Racing = punishment!
As usual of late, a lot of work went into preparing the bike(s) for this month's racing. This time, I got to replace the broken power valve from last month and install a new piston and cylinder. Oh and I replaced the leaking fuel tank with a used one with some exciting paint on it. JOY (sarcasm at more money spent). After the hard work, though, I was ready to get to the track and kind of excited about going racing. We got in to the track early Saturday and as we're heading out, Zina asked that I take it easy since it's relatively cool out and I'm in championship mode. So I'm out on the "out lap" … get into turn 1 fine. The tires feel great, the bike feels great, everything's hunky dorey. I motor on through 2 with happiness and let off to get into 3. Then I felt something odd as I down shifted and then the bike pitched sideways accompanied with a loud screech as the Bridgestone rear slick howled in protest of its sudden and unexpected abuse. I pulled in the clutch and immediately was thankful neither to low side from the locked wheel nor highside from it suddenly spinning after pulling in the clutch! I got an arm up, looked at the turn 3 cornerworker who's eyes were bugging out, and started contemplating my options. Hey, look, there's a pit road off to the right! (Sound familiar?!) With the clutch held in, I left the track at 50 or 60 mph and rode over to the pit road then hooked up with the main pit road that runs down to turn 1. I sat there watching all the other 0-500 bikes in practice. I was somewhat fuming at this point. The crash truck pulled up and we sat there BS-ing until the session was over and one of the dudes gave me a healthy push (thanks!) which gave me enough momentum to get around to the turn 1 access gate. I let myself into the paddock and my pit was right there. Very little walking/pushing was involved, which made me happier. Or simply mad and not heat exhausted at the same time. Bonus.
Zina came in and we talked about our options. She decided that since I was tied for 2nd in the Solo GT Lights class that I should run that as well as my races on Sunday. Since she already spent $70 on Saturday practice, she rode until the afternoon, while I spent the morning stripping my bike to figure out what was going on. Turns out that the piston was badly seized in the cylinder I just installed. Great. Well, could be worse, so I'll be content with this. In the afternoon, I put my parts onto her bike: bodywork, QC brake system, and voodoo superbike wheels. Things were a little bit time crunched to get to technical inspection, but we ended up with 1/2 hour to spare, thanks to Zina's assistance.
I was gridded on pole for the Solo race. Scott Cleff already clinched the title, so he didn't enter the race. I got a pretty good start, but a 250GP bike zipped by me going into turn 1. He slowed a little, so I passed him and kept my head down. He got back by in 8 and then I saw that he was smoking pretty madly in right hand turns. He got black flagged after a few laps and pulled in. He was pitted next to me and he replaced the clutch seal behind his dry clutch and that fixed the problem. Anyhow, after this, I rode my race, working on being consistent and hitting my marks. Then about 1/2 way through, a 125GP bike passed me and even though they're not legal for the class, I wanted to finish first on road, regardless of his status. I got him back and we see-sawed a couple of times. I'd get him anywhere but his superior power-to-weight ratio would allow him to zap me on the front straight. Eventually, there was a LOT of traffic. A horde or mob of 600s/opens/etc fast movers passed me while on the front straight and apparently, I benefited dramatically from this, as spectators told me that the announcers said that I gained at least 10 mph on my 125 tormentor on this lap. WooHOO! Anyhow, all I know is that I was able to keep on the pace and win my first Solo GT Light race on my own Aprilia! :-)
After the race, I put my Aprilia wheels and brakes back on Zina's bike and we headed to the Cantina for some grubbin, then to Park Plaza for some ZZZzzzzzzs. By the way, Park Plaza upgraded us to one of their Executive Suites since they ran out of the cheap rooms. Those suites are pretty nice. Of course they're not worth any extra $$ to a cheap racer, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the room!
Sunday, we slept in a little and got in to the track just in time for me to catch the first warm up session. I didn't really feel the need to rush out to it, so I skipped it for the 2nd warm up. This worked out fine. I had a great feeling for the bike and the track, so I was content to limit my track time a little. As always, the riders' meeting is before the day's racing. As a tribute to the passing of racer Jody Hendley, his teammate, Eric Pinson rode Jody's bike for a lap. That was very sad. I was sad when Al P passed and they rode his bike around. But since I actually know Jody and really liked him, I couldn't hold back the tears hearing Eric hammer that Harley around the track, with the distinctive exhaust note reverberating throughout the race course. We miss you, Jody…
Well, anyway, back to racing. Since I'm not really figuring in the points for 550 Superbike, I decided to skip that race to save everything for the Aprilia Challenge race. As the races passed, I got ready. Then with 2nd call for our race, I removed the tire warmers and headed out for the grid. As we reached pit-out, it was announced that we're holding 2nd call to clean up an on track incident. So I head back to the pits and put the bike on the warmers again. 2nd call comes again, and this time we get to race. I got a great start and was 1st going into turn 1. I got in a pretty clean lap. Maybe even two laps… I just remember hitting my marks pretty well and the bike felt great. Then, going into turn 2, Ruben passed me on the inside going into the entrance. Hmmmm. OK. So I stuck to him and we got around turn 2 and I was totally in his draft looking for a move going into 3. I chose the outside to pass and as I was pulling alongside, Ruben set up kinda wide, so I had to back down. I fell in line for 3 and 4. I started to sniff something out for turn 5, but he kept good speed so I stayed in tow. We got around into 8 well and I pulled one of my old school moves going into 9. He moved out to set up for 9 and I pinned it in 5th gear as he did this and moved in under him and took his line for 9. It worked pretty well and I was able to pick my way through 9 well enough and got onto the front straight with some speed. Then going to turn 1, Ruben got back by. I was immediately on him and in his draft on the exit, but didn't get enough revs to make any moves. We rode around pretty close and he gapped me a little, so I planned on trying to get him in 9 again on the last lap. Then he got held up by a lagging rider from another race, so I got real close. On the penultimate lap, however, the outcome was decided. We caught another racer where Ruben was able to get by cleanly, but I got balked some. It was enough that I wasn't able to regain Ruben's draft. Finally, on the ultimate lap, I caught another rider from the other race on track with us as I entered turn 9. It worked out that I passed them after the apex of 9, near the entrance to the hot pit lane. Thankfully, they left enough room for me. Michael was there, too. He was sniffing me out for another "skunking" at the stripe, but it wasn't in the cards for him this month. I was oblivious to his presence until after the s/f line when he went by me. Hmmm! Wow, Ruben and Michael are really riding well! They stepped it up nicely this year.
I pull in and put the bike on the warmers again for the short interlude until the 250GP race, sponsored by Roadracing World. I'm only running this race to try and salvage some points in the off chance that I'm able to podium in the class. Last month's DNF really hurt me. John Ulrich passed me in the points last month, but isn't able to race this month due to the WSMC event conflicting with the AMA at Barber. Had I not DNF'd combined with this month's no-show by Mr. Ulrich, I think I would have 3rd in the class wrapped up nicely by competing every month until the end of the year. Now? We'll have to wait and see! Anyhow, the race went well. Two of the visiting 250GP bikes finished ahead of me, so I would have gotten an extra 4 points on John Ulrich, but that's racing! The race itself was well enough. I got a great start and was first to the grandstands when 4 bikes passed me. The 5th one passed me in turn 8. After that, I again had visions of trying to catch #2 in class, Jason, but he kept his speed on and I couldn't. I can't help but think how I would do on a real 250!
That's pretty much all the action. After the races, I started packing up, BS'd with friends, and got a Tri Tip sandwich, which I shared with Zina scoring at the start-finish line. More packing up and more BS'ing and then we hit the road to Zina's favorite part of racing: eating at the Lake Elsinore Sizzler. :)
Postscript: Once at home, I realized that the new cylinder I fitted was slightly undersized, explaining my seizure.