VIXENSPORTS AND SUPERBIKES
Join VixenSports as we follow the journey of Sophie Lovett in Superbikes!!
Sophie is no stranger to speed and adrenaline and VixenSports is proud to show off her talent.ABOUT SOPHIE LOVETT
Many positives and a gentle slide
This weekend of racing was held at Wakefield Park, where the sun was shining and I was ready to race.
Arriving in Sydney from Auckland on Thursday night, dad and Al collected me from the airport. There was certainly some confusion by onlookers when the Love Box on the back of a truck arrived!
Friday morning started with a coffee and breakfast stop at the lovely Goulburn Bakery, followed by a short trip to the track. Friday was half day practice, and one qualifying session in the afternoon. After a successful weekend at Wakefield for Round 1, back in March, I was hoping to improve my times to be closer to dad’s pace. Friday morning was fairly chilly, with a few crashes, so i was just easing into the weekend. Qualifying on the zx10r in Formula Oz went well, with a start position of 10th for race 1. I was struggling to find a good line around the circuit on the Ninja 300, in the FX300 class, but not to worry, Saturday’s racing was much better!
An early morning rise, followed by our morning ritual at Goulburn Bakery, I was ready for Saturday’s racing. I’ve finally started to get good starts on the zx10r, by using less revs on the start line, and accelerating more once the lights go out.
I love going into races with specific goals… Improve lap time… Finish in front of as many guys as possible! I finished with two 9ths and a 7th in Formula Oz. My lap times were constantly improving and I improved my personal best time to a 60.6 second lap on old tyres. I’m starting to love racing on older tyres! Especially at Wakefield. The feeling of the back drifting into turn 2, sliding out of turn 2, and especially drifting over the bumps through turn 3, is incredible! Overall for the day, I finished up 3rd in b-grade Formula Oz.
The FX300 race was exciting as always. After a not so great qualifying position, I was in a brilliant spot on the start grid for getting to the front. I finished 6th in race 1 and 5th in race 2 and 3. Race 3 was an exciting battle with Renny who found my major weakness on the track. Dad and Suspension guru Al were looking on, and agreed turn 4 and 5 was an area of improvement on Sunday.
At the crack of dawn, I was up and ready for race day! Racing two classes never leaves much time for rest, so after a tasty breakie and coffee, relaxation was over. There were many highs from Saturday’s racing, and I had the goal of a 59 second lap time in mind. When the tyre warmers were on, dad, suspension guru Al and I started a track walk through turns 1-9 (bypassing turn 5 so I didn’t see the size of the big bumps). We found a better line through turn 2 on the zx10r and a better line for turn 4 on the Ninja 300.
I knew I needed a smoking start for Race 1 in Formula Oz, to let me race with Liam and Ryan who were close to the 59’s, without getting held up! After a not so great start… Race 1 wasn’t going to be a new personal PB! Race 2 certainly wasn’t much better! I thought I was ready to use traction control 1 (least traction control) on my amazing zx10r. My trusty start technique was not executed well, and again I had a not so great start. After passing a few competitors, my sights were set on the bright orange guy in the distance, dad! I was a little ambitious for the far left side of my tyre while applying a whole handful of gas which resulted in my head in the screen, mid high side, before almost saving it… And low sliding! After a long slide on my back and watching my bike become more and more hurt, I was hoping i could rejoin the grid. After successfully lifting my bike on attempt 2, I unfortunate wasn’t able to rejoin. All those lunges in the gym have paid off!
As I didn’t finish race 2, I had to start at the back of a grid of 30 riders. Perfect! Luckily I got a great start and was sitting in about 17th into turn 2. After a few moves up the inside of turn 9, I was sitting in about 14th, behind good friend Neil, whose goal for the weekend was to beat me :)! Neil was trying to get past another rider, so I got into their rhythm rather than mine. Neil got past into turn 2, so i was lining up a pass for turn 9. This was the final lap. Unfortunately the rider fell in front of me coming out of the top right turn, leaving me hitting the bike and running into the somewhat long bumpy grass. Sophie… Don’t touch the front brake! Phewph… Dad has certainly said this to me enough times for the words to go through my head while flying down the hill!! Unfortunately i lost many places, and rejoined to finish around 18th.
The FX300 class was exciting for the right reasons!! Race 1 was smooth! I have been practicing race starts on the Ninja 300 and can almost match the jump Brando gets on the start. I was battling with Bailey and Rennie for third position for most of the race, before Rennie had an off out of the last turn. I ended up 3rd outright, with a big smile on my face as I lined up on the podium. I finished 4th in Race 2, with another good battle with Bailey and Renny. I finished 3rd outright in the FX300 Cup, and 1st in the ladies division.
A big thank you to Dad, Al and Troy for getting my zx10r fixed for race 3. A huge big thank you to Kawasaki for the ongoing support, and Shark, Ricondi and Held for keeping me safe.
See you at Eastern Creek.
Lovett’s done and dusted at Round 2 of FX Superbike Championship.
Round 2 of the FX-Superbike Championship was held over the weekend at Mallala Raceway, South Australia. The weekend was highly challenging while learning the track for the first time. The weekend was a very successful one, where I won the FX300 Ladies Cup and 2nd in Formula Oz – B grade.
I arrived at the track on Thursday afternoon. I was lucky enough to have the track owner take me for some sighting laps in his car. First impressions of the track were good, although the track was very flat (with minimal camber) and very little run off looked to be available.
Friday morning was of course an early one: unpacking, sign on, bike checks, gear checks, and riders briefing. Luckily my first session was on the 300 Ninja, so I had the chance to get use to the track before attacking on the mighty zx10r! Fridays practice was great fun, and qualifying in the afternoon went well with qualifying positions of 6th in the FX300 Cup and a not so great 19th in Formula Oz (luckily this improved).
Racing went well on Saturday, and I was getting quicker and quicker. I ended up 4th in the FX300 Cup outright and 1st in the Ladies division.
Sunday morning, I was feeling relaxed after a lovely Epsom Salt bath the night before (those salts are miracle workers). Throughout the day I managed a personal best lap time of 1:11.1. Although I really wanted a 1.10, but that will have to come next year. Race 1 and 2 in both the FX300 Cup and Formula Oz classes were excellent races, where a more aggressive racer in me emerged (hehe!). There were elbows and fairing bumping on the 300 Ninja, and gosh it was a good feeling. I had a lot of confidence in the riders I was racing with.
Race 3 in the Formula Oz class was straight after the FX300 class, and all started well. Good start. Feeling comfortable. I was sitting in 10th, and got pushed off the track in turn 1 and had to go through the pits and rejoin at turn 3. I continued racing back a few places when the race was red flagged. Unfortunately dad was taken away in an ambulance. He was fine, so I gridded up for part 2. After 5 laps, I finished in 13th, which meant I finished 12th when the positions were combined.
I am now leading the Formula Oz B grade Championship.
Overall the weekend was fantastic! It was mentally and physically challenging riding two classes back to back, and I am very happy with my results. Dad also had some wins and podium finished in the Formula Oz class, so there were a lot of highs from the weekend.
The Dunlop Tyres and Ficeda Imports crew were fantastic throughout the weekend with valuable technical advice. Dave, thank you for the excellent Vesrah brake pads for the 300 Ninja, these were fantastic. Al Samuels of Race Dynamics, your technical knowledge and all round great attitude is invaluable. Kawasaki Australia, your bikes are an absolute dream to ride. Your assistance has been fantastic, and Murray, thank you for all your help over the weekend. Thank you Shark, Ricondi and Held for keeping my body safe J
See you in Fiji next weekend for the triathlon, or at Queensland Raceway in June.
Sophie Lovett #17
Leaving work early on a Wednesday afternoon to travel to Manfield for 4 days racing is certainly living the dream. While my work colleagues have come to think I’m a part time employee, I have spent my 24th birthday at the race track for Round 4 of the NZ Superbike Championship.
Riding Manfield for the first time in December, both Dad and I felt the track had defeated us and we were eager for this weekend to arrive to have another shot. The track is similar to Queensland Raceway in shape, although nothing like it in any other way. A few of the turns are quite cambered which is cool to ride and there are certainly some rough surfaces which makes for interesting experiences! Luckily Kawasaki have mastered the development of traction control and my trusty zx10r helped me out! I was a little too excited into a few turns while in front of dad and experienced some ‘unintentional body uplifting’ moments throughout the weekend.
Overall the weekend was a great success and I finished 12th. I was less than 2 seconds off the top superbike riders so I am seeing the benefits from racing different tracks.
The weekends success wouldn’t be possible without Al Samuels who is the hardest working super genius I know. I am starting to understand suspension and tyre wear, and this wouldn’t be possible without you Alby!
A huge big thank you to the generosity of our Kiwi bike family over the past couple of months. In particular the Wilkins family of Kawasaki NZ, Nick Cole and family, Ryan Hampton, ProMoto, M1 Motorsport, the MNZ officials and club organisers, and JDAS photography. The events have been well run and we have enjoyed the smiling faces around the pit.
See you at Mallala, South Australia, in a couple of weeks.
Round 1 of the FX Superbike Championship at Wakefield Park was certainly an exciting event, setting the scene for the standard of racing to come for the 2014 season.
With a huge FormulaOz grid of 36, I finished 1st in b-grade, 7th overall on the Kawasaki zx10r and 1st in the Kawasaki FX300 Cup Womens Championship, 5th overall on the Ninja 300.
I have been lucky enough to race in New Zealand over Christmas, and I am starting to see the results.
This weekend has luckily gone to plan. I exceeded personal expectations by 2 seconds and improved lap times by 5 seconds since racing at Wakefield Park 2 years ago.
The weekend wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Al Samuels who set both bikes up perfectly and is a fantastic all round support. I am very thankful to Kawasaki for their continued support and am so glad to be on the best bikes! Also, Ricondi leathers, Held gloves and Shark helmets for the great gear.
See you in South Australia for Round 2! 🙂
SUMMER LEARNING… IMPROVE UPPER BODY STRENGTH!
Since moving to New Zealand for work in September last year I have been keen to visit as many bike tracks as possible on both the north and south islands. I think dad almost signed my contract to move here to NZ before I even considered the change, but I am glad I did. We purchased two 2011 model Kawasaki zx10r bikes and prepared for a change of scenery. Me living here, and dad flying in and out.
Our first race was round 1 of the Summer Series at Hampton Downs on December 7th. I think we were both quite shocked after riding the track for the first session. Coming from NSW, most of the east coast tracks that we would ride on were a mix of tight and flowing corners, so meeting Hampton Downs was an eye opener. Turn 1 was in particular is blind, has a steep drop, and relatively sharp to the right. The next couple of turns are close together, so there is a lot of hard acceleration and braking. Very physically demanding and tough on my lack of upper body strength. The final turn (or second last turn) is wicked… a never ending double apex type turn that leads you onto the straight. The straight isn’t overly straight as there is a slight bend and brick walls following it the whole time before you reach ‘adrenaline pumping turn 1’ for lap two. Our first weekend didn’t go to plan as midday rain arrived, and we hadn’t chosen our tyres wisely. We soon learnt how fast the tracks dry here.
Round 2 of the series was at Mansfield. After a stroll around the track to search for visual markers and braking points, I was shocked at how patchy the circuit was in the second half of the track. Luckily after practice session 1, I soon realised that the bumps were fairly invisible while riding (thank you Al and Nige for your wonderful suspension work). Mansfield is similar to Queensland Raceway, in that their circuit is shaped in a paper clip type shape . Three skills are key to being fast at this track, excellent braking, smooth cornering, and gutsy exit acceleration. I have certainly improved braking and acceleration after racing at this track, so bring on Queensland Raceway in 2014.
Final round – Whanganui Cemetery Circuit
The final round of the series was at Whanganui. Wow! A combination of adrenaline, speed, obstacles and a huge crowd, without a doubt made Boxing Day at Whanganui Cemetery Circuit one to be remembered. When dad and I entered the Suzuki Tri Series, racers in Australia thought we were crazy entering this ‘dangerous race’. We entered the series and were happy to give street racing a go. I guess when you race a road bike you value run off and consistent road surface, but to have kerb and guttering, railway tracks, no run off, road oils, hay bails as fences, and a track going through a cemetery, a street circuit is like no normal track. As the date came closer, and the more people I spoke to, this event did sound crazy. A colleague of mine at work printed off the track map and I saw a few 90-degree turns, which of course looked worse on paper than in reality as I wasn’t aware of how wide the circuit was.
After racing in Manfield the week before, we drove via Whanganui to check out the track. It looked great, although we did drive the circuit anti-clockwise, assuming this was the correct way. Dad started lapping the circuit in the Hiace hire van on race line. I was surprised at the width of the circuit, I was also slightly concerned by the blind turn over the railway bridge, the man holes, and oh, the railway lines on a diagonal as you tip into turn 3!
When work finished for the Christmas break, dad and our mechanic Al flew over to NZ and we traveled to Whanganui. We drove around the circuit the correct way when we arrived. The infrastructure for the race was going up and I was so excited for Boxing Day to arrive.
LEARNING THE CIRCUIT
Over the next couple of days, I started walking and jogging around the track. I needed to learn as much about the track as I could before race day as practice was a total of 6 laps. I haven’t adapted to learning the NZ circuits as well as I thought I would have, and maybe walking those circuits a few more times would have helped. Oh well, I wasn’t making the same mistake this time! The circuit surface looked to be quite grippy, with the exception of the man holes, which were close enough to the race line to potentially be an issue, but as man holes aren’t usually on a track, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of grip. There were some large dips/hollows on the inside race line of turn 1 and turn 2, which was going to be a suspension and bike stability issue.
Then there were the railway tracks. In general, I like to go to a track and not be worried about anything until there is a reason to be concerned. I used this theory until a guy crashed in front of me in practice, and I don’t exactly no what went wrong, so I couldn’t learn from his mistake. Al is great at conceptualizing, and his tip was to think about accelerating over the railway lines to ensure tyre grip was lost for less time. This worked a treat.
Race day, I without a doubt had the most blonde moments I have ever had in racing. Race 1 was a prime example! I stalled on the start. What were the chances? I think I was more amazed at the masses of people there to watch. How embarrassing! The race definitely went from bad to worse when I thought a red flag was waved at the big crash on lap 1, but as I idled around to the start line, no one else was lined up. How embarrassing! Gosh, let’s not talk about that!
Race 2, I got a jumping start… literally! The start lights were so slow, which I knew from race 1, yet I was eager to make a good start. I knew I jolted a bit on the line and then I was off. I was comfortably in 9th I think, in front of dad where I was lapping 1 minute 22 second laps, which was less than a second off Guy Martin’s time! I always get terrible starts as I don’t like the carnage of turn 1. Unfortunately this race was red flagged by Sloan Frost’s unfortunate crash when he hit a man hole.
Once the race was restarted, I had a pretty bad start but was having a good battle with the guy in 12th place. Unfortunately with the lack of visual braking markers on the start straight, I ran off the track while trying to overtake him into turn 1. Not to worry, I was having the time of my life doing my first ‘controlled’ stoppie. I turned the bike around and rejoined, but I lost a few positions.
Overall, what an amazing way to spend your Boxing Day. Although there were a few bad crashes over the day, the Cemetery Circuit was like nothing I have tried before, and much safer than originally expected. We loved seeing so many spectators, and I’m so happy to have had so many women around the track cheering me on while racing and congratulating me. In the pits Unfortunately my results weren’t what I hoped for, so I will just have to wait until this Boxing Day to give it another go…
THE YEAR AHEAD
This year, both dad I are racing in the Formula Extreme series. Unfortunately due to a couple of calendar clashes with the Australian Superbike Series, we are unable to compete in both series. I will be racing in the Kawasaki supported Ninja 300 class and either the Formula Oz or FX Superbike class (depending on how the timetable looks).
First round is at Wakefield Park, on March 14-16.
Rnd 1 14-16th March Wakefield Park Raceway NSW
Rnd 2 16-18th May Mallala Raceway SA
Rnd 3 27-29th June Queensland Raceway Qld
Rnd 4 1-3rd August Winton Raceway Vic
Rnd 5 12-14st Sept Wakefield Park Raceway NSW
Rnd 6 21-23rd Nov Sydney Motorsport Park NSW
See you at the track!
SOPHIE LOVETT IS PROUDLY SPONSORED BY:
Sophie Lovett is proudly sponsored by Held gloves, Ricondi leathers and Motul