Round one came, it kicked a few of us in the ass, it howled, it rained, it stunned us with sun, it punished some, it praised others. MCI throws one hell of an event and Ruapuna never disappoints for dramatic racing. I had a punishing start to the NZSBK 125GP championship there's no doubt about that. All the structure and cleanliness of my laps were there but I was missing the aggressive edge which only comes from regular tense racing. Given 2017 was a year wrought with injury and recovery, and I hadn't ridden in over a month (where I put myself in hospital) it was hardly surprising really. I came back in the end though and I'm really proud with the challenge I put up in the class. Overall, I'm stoked as hell because there's just so many awesome things to come out of this weekend. Here's a round up of a few key ones:
125GP on the grow!
Fourteen bikes on the grid! Let me say that again, FOURTEEN! In 2016 there were 8, in 2017 10, and this year 14! That might to some sound like a marginal improvement but included in there were 2 international riders, 3 teenagers, 6 in their 20s, a genuine European level Moto3 bike, a woman (not enough in this sport!), 3 teams. Out of the 14 riders, 7 had never ridden a 125GP bike around Ruapuna before. Not only do we have more bikes, the profile is younger, there is more enthusiasm, the battles are heating up, we all pitted together and shared data, we had our own race (instead of sharing a grid with Superlites or Protwin 650s). This is a legitimate class with legitimate community. I witnessed first hand some massive strides in learning in the class and I couldn't be more proud of how everyone has come together to rebuild this class. Side note, we had another THREE riders lined up for the round but due to work, money and life getting in the way we had to settle for a massive 14. Next year!
A special thanks goes out to the legends below who have joined me in growing the field and showing everyone it really is a legitimate class:
- Chris Malcolm and Jack Jack who with some help from Robbert Adriaansen have started a 125GP team called B.S.P and supported 5 riders on the grid this year
- Steve Ward, the enduring soul of 125GP in New Zealand for doing all that he has done over the years and continues to support the class
- Mike Chandler for not only teaching me some harder to learn tricks of being a 125GP mechanic along the way but is there for all riders when he's needed
- Nigel Lambourne and Steve Jones of Team Aspire for returning to 125GP this year with Aaron Lambourne and Campbell Grayling. Again, positive enthusiasm for the class which is hugely appreciated
- Steve Bagshaw for picking up the fiery Reagan Phibbs and persisting with the IM250 program. This is the strongest I've seen from the team this year and some very welcomed competition!
Can someone kick me in the ass please?!
I've said for a long time that with the limited experience I actually have and being a 1 man show, I should be placing 4th-6th at a national level event. I welcome the competition and I welcome any opportunity to learn. I want to get faster and I need to have my ass handed to me a few more times to do this. Well I got what I was asking for! Blayes Heaven, a rapid 22 year old englishman on the Moto3 was really in a league of his own. A fast rider on a fast bike, he cleared off into the distance. Zayne Agate, Dan Jenkins and Reagan Phibbs (250cc 4t) gave me the real hurry up all weekend. In much better and warm conditions I took half a second out of my PB and the fastest 125GP time of the weekend, a 1:40.666 in the New Zealand Grand Prix race. Unfortunately, from an average start, overheated tyres and bad timing on lap traffic I was only able to place 4th in that race. Still, improvements! And with about 7km/hr down on top speed from last year too. Gotta be happy with that. Thanks to you all for the boot in the cheeks.
Third place ain't so bad
Last year I took a 2nd, a 1st, and a crash while in the lead of the NZGP race. I left round 1 with less points than I currently have right now. I'm personally racing for 2nd in the championship as I really don't think beating a Moto3 bike ridden by a fast rider is possible on a 125. With that in mind, to only be 6 points down on Zayne Agate who runs 2nd in the championship is a good position to be in. My tyres were well overheated in that 12 lap NZGP race, I was having moments all over the place and it wouldn't go where I wanted it to go. So although I really wanted that big gold trophy to strap to the bonnet of my race van, it was wiser to take the points. The championship is long. Bring on round 2 at Timaru!
Thanks for the photo Brodie Jones. I swapped back to the 2004 Honda fairings as something was wrong and I needed to go back to what I know. All setting went to what I've run previously, including the fairing. I felt very comfortable so will continue to run them until I can get used to the large Aprilia fairing.
Thanks for the photo Aaron Staples. Dan Jenkins leads me and Zayne Agate through the sweeper in Race 1