After Round 3, I was able to get a lot of track riding in which ended up being both good and bad. The bad came early- a lowside while riding the new full 5 mile Thunderhill course. Both I and the bike came away with only minor damage (me bruised ribs, the bike just damaged controls) but it was enough to end my day. The good was both I and the bike were easily fixed and I was able to do 2 more days at Thunderhill (in ~110F heat!) before the AFM race weekend. All the extra riding really helped my “bike fitness” as I always find that no matter how much I work out in the off season, I can’t replicate the kind of motions while aggressively riding out on track.
I did the Friday trackday of the race weekend I had two goals:
- Work on bike setup
- Test a brand new prototype front brake lever for Constructors Racing Group (CRG).
Once I came up to speed, I started noticing that I was seeing a lot of bumps in the front end and it was really distracting and causing me to carry less speed through certain corners. It was especially noticeable through Turn 2, the long 180 degree left hand sweeper that I’m usually quite strong in. I worked with Jim at Catalyst Reaction all day trying to find the right settings to fix the problem, but in the end I realized that the best solution was to alter my line through the turn which allowed me to get on the gas earlier and take weight off the front.
I’m also happy to say that the new CRG lever worked out great and I ended up using it all weekend!
Saturday, I concentrated on working on my body positioning and taking away lean angle. At lunch time, I put on a new Bridgestone rear tire. I had been running the soft compound, but Paolo suggested the medium would be better in the hot weather so I gave that a try. The next session I was consistently 1 to 2 seconds a lap faster then I had been all day! Unfortunately, my new found speed also meant that the front chatter was back. Jim suggested a small ride height adjustment in the rear and that seemed to help, but I knew that what I really needed was to get the high speed compression re-valved in the forks.
Sunday morning I did the warmup session and on lap two I completely blew Turn 14. By Turn 15 I realized that my throttle was stuck open. A few turns later, the problem was gone and I came into the pits to check out the bike. Everything seemed to be working properly and I couldn’t see anything wrong. I ended up going out on an extra warming lap to make sure everything checked out, but even though everything worked great I was still a little spooked.
650 Twins was my first race of the day and I was ready to go. Unlike last round, I felt confident at the start, knowing that my hand was up for riding at 100% for the whole 6 lap race. I was gridded 10th and got an OK start (I’m still trying to figure out how to best launch the bike with a slipper clutch) and was able to move up one place on the start. I found myself at the back of a 4 bike train and started picking them off one-by-one. By the end of lap 3 I had moved up to 6th place and with clear track ahead I focused on putting in solid laps and making a gap. All that hard work paid off on the last lap when I blew Turn 14 again due to my throttle sticking open and lost a ton of time. Lucky for me, the gap I had built up was sufficient for me to recover and finish in 6th place.
Formula IV was my last race of the day. Between my two races I again tried to find the cause of my sticking throttle but failed to find anything wrong. It was really frustrating knowing that the problem was intermittent and only seemed to show up out on track. This time I was gridded 14th out of 15 since I had no points this year which meant I had a lot of work to do. While I got a much better launch off the line this time, I ended up picking the wrong line through Turn 1 and was held up which limited my advance. For the first couple of laps I traded places with a number of racers and fought hard to work my way up to 10th place. On lap 4 while pushing hard I found myself running way wide on the entrance of Turn 2 and had to stand the bike up as I went off track and onto the dirt. I was able to safely rejoin the track at the exit of Turn 2 back in 13th place after losing over 20 seconds. At first, I told myself that I just made a small mental error and I didn’t have a stuck throttle again, but by Turn 4 I could tell that when I was closing the throttle that the bike was “idling” around 5,000 RPM. I decided to push on and try to earn the most points I could to get a better starting position for next round.
Each turn for the next 3 laps was a mix of excitement and dread- never knowing just how open the throttle would be stuck open. Sometimes the throttle would close normally and I was able to hit my marks like I normally would. But as the race wore on, I started noticing the throttle was getting worse and worse. By the last lap, the only way I could actually ride the bike was to pull in the clutch on corner entry and then slowly let out the clutch on the exit instead of rolling on the throttle as I normally would as the throttle was stuck open at about 9,000 RPM. Even though I was effectively re-learning how to ride a motorcycle in the middle of a race, my lap times were only a few seconds off my earlier race pace and I was able to make one more pass and finish in 12th place.
Overall, I was pretty happy with how this round went. I was significantly faster then I was last round and I ran consistent laptimes. While my finishing position in Formula IV wasn’t very good, I knew it didn’t reflect my real race pace.
Special thanks to all my sponsors including:
– Spears Racing – As usual, Gregg and his wife were at the track all weekend supporting their sponsored racers, answering questions and helping out.
– Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning – Jim and Nickie always give great track-side support on race weekends and this was no different!
– Bridgestone Tires – Scott, Paolo and Jose were once again giving great service and awesome tires!
– Woodcraft – It was great seeing your frame sliders do their job and really limit the damage when I crashed!
– Helimot – who did a great job repairing my leathers after my crash and making them look good as new!
– Galfer – I love your pads which give me tons of feel and make it easy to trail brake deep into corners!
– Motion Pro – Tools which make it easier to work on your bike!
– Motorex – Great lubricants & cleaners to help my bike look awesome!
– Race Image Graphics – Great quality vinyl numbers and stickers!
– GP Frame & Suspension – Thanks for all the help “dialing in” my bike and making sure everything is straight!