It is Monday, June 22, I just got back from a weekend at Reno-Fernley Raceway with Z2 Trackdays. Oh boy, that track is exhausting with the 20+ turns and rippled pavement. Even as I am tucked and pinned down the front straight my chin would bounce off the tank as I crested each bump.
Jason, Greg, Dave, Blaise, and many others I normally ride with at trackdays opted out of going to RFR because the track conditions and facilities aren’t great, it is a bit of a drive getting over the Sierra’s, and we don’t race at RFR so it is not really necessary to practice there. I decided I wanted to go anyway! For me, RFR trackdays with Z2 are a reminder of why I like doing trackdays and even started racing in the first place, for the FUN! Until this weekend, I have never run a lap timer at this track, I didn’t even know what a respectable lap time at RFR was. (Yesterday, one of the locals said the track record is 2:17, ha, that guy must have been riding a rocket.) But, I was not there to turn my fastest laps or work on drills and corners, it was not a race practice for me… I was there to ride with my friends and have a good time.
I had a blast watching Sam pull a gap on me on his 750, pinning my SV for everything it had trying to keep up.
Back and forth playing with Lolli-pop (Kyle), he would get me into 2 and I would reel him back in on the hoot-n-holler until he changed up his line and kept me off his tail. Following Dimitry and showing him how to ride like a girl, LOL , dicing with Alan with his home track advantage.
Chasing Shawn while he was riding Greg Sahnds SV, being absolutely exhausted at the end of the sessions, and having new people come and introduce themselves to me after spotting me on track, (Hi Ilya.) Oh yeah, and the race practice starts were fun too, since I got the holeshot and lead the pack on one of them. *giggle* I beat Ricky!
The BBQ after riding all day was great, I totally won at beer pong, ha ha, and maybe had a little too much to drink (damn car bombs!), kind of like a camping trip at road racing track. My huge extended track family was there and everyone was so awesome for checking in on me since Jason wasn’t there. (Yes Jason, Greg and Frosty made sure I was safe on track and off.) Zoran helped me out with a brake line when I broke mine changing my front tire (don’t ask.) D. BenJamin bled my brakes for me after I got the new line installed (with supervision and assistance from Sam and Jason Hahn.) Sam Richards and Greg Sahnds let me ride up, stay with them and helped me out at the track. And Michelle B. and Phil each let me use their RV’s as a changing room. It’s the people and the environment at the road race track that make it fun! Well, pinning my SV in 6th gear on the front straight and trying not to brake for turn 1 is pretty damn fun too, but you get the point.
For all you road racers out there who have been chasing bike set-up and trying to find tenths of a second to pick up one more position at the finish line, For those of you who don’t do track days because it is a waste of fuel and tires if it doesn’t make you faster, For the frustrated mid-season racer who is not meeting your goals and for those whom racing is no longer fun… Try a Z2 weekend at RFR; yeah the track sucks and it gets worse every time we go, yeah my lips are burnt from the desert wind and I’m not sure I will ever get the sand out of my eyes, yeah I am exhausted from the ridiculous number of body transitions to get through the 20 turns and no this weekend of riding did not make me faster, and I must admit I missed my husband. But, WoW did I have a good time!
It has now been over a week since AFM Round 4 at Thunderhill, but my racing high has not yet subsided. I am exhausted but also re-energized from my track weekend at RFR and really looking forward to Round 5 next month. I learned some things since the last race by watching the videos and reading the other race reports posted on BARF by my competitors in the 650 and F4 classes. I can see where they are gaining on me and also where I have strengths, I am putting together my plan for Round 5 and really just can’t wait to get there and give it a try. I guess I could say I am having a great season. So now on to the action…
Well first of all, doesn't Nikka look good in Z2 Blue?
Saturday afternoon, Formula AFemme, I am on the front row, in grid position 3, fantastic! The only time I have been on the front row is doing practice starts at Z2 Trackdays. During these practice starts I always get a good start, so I tell myself, and anyone else in my pits that will listen, that I plan to think of this start like a practice start with Z2.
And it works; I get a smooth launch, make my up-shifts through 2nd and 3rd and pull up beside Joy as we lay into the first turn.
Just then I glance to my right and see Shelina coming around the outside for the holeshot… damn that girl is good at starts! Shelina leads the first lap with Joy on her flashy, gold, PTT600, hot on her heels looking for a way past. Zoe, who had an atypical bad start, gets by me with an “unladylike” (ha ha) pass on the brakes at the apex of turn 9, standing me up and giving us each a little scare that we were both going to hit the dirt. She sits up gives me a wave and lets me back by, then proceeds to school me going into turn 10. By the 3rd lap, Joy is well out front, Zoe has passed Shelina and I am tight to Shelina’s rear wheel. As the next 4 laps click off in this running order, I continue to push and stay close to her.
I find myself next to her and showing her a wheel in several corners, but never able to make a pass stick. I would then just tuck, pin it and try to stay in her draft on the straights, trying not to loose too much ground with her Kawi600 out powering my Z2 Vanderkitten SV650. I try a few new lines and really don’t loose much ground, but never find a clean pass either. Then in the last lap, I am caught by surprise as Kristy Miller brings her Suzuki 600 past me on the brakes into turn 9, (hmmm, starting to think I have a weakness here.) Kristy Miller is a fast girl, but I had forgotten that she was racing with us this weekend, until she went by me, that is. I hung on to 5th position across the checkers… and after looking at the race photos a couple days later saw that Christie Cooley also on a SV650 was right there on my tail section hoping to find a way by me at the line.
The AFemme class is turning out to be pretty competitive, entertaining for the spectators and we are having a blast racing it. I have a feeling we are going to see a couple new faces on the grid next month…
Sunday morning I wake up from a good nights sleep and get some coffee from Greg (thanks.) Formula 4 is race 1 again this round, but I am not worried about it this time… I have been focusing on getting up closer to race pace in the early practices since last month and have stuck to my new ‘no more skipping morning practice at the track days rule.’
After going out for my morning practice session I spent a little time stretching and listening to some music to prepare for my first race, I reviewed my notes as a reminder of the things I had been working on with Jay at the Z2 trackday last week and was ready to go when first call came. I took my grid spot Row 7, position 28 on the outside. 2 board… close my visor, 1 board put the bike in gear, sideways… rev to 6000 rpm and 126.96.36.199 green flag!!! My launch wasn’t great I pinned it on the straight and tried to maintain my position as we folded into turn one, but as Brian Bartlow turned in tight to my right side fairing he forced me to hold my lean angle and wait to get on the gas. Ha, here is a new lesson for me, next time I will lift my right knee just a little to get my bubble back. I am a little hesitant staying tight in the pack as there is quite a bit of dicing from turn 1 all the way through to turn 5 where we start to fall into line. I slot in behind Conan Dooley with Alan Cunningham just behind me (with video cam on board) Sorry Alan, that looked a little tight as I came across his front for the inside line in turn 2. Alan finds his way past me around the outside of turn 2 on the 2nd lap, then goes on by Conan into turn 14. I stayed with Alan until we got to Conan, but didn’t make a pass on him until the 3rd lap, there getting by him with a tighter inside line into T1. Conan and I dice it up for a couple laps, allowing Clive to get by us both in the 4th lap, Conan gets the better of me going into turn 2, I need to drive a little longer out of T1 into 2.
I spend the last couple laps latched onto Conan’s tail section and see that we are gaining ground on Will Wickersham, we can’t quite catch him before the checkers, but Will is usually finishing in the top 20 so I felt pretty good about where I was at in the race. I averaged 2:08 lap times but turned a solid 2:05 on the last lap, which was a new best for me at Thill. Then I checked the results and was a bit disappointed to find out I was well outside the top 20, finishing 28th out of 35 starters. I decided I just had to get a better start for 650 Twins.
Video of F4 from Alan’s bike
For Race 9, 650T, I am gridded on row 6 on the inside. I get a good jump off the line and just stick my elbows out, Ben Spies style, if I want to finish in the top 20 I am going to have to charge the starts, no matter how uncomfortable it might be going into turns 2 and 3 in midst of the wild mid-pack. When I saw an opening I put myself in it. I had a bit of a bobble going into turn 3 when I had to brake a little harder than I had planned as another rider came in from the outside. The top of 5 was a tight fit, but we made it through the first lap without incident and I slotted into 15th place. I stayed in 15th behind James Strauch for the first couple of laps, until Andrew Patterson and Scott Reavey got by me in the 3rd lap.
I didn’t make it easy on them though, Scott thought he had me, but I took an outside line in Turn 10, to get back in front of him. He got me back going into 14. Brad Woods made his way in front of me on the 4th lap, I can’t remember where he got by me… Then Zoe passed in T1 at the beginning of lap 5, I stayed with her dropping my lap times down to the 2:04’s (my new low time) for the last two laps, I guess I owe her a “thanks” for the tow. We went by James Strauch inside on 14 at the end of the fifth lap. (Thanks to all the time I spent working that corner with Jay and the tip from James Randolph I now am learning to love T14.) On the final lap Mickey Fimbres got close to making a pass on me, but I held him off getting a solid drive out of 9 onto the downhill straight and again out of 15 onto the front straight.
I finished 17th out of 32 starters, I am pretty stoked about this race, I made huge gains in my starts, passing, and a new low lap time.
Mickey also had an on-board camera, so there is some pretty good footage of me from this race as well.
650T from Mickey.
Next month we will be back at Thunderhill for Round 5.
I have been to the lost and found before, most people have. Usually you go where you lost something and ask if they found it. I have had to look for sunglasses, keys, my wallet, and just about everything else people leave behind. I have never had to look for my confidence, but that is what I have been searching for since round one this year. Can’t say I have ever lost it before, but after Buttonwillow it was surely gone. While professional status eludes me, confidence shouldn’t.
Where do you go when you lose something like that? Trackdays, races, under your couch cushions next to the spare change, yeah I tried all those places and a few more. I have been working with Phil at Aftershocks to see if he could help me and my lack of trust in my self and my bike. Friday before the races, Phil came up to T-Hill to try and help out. He has thrown everything including the kitchen sink at my bike. It felt great on Friday so that was a huge plus. I was still missing one thing, a rider who felt like he could ride.
The round one crash sucked my wallet dry and maxed out my Visa. It is hard to ride when you can’t afford even a small crash. So due to a lack of cash and the recent loss of my job, I sat out Saturday practice. Knowing your competition is out there finding the fast way around while you sit is the worst. So to keep myself busy, I spoke to some riders about the races they had later that day. I would spend the afternoon announcing the Saturday races.
During my interviews and just getting to know some of my fellow racers, I spoke to a fellow Pirelli rider. He explained to me, that you have to know you can do what the guy in front of you is doing and do it better than him. Will you crash? Yes there is always that possibility, but that is how he gets faster. While I don’t want to crash, understanding the basic idea of “anything you can do I can do better” does help me. So there is the dilemma, if I crash financially my season may be over and if I continue to ride like this, I will wish it was over.
Saturday night was not easy for me. I spent a lot of time weighing my options. I ride motocross and crashing is part of the game, and in road racing it is not. So how do you find a balance of going fast and not crashing yourself into financial bankruptcy? I don’t know the answer to that yet.
Sunday was like any of other races this year. I had crappy grid positions and mediocre pace, until my 3rd race. I was in 11th on the grid and ended up 12th off the start. Then I found something, in turn 2 of all places. Now I am fairly sure I lost it at Buttonwillow, but there it was in turn 2 at T-Hill, my confidence. I can only say that if you lose it and then find it, you will know what I am talking about. It is that kind of relief you feel when you lose something important with the thought of never seeing it again, only to find it unexpectedly. I may have been in 12th on the track, but I was back mentally.
The bike was moving around a lot and I was not riding the best ever, but I felt good for the first time in a long time. I rode well and was having fun for the next 4 laps. I tracked down and passed several riders. Out front all by my self it happened, an early apex, max lean angle, and a bump left me on the ground in one of the fastest corners on the track. All by myself, just me, and no one to blame but me.
Oddly enough, I got up and was ok. Yes physically I was fine, but mentally I was ok with the crash. I know what went wrong and how to fix it. Getting back out on the track was not an option and due to the damage. It may be a trackday in July or the next race before I will be on the bike again. Either way it happens, I feel ok about my riding. So for now I will relax my mind and have some fun with other things in life. Racing is fun, seems as though I forgot that.
Last year I remember this same race on my R6. I was screaming and laughing in my helmet, because I was enjoying the race so much. Right before I crashed this time, it was that same feeling. I was going down the straight and motioned to another rider, because he and I had been struggling since round one in this class. I enjoyed the battle with him, and for a much better position on the track than earlier in the year.
Riding for a team and having people help you leads to expectations. It does in my mind at least. I place a lot of pressure on my self to do well and I feel bad for the team when I crash. They have worked hard to help get you out there. That said, I have to ride for me, first and foremost. I need to make sure I enjoy riding. I work way to hard leading up to a race not to have fun during the race. I know everyone wants to win, but riding is supposed to be about enjoyment. My entire team rides or races so they know this better than anyone. I guess I just needed to remember that too. So minus a crash, I actually enjoyed my race. Thanks to my entire team for helping me out and giving me enough time to find my confidence.
Last night I arrived home at 10:30 pm from a work conference where I was a member of a discussion panel. I was exhausted from my full day at the jobsite working on 2 projects; one in the final stages of close-out and the other a proposal for a new project we are hoping to get. Both important and both time consuming, thus the last few weeks have been hectic and stressful for me just dealing with work. I have spent no time working on my bike prepping it for Round 4. I am so grateful to my husband Jason who has been picking up the slack for me and working on everything to get ready for this race weekend. When I pulled into the driveway last night Jason wasn't there... I called to find out where he was and he said I'm picking up your bodywork from Sam Richards, it's done. Sam, with a little help from Jason, has been prepping and painting my second set of bodywork at night after his day job to get it ready for Round 4. And it looks beautiful!
That's right, I will be sporting a new look for this race weekend. Nikka will be wearing Z2 Blue skins, since Zoom Zoom Trackdays has agreed to provide me with racing support for the rest of the season. I can't thank them enough and I look forward to more focused riding with my Z2 coach, Jay Kinberger.
For the first 3 rounds of this Season, I have been pitting with the Twin Works Factory team and riding a yellow bike. This was a new arrangement for Jason and I, and I have found that being in a separate pit area from my trailer makes it logistically difficult at the race weekends (Infineon is the only exception since TWF and Z2 pits are adjacent.) Jason has been pitting with Z2 being that he is a Z2 sponsored racer and the trailer and shared tools and equipment are near his pit. So me being with Z2 will make things much less stressful. The racers from TWF have always been great and it has been a pleasure and an honor to pit with them for the first part of the season. They are all top notch racers and people - Jon Foreman, Jeff Frost, Ricky Ford, Tom Dorsey, Shandra Crawford, and of course Zoran. My back up bike will still sport the yellow skins (it will be ready by Round 5, thanks again to Jason for putting it together for me) and I will continue to promote, cheer for and hang out with these awesome people.
So here is a picture of me riding with Coach Kinberger (LOL) and Nikka wearing her yellow skins at a Z2 Thunderhill trackday last week, June 4, 2009. When I post my race report with new pictures, she'll be in Z2 Blue.
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.