I arrived home from the track on Sunday evening, exhausted from our 3-day weekend at Infineon Raceway. Since then I have been motivated to write this race report, yet for some reason struggling with putting on paper the words to describe the ups and downs of this weekend. On my Facebook page, I posted that the weekend was good, I had a new personal best lap time and I am making significant progress towards my goals. Yet, I only felt that the weekend was “good,” not “great.” My feelings of disappointment simmer in the knowledge that I have some significant areas for improvement in my riding, yet I can’t quite figure out how to make it happen. I know I am losing time in the carousel, and at the fast left-hander in the 8’s, also at Turn 10, but the more I tried to work these issues out, the slower I felt. Another big problem for me is inclement weather…
Sonoma Valley is known to have foggy mornings as the ocean breeze pushes the moisture inland and this Saturday morning is no exception. It is a cold, damp morning and as I prep “Nikka,” my SV650 for AM practice I am already dreading heading out onto the track for Practice Group 2. My head is hanging low and I am complaining about the weather and how slow I am going to be before I even have my Spidi Leathers zipped up. I have defeated myself. I roll onto the grid for my first session planning to just stretch and warm up a little with no worries about my lap times, but once best lap times for the session are posted I am taken aback by how slow I actually went, 2:08 best lap, you’ve got to be kidding me. I need to figure out how to get comfortable on a cold track. From this day forth…. No more skipping first session at track days! As practice went on and the fog began to lift, my lap times slowly came down, but still only getting to a 2:00 minute lap time had me concerned for F AFemme. Fortunately, the sun broke through the clouds before we gridded up and my day, literally, looked brighter.
Saturday Afternoon – Formula AFemme
Race 2 of the day, we are 2nd wave behind Clubman Lightweight, with Vintage gridded 3rd wave behind us girls. I am on Row 4, in grid position 14, 2 spots to the right of the inside wall. I really want to get a good start, I concentrate on the starting techniques I have learned from my MotoCross racing days; scoot forward in my seat and get my body up over the bars to keep the front down, rev to 6000, feather the clutch and keep that shifter foot in position to get it into 2nd quickly….The 1 board goes sideways, I count to 4 and the green flag waves, I get a great launch off the line and as I have my foot positioned under the shifter I pull my toes up to bring her into 2nd gear, it won’t go!!! Oh shit! GP Shift!!! I am flustered and it takes me far too long to get my foot out from under the shifter so I can press it down, not up. I get her into 2nd, but by then the entire class has gone by me. I charge up to turn 2 and dive under Denise and make my way to 3 and up to 3a, I am caught up with the pack, but am going to have to work at it to make some passes. The race seems a lot shorter than it was, and I am not really sure which laps and where exactly I made my passes, we were running in a bit of a cluster, with Zoe, Cassie, Kristy Miller, Lisa and I… I remember getting by Lisa Kinberger on her Ninja 250 on the inside of 3a, and I think I passed Cassie and Kristy down into turn 4 forcing Kristy to check up and wait for me.
I railed through 5 up to the top of the carousel and I think this where I got by Zoe, but it would not last. Zoe and Cassie both made a charge back by me in the middle of the carousel, I had better drive up to 7, but I would not be able to make a pass stick at the exit of 7. Zoe led Cassie, who was right in front of me. I was so close I could taste it and I kept reminding myself to ride my own laps, use my own references, don’t let them dictate my line. This went on for a couple laps and as we came around on the white flag lap I knew I was going to have to make a charge to get by Cassie and maybe even catch Zoe. As we came out of the carousel and down the back straight to T7 I caught a glimpse of Christy as she tucked the front and went sliding, as we came by she was still tumbling… bummer. But racing is still ahead, I had been faster than both Zoe and Cassie down the hill to Turn 9 and I was hopeful I would get the drive to make a pass happen on this last lap. As we accelerated out of the 8’s and down to T9 a vintage racer was just about to enter the first right, Zoe managed to squeeze inside, bottling Cassie and I behind. I noticed that Cassie was tight to the vintage bikes tailpipe and she was following the typical line through 9a, this was going to kill her drive on that Kawasaki 600. I backed off and squared up 9a and came around the outside of both bikes on the entry to Turn 10, I had better drive to 11, and as long as I held my line tight and clean through 11, I had Cassie covered. Smooth on the brakes, smooth on the throttle and hold her pinned to the line. I finished 5th of the 10 ladies gridded up and turned my best lap time at Infineon, 1:54.555. I love this AFemme class!
Special thanks to Ken Hill for the two up ride on Friday, I observed his better lines, as well as acceleration and braking zones. When I ride two up with Ken, I am able to look down at where we are at on the track or look at his hands to see how he is using the controls, without having to watch where we are going, it is quite educational. I am proud that I was able to get the line through 7 right every time all weekend, now I just need to improve my breaking into 7, I am still too hard, too soon on the brakes. I would also like to thank Vik Anderson, Z2 Trackdays, for riding with me on Friday and helping me find a couple places where I could carry more speed. This opened up the door for my lap time improvement on Saturday and was one of the highlights of my weekend.
Sunday Morning - I am again faced with my fear of riding on a cold track, not only for morning practice, no, no, today I have the great fortune of riding Race 1 – Formula IV.
We are 2nd wave and I am in grid position 28, on the outside of Row 7. This is a great grid position and I am singing my starting ballad in my helmet, “trailer park girls go round the outside, round the outside, round the outside, daa daa dada” as I pile into turn 1, not backing off from the crowd, but rather enjoying being in the midst of the pack. I come through T2 tight to the inside, I see Christy on my left and she is getting a great drive, this encourages me to keep on the throttle to 3 and I settle right behind Zoe who is right behind Christy headed up the hill to 3a and down into 4.
On the next lap Brad Woods and Ben Swigett capitalize on my weakness in the carousel and put their bikes between Christy and I, as Zoe makes her way in front of Christy. Christy, Brad, Ben and I continue in this formation for a couple laps, I see each them making little mistakes, but instead of following my program and putting myself into position to take advantage, I deviate from my plan thinking I can rush a corner and I end up making mistakes of my own, costing me precious tenths here and there. Brad and Ben eventually find a way past Christy beating her to the checkers and I come to the line half a straight behind her, finishing 24th of 36 starters, with a best lap of 1:55.049 coming on the last lap, and I am pleased with the consistency of my lap times in the last 4 laps of the race.
Sunday Afternoon – 650 Twins
Race 9 – 2nd Wave – Grid Position 32, outside of Row 8
Over the lunch break, I talked with Greg McCullough, www.RideMerchant.com, about the carousel, he had been struggling there too and had some insight as to what I could do to set myself up better for the drive out. As we talked and watched video, what he said was logical, but for some reason I struggled with trying to figure out how I was going to apply it on the track. Later that afternoon, when Race 9 comes around I am starting to feel tired from the weekend. I grid up and get a decent start and again end up behind Christy heading down into Turn 4. On the 2nd lap, Zoe goes by in turn 2… she is on a mission, as she came by I thought I would latch on, but I am trounced by her. I can’t run her pace and I am exhausted and panting, I back off and Christy begins to gap me out as well. On the 6th lap, again in the carousel, a black bike with a yellow plate goes by, a Novice!
No way, I struggle trying to find a clean pass to get back by him, there are several places that I am faster, but not better, since I couldn’t get past (from Christy’s race report… never underestimate your competition) I get my second wind in the last lap and he runs wide in turn 11, I am able to hold it tight and get a better drive to the checkers taking Rick DePena at the line. Rick, why do you still have yellow plates, anyway? Ha ha. I finish in the top 20, on track for my season goals. However, my best lap time for 650 T was a 1:56.104. I went slower. Dang it! I will be focused on getting more time on my bicycle before the next round to work on my endurance, besides I love wearing my new Vanderkitten riding kit.
Diligence is the mother of good fortune, and idleness, its opposite, never brought a man to the goal of any of his best wishes. - Cervantes
Thank you to those who provide me support and instructionat the track; Jay Kinberger (my Z2 Trackday coach), Shawn, David, Kathy and the rest of the Z2 crew, RideMerchant.com, Vanderkitten, Zoran, Jon Foreman and Twin Works Factory team, CT Racing-Pirelli Tires, Ken Hill, and Blaise, Dave, Ricky (best pit mates ever) and Justus (my carrot on the track). Congrats to Ricky Ford for his first podium taking the top spot! We want to see more of that. And of course, Joe 4theriders.com, for all these awesome pics.
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