Here it is Sunday night and my weekend is over, Round 3 of the AFM series is over. Every race seems to end with a different, yet familiar feeling. If you have read the previous reports, there has been a completely different story every weekend. So if my weekend has not been the same, what is the common thread to the weekend? Driving home Sunday night, I had time to explore that question. Thinking back through the previous days and race weekends, my mind looked for common links in both my success and my failures. That is not one of my favorite words in the world, but to know true success I need to know failure. So how did the week compare to the others?
Somehow the first common thread for me is, no matter how prepared I get there always seems to be stuff left undone. Thursday morning I finished packing and had a goal to leave the house early. Jen is riding my other her R6 this weekend and I am still prepping the bike. A stop at cycle gear would find some gearing for her and my teammate Greg McCullough. The real goal was to get down to Leo Vince and see Manny. My bike has undergone several changes lately including a fuel change to Pro V2 from MR11. I like the fuel, but needed to know if the bike was maximizing the fuel. A stop at Leo Vince allowed me to find out. While I was there the other R6 needed help too. Just having pulled the stock headers off, we were able to find a system to install on the bike. The new system was so light and well built I really wanted it for myself. Resisting the urge to take it, I mounted it the her R6. With the extra power Jen would really enjoy riding the bike this weekend. So Thursday afternoon flew by as Manny, the Dyno Guru adjusted both bikes.
So with bikes tuned I headed to the track. Greg had just got his bike back from GP Frame and Wheel, so we spent late into the night finishing his bike at the track. Thanks to Greg Sahnd, for letting me borrow his PC5.
Friday was a Z2 Trackdays practice. My list of testing was long and for the most part I was alone in my testing. With Greg working the bugs out and Jen getting used to the R6, I focused on me. Lenny Hale came by the pits and offered some advice to both Greg and I. In not so many words we each needed to go faster and use each other to achieve that. People constantly want to know how to go faster and I am no different. The more people I speak to, the clearer it becomes. Work on what you need to do, not what the everyone else needs. The basic principles taught to me by Ken Hill are reinforced once again. So the conditions did not permit my fastest lap times of the year, but I found lots of stuff to work on. The day went really smooth for most of us, until the end of the day. Cody Landers had a late day crash and was taken to the hospital as a precaution, for some breathing issues. Racing can be dangerous, and you hate to see anyone not get right up after a fall.
Saturday was busy and the weather conditions were not much better, a little warmer, but we were still rocking hurricane style winds. Knowing that these may be race conditions, I chose to focus on using the wind to my favor. Basically why brake at the same spot if I have a 30mph head wind. So moving some markers around and changing my lines was the only thing on my agenda. Being a creature of habit, it takes a huge effort for me to change anything. So here is something for me to mark on my list, change it up. If you have spent any time around me you will here a common phrase, “if you do what you have always done, then you will get what you have always gotten”. Why approach the track the same way if I want to be faster, yes you need to do some things exactly the same, just not everything. This is a something that has taken me time to learn. I telling you this, for the same reason Lenny spoke to me on Friday. If you go faster , it will raise the level of competition for me and make me better.
Saturday evening we loaded up in the car and went to see Cody at Santa Rosa Memorial. They kept him for observation as he hit his chest and they were worried about swelling around his heart. After our visit, we broke protocol and went to dinner. I like to spend time Saturday night reviewing what we have learned so far. It was nice to see Cody and then hang out for a bit with friends away from the track. We always seem to speak about something that relates to each other, regardless of how fast each rider is. While we were away from the track we made a few more detours. A asthma attack on Friday night, left me with little sleep and forced me to find a drug store with an inhaler. Thanks to my team, as we bounced around Santa Rosa looking for what I needed. Arriving back at the track Shawn had made arrangement so we could get in even though it was late.
Let’s get down to business! Race day was here and I was ready. First up 600 production and a front row start. My launch was good and so was Lenny’s. Tyler Ohare came from the second row to get the best start. Into turn one Lenny, Tyler, me, Berto, and so on. On the advice of Mike Canfield, I stayed with Lenny for as long as possible learning what I could. Two laps in and my attention became focused on Berto. He was behind me and close. Faster than me into one, but slower out of eleven left us balanced as we circulated the track. A few laps in he made a pass on me into the carousel, but I was not ready to give up a podium just yet. Drafting him towards turn seven, I slipped up the inside on the brakes. He pushed back at the exit, but I was able to keep him behind me. We stayed nose to tail until the last lap and then it happened. Lappers were coming. At first it was a lapper in turn one that gave me the advantage, then a lapper in two that cost me the same advantage. Turn eight and pulling past a large group of lappers, I was forced to use all of the track as I was forced to the curbing and jumped past Justice Hoffman. Picking my way through traffic into nine, and Berto unable to make all of the same passes a gap was made. The gap held until the end of the race , 3rd place and my first podium in 600 production was finally here.
My second race was 750 super bike and was just two races later. They were going to have a lunchtime podium for this class. I could not keep my mind from the thought of being up on the box and getting to thank people who helped to get me here. In retrospect I wish my mind would have been focused on just getting through the race. Greg spent 6 laps running right behind me until we hit lappers. I was so focused on getting through traffic I made a poor line choice into seven. Not being able to take my line while leaving myself no options, and sure Greg was about to pass I forced the bike to turn in. Way to deep into seven and out on the marbles, I asked more of my bike than I had a right too. I lost focus and the front end tucked. My Suomy helmet bounced off the ground. Grinding my Helimot leathers into the pavement, my mind folded up and went into a dark and tiny place. Picking my bike up and remounting before 5th place had even gone by, I pulled the bike behind the wall. Frustrated with myself not much could be said to the corner worker, other than nothing hurts but my ego. Damage assessment in short order was body ok, head ok, bike mostly ok, and thumb hurts almost as bad as my pride. My gear did what it was supposed to and then some.
I got back to the pits in time to walk over and watch Greg take second on the podium. I am not to proud to admit I was jealous, if your not jealous or upset then maybe racing isn’t for you. Congrats to Greg, he earned it and I am proud of him. This is when you find out who you really are. People actually walked up to me and asked me if that was the end of my day, looking for confirmation in my eyes. Well LOOK somewhere else, I trust my team to get the bike ready and my mind couldn’t imagine anything but riding for redemption. A few years back we were out moto-x racing and I chose to bump myself to the intermediate class. Off the start my 250 was out powered by the 450 bikes that surrounded me. Knowing I could make up the time in the corners we went into turn one. My corner speed was so much higher than the back of the group I got tangled up and slammed to the ground. Ever so slowly I was able to climb to my feet. My bike was picked up and being pushed off track. Wait, wait, let me have it. Kicking the bike over and pulling back on the track already a lap down, my arm slipped from the grip. I pulled over lifted it back in place and rode off to the next corner. Knowing I was never going to catch up, but not willing to quit I stalled the bike a few more times. Pulled off line I waited that last lap just so I could take the checker flag. Finishing is important to me! I don’t want to look back and think I quit my first intermediate race, because of a broken collar bone. Why would anyone quit, even if last is the best that can be done, it is just that your best.
2 races to go and 600 superbike was up. Lenny would jump out to the lead and the race was on for the rest of us. Sebastian and I would battle for a lap or two until I out braked myself into turn nine. Trying to recover the gap I made more mistakes. Ride your own race. If you don’t they take control out of your hands. Several laps in my mindset finally changed to my race, but by that point we were all pretty strung out. I watched the gap to 5th place and tried to find something new for my last race. It is odd practice while racing, but hey if it works.. 4th place is not the worst finish you can have after smacking the ground earlier in the day. Greg had some issues I was unaware of and when I got in the pits his bike was already on stands. A loss of power forced him to pull in and save what was left of the motor. My wife quickly offered her bike to him for his last race. That was a huge gesture, because she thought they were both in that race. Turns out Greg was in F1 and we were in 750 production. My bike is closest to his, so I offered my bike.
Before the bike was loaned out, we still had some business to tend to. 750 production and after a comment by both Greg and Berto about my riding earlier in the day, I chose to address the issue in this race. My front end was giving me issues and Sam Richards offered up a new tire on his rim for diagnoses. Turns out it was my lines causing the front end issues, but thanks Sam for the loan. My race was spent adjusting my line and managing a gap back to 3rd place. It was a small party in my helmet as each lap continued. The last time I remember being this goofy in my helmet was 2 years ago. I was actually singing as the bike just flowed around the track. Doing lap times I could barely touch last year, it was just easy to ride. Regaining my personality on the track that matches the one in the pits is awesome.
So for the weekend I learned some of what makes me do what I do.
#1 My team is everything to my success. Tom, Mikey, Lolli, Chris, Shawn, & Kathy.
#2 My teammates are beyond selfless. Greg, Jen, Sam, and David.
#3 Anyone can be beat.
#4 Don’t be afraid to change things up.
#5 Have fun in your helmet when you are on track.
Real quick I want to mention that my team did great this weekend. Jen got her first podium in the Afemme class. Sam rode smart and is learning to race, not just be on the racing surface while a race is happening. David met his goal of a 1:49 lap time. Getting in the sub 1:50 lap times is a major breakthrough. Greg managing to fight off Berto for a 2nd place finish on a borrowed bike, wow!
Please remember to support the people who support racers.
Z2 Trackdays Staff, Z2 Race Team, Yamaha, David at Fastbikes Ind., Pirelli /CT Racing, Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Helimot, Soumy, Factory Body Works , Igartua, 4 The Riders, Sidi, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
600 Production started 4th finished 3rd
750 Superbike started 2nd finished DNF Crash
600 Superbike started 4th finished 4th
750 Production started 2nd finished 2nd
I roll up to the 4 box on the outside of the front row, the familiar faces of my Formula AFemme competitors to my left and behind me. The 2 board goes up and I put my visor down and shift into first gear. The 1 board, I roll on the throttle to bring the RPM’s up to ??? Crap. I have no idea how to launch this thing.
You may recall from my last round race report, and my horrible starts, that my tachometer was not working on my SV and I demanded that Jason fix it or I would take his. Well, guess what? Race weekend rolled around and it still hadn’t been fixed, nope, not even looked at… so you know what I did? I took his. True to my word. The only problem was, his tach doesn’t really remove and connect to my SV so I just took the whole bike (well the bike he just finished building as his back-up bike.) *SMILE* I now have a 2009 Yamaha R6… meet “Hasi.”
Unfortunately, in my two days of practice on the new bike I had spent all my time on learning how to ride her around the track and braking, but neglected to figure out how to get a good launch. Sideways….. Green flag! I roll out of the box and get clobbered going into turn one. Ha-ha-ha… I will be practicing starts before the next round, so don’t get used to this. I went back a row and lost touch of the leaders before we had even made it to turn 2. I came over the crest into turn 3A just in time to see Christie tumbling in the dirt as her bike did a break dance off the track… no idea what happened, but I gotta go as the girls were getting away from me. I charge through the carousel and out onto the back straight, what is this on the race line? It’s Shelina rolling down the track and her bike screeching to a stop right at the exit apex. I alter my line to avoid them, and carry on into Turn 7, a tight line with deep braking into the head wind allowed me to hold a pass on the inside. I work my way past Stacy and Beth and soon I realize that I am now in 3rd, a podium spot if I can hold onto it. Down into 9, Lisa Wallace makes a pass on the inside, I try to square her off and get by her on the exit, but miss the drive. I charge through 10 and brake hard into 11. I am able to get inside Lisa and hold the position nose to nose on the exit of 11. The next 6 laps were exhausting and exhilarating as Lisa continued to show me a wheel here and there, I would hard brake into the corners letting the rear tire slide a bit. I even (unintentionally) backed it in to T9, as the tire slid to the left I felt it connect and I turned into the right… it felt so cool. We diced through traffic from the other wave and back markers, I made some tight aggressive passes, sure that Lisa would get held up in the traffic, but each pass by the front straight Jason would give me gap signal letting me know she hadn’t gone anywhere. Lisa pushed me all the way to the finish, we turned consistent 1:57’s through traffic and on the last lap we charged down to a 1:54. Close to my best time on the SV last year. Wow! I think I really like this R6.As I rolled off the track, Lisa and I were greeted by Shawn at the track exit giving us big congrats for a great race. We were both stoked, she had got her best times since she quit racing a few years ago and I had just got my first trophy with the AFM! I rolled back to my pit to see the entire team, my friends and of course my husband there cheering for me.
Over the course of the weekend, many people asked me why I decided to change bikes. This was not an easy decision, I love racing the SV, the bike and the classes are so much fun… but honestly I was struggling with my goals and I had to face the fact that I was not in the same position I was last year before my crash. I am physically weaker, despite all the rehab and working out, my shoulder is severely damaged and 6 months of rehab does not have me at 100%. My bike was put back together after the crash with the best components and any extras I could add to make me more comfortable and more competitive, but the fact is… my suspension settings were gone. At round 2, I started the journey of learning about suspension and getting Nikka handling the way I want, but the process was going to take more time. I had set some pretty big goals for the season and after the first two AFM rounds and the CSC round it was clear to me that I was going to need to go back to the drawing board and revise my plan and my goals. Believe me, this was a tough pill to swallow, it almost feels like giving up. I talked it over at length with each person on my team and even made a call to “Coach Ken” for a different perspective. He helped me work out some of the specifics of my new plan. With just over 2 weeks before round 3, I decided to make the change.I had a track day with Z2 at Thunderhill on Thursday the week before round 3 and I test rode the R6, she was cutting out at high speeds, Jason managed to get the bike to run reasonably well for the TD, but this was not the R6’s full potential. The week of the race Jason made some calls and got me a borrowed Power Commander from Greg Sahnds and, on Thursday, got the bike up to Manny at Leo Vince, who had just received a shipment with a pipe for an R6, it was installed and Manny put a base map on the bike for me to get her in the range. When I arrived at the track Thursday night I was delighted at what Jason was able to do to get my new race bike ready in such short order; new Vortex adjustable rearsets, CRG adjustable levers (for my tiny hands), changed out the gearing and of course the pipe and PC5. All I had to do was put on my Race Image Graphics sponsor stickers that Chris brought down for me. Thanks Jason for all your hard work on my bike! On the agenda before the next round is to get a quick-shifter installed and get her up to Terry at JT&S Performance for the fine tuning to get the most out of her.
For the Sunday races, I signed up for 600 Production (race 2) and 750 Production (race 11). I would be gridded near the back since I had never raced these classes before and had no points, I was actually surprised to see there were a few people behind me still. I must not be the only one making changes or starting fresh at round 3. A good start would sure make improving my finish position a lot easier.
Before Race 2, I hit up Greg and Jason for starting advice. I needed someone to tell me how to launch the R6 so I could get a better jump than yesterday. Jason and Greg are both really good at starts, but funny thing is, they each have a different technique. I had a little time in the hot pits after morning practice to give my starts a try. I did a couple practice starts but they were nothing spectacular, this was going to take work.
I roll into my #36 grid box on the outside of the 9th row for the 600 Prod race. Visor down, bike in gear, clutch engaged, brake on, I roll up the RPM’s above 8000 at least (er, um, on the 650 it was 6000, but with that torquey little bike it was a charger off the line) I was going to have to get the R6 into the RPM’s where she makes power…. I’m rolling the throttle on and next thing ya know the back end starts wagging around a bit. OOPS! I just did a burn out on the start grid. Ha. Damn hooligans! I let up on the throttle just as the 1 board went Sideways… green flag! Ugh, this was even worse than my start yesterday. On the bright side, I noticed 2 things; 1) when you are at the back of the pack they tend to bottleneck up in T1, so I was able to catch up to where I started pretty easily, 2) the 600 racers are not nearly as chaotic as the 650 racers, they tend to hold their line though T1 and T2, so I was able to swing around the outside and into the inside on T2 without worry of someone cutting across the track. I made a few passes within the first lap, (including you Justus, I’m going to wipe the floor with you in the Endurance race. LOL… luv ya) had some back and forth battles with a couple bikes that ultimately got the better of me and turned lap times in the 57’s & 56’s. I did get lapped at the end, Hale got me on the front straight, O’Hara into turn 2 and of course my fast ass husband got me as we headed down into turn 9. Berto took me going into 11, but gave me a follow me signal and helped me stay on track to not give up any positions for my own finish as we crossed the checkers.
Race 11- Sam was on the grid with me, about two rows up and I had been talking smack to him about how I was going to pass him on the start, I had to get a better launch. I rolled on smooth and even as the green flag waved. I got an ok launch, but fortunately Sam went backwards on the start, well not literally, but I rocketed by him… Buh-bye! No way was he going to let me beat him though, he made his way through the traffic and schooled me on how to get through the carousel. I latched on and followed as long as I could, but Sam’s times were dropping and I couldn’t hang on. We’ll see if I can have something for him at Round 4. After that, the race was similar to Race 2, except I managed to avoid being lapped until the end, where only Lenny Hale got by me, around the outside of Turn 10. Honestly, I have been in awe at how well Lenny gets through that section and it was really cool to see him take that line around me for the pass. I learned something new. ;)
The high-light of the weekend for me personally was getting on the podium in AFemme, but more so because I came to the track with a new bike, requiring a completely different riding style and I didn’t let that hold me back from giving it my all. Don’t get me wrong – I gave everyone my disclaimer, “Hey, I’ve only got two days on this bike, so I’m probably going to suck.” But I surprised myself and I didn’t suck… I’d say I did really well.
I am extremely proud of my team as well, it was a very successful weekend for us as a whole. Jason took 3rd in 600 Prod, followed that with a crash out of 750 Superbike, handing 2nd to Greg, who got to celebrate on the lunch time podium. Jason kept his head together & rebounded to take 4th in 600 Superbike and 2nd in 750 Prod. Then Jason loaned his bike to Greg, who had an engine problem and Greg brought home 2nd in Formula 1 on a borrowed bike. David, in all his awesomeness, met his lap time goal for the year and its only round 3! Sam dropped his lap times by 4 seconds. Great weekend. Thanks to the team, Lollipop, Tom and Chris for all the support and a very special thanks to Beth Cunningham for working on my shoulder to keep me racing.
Race report by 1st rider James Spooler, aka 2nd rider Chris Siglin, aka actually rode Jason Lauritzen.
The most electric report I have ever written, whew there I promise no more bad electric jokes. Last week my phone rang, on the other end Greg McCullough my teammate. He asked me if there was any interest in maybe riding an electric bike for the AMA weekend. Absolutely, they are new and not gas powered, but hey it has two wheels and that is all I care about. So I made contact with Chris at CT Racing or better known as the Pirelli guy. He had been contacted by fellow Pirelli pilot Chis Siglin. They needed a fill in rider, as Siggy had some conflicts with his schedule. With a smile on my face I said yes to both of them and was put in touch with Todd Killman of Electric Motorsports in Oakland, Ca.
A few phone calls later and we agreed to meet at thee BRG Performance shop on Friday. The idea was to meet there and go straight to afternoon AMA practice at Infineon. Not sure about the electric ride, I hesitated telling anyone until I was sure we were going and they wanted me to pilot their bike. BRG is owned and operated by KC a former AFM racer. Having been friends with his riders we had casually met, but never really spoke to each other on a personal level. While we waited for the mystery R6 to show up, I had time to really get to know the BRG crew. KC is an amazing man and has a rich history and an inspirational story to tell. If you have never met him I encourage you to seek him out and say hi.
When the bike showed up and was unloaded I had mixed emotions. Wow they built this and wow it is not done. First off it takes a huge effort to design and make a bike work. Bimota, has been taking other manufacturer bikes and building them into their own creations for years, but not like this. No gas, oil, coolant, clutch, transmission, or pistons. A completely custom, one off ride is what sat before me. My first impression as I put a leg over it, was the weight was so different. The bike is heavier, but the weight is so low it is just odd to feel an R6 that way. The guys put the bike on the rack and went to work. It was apparent to me that we would be lucky to make the late practice at best. Parts were needed as they were trying a completely new controller ( kind of like the brain for the bike) and the guys were all hard at work. Mix a pile of mechanics with a bunch of engineers and it is a sight to see. The guys at Electric Motorsports needed some mechanical items and KC was quick to fabricate them. This guy can make anything you want including a roller for the chain, because the store bought ones would not hold up. They continued to work and the time ticked away. We all saw the idea of Friday practice evaporate like a glass of water in the Sahara.
6pm and we are strapping up to the dyno. How excited were we? It was like a bunch of kids opening a X-mas present. They bike roared to life, scratch that. The bike silently sped to life as the fist pass was made. I have never been in a dyno room without the need for ear protection. We shut it off and repositioned the bike on the dyno. Now it would not start, the engineering team jumped to action and found a failed port or at least what that is what I think they called it. The best way I can relate this is, like a regular bike dropping a cylinder. The crew loaded the bike and took it back to their shop, where they would spend a sleepless night prepping the older and more proven system for the bike.
Saturday 8AM and I am at the track. We unloaded some items I brought to better our effort on the suspension side of things. They located us on the infield of the track, in front of the grandstands. It was a little weird showing up first. I walked around and looked at the other 10 bikes and saw we needed to add a few safety features. We already had the emergency shut off switch located on the tail, but we would need a tail light and a horn as well. The horn to warn turn workers that you silent speeder was heading at them and a light so they knew power was on. As the team showed up the lack of sleep was apparent, they were all running on fumes. We unloaded the bike and made preparations to the bike. First for me was taller forks and just in time Greg showed up to help. Time just disappeared as we struggled to get the bike finished in time for first practice / qualifying.
Did I forget to mention that my first time on the bike would be to qualify it. Well it was and as I pulled into the staging area my mind was set on just getting a few laps in, and not how fast I could go. Lap one I eased on the track and I mean eased, the entrance was at the beginning of the front straight, on the straight away. The power is smooth and seamless as you just give it more throttle to speed up. Kind of like a scooter with no noise. Up the hill the bike went, but immediately it was clear we needed a larger rear sprocket. The gearing is crazy. Your bike probably has a 16 front and a 45 rear or something close to that. Try a 12 front and a 70 rear, that is what we needed. Where to you even get a 70 rear sprocket anyway? Well half way around the track the bike died and we encountered our first issue, followed shortly by my second. Well known AMA racer and Zero Team pilot Shawn Higbee passed me close down the carousel as I was without power. It was not a really close pass, but I did not hear him at all and an underwear change later it would be all good. Mental note for next session, loose the earplugs. I had limp the bike back to the pits. No lap times in session one as the guys would work hard to get me out in session two. With lots of time to kill I went out to visit some friends and spread the electric word.
4:45 and second practice, we are not sure but we think we have a fix. I was able to get a few laps in, but with the bike shutting off at least a few times per lap is was hard to go fast. Back in the pits, I relayed what information I could to the team. The gearing change from 16-55 to 12-55 helped, but the bike just kept dying. We were forced to forgo the rest of practice. They would work again on the bike as I went to a late riders meeting and then home. The tally so far, 4 non consecutive laps on the bike and fear that I may not get many more. The struggle was not just ours as many teams had to overcome issues and try to get ready for Sunday. Remember these guys are the pioneers of our sport. So much technology has been created in recent years people forget how much money and effort is needed. These are the guys working out of a small garage in Silicon Valley, just for bikes not home computers.
Unhappy with the handling I grabbed some stuff for the bike before we left on Sunday. Most importantly would be my race tires from Pirelli. The bike had some other tires on it, but in the few laps I did they were no where near as good as my tires. Sc-1 rear and Sc-2 front would be the answer to my turning issues, I hoped. After measuring the ride height we changed tires and adjusted nothing else suspension wise. The guys removed a faulty switch and wired the rest of the bike. The tech inspection crew had been very lenient with the rules on Saturday, but Sunday it must all work and be safe. We went out in morning practice and as I dipped the bike into 1, it did something, it turned and turned well. A huge grin crossed my face as I flew by other riders up in 2. My ground clearance would still be an issue, but thanks to Pirelli we were able to turn. Just as fast as my grin appeared it disappeared, the bike died. After pulling on and off track several times we managed to get back to the pits.
I was still super stoked, the gearing had gotten better 12-60 and the tires were great. All I needed was for the motor to work and my eyes were set on a podium spot. While we were waiting I noticed the team next to me had no seat. Riding on just a plastic I offered a set of Tech Spec to them. They applied it to the seat area and were actually able to stay on the bike , rather than sliding all over the place. I want to beat the guy next to me, but only if that means we did better as a team and not because he could not stay on the bike. The minutes ticked away as the 11 race was coming and they were still unable to find the fault. With just minutes until the start of the race, the team decided to change electric motors. Just as they went to pull in out they found the problem. A faulty piece in the motor, the set screws fell out and the motor did not understand how fast it was going. It is like a crank or cam sensor in a gas engine. They scrambled to get the part secured on the motor and as the bikes were called to grid we placed the last screw on. Tech gave us the thumbs up and off we went.
Due to power worries no warm up lap was allowed and my tires were cold. Nice and easy into turn 2 was the plan. I had not had a chance to practice starts, but knowing we were not correctly geared I did the old 125cc start. Paddle your feet until she gets going. My start was not great, but hey I had 11 laps and could pass when the time came. As you let off the gas our bike has regenerative breaking, so there is some engine braking, but not a lot. You are able to adjust that during practice, but due to our limited testing we chose to minimize the re-gen power. I was using more brakes than I wanted too. So as I came out of 6 trying not to use the brakes much and up towards 7 the bike was running and running well. I eased into 7 worried about using to much power to early. My eyes glanced at the gauges every chance I got. Don’t push to hard, make sure you save some for the end, be smart and I was smart, until, it happened I got on an electric bike and a race broke out. I came around 2 and saw third place off the track. I was fifth, now fourth and as the bike crested the hill I saw third.
Racers start your batteries, were off and racing. Closing the gap and trying to take advantage of my power, I saw third place looked back at every exit. On his back wheel and looking to pass in turn 9, he used a lapper to get some distance. I honked frantically at the other rider to move over. As the bike headed towards turn 2 my power was decreasing. Had I used all the batteries up? So close I could see the podium and then it happened the bike slowed way down. Closing on a lapper Zoe Rem, I used her draft up to seven before lapping her in the eights. Limping down the hill I chose to pull in sure that the batteries would not give me another lap and old slow and steady passed me back, damn tortoise. I pitted and told them just let me wait here and limp across the line for the checked finish. My team rushed down where I showed them the 40% battery life. Todd jumped up and said no your just overheated on the motor and she is in limp home mode. Grabbing every available bottled water, including some passer by we rushed to cool the engine. Several laps down saw the white flag and took off at full power again. I ran the last lap at what felt to be my best lap of the weekend and made it to the checker flag.
All said and done my stop cost me 5 positions and a podium for the team. Had we got some testing time the cooling issue would have shown its self and a solution may have been found. Could have, would have, should have. The team did a great job to work out the issues with so little test time. It takes a great amount of courage to try and do what has never been done before. So to the entire team, those who helped build the bike, my friend who helped, my wife, and every other team/racer congratulations on your weekend. I admire your efforts and would be proud to race you all again. Remember, it was once believed that racing gas powered bikes was lunacy!
My weekend was made possible by many of my regular sponsors and some other people. Please remember to support the people who support racers and riders.
Electric Motorsports for the bike, BRG for the fabrication, CT Racing/Pirelli for the tires, Z2 Trackdays for letting me ride for another team, Helimot for keeping my body safe, Soumy for keeping my head safe, Sidi for keeping my little paddlers safe as I ran on the start and out of turn 11, and as always the rest of my sponsors who have allowed me to race this year Yamaha, David at Fastbikes Ind., Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Factory Body Works , Igartua, 4 The Riders, Tech Spec, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
I need to make sure to say a few things before telling you about my weekend. First, thank you to everyone involved with WERA. The staff, tech, grid and so on, were all very nice to us visiting racers. I believe that due in large part to Shandra Crawford of the Cal State Championship, the weekend went smooth for visiting racers new to the club. Shandra put in a top notch effort this weekend as you will read about later. It was also great to have David K at the track and announcing on Sunday. He is the track announcer for the AMA races when they come to California, and made the racers feel like AMA rock stars when he spoke with them. When I wasn’t racing, my time was spent at the wall watching some great races and listening to David saying things like “that guy is nuttier than a snickers bar” and tell stories about the racers.
As a team we decided to skip Friday practice this time around. We have been to Buttonwillow recently and had a good set-up. So to conserve our efforts we decided it best to show up Friday night and be ready for Saturday morning. With a scaled back crew this weekend it was just myself, Jenn Lauritzen, Greg McCullough, with mechanics Kyle “Lollipop” Schirrmacher and Sam Richards. The rest of the crew got a much needed break for the weekend. Friday night we had the pits set up and they looked great. We got several compliments from WERA and WSMC racers. We are making every effort to look professional while performing well too.
Saturday started same as most, but with a laid back feeling. Almost like a track day, no big rush just kind of getting on with it. Practice is not the same as in the AFM. You get to practice 2 times on Saturday and 2 times on Sunday, then you race. I entered 600 SB and 750 SB, so I was allowed to practice in the 600 class as well as the big bike class. Yay for me! On track my main focus was to find my pace from the last race we had done here. Last race was a 1.52, but knew I could better that time if conditions were right. Practice went pretty much as expected for me. Greg had a spill into turn 3 and would have to call it a weekend as we were light on spare parts. Practice went fast and we were on to racing.
They do something different at WERA, a 20 lap solo endurance race. Never having raced a 20 lap individual event, I was excited to do it. The mindset was to use this as a 20 lap practice at or just below race pace. Starting from the 5th row would not be ideal, but Brant Wiwi reminded me that you have 20 laps, the pass will happen if it was ever going to. So with a relaxed mind, I rolled to the grid looking up at the 2 board. All I saw was a lady using both hands to hold a board. Where the hell is the flag? My own worst enemy at that moment was me. How could I have skipped the opportunity to watch a start and see his or her timing. I looked around trying to figure out who had the flag, surprise it was the guy next to her. He hides the flag behind his back and then lets it fly super fast, he was quick like a ninja. Surprised, I reacted a little slow and got a poor start. Not a big deal today, but a valuable lesson for Sunday.
Telling you the race was really exciting would make a great report, but other than the first few laps I was referred to as the loneliest guy on the track. Other than catching lappers I was all by myself. 12 laps in or so, I realized that my riding style is way to physical. Just because you can muscle a bike around in a 6 lap sprint race doesn’t make it a good idea. Trying to change my riding style on the fly, my lap times hardly wavered. 1.54 after 1.54 kept coming up on my lap timer. This was about the pace I could manage for my first 20 lap solo race. With some changes in my riding style that should drop next time I race with WERA, it was mostly an eye opener for me. Think about going all out for 20 laps, it is down right exhausting. Pro riders do not get enough credit when it comes to the physical side of racing 20 or 30 lap races. A solid 5th place finish made me smile at the end of the day.
That night Shandra came by to announce that they were doing video interviews and would like me to come over. Expecting to sit in front of a pocket sized camcorder, I was more than surprised to see she had pulled out all the stops to make this look very professional. No I would not have one of those pictures you see on the AMA races where the guys head is all squished and looks like it belongs to a bobble head. Go-Go and Sonny were setting up what looked like a movie set. Fancy lights, cameras on 10 foot booms, it was an awesome sight. David K would do a one on one interview with you and ask some basic questions as well as some personal ones. They also rolled my bike in behind me and had it all lit up to show off my sponsors. I was the first to get interviewed followed by my wife. By the time we were done there was line of top notch racers standing in line with there bikes staged up like they were waiting to get on track. The video should be up on the California State Championship website shortly, it is a must visit web site.
Sunday would start a whole lot cooler than the day before, but still nice out. Again we had the two practice format. I only entered two races and had some time to kill, so off to the wall I went to watch Jenn race. It is not very often we see each other race, because our races always seem to be back to back. Preparation for your race means you get to see the start and not much more. Today I would watch the entire race start to finish. I don’t want to spoil her report, but I am a proud husband.My first race was number nine of seventeen. 600SB was smaller than at the AFM, but with just as much talent at the front. Jimmy Wood, Bryce Prince, Tyler Odem, and Austin Dehaven were all set to be on grid. My lap times got me a CSC version of the KFG rule. Fourth row inside would do just fine. My start was good and into the first turn I was 6th or so. Trying to limit my financial output, I was racing on the same tires used at the last Infineon race. The bike felt good but a little looser than I remembered in practice. Coming out of the corners the back end started to slide a bit, a smooth slide and very predictable, but a slide. I have ridden on Pirelli tires for 3 years and know what they should feel like. Maybe I put this one through to many heat cycles or set the wrong pressure. I did 1.53 lap times and managed to get into fourth pretty quick. Every lap was the same signal at the wall, a small gap to 5th. I kept my head down and rode smarter using the incredible front tire to help me keep my lap times low. After the coming out of the last corner, I looked up to see Sam giving me the small gap and keep your head down sign. Just as I passed Sam I looked up and we had checkers. 4th place for 600SB would be ok for the start to my day.
Back in the pits and talking to Sam we decided to change out the rear tire. Watching Sam slip the tire warmers on I realized my problem. In the morning I had accidently handed him a hard tire designed to work on tracks known to destroy tires. So my lesson for the weekend, always double check your tire compound before installing it. No fault of anyone else, it was my mistake and that tire still got me 4th. With still more time to kill before my second race, it is weird only racing twice on Sunday, we went to the wall to watch. F1 was up, this is like FP in the AFM. Toye, Randolph, Wiwi, Tigert, Sorros, just to mention a few names, this would be awesome. Toye had already broken the recently set lap record on a motorcycle 1.46.03 I think. These guys were ready to brawl. It was an incredible race with tight passing and awesome displays of riding. Thank you Jimmy Wood for taking a few minutes during that awesome race to answer some questions I had.
Here we go last race of the day. Looking into the distance you could see some ominous weather heading directly towards us. As we rolled up to head out on track, David Raff of Spears Racing pulled me over and said it was raining on track and to be careful, thanks Dave. The WERA staff let us know as we went out on track to expect some weather. It had some drops on us during the warm up lap, but a 2nd row start was just too hard to pass up. Promising myself that if the weather got bad I would pull off, I chose to grid up for the start. I got a good start and chose not to make a dicey pass for the lead. Dehaven was leading, Simmons in second, and I followed in third. Feeling the immediate grip of the used SC-1 Pirelli, a win was defiantly possible. Into turn 3 I tried to pass Simmons, but was forced to sit up as he controlled the inside line. Again in the bus stop I tried with the same result. No worries Dehaven wasn’t leaving us yet. As we rolled into Riverside heavy rain hit my face shield. Remembering my promise and with mixed emotions I raised a hand and pulled off line. Falling down was not an option for me, so I chose to sit up and back off the pace and see if I could just roll around and get a finish. As my eyes scanned the sky the red flag came out. We rolled into the pits where we were informed a crash in turn one stopped the race.
Back in my pit’s the rain came hard and fast. We loaded the trailer like the place was burning down around us. After nearly loosing the Yamaha ez-up, thanks to Guy Hyder and his crew for helping us save it, we held onto a slim belief that the race would restart. Standing in my suit soaked to the bone I debated with my team on loading the bikes or not. WERA must have seen the same thing we saw, it was almost 5pm and a wall of rain about 3 minutes away when they cancelled the last three races. So the bikes went in the trailer and we decided to take off the now 60 pound racing suits. We came, we saw, we had fun, and then we got rained onJ.
Please remember to support the people who support racers.
Z2 Trackdays Staff, Z2 Race Team, Yamaha, David at Fastbikes Ind., Pirelli /CT Racing, Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Helimot, Soumy, Factory Body Works , Igartua, 4 The Riders, Sidi, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
“The last two weeks since AFM Round 2 seemed to have flown by, and here we are back at the race track for the inaugural round of the California State Championship, this round is hosted by WERA West at Buttonwillow Raceway.
Jason and I were fortunate and extremely grateful to have Sam come down to BW with us to pit for us this weekend. We arrived Friday night around 9:00 and were able to get the pit and bikes set up before Greg and Kyle, who came with Greg to help pit also, showed up a couple hours later. We slotted Greg’s bike into its spot and hung out for a bit before heading off to bed.
Saturday morning we were pleasantly surprised at how smooth registration and tech went. The WERA staff was welcoming and helpful to all the visiting club racers. Thumbs Up! It certainly makes me want to find some time to fit a few more WERA races into my schedule. We had two practice sessions on Saturday morning, then after lunch WERA runs several 20 lap solo races. I have limited track time at BW and seem to always struggle here more than at the other tracks, but I am determined this weekend to get beyond my issues with this track and just ride. I found it was actually easier to do this racing with WERA; the atmosphere was so much more relaxed than at the AFM, it felt more like a track day than a race weekend so I didn’t psych myself out worrying about my race performance. I was able to focus during practice on how my bike was handling and thinking about my riding rather than stressing about what the lap time sheet said, but with only 2 practice sessions I felt like I left something on the table for coming to terms with BW.
Later in the day they ran the 20 lap solo race. If you have ever ridden there you know that in the high speed sections of the track it can be very physical and demanding. Rehab on my shoulder is going well, but the idea of me doing 20 laps at race pace sounded about the same as letting 20 people punch me in a row. Deciding not to run the endurance race was somehow still not an easy decision, but it is the one I made. During the race I watched bikes coming into the pits, make some adjustments and head back out. Some riders came in 4 or 5 times, novel idea using that race as a test session. What’s that they say about hindsight? I had a bit of fun watching Jason finish 5th is his 20 lap solo for a few laps, but during the race we all sat there and debated about how often we needed to tell him he had a huge lead over 6th. I headed out to the wall every few laps to keep myself entertained and gave Jason a big arm spread signal, while Sam & Greg wandered off to chat with other racers and seek some shelter from the sun.
Saturday night we headed over to the main canopy to watch and participate in the CSC rider interviews. Shandra Crawford, organizer of the CSC, had a full production going on under the main canopy. David Kay, my favorite AMA field announcer (besides my husband of course) was here to announce for the CSC and he was doing the rider interviews. Go-Go Gilbranson and Sonny I have the longest last name in the world, were getting it done. I did a couple dry run practice interviews with David before heading up for the interview to be filmed; I really need to get a blooper reel from that night. During the interview a combination of stage fright and David asking me questions that we hadn’t discussed previously, threw me for a loop and I blanked on thanking many of my sponsors. AWKWARD! So to try to make up for it now….
Thank you to theses great people and companies that help me go racing;
Z2 Trackdays, Vanderkitten, Pirelli /CT Racing, Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Soumy, Factory Body Works, Igartua, 4 The Riders, Sidi, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, Barbara Tadem Leather Repair, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
Sunday morning, I was up and ready to head to tech, but I was unsure of how WERA ran Sunday tech. Sam went over to registration to get the details for us. He came back laughing; they don’t require you to register and tech again on Sunday if you did it Saturday. That’s Amaaazing! Hint, hint, AFM. I had plenty of time to get some breakfast and get the bike ready for my two morning practice sessions. I was riding consistent and well in practice but was struggling with some shift points… I tried several different shifting patterns trying to find smoother entries and exits, but no matter what I tried I was stuck turning lap times of 2:11 to 2:12’s. At the end of my 2nd practice I sat down to dig into the novel better known as my notes. I went to a session with Ken Hill, at this track over a year ago and I managed 2:08 lap times. What was I doing different now and why the struggle to go faster? I found a note about a gearing change we had made back then. I still ran that gearing on my bike because I liked it so much. As I continued to read thru some of my other notes from riding various track days between then and now, I a came across another note about changing my rear tire from a 190 to a 180. There were no comments about having changed the gearing back or making any other adjustments when I changed that tire and I had not turned a 2:08 here since that tire change. Hmm, could it be related? I decided to try going back to the gearing I had before, it would put me back at the “typical” gearing that most SV racers run. Sam put the sprocket on for me as I headed over to the riders meeting.
I was up quickly after lunch/riders meeting for Race 2, the Women’s Superstock Expert. I gridded up in position 4 of the 5 women racing the class, Christie Cooley, Marisol Lacour and Shandra Crawford were on the front row of our class (which was row 11, since were gridded up with 3 other WERA classes) I was on row 12 by myself and Krystyna Kubran was gridded a row behind me since she is a Novice in the WERA classes, but she was competing with us for the CSC class. As some know, it seems everything on a SV comes off of something else. My tachometer is no different, it is from a company who designs go-kart lap timers. It has worked well in the past with the exception of its constant and inconvenient need for batteries. Well that all ended at the last round and we have not been able to fix it. This leaves me on the line guessing about my launch RPM. Some can just listen to the bike and know the sound, but with my new earplugs in the sound changed. Overall, the result was not enough gas and a poor launch off the line. My tach is getting replaced or repaired before the next round, even if Jason has to give me his tach. *Smile*
The race was busy due to the multi class grid. Rather that do a wave start, they just left a few rows open between classes, so as Brian Davis would say, “You don’t ass pack the guy in front of you”. After a less than desirable start, my battle came in the way of a guy on a RC51. You can guess how the race went, he passes in the straights and I pass back in the corners. Man I thought I had to wrestle a bike around, those RC51’s are huge and heavy. That guy looked like he was trying to get a grizzly bear to do the tango. 2 laps in a row we had a moment on the front straight, or at least I had a moment as he passed me and then pulled right in front of me. This normally isn’t an issue except he needs to hit the brakes on the Titanic about 200 feet before me and Nikka do. So with him just clearing my wheel and then slamming the brakes on, let us just say I was able to test my reaction time. After the race I made a point to share my frustration with him, not to be a complainer, more for my peace of mind if we happen to race each other again. He was not aware how close he came and said sorry, all conversations should be this easy to have after a race. Thanks again to the Titanic for a good race. P.S. I got my 2:08 back, and my first trophy, a 3rd, yea for me!
To say I had a while before my next race would be an understatement. So with my spare time we talked about lines and braking, relived my last race, and ate some lunch. Finally we were getting close to my race and I was more than ready to best my 2:08 lap times from earlier in the day. Sam had his hands full as he would get Jason out for his race, give him signals, and then hustle back to help me pull my warmers so I could make my race. I like to watch the start of Jason’s race so I can get the timing of the starter, as Jason usually is in the race just before mine. They had signaled there was rain around the track, so watching the first few laps would tell me a lot about the condition of the track. He got a good start and made it through turn 1. Not as much could be said for the novices in the second wave, as the dust settled 3 of them were up and pointing at a 4th who was face down in the dirt. Just then mother nature let us know who the boss was, and turned the sprinklers on high. A red flag flew and we all headed back to the pits. Being that ready to race and have the rain start is the worst... I want to race, but we don’t normally race in the rain. Without practice and a lot of it in the rain, racing is not an option for me just yet.
A frantic loading of the trailer was to follow the red flag. We just managed to save our pit set up as the rain and wind did there best to tear us apart. We left the bikes last to load in hopes that it was just a passing shower. About the time I was splashing through mini rivers in the pits, they announced the last races would have to be cancelled. This was ok with me as my focus is on going faster, not water skiing. So I have a track day Thursday at T-Hill and need to work on some specific things so I can go faster. Ken Hill was nice enough to spend a few minutes advising me on some drills to practice, focusing on my weaknesses. So as much anything, drills on the bike and rehab for the shoulder are in order. I have just about 10 days to make some progress and then we are off to another race. Trophies are pretty cool and I like standing at the table with other racers who had a great day picking up the spoils, yeah I definitely want to get some more this year.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” - From a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris at the Sorbonne in 1910.
Everybody wants to be a winner.
Who wouldn’t want to reach the finish line first? But sometimes winning isn’t just about being the first to pass the checkers. For so many of us, winning is measured in improvement of our skills and reaching personal goals. This weekend marked a huge step forward in my racing progress, but also has me rethinking my plan and goals for the year.
We arrived at Infineon on Thursday evening to get our pit set up and get a good nights sleep for Friday practice. I decided after the frustration I suffered from Round 1 that Friday practice was necessary for me this round. We had tried to get a couple of track days in at Infineon prior to this weekend, but the weather refused to cooperate with us. But Friday, the rains gods finally lifted their spell on Infineon Raceway and the day was clear and warm, without even the typical morning fog of Sonoma Valley. Ken Hill was kind enough to let me jump in the back seat of his car for a morning track drive with his student (and my SV racing competition) Jason Baumbach, along with AMA Young Gun racer Elena Myers. This gave me a jump start to my day as we discussed track lines, reference points and braking zones. I would be ready when I headed out for my first practice of the day to hit the ground running, figuratively speaking of course. I had signed up for the A Group, but after arriving at the track and seeing the sign up for A Group included many top five AFM racers, along with several AMA racers testing for the upcoming round in May, including former MotoGP star John Hopkins, I decided to bump down to the B+ group. Unfortunately, the B+ group was pretty chaotic as it was filled with a variety of skill levels; mixing racers and street riders and maybe some people that weren’t quite ready for B+, especially on a race weekend. With that said, it was a useful day for practicing passes and trying new lines through traffic… I tried to abide by the 6 foot passing rule, but it was a little crowded, so sorry to anyone I buzzed a little too closely. (Hmm, can you call it buzzing when I am on a throaty SV650?) At the end of the day I was pleased with my sessions and worked on a few specific lines and corners.
Saturday, however, practice brought more frustration as I had the AFM transponder on my bike and I could not put my head in the sand and hide from the lap times posted on the window. I was going to have to acknowledge the fact that I was indeed slower at Infineon than I had been last year at this time… not by much, but still… just the same I felt stagnant. It was time for me to take another look at what I am doing and make a change, to turn this plateau into a launch pad for improvement. I headed out for the 2nd practice and paid close attention to where and how much I was using the brakes and the throttle. I studied the response of my bike to my inputs and changed things up, thinking of a particular quote I have referenced in the past, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.” Spending some time focusing on my input and the bike reaction I noticed that I was really pushing hard to turn the bike in, specifically in the high speed corners like turn 3, the entrance to the Carousel, and the Esses. I came into the pits and discussed my issues with Shawn and Tom, who then spent some time explaining to me the basics of suspension and helped me make a couple of adjustments to my front rebound and compression to get the bike to turn in a little easier. It got better, but was still not great and I had maxed out my adjustment capability. Looks like this was as good as it would get, for now.
Formula AFemme was race 2 on Saturday afternoon. I made a goal to get a good launch, trying for the holeshot from the inside of the 2nd row. I got off the line great, went right up even with the front row, but was out horse-powered getting to Turn 1, yet I managed to hang on right behind Joy and Christie, then Shelina came in from the outside pinching me off to the wall and forcing me to roll off. My drive up the hill towards turn 2 suffered and I went back to 6th. As I came through turn 2 I noticed Deb Barton riding her bucking 125 through the dirt on the outside, I went by and focused on the race in front of me, but the girls out front; Christie, Joy, Zoe and Shelina pulled a gap on me thru turn 5, and by the time I came out of the Carousel onto the back straight they had already started to spread out and the front runners were making their way into turn 7. I held 5th until Deb came by me a few laps in, she had managed to keep her shiny, new bodywork off the ground and got back into the race ultimately making it back up to 3rd, great riding! Each lap I fell a little further back from the top 5, but held a healthy gap over the rest of the field. Shawn later joked that it was like I took a spork to a knife fight. Even on my best day, which this was not, I’m not quite talented enough to hang with the zippy 600’s out front with my SV650.
Having spent Saturday practice trying a couple twiddles on my suspension and noticing some improvement during the Afemme race, had left me wondering if there was more I could do. I asked Jason if he would spend a little time with me Saturday evening going through my suspension settings and helping me document how my bike is currently set-up, so I could look for more opportunities for improvement. He was happy to see me taking more of an interest in understanding my bike and was willing to skip competing for the slow race victory to work with me. Jason happened to have a suspension book handy in the trailer so we grabbed it, sat down and talked suspension. It was like sitting down with a magician and having him reveal the secrets and illusions used to make you believe he is actually sawing that lady in half. After about an hour and a half of my questions and Jason’s patient answers we headed out to the garage to see what I had learned and document the settings on my bike. Greg noticed us pushing my bike into the garage and came over to see what was up, perfect timing… “Greg, can you help us to measure the Sag on my bike?” As we are going through the process of lift the bike, take measurement, let bike rest on its’ own, take measurement, sit on bike, take measurement, Tom comes over to pitch in… He quizzes me, “Do you know what your Sag is supposed to be?” 25-35 I answer. He helps me remember which is which, front to back and we finish up the measurements. Turns out my sag on the rear was at 52mm, and it should have been 25. This was due to having the shock rebuilt (after it broke from my crash last year) and reinstalling, we thought it had been installed with the original settings, but now I have learned an important lesson, always verify. The Sag adjustment was a big change and should help the bike turn in quicker. We also made a rebound adjustment on the rear to slow it down to account for the Sag adjustment. The fact that this was all finally starting to make sense to me had me on cloud nine as we headed for bed. I couldn’t wait for the races on Sunday to try out my suspension adjustments.
Sunday morning I am up early to make sure I am ready for my morning practice session, eager to see how the bike responds. I have one practice session… then a lot of sitting around since my races were at the end of the day, Race 9 and Race 12. The suspension change was so noticeable that I managed to drop 3 seconds in morning practice. For me, this is a major personal accomplishment… I used to be far to timid in the morning worried that the track and bike would be too cold and I may lose traction and crash. Last year I set a goal of getting up to speed (within a few seconds of race pace) in first practice… so this marked an accomplishment of that goal as well as a feeling of success in having made a noticeable change to my bike and understanding why and how it reacted as it did. Feeling inflated with all my new suspension knowledge I was eager to try making a few more changes, but with lack of practice time I decided it was best to leave it alone and work with it on the next track day. I spent the majority of the day cheering for and supporting Jason and Greg with their morning races. Finally, Race 9 - 650 Twins was called and I headed out for my hot lap. I rolled up to my grid position on the 9th row and prepared for the race. My plan was simple, get a good start and ride with confidence and tenacity. I made a mistake on the start and ended up with a small Whhhheeelie off the line, this is not fast. But I rebounded and charged into turn one mid-pack. I rode a clean race, had a fun battle with Robin Geenen, dropped my lap times down into the 1:55’s (only 2 seconds off my personal best) and ultimately finished 26th of 40 starters.
Race 12 - Formula 4 came up pretty quickly. I managed a better start in this race, but got pushed back between turns 1 and 2 with some chaotic passing going on in front of me. I ended up finishing 28th of 34 and my times were a bit slower than they had been in 650T, but I finished up this race weekend feeling victorious. My personal win is measured in the knowledge and understanding of my bike that I gained this weekend and knowing that I will get back up to the pace I ran last year and I will continue to get faster. I am pulling back the curtains and revealing the truth behind the magic of speed.
Special thanks for this Round to Tom and Mikey and the rest of the Z2 team for making me feel like a rockstar this weekend. Mikey, thanks for breaking my pinch bolt and eliminating the potential for it to break at a less desirable time. HA-HA!
Round 2 is over and my results were both good and bad. Good and bad are both relative terms and have a different meaning for most. My results at this race may have been great 2 years ago, but this is the present and I am still pushing for the best results.
Normally I start off with a Friday practice and go through the weekend. My adventure starts a little sooner than that this time. After the last round it was noticeable that my bike was down on horsepower. She has almost 2 seasons on the engine. The rest of the bike is a year newer, so out with the 08 engine and in with a lower mileage 09. Like most racers money is tight and while a Graves engine would be awesome, it is just not in the budget. So with my newish engine mounted in the frame on Thursday, we were as track ready as the budget allowed.
Friday is an optional practice day for some, but due to poor weather early in the year, testing has not been really available to me. Finally with a great weather forecast it was time to try a few things. As mentioned in my last race report, Fastbike Industries is helping us out with suspension. Having a bike with a good base setup makes testing so much more productive. Ramped up and ready to ride I spent most of Friday trying to understand what makes the fastest riders better than me. So here it is the holy grail, the answer to speed. They do it sooner and with less mistakes. What sooner? All of it, getting on the gas, transitioning the bike, braking, yeah all of it.
Kind of anti climactic, huh? Well after watching John Hopkins, Jake Holden, Lenny Hale, Chris Silgin, James Randolph and several other fast guys that seems to be the difference. These guys are willing to ride that much closer to the edge. The end result is you had better minimize the mistakes if you want to survive the weekend in one piece. At that pace there is little to no room for error. Oddly enough I go just as fast as most of those guys in some parts of the track. My issue is I don’t do it every lap and mistakes are all to common. Oh yeah, it was super fun riding behind Hopper and Holden as long as I could.
Saturday everyone showed up and in full force. It has been 2 years since the pits have been that full. Practice was just that, practice. For the first time in a long time it was just riding. Usually we are still searching for that perfect set up or trying to figure out a corner, but I have ridden here enough to know the lines and the bike was working great. So the day was spent riding and trying to reduce mistakes. There was one small issue. Sebastio and I were coming out of turn eleven and swapped lines. He was behind me and sure that he would out drive me to turn one, I opened the inside lane up. Ooops, he an unexpected draft and would have to pass as I tapped the brakes for turn 1. He was about to pass, just on the outside not the inside. The next thing I know my leg is in the air and his bars are swapping left to right. We both made it through turn one and just kept our heads down for the rest of the session. Later in the pits we were both laughing at how close it was. It is nice to know how someone will react to a racing incident. No fault on either party, just a little rubbing, and as a wise man once said “rubbing is racing”.
Sunday is here and while wanting to say bring it on, there is a little voice in the back of my head wondering if I did all that could be done? Well there is always more you could do, but I did prepare and work hard leading up to this race. Sunday morning practice is usually not been very productive for me at Infineon as the track is slow and slippery when cold. Knowing an early race was on the docket I made the choice to get up to speed early on despite the track conditions. Maybe it is all in my head, because my early times were good. Time to relax and get ready 750 Superbike is coming up.
750 Superbike is my first race and only the second race of the day. For the first time there was no need to write down my grid position. Sitting second on the grid felt great as I rolled through the pack of riders and up to the front row. Off the start Lenny Hale just pulled in front of me and led me around the track. Holding on to him and looking for a place to pass, turn seven gave me an opening and not one I would pass up. Cresting the hill in eight in the lead felt really good, at least until eleven where Lenny dove up the inside and took me wide. This allowed Greg McCullough, my teammate to pass as well. A lap later and watching Lenny separate himself from us, my desperation kicked in with an ill advised pass into turn nine. Over shooting the corner Greg simply watched me go by and passed me back. Now I left my self with a 100 yard gap to make up. A little over a lap later and with the gap closed, my focus was to stay right behind Greg and look for an opening. Coming into turn four he slightly changed his line and I almost rear ended him, mental note to self don‘t crash your teammate out of the race! It is hard to pass someone who is the same speed as you are and usually leads to a block pass, rough pass, or both.
Turn eleven would be the place to pass, so deep into eleven and wide out is the way it went down. Almost an identical pass to the one Lenny put on me. Little did I know this favor would be paid back later in the day by other racers. Now I was in second and had traffic to deal with. My mind was frantic, thinking about when lappers would be caught and how they could help or hurt my position. I lost a race two years ago, simply due to my lack of accounting for lappers. Most of the lappers were ok, but a group in the turn six almost put me in the dirt. I seem to remember eight riders or so at the top of six that were in a heated battle of there own. Hoping Lenny had sent the message more front runners were coming I slipped into the pack of riders and no sooner than that one of them blew a line and ran me wide. So sure that Greg was getting through clean I tried desperately to pass, this left me at a full lean and pushed on the outside curbing. Really, am I going to crash out on the last lap ran through my mind, luckily I stayed up and managed to bring home a 2nd place finish.
Race five, 600 Superbike was loaded with talent. A front row start would keep me battling behind the leaders for a few laps. All said and done I just was not riding the way I could. When you are just a touch off the pace mistakes just are not and option. Make a mistake and no big deal, make two or three and panic sets in. Suddenly you are racing their race and not yours. I should know better than that.
Race seven, 750 Production was another front row start and the decline to my day. The bike has been great since new. Today however it presented some issues on the way up the back straight. This weird bog at around 14k. It started in race five, but with no time to address it we gassed up the bike and rode. Well it was now a real problem! The bike basically shut off for 3 or 400 rpm and then came bake to life. Riding well above my comfort zone and pushing to hold on to the front pack of three, the bike let me know it was unhappy. Not thrilled the call was made to settle down and bring it home in one piece. As turn nine approached Greg and Sebastio were pushing to stay with Lenny. Suddenly Greg tucked the front end and low sided into nine. Sebastio in an effort to avoid the crash leaned over just a tiny bit more, already on the absolute limit the bike mirrored Greg’s and down he went. This left me with a second place, just not the way I wanted it.
So with Greg completing repairs and my bike on the fritz, Mikey began to switch what parts we could hoping to address the running issue. I took it out on a warm up lap and it seemed better so more gas and get ready for the last race of the day. 600 Production and a second row start. If you recall in round one this is the race my clutch went out on. So lined up and ready to better my round one effort we launched from the line. I made it to third place and as we came out of turn two the bike lagged, zing, there went Berto. Coming out of five it lagged again, and there goes Montano. Pushing hard I re-passed for the position only to have the bike cut out again on the straight. Thanks to Chris at Pirelli, for giving me a tire to ride way over my head.
Frustrated, mad, panic, those are some of the words that described my state of mind. How could this great bike be giving me issues, it has always been so reliable. My woes continued as I settled into seventh place. The bike got worse on every lap and nearly high sided me every lap as the bike would cut out and then immediately regain full power. That is quite a moment when the bike doubles its horsepower while at full lean. As the bike struggled to do 80 or 90mph towards seven, it was decision time. I should pull over and pray there is no serious damage to the engine. Save yourself money, my mechanical side was telling me. Then the racer in me said run it till you see checkers or it blows up! So I rode, as fast as the bike would allow I rode.
That was the worst ending to a great weekend, only it’s not over. We have a track day at Thunderhill on Monday. Sure my bike would not perform due to some crazy problem, me and my bad attitude started loading up for the trip to Willows. Trying not to be a jerk I later settled down and became reasonably responsible and pretended I wasn’t mad at the world for having a bad race.
So Monday we unloaded and took the bike apart. I hesitated writing my race report, because I found the problem and wanted to see if a manufacturer wanted to make it right before blasting them in my report. So with no response from said company, allow me a moment. E3 spark plugs were the cause of my problems. Brand new plugs were installed Thursday night, and yes they were installed correctly. So with less than a few hundred miles on them they failed. The top portion of the plug is too soft and deformed during the race, causing intermittent spark on all four cylinders. So due to no fault of my Yamaha R6 or my own, these shoddy plugs failed in just a few miles. I emailed the company as they have no phone number listed and no one has called me back. So as of press time the company has not responded to the worst product I have ever purchased. At least the Sham Wow does what it says it will do. I should have bought NGK plugs and I still would have had money left over for the Sham Wow. For the price of the E3 plug, one would think they may actually work.
Again the good portions of my weekend was made possible by my sponsors and team. Thank you all very much. Without your help, I would never have been able to do so well. I am looking forward to the next race.
Round 2 AFM Finishes
750 Superbike started 2nd finished 2nd
600 Superbike started 4th finished 6th
750 Production started 4th finished 2nd
600 Production started 6th finished 7th (no thanks to E3 spark plugs)
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?
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