I’d like to give a BIG thank you to both the Burns Racing and 3 Walker Racing families for inviting us out to RACE. Their mentoring, and hospitality over the entire weekend was amazing and made for a great first Shannonville racing experience!
Having never turned a wheel at Shannonville before, this weekend was definitely an uphill battle from the outset. The track is very different to anything I have ever ridden and has a steep learning curve to get it right. I have to thank Giancarlo De Luca, Viv Ian, and Dylan Black for giving me a tow in Friday practice to help me getting up to speed. I lost a few sessions due to a faulty hose clamp but felt pretty comfortable with the track by the end of Friday.
Saturday didn’t start great for me as I had a minor headache in the morning that progressively got worse and worse by the time the heat races were up. Not being used to the start procedure I was totally asleep on the light and Colin Duncan sprinted out to an early lead in the Lost Era heat. As he darted off my race brain kicked in and I immediately turned my fastest lap of the weekend to catch and pass him for the lead into Allen’s corner. I put my head down and concentrated on hitting my marks and brought home the heat race win. Pulling into the pits to grab some water and head right back out for timed qualifying for Am600 my head was absolutely pounding. At that point all I wanted was to set one half decent lap and get off the bike. My first flying lap was not going great and then I caught Melanie going onto the back straight so I decided to scrub it and try again. My second flying lap felt good and was a tenth faster than my fastest lap in Lost Era putting me in 11th. I was just glad to get off the track and immediately had to lay down for a few hours .
Saturday night was an awesome pot luck dinner hosted by the Walker’s and had all the racers from around our pit bringing their favourite dishes. The crab dip, lasagna, and pies were fantastic. Adolfo was also a big fan of the gluten free bread!
Sunday was the big day. My goal for AM600 was to stay with Cameron Walker as he had only qualified half a second quicker than me on Saturday. My start was nothing special but I picked up one spot into 10th by the end of the lap. It quickly turned into a 4 bike pack led by Rob Cousineau with Cameron, Jose, and myself in tow. I was making good time in the infield and to be right on the tail of Jose by the hairpin and then lose it all down the back straight and have to reel them back in again. On lap 6 Rob faded quickly and we all got by in quick succession but I couldn’t make any more inroads on the guys in front and ended up in tenth, one spot better than qualifying. Cameron finished 8th but got a one spot penalty for gridding in the wrong spot so ended up 9th just ahead of me. Mission sort of accomplished.
I was confident in going for the win in Lost Era based on the heat race win on Saturday. I got a much better start than Saturday but Colin still got the hop into Turn 1. I tried to outbrake him into turn 2 but he was having none of it. Waxing his rear through T3 I gave it a handful of throttle and dived down the inside into 4A making the pass and took off into the lead. Figuring I head a decent gap I eased off but coming onto lap 5 David Walker gave me a signal that Colin had closed in on me so I put the hammer down again and cut a second off my lap time to pull out the gap again and take the win! Not far behind Mel was having a great battle with Jared Walker who pushed her to drop 4 seconds off her lap times from the morning and take home third place giving us our first joint podium!
I am genuinely pleased with my results. I did not expect to be at the sharp end of the AM600 grid my first time out and was happy with a top 10 finish within reach of 7th place. Couldn’t be happier with the Lost Era win and seeing Mel pick up so much speed throughout the weekend and grab the final podium spot.
Big thanks to everyone at RACE, the CRCA Marshalls(especially Mike and Linda Willis!), EMS, and all the other racers. Also thanks to the photographers Heather Bashow, Don Empey, and Bill Murphy for the great shots.
There always seems to be a bit of animosity between the SOAR and RACE paddocks, and they definitely are different, but I can say they are both full of great individuals willing to help out their fellow riders in need and have fun doing the sport we all love.
Photo credit to Ken Owttrim(cover) and Billy Murphy(podium).