For a column entitled ‘Pacenotes’, I can’t actually recall ever writing about the art of pacenoting. It’s not that the subject is inherently boring; it’s just hard to explain the subtleties between a ‘2R on crest’ and a ‘2R after crest’ to the average reader. It’s only a minor difference on paper, and not particularly entertaining unless you’re standing on that corner with a video camera. Bam – instant YouTube fame.
However, it doesn’t mean I don’t love teaching others about pacenoting. I’ll often take novices out to previous rally stages and guide them through the intricacies of the notes. I must be a fantastic tutor, as they invariably go on to whip my ass in subsequent events.
It was during one such training session that I first encountered former motorbike racer Robert Anderson and his wife Chrissi, as they prepared for a season of Targa rallying. I was at pains to explain that notes become critical on the extremely high speeds encountered on tarmac rallies.
“That shouldn’t be a problem for Chrissi,” suggested her husband.
“We popped down to Goudies Road for the Land Speed event at Reporoa,” she explained.
Goudies was the infamous site where Owen Evans wrecked both himself and his Lighting Direct Porsche chasing the 350kmh barrier. Land Speed New Zealand now runs an annual event that attracts a mix of bike and car enthusiasts all curious to see just how fast their favourite toys can go.
Needless to say, it’s also a test of courage.
Chrissi had dabbled previously with speed events, winning a Manfeild race on her Aprilia RSV and taking out the Chesters Drags. But tootling around Hampton Downs on club days seemed to be light years from attempting a record.
“You’re out of your mind,” I told her.
“Funny – Racing Ray Williams told us ‘Don’t do it’ too,” she laughed.
Her first run at Goudies was astride her favoured Ducati 1198SP. There is a run-up distance of approximately three kays before the competitors hit the timed quarter mile so Chrissi had the 170hp Italian sitting on 299kmh “for what seemed like forever. I’d never seen a speed like that in my life but I wasn’t sure where the timing markers were placed.”
Unfortunately she backed off too early so had to wait for her return run to record an official 289.1 km/h on the bike.
This seemed like madness to me. Goudies is set in a rural area so there are fences on one side and a pine plantation bordering the other. This is only a slightly less lethal combination than the bumpy canal road used by Rodger Freeth in his record-breaking attempts in the Indycar. But substituting trees for a water-filled ditch didn’t make either option an attractive proposition, particularly when she only had a set of leathers to protect her.
“But weren’t you buffeted by the wind?” I enquired.
Strangely enough, she felt less stable when she switched to the Lamborghini Huracan. Having four wheels on the ground, as opposed to two on the bike, seemed to accentuate every undulation in the road surface.
“You have to look as far ahead as you possibly can. You can’t look down at the speedo as the car starts to wander on the bumps as soon as you take your eyes off the road.”
Chrissi was credited with 311.0 km/h for her fastest one-way run and 291.85 km/h for the two-way average. This would be enough for most drivers but she knows there’s more to be had – “the internal telemetry in the Lambo says it got up to 334 km/h at one point so clearly we have some in reserve.”
Nevertheless, she is now officially New Zealand’s fastest woman on two and four wheels, and is already making plans for next year.
“I need a faster bike – perhaps a V4 – and I’m looking to borrow a friend’s Aventador.”
I shook my head in awe. In these PC days it’s probably incorrect to suggest Chrissi has testicular fortitude – but as one seasoned observer put it “She’s got balls the size of barn doors.”