It’s that time of year, high school and college students are graduating and the younger students are going through promotions… from Kindergarten to 1st grade, from Elementary to Jr. High and from Jr. High to High School. My cyclist racing friends are getting promotions from Cat 4 to Cat 3 or from Cat 3 to Cat 2. Well, I went through my own promotion this weekend with the AFM.
Friday afternoon we arrived and set up, we spent a little time visiting with our friend’s from PTT and then later that evening headed over to the Norman/Stanton compound to have a couple drinks and chat it up… we were there too late and I had at least one too many drinks--thank you Barry Wressell for the margarita you left me. :P and though it was fun… I would later regret drinking more beer than water, it just doesn’t hydrate quite the same.
Saturday morning my husband came back from registration and handed me my tech forms… the very first thing I noticed was the bold “4” in the upper right corner. I had been promoted into practice group 4. We have 5 practice groups, where the club is equally split thru the groups based on registered AFM lap times. It is some obscure formula that calculates an average for each racers current lap times and divides the number of racers signed up into a somewhat equal distribution into practice groups for the weekend, with group 5 being the fastest of the fast racers in the club. I have been in practice group 3 for what seems like an eternity, I think it has been the last 4 years of the 7 I have been racing. Most of the racers I am now battling or surrounded by in the races were already in practice group 4, but I was still in 3. Based on being near the top of the group 3 practice times last round, I was planning to request to be moved up this weekend, I was elated to see that I had been promoted without having to ask.
I happily rolled out into my first group 4 practice to get warmed up on track. The wind on Saturday was strong, blowing from the north to the south. I expected the tail wind into 1, 9 and 10 and the head wind into 14 would alter my braking plan, but what I did not expect was the impact the wind would have on every other corner on track. The entrance into 2 the wind would push me wide and then slam me narrow on the exit, the wind would grab my front tire and move it over as it got light when I crested the top of turn 5 and it would push me tight through turns 6, 7 and 8. I struggled through my morning practice sessions trying to find the right line and references to get up to speed with the wind forces. Almost everyone was struggling to some degree, but the leader of practice group 5, Jeremy Toye, was still putting down 1:50 lap times so I had to acknowledge speed was not impossible in these conditions. Not the way I had hoped my first day in group 4 would go, my lap times were looking pretty dismal for me to even match, much less beat my previous personal best. In hope of a miracle, I found Barry of KFG Racing and drug him over to my pit to make a small set-up change on my bike.
The AFemme race gridded up around 4:00 pm and the wind had died down a little, but the heat had picked up to about 101F. I lined up in 2nd on the grid and waited for the rest of the field to take their grid spots, I was keeping an eye on my engine heat and was just about to turn my bike off when they went from the 3 board to the 2. I put the bike in gear, 1 board, rev’d the motor and saw my engine light flash on, just enough distraction for me to not get the jump on the green flag and I went back to P4 off the start with Joy and Zoe getting the jump and Shelina Moreda coming inside me into turn 1. I couldn’t afford to let Joy and Zoe get a gap on me on their 1000’s, so I had to make quick work of getting back past Shelina. I took the long way around the outside of her in turn 2 and was able to make the pass stick up the inside in turn 3. Joy and Zoe were battling and hadn’t made the break so I quickly latched onto the back of them. It was a bit of a yo-yo effect thru the race until I saw the ½ way flag, I decided to push a little harder and see if I could find a way to get close enough for a pass. Coach Ken would not have approved, as I forgot about everything I knew and started rushing the corners and making mistakes that let them open up a bit of a gap… and then I got tired… more like, exhausted. My times dropped off as the mistakes compounded, my mental focus was lost and I couldn’t get the passes on lap traffic done as efficiently as I needed. I still finished 3rd despite my late race issues, and I did manage to get a couple laps in high 1:58’s which was an improvement on my previous personal best of 1:59.2, plus a big improvement on my practice times from the morning. My take-away from the race was that it was time to heed my husband’s advice and get out and ride my pedal bike in the heat to get my body acclimated. The next round is the beginning of July at Thunderhill, so I’ve got some heat training to do.
Saturday night I drank plenty of water and limited myself to one beer and went to bed early. My focus this year is to finish in the top 10 in the 600 races and I was going to need my energy Sunday for my 600 races.
Our Sunday schedule was action packed, thank goodness for Ben, he has picked up our process so fast and every time we check on something, Ben already has it done. With Jason in Race 4, me in 5, Jason in 6, then lunch, Jason in races 9 and 13 and me rounding out the day in 14, we kept Ben on his toes and he kept us on track without worries.
First up was Jason in Open Production and he started the day off with a bang by getting the win.
Looks like I would have to keep up the momentum. I headed out for 600 Production and rolled up to my grid spot #8, holy crap I’m on the 2nd row… I’m in the top 10 in points. Berto in P7 looks over at me and gives me the thumbs up. The flag drops and I get a KILLER launch, I’m in the lead pack as we round turn 1 and I find myself filing into about 7th right behind Tom Montano… I feel like I have arrived! These are the fast guys and I am right there with them. I lost a spot to Deion Campbell as we rounded the first lap and approached the start-finish, but managed a 1:59 lap time from the standing start. Robin Geenen got past me on the 2nd lap, Kelly Barnett on the 3rd lap and Patrick Murphy on the 4th lap. I held onto my position in 11th through lap 5 and most of lap 6; headed into turn 11 I missed my down-shift… this is not a place you want to miss a down-shift and Bret Nelson pulled up beside me as we exited 13, twisting my throttle for everything it was worth still didn’t bring the RPM’s up any faster and Bret beat me to turn 14. I tried a last ditch effort by tucking into his draft down the front straight, I moved out of his draft to the inside and stayed pinned over the finish line. Timing shows I crossed the checkers less than a 10th of a second behind him. 12th position! This was a huge step closer to my top 10 goal and a big improvement from my 20th position finish last round. Additionally, every lap was between a 1:59.8 -1:58.7, improvement in consistency at my personal best pace. This was a great race and I was pumped… now I had some down time while Jason had 3 races before I would be on track again at the end of the day.
When I got back to the pit, Jason was already on track for Open Superbike, I got my gear off quickly and Ben and I headed down to watch him. We were pulling up to the hot pits just in time to see the flag drop and Jason’s front end come way up into the air. He got a terrible start from P5 and went back to 15th or so. He made some quick passes through the field he was up to about 7th as they headed through turn 5 to 6, I couldn’t see what happened from the pit wall but I saw bikes down and several racers diverting off track. The red flag came out and soon I saw Jason coming down the hot pits and headed back to our pit. Jason and Greg told us that Dave Stanton was involved in the crash and they were rolling an ambulance for him. My least favorite thing about racing is when the helivac has to make an appearance. We all know it is the risk we take in racing, but it doesn’t discount the pain and sadness we feel when our fellow racers are injured. As is typical on a race weekend, we don’t often hear how the injured racers are doing or the extent of their injuries until the day is over, sometimes not even until a day or two later. We carry on racing, hoping for the best possible outcome and keeping Dave in our thoughts.
The Open Superbike race is restarted and Jason got a better launch into 4th position. At lap 5, Martin Szwarc got by Jason coming out of turn 12, when he must have pulled over for a smoke break or something, I couldn’t see what he was doing on the back straight, but Martin pulled about a 5 second gap. Recharged on a nicotine buzz (haha), Jason caught a second wind and put the hammer down, chasing Martin back down and taking back 4th at the line by 1/100th of a second.
Race 9 - Formula Pacific, Jason went off the start into 6th position behind Jeremy, Ricky, Lenny, Martin and Tucker. Tucker and Jason went past Martin, then Jason got caught up in the middle of the 600 young guns as Deion went past both him and Tucker. Jason managed to pass Tucker on the 6th lap and held 5th to the finish. In the process Jason set a new personal best lap time cracking a 1:50.
The day was drawing to a close and Jason was up again in race 13, Open GP. After seeing Bud Anderson’s photo of he and his wife drinking margaritas from his trophy cups earned on Saturday night, I thought what a great idea and decided we could feed our dogs from our trophy cups this weekend. Problem was we only had two trophies so far and we have 3 dogs. I told Jason he needed to head on out there and get another trophy so we could feed our dogs tonight, or one of them would be very upset with him. Jason delivered. From a front row start, Jason got the holeshot and led the first half of the race, Lenny came around him and put Jason into 2nd position where he finished. Thanks goodness all 3 dogs would get fed.
Finally, my last race of the day was 600SB and I really wanted to shoot for the top 10 finish, plus a 1:57 lap time. I had the awesome guys at CT Racing mount up a new SC1 on my rear wheel, this was splurge, but the SC2 I had been running all weekend was starting to slide a little and I wanted the advantage. I gridded up in P9, inside of the 3rd row, I didn’t have a good start plan, which was unusual for me, but this was a position I had never been in before… up front with the fast guys and on the inside. I thought I would shoot up the inside, make a tight corner and stay inside to turn 2. This did not work, even though I had a good launch off the line, I got the door slammed on me going into turn 1 and the racers started cutting across the front of me to the inside line into 2. Trying to find some room I chose to move to the outside and took the outside line around turn 2. I picked up a few spots and dropped into 10th behind Stephen Rue and Naylor Kinzer, I hung with them as they battled it out. Each lap I came around Ben gave me a pit signal letting me know how far back the next rider was. On the next to last lap I noticed the large gap he was signaling had gone down a bit and I put my head down. Volga Mermut put down a flier on his last lap and I could feel him stalking me. I focused on turn 14, I knew I needed to get in there just right, the way Scott Russell had taught me, and get the drive out onto the front straight. Down the front straight I saw Ben’s fist clinched closely together telling me he was right there… and thinking about how Jason got by Martin at the line when Martin sat up, I kept telling myself to stay tucked and pinned until I crossed the line. I beat Volga by a wheel and got my first 600 class Top Ten! I didn't quite crack the 1:57's but I got very close with a 1:58.0. Promotion!
Jason and I had good progress and results on our race weekend and we were very happy with that, though we had heavy hearts after hearing about the injuries Dave had sustained. Dave is an amazing man and has inspired and encouraged nearly every AFM racer in the paddock. I have seen Dave in some difficult situations at the track that might put many others out; bike mechanicals, crashes, bad passes and Dave always finds the humor in the situation and manages to stay positive. He is a Champion and he will rise to the top of this injury and continue to inspire and motivate us all. We love you Dave!
Open Production – P1 1:53.346
Open GP – P2 1:51.578
Open Superbike – P4 1:51.542
Formula Pacific – P5 1:50.896
AFemme - P3 1:58.727
600 Production – P12 1:58.741
600 Superbike – P10 1:58.092
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.
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