It has now been over a week since AFM Round 4 at Thunderhill, but my racing high has not yet subsided. I am exhausted but also re-energized from my track weekend at RFR and really looking forward to Round 5 next month. I learned some things since the last race by watching the videos and reading the other race reports posted on BARF by my competitors in the 650 and F4 classes. I can see where they are gaining on me and also where I have strengths, I am putting together my plan for Round 5 and really just can’t wait to get there and give it a try. I guess I could say I am having a great season. So now on to the action…
Well first of all, doesn't Nikka look good in Z2 Blue?
Saturday afternoon, Formula AFemme, I am on the front row, in grid position 3, fantastic! The only time I have been on the front row is doing practice starts at Z2 Trackdays. During these practice starts I always get a good start, so I tell myself, and anyone else in my pits that will listen, that I plan to think of this start like a practice start with Z2.
And it works; I get a smooth launch, make my up-shifts through 2nd and 3rd and pull up beside Joy as we lay into the first turn.
Just then I glance to my right and see Shelina coming around the outside for the holeshot… damn that girl is good at starts! Shelina leads the first lap with Joy on her flashy, gold, PTT600, hot on her heels looking for a way past. Zoe, who had an atypical bad start, gets by me with an “unladylike” (ha ha) pass on the brakes at the apex of turn 9, standing me up and giving us each a little scare that we were both going to hit the dirt. She sits up gives me a wave and lets me back by, then proceeds to school me going into turn 10. By the 3rd lap, Joy is well out front, Zoe has passed Shelina and I am tight to Shelina’s rear wheel. As the next 4 laps click off in this running order, I continue to push and stay close to her.
I find myself next to her and showing her a wheel in several corners, but never able to make a pass stick. I would then just tuck, pin it and try to stay in her draft on the straights, trying not to loose too much ground with her Kawi600 out powering my Z2 Vanderkitten SV650. I try a few new lines and really don’t loose much ground, but never find a clean pass either. Then in the last lap, I am caught by surprise as Kristy Miller brings her Suzuki 600 past me on the brakes into turn 9, (hmmm, starting to think I have a weakness here.) Kristy Miller is a fast girl, but I had forgotten that she was racing with us this weekend, until she went by me, that is. I hung on to 5th position across the checkers… and after looking at the race photos a couple days later saw that Christie Cooley also on a SV650 was right there on my tail section hoping to find a way by me at the line.
The AFemme class is turning out to be pretty competitive, entertaining for the spectators and we are having a blast racing it. I have a feeling we are going to see a couple new faces on the grid next month…
Sunday morning I wake up from a good nights sleep and get some coffee from Greg (thanks.) Formula 4 is race 1 again this round, but I am not worried about it this time… I have been focusing on getting up closer to race pace in the early practices since last month and have stuck to my new ‘no more skipping morning practice at the track days rule.’
After going out for my morning practice session I spent a little time stretching and listening to some music to prepare for my first race, I reviewed my notes as a reminder of the things I had been working on with Jay at the Z2 trackday last week and was ready to go when first call came. I took my grid spot Row 7, position 28 on the outside. 2 board… close my visor, 1 board put the bike in gear, sideways… rev to 6000 rpm and 126.96.36.199 green flag!!! My launch wasn’t great I pinned it on the straight and tried to maintain my position as we folded into turn one, but as Brian Bartlow turned in tight to my right side fairing he forced me to hold my lean angle and wait to get on the gas. Ha, here is a new lesson for me, next time I will lift my right knee just a little to get my bubble back. I am a little hesitant staying tight in the pack as there is quite a bit of dicing from turn 1 all the way through to turn 5 where we start to fall into line. I slot in behind Conan Dooley with Alan Cunningham just behind me (with video cam on board) Sorry Alan, that looked a little tight as I came across his front for the inside line in turn 2. Alan finds his way past me around the outside of turn 2 on the 2nd lap, then goes on by Conan into turn 14. I stayed with Alan until we got to Conan, but didn’t make a pass on him until the 3rd lap, there getting by him with a tighter inside line into T1. Conan and I dice it up for a couple laps, allowing Clive to get by us both in the 4th lap, Conan gets the better of me going into turn 2, I need to drive a little longer out of T1 into 2.
I spend the last couple laps latched onto Conan’s tail section and see that we are gaining ground on Will Wickersham, we can’t quite catch him before the checkers, but Will is usually finishing in the top 20 so I felt pretty good about where I was at in the race. I averaged 2:08 lap times but turned a solid 2:05 on the last lap, which was a new best for me at Thill. Then I checked the results and was a bit disappointed to find out I was well outside the top 20, finishing 28th out of 35 starters. I decided I just had to get a better start for 650 Twins.
Video of F4 from Alan’s bike
For Race 9, 650T, I am gridded on row 6 on the inside. I get a good jump off the line and just stick my elbows out, Ben Spies style, if I want to finish in the top 20 I am going to have to charge the starts, no matter how uncomfortable it might be going into turns 2 and 3 in midst of the wild mid-pack. When I saw an opening I put myself in it. I had a bit of a bobble going into turn 3 when I had to brake a little harder than I had planned as another rider came in from the outside. The top of 5 was a tight fit, but we made it through the first lap without incident and I slotted into 15th place. I stayed in 15th behind James Strauch for the first couple of laps, until Andrew Patterson and Scott Reavey got by me in the 3rd lap.
I didn’t make it easy on them though, Scott thought he had me, but I took an outside line in Turn 10, to get back in front of him. He got me back going into 14. Brad Woods made his way in front of me on the 4th lap, I can’t remember where he got by me… Then Zoe passed in T1 at the beginning of lap 5, I stayed with her dropping my lap times down to the 2:04’s (my new low time) for the last two laps, I guess I owe her a “thanks” for the tow. We went by James Strauch inside on 14 at the end of the fifth lap. (Thanks to all the time I spent working that corner with Jay and the tip from James Randolph I now am learning to love T14.) On the final lap Mickey Fimbres got close to making a pass on me, but I held him off getting a solid drive out of 9 onto the downhill straight and again out of 15 onto the front straight.
I finished 17th out of 32 starters, I am pretty stoked about this race, I made huge gains in my starts, passing, and a new low lap time.
Mickey also had an on-board camera, so there is some pretty good footage of me from this race as well.
650T from Mickey.
Next month we will be back at Thunderhill for Round 5.
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