After a long winter of finding a proper track bike to convert into a full racing bike, getting my team together, throwing some sponsors into the mix and loading up three bikes and countless other ‘we might need these’ things we were off Thursday night for Friday’s Penguin Racing School. Unfortunately we didn’t get to Loudon until about 9:15PM so setting up in the dark and cold infield was a tough challenge. We pitched a tent and decided that an early wakeup call was needed to finish the rest. For the next few nights it was windy and below 38* easy when sleeping in the infield in tents, it was fun. Not.
As most people mentioned I went into the school with an open mind after riding track days for years. Both ears opened and eyes were wide, wide as they can be for lack of sleep from excitement. Steve G. was our instructor and he was pretty animated and funny so it made the class enjoyable. Got the chance to learn about the pit in/out/start procedures, flags, what to do when you stall, and how to take each turn in depth. Track time wasn’t too bad despite the cold temps and lack of sunshine to heat up the track. The bike felt better and better after each session as it was the real first time I got to ride it. It was pretty hectic being in the infield and the classroom was so far away, had to rush each time. I did suggest a bit of leeway from off track to in classroom on the suggestion paper but totally forgot to hand that in.
When we did our mock start I noticed a lot of other racers there for Friday practice was coming to the hot pit. Were they here to watch us? Damn I can’t mess up now! Was what I was thinking. Everyone says you get nervous at the start of a race in the beginning, and even though this was only a mock start I surely felt it. Waiting for the number boards to drop in succession, the 1 board to be turned sideways and eventual quick drop of the green flag was all too unreal. Hold throttle at 7k, feed the clutch, let it go and full throttle with your torso over the tank. Easy to say, harder to do, all the more satisfying when you get a good launch off the start. We had two mock starts since after the first one a rider went down in 1A, as did a lot of people over the weekend, so what’s better than having a go at it? A second go!
At day’s end we were hushed off to the registration office to sign up for our numbers and races. I heard stories on the forum about the website being less than ideal but I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. Overall it took about 2.5 hours to get a number and signed up for 4 races, including the Rookie of the next day. Computers weren’t working, people were tired, frustrated and overall exhausted so I get that everyone was tense. Hell I even got the number I wanted so it wasn’t all bad.
Proud new racer with the #510!
Rookie Race/Formula 1/Formula 2/Rookie 2 were what I signed up for on this first race weekend.
I missed the first morning practice because I was finishing off my bike to roll through tech. Of course I was worried about the safety wiring, the helmet eject system and everything else in between but it was a breeze going through it, this time. By the time it was second practice my gear was on, my tire warmers coming off HOT and I was ready to go. Bike again felt good, nothing major needed to change except I dropped a lb of pressure from front and rear to compensate for the cold, in hopes that the carcass would grip some more. Minute change made a big difference in how the bike felt in the practice. I was happy.
Riders meeting was mainly to discuss the race distanced from 8 to 6 six laps and from 25 to 20 minutes the GTO (could be wrong?) classes. New lights were put into place, kind of MotoGP/WSBK style. I loved that idea but the execution was a bit off. The lights were where the flag dropper usually is, instead of being solid lights they went around like police car lights and worse of all is if you’re gridded further back and towards the wall seeing the lights go off was nearly impossible if not a hard task. I had to look over a few shoulders while timing the start. But this can only improve here on out.
Was gridded 3A amongst all the new racers. When the lights went out I just planted my torso to the tank and just hoped that it wouldn’t wheelie down the straight. It was surreal. People were coming from left and right all squeezing into T1. I was about maybe 3rd or 4th by the time we made the tip in for 1/1A. By the time 3 came around I had taken 2nd position and held off people as I made my way through the four lap race. The leader was clear and gone and it was tough trying to run with open track in front of you, concentration needed to be at full, to me at least, to not make mistakes. The flag dropped and 2nd was mine, a lot better result than I had expected or thought was achievable even if it was only the rookie race.
Best lap was 1:41.XX
Gridded on the 4th row now with all the novice racers. The nervousness at the start has now morphed itself into anxiousness to get going. Lights were on, 1 board was shown, and head down, the board turned sideways and the lights were out! I had to make my way around people and stuck nearer to the wall. Already a front pack was forming and I found myself ahead of the second pack. As they got smaller and smaller in the horizon I just focused on holding the pack behind me at bay. What I took away from this race was how to deal with other riders while battling, seeing how they rode, setting them up and picking the right places to pass instead of immediately trying to repass. All the while I focused on being smooth, as Steve said, smooth is fast. I had a good battle with another NOV on the last two laps of the race, eventually pipping him at the line when the checkered was out. I finished 10th in this one.
Best lap was 1:37.XX
For this race I was on the 5th row in slot D. Now I was actually looking towards the flag dropping as before. The bike at this point, my last race of the day, felt extremely good and the tires were working well as the temps went up a bit since the morning practices. Once the lights were out we went all filing into T1. I found myself behind a few people, getting pushed back in the order from my start position, so I had a lot of work to make up for. As with my last race I focused on people’s lines and see where I was stronger and planned my moves, even though it was only 6 lappers instead of 8 it was good opportunity to think quickly and methodically. Slowly I picked up my pace and picked off the riders ahead of me. I encountered a red, I think SV, and we had a good battle. Unfortunately I ran way too hot into T1 on the last lap that I had to run it up the NASCAR bank in order to avoid a much worse scenario. I saw the SV go through 1/1A/2 and had to give a position up for running off the track. I spent the last lap trying to catch him but it was to no avail. I do think the battle between us made me faster as I had braked harder and later into T1 to carry more speed than I ever did before the race, that got me really comfortable. I finished this one in 7th place.
Best lap was 1:35.XX
Bright and early for practice as there was only one 15 minute session to b e had. We decided to only do one race today as the Starter 2 race was much later in the order than we had liked. It was suppose to be warmer today than the previous but it was chilly as the clouds rolled in from what was sunshine.
Gridded 4C next to my teammate. They went back to the flag system for today as they finagle with the light procedure to come up with something that worked well. We were in the second wave as the first wave’s flag went my teammate made a jump start, thinking it was the flag for our wave. Luckily he was able to push his bike back into the grid slot before our flag was dropped. Off we go on our last race. He finally had a good start on the line as it was the first time all weekend we tipped into 1 together. Before 3 it was another novice, him then me tipping in. As soon as I saw he had made his move on the racer in front I knew I had to do the same or else he would just pull away from me. Going up the hill on 4 in the second lap I made a move to the outside of this racer, shifting up into 3rd going down the hill into T6, trying to make time on the brakes to catch up to him, it was no avail as I followed closely behind for the remaining laps until we were around to 3 again. Here I opted to be on the inside line, as I have seen so many people do and have done to me, and brake as late as possible. I never felt my front tire squish under braking or my rear hopping about in this corner it was a strange feeling but one I think I have gotten used to. Luckily I was just a bit better on the brakes than him, tipping into 3 and maintaining the line up through 4.
Our battle was back and forth back and forth. Riding with someone on the same pace as you if not a bit faster really helps you get that bit faster. In the end it was immense fun as we finished 4th and 5th respectively. With a thumb up and a shake of the hands we were back in our pit area.
Best lap was 1:31.XX
My laptimes from rookie race to rookie 2 shows a drop in 9 seconds over the course of four races. I never was THAT confident riding at Loudon but after this weekend I walked away feeling great about the results I had achieved however minute they are. What was more important than the 9 seconds drop was the consistent lap times I was posting, that made me even happier. The infield crowd is a hoot and it was definitely fun being there despite the cold temps. Met some great people, got some great advice and overall had a really GREAT WEEKEND AWAY FROM EVERY DAY BS. I hope everyone enjoyed some of that Navigation Brewing Co. beer I was able to hand out, if not you can always find us in the infield and we will surely have some more for the next round!
Thank you to all our sponsor, WoodcraftCFM, DRT-Sport, Signature Designz, Navigation Brewing Co., Lo-Riderz Motorsports and everyone who helped us along the way!