News 13 Feb 2012

BT's Blog: NZ Nationals

Ben Townley writes for MotoOnline with an update direct from New Zealand after their outdoor opener.

We’ve just had the opening round of the New Zealand Motocross Championship over the weekend, which we thought would be a good time to start off with my first column on in the lead-up to the Australian MX Nationals.

I’ve never raced at Timaru, because it’s a track that’s only been around since I’ve been a professional and have been away racing around 11 years or so now. I’d actually been to the track and watched a couple years ago, but it was my first time riding there on the weekend.

I checked it out on Saturday, then on Sunday morning we have a new format in New Zealand, which gave us 30 minutes of qualifying, so I was able to get quite a few laps in.

The track is actually a really fast track and I didn’t enjoy that side of it at all really – it was too fast for my liking. But having 30 minutes I was able to get used to it and get my bearings on the whole place because it’s a really big track, just around two minutes long and quite spread out. It’s got some really fun jumps, some massive jumps actually, on the track, which was pretty fun.

I was able to qualify well in first, but I wasn’t really happy with the lap I ended up qualifying on. I got about three laps in and improved on each one, but just wasn’t quite happy with what I put down.

In the back of my mind I’m using it always as practice, since I’m going to have to do a lot of qualifying in Australia in the upcoming season. It’s something that I haven’t been putting a lot of emphasis on, doing just one fast lap and putting down a good qualifying lap, so it’s going to be good practice for me doing this here for the nationals in New Zealand.

The first race went a little pear-shaped for me. I went into the first turn going for the holeshot with Cody [Cooper] and he was outside of me. I didn’t want to hit him, so I ended up sliding out and going down. Luckily no one hit me and I jumped back up in last place.

As I was pushing through the pack on the second lap I was going through a really deep rut, it was a right hander, and I snagged the rear brake. It actually got caught so badly that I ended up with a completely snapped off rear brake system. I didn’t actually know what had happened, as I went flying into the next turn I went for the rear brake and my foot just slipped down in front of the footpeg. That was when I looked down and realised I had no brake pedal.

At that stage I had moved into fourth and it took me about two laps to get my head around what I was going to do, if I was going to go for the win or just make the move into third. I got myself into third and it just took me a while to get used to having no rear brake.

Ben Townley will write columns and record film blogs exclusively for MotoOnline in Australia for 2012. Image: Shayne Rice.

It is something that every now and then I actually do while I’m practicing. I’ll do a moto without using the clutch or a moto without using the rear brake, so it wasn’t that unusual for me. But obviously in a race situation it’s totally green for me, once I got used to that, I started to learn new braking points and it’s actually really good for technique.

I started to get close to Josh [Coppins], who was in second and just started using some different lines and I could see with about five laps to go we were catching a bunch of lapped riders. I just made a point of trying to be right on Josh and Cody because they were really close at that time when they hit the lap riders. I thought that would be my chance to get by them as I had no chance to out-brake them or do anything drastic like I could in a normal situation, because I’d either take one of them out or end up going off the track.

As we came up onto the lappers I was right there and was able to dive underneath Josh. Then there was a set of rollers that you could triple in the middle of, Cody got stuck behind a lapper and I was able to triple through and sneak by him. So I was able to get both of them within two turns, so I was quite lucky there and managed to just stay in front of them until the chequered flag. It was quite a close race, great for the spectators having a few different leaders in the space of a couple laps.

The second race was a lot better for me, I got the holeshot and I really wanted to work on my intensity, getting the holeshot and being able to sprint away because of the two 15-minute moto format we’re going to have in Australia at the beginning of each round. I was able to put my head down and get away, put down some fast laps and settle in. I just tried to keep up a good tempo all the way to the end.

In the last moto it was pretty similar, if not better. I felt like I was more consistent through the whole moto, if not quite as fast, but I definitely kept a good tempo all the way to the end until the last lap when I got hung up with a lapped rider and went down. But overall, it was a pretty good day to win overall.

For me 2012 is obviously a year to get back on my feet and that’s what my approach has been. I’ve now done three major race events in New Zealand and have been able to win all three, which have been quite different events. The first one was a sprint moto format, the second one a couple of weeks ago was a mixed bag in race lengths and the conditions, then on the weekend it was true national style racing.

I believe where I’m at right now is pretty much on track of where I want to be. The biggest thing I’m lacking at the moment is race craft, because I sort of get my self into races at the moment knowing I’ve got the speed and intensity, but I lack being able to continue that past 20 minutes. That only comes from racing.

So other than that I feel like I’m recovering well between the motos and everything is going to plan with the bike and testing. For me it’s now just a simple fact of getting these races under my belt in New Zealand. We have another three to go here before we get to Conondale and I feel like I’m nicely ticking the boxes off at the moment.

I’ve spent the better part of four months training since I was in Vegas for the Monster Energy Cup and now I’ve been able to back that down to work on intensity. That’s only going to help the racing side of things as well, so I’m pretty much on track with the whole program at the moment and look forward to continuing the progress over the coming weeks.

I’ll check back with another update in between the New Zealand outdoors and the Australian nationals, then from there we plan to have a series of video blogs to keep you guys up to date all season.