AFM kicked off the 2014 Season March 22nd and 23rd at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Let's hear from Ritz Racing on how it went:
What was your general impression of the track?
Jason: It is a tough track to say the least. In the middle of the season, this place would challenge you and your equipment, at the beginning of the year it is a massive undertaking. The track has an amazing layout, but the bumps are all anyone talks about and I'm no different, the bumps are the tracks defining characteristic. With fresh pavement this place would be a rider's track for sure. As it is now, it's a setup and confidence track.
Jenn – I have historically struggled at BW, the landscape is pretty flat and barren, it's desert like. I have a difficult time finding reference points and I struggle to look far enough ahead because, for me, it tends to feel a little like being in a white-out snow storm. Like many other racers still do, I used to have a bad attitude about racing here, along with the lack of reference point and scenery, the track is bumpy and the bike set-up is different than you would use at any other track. A couple years ago, I was working with Ken Hill at a track day at BW and I finally decided it was time to let go of my bad attitude and start embracing the things I like about the track instead. I love going through Riverside - the fast, right, sweeping, banked turn is a blast to ride through, then it spits you out onto a flat, short straight into a high speed left kink, then up the hill before you go to the brakes and make a hard right, over the blind Phil's Hill. This is my favorite section of the track, go fast in the fast parts… This weekend the entry bumps into Riverside were worse than they had ever been and were the talk of the paddock. The trick was finding the cleanest line to clear the bumps and carry max speed into Riverside, but hit the bumps wrong and you would surely find yourself skipping across the track towards the outside losing your momentum, get it completely wrong and you would end up lying in the dirt on the back of Riverside.
Three goals you set and achieved this weekend?
Jenn - My first goal; Set a new personal best lap time. My previous best lap time at BW was a 1:58.9, this track has similar lap times to Thunderhill and with the improvements I had made overall with my lap times last year I was confident I could improve on my PB here. The weekend started out a little frustrating as I was in the 2:02-2:03 range during practice. I always practice a little slow, but I have been trying to change that, so I was still frustrated. As soon as I got into the races on Saturday afternoon my times dropped; I had the AFemme race followed back-to-back with Formula 40. I was still off the pace in AFemme getting a bad start, then riding the entire race in 2nd position by myself, I only managed flat 2:00's in this race.
This brings me to my second goal; Finish Top 5 in my debut in Formula 40 Middleweight. That's right, I turned the big 4-0 this year and I am super excited to be racing in the highly competitive F40 class. If you think people slow down when they get to be 40 you need to look no further than Bud Anderson for proof that is not the case. Bud runs both F40 and F50, back to back and still finishes on the podium in both. Bud is a damn fast guy and one of my inspirations in racing. Again, I didn't get a great start, but I managed to close in on the leaders thanks to a heated battle at the front between Stephen Rue, Craig Mason and Tom Montano swapping it up for the lead, followed by Scott Wilson, then me. I was motivated to stay with them for the duration and also wanted to make sure I was there to capitalize on a mistake if they kept duffing it up at the front, I rode more aggressively and focused than I had in Afemme. My best lap in F40 was a new PB dropping into the 1:58.0's. This gave me the confidence I needed going into Sunday that I could still go faster at BW.
My third goal for the weekend; Finish in the top 15 in my Sunday classes, scoring points for gridding at future rounds and DO NOT CRASH. BW is always a bit of a "survival round". We usually have lower turn-outs at BW, (it is far, the weather is typically threatening rain and many people don't like the track). Showing up and scoring points at BW will set you ahead for grid positions the rest of the season. This is important for the 600 classes with deep fields, if you want to run in the front packs you need to be there at the start. I was pleased with my first race of the weekend 750P, I managed a new PB dropping to 1:56's and I finished top 10. I fatigued later in the day, it was hot at BW this weekend and I found my body was not prepared for the long days in the heat. I didn't run a strong in the 600P and F1 classes as I had hoped, but still kept my lap times consistent in the 1:57's and finished as I had hoped, within the top 15. This was by far my best weekend at BW ever and was a solid start to my season.
Jason - I am not sure that I have achieved 3 goals that I can speak of. If I had to break it down the first is survival. The first round in a series is survival for sure, finish the weekend with you and the bike in-tact and score points in your races. Check, check, and check! Not that I didn't have a few close calls that could have changed that answer.
Being prepared was a big deal this year. No matter whom you are or at what level, preparation is key. My bike was mostly ready to go, we had logged some days with Pacific Track Time, and we had a returning mechanic (Ben Kautt) this year. I see a lot of guys show up and they are really behind the ball. Some of them make it work, but the overwhelming theme was riders who had already logged a race or two this year, performed better. I felt a bit disgruntled, because with the extra time we had before the season started, I just managed to pack more "crap" into it. Sometimes having too much prep time makes for a bit of over thinking the small things.
Last year I suffered some pretty bad days at the track on a personal level. I mismanaged my efforts on the liter bike. In the off season, I changed my approach to establish a program for managing my race weekends better. This includes a change in my diet, workout program, and riding style. As I am getting older, my body changes the way I produce energy and recover. Dehydration was a large problem for me last year. It took some time, but my diet seems to be squared away, leaving me with enough energy and fluid for the weekend. My back, leg, and shoulder strength has also really limited my performance, I ride a bit brutish and it requires a bit more stamina that some of the smaller riders. My strength still needs work, but the overall feeling is better. I have also made changes to my riding style, out of necessity, and Ken Hill Coaching theory is constantly a point of my efforts. This is a never ending change; riders have to change as the bikes change.
Three things you learned this weekend?
Jason - I learned a lot more than three things this weekend for sure. 1) Barry at KFG is helping me out with my suspension and we are finding our way with the ZX-10. 2) Don't whine to your mechanic too much, at some point he will look at you and tell you to shut up. It was much deserved and forced me to get my head straight. 3) The biggest thing I learned was race craft in general. I use the term RACE CRAFT for a lack of a better term. Michael Ernest has become a mentor to me this year and his insight has proven to be unbelievably helpful. He is back to racing on the GSX-R and still taking some of his valuable time to work with me. We talk set-up, tires, gearing, and pretty much anything I can think of to ask him. I feel incredibly lucky to have a rider like him to work with.
Did you do anything differently? What was it? How did it go?
Jenn – We did a few things differently kicking off this year. First, our pit was set up differently, as we are now a vendor for our oil sponsor, TEXAS TEA Lubes. We had several people stop by to check out our display, ask about the oil and say hello. Our new pit location was directly across from Correne @ Project Serenity which gave us perfect access for taking advantage of a couple massages between sessions, plus we were close to Pirelli making it quick and convenient for swapping tires.
Another change is we usually we get in a track day at BW a week or two before the first round. Unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity to do that this year. Barry at KFG worked with me Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to help get my bike set-up to better handle Bumpywillow, but I was off-pace in practice which made it difficult to dial in set-up. We got the bike to the point where it was "good enough" but I wasn't at the point where I was ready to make swinging changes for just this one track. I think if I had more testing time at BW prior to this weekend, it probably would have paid off.
The best change made this weekend though was in our protective gear. After my crash at Sonoma last year that collapsed one of my lungs I reached out to Mike at Impact-Safe T-Armor. Both Jason and I received new chest protectors on Thursday and were able to wear them for the race weekend. Mike worked with me through a fitting template to get the chest protector size and shape right for my curves. When I first put the chest protector in my leathers it was noticeable and a little weird feeling, not uncomfortable, just different, but as soon as I got on my bike and started riding I forgot it was even there. It warms up from your body heat and softens conforming to your shape. I would say it was incredibly comfortable, but the reality was it was not even noticeable which is better. I can't wait for my custom back protector to arrive to go with it, I can't even tell you how much Ben and Jason will appreciate me having a back protector that stays in place so that I will stop asking them to reach in the back of my leathers to push it down or pull it up. Thanks Impact Armor for helping to keep us safe on the track.
What was the best moment of your weekend?
Jason - The drive home, I just am kidding, well kind of... Spending that much time in the car I was able analyze my weekend. The worst thing for me is to perform less than my very best and to not be able to identify a solution. How many people have you seen that just crash and come back shaking their head, saying, "I don't know what happened, I just fell"? Not knowing the cause of your problem can seriously affect your confidence. I came away with a few things that need to be addressed that I believe will allow me to run at the front of the pack. Seeing the solution is a big deal. On the track, I had some fun racing F40 Heavyweight for the first time and taking the win. Yes, team Ritz is that old, both of us rocking F40. I wasn't going to race F40, but I was telling Jenn how jealous I was she would get to do a start today and she headed up to sign me up while my Ben did a quick flip on my practice tire. I managed to take the lead after about a lap and then just pounded out some race laps. Tons of fun racing with those guys, and I am glad they welcomed me.
Jenn – Every weekend I am racing is a great weekend! I am blessed to have a sport that my husband and I enjoy together and I honestly love the entire motorcycle racing community. I could pick several moments in the weekend that were productive, accomplished or just plain fun… like reading Road Racing World to Jason and Ben, using funny voices/accents to help pass the time driving to BW. However, if I had to pick the one memorable, best moment it would have been in the F1 race at the end of the day, I started on the very last grid position, P21, and worked my way through the field getting up into the top 15. I closed in on one of my best friends, Sam Richards, who was tapering off the pace, until he looked over his shoulder and saw my bike, "like an orange highlighter" (his words) coming at him. I made a couple of efforts to get by him, but he was not going to let me by. We had a fun last lap racing to the checkers, even though Sam was able to hold me off it was fun getting to race with him again… And I'll get him next time. :)
F40 Hvy - P1 1:52.593
Open SB - P5 1:51.324
Formula Pacific - P9 1:51.748
Open GP - P2 1:52.168
AFemme - P2 2:00.759
F40 Mid - P5 1:58.075
750P - P10 1:56.933
600P - P14 1:57.628
F1 - P15 1:57.424
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.