To describe my race weekend is where the "PR" people put a positive spin on things. Like, Ca-Cycleworks rider Chris pulls through tough weekend and retains lead in the championship. That kind of cheery crap which doesn't depict how beat one is at such an occasion.
Anyhow, this all started off like normal with me pulling a couple late nights prepping the bikes before the weekend. We need to ensure that there is a noticeable lack of sleep going in. To doubly ensure that one is beaten to the earth, you also attend the Friday practice day before the race weekend to get an extra day of sun exposure and baking in 100 deg temps.
Let's cover the good stuff straight up. I didn't crash and hurt my B bike (zina's bike). I "won" $70 in the form of a free practice session as reward for finishing a race 4th. WSMC had a special thing for June where all 4th place finishers got a free Saturday practice. Another good thing is that my new brake technology worked. This pleases me greatly. I wanted to try running a single brake disc on the front wheel, but was concerned about braking power. Not a problem!! The brembo radial GP pump with the Brake Tech ductile iron rotor and Ferodo CP911* pads was strong enough to lift the rear wheel off the ground going into turn 3. I dare say that this set up is stronger than the OEM braking system. The true issue is that a track with frequent braking requirements, the rotor may not be able to shed heat quickly enough. Not a problem at willow!
Anyway, Friday's practice went pretty well. I didn't sleep well Friday night, so I was really dragging Saturday morning. During the day Saturday, I was running on some well used Bridgestone slicks and they worked very well. It appears that I'm using up the front tires more rapidly than the rears. I got a little heat stressed around lunch even though I was diligently hydrating. I redoubled my hydration efforts knowing that I had the 20 lap race to run in the late afternoon. Also, I tried going one step leaner on the main jets, as the bike seemed to be loading up and the plugs were dark. I did one more session after lunch to check the jetting and the bike ran cleanly again. I didn't think to pull the plugs to check them, but I don't think that would have mattered. I changed over to my superbike wheels and new brake setup, got tech'd and started getting ready for the Solo race. I got an OK start, but the wind whipping up meant that I was kind of languishing behind an SV650. I just kept on it, every turn, reeling him a foot at a time, if not inches. After 10 laps, or 16 minutes of this, I was starting to really stalk the 2nd place rider on the SV. Scott Cleff (the Cycleworks rider that doesn't suck) had cleared off somewhat and was off in the distance. Another lap or two later, I found that coming over turn 6, I had some speed on the SV. Sniffing blood, I kept the throttle on its stop and pulled alongside of him. He looked over and then the SV power kicked in and he motored away. Going through turn 8 at probably 120, the power dropped off significantly. I grabbed down into 5th and I felt serious deceleration. Not wanting to high side, I pulled in the clutch while the engine seized. Then I put out my left leg, moved from my inside line to the track's inside edge and contemplated what next. That didn't take long: I nailed the front brake and when it felt right, I pulled off into the inside of the turn. I was headed right at the turn worker in turn 9. Then I found that there was enough traction to turn, so I tightened my turn in the dirt so as to head to the inside of the Turn 9 corner workers' barrel. Once there, I brought out the kick starting lever to affirm that the engine was, indeed, truly and positively locked solid. The piston decided it wanted to become one with the cylinder. I leaned the bike against the "barrel" and took off my helmet and the bike started peeing on the ground. :-( I checked the temp and it was 94 deg C. Hmmm. I was a little preoccupied during the race to watch the temp gauge. I suspect that the new, thinner base gaskets I used started squishing out, allowing the cooling system pressure to drop. Then the temperature rose to the point that the cylinder seized. There's no evidence of any coolant leaking while riding. Once seized and stopped, I think only then the water started pouring out. It was very difficult watching my competitors circulating. Fortunately, before becoming overcome with emotion, the crash truck was rolling up along the front straight. The crash truck crew were great, drove me across turn 9 to the hot pit to deliver me to my pits. I gave the guys Cokes (something they could drink right away) since my pit neighbors gave them some brewski's for later on.
I stayed at the track until the sun went down working on the bikes. I put my bodywork onto Zina's RS250 and also took the time to do some other conversions: set the fork height to my more conservative setting, move the toe piece of the shifter to the forward position. Another late night. Thanks to Scott for helping me out. Thanks also to his pit mates for changing HIS wheels enabling him to come over and help me out. Thanks Stuman and Kevin Jump. Scott and I hit the Cantina for a late dinner and then I roll up to the motel around 10 to find that the entire wall outside my room was covered with roaches. It was somewhat post-nuclear apocalyptic and while quite foul, explains why I woke up Saturday morning with a roach in my bed. Sorting out my new room only took an hour or so. Eventually, I retreated to the hot tub with a pair of brewskis to lament how I get to miss more sleep. Sunday dawns and I drag out of bed in time to make both warm up practices. On the second lap, I absolutely tuck the front wheel going into turn 9. It wasn't like I was immediately going to run off the track, but it was a serious eye opener. I think it was simply a matter of pushing a little too quickly for a new tire. It wasn't too cold, as it soaked up heat from the warmers for a goodly while. The first warm up was seriously axe-murdery. The squid quotient was about twice what I am used to for even an aggressive Sunday race practice.
The second warm-up went much better. I let everyone go and then I started about 1/2 a lap back. This worked well, as most folks were strung out and those who I passed weren't as bunched up. I couldn't get a feel for how or why, but Zina's bike didn't feel like mine. I was soon to find out! The 550 Superbike race was my first of the day, race number 6. I got what felt like a good start, but I was pretty far back in the pack going into turn 1. I didn't really have time to think about it as I went into turn 1 in what felt like 15th position. I immediately went to work and pinned the throttle and dove down to the inside of turn 2, passing something of a mob in the process. The last rider that I was passing made a sudden move for the dirt and I had to brake to avoid the collision. I thought that they should have seen me, but that's OK, sometimes folks don't and I wasn't actually ahead of them. Back on the gas and I catch back up to him by the end of turn 2. They get a good enough drive out of turn 2 that I don't have anything for them on the way to turn 3, which seemed a bit odd, as I thought my RS250 would have pulled him. So I bided my time until turn 5 where I know my speed and drive is better than most folks'. To plan, the same rider slowed and took a tight line through 5, while I pinned the throttle from before the turn in and went straight for 6. I watched them as I passed and then got on with turn 6. I got around 8 and 9 and onto the front straight with the pack and I was planning my moves. Everyone kind of spread out going into turn 1, so I set up my usual line. I brake and get my downshifts, but I screwed it up and wasn't precise enough and ended up getting one gear too many. I saw the shift light flash as I let the clutch out so while turning in, I upshifted and set on about getting through the turn. Next thing, I see the edge of the track approaching in an unusual manner. Hmmm, so I lay off the throttle and really lean into the turn. The edge still approached. I knew that I shouldn't try to turn if/when the tire leave the pavement, so I kept the turn going until the last possible moment and then went upright. I rode in the rocks at the track's edge at 100 mph testing the front and rear brakes. I was careful not to use too much but was still going 40 mph as the drain ditch approached. I lifted up and jumped it without falling. The Bridgestone slicks dug in and helped me navigate the turn inside of the curbing for turn 2. Now that I was almost stopped and the whole 550 SBK race had passed, I pulled onto the track and got going again. I'm truly surprised that I didn't finish last. Those last few laps were very tentative and very important for me as the Aprilia Race was next.
I got out to the Aprilia race and from the start, a rider completely passed me before turn 1 and another pulled alongside to my inside, too! Dang, where'd they come from?! Anyhow, I kept the throttle on its stop for turn 1, but left a good bit of room on the inside in case they wanted to push the issue. I apexed in the middle of the large patch a couple feet off of the curbing. Once coming off the turn, I realized the problem. Zina's RS250 has crap for power band. Instead of some power from 9000-10,500 and then a good hit from 10,500 until 12,000, her bike has nothing until 10,000. I had no drive coming off of turn 1 and I couldn't even stay in the draft of Ryan, who's running his RS250 while repairing his R6. This was absolutely reinforced over and over as I would tailgate Ryan off of turn 9 and then couldn't even draft him on the straight. Two of the "new" Aprilia riders were also able to pass me before the end of the race. I tried everything I could… over revving the bike to 12,500 helped a little, but it was nothing like the power my bike makes. During the race, I had to constantly tell myself to not ride over my head. I figured this is what led to me trying to crash in the previous race. Not enough power, so I push harder through the turns, knowing that I am usually faster.
Heck, in the 550 race, a GS500 beat me into turn 1 from the start!! So, while I wasn't complacent to finish 4th, I was very keen to not override and risk my place in the championship. After racing on her bike, my respect for Zina and her riding has gone WAY up. I am certain that if her bike was truly equal to mine, she would have beaten me occasionally, if not regularly. What's odd is that hers has a higher peak but is weaker below peak.
I thought about ending my day early, but I wanted to keep working on my position in the Roadracing World 250 GP class. I entered the month in 2nd place. The rider who typically finishes just ahead of me is in 3rd and catching me (now only 2 points behind). I got an adequate start and pretty much rode around alone. I caught a couple of Ducatis from the F-Twins race and generally worked on my lines. Kind of anticlimactic. Like my weekend in general.
BUT, my guy Scott won all five of the races he entered (WOW!) and also, Zina was able to finish her work early enough Sunday to ride the 200 miles up to the track on her Ducati Monster and help me finish packing up and also help with the drive home. Her presence greatly lifted my spirits and really helped me. Plus, we got to have Sizzler!! Lots of work to do for next month!