Until... he was late for a ride by the pits. Then he was VERY late. Tim jogged off down pit lane and found him running half way up the back straight pushing the trike in front of him. Damn Gremlins! He said the chain had locked up, a quick inspection in the dark didn't reveal the problem, but the drive train was definitely locked. Note to emergency runners - take a torch with you in the dark! Kyle jumped back in the trike and Tim pushed him, as fast as his fat worn out old body would allow, back to pits where Kel operated on the undercarriage to gain a look inside at the rollers under the seat. Sure enough there was the problem. The steering handle grip tape had apparently been coming undone, and someone, in their frustration, had probably ripped it off and just turfed it, out the um... back window? it had bobbed around until it got caught in the chain and dragged in to the rollers. This resulted in a lap time approaching 8 minutes by the time he was back on track we were down by more than a lap. A slow pit change for TruBlu whilst they changed tyres prior to Steele heading out allowed us to temporarily regain the lead until 6 laps into Steele's stint when he passed Kyle, and despite Kyle's best efforts to stay with him for a couple of laps he continued to pull away from us and off in to the darkness. Kyle continued to grind out the laps as best he could and at the end of his stint just after 10pm we were a lap down, but he'd still hammered out the second best times on the track at the time.
Whilst we'd lost the lead, probably for a while we felt, we were still confident that we had the trike setup and depth of riding talent to regain lost ground once the "more normal" riders resumed for TurBlu and assuming we could run trouble free for the rest of the race. Damn! I knew I shouldn't have even mentioned that! Still it was time for another rider. Kel was up next and it made no sense for him to go out and try and go head-to-head with Steele as he'd likely only blow up quickly. His goal was to just sit on 2:10 pace and hold it for as long as possible - hopefully 90 minutes plus was what we aiming for given how he'd come into the race that seemed doable - with only the seating issue clouding that possibility. He quickly found that pace and settled into it knowing we were still losing between 5 and 10 seconds a lap. Minimise the loss was the name of the game, and that was what Kel was doing. Until... all of a sudden the went from those 2:10 averages to mid 2:teens after around 10 laps. What was going on? No real way to know, just cross fingers and hoped that was the worst it'd get. But, no, something still wasn't right, Kel still couldn't get his body into a position where he could perform optimally and when he came in early after 50 minutes things weren't looking too flash. He'd started a lap and change down, and now we were 5 minutes or 2 and half laps down.
A slower than usual change over didn't help either as Kel jumped out saying he'd lost the front left brakes. The locking pin holding the backing plate on had snapped off. He quickly checked it over and disconnected the cable meaning the riders had to be a little more aware of when they grabbed the front brakes it would pull hard to the right, not what you really want on a predominantly left hand turning track. So much for Ty's "they never break" comment on the locking pins - back to the solid high tensile steel for future race trikes!
Aaron was back for another tilt at the windmill... Possibly due to the seating issues afflicting Kel and Jordy and probably still suffering from the heat earlier in the day as well, Azza still had trouble finding a rhythm and power to get the best out of his body. His stint was in the mid to high 2:teens, until it drifted into the 2:20's and then he was in without warning. Uhoh... He jumped out saying he had no brakes at all! Turned out that somehow the 2-in-1 brake handle had allowed the lug on the end of the right hand brake cable to slightly fray and then it had jumped out of the slot it sits in and wedged itself down in the bottom of the handle. The choice was to just send him back out with no front brakes or fix it. Fixing it shouldn't have been that hard right? Yeah right, by the time we'd un jammed the cable, removed the fraying metal threads and reseated it correctly, we'd lost another ~8 minutes and another 3+ laps on the track. Things weren't looking good at this point.
Jordy was back for his 2nd stint and to be honest, he didn't looked all that rapt at the prospect of battling with the cramped seating arrangement again. Still he jumped in and gave it his best shot.
It was during this stint that Steele finally decided call it quits for the night - after an astonishing 2 hours and 2 minute stint and 57 laps at an average time of 2:06.1 he'd yet again stamped his authority on an HPV trike race. That coupled with our mechanical dramas now had us 7+ laps behind in 2nd place, but still holding a 10 lap gap to S-Chair & Son of Tiger locked in a battle for 3rd, with the BallisticTeamBarossa a further 6 laps back behind them. So here we were no almost half way through the race, and in the last hour or so we'd gone from leading to trailing by a good margin, hmm... things really needed to take a turn for the better, and not that we'd ever wish bad luck on our friends from TruBlu it was probably going to take something major to help us make up that much difference in the second half of the race.
Speaking of the BallisticTeamBarossa which Matty & Clancy had now had the first couple of rides and did so without incident riding solidly in the mid 2:teens and impressing the BallisticTeamBarossa with their trike racing craft and speed. It should also be pointed out that during one of his stints Clancy, the practical joker, was seen to sitting millimetres from the tail of the ExPats Flat Nakka as he came past the pits with both his hands tucked behind his head, head back and whistling to himself at 45kmh+. There's only one Clancy - thankfully
Now, back to Jordy, trying to get into a rhythm and finally show what he was capable of, alas, not to be this stint either as he was in earlier than planned after only 36 minutes with a rip-roarer of a cramp in one calf muscle. Again he too needed to be helped from the trike, whereupon seeing how tightly locked the muscle was Tim immediately went for the hammer in the toolbox to try and loosen it up - the look on Jordy's face at that point in time was priceless - if only some had a camera handy!
Porpy the pocket rocket was back to strut his stuff on the track as was immediately into the groove again settling into the 2:11-2:13 range for the first half of his stint, before drifting out to the mid to late 2:teens for the second half of his stint. He powered along seemingly comfortably for just on 90 minutes before he started to feel a little sluggish, and rather than push on for another 15 minutes or so, decided it was better come in now. He'd managed to pull back 1 lap and some change in that time so maybe all wasn't lost yet after all.
Ty was back for some more punishment now, and after a short sleep wasn't exactly "awake" when he reached the pits. Not sure if he was going to be ready to ride or not, it was just as well Matt had lasted the planned hour and half as it gave him time to wake up, and fuel up. He wasn't exactly setting the track on fire in this his 3rd stint, but sitting in the mid 2:teens he wasn't losing ground either. Thanks to a longer than usual pit change for TruBlu he managed to pickup another lap and a bit and we were only 5 laps down now and gaining on them again. Until... Ty was running in the back of the pit tent with the trike in hand yelling the brakes had locked up.
Arrrghhh... the other backing plate pin had now broken and not only that but the backing plate had spun around and was jammed underneath the kingpin. Some hefty work with a hammer and metal bar got the plate freed, and then, again with the benefit of hindsight, a critical error in judgement was made when we (Ok, Tim) decided to try and fix the damn thing with a hose clamp. After several unsuccessful attempts it was decided to just disconnect the front brakes entirely and run with only the rear brakes for the rest of the race. A risky move some might think, but with such an experienced team of riders not something that couldn't safely be done - just required some adjustments for braking areas and some more careful cornering. This was a HUGE time loss though, seen most easily on this chart of comparative lap times for the top 5 teams over the entire course of the race.
That really had sunk our chances as we were now 14 laps and change behind the leaders TruBlu and an even bigger worry, we were now only 2 laps ahead of the still battling pair of S-Chair & Son of Tiger we couldn't afford any more unexpected problems. It truly was crunch time now, the race was lost, but the battle for honour, and second place was still very much alive! Time to start another rider rotation with Brock back on deck at around 2:40am..
Looking a little worse for wear and not having been afforded the luxury of enough sleep Brock headed off into the dark and again settled into a good rhythm in the low 2:teens, only fluctuating by a second or two up or down around the 2:13 mark for just under an hour before he was back in the pits having run low on energy - not enough rest will do that to you. Still, in his time on track he'd moved us back towards the leaders a little, and more importantly we now had a 3 and half lap lead over the chasing pair behind us - a little breathing room, but not enough yet.
Time to poor some more Henry magic on the problem. Henry is often at his "best" around this time of day at 3:30am, but that is usually on the D-Floor and fueled by pain killing silly drinks. Tonight though his mission was just to get out there and try and build the gap over the chasers. Normally you'd think this would be a pretty straight forward ask, except tonight, for Henry had been anything but "normal." You see, after his last stint he'd decided to try and get some sleep to help recover from the earlier effort in the heat.
However, that was a pretty damn hopeless task as anyone who had seen the crowd of local hooligans on the oval can attest - and here we were supposedly trying to sleep in amongst it all. Now, I realise that camping space is limited inside the track area, and due to an over sight our entry may have arrived later than others this year, but this is the second year in a row we've been out on the oval just because we're a "community" team. That fails to take into account that we still have families involved, families with younger children who we had to trust their safety to sleeping tents amongst all this riff-raff. To say some of us were unimpressed is a MAJOR understatement. With some of these twits on the oval actually forcing their way into tents whilst our families tried to sleep in them! It was a bit earlier than this, around midnight, when just out side Henry & Jaqui's tent Henry was trying to get to sleep but couldn't, when he heard some local hoods talking about going into the big yellow tent to see what they could find - that was his tent! He jumped up, and armed himself with the first thing at hand, his partially full water bottle and whilst they decided who was going in first Henry readied himself, the first person that stuck their head in the tent was going to get it. And they did, he wacked the first guy squarely on the nose with everything had and then ran out of the tent screaming his head off at them, hoping that would just scare the shit out of them and that they turn tail and run away before stopping to see just big Henry actually is
Whilst that might sound funny on the face of it, bear in mind that Ty & Kel's younger sister had decided to go to bed around the same time and we thought she'd be Ok over amongst the other riders etc. I dread to think what might have happened had they chosen her tent to go into before Kel also retired to bed sometime later. There's no way on earth we will be camping on the oval again. Ever. If the area can't be controlled, which obviously it can't, as whilst going over to check out the problem and check everyone was Ok, another idiot was spotted standing in the middle of the track around the oval slapping every trike that went past hard on it's roof. Other instances of tyres being thrown at trikes on the track, and later yet another yobbo threatening to throw a car tyre onto Matty's tent, while he was inside, before a security guard finally arrived to grab him a head-lock and drag him away from the camping area. Give me the security at Murray Bridge any time, please!
Hell, we'd even much prefer to setup in the hall and sleep on the floor than endure that debacle again. Not sure what has to/can be done to try and "fix" the problem, but something needs to be.
Now, where were we... oh yeah, racing through the early hours of the night...
Henry tried to settle into a rhythm and it didn't matter what the hour of the day, the preceding events, the lack of front brakes, the darkness, or all of the above, nothing was going to sway him from his mission. Again he delivered sitting around 2:12 for the first half of his stint before drifting out to the high 2:teens and, heaven forbid, a couple of 2:20's to finish off with. A solid hour of riding, which after his evening to date, was still pretty special - with apologies to Bruce McAvaney. We were still 13 laps behind 1st place but had grown our lead to 4 laps over Son of Tiger and 5 laps of S-Chair the extra breathing room would be much appreciated by the riders following up.
Kyle was back for another stint now and he meant business, well as much as anyone can at 4:30 in the morning. Even Tim had gone to bed not wanting to push his luck with no meds to fall back on. Kyle was again quickly into stride sitting around a 2:11 average for the first 45 minutes before drifting a little towards the end of the stint. He was again doing the business for us when we needed it. The gap to the leaders was now down to 12 laps, 3rd placed Son of Tiger was now 5 laps further back, S-Chair 6 laps back and the still persisting BallisticTeamBarossa 15 laps back in 5th place. It was 5:30 am and we were pulling about a lap an hour back on the leaders, and pulling away from the chasers at the same rate. Not enough hours left, and probably not enough engine power & luck either.
Kyle pulled in and an extra slow pit stop (reason unknown, anyone?) resulted in handing back the lap and some change the Kyle had gained. Kel headed off to do what is commonly known as his "hangover" ride. Despite being able to ride with the best of them in the day and night, as soon as he has a sleep, his body won't, or can't, perform. One day we'll have a clean enough run and manage the rotations well enough that this won't be an issue, but tonight, like most, he was well off his game for this "hangover" ride, still amazingly, everyone else was feeling the pain too as Kel found that sitting in the 2:20's for 50 minutes actually gained us ground on everyone again! Only a tiny amount, but it all counted. TruBlu were now only 11 laps in front, and the chasers were holding steady as at the last check. Hmm... 6.5 hours to go, 11 laps... nah, not possible.
Azza was back for more punishment for sleep and energy starved body - no sleep again out on the oval - c'mon level the playing field a little huh. A 45 minute stint in the same time range as Kel didn't hold up as well as the other riders were pouring the pressure back on and chipping away at the margins again. TruBlu was back in 2:11 region and the chasers were in the 2:teens. Aaron did all his body would allow before again pulling in to hand over to Jordy.
Margins: +12 TruBlu | ExPats | -4 Son of Tiger | -5 S-Chair | -15 BallisticTeamBarossa
This time, after some sleep, Jordy was hoping he'd be able to get something out of his body, still didn't know how he'd get comfortable, but he'd sure as hell try - he didn't want to see that hammer coming out of the toolbox again either! In this stint, he finally managed a better output, and at an acceptable speed - at just on an hour in the 2:teens. He came in somewhat happier feeling he'd finally contributed at the level he'd been looking for himself. However, another really slow pit change, with yet another tyre change required, lost us what he'd just made up on the track as we went almost another lap down and we now stood...
Margins: +12 TruBlu | ExPats | -4 Son of Tiger | -5 S-Chair | -15 BallisticTeamBarossa
Matt was back for another quick stint, the lack of sleep was now really telling on everyone. A quick start at 2:06 looked promising and perhaps Porpy was going to make a mockery of the no sleep problem after all. A couple more sub 2:10's and then he slowly drifted through the 2:teens and into the 2:20's before he pulled the plug after only half an hour.
Margins: +12 TruBlu | ExPats | -3 Son of Tiger | -7 S-Chair | -16 BallisticTeamBarossa
Ty was next in and following the now only too obvious tale of lack of rest and consquent low enegry levels he barely managed a super short 9 lap stint ranging all over the shop from 2:11 through 2:23. These too frequent pit stops alone were losing us ground that was keeping hopes alive of the Fesh Racing/Trisled Son of Tiger that had been chasing our tail for the last few hours ever since the mechanical problems brought us back within thier sights. Thankfully, the chasers also need pit stops during this time and so on the leader board it actually looked like we'd made ground where it counted.
Margins: +13 TruBlu | ExPats | -4 Son of Tiger | -7 S-Chair | -17 BallisticTeamBarossa
Perhaps Brock would be able to provide some effort we were looking for. Despite being the shortest in stature in the team the boy lacks nothing in heart on the race track. He was immediately averaging around 2:10 and stayed there for the majority of his 50 minute stint only drifting to the mid 2:teens at the end of it. That's more like the ExPats spirit of old!
Margins: +13 TruBlu | ExPats | -5 Son of Tiger | -7 S-Chair | -18 BallisticTeamBarossa
Henry was back for his last stint at 9:45am, 2 and a bit hours to go, surely we can hold the chasers off until then... Henry is immediately into the sub 2:10 range again, bearing in mind that some where overnight we'd also started to lose gears as the gear cable had started to fray (what's with all the fraying cables!), we'd been running on only back caliper brakes for 10 hours and they were virtually gone, and here he was still charging around the track like there was race to be won! His stint was cut a little short when he all of a sudden hit the wall and after a couple of 2:20's pitted.
Just as we were about to send Kyle back for one last burst we noticed the right front was about to go again. We had to get Kyle out of the trike, replace the wheel, load him up again and try once more...
Margins: +13 TruBlu | ExPats | -5 Son of Tiger | -8 S-Chair | -18 BallisticTeamBarossa
Despite, like the other taller guys, the seat not fitting him perfectly, Kyle out that out of his head, and threw caution to wind to also hit the track hard and start punching out the sub 2:10 lap averages for the first several laps until settling in the low 2:teens for the rest of his 45 minute stint - job done, he then handed over to Kel
By this time Kel was just well and truly over riding a trike that he didn't fit into comfortably - a trike that he had originally built to actually fit him perfectly, and then only through the whining and whinging of his brother changed to the seat to suit Ty and virtually cripple his own chances of performing at the level his training had indicated he could. The disappointment is still being felt weeks afterwards as he in is no hurry to rider again any time soon and will probably skip the annual trip to Tassie this year as well! Needless to say, his stint was short and sharp. 2:06 through 2:20 and like his brother a couple of stints before him he only managed a few laps too - 11.
It was during this last hour of racing that things got a little "willing" between Son of Tiger and S-Chair out on the track with a bit of arjy-bargy being traded around the track and especially at the start of the long back straight. Words, and paint, were exchanged on a couple of laps as the pair battled it out lap after lap. This even continued after rider changes and right down to the wire as they raced to the line desperate to be the first team to get the chequered flag, even though Son of Tiger held a 2 laps advantage you'd never have known it from the way they bumped and 2 wheeled their way to the line. Just think, had it come down to the dash at the end for placings, and assuming placings were awarded based on the the timing system... it's known that Trisled traditionally place their transponder under the seat area, hmm... A comment overheard from one of the support crew for S-Chair after the race went "this time they've pushed us too far!" Not sure what that was about, but wonder if it is why there has been no chatter from the Phantom Team on the forum post race, or whether that is just becasue TSCo is overseas. Regardless, for some more of their battle check out the pics on this special Son of Tiger versus the Phantom S-Chair page.
Margins: +13 TruBlu | ExPats | -5 Son of Tiger | -8 S-Chair | -18 BarossaBoys
It really was a case of last man standing at this point and poor Azza was the one to draw the short straw for a short 5th stint between 2:10 and 2:25, thankfully he managed to last to the end where the final results showed:
TurBlu winning, again, by 12 laps over our Flat Nakka, with Son of Tiger a further 6 laps behind us, S-Chair another 2 laps behind them and the consistent BallisticTeamBarossa coming in 5th place a further 10 laps behind them
So well done to the TruBluCru again, to say that the ExPats boys were a little down at the end of the race wouldn't be over stating things too much. We'd come with what we'd hoped was a winning combination of trike and riders. To have a slight return to the old days of things going awry, a seating arrangement that made it difficult for half the team to perform to the fullest, the problems on the oval and still finish 2nd, comfortably clear of 3rd place and within sight of 1st place should have left the boys even more determined to make sure next time everything goes to plan. Build so it can't fail, not just to make it lighter or to go around corners better or whatever led to the failures. Instead, at this point it seems to have killed the desire a little. Perhaps a trip to Tassie might help with that!
We've shown we can match it with the current yard stick in TruBlu in overall rider/trike combo when everything is running well, just need to keep it that way and we'll be standing on the top deck of the podium one day soon
A special mention should also be made of the valiant efforts our pit chief Mick McTigue made over the weekend. As well as keeping an eye on things in our pits, we was also riding in the Bad Intentions vehicle (formerly Boris, a sister vehicle to Flat Nakka) from Slipstream Racing, and owned by forum regular Gareth, ably assisted by Geoff and also joined for his first HPV race outing, Dan from Warrnambool. Whilst they had a mechanical issue towards the end of the race that required Dan to carried back to the pits on the back of the recovery ute, and that caused them to drop quite a few places they always seemed to be in pretty good spirits in the pits next to ours. Mick didn't go into the race with any big expectations for himself or the team, he was just happy to be out there in the cut and thrust of it all again.
In fact, I can't recall the last time I saw rider so relaxed when they'd get out after a ride. It didn't matter if there were any problems, if it was too hot, too dark, or he'd just ridden the rider before and was being asked to get back in again. Mick did it without complaint, and a smile on his face - it's amazing what you can do when you have such a varied riding wardrobe for the weekend eh, Mick? He probably should have taken out the "best dressed rider" award for the weekend too with his formal attire riding - his only complaint was that he couldn't find a pair of the demin-look riding shorts to go with his bow tie top