24hr Endurance Race
(9 – 10 December 2017)
When Stuart Baker of Suzuki gave us the opportunity to put together a lady’s team to race in the 24hr event, it sounded too good to be true… You know that saying; if it sounds too good, it probably is?
This was better than good – it was blêddy marvelous!!!
Suzuki gave us a bike – the new SV650; petrol – a few jerrycans full; and organised a tire sponsor from Dunlop – even a set of wets! All we needed to do was rope together 6 chickens… with helmets… with loads of endurance in their veins… that could smile for 24hrs straight.
I immediately went for a jog (nearly died), Nienke held her thumbs for 2 months (typing with her nose), and Chikita started sewing up the holes in her race suit (she used a little more than one tolletjie gare).
We got together for a practice session. We all needed to test the bike, to get lap times and just get to know one another.
We all immediately bonded – we were going to be a team to be reckoned with.
Everybody was very happy with Stuart Little (the new name for the SV, as we started calling everything we love ‘Stuart’).
Chikita started reeling in the slow riders one by one and we all know what happens when you hold up a flamin’ chicken…
YOU GET BURNED!
She dipped a little too low to overtake someone and BAM! Stuart Little met mother earth…
Doug Lang took one look at the bike, shook his head, switched on his ambulance siren, and sped off home to go fix up the damage with only one week left before the race. I won’t keep you in suspense – HE DID!
GET YOUR MOTORS RUNNING!
It was D-day and the nerves were running high. Our spot at Redstar Raceway was set-up and the early morning sun shone brightly on chrome, fresh Dunlop rubber and steaming cups of coffee.
Doug gave us a quick lesson on wet-tyres, knowing kittens does not like to get wet.
The entry… No backing out after this one.
Riders briefing – spot the sleeping beauty…
We got our own song! No… REGTIG! Bianca Wood wrote a song for the lady’s team: MOONLIGHT
Warm-up exercises is not my thing, but we had no problem shakin’ our booties…
♫♫…you can’t stop me riding in the moonlight…♫♫
Is this what you call a hoender-skrum?
The SUZUKITTENS and our support crew
Alastair and Danie as the mechanics, Robert as the team manager, and Colin as the pit assistant
After all the formalities were completed, the clock stood at 11:50am. We had 10 minutes to get the bike out on the track for the Le Mans start. Joany was our A rider, and hopefully a 100m sprinter we never heard of before.
They set off with a screech here, a bump there, and a few ‘stay in your lane parra’ yells heard over the cheers.
The combustion process is started by a spark and the pressure in the cylinder begins to rise, in motorcycle heart as well as in human.
While Joany scrubbed our tires on the first eight laps, the rest of the team prepped for a daunting 23hrs and 58minutes to come. Filling tanks was high on the priority list.
First rider change.
Our mechanics designed a pit-board to our specifications. It had to be in the shape of a heart, it had to have red lights, and it should have only one word on it – PIT. We are women – the only information we needed while we were out on the track was when we need to get off the track.
Brad (aka Danie) was in charge of the PIT-board
Suzukitten 1 - Jeanty Olivier
Jeanty was the softy in this group. She does numerous charities through her motorcycle club, No Rules, and I guess this was just yet another charity case… to fill up the only ladies racing team this year.
She has done a few 24hr races before, as well as the Funduro charity race, and competed in the Brunch Run (2015). Not only was Jeanty (pronounced JANtie) an experienced racer but long hours in the seat seems to be her forte. She came 5th in the HBC’s 1000km event (2013), nipping on the heels of Clinton Pienaar.
She loves her family and thinks they are very OULIK, especially her husband – he’s kak oulik! We sort of had to agree, as he was our team manager.
She had two small spills during her training but this didn’t put a stick in her spokes. She did not complain once… not even when we were informed that we could not brew any more coffee in the pits. Such a cool-kitten!
Time for another hand-over.
In the meantime, our Suzuki boys were fighting for a top spot out on the track. They were riding dat die snot spat! On their trusty GSX-S1000F, still with flame imprints down the fairings, it was going to be a close call for a podium spot.
Nienke was murmuring something… we stood closer… it started to sound like… still closer… “Nnnnnnno bbbeeeer while weeeeee rrrrace.”
It was Belinda’s birthday and we gave her a solemn, modest, discreet birthday song.
It was still early hours and the racers as well as the supporters were full smiles and pearly whites.
Suzukitten 2 – Barbara Muszynski
Minxy is one of the chickens that has never raced on a tar circuit before. But don’t let this fool ya… She was the only lady finalist in the 2017 Honda Quest adventure competition; she knows how to gooi dust in the GXCC off-road races; and she can pop a proper wheelie!
Her signature kitty ears were not just a dress-up for the Suzukittens, but should be an indication as to what her favorite animal is. She might actually love cats more than she loves biking - and she loves biking A LOT!
Lucky for us, Minxy has a vasbyt and succeed temperament. She is one of those people that truly does believe in herself. She can do anything she puts her mind to.
And she stalks like a tiger!
She was super excited to be part of this team. She did one track day with Clinton Pienaar and immediately got the hang of it. *Pun intended*
She also caused a bit of a stir within the team. During one of her sessions, Alan Kessell blew her a kiss as he passed her. Nienke stormed off to Alan’s manager and criticized them for their team’s inappropriate behavior. She demanded that ALL the girls get track-kisses!
Next lady for a shave!
“Are the gonads still there?!? Whatdehell, I saw the girls do it without them…”
Suzukitten 3 – Chikita
This girl… this girl scares the hell out of me. Never mind that she has never raced on a track before – she has never raced before PERIOD! And she does it without breaking a sweat.
Without any training and just a few chirps of advice from me and Nienke, her lap times was but a few seconds behind ours.
Chikita also has a more adventury-background. Which would probably explain why she took Little Stuart ‘around’ the track a few times – literally!
Her only request was if we could have a faster bike next year… Stuart???
Her goal for the race was NOT to scratch anything. No scratching of the pegs, the pipes, the bars OR the knee sliders. Unfortunately, I think she scratched a few male egos. Sorry Sussie!
Racing trucks… Re tlo BANANA gape!
Old seat – fresh bum time!
…and time for more juice!
12hrs down and we were still as perky as Nkosazana after the presidency vote!
Racing is full of what-if’s.
What if we run out of fuel?
What if the engine blows?
What if I fall?
But there’s always that one what-if…
What if we win!?!
And then it was dark!
The pits fell silent with only a few skeleton staff shuffling around.
The Suzukittens’ supporters were vasbyters – much like the racers.
Racing at night – you never know how much danger you are in until it’s too late. The corners are never where you left them, and the straights are a lot longer.
We should mention that we only had one goal for this race: NOT TO BE LAST!
We had live timing in our pits and we kept a close eye on the last 4 teams. Some of them had bike trouble, but every time they fixed it up and got back on the track they made up for lost laps and took a spot in front of us.
The best we could do was keep on keeping on.
Finishing races is important, but racing is more important.
As the sky turned a dark blue, we could feel the early morning cold competing for a spot in our weary bones.
Concentrations started to waver and there were a few mishaps, but no serious crashes.
Waiting for the bike can get frustrating. The suit gets hot, your bladder gets inexplicably full (EVERY SINGLE TIME), and you nervously check the seconds tick by as you know you only have a 5-minute window to swop riders. The penalties for a late change is harsh! Bad timing can cost you five laps…
Tag, your it!
Suzukitten 4 – Nienke Ferguson
Probably the most experienced 24hr chicken in SA – and we had her on OUR team!
Her passion has always been racing and she started back in 2010 in the regional class. The drug bit down hard and she has never been able to shake the addiction.
There are two types of riders. The one that will always push the limits, crash, dust off, and set new ones. Then there’s the Nienkes. She’s as constant as a Cape drought. This type of riders slowly works their way up the ladder, but never breach the top. Makes you wonder what a rider like Nienke could achieve is she left her responsible nature at home.
Time spent with Nienke is never wasted. You always learn a new swear word. We all now understand that ‘neuk’ does NOT mean the same in Afrikaans as it means in Dutch, specially not when you ‘neuk ‘n hond’!
It’s almost like the Olympic torch, just without the flame…
Our team had a lot of physical support, but we lacked a bit in the emotional support department.
A rare photo of the previously thought to be extinct Exasperation.
“Pssst… MORE GAS!”
Winning has nothing to do with racing. Winning is about reaching your limit without failing along the way.
Who else could say they had supporters all the way from ‘Merika? Lodie, standing at the back is also the man that makes sure you get this newsletter dropped in your inbox every month. Land of the brave!
Suzukitten 5 – Skinny
Back in 2004 when I just started riding, I truly believed that I was destined to become the next Valentino Rossi. Nobody could convince me otherwise. Great things were to come! But, after numerous failed track days and buckets full of broken bones, I had to face reality. I would probably never get any better than Pedrosa…
However, an imaginary spec of track greatness will forever be stuck in my brain.
It is greatly discouraging when an international rider overtakes you in the mid-darkness, on the outside, elbow scraping… blowing you a kiss.
Might I just add that Shez battled to get past me on corner 2. Okay, maybe the word shouldn’t be ‘battled’…
In 24hrs I only overtook one rider. He sat behind me for a few seconds (I ferociously protect my racing lines) and he finally saw a gap on corner 5, but he missed the apex and ran wide coming out of the turn. I saw my chance and nipped him again on the inside. It was my one and only – I was glowing!
We were hoping to complete the race on one set of tyres but on my second last session I started drifting out of the faster corners. We checked our standing and realized that the guys behind us could not catch up to us, and neither could we make up a spot.
Volgende – NEXT!!!
Fresh rubber - a good excuse for the mechanics to get a bit of grease on their hands.
“Jeanty, do you know how to change a tyre?”
“Of course, stupid!!! I phone my husband…”
The waiting chair…
Suzukitten 6 – Joany Trethewey
Joany is fast!
Joany is naturally fast. And fit. And gorgeous. Quite a few supporters wanted to know about the team and more specifically about the pretty dark-haired lady.
It’s all good and well to perv over our team, but just remember that Joany can dead-lift 105kg!!! Which gave us some comfort knowing that if anything went wrong with the bike, she could probably pick it up, swing it over a shoulder and carry it back to the pits.
After her first session I took a peek at the times and saw she did a 2:26. I went out and nailed it at 2:24. She threw a glance at the screen and came back with a big smile – a high 23. We had a secret in-house competition going on, but our giggles and constant squints at the time spreadsheet must have given it away. Nienke picked up on our game and gave us a decent tongue lashing. RACE AGAINST THE BOYS – NOT AGAINST ONE ANOTHER! I came back with a low 23…
It’s about racing – it’s not about listening…
23hrs and 30minutes later…
Nienke pushed through the last grueling 30 minutes. Little Stuart rolled home after 200L of non-stop combustion of fuels, 1 920kms of crankshaft rotation, and 1 440minutes of stroking.
As the bikes pull into the burnout lot, and smoke and champagne fill the air, you know you have won. Not the race, not the competition, but the battle within yourself, the fight against time, the contest of mind over body.
Racing is a matter of spirit not strength.
WE WERE NOT LAST!