HCMC Rnd 2: Lap of a lifetime and a close shave

I’ll start with the good. Round 2 for the Historics saw one of my solo bikes back in action, the GSXR750, as the oil cooler had finally had enough after 30 odd years of intense work-life. A special thanks to Allen Wood for machining up a bracket for the new cooler.  And as ever a huge thanks to Scott and Paul from Retro Moto who always assist me in getting the bikes not just ready, but setup properly for racing; giving me a massive head-start (if bike setup was left to me alone I’d be riding around a dozen or so issues if I could get it to run in the first place!).
My excitement was palpable, as this was the first time racing two-wheels since Phillip Island back in January! And now that HCMC is running progressive grids, and given I’d missed the first round, I would be starting from the back of the pack, or 11th position in this case (a number of other riders who’d not done the first round must have entered after me!). On the tuning day I’d seen how hard Tony Hynes’ GSXR was pulling, he attributed a new exhaust to the improvements, and I seriously hoped but didn’t know how or when I’d be able to catch he and the ever speedy Glen Ottley with so much traffic to pass.
Then came what I believe to be the lap of a lifetime, I doubt I’ll get to experience many others quite as exciting and stimulating, where everything fell into place beautifully. By turn 1, I’d managed to leap about 3-4 places shooting into any gaps I could see, getting another 3 riders under brakes into turn 3. Next there were the 125’s of Rob Clarke and Dave Manson, which the power of the GSXR was able to dispense of up the hill after turn 5. So that heading into turn 6, I’d made my way to third place, behind Tony and Glen respectively. A somewhat damp track meant the two were taking things tentatively, and a brave (I was being somewhat over-enthusiastic but it paid off!) amount of late braking allowed me into 2nd position for the chicane, on exit Glen flicked a finger indicating he didn’t want to vie for the final corner, where there was still a couple of puddles of standing water. As I sped up the main straight I couldn’t quite believe that I was in 1st place before the end of lap 1. A strange thing happens when you lead the race, as you want to push yourself, and the bike, but not so far that you go down and look like a monumental fool, but just far enough that those behind you don’t catch you with momentum. I was too excited to exercise much caution and pushed hard, thrilled to be back on this lean machine (as opposed to the drifty sidecar one). Tony later said with a smile, ‘that I was crazy pushing so hard in the wet’. I reckon it helped me a lot that I’d started road cycling through winter, waking up at 5am and donning lycra, to play with a much smaller contact patch in damp conditions appears to have had some benefits!
Now onto the sidecar. The tuning day saw team Ranga, and most of the sidecar field actually, scrubbing in new tyres. As the weather was holding out and the damp track (the GSXR was the first race out) was clearing up nicely, we were optimistic for a podium result. Starting from 2nd on the grid, we claimed the hole-shot into turn 1. Here we staved off former national champ Jero Joyce and passenger Corey Blackman for just over a lap, the guru making a nice block pass into turn 6 on lap 2. We didn’t let him gap us much and were holding onto 2nd, when on lap 4 I heard something give near my left foot, so I thought it might be brake related. Turns out we’d lost a sprocket, with the bolts shearing off! Not something I’ve heard of happening to motorcycles, but the forces going through a sidecar can be very sudden and intense, and it is apparently not uncommon if the bolts aren’t regularly tightened. Fortunately the flapping chain merely tickled my boot, and the sprocket bouncing down the track didn’t hit the Marshall brothers, although it did pass within metres.
It’s off to Collie for the HCMC State Championships for the final weekend of the September.
By: Paul Joshua

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