If you want something in life, reach out and grab it.
Here I sit to write my race report for AFM Round 1 at Buttonwillow and find myself at a loss for words… all I want to talk about, or even think about, right now is my plan for the rest of the season. Buttonwillow is in the past, and I am ready to move forward to tomorrow, or well, actually forward to Round 2.
Ken Hill has coached me well over the last couple of years and one of the most important things he emphasizes is having a plan each time you go out on track. I had my plan for that first race weekend at Buttonwillow; I knew what I was going to work on during Friday practice. I knew how I was going to approach Saturday morning practice and most importantly, I had a plan for racing Formula AFemme Saturday afternoon, as well as distinctly different plans for my 600 races on Sunday. I was prepared.
Now some of you may know that Buttonwillow is not my best track, this is not because I don’t like the track, in fact I think BW is a fun track to ride. I don’t “usually” have a hard time learning new tracks and getting up to speed quickly, so I don’t think it is a result of not having enough time there. BW is just complex, like a woman. ;) I feel like I should bring her flowers and candy next time I visit and maybe then I will “get some.” Ha-ha. Slowly though, I am starting to figure her out. And Friday, I had one of the best days I have ever had at Buttonwillow. I was able to match and then improve upon my best lap time there in the early sessions on Friday and then…
“Just remember when you should grab something, grab it, when you should let go, let go.”
Entering the sweeper I took my usual inside line. Oscar took an outside line and began to pass me on the outside near the apex. His wide line in meant he would hold a tight line on the exit, my tight line in meant I would push wide on the exit, I spotted him in my peripheral vision and realized we were going to bump… this is just at the point where I fully release the brake lever, but I still had it covered with my fingers and as I looked to my left at Oscar, I made the mistake of applying pressure to the brake lever… it doesn’t take much. I remember every detail like it happened in slow motion; a gentle tap on the brakes, the bars twisting tight to the right as my front end lost the contact with the asphalt, my knee, hip and elbow smacking down, the bike back spinning away from Oscar and into the dirt, the tumbling, keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. And then it was over. I picked myself up and waited for my practice session to end. A big “Thank You” to the turn workers for keeping me safe out there and getting me and my bike back to the pits. I assessed the damage and it was minimal, but thanks to Jason, and Leo Vince for getting us a pipe so quickly, we had “Bessie” the back-up bike ready to go. Rather than miss the end of the track day putting my bike back together I rode Bessie for the rest of the day and despite her lack of set-up time I continued to put down consistent laps matching my best pace there.
Saturday was a new day and with the rising sun came my rising nerves. Right out of the gate with morning practice I was off my pace. I stuck to working on my plan for the day, trying to ignore my lap times being posted on the window I reminded myself that to go faster sometimes we must go slower. I was trying some new things and need not stress about the overall times. I was sure when it was time to grid up for Formula AFemme everything would be fine. Then the announcement came… the weather forecast for Sunday was looking bad, and the AFM made the decision to run the classes with the largest sign-ups for Sunday on Saturday afternoon. This would give the most people an opportunity to race and help out the AFM budget significantly. It was a great decision and I applaud the AFM for making it happen. It just meant I would now be gridding up for 600 Superbike on Saturday afternoon, instead of Formula AFemme. With no points in 600SB from last year, I was gridded just 2 rows up from the back. I got a great jump off the line and went forward a row, maybe 2 as we entered into Turn 1. Between the entry to turn 1 and the exit of turn 2 I felt like I had been thrown into a washing machine, with bikes brushing me left and right as they charged on, no mercy. Somehow, through it all, I found myself on the best line for a good drive out of 2 onto the straight, as I picked up the throttle, another bike came across my front wheel, from outside of the sweeper to the inside of the straight, “WTH?” I was forced to roll off and lost my drive and contact with the group I knew I should have been battling with. Regardless, I finished the race weekend in one piece, which we all know is a challenge at Round 1, and picked up some points and some valuable lessons heading into round 2.
“Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for has finally come to be. You will look back and laugh at what has passed and you will ask yourself... 'How did I get through all of that?”
I feel fortunate to have so many people and companies supporting me and Z2 Racing this year. Please remember to support those who support racers; Z2 Track Days, CT Racing, LeoVince, Yamalube, Factory Body Works, RaceImage Graphics, Fast Bike Industries, Motion Pro, CRG, GP Frame and Wheel, Roseville Yamaha, TechSpec, Suomy, Sidi, PitBull, Ink Monkey and of course, KH Coaching and Vanderkitten.
For more information on what these companies can do for you and how to contact them, check out our Sponsors page.
It wasn't this bad, but it was still cold.
Optimism isn’t exactly what I am known for, more like a realist. Last week as we looked at the weather report what little optimism I had was slipping away. Somehow after manipulating every weather report on the internet, I convinced my wife to chance out a few days at Willow Springs. As we rolled out of Sacramento in bumper to bumper traffic, it started raining. No big deal, we are going half way down California and the rain couldn’t possibly be that bad. Four hours in and you could have wake boarded next to the freeway. Ever-so-hopeful we continued on. We arrived in Willow Springs late and parked the RV near a gas station a few miles from the track. I must have done something right in my past life, because we woke up to a blue sky. One point for hope and optimism.
We got through tech and headed over to the front straight to watch the first session. Yes it was sunny and dry, but it was also super cold. Every passing session more riders would jump out on track. I finally jumped on track in the second set of practices. The track was small and corners seemed to almost blend together as I found my footing in the first several laps. Thanks to a few local guys giving me a tow, even if they didn’t know it, the track started flowing for me. I completed three sessions before my ‘realistic side’ managed to summon the rain and they shut the track down for the rest of the afternoon.
AMA pro Ted Campbell navigating a rut.
Every new track you go to has something you have to get used too. At the Willow Streets course, it is unusually small. Judging by the track map, it looked just like any other track and it had a finish line I could see from the parking lot. What we could not see, and was not apparent from the map, was the incredibly tight course that hid just over a small hill out of view. The new track was just one thing to consider, we were also racing with a new club. WSMC was very accommodating, new customers require a little extra effort and they walked us through the registration process, informed us at tech, and were amazingly helpful and kind over all. It was nice to feel so welcome and get that little extra guidance, since we were not familiar with how they operated. Thanks again to a great staff and very friendly racers.
Saturday night was off to an early start and Corey from CT Racing, our Pirelli tire sponsor, took us to a local racer hangout for dinner. I am amazed by some of the people we meet; Ted Campbell, the Leo Vince US Race Manager is a former AMA Pro Motocross racer and Corey has raced just about everything pro. I had the pleasure to sit we both of these gentlemen over the past few weeks and was excited to hear some of the stories they have to tell. Having sponsors who have been in the trenches fighting to make races is awesome, they know first had the difficulties that racers go through just to get a few sessions on the track. Thank you again for telling me your stories and letting me tell you some of mine.
Corey Neuer bending it thru the corner.
Sunday the rain was gone, and the sun was shining once again. Colder than Saturday we decided not to practice the first of two sessions. After about an hour the temperature came up and the track was ready. My lap times were still dropping with every lap and I felt good. After the shortest riders meeting I have ever attended, my focus turned to race #1, 600 Super Stock. Being the first race of the day, I would not have a chance to see how the flag would drop, the best I could do was make sure everything else was ready to go.
Lined up on the grid, a glance to the left saw me sitting next to Fernando Amantini, a journeyman AMA rider. Another AMA racer and known local fast guy, Bryce Prince was up front, with several other local racers making up the small grid. A clean start put me side by side with Amantini into Turn 2, the chicane, but he took the position with the inside line into Turn 3. Now sitting in 6th position this was not my dream start, I managed a couple passes and moved up to 4th. From there, I spotted the two leaders leaving third place behind. After finding my rhythm and getting to know the other rider a pass presented itself. Down a short hill and into a double apex left turn, my inside line would allow for a block pass on the exit and place me up on the podium. The last lap and a bit of a slide due to an over aggressive throttle, I almost gave up an outside pass in the same corner. A late braking move on his part allowed me to sit up, let him fly by, and then I dropped inside and was right back in business. Pinned to the finish line, I took the 3rd spot on the podium.
Race 4, was 650 Superbike, WSMC’s version of the AFM Formula 1 class. Jenn was out on track against a host of fast racers, all of which were on 600’s, not one 650 on the grid. I find my self like a little kid playing video games watching her ride. Sitting in the stands I lean left and right, twist the throttle, and squeeze my imaginary brakes. To be honest it’s exhausting! She did an amazing job learning the track so fast.
Race 10, 600 Mod Prod was the last race for both of us. I have raced with Jenn before, but have never lined up on the grid next to her. What do you say to your wife? The nod of the head or the knuckle bump given to most riders doesn’t seem appropriate. So I pop up my visor and remind her we are here to have fun. Just then I look up to see my view of the starter is blocked, uuurghh! A decent launch for not seeing the flag put me in the mix of the group into Turn 1. The race was short lived as my 3rd place start was all for not. A red flag came out mid-second lap as a young 600 rider, that Jenn had just passed on the front straight, high- sided exiting Turn 4 trying to close the gap.
We restated the race, and like a first timer, I lined up in exactly the same spot. Blind as a bat we launched down the road for a shortened race, only 4 laps for the restart to help keep the race day on schedule. I managed some clean passes early and was able to get up to 3rd position, but a poor choice in lines would not allow me to capitalize on my strengths. I finished with another 3rd place position, but this one was much less satisfying. Congrats to Luke Huff for getting the better of me in the second race. Luckily, I had a camera on the bike and will be able to review the race and learn from my mistakes.
I am excited to welcome back many of my sponsors from 2010 and also to announce that Roseville Yamaha is back into road racing supporting Z2 Racing for 2011.
Please remember to support the people who support racers.
Z2 Trackdays, Z2 Racing, Yamaha, Fast Bike Industries, Pirelli /CT Racing, Factory Body Works, Yamalube Products, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Roseville Yamaha, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Helimot, Suomy, Sidi, Tech Spec and Ken Hill Coaching, Ink Monkey.
600 Superbike - finished 3rd
600 Production - finished 3rd
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.