Round 2 is over and my results were both good and bad. Good and bad are both relative terms and have a different meaning for most. My results at this race may have been great 2 years ago, but this is the present and I am still pushing for the best results.
Normally I start off with a Friday practice and go through the weekend. My adventure starts a little sooner than that this time. After the last round it was noticeable that my bike was down on horsepower. She has almost 2 seasons on the engine. The rest of the bike is a year newer, so out with the 08 engine and in with a lower mileage 09. Like most racers money is tight and while a Graves engine would be awesome, it is just not in the budget. So with my newish engine mounted in the frame on Thursday, we were as track ready as the budget allowed.
Friday is an optional practice day for some, but due to poor weather early in the year, testing has not been really available to me. Finally with a great weather forecast it was time to try a few things. As mentioned in my last race report, Fastbike Industries is helping us out with suspension. Having a bike with a good base setup makes testing so much more productive. Ramped up and ready to ride I spent most of Friday trying to understand what makes the fastest riders better than me. So here it is the holy grail, the answer to speed. They do it sooner and with less mistakes. What sooner? All of it, getting on the gas, transitioning the bike, braking, yeah all of it.
Kind of anti climactic, huh? Well after watching John Hopkins, Jake Holden, Lenny Hale, Chris Silgin, James Randolph and several other fast guys that seems to be the difference. These guys are willing to ride that much closer to the edge. The end result is you had better minimize the mistakes if you want to survive the weekend in one piece. At that pace there is little to no room for error. Oddly enough I go just as fast as most of those guys in some parts of the track. My issue is I don’t do it every lap and mistakes are all to common. Oh yeah, it was super fun riding behind Hopper and Holden as long as I could.
Saturday everyone showed up and in full force. It has been 2 years since the pits have been that full. Practice was just that, practice. For the first time in a long time it was just riding. Usually we are still searching for that perfect set up or trying to figure out a corner, but I have ridden here enough to know the lines and the bike was working great. So the day was spent riding and trying to reduce mistakes. There was one small issue. Sebastio and I were coming out of turn eleven and swapped lines. He was behind me and sure that he would out drive me to turn one, I opened the inside lane up. Ooops, he an unexpected draft and would have to pass as I tapped the brakes for turn 1. He was about to pass, just on the outside not the inside. The next thing I know my leg is in the air and his bars are swapping left to right. We both made it through turn one and just kept our heads down for the rest of the session. Later in the pits we were both laughing at how close it was. It is nice to know how someone will react to a racing incident. No fault on either party, just a little rubbing, and as a wise man once said “rubbing is racing”.
Sunday is here and while wanting to say bring it on, there is a little voice in the back of my head wondering if I did all that could be done? Well there is always more you could do, but I did prepare and work hard leading up to this race. Sunday morning practice is usually not been very productive for me at Infineon as the track is slow and slippery when cold. Knowing an early race was on the docket I made the choice to get up to speed early on despite the track conditions. Maybe it is all in my head, because my early times were good. Time to relax and get ready 750 Superbike is coming up.
750 Superbike is my first race and only the second race of the day. For the first time there was no need to write down my grid position. Sitting second on the grid felt great as I rolled through the pack of riders and up to the front row. Off the start Lenny Hale just pulled in front of me and led me around the track. Holding on to him and looking for a place to pass, turn seven gave me an opening and not one I would pass up. Cresting the hill in eight in the lead felt really good, at least until eleven where Lenny dove up the inside and took me wide. This allowed Greg McCullough, my teammate to pass as well. A lap later and watching Lenny separate himself from us, my desperation kicked in with an ill advised pass into turn nine. Over shooting the corner Greg simply watched me go by and passed me back. Now I left my self with a 100 yard gap to make up. A little over a lap later and with the gap closed, my focus was to stay right behind Greg and look for an opening. Coming into turn four he slightly changed his line and I almost rear ended him, mental note to self don‘t crash your teammate out of the race! It is hard to pass someone who is the same speed as you are and usually leads to a block pass, rough pass, or both.
Turn eleven would be the place to pass, so deep into eleven and wide out is the way it went down. Almost an identical pass to the one Lenny put on me. Little did I know this favor would be paid back later in the day by other racers. Now I was in second and had traffic to deal with. My mind was frantic, thinking about when lappers would be caught and how they could help or hurt my position. I lost a race two years ago, simply due to my lack of accounting for lappers. Most of the lappers were ok, but a group in the turn six almost put me in the dirt. I seem to remember eight riders or so at the top of six that were in a heated battle of there own. Hoping Lenny had sent the message more front runners were coming I slipped into the pack of riders and no sooner than that one of them blew a line and ran me wide. So sure that Greg was getting through clean I tried desperately to pass, this left me at a full lean and pushed on the outside curbing. Really, am I going to crash out on the last lap ran through my mind, luckily I stayed up and managed to bring home a 2nd place finish.
Race five, 600 Superbike was loaded with talent. A front row start would keep me battling behind the leaders for a few laps. All said and done I just was not riding the way I could. When you are just a touch off the pace mistakes just are not and option. Make a mistake and no big deal, make two or three and panic sets in. Suddenly you are racing their race and not yours. I should know better than that.
Race seven, 750 Production was another front row start and the decline to my day. The bike has been great since new. Today however it presented some issues on the way up the back straight. This weird bog at around 14k. It started in race five, but with no time to address it we gassed up the bike and rode. Well it was now a real problem! The bike basically shut off for 3 or 400 rpm and then came bake to life. Riding well above my comfort zone and pushing to hold on to the front pack of three, the bike let me know it was unhappy. Not thrilled the call was made to settle down and bring it home in one piece. As turn nine approached Greg and Sebastio were pushing to stay with Lenny. Suddenly Greg tucked the front end and low sided into nine. Sebastio in an effort to avoid the crash leaned over just a tiny bit more, already on the absolute limit the bike mirrored Greg’s and down he went. This left me with a second place, just not the way I wanted it.
So with Greg completing repairs and my bike on the fritz, Mikey began to switch what parts we could hoping to address the running issue. I took it out on a warm up lap and it seemed better so more gas and get ready for the last race of the day. 600 Production and a second row start. If you recall in round one this is the race my clutch went out on. So lined up and ready to better my round one effort we launched from the line. I made it to third place and as we came out of turn two the bike lagged, zing, there went Berto. Coming out of five it lagged again, and there goes Montano. Pushing hard I re-passed for the position only to have the bike cut out again on the straight. Thanks to Chris at Pirelli, for giving me a tire to ride way over my head.
Frustrated, mad, panic, those are some of the words that described my state of mind. How could this great bike be giving me issues, it has always been so reliable. My woes continued as I settled into seventh place. The bike got worse on every lap and nearly high sided me every lap as the bike would cut out and then immediately regain full power. That is quite a moment when the bike doubles its horsepower while at full lean. As the bike struggled to do 80 or 90mph towards seven, it was decision time. I should pull over and pray there is no serious damage to the engine. Save yourself money, my mechanical side was telling me. Then the racer in me said run it till you see checkers or it blows up! So I rode, as fast as the bike would allow I rode.
That was the worst ending to a great weekend, only it’s not over. We have a track day at Thunderhill on Monday. Sure my bike would not perform due to some crazy problem, me and my bad attitude started loading up for the trip to Willows. Trying not to be a jerk I later settled down and became reasonably responsible and pretended I wasn’t mad at the world for having a bad race.
So Monday we unloaded and took the bike apart. I hesitated writing my race report, because I found the problem and wanted to see if a manufacturer wanted to make it right before blasting them in my report. So with no response from said company, allow me a moment. E3 spark plugs were the cause of my problems. Brand new plugs were installed Thursday night, and yes they were installed correctly. So with less than a few hundred miles on them they failed. The top portion of the plug is too soft and deformed during the race, causing intermittent spark on all four cylinders. So due to no fault of my Yamaha R6 or my own, these shoddy plugs failed in just a few miles. I emailed the company as they have no phone number listed and no one has called me back. So as of press time the company has not responded to the worst product I have ever purchased. At least the Sham Wow does what it says it will do. I should have bought NGK plugs and I still would have had money left over for the Sham Wow. For the price of the E3 plug, one would think they may actually work.
Again the good portions of my weekend was made possible by my sponsors and team. Thank you all very much. Without your help, I would never have been able to do so well. I am looking forward to the next race.
Round 2 AFM Finishes
750 Superbike started 2nd finished 2nd
600 Superbike started 4th finished 6th
750 Production started 4th finished 2nd
600 Production started 6th finished 7th (no thanks to E3 spark plugs)
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.