So close to the top
By GREG WHITE
SHE doesn't make a big deal about it but there's an air of frustration around Ashlea Bates as she attempts to take her motor sport career to the next level.
Natural talent when riding her Wiseman's Kawasaki KX 250F will always mean she stays competitive.
However, the reality of the final results when representing Australia in the Oceania Teams Championship against New Zealand this week showed she's destined to be at a disadvantage without access to a factory bike.
"Riding for Australia was fantastic and we blitzed the Kiwis across the whole weekend and in the women's series," she said.
"I finished third in my individual events behind Katherine Prumm and Kristy Gillespie, which was pretty good."
And that's where the problem lies.
When racing comes down to your ability to handle certain conditions like cornering all bikes usually perform the same.
But when performance is needed down the straight stretches, the extra power of a factory machine means the playing field is no longer level and hanging on takes over from ability.
In three individual rounds, Prumm always won, Gillespie always finished runner-up and Bates always finished third.
The top pair ride factory bikes while Bates doesn't, still managing to blitz the rest.
"The track was rough and windy but it's like that for everybody," she said.
"Conditions were very fast and on the big, open stretches on the straights, the top two pulled right away.
"If I get picked up soon by a manufacturer I'm really confident they won't have the same advantage they have at the moment."
Bates is pleased to collect her green and gold '56' identification plate but the Aussie jersey will only be in her keeping if she's selected for the team in 2008.
"We go over there (New Zealand) next year and it's only when the teams travel overseas we get the full set of gear," she said.
Hopefully, that will include a certain piece of necessary equipment that will assist her path to a coveted World title.