It's that time of year again! The sun is shining and the smokers are huffing all around New Zealand. The past few years a couple of us North Islanders have headed south to race with Steve Ward and calibrate ourselves to the foreign south island tracks. Ruapuna and Levels are a completely different kettle of fish to the North Island's Hampton Downs and Taupo. They're far more technical, with more corners, often more bumps and require a different type of racing altogether. This is partly why the South Islanders have done so well in 125GP over the years, their tracks are hard to learn!
So I'm living down here now and enjoying the hell out of all the cheap racing on my favourite tracks. Two north island mates Matt Reichenbach and Chris Malcolm flew down over the weekend to join Zane Agate, Dan Jenkins, Brian Hardaker, Ben Green and myself for 2 days of 125GP. On Friday we ventured down to Timaru's Levels International Raceway to eye in our lines and get into the right mindset. The conditions weren't great with a lot of moisture in the air and the odd light drizzle. Although still about 1.5 seconds off where I want to be there, I'm confident I know where I can improve and some better conditions will help a lot. The weather didn't upset the bikes too much though and we were able to put in 5 solid sessions. All for the measly sum of $50 entry. You've got to love South Island racing!
Motorcycling Canterbury put on Round 3 of their summer series the following day at Ruapuna and a few more riders turned up to kick some ass. With enough bikes for a split started grid we lined up behind the superlites. As always this threw a spanner in the works as the front of 125GP battled hard to get through the slower traffic while also trying to escape the volley of 125 stabs.
I had a crap qualifying with no confidence in my front tyre but fortunately was able to make the front row. In the first race I battled my way into the front and took the first 125GP win of the day by 3.7 seconds. Stoked. The second race the lap traffic really stuffed a bunch of us up and Dan Jenkins took out his first 125GP win. Pretty impressive given he's barely just gotten on the bike. Solid work getting through the traffic mate! I took 3rd behind Zane. The last race Dan threw it down to leave Zane and I to fight it out. Zane got the best of me through the traffic though and I couldn't make the move I needed in the last lap. He ran over the line by a second with me right behind him. Chris Wally was riding his KTM 300 powered 125 along with us and put in some super solid laps just in front of us to give us the motivation needed to catch him. Cheers to you Wally, every bit of schooling helps leading up to the nationals!
I also rode the TZ80 at Ruapuna which was a tonne of fun. Again, I underestimated how long the Ruapuna straight is and was running out of legs half way down. I still managed 151km/hr and a 1:52.079 lap time which I believe was the lap record for all of ~1.5 hours before James Hoogie dropped in an incredible 1:51.8 lap to take it back. Damn it James, why are you so fast! Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be in the last race and I seized the poor girl at the end of a brutally long straight while in the lead. I had the top off last night and it looks like I overreved it with too small a squish. The piston was touching the head and also took the end of the ring off. Devastated as I was to run it next weekend at the southern classic. Oh well, I suppose I'll be riding the 50 instead!