Rider challenging for honours

Dale Finch (#17), on the Helicraft Racing MV Agusta 675 F3, leads the NZ Supersport 600 Championship field at Levels (Timaru) at the weekend. Photo: Dallas Alexander
Dale Finch (#17), on the Helicraft Racing MV Agusta 675 F3, leads the NZ Supersport 600 Championship field at Levels (Timaru) at the weekend. Photo: Dallas Alexander

A year ago at Levels Raceway in Timaru, Dale Finch was a midfield runner, finding his way in his first season of motorcycle road racing, in awe of anyone who finished ahead of him.

Last weekend, he qualified the Wanaka-based Helicraft Racing MV Agusta 675 F3 on the front row, posted fourth, fifth and two sixth-place finishes, and headed home to Christchurch fifth overall in the New Zealand Supersport 600 Championship after round two.

With the distinctive sound of the MV triple resonating in their ears, the established front-runners know the new boy is coming for them.

The 28-year-old has come into road-racing by an unorthodox route - speedway.

Dale Finch.
Dale Finch.
While other primary school kids were getting their first taste of two wheel competition through motocross, 8-year-old Finch was astride a speedway bike, learning under the watchful eye of New Zealand legend and World Champion Ronnie Moore.

Moore obviously recognised a talent and nurtured Finch into his teens and to two New Zealand Under 21 Championships.

It all came to a halt at 17 when Finch broke his back in a serious speedway accident. Not that he was finished.

He returned to the ovals at 20, and finished top Kiwi in two New Zealand Championships, posting a second and third to foreign riders. And along the way, he notched up more South Island titles.

With speedway losing its allure, Finch turned to road-racing in 2018, setting out on a Triumph 675, before Helicraft boss Rod Price recognised his potential, liked his attitude and invited him to take over the vacant seat of the team's MV Agusta.

A steep learning curve just got steeper, but Price and the team took the long-term view: No pressure, let's build this championship challenge together.

The Burt Munro Challenge proved a perfect debut, confidence-inspiring (and winning) experience aboard the MV Agusta.

Back for the final rounds of the 2018 championship, technicians David "Radar" Cullen and Phil Purdue, eased Finch into the team environment, working through the black arts of data-logging, tyres, suspension and racecraft, encouraging feedback and building a rapport.

The foundations for 2019 were put in place. Finch responded with determination and dedication.

The electrician/refrigeration engineer worked an agreement with his employers HPAC Energy Centre, and with support from Jayden Scott rode the winter surfaces of Mike Pero Motorsport Park on an almost weekly basis, won the Bears Winter Series, and logged heart-pumping hours swimming and on his mountain and motocross bikes.

Partner Ali and their baby son Carter have been constant levellers, and along with Finch's parents Wendy and Charlie, they provide that important home and family support, encouragement and inspiration.

Heading north, for the final three championship rounds, Finch has established himself as a podium contender.

He carries no mental burden of favourite or least-favourite tracks; they are all new. But he is fast learner and prepared to try the unexpected.

His last-lap passing move, round the outside at Levels' double left, full power, rear sliding, will stay in the memory of those who saw it (and the rider he passed) for a long while. That speedway background is paying off...

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