Maybe I should start out this race report with a little (modified) song lyric from Eminem…That song certainly suited my mood heading into the weekend, I was so excited to FINALLY get back to racing again after having to take off the last 8 months to recover from surgery on my right shoulder. I was released from my doctor to start riding again on February 3rd and without much delay I was back on the track February 8th, kicking off my season by getting schooled by Ken Hill.
"Guess who’s back, back again, Jennie’s back, tell a friend, nah nah nanahna"
I managed to squeeze in a total of 5 track days in February and March, hoping to get enough riding that I would feel fully prepared for AFM Round 1. On Monday of the week leading up to the races, we had a phenomenal, open track day with Z2 at Thunderhill. The weather was perfect for riding and the open format was just what we needed for test and tune. This was my last day of practice before racing and I still did not feel confident with my riding nor my bike set-up and my lap times were proving it. Near the end of the day, I asked my smoking hot, fast husband to come out and ride some laps with me to try to tow me down to a decent lap time. After turning a couple laps with him I managed to shave a couple seconds off my lap times, but it was hard work and I felt I was at my limit. When we came in he commented that I didn’t approach the corners with confidence… I replied, “Yeah, I can’t get my bike to hold a line, I feel like it is going to come out from under me.” He took the bike out for a lap, came in and twiddled some knobs, ride and repeat a few times and finally around 4:15 PM, he gives me my bike back and tells me to take it for a spin. I do 8 laps consistently 3 seconds faster than I had been able to manage all day, but I was still well above where I needed to be. I was completely exhausted, my shoulder was screaming in pain and the track day was over…. Would I be able to get it all together at the races?
I decided not to practice on Friday, I didn’t think my shoulder could handle 3 days of riding in a row. I am still uncertain if this decision was a mistake; I definitely would have had more shoulder pain on Sunday if I had ridden Friday, but I could have used that extra day at BW to make sure my bike was set-up correctly for the track. I took full advantage of all my practice sessions on Saturday, focusing on a very specific plan to get ready for the Afemme race coming up in the afternoon… still… my lap times were not where I expected to be and I was working far to hard to get the lousy times I was managing.
I gridded up for Afemme, in position 5, second row on the inside. My start routine came back to me like a bad habit. 2 board - visor down, 1 board - bike in gear and start bring the revs up, sideways… and as the green flag waved I was on the throttle. Pinned. Shift. Shift. Charging into turn one on the inside I was in the third spot behind Joy and Zoe, Christy came around the outside and had the wheel on me, I receded the position. Then my frustrations began… the three of them began pulling away, then Deb came by me at the entrance to the Cotton Corners, like a pocket rocket on her 125. I tried to keep them in my sights, but just could not push it any harder. The entire time on track I am analyzing my body position, my use of the throttle and brakes, my lines, my apexes… WHY the HELL can’t I go any faster? I finish the race in fifth, the same position I started in. Not bad, but I was disappointed in my lap times more than anything.
Sunday morning, it’s a new day. We have one morning practice, then I run race 3 before lunch and race 9, towards the end of the day. I gear up and head out for my morning practice with the intent to stretch and warm-up. I leave pre-grid onto the track and before I even make it to turn 2 the bike is cutting out and stalls. Ah, I know this problem, the SV’s are certainly useful for expanding your mechanical knowledge. What feels like your bike is running out of gas, but you know it has a full tank? I’ll take electrical problems for $400, Alex. Of course, but figuring out where the short is could be a long and frustrating process. I push my bike from turn 2 back to the pits, and the Z2 race team support steps in to rescue me. Jason and Tom begin diagnosing my problem until we find it is a faulty diode. Not too worry, we have spares. Tom fixes it up, as Jason heads out for his practice, and I begin to stress about not getting a practice session before my race.
Race 3 - I take my grid position on the inside of the 9th row, this is 22nd position for my class, there are a few faster guys gridded behind me who lacked points from the previous season and I expect them to get by me, but I get a fanastic start, up the inside deep into the pack and I hold my own through turns one and two… then I proceed to give spots away as I still can’t manage a lap time below a 2:10. I settle into 20th by the 1st lap past the start finish line and this is where I sit, turning consistent 2:10’s for the duration of the race.
Race 9 - I kick this race off with a quick panic as I’m out on the warm up lap and coming through the esses a bee flies up into my helmet and is buzzing around trapped inside my visor. Oye, I swell up like Violet Beauregard when I get stung by a bee. This could ruin my race… do I flip up my visor and hope it swoops out the top or will it get blown straight into my face and sting me, I wait until I have made the last corner onto the front straight and flip up the visor slowly, it seems to have gone. My heart rate is now fully elevated. Suddenly. Green flag! And again I get a great start, rounding turn one mid-pack, I look up and the yellow flag is waving hard at the entry to turn 2... Glance through the corner and there is a USGPRU bike and kid lying in the middle of Turn 2 with a pack of 22 crazy SV racers coming at him. I hold my position and count 7 racers pass me under the waving yellow. I was pissed. Not only at the fact that they passed me, but at the fact that they decided that gaining that position was more important than the safety of the kid lying in the corner. A red flag came out as we entered the bus stop and we were brought back in for a restart. And here comes my final meltdown….
One more great start, I am off the line and up into the pack heading into turn one… I am riding hard and hold my position, then they just start picking me off, I try to stick with Ben Swiggett as he comes by me at the beginning of the second lap and I manage a 2:09 lap time… but still I continue to lose positions. I am trying to stick to my own plan and ride my own race, but a couple of sketchy passes from my competitors get me rattled. What was I even doing giving them the opportunity to make those passes… its no ones fault but my own. The more frustrated I got the more little mistakes I made and the more my lap times dropped off. I had lost my focus and wasn’t riding to the potential I knew I possessed. Then on the last lap, I made the mistake that put me in DFL and still today makes me extremely frustrated with myself, I looked back. I looked back while I was still mid-exit of turn 2, where I should have been looking up and down the track, where I should have been pinned and making an upshift, me… the person who constantly points out to my teammates the downfalls of looking back. I looked back and I gave up the last two positions I had been managing to hold off up to this point. And I knew they were there, what on earth was I looking back for? I finished that last lap completely frustrated and disappointed in myself. I went straight back to my pit hoping to pout in solitude in my trailer when I noticed the Z2 crew was out there pulling a clutch on Jason’s back-up bike…. Suck it up buttercup and go see what is going on… his story is here.
"Hey! You’re playing with my delirium
And the longer I wait the harder I’m gonna fall.
Stop playing with my delirium
‘Cause I’m out of my head and out of my self control"
I lost my head in my races and let my brain over process and slow me down. Sometimes you just gotta ride. I had two goals going into this weekend; one was to get good starts and I was extremely pleased with how I did, second, was to turn at least 2:08’s. I realized I had some set-up and confidence issues starting the weekend so I set a reasonable goal of 2:08’s and only managed to get 2:10’s pretty consistently with one 2:09. I’ve got some work to do before round 2, but I am so, so, so happy to be racing again.
"Still hanging on - for what
Can’t operate - fired up
I won’t eat and I won't sleep for you yeah
No rest till I get through
‘Cause I’m holding out - for you
Am I the only one who’s insane"
See ya at Infineon for Round 2.
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.