Articles

NZ Superbike Championship

Round 1

Ruapuna January 2020

The date was the 9th January. The excitement levels were high as my brother Aaron and I coupled the little blue MCR trailer to the back of arguably the best car ever manufactured. On it sat the shining YZF R3, which had a fresh lick of paint hiding all the lessons learnt over the preseason rounds. Not knowing what to expect, we set off to the first round of the NZSBK held at Christchurch. Vince and Shelly from Guzzi Cafe Racing showed us our headquarters for the weekend, a shipping container with a couple of beds and a workshop next door.

As the sun rose over the sleepy countryside of Rangiora, Aaron tipped me out of bed so we could fulfil the race morning ritual of a potato top and a day’s worth of 98 from the closest BP. Kev Goddard, who had coached me through the preseason welcomed Aaron and I to the pits along with my new best mate in the pits, but sworn rival on the track, Josh Goddard. Being Friday it was the practice day before the racing that was to come over the next two days.

Practice went well as I endeavoured to find a set up for the bike, as I had only raced at Ruapuna in the damp and fog a few months earlier. Help from Tim McArthur to get rid of the head shake my bike kept giving me through the chicane was greatly received after I had a few moments where I thought getting off the bike was going to be an option forced upon me. The practice day ended with me happy with the bike and a lap time slightly quicker than the white bike I pitted next to and hopes were high for the day coming.

The next day saw a practice, qualifying, and the first race. As I rolled in from Qualifying Aaron had his hands in the air, I had qualified 15th in a paddock of 28 just one spot ahead of Josh after being slower than him in the morning qualifying. This put us in a position for a very exciting race ahead.

After a lot of banter being slung across the pits it was time to line up on the grid. As the red lights went out, I let the clutch go and squeezed into turn 1 with the rest of the other 28 bikes, 5 abreast as we all muscled for position and my heart was pounding. I had never raced as hard as this previously and af- ter the adrenaline from the start was settling, I tried to find a rhythm at race pace. The race went on and every time we tucked down the straight I longed to see the white flag as my pool noodle arms ached. With three laps to go I caught the rider ahead and we charged through the infield. I watched as he tucked the bike into the corner ahead, meanwhile I left my brake marker a bit late, in a split-second panic I picked the bike up and sailed across the grass. As I bumped and jumped through the weeds I spied a piece of lawn the grounds keeper had missed and took it upon myself to mow it with the left hand fairing of my bike. After doing a 10/10 forward roll I stood up to see number 37 disappear off into the sunset. The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning up the bike for the next day’s battle.

With a few light scratches I lined up for race 2, I was not so nervous and knew what to expect. The reds dropped and we were away again! This time Josh decided to park his bike in front of mine into the first corner. After that statement it was time to party! The race was an absolute dog fight as Josh and I swapped position time and time again, battling for those precious bragging rights. Heading into the last lap Josh had the audacity to look over and wave at me as he slip streamed passed me. I showed Josh the back of my bike once more coming into turn 1 on the brakes but it wasn’t enough as he got back posi- tion shortly after as he zipped up my inside. Basically, the race fin- ished with us a second apart and I'm sure Josh would love to tell you all about it.

I did a lot better at the start of the third race setting myself up for what was shaping up to be A top 10 finish. The race went on and again I began to catch the bikes ahead. Powering through turn 2, two KTM’s came together resulting in 2 bikes and two riders starfishing down the track ahead of me, I lifted my head to try and find a path through the carnage on track. I looked on to the flaggies expecting to see a red flag fluttering but instead I had a bike fly passed either side of me, one being yet again… Josh. After the close fought battle earlier, I couldn't let my pit buddy have this one too. The chase was on! I waited for the perfect time to pounce, as we tipped into the sweeper I held the throttle open and made my way round the outside. Coming into the next set of corners there was no reply, and by this point I was screaming “WWWOOOOOO” in my helmet.

One corner left. Applied the front brakes as I saw the 50 sign. Closed the gap on the inside mid corner. Let it run wide for the exit. Opened the throttle… but then… nothing but a deep low rev- ving noise and no drive… I had forgotten to change down gear in my excitement! So there he was again, slowly drifting up the inside on the exit of the corner onto the straight. Tucking in behind hoping that I could draft past by the time we got to the line. Kev and Aaron were hang- ing over the pit wall as we sped past, for the 10th and 11th places from a 15th and 16th position start.

A lot was learnt over the weekend and it would not have been doable without the generous help from the Goddard family, Race Supplies, for accommodating us over the weekend. Stocky Container Servicing LTD for the sponsorship and support. Rick and Motorcycle Replacements for the sponsorship and support. Vince and Shelly from Guzzi Cafe Racing for providing us a place to stay and changing my tyres. Finally, to Aaron for being my pit crew and running after me the whole weekend.

Regan Bray