Southern Downs Road Race Series 2013 – Round 1
Brilliant! That is the only way I can describe the event, massive grids, the weather performed a treat, it stopped one race, but cleared up 10 minutes later and the track was bone dry 5 minutes after that. The level of riding from all competitors was outstanding, PB’s were going left and right. There were some crashes but most were quick fixes and they were back on track for the following race. The Motorcycle Sportsmen of Queensland put on a stunning meeting, and the Warwick District Car Club have the track in excellent condition.
Right off the bat I felt fairly good, went out in Q1 for Formula 3 with a new rear tyre on, my plan was to just take it easy and just scuff up the new tyre, and make sure it was wearing cleanly. Finished ended that session with a 1:33.904, good news that it was really easy to get into the 33’s without pushing the tyre whatsoever, early days but the time was good enough to have me sitting in 3rd, Tony started the day on his 400 with a blistering 1:29.977, someone had woken up on the correct side of the bed.
Next up was Q1 for Formula 4, plan was to continue as before and maybe go a little faster, but most important in my mind was to ensure I didn’t create any tearing of the tyre, got slightly carried away one lap and produced a 1:32.180 giving me 3rd, tyre was looking perfect. Q2 for Formula 3 I got a clean run on my first attempt at a fast lap and put together a 1:29.813 which got me on the second row on the grid, the front row was dominated by GP bikes and I was surrounded by 400’s, the next 250 production bike was Kieran in 9th. Q2 for Formula 4 went perfectly, I got another fairly clean lap in and took Pole position with a 1:29.891.
Cracking start to the weekend, bike felt great, I had made some suspension adjustments since the last meeting – lighter fork oil as there was far too much damping previously, and increased preload front and rear to get the sag right (or at least closer to correct). So far they seem improved as the bike was feeling great on brakes and through the corners, and the tyre wear was looking good on the new tyre.
The first race of the weekend was upon us, the first one always brings extra butterflies as it’s time to really show your hand, no more talking, no more single fast laps, now you have to make a whole race.
Formula 3, race 1. The first thing I notice is how there are a lot of bikes on the grid, it takes a while for them to all find their spots on the grid, the extra waiting fuelling the excitement. The grid marshal raises his red flag and moves off the circuit, you hear the bikes all get put into gear and all the visors go down. Red light goes on, the air is filled with noise as everyone brings the revs up to prepare to launch, the light goes out, engines scream and clutches engage, I get a fairly decent start, then I’m swamped as the power of the 400’s get them off the line and they surround me, I go to the outside and find some free space, I don’t use any brake for T1 on the first lap, my competitors usually go in a little more cautiously, so pass a bike or 2 on the way into T1, slot in between riders and get through T2 without issue. I get a clean run around T3 and on my way down into T4 I decide to take it easy on the first lap, no point in going too hard on the brakes too early and throwing it down the road, I follow Tony in and just as I was thinking he was carrying good corner speed the front end of his bike folds, I manage to keep my line and not target fixate on Tony sliding across the bitumen in front of me. Etienne gets past me on lap 2 but I rectify that on lap 3, lap 4 I saw Clint picking himself up out of the weed in Turn 7. Sean broke away from me and finished 7 seconds ahead, I managed to put 4 seconds between myself and Etienne, and came home safely with 25 points in Clubsport Lites, and finished 5th overall.
Formula 4, race 1. How I love pulling up in pole position. It feels great! I got a decent start, as usual the 400’s launched a bit harder off the line, Tony and Etienne getting in front of me, I picked them off and worked on reeling in Sean, he had gotten away cleanly and opened up a decent gap in the first two laps, each lap I was closer and closer. I finished the race 0.2 seconds behind him, another lap and the story may have ended differently, however he produced some good clean laps to stay in front of me. I finished the race with a new PB 1:28.583 and second position, so things were going great!
Formula 3, race 2. My start was good, I was above average and on a mission to try and take the lap record. Disaster struck on lap 2 turn 6, the bolt connecting the gear linkage had come loose and fallen out. I had 3rd gear with five and a half laps to go. I was going to continue but the rod was scraping along the ground – I pulled into the pits as I didn’t want to have to source a new rod if the end wore away. Another item has been added to list to check before a race meeting. Live and learn.
Formula 4, race 2. A new contender appears! Aron has found some serious pace. We have a great battle swapping positions a few times, every time I get in front of him he manages to stay close and then use the extra power of the 400 to drive past me, I had planned on two laps to try and make a move on him into T1/T2 but he either carried too much pace for me to attack or chose the correct line to block my attack. I finished behind him in 3rd position with a best lap of 1:28.896, very, very happy to have produced so many laps in the 1:28’s.
Formula 3, race 3, start was a bit below par meaning I had to work hard to get back in front of the usual suspects, Aron was proving his worth making it difficult for me to get past, powering back past until I got past him on the brakes into Turn 10, he tried to get back past me for Turn 11, I still had the lead, he didn’t want to submit and I tipped in, leaving space inside me so he could had somewhere to put his bike, I felt his front wheel grazing my right hip as I got the bike turned however I completed the corner and had still got it turned back the other direction for 12 without butchering my exit. Mark Gordon was having a blinder of a race and was battling with Sean, which meant I could bridge the gap to them, I put my first move on Sean at Turn 10, then on the exit of the corner the bike hesitated. Oh no! I was running out of fuel with a bit over a lap to go. I managed to nurse it around the track, losing 4 positions, however I still finished the race in the points, which is much better than the alternative. Turns out my new fuel tap is opposite to the old, meaning I was in fact on “On” rather than “Reserve”, simple enough to have changed if I knew. It was still a good race and I iwas showing myself I was capable of running a fast pace.
Formula 4, race 3. Now running extra fuel to ensure I will finish regardless of the status of the fuel tap. Rocking up to pole position cheers my mood. Visor down, lights out, the race commences, Sean and I broke away from the rest of the field early on, I even led across the start finish line on the first lap. We continued a race long battle with lots of clean racing, Sean took the win by a mere 0.833 of a second, we were side by side coming on to the straight, I got out of the last corner brilliantly, however it was no replacement for his extra displacement and he drove to the line first. I was elated to find I had set a new PB lap time of 1:28.216. It was an excellent race and I learned more about the limits of my bike without crashing!
Formula 3, race 4. I came to the line prepared to push 100% from the start of this race, I knew I had a chance at the lap record if I could get away cleanly. Lights out! A cracking start, I just rode around bikes through turn 1 and 2, hoping I had gotten enough heat into the tyres on the warm up lap. At the end of the first lap I was in 5th, Tayla had not yet managed to overtake me on her Moto3 – something that had happened no later than the first 6 corners in every race prior. I was on a mission this time to stay in clean air and hold on to Sean and Clint. It turned into a race of near perfect laps, Sean’s 400 and Clint’s 125GP bike pulling away on the straights and me making it up in the corners, I even tried to go around the outside of Sean on turn 2 while we were lapping at or below my PB. Exceptional riding and good corner speed from Clint and Sean meant having them in front of me actually helped as they would give me a little bit of slip stream in high speed areas of the track without requiring me to do any extra braking to not run up the back of them through the corners, I watched them swap places a number of times throughout the race. I just kept hitting apex’s and carrying every KM/H I could, through every corner. I had the front end try and tuck on me through turn 6 but it was an easy save, the Pirelli tyres giving amazing feedback and feel for the track surface, another lap I had the front and rear sliding a bit through turn 1, but again the tyres were simply telling me they were at their limit without throwing any surprises at me. Sean and Clint both finished in front of me, but I knew I had just had the closest I had ever come to a perfect lap on that last lap. 1.5 seconds covered the 3 of us across the line, only 0.073 between Sean and Clint, with me just over a second behind Clint. I was feeling great, I was a little concerned with what riding at that level would do to my rear tyre, but sacrifices have to be made sometimes. Upon arriving in my pit area my wife Tamara ran to me and told me I had managed a 1:27.739, which is a average speed of 121.738km/h. Excited does not describe how excited I was, 5 years of learning and trying to be the fastest rider on a production 250 and I had finally done it at a round of the Southern Downs – probably the most hotly contested field of Production 250’s in Australia.
Formula 4, race 4. After the excitement of the race before my goal was to take it easy in the first few laps and see if I could reduce the tearing on my rear tyre then break from the pack and take second place behind Sean, I had accepted that I would not be able to run his pace without risking destruction of my rear tyre, I spent 3 laps behind Tony and Etienne then decided to make my move, I went past Tony on the brakes into turn 4 and then Etienne into T6, got decent drive out of 7, Etienne came up beside me on the entry into turn 9 but, I knew was staying in front when we tipped in and I had the better line, so I had a clean run down into turn 10, up the hill, I hit the S of turns 11 and 12 to carry good speed onto the straight, once I had made it to turn 1 without either of them coming back past me I knew I could manage the gap to them till the end of the race. I took it home in second place over 13 seconds behind Sean who rode a top race without looking back, he was expecting me to be all over the back of him like the prior races.
Formula 3, race 5. I put my old very worn out tyre on my bike to complete the last two races on. My new tyre had started to tear from pushing it so hard in the previous races, continuing to run it in races where I was putting down laps below the 1:30 mark would cause it to shred, I could clean the tearing with some slow laps on a track day. The race started with me getting a reasonable start. I found the worn out rear tyre was still giving good feedback, there was less grip but the feedback was good before starting to slide, the Pirelli tyres are predictable to the last! I had a bit of a battle with the usual suspects and managed to bring it home in 4th behind Sean, with Clint crashing out at Turn 6 and another of the lead pack also crashing.
Formula 4, race 5. The goal now was to bring it home safely in second unless Sean slowed down his relentless good pace. Another reasonable start slotted me into 4th position, I stayed there for the first 2 laps before making my move on Etienne and then on Tony. Tony managed to stick close to me and get a lap of 1:29.768, I did manage to better it on my final lap finishing the weekend with a 1:29.571. Another solid second position in Formula 4.
A couple of little issues hindered an otherwise perfect weekend of racing, but overall I could not have asked for more. Everyone was on brilliant form over the weekend. Brilliant battles throughout the field. I had no crashes, set a PB and lap record. Second in the Formula 4 Championship, 3rd in Clubsport Lites/250 Production and 7th in Formula 3.
Big thanks to my dad Gary Dickson, and congratulations to him for destroying his PB, he is actually in front of me in points for the Clubsport Lites/250 Production Championship ladder thanks to his consistent top 3 finishing.
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Thankyou for reading!
I was successful in getting 4 video’s from the event, so here they are.