The Tru Blu Racing team has recorded its 4th victory at the Australian International Pedal Prix in Murray Bridge, setting a number of new records in the process.
After an extended break from competition since the Wonthaggi HPV Grand Prix back in March, the team arrived at the race fresh and fired up, aiming to become the first team to win the AIPP four times. Having competed at Murray Bridge since 2007, the race is now very familiar to us, but it was certainly a refreshing change to have the Friday night practice split into two sessions, creating much less traffic and very fast lap times from all teams! Paul managed to set a ridiculous qualifying time of 2:12.3 in our vehicle, which put us safely into the Saturday morning shoot-out session.
After a few years of trying, Rhys (aka Moose) was finally able to beat former rider (now professional cyclist) Steele Von Hoff's 2008 shoot-out time of 2:16 last year with a 2:11, but this year it was Paul's turn to have a crack at the clear track to see how fast he could go. Water across the track on turn 1 made things a bit tricky, but Paul flew around the track, besting Moose's 2012 time and setting a new record with a 2:10.8 (56.9km/h). This was good enough to give us pole position, but with perennial rivals Aurora Racing also setting a very fast time, we knew it was going to be a difficult race.
Rain falling during the grid assembly created some nervousness amongst the starting riders, but thankfully it had cleared by the time the race started, and our newest team member Will was all set to go. This was the first race for some time where Paul hadn't started for us, as he opted to ride the shoot-out instead, but Will was happy to take the reins, having started numerous races for other teams in the past. Platt Racing got off to a very fast start, creating a significant gap leading into the first corner. Having spent a fair bit of time training alongside them at the Casey criterium track, we expected they would be significantly stronger than last year and would be pushing for a high finish. Thankfully Will was able to pull Platt back, and put in a super strong stint to put us on level terms with Aurora after the first hour, with a 1 lap gap back to Platt Racing.
The next 6-8 hours of racing was very close, with the lead changing several times between us and Aurora. The warm temperature made it difficult to ride stints of any great length during the day, so we decided to save our legs a bit until the second rider rotation. Approaching the halfway point of the race, we were in a much better position than last year's race, having a 1-2 lap lead over Aurora racing. Three long and fast stints from Paul, Wade, and Rhys during the early hours of the morning pushed our lead out to 6-7 laps, and we were feeling confident that if we avoided problems and kept our pace up, we'd be in a good position to win the race.
Races at Murray Bridge never go to plan though, and mid-morning Sunday we ran into some trouble with one of the side fairing mounts breaking. We suspected this was due to our floor mounts coming loose during the race, putting more stress on the side fairing mounts which eventually gave way. Up until this stage of the race, apart from an unusually high amount of punctures, we had had a relatively clean race, both in terms of mechanical problems and crashes. So it was only a matter of time before Murray Bridge served up a proper challenge. Thankfully we came prepared with spare brackets, and we were able to replace it fairly quickly, only losing 2 laps in the process.
The guys were keen to make up for our lost time, and put in some strong riding through to the finish of the race, eventually finishing with a 10 lap gap back to Aurora racing. This was much less stressful than our previous wins at the AIPP, which have all been under 2 laps. We thought it would be touch and go whether we would beat our distance record from last year, as we were on track up until the mechanical incident. However, it turned out we had ridden hard enough in the final hours to beat our previous record by 2 laps, covering 1083.6km.
The team would like to thank the AIPP for putting on another fantastic event, everyone who supported us over the weekend, and our sponsor MR Components. We might just see you again next year!
Official results available at http://www.pedalprix.com.au/results.php?year=2013&round=3&race=1
Photos courtesy of Emily Platt and Michael Rogan.