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Aiming high . . . After just over a season of motorbike drag racing, Timaru's Michael Trainor has his sights set on national titles. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

Timaru’s Michael Trainor has his sights set on national motorbike drag racing titles.

With just a season and a-half under his belt, the drainlayer and truck driver has placed runner-up in the International Hot Rod Association’s competition bike class in New Zealand, and was overall winner in the competition bike section for the Pegasus Bay Drag Racing Club competition at Ruapuna, near Christchurch.

With the season over, Mr Trainor will be spending the next few months modifying his 2001 Yamaha R1 bike, aiming to get enough of an edge to win national titles next time.

“It’s a lot lighter than when it was a road bike, but there’s still 5kg I can get off that bike. The house renovations have been put on hold, I’m going all out now, I’m aiming for all the national records.”

A keen motorcyclist for most of his life, Mr Trainor has owned a variety of bikes – from trail bikes to a 650 Comet sports bike, a Triumph Bonneville and a Harley Davidson. A bad crash in 1989 had him hang up his leathers for 12 years, before deciding to get back into it.

Mr Trainor originally bought the Yamaha as a road bike.

“I’ve always been into my motorbikes, but I’m getting older, and having a sports bike like that on the road, you’re just asking for trouble – it can do 300kmh on the road, and you can’t do that.

“So I thought, what’s the point of having it unless I’m going to use it for that?”

One weekend, he decided to take a couple of days off and head over to the Greymouth Street Races. It is a big event in the West Coast town, and includes drag racing at Greymouth Airport, so he thought he’d have a go.

He met Motueka rider Troy Appleton, who was competing on a bike just like his.

“We started talking, and he said, “Do you want to come and have a go at Ruapuna?”

“So I thought I’d have a go, and I went, and I got the bug.

“I decided to destroy that roadbike, take it off the road and turn it into a full-on drag bike.”

His first races were in the mod bike class – for slightly modified, but still roadworthy motorbikes – but he soon moved into the competition bike category, for pure drag bikes, and racing to an index set by the fastest in each of the 10 to 12 different classes.

His best time was 9.51sec for the quarter mile, from a standing start, and clocking 143mph (230.13kmh) at the finish line.

What sets Mr Trainor and Mr Appleton apart is their choice of bikes.

“People don’t use Yamahas for drag bikes, but we’ve taken out all the Suzukis and Kawasakis. We’ve beaten them all. There are a couple of bikes that have come out now that will give us a run for our money . but they’re brand new, and 200hp .. I’m 127hp.”

With the modifications he has planned, Mr Trainor is confident he can increase the Yamaha’s horsepower rating to about 165hp-170hp.

But there is more to racing than horsepower ratings – skill and experience are important, how the bike is set up, and the power to weight ratio – and Mr Trainor’s slight frame gives him a natural advantage.

Chasing national titles will have Mr Trainor hit the road when the season begins late October/early November, competing in four national events for the IHRA – at Ruapuna and Meremere – and to Motueka and other North Island tracks to chase the New Zealand Drag Racing Association titles.

He’ll also be heading to Ruapuna for club days – the more time on the bike the better.

Mr Trainor left the North Island in 2000, and has been based in Timaru for the past 12 years – although spent six years in Christchurch after the post-earthquake rebuild.

“I’ve been back in Timaru about two and a-half years. I came down here for work, and I call this home now. I’d never go back to the North Island.”