Manfeild round excites teen
HEADING to his home track this weekend for the second round of a motorcycle series in which he has made a strong start excites a Sanson teenager.
Shane Miller comes to Manfeild in Feilding holding third equal in the GIXXER Cup, a competition designed to get young bloods back into motorcycle road and track racing. Hence the tagline: ‘Growing Future Champions.’
His hope about this second outing, part of the Suzuki Series, providing good opportunity to further build on a great run at the December 8-9 opener at Taupo, rests on his intimacy with Circuit Chris Amon.
“It’s the track on which I’ve put in the most laps by far so I think that gives me a better chance,” says the 18-year-old, explaining racing his bike in the winter series run by the Victoria Motorcycle Club delivered not only impressive silverware but also built up his appreciation of the layout’s nuances and secrets.
A fabricator at Steelfort in Palmerston North, where dad and weekend crew chief Jason also works, Miller placed 11th in last year’s GIXXER series, despite contesting half the rounds, and is confident a full season campaign this year will see him do better.
Nothing is being taken for granted though, with acknowledgement that the category - which hatched last year and is reserved for riders aged between 14 and 21 - is close and hard-fought.
A big field with at least 18 riders from as far afield as Australia, Greymouth, Nelson, Whanganui, Rotorua and Auckland, all on board identical 150cc Suzuki GSX150F model bikes, makes for close and exhilarating racing.
Miller reckons the winning edge comes down to numerous aspects: Bike set-up, condition of the control tyre, how much speed a rider can carry through corners – and perhaps rider weight.
That’s where, despite putting just 75kg on the bathroom scales with his race gear on, he feels he has disadvantage. “Some of the other riders are down to 50-something.”
With the GIXXERs easily hitting their 142kmh top speed on Manfeild’s straights, the key is carrying highest cornering speed. Something he has finessed during the winter outing.
“There’s also a lot of drafting involved. If you’re not in the slipstream you’re losing a second or two. You learn to get real close, just centimetres apart. You’re sometimes touching, sometimes crashing.”
Hamilton’s Jesse Stroud leads the seven-round series, one point ahead of Zak Fuller of Taupiri, with Miller and Clark Fountain, Greymouth, sharing third. Jesse is a son of Suzuki's nine-time former national superbike champion Andrew Stroud; another son, Caleb, is also racing in the class.
Feilding’s Justin Maunder has also returned to the fray this season and riders also hail from elsewhere from within the Manfeild catchment of the lower and central North Island.
Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane is delighted young local talents are realising their dreams in an exciting new category within the Suzuki Series, which stands as the biggest, most prestigious international motorcycle racing event Manfeild hosts annually.
Racing for Formula One, Formula Two (600cc), Formula Three, Classics (pre-89), Sports Bikes, Super Motard bikes, BEARS and sidecars means there's no shortage of on-track action.
This meeting and the return of the New Zealand Superbikes’ championship on March 29-31 next year, reinforces the facility’s popularity for bike competition, Mrs Keane says.
She senses there will be keen fan interest this weekend in British rider Peter Hickman, a series first-timer with a huge international reputation. He won the Isle of Man earlier this year, setting a new lap record, and also celebrated wins in 2018 at the North West 200 in Northern Ireland and at the Ulster Grand Prix. His massively powerful BMW motorcycle has been subject of much talk.
Says Mrs Keane: “We are delighted to host riders from throughout New Zealand and also overseas, from seasoned professionals to those who are enjoying their first taste of this great sport.”
Caption: Shane Miller with his GIXXER Cup motorcycle and some of the silverware he has already collected racing the 150cc Suzuki.