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Controversy, Wild Weather, Great Results & Fried Rubber

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

Highlights from VRRC RD2 at The Bend - South Australia



With such a big race team we also have a big race report. So we have broken it up into sections so you can Click the headline box and skip to your fav topic then come back and read the rest when you have time. Or just read the lot while you pretend to work.


All images: Russell Colvin 783 Media & Alex Jovanovic F-Style Photo


Round 2 of the 2023 Pirelli Motul Victorian Road Racing Championships run over 7th – 9th July at The Bend Motorsport Park certainly dished up some challenges and controversy.


On paper it promised to be a mega event, not just for the fact that it was being held at an amazing, world class circuit, but also the the VRRC being run in conjunction with the South Australian state titles. While points would be awarded separately, grids would be combined so it promised big fields and lots of bar to bar action.


However the event had other plans in store for not just the Race Center team but all competitors alike.


 

Mother nature was adamant we weren't going to have an easy weekend. If freezing cold, on and off rain, wet, damp, dryish, then wet again, track conditions weren’t enough, add in the wind! And boy oh boy was it windy at The Bend.


Particularly on Saturday. If it had of gotten any worse it would have started to pose a serious safety risk to the riders, especially considering the undulating and high-speed nature of the circuit.


The conditions posed a big challenge for the team in terms of the tyre choice for each session and race, particularly when you have a team as big as ours. However, it must be said the entire Race Center team did a phenomenal job. Across all 8 of our riders and the tricky conditions we got every tyre call pretty much bang on!


Once the team had done their bit, it was over to the riders. One session would be a case of dealing with drizzle on a cold but mostly dry track with slick tyres. The next time out they'd be faced wit a wet but drying track on wets, managing the rear tyre best they could in order not to destroy it before the session end. The boys certainly had their work cut out and they all performed absolutely incredibly. Extremally tricky conditions indeed and lots of skill required, that is for sure!


Harley Side and Luke Sanders were standouts in the tyre destruction stakes, having to manage their wets on a drying track while still pushing for lap time. Here is some of their handy work!

Saucey's Qualifying tyre sure was screaming for some reprieve
The photo doesn't do it justicebut look at the side of the tyre leaning against the wall. Luke's P2 in race 2 on this thing was impressive!

For those interested, check out this little video below on what goes on behind the scenes with tyre decisions and preparation in such tricky conditions.

You might be thinking, why on earth would you be racing in the middle of winter. However we do need to cut the event organisers some slack as track availability is a very tricky business. With other race series, forms of motorsport etc. etc. Getting venues when you would ideally like them is not always possible.


 

Taking a small points lead into round 2, Race Center’s Harley Side #95 scored a brilliant pole position in the fierce 600 Supersport class.


Faced with a track that was dry in places but still very wet in others Q1 was going to be a very difficult affair for our riders and team. We made the decision to send our Supersport chargers out on hard wets with clear instructions. Stick it out best you can, build pace, the track will improve as the session goes on, so make sure you still have enough tyre and energy left toward the end of the session.


With such a long lap and short quali session, there wouldn’t be enough time for the riders to box for dry tyres should the conditions improve enough to warrant it anyway. So, sticking it out would be the best option. We could have opted to sit out the tricky conditions and wait for Q2 as some riders did. However, we knew there were already significant delays to the schedule, plus there was no guarantee that Q2 would be any better as the weather had already been so unpredictable thus far.


As this wasn't our first rodeo, the team understood the importance of getting banker laps in and then extracting the best we could from Q1. No rider did it better than our little Sauce bottle, Harley Side. His ability to balance the difficult task of extracting lap time from the rear wet tyre on the dry parts of the track yet preserving it enough for the wet sections was simply second to none.


Dealing with the bike squirming and sliding under hard acceleration at such high speed and in such windy conditions was a seriously impressive and brave! Particularly when you saw the state of his rear tyre at the conclusion of the session.

Saucey's Q performance was exceptional.

While he had to risk a lot, Saucey knew the importance of qualifying as it would dictate the grid for all 3 races over the weekend. a simply great performance.


As the schedule fell further and further behind, it was no surprise to the Race Center team that Q2 had to be cancelled due to time constraints and that the results of Q1 would dictate the grid for the 3 races ahead. A great reward for Saucey's after such a high stakes ride. Also great reward for the team as there strategy and hard work had paid off.


What was a surprise to us though, was the decision the officials made next. Rather than stick to the rules and how the VRRC has been run since Noah built his very first canoe, the officials made the decision that Q1 results would only dictate the starting grid for Race 1. The results of race 1 would the dictate the results for Race 2 & 3.


This was done to aid the riders that did not go out or lay down a time in Q1. Hang on, what!??? Really???!! You're going to help the riders who didn't take the risk in such tricky conditions or wrongly assumed Q2 would better, over the riders that were brave enough and skilled enough too. Not to mention the teams that planned and were organised enough, then also wore the cost of destroying their tyres. Not to mention to potential crash damage. Really? Since when does our sport not favour the brave? And why change the rules on the fly like that when everyone had equal opportunity to lay down a time?


Sauce & Speedy - Stumped by the officials decision

As always, we wanted to act professionally so we took our case to the control room and appropriate officials. We presented what we thought was a well balanced argument, in a very calm manner. Unfortunately we were met with "the decision is final, you'll need to deal with it" Wow!


Unfortunately you can't talk sense into some people so we just had to deal with it and get on with things.


Overall Saucey had a decent weekend despite the tricking conditions, leaving the weekend with the same 13 point led he took into the round.

Images: Russell Colvin 783 Media & Alex Jovanovic F-Style Photo

 

Team Principle & Race Center boss Daz on the matter & the weekend:


"I normally try to have the officials and event organisers backs, they have a difficult job managing many variables and trying to keep many people happy.


I also don't like airing this sort of thing in a public forum, however I am just a bit frustrated.


Sure without them and the great work they normally do we couldn't race. But equally with no competitors there would be no event either.


Before I start I will say post the event the CAFNIX club have been great, they have listened to our feedback and are working to improve things for next year and we do plan to be on the grid again. However what happened, happened so here I go.


The cost to race at an event like is massive, as is the logistics and amount of prep work to field a race team. We are trying to do a good job, provide development paths for riders and have it all supported by a business that is open to the pubic and can support people that want to partake in the sport. In this way we are trying to help grow the sport by playing our part, a part that has taken a stupid amount of hard work and money to setup. Thus, yeah, I am a little frustrated and pissed off when I feel like we weren't really respected by some officials and they are a fair but out of touch with our perspective. It probably goes right to the top of our sport and these people probably don't have the access to the training or environment they need either.


It definitely felt like there was some arrogance with some key officials. Making decisions without proper consultation or valid justification. It just felt like, "what we say goes and you just have to deal with it" And the safety briefing was probably the best example of that.



It sounds ridiculous saying this but this actually happened. A key official giving the safety briefing for the weekend, flat out refused to use the perfectly good microphone that was on hand so that everyone in the briefing could hear him.


There were a lot of people in the briefing and it was a very big room, there was no way everyone would be able to hear him without a microphone. The event organisers made sure one was on hand but he just flat out refused to use it. Even after many repeated requests and people pleading that they couldn't hear.


So are we saying the safety of competitors, teams and officials is less important than whatever gripe this guy has with a microphone? Seriously? Juniors were racing too, is their safety not important either? Just ridiculous that that was allowed to go on in my view.


Unfortunately it was the same individual we had to deal with on the qualifying and grid debacle. Regardless of the specifics, I just couldn't believe how quickly we were dismissed, opinions ignored and overall given little respect. We had a valid argument and approached it in a super calm manner. We were given no rational other than, "the decision is final!"


I acknowledge that there were some classes that didn't even get one full qual session so I understand doing something like that for those classes. But not for the classes that had a full qualifying sessions. I know I might sound sour but that decision has had an impact on Saucey's championship challenge. Sure, he could have raced a bit better in a couple of the races, but the rules are the rules and why on earth were the riders that decided to take any risk or put in the effort looked after over those who did?


Makes no sense to me and to have the reward for your hard work and risk you took diminished was disappointing.




They also seemed a bit out of touch with how a modern road race meeting should be conducted, things like how the pit exit is managed. We were actually yelled at as competitors for not getting to the dummy grid promptly. It was freezing cold, of course we are going to wait until the last minute to exit the box so that our tyres don't go cold. You normally do a 2 minute call then a 30 sec call and then open pit exit. Even if you don't do the 30 sec call. Do a 2 min call then open the exit at 2 mins and hold it open for 30 secs and then close it again. The competitors will work it out and if they get stuck in pit lane, bad luck, they start from pit lane.


Instead they were waiting for the whole field to grid up in the pit lane and wait for minutes while their tyres went cold, what a safety risk!


The time of year was always going to provide enough of a challenge as it was. We accept track availability is a really difficult thing so we can put up with that and understand that sometimes we are juts going to have to suck it up and race in the middle of winter. But please have some understanding of the challenges it posed.


It's not 1978, that's not how it work anymore. So while they waited, we waited and it caused even further delays. How it should work is nothing new, clearly there was a disconnect somewhere and there isn't enough training happening behind the scenes in the sport.


Next the big one! After getting minimal track time all weekend for all the reasons already mentioned plus some unfortunately on track incidents. Early Sunday afternoon we hear an announcement that the third leg for all classes was to be cancelled due to time constraints. Hang on! Did we hear correctly. There was still heaps of time left in the day at that point, so we were baffled.


So again we went to the control room to discuss things in a constructive and professional manner. Again we were quickly cut off and told the decision is final!!!


One of the arguments we were given was "what if there is another big delay? How we will fit things in then?!"


Ummmmm "how about you just worry about that if it actually that happens, it hasn't happened."


Then, a very important fact that the senior officials didn't even seem to understand. There are priority classes. It is a state championship. There are official championship classes, then there are support classes. And the highest championship class is Superbike.


Yes, ideally you want to run all classes, however if you are running out of time, you start prioritising classes bases on their priority order. Same as has been done in all forms of motorsport since Noah upgraded his canoe to a dingy.


Their argument was, "if we can't fit them all in, we are going to fit none in." So we are happy to have hours of wasted, expensive track time because people don't really understand the sport or series?


Could you imagine cancelling the MotoGP race at Phillip Island because you were worried you wouldn't fit in one of the Aussie support classes? Wow wee!


It took a rider revolt of over 50 people to 'storm' the scrutineering bay for an audience with the Steward. To his credit, after a lot of pleading and reasoning the decision was made to the run the third leg of just run, SBK, SS600, SS300 in a reduced laps format.



Even after doing so, there was still another 40mins left in the day and the track just lay silent. Pity because they still had enough time to give the juniors their last leg and another class too. It just made non sense.


There was more things as well but we'll be here forever if I bang on about it all and I have probably already upset enough people.


We travelled interstate with such a big team at a huge cost, the logistics, the effort etc. For an event that you could argue should have been in Victoria as it was a Vic title, but we were happy to support the concept and field our team. I just think if you want to run an event like that you need to do a better job.


Despite all that, I was mega proud of the whole team for staying calm, professional, focused on what they could control and still having a great time.


We wanted to share Dingo's perspective on the matter, however his quote failed the ethics review due to having substantially more swear words than any other recognisable words.

Take a look at this short video outlined what went into the prep leading up to the Bend


 

We've just given an insight into how expensive the sport can be, so thankfully our reigning Supersport champion in his first year in Superbike went directly into cost saving mode for the team.


Tim Large #74 was determined to not wear out a single front tyre all weekend. He deployed a clever strategy of firstly doing minimal laps, then ensuring the laps he did do were mostly with the front wheel off the ground and flapping in the breeze as his put 180+hp to the ground.


Ok, ok. That wasn't actually the plan but is what unfolded for TL Turbo and his crew headed up by Bricko.


While taking 3 wins from 3 races in round 1 might have given the impression all was well with Timmo on the SBK, it actually wasn't quite the case. We are yet to get the engine brake mapping on the Race Center Yamaha R1 working as we would like and Timmo is also struggling with too much wheelie on corner exit.


As such we made some changes to his #1 bike for round 2, hoping to use Friday practice as some valuable testing time to dial in the new electronics and setup.

We made the decision to leave the #2 bike as it was so that we had a good reference point and back up if we needed it.


Unfortunately the new electronics map didn't work as indented out of the box leaving Tim to revert to the #2 bike for Friday practice while the team worked through the issues with the #1 bike.


Even then his running was limited due to the weather conditions and all of the delays in the program.


Thus we headed into Saturday's qualifying with minimal running and minimal laps for Tim on a SBK at this track. The good news was the #1 bike was up and running and back at his disposal.


With just one flying lap, Timmo managed to stick his R1 in P2 on the gird. Unfortunately as reported in Saucey's article, his great qualifying would only stand for Race 1.


The pattern of interrupted and shortened races continued all weekend. We got minimal dry time on the #1 bike and as such made little progress with our new setup and engine brake mapping :( Still as interrupted as it was, Tim managed to extend his championship lead and also set the fastest top speed of the meeting. With 295km/h even though there was a head wind!


On top of that he did some great wheelies and massive skids! The RC donk with Timmo twisting the grip certainly held it's own.


It was really nice for the team that despite the issues he was faced with Tim remained calm, happy and very easy to work with. It makes life a hell of a lot easier.

Tim Large struggling to keep the front wheel on the ground coming onto the main straight on his R1.

Photo courtesy of Russell Colvin 783 Media



 

For sure one of the highlights of the weekend was seeing a smile back on Boner's face. Colin had a difficult RD1, a fired clutch, shifting issues as the shift mechanism in his Ninja 400 gave up the ghost and a qualy performance he wasn't happy with, all added up to a round that Colin would rather forget.


There was a bit of sole searching for Colin and the team to do heading into round 2.


Not because the result weren't what Colin would normally expect, but more so because we'd sort of lost our way in terms the approach to race weekend as a whole on Col's side of the garage. While Colin may not have as lofty goals as the likes of Sanders, Timmo, Saucey or Will. He still does have his own goals and loves the challenge of trying to reach them, plus the competition that goes with it.


He also normally thrives on the atmosphere within the RC pit box, yet somehow we had kinda lost a little bit of focus in Col's corner. So a good sit down and reset heading into The Bend was had. Another challenge was the fact that this was the first time Colin had even been to The Bend. A track difficult to learn at the best of times, let alone in such tricky conditions and with shortened run times.

He didn't have an easy start to the weekend either. FP1 was damp, windy and very tricky, plus he had slicks bolted in . On the exit of the 2nd last turn he had a very near highside and just managed to save it. Furthermore his mate Chris Gallagher had a nasty incident and had to be taken to hospital. All a very unsettling way to start the weekend.


While we said seeing a smile back on Boner's face was a highlight, a bigger highlight was seeing the way in which he applied himself and turned his season around. Rather than moping on the past, he just put the 1st round behind him, focused on learning the track and dealing with the very tricky conditions.


He actually got to grips with the track probably faster than he himself expected, especially as learning new tracks hasn't always been his strong suit. So considering this was a hard track to learn and the conditions were so tricky, he did himself and the team extremely proud. Then do so with such a smile on his face was a ripper bonus. Well done Col!!!!


And we wish Chris and his family all our well wishes and a speedy recovery. Chris is doing a lot better and on the road to recovery




 

Those that have been following us will know that Luke Sanders #88 is doing selected ASBK rounds in 2023 rather than the VRRC.


However the fact that Luke had never been to The Bend, plus we are also developing a new bike for him to finish the year, it was a great opportunity to get some miles under the belt. Even if it did mean a big work load for the team managing so many riders at once.


With no prior testing on the new bike at all, coupled with all the other factors that resulted in minimal running, it really wasn't the ideal situation to develop the new bike. Still Luke showed his class. He was only beaten outright by the impressive Olly Simpson and took out the round win within the VRRC.


Luke also made sure his characteristic sideways corner entry antics were on display throughout the weekend. Sanders also gave young Saucey a run for his money is the tyre destruction department with a quality ride in race 2 on a drying track.


We even managed to make some meaningful progress in terms of bike setup despite the limited running and windy conditions. So all in all a top job!

While the racing a part is al lot of fun. Equally is the development side of things. Especially building understanding between rider and engineer. L to R Daz, Russ, Luke. Don't worry, Russ had no input into the setup direction ;)


 

It's a tough pill to swallow, the first time leading a VRRC race, then for it to end in a DNF through absolutely no fault of your own. unfortunately that's how the very first race of the season went for Will Sharrock, setting his championship challenge off to a very poor start.


Focused and ready for the season ahead, Will had done a bit of work on his starts and it showed in Race 1 at Broadford as he took the lead.


Unfortunately for Will, he had a motor issue part way through that race ending his race. It really was unexpected as the motor was fresh in it's lifecycle. On investigation back at HQ, while we could see what happened, we were unable to determine the root cause. We had to settle on either a faulty component or there was some damage from it's last outing as it was the same bike Luke crashed out on in his very impressive display at RD2 of the ASBK at SMSP.


The workshop team did a phenomenal job to turn around the unplanned motor rebuild plus all the other work in time for The Bend. And it wasn't just Bricko or Daz who were specifically on the race bike prep, Sauce, Jools, Speedy and Joey Sunshine. Those guys did an absolutely wicked job of keeping the workshop running.


It sure was a great feeling to be able to have 2 bikes at Will's disposal for the weekend. Especially with the conditions.


Rather than being shitty with his misfortune, Will continued the Race Center theme of head down, bum up and just working on what he could control. He produced a very solid performance in challenging circumstances across the weekend. The reward was moving up from 8th in the championship standings to 4th by rounds end. On ya Will!



 

Enter the surprise packet of 2023, Chris Cucuzza! Chris has taken a commanding lead in the C-Grade Supersport championship. Even more impressive though is the fact that he sits 3rd in the outright championship! 3rd!


Sure it will be a tough gig for him to keep stable mate Will Sharrock at bay for the remainder of the season, however there are some things you need to know about Chris and his campaign.


Firstly Chris' bike spec is not at the same level as his Race Center team mates. While as a team we would dearly love to give them all equal equipment and have no favorites, we simply do not have the adequate budget to provide full spec machinery for all our riders. So preference works on a combination of, time with the team, performance, talent & potential, attitude & work ethic and the budget they can bring themselves. The only areas Chris really lacks in is time with the team and the budget he can bring himself.


His bike is still pretty good but lacks the HP of a full spec build and doesn't have performance items such as Translogic Blip assist. Chris also runs on a reduced tyre allocation compared with his RC stable mates.


On top of that, he has had a few unfortunate and nasty injuries to recover from in recent times.


So when you factor all those things in and the fact he is less experienced and a legitimate C-Grader, he is doing a pretty awesome job at the moment. He is tenacious too, shoving his under powered R6 into places it probably doesn't belong! In a firm but calculated, non reckless way too we might add.


It's great to see him developing as a rider and RC team member. Chris and his smiling face has been a very welcome addition to the pit box this year, that is for sure




 

Ok, we are expecting Rob won't be over the moon with the title of his article. Not just because of the play on words but because Rob is actually not a virgin to the race Center family. Rob has been a long term customer, rider, supporter and dear friend of the Race Center crew for a long time.


But! this was his very first time with the team in this type of environment and capacity. We have no doubt it was an eye opener and shift change, even though he already knew us so well.


One of the biggest differences Rob commented on was the mind set shift from doing ride days with mates and doing as many laps as you can, to prioritising quality over quantity. Even how the tyre plan is managed.


At this level, there are things that you need to do differently from conventional thought in order to maximise performance. Those things take some getting your head around, but they do make a difference. Those things also mean the team behaves a bit differently in this environment to a social environment some customers may be used to.


Rob is also very good mates with Chris Gallagher so having all that on his mind over the weekend was tough, especially as Rob and brother in-law Dave were providing as much support and hospital visits as they could..


Like Cucuzza, Rob also is very tenacious, he made great starts and got his elbows out.


Sure he pushed a bit too hard in race 2 (just) leading to a pair of DNFs. The first one from the crash itself, and the 2nd DNF due to the bike having developed an issue from the crash that we couldn't have known about before he commenced race 3.


Still he had a very decent crack and we have no doubt learnt a bit along the way, including looking for low hanging fruit when it comes to lap time. His performance and presence in the team was impressive, well done man!


 

Alex was without the support of his best mate and key part of his pit crew, Jason, this weekend. Jason had much more important and awesome things on his plate: The birth of his and wife Sam's first child! Congratulations to you both on the birth of your beautiful boy Matteo. While we missed you in the pit box, the RC family couldn't be more thrilled for you both and all your family.


Alex was another rider in the team that had never been to The Bend Motorsport Park


While on the surface Alex may present as an unlikely candidate to become a motorcycle racer – intelligent, mature age, etc. – the way he applies himself fits the mould beautifully.


Alex has come a very long way in a short amount of time and is already starting to build pace while also keeping mistakes to a minimum.


Alex backed up his very strong round one result with a solid performance in trying conditions and circumstances to sit in an impressive 5th place in the SS300 championship after two rounds.


The speed of his learning and his skill despite minimal experience has been impressive to watch so far. It's going to be really cool to see how good a rider Alex can become over the coming years despite not having a traditional path into the sport.



 


Despite all the controversy, hard work, and trying conditions, we had an absolute ball.


Being on the road with this race team is a really cool, fun and rewarding experience.


The work ethic of everyone in the team is just great, as too is the team approach everyone has.


We have to say a very big thanks to everyone involved, teamwork makes the dream work!



 

A massive thanks needs to go to our media team for the weekend. What a great job by Alex Jovanovic of FStyle Photo assisted by Russel Colvin of 783 Media. Images and content was ace a lot of which hasn't been released yet, some cool behind the scenes stuff!


It's a great step forward for our team to have this new media structure working so well. Big thanks guys



Photos courtesy of Russell Colvin 783 Media


Photos courtesy of Fstyle Photos

 

RACE MEET - RESULTS


Below are the results and current standings in the championship after Round 2 of the VRRC at The Bend.


All results can be found on Computime



As always, thank you to all our supporters, sponsors and followers, it’s wonderful to have such great support.



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