Ready your are not, more training you will need! Yep that is how I felt just before taking the grid on Sunday. I needed Yoda to show me the way. Not the way of the force, but the way to get around Willow Springs Raceway, fast and in one piece. (These are star wars references for those who grew up under a rock.) So how to master the fastest track in the west? Look on you tube for some fast video, and it doesn’t seem to exist. Why not, my best guess is the fast guys had to learn the hard way, so you get to learn the same way. My desire to walk home, not crutch home, as well as my desire not to play pick up sticks with my bike, meant I would take it slow and steady.
I should have showed up for practice on Friday, but like Lindsey Lohan and her court appearances, I just couldn’t make it. So late Friday we rolled in, threw some stuff out of the trailer and went to bed. Saturday, we were up at the crack of dawn as a semi trailer ripped through the pit’s at 45-50mph. Apparently he forgot the highway ended at the gate. Not so wide awake, I struggled to get things set up. Jenn and Greg, seemed to struggle as well. We tied everything down with extra weight, knowing that the Ez-up could later be a parachute for the standard water bucket tie downs. If you have not been here, it gets crazy windy in the afternoon. So with the pits cinched down and tech completed we got ready for first practice.
Never been to Willow, what’s that you say, you would love to hear a lap from my perspective, sure why not. Due to my inability to even function in the first practice or type anything but, crap, crap, crap, hold on, crap, crap, crap, I will give you a lap from Sunday. T1 you are coming down the straight at, oh lets just say pinned in 6th and your eyes pick up the braking markers. Don’t really brake here, they are more for show. Turn in crazy late after a light drag on the brakes, survey the moonscape for anything that resembles an exit marker. Your font is loaded up, skipping through the bumps, and then you see a cone. Dear god, let that cone be where it was last lap and pin it again. T2 and they don’t even have brake markers, who needs those? After all, your only in 4th gear pinned and are about to do a reverse carousel (Infineon). Really no brakes? This is what races through your mind, as you prepare to launch off track . Oh sure just bend it in and hit the gas. Look for the exit as you navigate the bumps in the half mile long T2. Cones at the exit again, yeah the lunarscape lacks reference points, so cones are a plenty. Pin it again to T3.
Hmmm, may just be me, but I starting to see a trend. Into turn 3 and my under worked brakes have there only real chance to shine. Swing wide for a late apex and up the hill, again looking for a reference point. As you crest the hill forget about the apex, swing out wide so you can get pointed in thee right direction as you descend the OMEGA. Look for some particular crack in the pavement someone mentioned, don’t worry you wont pick the right one, so just go with the first one you see. Late apex T5 and the crest a blind T6 as your back tire starts to spin up, then late apex yet again, and you guessed it, pin it. That gets you clicking the gears back up to 6th as you approach T8. Saddle up your horses, put your big boy pants on, and put the non-racing women and children to bed. We are going in wide open, again wide open. Turn any bike at speed and it is difficult, but wide open, the bike is not exactly pliable at this point. Something about centrifugal force and physics. Your mind scrambles looking for markers, your suspension compressed, and your head being smashed by the wind, you look for the line. Run out to the edge and look for more cones as T9 is coming.
T9 has a special place in my heart, which is now in my stomach. So here goes, wait until you think you should brake and then don’t. Run wide and then go wider. Prepare to grab two downshifts at top speed, while laid over. The one nice thing about T9, is that pesky lever by you right hand, wont be a bother, because you wont touch it. So, I am not down shifting when I want to, running wider than I want to, and not using my brakes. What could possibly go wrong? As you get to the last cone, turn as hard as you can and look to apex, the one that you don’t actually want to go over. Stay 8-10 feet out over a crack you can’t see and look for an exit cone. Pin the throttle at the apex and start grabbing gears. Prepare to have a 1000 suck the paint off your bike, as the power down the straight. Don’t worry about missing the giant bump on the straights, because you can’t miss it. Rinse and repeat as necessary! One lap in the bank and time to recap, pin it, don’t use brakes, and look for a cone. Congrats on your first lap at Willow, those are my lines.
If the speed does not translate in my description, do this. Set a Coke can or favorite beverage on the corner of the sidewalk. Get in your car, gas it up to lets us say, about 50mph. Drive by the can and tell me the fourth ingredient on the can. That is how fast things happen at Willow. All funny stuff aside, it is a great track and really fun. I am going back to learn as much as I can, so I may be more prepared next time I race there.
To everyone who welcomed us to there track, thank you. To Shandra and the CSC, thank you as well. This is my third trip to a new club this year. Some may have seen us as intruders, but most seem to enjoy the fact we brought more racers to the grid. Tech was super nice, registration was nice, and Willow racers were nice to us as well. It reminds me that you only get one chance to make a first impression. I am not sure what kind of impression we made on visitors to the AFM, but I hope it was good. Remember to be patient and nice to everyone who shows up at your particular club, because it’s just not fun to race alone. So thanks for having us and we hope you welcome us back.
My wife was killing it all weekend and really impressed me. The thought of going in T8 at full tilt was scary. She made that happen before me, and her lap times were very impressive. She rode smart and was able to make gains faster than I was. I may have had a better lap time at the end of Sunday, but she is ready to change that when we return. Proof positive, if a woman wants to, they can do it just as well as the boys. As for me, I enjoyed the change in scenery and took a lot of positives away from the weekend. Oh yeah and 2nd Place Overall in 600SB California State Championship.
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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.
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