Levels! I loooove this place. It’s a classic New Zealand style short circuit. Tight, twisty and perfect for keeping the 125GP battle knifes sharp. Unlike Ruapuna, the track is easier to learn. you spend a lot of time on your tyre edge and there are some really fast ballsy corners so it removes some of the advantage of a fast bike. I qualified 4th behind Blayes (Moto3), Reagan (IM250) and Zayne (125) to put me on the front row in a good position for the racing. I’m still lacking a lot of wet confidence so when Friday practice and Saturday practice 1 were wet I was in a pretty crap position. I pulled myself out of the hole in the dry qualifying though so pretty happy, a wicked position to learn.
I took 4th overall for the round, 1 point to Zayne Agate (125) who was 1 point in front of Regan Phibbs (IM250). The result in race one really killed any chance of an overall podium this weekend but that's alright. I'm the only rider in the top 4 not to have a DNF so far this season and it means I still run in 3rd place for the championship. It's going to get harder as we go north in March and the locals pick up the pace but I know the racing will be more fun than ever in this amazing class. I took half a second out of my Ruapuna PB and half a second out of my Levels PB this round so I'm achieving what I've set out to do and that's to learn. I can clearly see where I'm still lacking too so loads of room for progression. I'm chuffed.
Shout out to Campbell Grayling (seen above hot on my ass at Ruapuna) and Jason Hearn (BSP 125 and long time north island F4 competition) for putting in some super solid times at tracks they’ve either never or barely ridden. Both lads are young, hungry and new to the class this year. There are 3 teenagers and 7 riders in their 20s this year which is super encouraging. With this much growing competition, I have massive trust the class going the right direction.
How's this sequence from Todd Welsh Photography of us coming through the bus stop at Levels. All over each other like white on rice.
6th in race 1! Bloody hell talk about getting what you wish for. We all took massive chunks out our best times and there were a few PBs set in race 1. I've been asking for some tough competition and knife edge battles and I got them. Dan Jenkins, Campbell Grayling, Jason Hearn and I all went toe to toe for a bunch of laps. Jason bunny hopped his 125 into the grass and I got dropped from the slipstream. Damn. Zayne Agate (125GP) is flllllyyiiingg which is expected being a local and he took the fight to Blayes Heaven (Moto3) who unfortunately picked up a DNF after putting it into the grass at the hairpin. The conditions were spotty rain all through our race and the track temp wasn’t great so I was pretty stoked on how fast the times were already.
4th in race 2, phew! Seriously, the difference in this class from 2 or 3 years ago is incredible. 5 riders including myself got into the 1:10s or better. Blayes Heaven even did a 1:9.889 on his Moto3 bike and Zayne agate racing a 1:10.006 on his 125! Compare those times against some of the bigger bikes and I reckon this class is holding its own! If I had put in a better first few laps I think I could have taken a stab at at least one of the front riders but I’m stoked. Campbell Grayling on his Team Aspire 125 and I had another good battle in the beginning as he made some pretty bloody bold moves on me. It’s my favourite part of these races. Cheers dude!
The final 10 lap race of the weekend was set to be a blood bath with everyone chomping on the bit and feeling confident in the 28 degree heat. Surprisingly I got a good start and put myself into 3rd behind the 2 four strokes. I held the gap for 3 laps and we ran in a 5 deep train until Dan Jenkins, Zayne Agate and I had a bit of a tangle. Dan bumped into me trying to go around the outside out of the hairpin which sent him wide. Zayne took the gap but pitched himself off when he jumped at it too aggressively. He landed in front of Dan and with no where to go, t-boned his bike into the grass. Zayne was bit concussed and bruised but otherwise okay. The race was red flagged and restarted without them on the grid. I got another good start and was able to drop into the 1:10s from the first flying lap and start reeling in Regan Phibbs (IM250). He's lightning through the corners but his bike lacks the top speed of the 125 so I made sure not to make any mistakes through the corners and make my ground in his slip stream. We swapped places twice and with the restart only being 6 laps I closed the door on him in the last lap to take 2nd behind Blayes Heaven on his Moto3. Over the moon chuffed with the result and the times I put in to earn it.
That's a wrap for the south island rounds of the championship. We rejoin the battles March 3-4th at Hampton Downs International Track, come down and watch the racing! See you there.
Thanks Aaron Staples for the photo above of Zayne Agate, Dan Jenkins and myself running through the sweeper.