My first race report is not exactly going to end the way I had hoped, but I did learn a lot. Let’s start with a brief introduction, I am a 34 year old racer in his 3rd season. I made the mistake of buying a track day for my wife 4 years ago. I only call it a mistake, because I took her to a Z2 Trackdays event, she had only seen a road course once in her life and had never been on one, and after the 2 day novice school with the Z2 crew and she was hooked. If you have a wife you know, whatever she likes you now like. We started riding with Z2 on a regular basis and they got us going. It was like a friend showing you all the stuff you needed to do. It was more than just riding, it was what to pack, when to show up, how to get through tech inspection, and so on.
So now let’s get to it. I tried very hard not to leave everything to the last minute, but it seems like I am always scrambling a little at the start of the year. Know matter how much I do it never feels like enough. We left our house fully packed with what I thought would be all I could possibly need, I am known in the pits for being the guy who brings everything. By the way, this drives my wife crazy, she is a minimalist. How wrong I would be proven on Sunday. Late Thursday night we showed up to the track, pulled into a spot David BenJamin, our Team Manager, had already marked off. Greg McCullough my teammate, was right behind me. We unloaded a little and shuffled off to bed very late.
Friday morning and we had a lot to do. This is our first ride as the Z2 Race Team and it is all new. I have a little routine every round and now things are different. Everyone there is great, but I am a creature of habit. The new set-up threw me for a loop and during the first session I could not find my groove. Chalk that up to a cold/dirty track, or so I thought. This went on for several sessions and I was baffled and frustrated. The only thing worse to me than being slow is being slow with no reason. I ride the best Pirelli tires provided by CT Racing, and Chris is always there to help me select the right tire for the conditions, so that was not the problem. Did I mention I am on a Yamaha R6? Ben Bostrom won an AMA championship on an R6. I had a new helmet maybe that was the problem, nope… checked that too. It is a Soumy and all the fast guys have one.
I spent the better part of Friday acting like a grumpy ass. I don’t like being slow and had no excuses. The crew was there putting in the effort and I had no reward for them. I used to be a race mechanic and you live for your rider making your bike go fast. I was letting myself down and more to the point, the team. You have to be able to ride well under any circumstance. You will notice I said well, not fast. That is something Shawn Reilly, Z2 CEO and former AMA racer, taught me; if you are riding well the speed will come. I was not riding well or fast. I am making sure I go to bed early on race weekends and get plenty of sleep this year starting with Friday night. Thursday is out of my control, until Rossi retires and Yamaha asks me to fill the grid in Moto GP, I will have to continue to work and that means a late night on Thursday. I may start skipping first practice on Friday, so my mind is ready as well.
Saturday, I am determined to do better and as a special treat, Jenn, my wife has bought me a day with Ken Hill. This is a big deal as I have seen what he has done with other Z2 riders and his wait list is very long. He sits down with you every session and works on little things. It is being able to understand the track as well as yourself. When you ride, there is no one thing that makes you super fast; no unfortunately there is no big secret, you have to work hard and be consistent. Needles to say, the day was great. I did not get a lot of time to socialize with my new team, but this would help me for the rest of the year. I felt much better on Saturday even though I rode slower. Like Shawn and Ken say, if you ride well the speed will come.
I started to eliminate many of my bad habits on Saturday and it does not happen in one day, so I knew this weekend was not going to happen as I had planned. I have set my mind on being a better rider this year, so I decided to stick to my new program on Sunday. This is very new to me and may cost me some places in the overall standings, but that will change. As I get comfortable with my new program, I am expecting better finishes.
Sunday started out a little messy. It had been raining, and to make a long story short, we don’t race in the rain. After some work by the AFM and track crew they decided to race. The track was mostly dry and we would run shorter races to try to beat the rain forecasted to hit later in the day. I had to scramble a bit in the morning, as I was convinced my Saturday setup would not work. I changed tires, fuel, and a few other things. Somehow, I forgot to go back to my motocross basics, if you don’t do it in practice then don’t do it in the race; you don’t wait until the main event to try and jump a 100 foot triple. If you wreck your race is over. Practice is just that… how you practice to race. Yes, it really is that simple. Don’t try to do things in a race you have never practiced. It is not safe for you or the other people on track. I will come back to this point in a minute.
So here we are, my first AFM race of 09. I am sitting on my bike, knowing that I have not compromised anywhere, crew, bike, gear, all of it is great. So drop the green flag and let me go kick some butt. Well, 54 other guys had the same idea as we went piling into turn one. It took some sorting out, but I made it though turn 1. My joy was short lived as less than a lap later we were red flagged. This means a race restart, not uncommon in the 600 class.
We grid back up and did it all over again. What I can tell you about the race? Not a whole lot other than I had a plan and was determined to stick with it. I could have diverted from my plan and ridden harder to a slightly better finish, but I would not have ridden well. I do remember one corner, a 90 degree right hand corner over a small hill. I was on my way in when another racer flew up the inside and passed me. Stick to you program, that is what I was telling myself. If you have ever raced, you know how hard it is to let some one pass you. Before I would have let off the brakes and slammed it into a corner, causing both of us to lose time on the leaders if we stayed on 2 wheels. I did that to a fellow racer last year and we had words after that. So there I was, watching this bike fly by me and then it happened, I made my turn as planned, got on the gas and as I looked to my left he was still trying to turn. I didn’t lose any time to the leaders and I didn’t get passed. That is riding well in my book.
That race ended with a 10th place, not what I was hoping for, but hey, I had a plan. My next race was back to back, so right back out on track I went. This race started much like the last race, ran a lap or so and then a red flag. I went back to the pits and put on my tire warmers.
Restart, race #2. My start was much better and I felt good. After a few tight passes and a couple of laps I was inside the top 5. I was coming through a fast section of esses when I tucked the front end and crashed out. The bike and I slid off the track only to hit some soft dirt and go tumbling end over end. When you wreck, you are now the impact zone, so I jumped up and got out of the way. After I was safe, I walked to the wall and thought about what happened. It was my fault!I
“It was my fault,” is not something you hear from most racers. There is always some situation that caused them to crash, it is never there fault. Another Mach 1 Motorsports racer said something I liked, “IT IS YOURS, SO OWN IT.” I thought about the corner and what went wrong, I did several things wrong, and because of the Ken Hill Coaching I was able to recognize my mistakes. It was my fault. I hope that is the last time I say that this year. This was the end of my weekend. I pack a lot of extra stuff, just not an extra R6. Maybe that will change, but at the end of the day I had to just watch my other race and learn.
I will say I am sorry only about one thing, I let down my sponsors, my team, and my wife. That is that.
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.