AFM Round 3
May 7/8 -- Infineon Raceway–Sonoma, CA
Formula AFemme – 3rd of 11 (Best Lap 1:55.988)
600 Production – 36th of 44
600 Superbike – 30th of 40 (Best Lap 1:54.950)
AFM Round 3 was upon us before we knew it, we had a 2 week break following the CSC/WERA round, but we decided to fill that void by attending a Z2 Track day at Infineon on May 2nd. I used that track day to get used to the shiny new toy I had added to my bike, a suspension set-up from David Behrend at Fast Bike Industries. He hooked me up with Ohlin’s internals kit in my forks and a brand new Ohlin’s shock. I’ve been riding the stock R6 suspension since I got the bike, the stock stuff works great and I haven’t had a problem with it, but the Ohlin’s provides more adjustability allowing you to really get that bike dialed in to what makes you comfortable. It also means, more knobs to fiddle with and an opportunity to really screw things up. LOL! In fact, I was so nervous about getting the bike out of whack that I spent the entire day fiddling with my front pre-load and never even touched any of the other dials. I talked it over with Jason at the end of the day and we realized I might just be a bit nervous about, or even “resistant” to, change. I like what I know and comfort is everything when you are racing a motorcycle. We put together a plan for AFM Saturday practice to help me get more familiar with my new set-up.
Practice went by very quickly and I was struggling with getting up to my pace. I was not confident with my bike and I couldn’t resist looking at my lap times which only made matters worse. Before I knew it we were gridding up for Formula AFemme, Joy was not racing this round so I found myself in the 2nd box on the front row with Cooley on my left and Bess on my right. I got a killer launch off the line (YES!) and was side by side with Cooley into Turn 1. She pulled in front of me as we rounded the bend to turn 2 and I followed her to the carousel. Christie goes into the carousel with an awesome, careless amount of speed, letting the bike wiggle under her as she crests the hill, blind into the downhill sweeping turn. With my lack of confidence that day and her impressive abandonment of caution, she pulled a gap that left me in despair. I tried for a moment to hold on and run at pace with her, but little mistakes here and there left me alone in 2nd position. As I passed my mechanic giving me signals on the wall, I saw I had a decent gap back to 3rd and I settled into a comfortable lap time. I should have checked the grid sheet deeper than finding my own starting spot that day to see who else would be on the grid, because I was caught with my pants down when Shelina Moreda made a pass on me. I picked my jaw up off the tank and jumped in behind Shelina, but it was too little too late and she took the checkers in 2nd leaving me disappointed with a 3rd place podium spot. I never dreamed that I could be disappointed with a podium, but the thought that I had taken my position for granted and basically gave it away left me angry and disappointed in myself.
AMA Infineon Raceway
AMA SuperSport - May 13/14/15 -- Infineon Raceway–Sonoma, CA
Friday Practice – Best Lap 1:55.857
Saturday Qualifying – Best Lap 1:53.540
Sunday Qualifying – Best Lap 1:57.314
Three days later we were back at Infineon. The paddock and track so familiar, yet an entirely new scene and vibe, with the big, factory team haulers lining the row in front of the garages where we normally park and the factory support teams taking the second row. Jason, Greg and I found a nice pit area mid-way back near many other privateer teams and individuals. Here I was… how did I get here? All signed up and ready to go out for my first professional race event.
"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Skyler Vickroy, Nikki Nienow and Kyle Schirrmacher volunteered their services as our pro crew and they proved to be the most excellent help; providing the mechanical support to perform multiple tire changes and suspension adjustments, providing general labor in putting up and taking down our pit row set-up and, perhaps most importantly, providing a constant source of support and maintaining a sense of sanity as we racers struggled with the challenges of new tires, new fuel and unfamiliar procedures.
Friday afternoon, after getting though tech inspection and a riders meeting, we were out on track for our first practice session. I put in my first laps (ever) on the AMA spec. Dunlops, feeling them out at first then picking up my pace as I started to understand the tires. I came out of the carousel and picked up to full throttle, accelerating toward turn 7, shifting up to 5th gear as I moved from the right of the track to the left. As I crossed the pavement seam mid-track, my bike objected sternly, bars swapping from right lock to left lock jerking and bucking as I held on, my left foot flailing off the peg, I was able to toe hook under the peg and somehow rode out my mechanical steed. I found the outside line into Turn 7 and went to applying the brakes to make the turn in. The lever pulled straight to the bar with no resistance and no stopping power, CRAP, my brake pads had slapped out. I’ve heard stories from my friends and teammates about this, but it had never happened to me before. I stood the bike up and headed into the large drift pad area behind turn 7, thankful that there was plenty of run-off area as I applied the rear brake and pumped the front brakes until they had feel again. Back in the hot pit area, we made some adjustments to address the light front end and completed the practice session without any additional incidents.
The first qualifying session was Saturday afternoon, the track temperatures were good and the weather mild, except for a bit windy. Usually at Infineon, the wind blows to the south so you can brake a little later against the head wind into turn 7, and you need to brake a little earlier in turn 9 with the wind at your back. Today, it was backwards. I overshot turns 4 and 7 repeatedly, and was off the brakes far too early in turns 9 and 11 as I tried to get used to the atypical wind pattern. An impatient Skyler was on the pit wall letting me know that I need to get this figured out and get my lap times down if I hoped to qualify. About ½ way through the session, Skyler came out with a pit board on the front straight to let me know what my times were. This gave me the motivation to get going and pick up the pace, lap after lap I went faster until the time ran out. My best lap time a 1:53.540 would be close for making the cut depending on how fast the fastest racer went… Turns out Benny Solis would pull a 1:42.413 and 110% of that time made the cut off time 1:52.654. I was less than a second from meeting my goal, but in this business a second may seem close, but it really can feel so far away. I would have to improve in Qualifying 2 in the morning or I was out.
Sunday morning the SuperSport qualifying was the first session on the track, the thick, heavy fog, had rolled into the Sonoma Valley overnight and hadn’t quite decided to lift and move out. The track was cold and wet for Q2. Everyone was a little slower on track this morning than yesterday, yet somehow I had to get it in my head that I could go faster… Knowing that the front runners could go 10 seconds faster than me in the dry, and they were only 1-2 seconds slower this morning meant that there is no reason related to traction that I can’t go faster. I just needed to be smart about applying the throttle and confident in my bike and my ability. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get beyond the mental edge and beat my time from yesterday. I was out.
I missed my goal to qualify and I was bummed, but I had known it wasn’t going to be easy. I took away some great positives from the weekend in my ability to adapt to the new tires, dial in my suspension and turn lap times near my personal best under a qualifying scenario. No doubt this event would help me to become a better rider and learn to push myself to overcome the challenges we often face as racers. I can’t wait to give it another try at the AMA round coming up later this month at Miller Motorsports Park. But until then…
The rest of the weekend I spent helping Nikki crew for my husband as Skyler jumped over to provide additional support for Greg. Jason had an awesome weekend, with help from the hottest crew in the pits, if I do say so myself, (Hahaha!) he qualified inside the top 10, but with an AMA rule that says you can’t ride at the track within 30 days of the AMA race (and we couldn’t miss the AFM race) he was given a grid penalty and put near the back in grid spot 22. Nevertheless, with a good start and some impressive passes Jason still finished 10th in Race 1 and 6th in Race 2, pretty impressive in his Pro AMA debut.
A few days later, we were given a copy of the Speed 2 broadcast of the SuperSport Race 1. As Jason made an inside pass into turn 7 picking up 3 positions he was given some air time from the commentators…
Ralph Shaheen, “Whoa, up the inside comes the 110 machine, Lauritzen”
Scott Russell, “Where’d he come from?”
Ralph Shaheen, “Sacramento, actually. His wife, Jennifer Lauritzen, was entered into this competition as well. Husband and wife, battling here in this SuperSport class this weekend. He made the field but it doesn’t look like his wife was able to sneak in. His wife actually convinced him to go racing, he gave her a ride on his street bike and she didn’t like riding on back so he bought her a sport bike and a few track days and she wanted to go racing.”
Scott Russell, “Yeah man, that’s cool, you got a girl that wants to ride, wants to race, she’s a keeper.”
Some photos from the weekend. http://www.mattcohenphoto.com/2011/05/17/2011-ama-west-coast-moto-jam/
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.