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Round 1, HPV Super Series, Adelaide, 2008

Nothing says "Road Trip" like a visit to Adelaide for round one of the 2008 HPV super series. Originally, we planned to head off from Maryborough around 5PM Friday night. Not everyone could make it for the bus trip though, so Stewie and Henry were flying over Sunday morning. After a week that saw the boom replaced, twice, and associated hassles it was 8:30PM before we finally hit the road heading to S.A.

Somewhere between Ararat and Stawell a police car did a u-turn and started following us. With the dash light not working on the hired bus, I guess there was some chance we'd been going a little too quickly at times, but it turned out that wasn't the problem. They tailed us until we reached the outskirts of Stawell and then pulled the bus over. Ty was really shitting himself at this point as he was 1 point away from doing his licence. Turns out the tail lights on the (borrowed) trailer weren't working and that was the reason for their concern, especially, they said, with so many trucks on the road at night - 157 going the opposite direction on that Friday night to be exact. Hey, when everyone else on the bus is either asleep or opening 2 week old curried egg stink-bombs, the driver has to do something to stay amused.

Out we hop to speak to the cops, turns out there was a couple more issues they'd like to bring to our attention including that the borrowed trailer didn't appear to have current registration! After sending us back to the bus whilst the did some checking and informing us we wouldn't be moving from that spot until we got some tail lights, we started to worry just a tad. After a nervous wait for quite some time, the officers returned with an infringement notice for Ty for driving an "unsafe" vehicle, the only offence they could log it under that didn't have any demerit points attached.

Luckily the RACV has their special starter membership for new drivers and Kel used that to call for assistance. When told it'd be an hour or so, Mick, the man of many talents, decided to hunt around in the dark and check the fuses whilst most of the others wandered over the road to the Mobil roadhouse to get some more tucker. During this time Mick found we had a blown fuse and after swapping it for the only spare we had lights again - just as the RACV van pulled up as luck would have it. Also, it seemed just as Kel and Steele had placed yet another food order. Eventually, everyone was back and we were under way again. With a change of driver we were under way again... next stop Horsham for some fuel - and yep, more food.

The next 4½ hours were spent without seeing another single vehicle on our side of the road as we drove on into the night, all occupants bar the driver trying to find somewhere semi-comfortable to grab some shut-eye. Although every now and then Josh would pop his head up in the back seat, look around and then drop back down again. Full of consideration for his fellow sleeping travelers, and wondering where the hell we were, he at one point around 2:30am txt'd the driver to ask just that

On we drove as the fuel gauge was starting to drop much quicker than expected. We drove through town after town without an open roadhouse the driver began to feather the accelerator just in case. Thankfully, as the gauge approached "E" we reached Tailem Bend and the respite of a fuel stop. On pulling out of the Shell roadhouse the NavMan insisted on trying to send us up a closed street - the first of several laugh inducing, and often just plain wrong, directions it gave for the weekend.

With the trip over to S.A. almost done and dusted there were only the hillsleft to battle into Adelaide. It was here that we finally saw some fellow travelers heading in the same direction for the first time as a couple of Semi's flew past us at a great rate of knots! Home for the weekend was the Adelaide Caravan Park which had some nice warm cabins ready and waiting for us when we finally arrived just after 4AM. That was the easy bit over with. Seeing how the bus struggled with the trailer and load on the small hills it was going to be interesting to see how it coped leaving!

Saturday morning...

First order of the day... find some fuel for the riders. A quick bus trip into Adelaide looking for supplies and some shopping at the mini-supermarket followed, getting what the writer thought was to be breakfast. The riders had a different idea though and after a few more run ins with the NavMan trying to force us to drive straight up Rundle Mall we found somewhere to park, not quite a "proper" parking spot, but hey, we're from interstate and couldn't work out where the hell you're supposed to park in Adelaide central in a mini bus on a Saturday morning. The boys then stream out heading straight for the golden arches {shaking head}. Steele informed me that it was all good fuel, and having worked there for last few years he reckons he should know. Funny that, I recall working at McDonalds one summer many years ago and it turned me into a vegetarian!

Saturday arvo was spent with Ty & Mick seeing to the trike to make sure it was ready to race, small issues like the wheels hadn't been trued etc. The rest of the boys spent their time playing footy amongst the cabins, and getting told off for it, not that that seemed to stop them for too long. Either that or getting the Vortex stuck on the roof of the cabins and then trying to use the mini-bus as a mobile ladder to retrieve it. Great prep for the race the next day.

Having not ridden one of the ExPats trikes before Steele thought it might be a good idea to get a feel for its handling before the race so took off around the caravan park for a couple of quick laps returning to report it felt great and he was ready to go. Again, great prep for the race the next day. Truth be told, he must have been pretty impressed with how the trike handled as he spent what seemed like at least the next hour on the phone talking to someone about it, outside, and in the drizzling rain .

It was around this time that the worms started to bite again... So we loaded the bus and punched in a request to the NavMan for the nearest pizza joint which was "Uncle Charlies" or something like that, only once again to be left high and dry when it didn't materialise. A bit further down the road we found a gourmet pizza & pasta restaurant and so the desperate driver pulled in there to place the orders. We had a while to wait, so with urging from mob in the rear of the bus we drove on down the road looking for an open supermarket or bottle shop. During this time, we passed several better known take away food shops - which elicited howls of disappointment from rear of the bus when we didn't stop. Eventually we found a supie, only to be disappointed when we stopped and found it was shut just after 5:30! Crikey, they're as bad Perth over there in Adelaide - even in a back-water like Castlemaine our local supie is open until 9PM on a Saturday night. Desperation resulted in those wanting a drink having to resort to the nearby servo for some soft drinks. Afterwards, what should have been an early restful night for some reason resulted in a restless sleep for most - must have been those damn fancy gourmet pizzas.

Race day arrives...

We always hope to be at the pointy end, or thereabouts, in 6 hour races even if we sometimes turn up a little unfit. Gut riding, experience and a fast trike usually help to balance things out. This day though, with none of the riders having ridden the track before, and mechanical problems rearing their ugly head again it wasn't all to be smooth sailing...

A typically ExPats start to the day saw the race underway before we'd transferred all our gear to the pits area. Some idiot had suggested it'd be a good idea for the guys to leave their bags in the bus instead of in the trailer. The trailer was conveniently placed at the rear of the pit tent, and the bus was parked almost as far from the pits and still within the Vic Park surrounds as possible. This resulted in the some of the riders having to borrow other riders gear to ride in.

Somewhere in amongst all this the race started with Ty in his usual (and once again reluctantly so) starting role. The pace was on from the start, and Ty's unfit, scrawny little chicken legs just didn't have the power to go with the leaders. He found a pace around the 2:30 mark about right, but lacking fitness, and strength in his bad ankle, he had to pit after only 11 laps.

Aaron was up next, as he had his riding gear ready to go. We were hoping he'd have the legs to put in a good solid hour stint. Whilst getting a feel for the track Azza settled into an average pace around the 2:30 mark, but by the time he'd been out for 45 minutes his times dropped off all od a sudden and it was time for a rider change again...

Kel was next in, and whilst he was quick out of the blocks, he too soon started to drift out towards the 2:30 mark and a little beyond when his 15 lap stint came to an end. The experience of the struggle was enough to remind him that he needed to be fitter to tackle the next round.

Making his debut for the ExPats, Steele was in next, and he headed out of the pits hell bent on improving our position and making a statement to all and sundry that he was here to race. A 2:12 lap out of the pits, track unsighted proved he'd come to race, even if he did run out of track at the start of the long straight! Second lap around we were expecting even better things until... whilst applying max power up the hill the chain broke! By the time we got the trike back to the pits and Stewie, Mick and Steele got the chain sorted out we'd lost just under 11 minutes. Steele then proceeded to pump out 10 laps in a row well under 2:20 before yet another chain break brought him back to the pits a second time.

A quicker fix this time had Henry back out on the track in around 6 minutes only for a repeat of the MB '07 nightmare of the back wheel coming out and in the process destroying the derailleur and the chain. What we later realised had probably happened was when the second chain break occurred, the derailleur had been bent, and in the rush to get back on the track this hadn't been noticed resulting in drive problems around the derailleur. With Henry cooling his heels, it became a multi-team effort to get The Biff back on the track.

First Tim Corbet from the DUSA Phantom team loaned us a chain to replace what was now obviously a chain that was going to continue to break. Titanium tougher chains - bah humbug! We're going back to the tried and tested old chains next time. Then Steele had the idea of rebuilding the derailleur with bits-n-pieces, and with out the guide cage which was bent beyond repair. Somewhere along that path he realised it wasn't going to work, and so a replacement derailleur needed to be found. DUSA came to the party again, just as another team (sorry can't remember who it was, and yes Jenna, this does mean I need to write these reports closer to the completion of the race :-p ) also fronted up with a replacement for us. It is this kind of spirit and willingness to help other teams that makes being part of the HPV racing world such a rewarding experience. No one likes to see anyone else out of the action, and with some minor exceptions, are usually willing to help other teams get back on the track if they can.

It was around this time that with Mick, Stewie, Steele and Ty working on the trike that Ben Harnetty from HRTC (who was in the pit on the other side of us) came over to see what he could do to help. He noticed that the rear drop out had twisted when the wheel fell out. So there we were after some 50+ minutes of sourcing replacement parts, trying to fix things, and finally being ready to put the wheel back in a get going again when a new problem threatened to end our race. After a couple of attempts to force the wheel back into the dropouts, Ben realised some force needed to be applied directly to the dropouts to try and straighted them again. Lots of grunting, belting, and the odd occasionally profanity were thrown at the problem, with the end result being that after just over an hour, Henry was again back out on the track to complete his second lap - absolutely ruined his average lap time, that long delay did!

Whilst merely getting back on track was quite an achievement in itself, Henry being there and able to ride was an even bigger one, as to hear him and Stewie tell the tale, he nearly died on the decent into the Adelaide airport that morning when a severe head cold (one that he proceeded to gift to everyone else on the bus on the way home) and blocked ears & nose resulted in a pressure build up that he swore made his head feel like it was going to explode.

So with all that in play, it was a wonder that he proceeded to churn out lap after lap under 2:30 for his entire stint until he hit the wall and pitted when his times finally dipped just over the 2:30 mark.

Ty was in next for his second stint, and despite his already mentioned limitations, he still proceeded to do another stint averaging under 2:30 before a cramp brought him to a halt. Azza hopped back in for a second go, and found the going a bit harder this time around with his average lap time for his second stint drifting north of the 2:30 mark. All the delays had robbed the boys of some of their trademark determination but with under an hour to go, there was still one last chance of glory for the day...

With Aaron pitting without notice, due to cramp, Steele had no time to warm up, hell he didn't even know where his helmet or drink bottle were. A rushed change over meant that he had to use his first couple of laps to get warmed up, so whilst they were rather pedestrian, what followed next certainly wasn't. On lap 4 of his stint he unleashed the full speed of the The Biff, with as Dean Gibson from BlueShift later reported "throwing up dust it was going that fast." Despite the fact that the driveline wasn't running as well as it should, and with borrowed parts keeping us running Steele was only 4 tenths of a second off breaking the magical 2 minute mark. His time of 2:00.3 shattering the old track record by almost 13 seconds, and almost 14 seconds faster than anyone else on the day! He then continued on until the end of the race averaging under 2:20 for his remaining laps. There's no doubt about it, the man can ride. Look out next time around, assuming he's available, I think he really wants to break that 2 minute mark. Especially as we'll have the mechanicals sorted, a new, lighter fairing, and hopefully some better speed up the hill to match our straight line speed.

In amongst all this mayhem I missed quite a bit of what was going on as far as how the race was unfolding; I took some time out to take some photos, and noted the battle for second through fourth unfolding, Blueshift looked to have stamped their mark on the race with yet another problem free run. With the new look Ballistic running into some problems near the end of the race allowing DUSA and Gary to fight it out until the last lap with the DUSA boys getting home for second place thanks to a decision to change to a rider with slightly fresher legs right near the end of the race. What seemed like a risky move - the time lost with a pit change - proved in fact to be the deciding edge in their favour. Great to see them back on the podium at a track that obviously suits them well. Somehow we also ended up with 2 laps less recorded than we'd timed ourselves, not that that would have made a huge difference overall as it would have only moved us up to 13th instead of the 16th place we finished with. Still, with around 1 hour and 20 minutes off the track, we did well to climb that far back up the list. Such a showing only goes to remind us, and everyone else, that as soon as we put everything together, we'll be back up on the podium again and threatening for first place

It's great to see teams and vehicles continuing to improve year after year, race after race. The ExPats boys, and everyone else for that matter, need to realise they can no longer just turn up for a 6 hour event less than fully prepared. The battle at the pointy end of the field no longer allows for mistakes to be made, especially with so many teams looking like they'll be in the mix come Murray Bridge later this year.

Whilst the experience of our trip to S.A. didn't end there, the trip home in the bus wasn't something I'd like to dwell on, nor is it something likely to be repeated anytime soon, save to say, we all made it home in the wee hours of Monday morning. Well all except Steele who still had 150+km to go to get home and next to no fuel to do it on. The nearest fuel stop on the way home that would be open at that time of day wasn't close enough to get to with the fuel he had left in the tank. Steele was determined he'd make it "somehow" and I was just as determined that he wasn't leaving the back yard until we knew he'd be right. Having master siphoner Stewie on hand meant that we could easily siphon some fuel out of one of the cars to get Steele on his way except...

The Falcon had an anti-siphon blocker. Luckily Josh's little Gemini didn't, and it was parked on the slope the right way so that we could get enough fuel out of it to get steele home safely. Wonder if Josh did make it to work without running out himself later that morning? With that all done, Steele headed off to Melbourne, with instructions to text Tim as soon as he made it home. That he did at 5:45am - 15 minutes before he had to get up for work! Stewie didn't fare much better as he had to get up about an hour and a half after setting up camp in the passage. Some people had planned things a little better and had the day off, eh Ty? The rest of us just had to grit our teeth and get on with work/school as best we could.

Whilst it wasn't as successful a trip as we would have liked, a podium finish being our goal, plenty was learnt throughout the weekend - aside from don't trust the NavMan explicitly - that should help us to a better showing at the remaining races throughout the year. Bring on round 2!

For more pictures, check out our Round 1, Photo gallery


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