Wow, there is no shortage of news to share this month!
As you will have seen throughout the magazine, the New Zealand racing scene has been ‘flat out’ with events of late. I have honestly been astonished with the spectator turn-out at every event I have been to this summer, be it the Burt Munro in Invercargill or the Ride Forever Shiny Side Up BikeFest in Kapiti. Most notably for me however, was Mike Pero MotoFest at Hampton Downs. Hosting Round three of the NZSBK Championship, along with racing legends from across the world, the Kawasaki trail ride, Motul New Zealand trials display, Shiny Side Up and much more, this event had a TON going on!
Six weeks after round two of the championship, the race meeting was a long time coming. I did one day testing at Hampton Downs ahead of the event which left me itching to get back on my MTF Finance ZX6R Supersport bike and racing with the other championship contenders.
Heading into the weekend I was nine points behind Toby Summers and one point ahead of Seth Deveroux in the points standings. On Saturday, I took pole position which meant one valuable championship point and a good start to getting closer to that number one spot. On Saturday afternoon it was Toby and I out front for race one. I managed to fight for the lead on the last laps of the race but he passed me back and I had to settle for second on track. A 20 second jump start penalty meant I was later relegated to fifth place for the race. That was my first jump start in 13 years racing! I was determined to not let it affect me mentally and was pleased to lead into the first corner in both races on Sunday; without pulling the trigger to soon.
Despite leading into the first corner, in Race 2 on Sunday morning Toby came by early on and showed incredible pace leaving me to finish a distant second. In other words, I got waxed. I wanted to prove to myself I could at least run his pace in Race three on Sunday afternoon (given we are both on the same spec Kawasaki ZX6r’s) so I did everything I could to stay on his rear tire for the entire 15 laps. At times it was tough, but I knew I just had to hang in there lap by lap. By the time we saw the last lap board, both Toby and I were struggling for grip as the tires were overheating. I thought to myself ‘you know what, I’m gonna give this a go’ heading into turn one but my bike wasn’t quite close enough to his. I rode the rest of the lap worried as I couldn’t find another opportunity to get close enough to make the pass. Into the last corner I went in as fast the front tire could manage and thought ‘well, it’s now or never!’ as I opened the throttle to the stop on the exit. Although the rear tire was sliding a lot, my drive was incredible and up the hill I managed to get right beside the #22 bike. I felt like I was being slingshot towards the finish line and we passed the checkered flag side-by-side. On the warm down lap I could see the crowd was really excited and when we arrived into parc ferme there was so many people there cheering. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure who had won! When my mechanic Ozzy said I had taken the win by 0.006 of a second I was overwhelmed. Wow. What a way to end the weekend.
This is my third TT title, after taking one on the 125GP bike in 2011 and one Superlite TT in 2015.
The result was such a great reward for a lot of hard work and late nights recently. I have been very busy with work, travel, Sky TV appearances and presenting at the Ride Forever Shiny Side Up events, so I was relieved to see that the extra commitments hadn’t negatively affected my race pace or fitness.
There is no slowing down before the next round of NZSBK racing at the end of March. We have plans to race in Australia for the remainder of the year creating even more work to do behind the scenes but I know it is all going to worth it!
Catch you all next month.