“It” seemed so much easier when I was racing the SV650. My goals each year were get faster lap times and try to finish a little further up in the 65+ person grid than I had before. I had no championship aspirations; I had no AMA pro-racing dreams. Then I started to get faster, then Christie and Joy got the AFemme class started, then I got an R6, then I joined the Z2 Race Team, then Shandra started the California State Championship… little by little, my expectations grew and my goals surmounted what I had ever thought possible. Here I am a “middle aged” lady, chasing a dream most commonly pursued by the young, spending my hard earned money on Pirelli, MR12, TEXASTEA, PILOT and all the other “name brands” of motorcycle racing. Is this my version of buying a Corvette? If so, it certainly would be easier, and also so much cheaper, to buy a Corvette and cruise Hwy 1 on the weekends, going shopping and wine tasting, or whatever it is that middle aged women normally do. But I know… that I can’t be happy doing that. Yet, sometimes I wonder if motorcycle racing makes me happy and then, I have a race where it all comes together; where all the blood, sweat and tears seem worth it to achieve the 20 minutes of bliss where Hasi and I move together in a dance on asphalt. The AFM Round 7 Formula AFemme race was one of those races. The path to this moment, to this race, has been full of accomplishments and equally with disappointments.
AMA Miller Motorsports Park
AMA SuperSport – May 27/28/29/30 — Miller Motorsports Park–Toole, UT
Picking up from where I left off in my last post… just a week and a half after wrapping up the AMA race weekend at Infineon we were on the road again for my next opportunity to make the AMA grid at Miller. I had been to Miller once, last year, for Yamaha Customer Appreciation Track Days. My lap times then were very good, fastest enough to qualify for AMA. Having that past experience on the track I felt confident and excited heading for Utah. Our friend and teammate, Greg, had never been to Miller and decided not to spend the money on running at this AMA round. Despite my constant peer pressure to try to get him to go, he instead opted to head to the Yamaha/Z2 track days at Laguna that weekend to work on set-up for the AMA round coming up there in a month. When it comes to the track, Greg, Jason and I usually travel together and it is unusual for us not to be in the same place, but I really wanted to go to Miller. In part it was because I had so much fun at that track when we went down last year and partly because I am a huge World SuperBike fan and I really wanted to see them race in person. So Jason and I, along with our crew; Nikki Nienow, Skylar Vickroy and Kyle Schirrmacher crammed into our quad cab truck with the loaded toy hauler in tow and hit the road Thursday night after work. It was a long drive and if you are facebook friends with me, you probably have an idea of how we entertained ourselves for the 12 hour drive. :)
First practice for Supersport was at 8:00am on Saturday morning, I headed out on track for the 40 minute session to re-familiarize myself with the track and work on getting down to pace... but my bike did not like the elevation change and I had jetting problems. The bike was cutting out consistently at 12,000 RPM. This was a serious problem, since I would hit 12K as I exited nearly every corner and at each up-shift along the front straight and the bike would lurch in speed each time it cut out, I was worried of being hit from behind. I managed to complete 10 laps between pit stops and trying to solve the issue, but after a few attempts with no improvement I felt it was not safe for me to be on track with Hasi mis-behaving. I pulled in early and headed back to my pit where my crew and I could continue to look for the solution, we had until 4:40 (Qualifying 1 for Supersport) to figure something out.
After mentioning my problem to another racer, we found out that DynoJet has a mobile Dyno trailer at all AMA races. Both Jason and I quickly got our bikes in line at the DynoJet booth then waited around until our turn have them run to help diagnose our problems. (This is a very popular service, especially at Miller with the elevation change, so there was a bit of a wait.) Once my bike made it into the trailer, we tried a couple different maps and an adjustment to the quick-shifter, it was now cutting out at around 13-14K, but we were out of time and we got the call to head on track for our 30 minute Qualifying 1 session. My times improved slightly, with the lurches and loss of power still occurring on the straights, but not so much on corner exits. Still, at the end of Q1, I was far from the pace I needed to qualify and race. And then…. it started to rain.
And it rained all afternoon and all night. I contemplated swapping to the back-up bike, but the forecast called for the rain to continue through the morning and most of the day. I decided that I should not ride in the rain, what a painful decision this turned to be. In the morning we woke to a down pour and snow had actually accumulated at slightly higher elevations on the mountains nearby. The AMA officials had advised me that the qualifying times for SuperSport would not be enforced and as long as I went out for Q2 I would be allowed to race in the main event. I was cursing the AFM for having a “no racing in the rain” policy, because I had never practiced in the rain and I had certainly never raced in the rain. I did not feel like a pro-event was the appropriate time for me to go out and learn how to race in the wet, I did not want to risk taking someone else out. Also, with the next AFM race back home only a week away I wouldn’t have time to repair my bike or myself if I crashed. I sat out Q2 and passed on the opportunity to race in the AMA SuperSport Main, there is always next year.
Jason came in from Q2, frozen to the bone, his hands so swollen from the cold that he had to first put them in the ice chest to warm them up enough to get them under tap water and then to have Kyle help remove his gloves. At that point, I was really glad I wasn’t out there. The main event was at noon and it was still raining. Half of the competitors that lined up on the grid that afternoon crashed, a couple of them managed to pick their bikes up and rejoin the race tracking slick mud back onto the race line. My husband finished the race in eighth position after a fun battle with his friend and former AFM racer Sebastiao Ferreira.
After the SuperSport racing was complete, the crew and I cleaned up the pit area while Jason thawed. Then we all bundled up and headed to the grandstands to watch the AMA Superbike and Daytona Sportbike races. The next day, Memorial Day we spent at Miller watching the WSB races and I enjoyed getting Leon Haslam to autograph the undertail of my bike.
Practice – Best Lap 2:23.337
Qualifying 1 – Best Lap 2:18.288
Qualifying 2 – DNS
AFM Round 4
June 4/5 -- Thunderhill Raceway–Willows, CA
A few days after getting home from Miller we were headed back to the track. This weekend we headed to Thunderhill for AFM Round 4. All the weather forecasts predicted rain… What was that you recall from my Miller report? AFM doesn’t race in the rain. Oh right, that. The AFM decided not to cancel the race weekend on the hope that the forecasts were wrong and that Thunderhill would “have its own weather pattern.” Saturday morning the rain started lightly… a few practice sessions were attempted between rain spurts, but red flags were waving more than bikes were running and eventually the AFM had to surrender to Mother Nature. The day was called over, with heavier rains predicted for the next day. Still, the AFM Board was holding out hope that it would clear up on Sunday so we stuck around, but with boredom building and a lack of optimism that racing would actually happen the next morning, we headed to town and found the local Saloon was the perfect place to pass the time and a few drinks too many.
Sunday ***Rained Out*** but Jason and I put our free time to good use. While hanging out in the pro shop, we met Wade and Carrie from Insurrection Racing and next thing you know we were trying on PILOT suits and talking to them about a sponsorship deal. I was so excited when we left for home that afternoon, I was finally going to get my first custom suit. Thank you so much to PILOT and Insurrection Racing for allowing me to represent for you.
AFM Round 5/CSC Round 2
July 9/10 – Infineon Raceway–Sonoma, CA
Nearly a full month break was refreshing and badly needed, all that racing and traveling had really started to wear me down both physically and emotionally. Racing had started to feel like a chore rather than fun, and the responsibilities related to being a part of the ever expanding Z2 Racing team had added to the overwhelming feeling I was already suffering from. Z2 has been very, very good to me over the last five years; first teaching me how to ride on the track at their novice school, then coaching me through the New Racers School, and mentoring me as a racer to help me get faster and accomplish my goals. The Z2 Race Team was an extension of that on-going support and all of us involved learned a great deal and benefitted from the experience. There are a lot of upsides to being on a team, but there are challenges with it too, and it was time for Jason and I to go back to our own program and see if we could find the “FUN” in racing again. We parted ways with the Z2 team, but we parted as friends and still cheer each other on from the sidelines.
So this weekend, we introduced Ritz Racing, for those of you who haven’t figured it out or asked yet… LauRITZen. ;) With a new, lively, florescent red accent color on our otherwise black and white bikes we rolled to Thill and set up our pit to the same level of professionalism we are accustomed to.
On Saturday morning as I headed out for my practice sessions, I just was not “feeling it.” I guess everyone has their up days and their down days and this was just not my weekend. My practice times were sub-par and I was trying to find a way to get my groove on.
Formula AFemme combined with the CSC Femme class had a nice turn-out, with 14 girls gridding up. My race was mostly unremarkable, but I will remark on it anyway… I got a crappy start going from 2nd on the grid back to 7th, I then proceeded to run lap times at a track day pace but managed to pick up a few positions. Soon I spotted that I was gaining ground on Shelina and found a little more motivation to get going. I made my way past her on lap 4, we went back and forth a few times but I eventually got the pass, combined with the drive that gave me the gap I needed to secure 4th place.
Sunday I signed up only for one race, 600 Production. I still had not found my mo-jo and was struggling to get to pace in practice. I was a little nervous on the start with the memory of being cleaned at the last AFM Round while going into turn 2 and I was overly cautious, which set me back drastically. I ended up at the back of the field, in the middle of a five bike battle, with the ability to run a faster lap, but the inability to get a clean pass on the bikes in front of me that were dicing like two hamsters in a ball together. I was working overtime setting up passes, but never able to work my way in front of the person in the front of our pack. Just as I would work my way up and start setting up a pass to get in front, one of the other bikes in the group would pass me back and then be stalled in the same position attempting to find a clean pass to the front.
And so it went on until Lap 7, when the race leaders had caught up to our little pack battle for “not last place.” Joey Pascarella and Lenny Hale came by while we were on the front straight. At this moment, I was in 3rd position of my 5 bike group and we were all fairly close together. I knew more race leaders would be coming through soon, it has been awhile since I have been lapped, but again, this was not my weekend. I was exiting Turn 2 on the normal line, when Berto, in 3rd place, squared the corner and passed me on my right side, mid-way between turn 2 and 3. I held my line a few feet off the dirt on the right, leaving just enough room if another front runner was following Berto. As we approached turn 3, Berto continued around the outside of the two bikes in front of me. I turned in on line and as I was just about to apex, I saw the front wheel in my peripheral vision. My knee scrapped the top of the curbing at the same moment that the other bike hit my swingarm. I was still riding my bike up the hill toward Turn 3A, though it was wobbly and felt as though we were dragging something. I tried to look down, but my bike demanded my attention as it wobbled toward the end of the pavement. I had slowed enough as I reached the top of the hill that I made the right hand turn to stay on track, which freed whatever was dragging. My arm flew up into the air as I collected myself and stayed off line. I gave up on chasing after the pack I had been riding with and as I reached turn 7 I saw the red flag was out. It turned out that my former teammate, Cameron Gish, was mad at me for leaving the team, and more so for not taking Kyle Schirrmacher with me when I left. So he hit me. :) Just kidding, Cam was racing for his first podium in the AFM and was pushing very hard, these things happen. I was very relieved to find out that Cam was ok and would make it back on grid later that day.
Formula AFemme/Formula Femme – 4th of 14 (Best Lap 1:54.207)
600 Production – 35th of 40 (Best Lap 1:56.832)
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.