Saturday 2 March, Taupo Practice
After we found out that there was a practice at Taupo, Vinny had nothing else on is mind. He has been hanging out to ride on the Senior track with a 85cc now for two years. Today it was the day! The practic had been organised for the Ozzy boys who are curently here to ride in the NZ Champs 4 round series.
A hot day and a nicely watered track greeted us. Vinny picked up speed as he went around and his times started to get nicely competetive compared to last years ones in this class. He was only approx 10-15 seconds behind the winners lap times. And considering that this was his second time on a 85cc it was a good sign!
The track has a step-up where you have to gather speed and then jump upwards to land on the track. Vinny was a little worried re this, but after a couple of times he had it sussed. His jumps on he track started to get hight and get longer. And even if the other riders on the track were in a different league he did not look out of place!
Sunday 24 February, Central Hawke's Bay Club Day, Waipukurau
At end of 2012 we purchased a 2009 KTM 85sx planning to use it to get Vinny ready for the 2013 season in Junior 11-12yo racing. The motor had been giving the past owner some issues with the big end blowing 2 times in a very short time. The motor had again been sorted before we got the bike. But after 2 1/2 laps in practice in the first 85 cc meting in early December, the big end blew again. I strippd the engine and did not like what I did see, so I ordered genuine KTM bits for the inside and rebuilt the engine. This took a litte longer than expected, but at last we were ready.
We found a track set in natural terrain. No rain for 2 months had made it very dusty. I was soo glad we had a handful of airfilters ready for use as I changed the airfilter after each race! The instructions to Vinny was to take it slow in practice and then easy in the first ride. By then, I reasoned, we would know if the engine was behaving it self. As Vinny has really no 85cc experience on a track, this would also allow him time to get used to the 85's power and size.
Vinny followed the plan, and after the first race the motor sounded fine (Vinny came 5'th in a group of six 85cc riders who all had much more experience than Vinny in this class). I could see he was eager to "let loose" so he got the green light. In the second race he was 3'rd after the start and kept hat position. He was struggling in the two long dusty up-hills, mainly because he was riding the big wheel 85 as a 65cc bike, and got stuck in the hill once.
In the third race he got the holeshot but had to settle for 2'nd soon after. Then in the up-hill he got it wrong again and gave away the second place. And on the last lap he fell in the loose dust finishing 4'th.
It was a very positive race meeting for Vinny and once we get him to ride the big wheel 85 wih the technique and respect it deserves (and not as a overgrown 65cc bike) I expect that the results will start to come.
Sunday 17 February, Kapi Mana Club Day, Wellington
The plan was to ride the 85cc here on their senior track in preparation for the Capital Champs. But as we are still working on the 85's setup it was back to the trusty 65cc.
Vinny had 3 rides (and a practice) on a dusty and demanding track that climbed up in to the forest and then came back down through a huge drop-off. There was also heaps of stones everywhere. But he enjoyed the riding. The instructions to him was to learn the track and not be too worried about how he placed (after all it was a club day without any point scorers). The track has jumps, doubles, fast straights and 180 degree corners. And the mentioned drop-off.
Vinny placed 6'th, 7'th and 7'th with his 65cc in a group of 12 riders (2 on 65cc and rest on 85cc).
We achieved what we came for.
Saturday 26 January New Zaland Grand Prix, Woodville.
In 2012 Vinny did not manage to qualify for the GP and ended up riding support racing on the very wet and muddy track. He had decided that this time only a podium finish would count. On a sunny and dusty day he got 6'th fastest time in qualifying. Vinny was in a group of 7 riders who all had almost the same times. Only Zac Jillings was 2 seconds ahead and would again be hard to beat. (Vinny placed 2'nd after Zac at Summer Cross at end of December)
In the first race Zac got the holeshot with Vinny in scond place. The only thing that changed from then on was that Zac pulled away from Vinny who pulled away from the rest, and at the end of the race he had a gap of over 10 seconds to 3'rd place.
In the second race Vinny's plan was to win. But clearly others had the same plan and Vinny only managed 4'th at the ifrst corner. One lap later Vinny was back up in second place and "normality" was restored, and the finish was a copy of the first.
Before 3'rd race we agreed that winning was almost out of reach. The idea now was to consolidate 2'nd place. This race was a carbon copy of the first one for Vinny, and he finished the day with three 2'nd placings giving him 2'nd on the podium.
Vinnys riding was flawless and his passing of slower riders was done swiftly and in a determined way. He kept his speed until the end and had no hairy moments. It was frustrating that Zac was still approx 2 seconds faster/lap. But the encouraging part was that Vinny had the same 2 seconds/lap over the next rider. And there was 30 riders he did beat at the glamour MX event of NZ.
Wednesday 23 - Thursday 24 January 2013, Mini Madness, 2 day twilight meeting, Te Awamutu
We had been looking at this meeting and considered entering as it would be a good warmup for the NZGP. But as initially the meeting was to be held on Thursday - Friday, we would have been pushed to get all ready and be in Woodville 7.30am on Saturday, considering the meeting would not finish before 8pm on Friday. 2am on Wednesday morning I checked this meeting again and found that they had moved the dates now allowing us one day between this one and the NZGP. So when Vinny got the question at 8am if he wanted to leave for Te Awmutu at 10am to race, his answer was: "YESSS!!!"
We found a narrow sand track carved out in natural terrain with some jumps thrown in. It was a sunny and dusty day and there were 12 riders in the 9-11yo 65cc class. 2 laps of practice and Vinny was all go. The first race was really about learning the track. After initially having been at the middle of the pack, he soon climbed up and finished 3'rd.
Vinny could also have been riding in th 85cc class (they used a longer version of the same track). But after a practice and one race we decided to focus on 65cc and save his energy for the NZGP.
In the second race he came out with determination and won over Ethan Fladgate, who he would battle in every race for the win. (Ethans parents invited us to stay at their place for the night. We had planned to sleep in a tent next to the track... The two boys very quickly became best mates)
Third race was again Vinny's meaning he ended the day with a 4 points lead over Ethan.
After the Fladgates hospitality it was back to the track for 3 more races on Thursday. Ethan was both days also racing 85cc and we expected this to take some of the edge out of him. But that prediction was totally wrong. If anything he got harder to beat! Vinny needed one win and two 2'nd placings to win the meeting with one point. When looking at the day before, we felt this was a highly likely outcome. How wrong we were... Where Wednesday things went Vinnys way and passing slower riders worked in his favour, Thursday was Ethans day.
In the first race Vinny ended up following Ethan from start to finish.
In the second race Vinny took the lead and held it until the last lap when in the last corner he came up to lap a slower rider who turned and blocked him, allowing Ethan to pass for the checkered flag.
Now it was all down to the third race. The winner from the two would become champion. Ethan got the better start and Vinny sat on his backwheel waiting for a mistake that never came. Vinny then tried too much and slammed in to Ethans backwheel in a hairpin corner. He got up and back racing in less than 5 seconds. But as the two of them were so evenly matched it was all the gap Ethan needed.
Vinny was very sad after the race feeling he threw it away. But after 20 minutes he was back to him self and happily accepted the 2'nd place trophy.
Sunday 3 March, Thames ("Fun Day" race meeting)
The track at Thames is a flat track. No jumps or change in elevation. Fast straights, some S-sections and many turns. A brilliant place to practice cornering! As a 11 yo rider we entered Vinny in the Juniors (8-16yo). After the first race we realised that there was no real competition in that class for him. So we entered him in the Seniors. He was now up against grown up men on 125cc, 250cc and 450cc bikes. After initially giving them some respect, Vinny soon started picking them off. They had more power down the straights, but he managed to pass many in the corners. in 3 Senior races, with a dozen riders, he managed 4'th, 5'th and 5'th. Those placings also included a few off's and some minor mistakes. A brilliant day on all accounts!
Sunday 10 March 2013. Hawke's Bay Club Fun Day.
Hawke's By is in the worst draught in 70 years and there has been no rain in over 2 months. The hills around the Valley Rd track are all brown. But the club had been watering the track for days to induce some much needed water in to the soil. And it worked, as a well prepared track was available (even if a fraction shortened).
This would be Vinny's first time racing on the senior track with an 85cc bike. (he had been on the track a couple of times with his 65cc in 2012). We wantd him to get used to the track and become comfortable in using the KTM 85 there, as it is a very fast track with some big jumps and tricky sectons. The plan was to not wory about placings and focus on the riding. Vinny did this, and in a field of 14 riders from all the 85c classes, he managed a 7'th, 6'th and a 5'th. As the day went on his riding became faster and jumps longer. We did not focus on the starts and did no work on the start gates makng his starts a fraction hard work.
Vinny looked good and it was clear that he will get much faster as he gets more time on the track. A very encouraging day for his 4'th race meeting on the 85cc bike.
Sunday 24 March, King Of The North Mini MX Championships, North Shore Auckland
We spent Saturday practicing at the Harrisville track in Pukekohe. Vinny was only really interested in riding his 85cc on the senior track, but after I managed to convince him that he needed to do some 65cc riding to prepare for KOTN on Sunday, he did 10 minutes on the smaller bike. It is clear that in his mind he has moved up to Juniors and the bigger tracks. And that is a good thing, as he has lately been growing like a weed and becoming too big and heavy for the 65cc bike.
The KOTN track was amazing! Set on private land in a sweeping fashion with table tops, doubles, whoops, straights, space and everything else a Mini rider could hope for. Looking at it all I had big hopes for Vinny here as the track was like custom made for him.
From 44 riders Vinny qualified 14'th. Not ideal, but well inside the 30 rider cut-off. In 2012 the KOTN did not go well for Vinny. He placed 22 and just looked like it was a day he should not have been racing. This year we wanted to correct that and we came searching for a podium. Sadly that did not eventuate and Vinny will end his 65cc career without a KOTN trophy.
In the first race he came 12'th at the holeshot after a poor start. He then slowly climbed up to finish 9'th. With some of the best 65cc riders from NZ competing here we realised that top podium was now gone. But there was still a chance if the next two races came together. In the second race he was approx 15'th at the holeshot after a worse start and did not look sharp at all. Then a crash and he only managed a 22'nd.
After the second race we spent some time looking at what was going on. The bike was all fine but Vinny was not. His head was already in 85cc racing, he had been sleeping in strange places for the last 3 nights, this was his 3'rd day of riding in a row and he looked lost. After some TLC he started to wake up, and in the 3'rd race he managed 6'th at the holeshot. He then climbed up to 4'th at the finish placing him 12'th overall in his last KOTN. 10 places better than last year but a disappointing result for him, even if the last race put some plaster on that and he proved to him self that when all is well he still is one of the current top 65cc riders.
Friday 22 March, Hauraki Plains College "Back To The Peat" MX High School Champs, Patetonga
An early start and we arrived just in time for sign-in, finding the track baking in sun on a huge flat double corn paddock. Vinny has raced on such a track before and we knew what was needed: Change of air filter afer every race, speed on the straights and caution in the corners as the dirt and dust would keep on building up. Vinny is in his first yer of Havelock Nth Intermedate, but he was allowed to race as long as the High School, where he would go, gave the OK. So he raced for Havelock Nth HS as their only representative for the day in the Competetive 85cc class against 13-16yo HS students.
After a practice, his first race lined up and we found a 30 strong field ready to battle. There was a huge pile-up at the holeshot and sadly Vinny got held up badly. Once all were back on their bikes and away Vinny was sitting last. A few croners later another hick-up; Vinny crashed in to two riders who were lying on the ground as the visibilty in the dust and dirt was zero. One of them got going, but the other one did not move, so Vinny dropped his bike and pulled the rider out from under the bike and helped him to the side of the track. Once he had moved the riders bike out of the way he at last could go racing.
Vinny was now last and a fair distance from the rest of the riders. The advantage was that he could see the track... Vinny soon reeled in the others and started overtaking. At end of the race he had climbed up to 16'th.
In the second race he was more cautious and got a clean start. He had one off in a corner but managed a 12'th finish.
We found that 1/2 of the riders had given up by the thid race. Vinny raced well and placed 9'th with one more off in the loose dirt.
Vinny placed 10'th equal in the meeting. Considering the age of the other riders, Vinny's inexperience on the 85cc and the very taxing conditions, we felt very upbeat about the outcome.
Please scroll down to see all the entries for January - March 2013
Capital Champs 30-31 March, Upper Hutt, Wellington
We had been to the Kapi-Mana track before. Once to the NZ Mini Champs and once this year with the 65cc on the senior track. But this would be Vinny's first time on his KTM 85sx. The Capital Champs are a brand new Champs that the club has started running and they are hoping to grow them and make it something of a must to do for MX riders. If this year is anything to judge by, it promises to be worth it! We knew that the club had done heaps of work on the track for these champs. And after the practice Vinny informed me that this was now his new favorite track!
There would be 3 races/day + practice. In the 85cc class (that catered for all 85cc riders 8 - 16yo) there was 12 riders. We had agreed that this was not about placings for Vinny but about learning to ride the 85cc and focus on improving race by race and only compete against him self.
On Saturday Vinny placed 8'th, 7'th and 7'th. After each race we analyzed the race and agreed on where he would try to make improvements for the next race. His times got faster and his starts better. And he ended the day in 8'th position only 2 points from 6'th even if he had one off where he got back up and racing very quickly.
Sunday the sunny weather had disappeared and there was some showers that made the track slippery with puddles. This does not worry Vinny as he likes riding in the mud. In the first race he was sitting in 6'th place at start of the last lap but did not finish the lap as the bike died w/o warning. Vinny was very upset but managed to get the bike to where we had parked. The bike started but it was too late as the race was over. This was his first ever DNF as in 5 years of racing he had always finished every race. I could not fault the bike, but replaced the spark plug with a new one. And I also disconnected the kill-switch. In the two last races the bike did not miss a beat. Vinnys starts improved and by the last race he was second at the holeshot. He was passing riders and had built a new confidence where he would make his mark and if others wanted to pass they found it tricky as he rode as if it was his track. He finished the day with a DNF, 6'th and 5'th placing making it all very encouraging.
His aggregate placing at the first Capital Champs was 8'th showing an improvement in each race: 8'th, 7'th, 7'th, DNF (engine failure), 6'th, 5'th.