AFM 2010 Round 3

Rounds 1 & 2 were a bit more difficult then I was hoping for so I was really looking forward to round 3 and a change of luck. That almost didn’t happen as I crashed on cold tires during a Keigwins track day just a week before the race. I escaped without a bruise thanks to my Helimot leathers, but the bike took quite a bit of damage and it was a big rush to get everything squared away in time for the weekend. A couple of long nights working on the bike and lots of help from BRG Racing and I was good to go just in time.

Friday evening Eric and I had a wedding to go to in San Jose, so we didn’t get to bed until around midnight in our hotel in Novato. We both fell to sleep right away, only to be awoken at 3:30am when the TV in the room was apparently possessed by an evil spirit and magically turned on. WTF? Mostly asleep and confused I finally found the power button in the dark and went back to sleep. 6am came far too early.

Practice went well. Jeff & Craig with Viets Performance loaned me a set of tire warmers since mine were on backorder and I was able to immediately put in some decent laps right from the first session. I was pretty happy that my crash just a few days ago didn’t get into my head and affect my riding. Like most, I spent the day trying to come to grips with the intense wind which really affected where I could brake into turns. While my times weren’t anything to brag about, they were at least very consistent and I knew in the races I’d naturally drop a couple of seconds so I felt good. For the first time, no saturday races for me, so I was able to relax with a beer and enjoy watching the Clubman/Formula 40 races in the afternoon.

Sunday was another beautiful day in Sonoma- a little warmer then Saturday, but still very windy. I was race 9 (650 Twins) and 12 (650 Production) so I had a long break between morning practice and my races.

It seemed to take forever for them to call 650 Twins after Formula Pacific and I was worried that I might of missed the call. I finally heard the call and went out for my warm up lap and got gridded. I got a nice start and ended up having a great battle with Jason Baumbach #516 for most of the race. Jason took me into 9 and I got him right back in 11. A lap or two later Jason gets me back and I stay on his rear tire trying to find where I’m stronger to make another pass. Jason seems to be getting off the corners a little better then I am, but I’m stronger on the brakes. After 6 laps though, I’m suffering from a cramped right hand and arm pump and I’m struggling to keep up. I try a couple of times to make an inside pass in 4, but Jason shuts always the door.

By the last lap I realize I don’t have the pace to pass him back and foolishly take it a little easy going into Turn 7 on the last lap only to find Pat Clar #758 sneak pass me on the inside on the brakes. Where did he come from? I tried to get Pat back in turn 9, but he was strong on the brakes and I ended up finishing 21st- my best finish ever in the class, but I wasn’t happy about loosing a place at the end… something to remember I guess.

The break between races allowed me to physically recover and get ready for 650 Production. Not nearly as good of a start this time and I find myself in 7th position behind Alan Cunningham #368. Alan had about 1 second lead on me and I spend the first half of the race trying to close the gap. By lap 4 I’ve closed the gap and I know Alan is about 2 seconds faster then I am, so he’s just gotta be taking it a little easy because he doesn’t know I’m right on his rear wheel. If I pass him right away, he’ll have plenty of time to find a way back around me and will probably just check out. However, I don’t know if someone else has snuck behind me and is lining me up for a pass like last race, so when I see an opening on the inside of Turn 11 I go for it without hesitation.

Alan and I cross and end up drag racing down the front straight, but as I learned from Ernie last round, since I’ve got the inside line, Alan will have to brake first and I’ll be able to make the pass in Turn 1. Alan broke a little later then I was expecting, but I was still able to make a nice clean pass in 1. :)

Now that I’m ahead, I concentrate on getting a good drive out of 2 and the try to keep Alan behind me. Things are going pretty well until Turn 11 when I brake too late, bottom out the forks and end up going way wide and let Alan through. l quickly recover and try to close the gap, but as I exit Turn 2, the rear spins up and steps out. It happens again at the top of 3a and I realize that my rear tire has reached the end of it’s lifespan and I don’t have a prayer of keeping up with Alan who has dropped the hammer and is beginning to check out. I check my six to make sure nobody has snuck up on me again and concentrate on bring it back shiny side up for the last two laps. I finish in 7th place: Top Novice.

Overall, another great weekend. First time this year I didn’t spend hours wrenching on the bike and could just concentrate on my riding and having fun. I can’t wait for round 4 at Thunderhill!

Big thanks to:
– BRG Racing for so quickly fixing my bike after my crash last week. KC and the gang always come up big for me.
– Viets Performance for loaning me a set of tire warmers for the weekend.
– My buddy Eric for once again spending his weekend at the track with me and lending his support, advice and skills.