This was my first round back since breaking my collarbone during the classic in June so needless to say I was a little more than anxious. Prior to this round I had done a TD at Loudon and felt pretty good albeit as much as I could feel with having a plate lodged up in there. So I was both excited and nervous when we loaded up for this round. My team went up Wednesday night and set up the entire pit area in the infield, a one man operation, as most of us was still working so much kudos to #811 for that! It really seems like our pit area gets bigger and bigger each round.
They went ahead with Thursday’s practice and kept sending me short videos of a pretty much empty track while I slaved away in my cubicle. After work I braved the on and off again rain storm and made my way to the track where I met up with the rest of my teammates. After getting settled and putting away all my gear I declared it be some time for shut eyes to be up and early for Friday practice.
In the morning I threw on a fresh R10 rear and set it to 35 psi hot rear, but this would prove to be troublesome for the remainder of the weekend for sure. A quick few stretches, some more tinkering with the mechanics and checking of the pressures I had set it was soon out for first session of practice. The feel was the same as when I did the TD a few weeks prior, just mainly to get reacquainted with the machine and the track with a fresh rear in the back. My teammates warned me about the traffic in the basic/novice practice groups since they have done one Friday practice before but I thought it was all jokes until I actually did it. Was it bad? Not really but it was a nuisance to practice in this group as there were other riders out there, some their first time, others taking the licensing course, so I didn’t want to be THAT GUY. So I took it easy and made as clean passes on the slower groups as possible.
After the first session I came in and as always I checked my rear tire and it was already showing signs of other R10s I have had before. The wear patterns is reminiscent of choppy throttle so I proceeded to maintain constant throttle and added that to a list of already growing areas I need to work on. This list pertains of mainly setting my braking markers further in turns of 1/6/11 as they are my immediate areas of concern and for improvement, I set forth to work on this.
Practice was done and I felt good, my rear tire? Not so much. But with some possibilities of solutions in mind I ate my plate of pasta and went to bed early to dice up the problem in the morning practice. My goal for the weekend is to shave off 2 seconds from my PB of 1:27.5xx
Practice Best lap: 01:30.226
We awoke to misty and foggy weather I realized my last teammate #537 showed up in the wee hours of the morning and had joined us for another round of fun. After he tech’ed we went out for the first of our two practices which netted some more comfortable feelings on the bike but as ever I was more conscious on being smoother on the throttle coming out of the corners as I am always hard on the gas trying to make up time on the drive. I attributed part of the problem to the shorter throttle I had on there but without my longer reels on hand I had to make due.
Novice Formula 1
I changed the throttle tubing, luckily my teammate had his, to a longer reel than I have had, 40 instead of 45 for this race. Hoping to settle the choppiness with a longer reel.
I gridded on the second row all the way next to the wall and anxiously waited for the sets of lights to go on but my visor started fogging up and caused my vision to be near 0. I frantically thought of Lorenzo in this case, ha. I cracked it open before the lights came on and hoped that it would clear before they went out and the wind would just do it things. Soon as the 2nd light came on I just shut my shield, held my throttle and my breath, 3, 4, 5, steady steady and GONE! I release the clutch and let it out, feeling the drive I was getting from the rear as I rocket past pretty much everyone on the front row, including both my teammates. I latched myself onto the rear of #616, my good friend Kevin Wimble, and bounced off the limiter going into T1, braking as late as possible as so many others in the past have gotten over and under me as I would always let off first. Not this time. 1, 1A, 2, everyone made it out safely and I was still on the back of #616, we’re actually 1 & 2! It made me feel elated of this position but now it was work to hold it for the entire 8 laps, tough asking. The longer throttle was working well, the power not as abrupt when yanked as the shorter reel proved to be. We cross the line in the same position as we had from the exit of T2 on lap one but this time as I did my usual mistakes of off the gas early and onto the brakes I gave way for a gang of riders to catch up, eventually taking me under in T1 and T3. One by one I was picked off as I realized at race pace my conditioning after my accident wasn’t as great as it was at the beginning of the season. I held fast and put my head down as I saw the checkered flag and brought it home 9th.
Out lap: 01:31.825
Best lap: 01:28.948
Novice Formula 2
My tire by this point was near shagged, the wear markers already showing their face, this was new just 36 hours ago. I was baffled. Would it make it through this race too was my fear. I then changed again from a 40 to a 35, near stock tubing. Anxious to see how it performed in the actual race.
I gridded up somewhere in the middle of the 4th row, really far behind. My teammate #811 next to me, my other one #537 on the front row. It was a tough ask to blow by all of them but as the lights went out and the clutch was released I once again found myself like a rocket with uber drive coming to the front, passing most everyone in my wave, and again latching myself onto the back of the #616 of Wimble’s, familiar territory. But unlike the last race after T2 where we made it out 1 & 2 we we’re picked off by the faster riders in our group and I soon found myself back in the same predicament as the last race, oh well, head down and keep chugging on. 2 laps to go and I soon heard #537 on my rear tire, unwilling to give up position I made the drive out of the corners to stay ahead but he caught me in the bowl and tipped on the inside. I tried staying on his rear side but my pace and rear tire proved not a match in this battle. I brought her home in 9th once again.
Out lap: 01:32.537
Best lap: 01:28.592
The near stock throttle tubing went south really quickly. I found that it had much more slack in it than the 40 reel. Going down T9 you can feel the slack the most when trying to be constant on the throttle. This prompted me to change back to the 40 that was previously in there. I came back in and checked my rear, it was gone, done, finito. Without a spare tire I opted to use my teammate’s street Q3 for the next day’s races. Off with the shagged rear and front and on went some barely used street rubber – smart choice? I will find out tomorrow.
I woke up a tad bit late for the wet practice but opted not to go out in case I injure my collarbone again, coupled with not really having a set of wets on hand either, you see the way my bank account is set up. So I stayed in the trailer for a bit and watched the San Marino GP on MotoGP.com to which it started having satellite black outs, AGAIN. PISSSSSED as it was just getting good with the rain coming in. But alas if you haven’t watched I won’t spoil it.
I went out to the back straight and watched #809 Pedro Gondres practice along with #616, two of the three people out in the wet in group 3 practice, brave souls.
I sat out and cheered for this one. Pedro was on a fast lap in the wet … errrr dry … ok wet/dry conditions as he came in hotter than usual into T3 and his rear was hopping all over the place. I figured he made the turn late as he usually does so I turned away only to hear the all too familiar sound of bodywork sliding across the pavement. He lost out on his first position as #537 pulled up right behind him, taking the hill as he got up and ran towards the marshals. One by one they passed as he stood there looking at his bike, his GF was next to me in disbelief he crashed, she was concerned, but her concerned turn to bewilderment as he hopped back on his steed and continued up the hill, resuming the race. I thought ‘that’s the spirit!’ she probably thought he had a death wish, you know how significant others can be.
I debated with going out as it has been raining on and off all morning long, going from semi dry to dry to wet again. Didn’t want to go in over my head so I just went to T1 and watched a few more races. One was the expert race where I saw #29 Michael Weyant go down hard, hitting both the NASCAR barriers and his bike hitting the air fence wall. That made my have my heart jump to my throat. Luckily he got up and walked into the ambulance under his own power. It didn’t make my decision to want to go out there any easier, then #4 of Greenwood went down after touching, or what I think, was the curbing of T1. MANNNNNNNNNNNN.
Over much debate I decided to just go out and get some seat time. Another thing I wanted to test was whether or not the Bridgestones were the issue or was it me by testing out the Dunlops. Of course it’s like apples to oranges but my main objective was to ride like I have been and see if the wear appeared to be the same on the Dunlop. I also haven’t raced with the AM so this was to be a treat, hopefully I didn’t get in anybody’s way.
Lights go out and I tip toe in the fourth wave around the track on tires I haven’t ridden this brand in over two years. They were hard on the tip in, taking much more effort than the Bridgestone, and the stability under hard braking suffered in comparison. It slid like my race tires slid, but it slid unlike the way my race tires slid. It was unpredictable, sliding left to right and right to left in a fashion like you’re on ice. I took it easy from the 2nd lap on, but when the AM started passing me I had no idea who was in front of me from my wave, I just had to make sure they had red numbers and not yellow plates to hunt down. I came behind a Ducati and another bike I couldn’t make it out but both feigned images of red from my wave so I started chase, it was hard with so many faster guys passing you from over, under, sideways, upside down and inside out. Whenever I would get close to make a pass on someone in my wave an AM zooms right by! Opportunity squandered. Heck at one point we all went five abreast into T3 which caused my eyeballs to fall from its sockets.
I just realized finishing the race was better than trying some heroic stunt with so many people on the track. I tip it into T11 not knowing what lap was what or how many left there were as #537 beat me to the 11A flick so I had to cut 12 short, pick up the bike and go hard on the gas as I did before. Somehow I was catching him on the straight, maybe it was time to pull the outside pass move at 1 he does so often to me, head down I kept banging down the gears. Eventually I split him and the 3rd place rider in front of me only to realize the checkered flag was out. WHAT?!
I beat my teammate by 23 thousandths of a second, but it wasn’t until later that I realized I lost 3rd place by 25 hundredths of a second. Oh well, always the next round!
Out lap: 01:35.927
Best lap: 01:30.875
Soon as I pulled in my teammate said ‘it’s not you, it’s the Bridgestone’ as I check the rear of the Q3, near perfect wear, something I haven’t seen all year. Again this is apples to oranges but I wanted to deduce the problem to whether it was me or the tire. Under inflated was the rear of the BStone, even at 35 psi HOT it was not enough and the carcass was just overheating. They provide excellent grip of course but I think it’s time to swap to a different tire make.
Although I didn’t get near my PB or even meet my goal of exceeding it I want to chalk this up as a first successful weekend back to racing after the unfortunate injury.
That wraps up my Round 6 shenanigans. I want to thank all my sponsors for making it possible: Woodcraft Technologies, DRT Sport, Lo-Riderz, Navigation Brewing Co., and Signature Designz!
Here’s looking forward to Round 7!