The months of April and May and June and July have come to pass with great haste. My racing/riding schedule for the last few months looked like this;
April 16/17 – AFM Round 2 @ Infineon
April 23/24 – CSC Round 1 w/ WERA @ Buttonwillow
May 2 – Z2 Track day @ Infineon
May 7/8 – AFM Round 3 @ Infineon
May 13, 14, 15 – AMA Races @ Infineon
May 27, 28, 29, 30 AMA Races w/ WSBK @ Miller
June 4/5 – AFM Round 4 @ Thunderhill
July 9/10 – AFM Round 5 @ Infineon
July 22, 23, 24 – AMA Races w/ MotoGP @ Laguna
Crazy, right? My schedule was packed with racing action thru April and May and I just wasn’t able to find the time to sit down and complete my race reports. The couple of weekends we had off in this time period, we spent prepping the bikes for the next round and trying to take care of a few things on the home “To Do” list. To top of the craziness, I kicked off a new construction project at work and spent a few hours of my “off racing” weekends and several more late nights at the office trying to get the ball rolling so I could afford to leave early on Fridays and take the necessary days off to make my racing schedule work. Then when I got to a break from the racing, (mid-June) I spent some time quality time with my husband and friends cycling, kayaking, rock climbing and enjoying my days. I had my race report notes written up, but sitting down to write my complete story took a back seat to other activities in my life.
Alas, hear it is, my story of “Living the Dream” like Nicky Hayden, over the last few months of racing.
Goals & Expectations
We left Round 1 at Buttonwillow Raceway early on Sunday afternoon, I was actually looking forward to getting home from the long, 6-hour drive before the sun set. Despite the sheeting rain, that forced the AFM to call the Round 1 weekend over after completing only about half the races on Saturday, I was happy, I had achieved a personal goal at Buttonwillow and left with a feeling of optimism towards the rest of this season.
"Now, I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations." - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I have never been one to wait around for “just the right time” or “just the right situation” to do something I have set my sights on. After attending only two, consecutive Z2 Track day weekends, I knew I wanted to race. I bought my race prepped SV650 and signed up for the very next New Racers School that Z2 had on their schedule. It was in November, still a few months away, so I had time to get up to A-group pace. Some would say that you should ride years, or a least longer than a few months, on the track before you go racing. I say, “I could die tomorrow, if I am safe and fast enough to pass the NRS, why shouldn’t I go for it?” My first race weekend goal was simply to achieve the required times in my Saturday Clubman race so that I could grid up for the Sunday races. Now, in my 4th season of racing with the AFM, I have set my sights on a couple of new goals; winning the AFM Formula AFemme Championship and qualifying for an AMA Pro SuperSport race.
These are big goals!!! I knew that achieving them wasn’t going to be easy.
Joy Higa had announced that she was retiring from racing, but that doesn’t make my goal for winning the AFemme Championship any easier this year. Christie Cooley is consistently faster than me and she works hard to make sure she stays that way, there are always the wildcard girls racers that may show up from other clubs and give me a run for my money and there are the new female racers like Nikki Nienow and Sara Probert who are getting quicker each time they grid up.
My goal of qualifying for an AMA SuperSport race is even bigger. I will need to learn to adapt to new tires, since the AMA has a Dunlop spec tire. I have been faithful to my CT Racing/Pirelli tires since I started using them on my SV in my first season. I will have to at least match, if not improve on my Infineon best lap time of 1:52.2. And…I will have to do these things in a new environment with the AMA running the show, in a qualifying session, not a race, on track with racers that I have idolized over the years. This is like trying to do your best lap time ever… in practice, without that extra motivation of trying to beat someone to the checkers, without the added race adrenaline that helps you brake a little deeper or roll on the throttle a little sooner. Yep, it is going to be tough. Some say, I should wait to sign up for the AMA’s, until I am consistently fast enough to qualify. They argue that it is a lot of money to spend to “try to qualify.” I say, “I could die tomorrow, and if I wait until I am fast enough that I already know I can make the qualifying time, then where is the fun in that?”
You see, I believe that there is an important difference between a goal and an expectation. A goal is something that is currently just out of your reach; it would be difficult, yet extremely rewarding to achieve a goal. When you achieve a goal, you should be Over-the-Moon happy… I literally expect to see you try to jump over the moon. An expectation is something that is within your reach, it may still be difficult, but you’ve been there before. If you’ve consistently hit those lap times that make the qualifying cut off for AMA SuperSport and you sign up with the plan to qualify, then that is an expectation, you would be more bummed if you didn’t make the cut off than excited if you did. That is the difference, and it is an important difference to me when I decide if something is worth the money, the time or the effort.
AFM Round 2
April 16/17 -- Infineon Raceway–Sonoma, CA
Formula AFemme – 3rd of 12 (Best Lap 1:56.157)
600 Production – 28th of 43 (Best Lap 1:52.260)
600 Superbike – DNF
Starting off on Saturday, I struggled through practice to find my pace. I was anxious about the Formula AFemme race in the afternoon and found myself over-riding the bike and working far too hard. I really wanted to get a good start to the season and see if I had anything for Joy Higa (already out of her short-lived retirement, now aboard a Ducati) and Cooley, who have consistently been the top two in AFemme since its inception 3 years ago. This will be my first full season in the class on a competitive bike and I am looking to make a run for the championship. Unfortunately, things did not go my way, with a bad start off the front row I went back to 6th position. I got back up to 4th in the first couple of corners, but found myself fighting for the pass on Bess Keigwin through the carousel, and she did not shy away from the throttle on the exit. I made the pass on the brakes entering Turn 7, but by then Higa and Cooley had checked out. I rode a lonely race in 3rd position. I was pleased with my ability to recover from the bad start and put it on the podium, but I will be looking to improve on that start launch.
My Sunday Races 600SB and 600Prod, weren’t on the schedule until after lunch. After a long morning of waiting to ride, I gridded up on the 7th row of 600SB, with still several rows of bikes behind me. Again, my launch off the line could use some work, but I found an opening on the inside as we entered turn 1, good to pick up a few of the spots I had lost on the launch. As I pushed through the opening on the approach to Turn 2, another rider came all the way across the track looking for a wide entry into 2 and cleaned out my front wheel sending me high side into the track. My Soumy helmet saved my bacon as I hit my head hard on the asphalt, I lifted my up my head to realize I was sliding on my belly across the track looking down the hill into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, the skilled racers managed to avoid me and my motorcycle as we crossed the full width of the track into the dirt. I picked myself up, hit the kill switch on my bike which had not yet given up and walked up the hill to the turn workers booth. I got to the booth just in time to see the field as they came around starting the 2nd lap. I had a great vantage point to cheer on my husband, Jason and our Z2 Racing teammates Greg McCullough and Cameron Gish.
I regrouped for the 600Prod race, which was at the end of the day. My race mechanic, Danny Harrison, prepped the back-up bike as we waited for the crash truck to roll in with my A-bike (named Hasi, after WSBK racer Leon Haslam.) Upon inspection, the damage to Hasi was minimal and the Z2 team jumped in to get her race ready. I gridded up on the 5th row of 600 Prod and followed Cooley and Ricky Ford through the start until turn 7, where they pulled a gap. I led the next wave of riders for a few laps as I battled to stay at the front of the pack, ultimately dropping back one position, yet I managed to improve my personal best lap time at Infineon during that race, after a struggle all weekend to get there, getting down to a low 1:52. This was on the right track to meeting my AMA goal and I was pleased with my weekend.
WERA/CSC Round 1
April 23/24 -- Buttonwillow Raceway–Buttonwillow, CA
Women Superstock Expert/Formula Femme – 3rd of 7 (Best Lap 2:02.092)
C Superbike Expert – 16th of 21 (Best Lap 2:05.694)
MW Solo Expert – 14th of 22 (Best Lap 2:03.720)
The California State Championship (CSC) first round was held in conjunction with WERA at Buttonwillow the following weekend. I spent the week focusing my energy on how to get better starts, riding my street bike to work a couple of times (surface streets, 3 miles from home) using every stop sign as an opportunity to practice. If I want to meet my AFemme season goal, fixing my launch problems will be key.
As I told in my first round race report, Buttonwillow is a difficult track for me. Despite all the arguments and struggles I have had with her, I am not willing to give up on her. I talked to Coach Ken, KHCoaching, as I was preparing for the weekend and he sent me an article about athletes who strive for perfection.
“The irony is this: Perfectionists have a lot of great traits. They
are often passionate, highly motivated, and work really hard in
practice. They show up when they're supposed to show up. They are
often a coach's dream.
However, one Achilles Heel is their expectations. They expect too
much of themselves. They tell themselves, "I'm going to be the top
scorer in this game." When they don't achieve their high goals,
they get frustrated and often lose confidence.”
We came up with a test for me that weekend; I would not run any lap timers, nor look at the lap times posted on the window, I would not review video or discuss strategy with my team. I would not worry about who was passing me. I would simply, “not worry” I would just go out and ride. I focused on nothing but the mechanics of riding that Ken has taught me and I had the best Buttonwillow weekend yet.
"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule."
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
I gridded up for the CSC Formula Femme and was on the 3rd row with no points in WERA. Off the line I got a terrible launch (hmmm, still more work to do here) and settled into 5th. I was directly behind Nadine, with Marisol in 3rd and Krystyna Kubran and Christie Cooley battling it out for the front. Nadine and I had a bit of swapping back and forth with me eventually getting the pass made and I set my sights on getting by Marisol. She was a tough cookie to pass; I worked on setting up the corners for maximum drive to try to overtake her on acceleration, but with her lighter weight and good exits herself I couldn’t get the drive on her. I was faster than her on corner entry so I went to attempting a pass on the brakes, but she has an unladylike, yet effective method of shutting the door on you when you go for an inside pass. After several attempts of going inside her on the brakes and having her come across my front wheel with loads of corner speed, I decided that maneuver was too risky, I would need more room, this went on for a several laps until on the last lap, I finally had enough space and drive into Lost Hills to make a clean pass that she couldn’t block me on. I crossed the checkers to look back and see that Marisol didn’t make it through that last turn onto the front straight and crashed out. I finished 3rd and grabbed a trophy spot and Nadine followed me across the line in 4th. I later found out she had latched onto me and turned her best lap times there (Great Job Nadine!) When she told me her lap time I realized I must have improved my own personal lap times at Buttonwillow. After checking the results, I found I had improved my best lap time by a full 4 seconds. I was Over-the-Moon. Have I mentioned how great Ken Hill is?
By now it is a well known fact that some of the races did not happen at AFM round 1. Well, improvise a bit, move some stuff around and we managed to get a few races done. So the key to the weekend, be flexible. Yes, we know everyone had a plan and a plan is good, but a flexible plan, now that is great. So all limbered up here we go with my single race report.
I went down to Buttonwillow on Friday with one goal; work on my weakest areas. For most people this means T1 or T8. My weakest area is me. I spent the day just trying to fix some issues that Ken Hill had identified in the past. I have not spent a day with Ken in almost a year, but his voice echoes through my head. “Basics, basics, basics.” I did what I was told and worked on the basics. One thing about working on something is that it tends to slow me up. I spent the day watching my competitors rail around me while I focused on my issues. You want mental fortitude, well, try letting a guy go by that you fully expect to beat on Sunday.
Friday night, the rest of the crew showed up to find that we had a rough day. Jenn had taken a spill while entering the sweeper. She has been working on a few things and finding speed all over the track and when she links it all up, I may be in trouble. We continued to discuss the day and make plans for Saturday. Oh how the plan would change.
Saturday started the same as any other and my lap times we not stellar. I had focused on what I was doing wrong Friday, but the speed was eluding me. Knowing I had a few sessions to shake out the demons, my plan stayed the same. A bent front wheel was giving me problems in the first session, but once diagnosed Mikey got me a straight wheel mounted up. As we sat around for a slight rain delay a meeting was called and we were told plans had changed. Due to a large storm that was only hours away, seven highly attended Sunday races would be run instead of today’s normally programmed schedule. I was in 600 SB and that was now race 4.
R6, R6, R6... must be the bike to be on.
After practice, my clutch gave me some worries and with last years problems I was quick to take a look at it. My inspection yielded little answers and I decided to bolt it back up and try to make it out for the race 3 warm up lap. With my clutch consuming a good deal of time and no back up wheel, I realized I was going to race on the same front tire I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday morning on. My warm up lap showed me the bike would survive the race and I was ready for competition.
A solid finish last year put me second on the grid next to Lenny Hale and Berto Wooldridge. The board went up and the flag flew. My jump was as good as Lenny, but his grid position left him leading into T1. My eyes had a wide open track and in the very tough 600 class I was happy to only be looking at one bike. I held Lenny close for a lap, but then he started to gap me out a bit. Within a moment I realized my mind needed to be on me not him. A lap later doing my own thing he was coming back to me. On lap 3, at least this is the way I remember it, a white bike came up the inside of T3. Imagine my surprise to see it was my Greg McCullough coming all the way up from P8 on the grid. He passed me and I wanted to pass back, but he clearly got up to me so I wanted to see how he did it. The next thing I know, he passes Lenny up into Lost Hills. They quickly pulled a small gap.
Do what you do and let the rest work its self out. Lap 4 and 5 were just that and on lap 6 I was right there ready to try for a pass on Lenny. I had a plan and as we headed to lost hills my plan was over, black flag, it was not pointed at any of us so we kept going. We came down to the sweeper and another black flag was out, finally we all sat up and realized our race was over. We pulled into the pits and awaited the official results. Greg had won, Lenny second, and me in third. Not a bad way to start the year. I wanted to win, but it just goes to show you every lap counts even lap 4 or 5. A HUGE CONGRATS TO GREG! We wanted to have a good race and a 1-3 is pretty darn good. Oh yeah, 3rd on an old tire, you have to love those CT Racing-Pirelli tires!
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
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Women race with the men?
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