AFM Round 6: Progress (Finally!)

So I haven’t done my normal post race writeup’s this year… mostly because I really just wanted to forget the early rounds. I had really high hopes for this year: my first year with white plates, a new motor, new fairings with a pretty paint job. And then I missed the first round with food poisoning and things really didn’t improve that much for the next few rounds.

Anyways, the last round at Sears actually went pretty well with me putting in a series of personal best laps in the last race and so I was looking forward to coming back to Thunderhill. The bike was running great and I’ve always liked the track even if my laptimes (best a 2:06.3) haven’t been anything to brag about in the past.

For round 6 I’d be pitting with KC/BRG Racing again. Having KC available to talk about bike setup, strategy, lines and to basically kick my ass into gear has been nothing but awesome. The fact that his trailer has A/C and the temps were near 100F didn’t hurt either. :) Saturday practice was pretty uneventful, but my laps were as usual for practice pretty crappy. I’ve never been able to do anything close to race pace in practice and I pretty much hit a wall at 2:10. KC and I spent a lot of time talking about lines and what I needed to do to get my laptimes down between practice sessions and so I hoped I could bring my A-game on Sunday for the races.

My first race was 650Twins which all things considered went pretty well since I did a new personal best of 2:05.8 on the last lap and finished 19th, my best so far this year. It was only one lap, but at least I was consistent in the 2:06-7 range and so I hoped to build on that in my next race: 650 Production.

For some reason, I haven’t been getting as good starts this year as I did last, and this race was no different, but at least I was able to get the spot I lost back going into turn 1. I slotted in behind Stephen Smith (#769) who had beaten me in the last race. I had a good run on him down the hill out of T9, but couldn’t quite show him a wheel on the brakes and lost 5 or 6 bike lengths on the exit. I was however a lot stronger in T1 & 2 and thought I had him on the inside going into 3, but he shut the door on me and so I looked for my next chance.

That came at the end of lap 2 as I got a much better drive out of the T13. Stephen was about mid-track so I went to the outside, hoping I could carry more corner speed through 14 and beat him on the exit of 15 for the long front straight. Unfortunately for me, Stephen started to drift over to my line before I could show him a wheel and I had to give way to avoid a collision. I was still able to get a good drive out of 15 and was right on his tail into the first turn. I knew I was able to carry more corner speed through Turn 2 and so I set to pass him on the outside on the exit of 2 and into 3 and was able to make it stick this time. From the last race I knew Stephen would be all over me and so I put my head down and tried to get a little space. Just up ahead I saw a couple of Super Dino’s and I knew I had to get past them as quickly as possible and hope they’d hold him up. I was able to get the first one on the exit of T6 and the other on the exit of T8.

As I came over the hill, I could see two more bikes far in the distance so I took after them and found myself right on their tail a lap later coming out of the esses onto the back straight. I got the Super Dino on the brakes into T14 and caught up to Patrick Murphy (#752) coming out of T1 with two laps left. I followed Patrick for a few turns to get an idea of his lines and found myself getting a much better drive out of T9 and easily passed him before entering 10. With about 1-1/3 laps left, I pushed hard to keep Patrick at bay and finished in 8th place- my best of the year. Even better, I put in my most consistent times ever at Thunderhill with 5 laps in the 2:05-06 range… hardly fast, but at least I was improving and I knew where I was loosing time.

I ended up skipping Formula 4 since I seemed to be suffering from the heat and/or not enough food earlier in the day and it didn’t make sense to go out there and push hard when I’d already made a number of improvements. Spent the rest of the day hanging out, drinking beer and talking to all my friends before packing up for the drive home.

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