The timing of our south island trip was due to plenty of pestering from our Blenheim friend Daniel Wooley, organizer of the Marlborough Champs. Set on a lone peak surrounded by the Salt Lakes of Seddon, we arrived on Saturday to find it getting a blasting from more than just the junior riders racing at the time.
Wind was howling up the hill so hard that dust was forming on the tight circuit making it hard to stand upright at times, though we were all very thankful that wind was the only thing we had to battle that day. This was exactly one week after the big earthquake had hit its epicenter around 500 meters from the tracks location. While the locals could still feel small aftershocks, they were nothing like the ones a week earlier that would have caused the whole event to be canceled. It was good to mix with the locals and watch the racing but much better to be able to race myself, especially with a top line up of local talent keen to rub bars with on the Sunday.
The tussles went on all day through two sets of back to back races and one final in each class. Unfortunately racing on the 250 was cut short when a block pass went wrong which punched a hole in the cases. Oil was quickly ejected and a lap and a half later the poor bike came to a grinding halt. It was soul destroying but you know what they say, the show must go on. And it was the 450 that saw me out for the weekend.
From the very first gate drop it was full intensity. Tim Kurr jumped the gate then over shot the first turn and bounced off the bank, back across the nose of the rest of us. Evan Wadsworth and I saw it coming and hung back just long enough before making a drag race to the top of the hill, which he won. I was able to pass him a few turns later to take the lead with Nelsons Jared Guthrie right behind. Next thing he was passing me and looking like running away with the lead when the red flag came out to indicate a false start. All of that in just one lap and both Jared and I were already breathing hard with pumped up arms. How were we going to handle the rest of the days racing at this pace?
Well on the restart I was able to hold Jared off for the first few laps until his seat fell off. After our short 5 minute break we were back on the line for race two where I was only just managing to hold off a hard charging Jared and expecting him to roll the dice for a pass on the last lap and was basically handed the win when the white flag didn’t come out when we expected, giving one last lap that was enough for my forearms to last a little longer than his and he gave up the chase.
The third race got the spectators right into it when it was my turn to chase Jared down. Two laps in and things got even more interesting when the clutch lever I had bent in practice gave up the ghost and break off. By this time “Fuggles” was out of his perch and excitedly commentating over the loud speakers. I pointed to the missing clutch which he picked up on and used to add to the excitement while I focused on adapting to the situation. Our track for the day was more open than what the juniors were racing the day before but my lines called for some tight turns which made me very close to stalling and required careful throttle control. Not to be deterred I kept charging on the same lines and gave chase but despite my efforts I just ended up eating a lot of roost, finishing just behind Jared, much to the delight of the locals. It was actually pretty cool, meaning I had to win at least one of the next two races to take the overall.
After all the excitement I expected Jared to be easier pickings for the next moto five minutes later and while his fastest lap was still quicker than mine, I was able to take the win and he didn’t line up for the final 20 min plus 2 lap race at the end. It was a shame he didn’t turn up as we were told on the line it was actually only going to be a twelve minute race and meant that he would not get second for the day, that honor going to Mr Kurr with Evan Wadsworth taking third overall. Nevertheless the day was a real winner. Daniel and his team did a top job of creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere with the race format and splitting juniors and seniors into separate days, not to mention the tractor work and track changes that made it a pretty sweet ride.