After the usual summer hiatus, we're back on the tracks for a new year of racing action. Starting with....2011 Casey - Bass Coast HPV Series Round 1, Casey Fields 6-Hour. Saturday Feb. 26th, 2011
A low layer of fog shrouded the Casey Fields complex as I arrived just as the sun began peering over the distant hills. Dawn was breaking on a perfect late summer's day as I found my allocated pit position and began unloading the gear for Dirty Mongrel Racing's competitive debut. Other members of the squad soon arrived and we set the pit up, before I made a brief return to the scrutineering area. Most things had been checked off the week before, but there were just a couple of small details that needed finalising. Mission accomplished, there was a bit of spare time before the Team Managers' meeting, in which the grid procedure was outlined. Without qualifying, the teams were arranged in category blocks, with the Community class (containing the fastest vehicles) at the front, and grading down to the Primary kids at the rear. There was no formally pre-determined order within each block, although the officials would tap selected teams on the shoulder based on past results or form based on training observations to determine the front few spots.
At this point I should let you know who was actually here. As you'd know from last year's postings, there has been a bit of a shakeup in the ranks, especially amongst the top teams. ExPats & Platt Racing are really the only ones of any real competitive standard to carry over from last year. Tru Blu & Team Phantom have both taken indefinite leave from the sport, and TriSled have opted out of the two shorter local races. That leaves my crew and Aurora Racing, who are made up of some ex-ExPats & Highview College connections jumping into the fray as the newcomers with a partially-known pedigree. Instinct Racing, another Mornington Peninsula-based team has been around for a couple of years, and with a new TriSled Aquila vehicle have shown a lot more pace than they could muster from their old rig.
And so at 9:30 we were asked to make our way to form the grid. Not wanting to appear too presumptuous, we aimed for a second row slot behind Platt's Silver Streak
(which is now mostly black.
). However, a friendly official pointed to the vacant Pole Position slot and told me to park there, with Silver Streak
alongside. And who am I to argue? After a pretty tense & nervy few days leading into the race (which is pretty normal), once I was strapped into the pilot's seat I began to settle into The Zone & the nervous twitching subsided a bit. Having a clear track in front of me, rather than having to battle the traffic also calmed the situation a little bit. After a final instruction from the course car driver to hold back until we crossed the start line, with the twin aims of allowing him to pull clear as the flag was waved, and to keep the field together somewhat as it crossed the startline, the lids were clamped down, the grid cleared & we set off on the short warmup for the rolling start.
As we rolled down the straight for the 10:00 start, Platt's rider got a very slight jump on the line, and entered the first corner half a car-length in front. Clearly pushing hard for early glory, I wasn't as keen to be drawn into a first lap sprint, so allowed him to slip ahead. ExPats & Aurora also slipped through, soon also overtaking Silver Streak
. By the hairpin halfway around the first lap (we used a shorter configuration of the Casey circuit for this one), Aurora had slipped in front of ExPats, and that's basically how those two ran for the rest of the day. Silver Streak
's early burst soon ran out, and by the middle of the third lap I was back in third overall. I held that position for most of the stint, only briefly losing out to Crusoe College's Uno
before passing them back a lap later. Some baulking by traffic on the uphill straight, combined with some less than ideal nights' sleep pre-race burnt me out a little sooner than I'd have liked, and I pitted after 45 minutes.
Braden ("Biggun", 'cos he's the resident short@rse) took the second stint. Something of an unknown quantity due to training being interrupted by knee troubles, he rode valiantly & managed to piece together a full 50 minute stint as rostered without any troubles.
Sam took our third stint, and it was during this session that some oddly slow laps started popping into the works. Despite what was eventually discovered to be a dragging left front brake, Sam put in a good hour session and kept us in close contact with Silver Streak
Bj followed Sam onto the track, and it was during this stint that the problem really became apparent. Bj tends to be a short-session powerhouse rider, but even 15 minutes is a bit short for him. He pitted with a very tight left front wheel. Initially thinking that a loose spoke guard was fouling the brake between the outer shell & the backing plate, we did a front wheel swap before sending him on his way again.
Ten minutes later he was in again, complaining of jelly legs.
Brendan took the next stint, putting in some nice consistent laps, although the binding brake still reared its ugly head. He also had a moment on the first loop, about 30 minutes in when the rear tyre blew out. My guess is that the rear of the chassis flexes a bit under the really high cornering load through the hairpin & drags the tyre on the side of the cutout in the fairing. Looks like that needs to be ground a bit wider.
The trike was carried back to the pits & the wheel changed, & he was soon back in the fray. By the time he pitted we weren't too far off our rough rider schedule (with seven riders, the breakdown was for 50 minutes each, with room for some variation.
Lauchie took to the track, unfortunately again battling that bloody brake. To add insult, he also suffered a left puncture, which resulted in the trike being carried back a second time. Diagnosis suggests that this was also caused by rubbing on the wheel cutout, which had never happened before. When we put that wheel on earlier in the day, we discovered that the bearings tightened up as the axle bolt was done up, so it was left a tiny bit loose. Fatal mistake. Post-race assessment revealed that a spacer between the two bearings had never been installed, so the tightening of the axle bound them up. The bolt had then loosened of, resulting in the tyre rub. And we were still battling with that brake, but Lauchie did an awesome ride to get through to the 65 minute to go mark.
Gus! took the final stint, knowing that he could go the extra distance required, all things being normal. He was given the order to go as long as possible, & give me a few laps notice if he felt like burning out. Unsurprisingly by this point, he pitted after about 20 minutes because of that $^(*&^$*O brake again, and in sheer frustration we agreed to disconnect it. I'd kept it on because I wasn't keen on the idea of having the trike pulling away from the direction it was required to go when under braking, but by now it was all we could do. And finally running the way it should again, Gus was able to find a groove & take it to the flag with no further problems.
The persistent problem and the tyres had cost us a lot of time, and we finished up in 5th place overall, and 4th in category, which was still within the range I had aimed for. Aurora, ExPats & Silver Streak
all ran very smooth races, and finished in that order, Aurora 2 laps clear of ExPats with Silver Streak
a further 7 laps down. Crusoe's Uno
took 4th overall and a convincing win in the Middle Secondary class, 11 laps behind Platt & five clear of us. We had a three lap buffer over Zavanz (Senior Secondary winners) and Instict's new Poison
. Woodleigh's Helter Skelter
(1st Open Secondary), Berwick Grammar/St Margaret's Scorpius
and St Maggie's Cassiopeia
(1st all female) rounded out the Top 10, with Tooradin PS's Red Rocket
taking the Junior win, in 33rd overall from the field of 55. Well done all.
Finally, a few thoughts on the first race as a team manager. One of my concerns when getting this thing together was drawing a bunch of riders (who for the most part hadn't previously met each other) from diverse sources & hoping they'd get along. Although we haven't yet managed to get a full complement of permanent riders yet, Gus!, Lauchie (Moose) and Braden (Biggun) have meshed really well, and along with myself (obviously!) have become the core group within the team. When things were going against us, nobody needed to be told what to do, we were all right onto it & getting things done with the minimum amount of fuss. As a Team Boss, I can't ask for much better than that. So thanks guys, it's a big help.