Despite feeling really comfortable on my 125 leading up to round one, the anticipation of the first race had the nerves running. I would finally find out what I had in the tank and how competitive I could be for the series. Qualifying rolled around and with a bit of strategy and focus I found the pace I was looking for to put me on the front row in third place. Totally hyped. Daniel Harris (qualified 2nd) was riding bloody well and getting faster every session. When I lined up on the grid for race one I knew it was going to be a tight scrap. Luckily for me, he took himself out the race when he lost the rear through the dipper in the first lap. I hadn't quite figured out how to launch a 125GP bike well so I had a hideous start running second to last into the first corner and playing catch up the rest of the race. Chris Wallinger, Ashley, Chris White and I traded places a bunch of times but I was able to put it together enough to run over the line in second place in front of Ashley for my first ever national podium! Over the moon to take a 2nd in the first race which also gave me a huge confidence boost.
Race 2 showed exactly why preparation and timing is so crucial for racing. Half the field was caught off guard and missed the hooter. Pit exit closed which meant they had to start from pit lane. This included Rogan who was in pole position. Daniel and Ashley lined up next to be on the front row and I got a much better start than before running second into turn one. Daniel had dropped a bunch of pace after his crash in the first race letting Ashley and I pull a gap on him. I ran in first place for a bunch of the race until Rogan showed me a wheel into the hairpin and took back the lead. Before the race, the wind had started howling making it super difficult to keep a steady line. I wasn't riding consistently or with any confidence in my front end as it jumped around into braking. With one corner to go, I stuffed up my line. Ashley didn't need an invitation and punished me for my mistake and passing me up the inside of the sweeper. I sat in his slip stream up the straight and pulled out at the line but he got me by a nose. Still, a 3rd is something to be proud of for the second race of the season and I learnt a few very valuable lessons all at once. Preparation, timing and consistency.
The New Zealand Grand Prix. What a bloody good race! The wind had dropped again and I was eager as anything to take a stab at Rogan for the front. Daniel got a great start and put a solid gap between him and the rest of the field. I sat behind Rogan for a bunch of laps before he edged me then Daniel. I passed up the inside of Daniel into nanas corner for second place and pulled right up to Rogan to once again shadow him. I slip streamed him a few times and showed him my front wheel before finally making it stick into turn one. I held him off the whole rest of the race until the very last lap when I ran wide and let Rogan pass around the outside. I pulled up behind him and tried my best to get him on the line but I couldn't do it. I ran over the line 0.054 seconds in second place. When I entered the pits, I was told that I had rolled jumped the start (I had totally forgotten out of disbelief) and received a 20 second penalty. Devastated. Thankfully my times were still good enough for 4th place. That was definitely one of the best races I've had so far and I even lead a national race for the first time!
What an incredible race though! Holy crap that was fun! Despite all that I'm chuffed. The field is much more competitive than I expected and I now know with more preparation and awareness I have the ability to run up the front. I could never have expected to learn as much as I did. It's been a blinder 4 days racing and I'm stuffed. Thanks again to Steve Ward, the Chandler family and all the awesome riders who pushed me along. Now to break down my little 125 into 5 pieces and cram it back in the van. Teretonga! Onwards!