Monday, February 9, 2009

Round 8 - Back to Buttonwillow

I had not been back to Buttonwillow since the first race, and I was eager to just finish up the season. I felt good at my last race, but coming back to BW after riding a world class track like Infineon, just plan sucks.

For some strange reason, during Saturday practice, I felt off. The bike and I didn't seem to get a long good. I was no where near my old pace, and I didn't have confidence in the front end.

I got a new front tire after lunch, and while with each session my times improved, I wasn't feeling that great. I don't know what it was, but I just wanted to get this weekend over with!

When Sunday morning rolled around, I did morning practice, and I could tell immediately, that my confidence was not there. The bike felt strange to me, and I couldn't get any faster. I had a great start on my race, but by T4, I was getting buzzed pretty fast. I saw some 500-twins guys catch up and pass me in mid race, which further screwed with my head. At this point, I really just wanted to finish the race crash-free. I didn't expect to come in last, but I guess it happens sometimes. Just didn't want to finish the season this way. The good news is my constancy paid off.

I was able to finish 6-race weekend this year for my Expert license in '09.

Here are the final point standings in '08 for 650P

Pos Name AFM# Hometown Points

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

AFM - Round 7

As I type this, i'm still a little buzzed from this weekends races. For the first time in a while, I had a lot of fun, and felt good on the bike. I can't say that leading up to this weekend, I was fully prepared, but in the end, everything worked out well.

  • 4-hour Endurance Race

My team mates and I decided to try the AFM 4-hour endurance race. Out of 4-riders, only 1 rider had done it, and the rest of us were eager with anticipation. Personally for me, it was all about track time. I figured, if I put my laps in, I can work on entry/exit speed, and trying out different lines. We were going to use a 2nd gen SV, which I had never ridden on the track before.

During practice with the bike, I felt the bike handled much better than mine, but the controls and pegs were quite awkward. Being that there was 4 of us riding, I can't really change the position of the controls, so I just worked on being smooth on the bike. Our original goal was to each do 1-hour stints, but if we were tired in any way, we can come back in and pit to exchange with a fresh rider.

I was assigned hour 2. When my team mate went out for the first hour, I was very excited. I really wanted to be out there and I can feel in my heart that I was ready. The only thing that nagged in the back of my head was my fitness level. I hadn't particularly trained for this event, and I was not sure if I could last and hour out there at race pace.

When Marcus finished his first hour, we did our best NASCAR pit impersonation, and we were in and out with me out of the pits in less than 40-seconds with a full tank of gas. As I headed out, I noticed that the brake lever was almost touching the grip! I guess an hour of non-stop riding burned up the master cylinder.. I adjusted the lever, and I was off... The bike felt good, but it was hot out there. I tried my trick of going 1 fast lap, then a slower one, but after the 12th lap, my mind was getting tired. I started to make a few mistakes and I could see another bike that was in our class catching up.

I signaled to come in after 14-laps, not because I was too exhausted, but I just lost a bit of confidence after making a few mistakes and I decided to play it safe and come in to exchange with a fresher rider.

Marcus being the fastest out of the 4 of us, decided he was rested enough to go out and finish my hour. He went out for a few laps, and then I noticed he didn't come in.. We waited, and it turns out he crashed in T8, but he was able to bring the bike back into the pits. Seeing that he was ok, was a big sigh of relief for our team. The bike didn't look that much damaged, but the rear brake lever was bent and the front brake master was leaking. We frantically worked together to repair the bike--stripping parts out of my bike and others, we got the bike fixed and back out on the track - we were only down about 40-minutes.

Rick was next up to bat and he put in some good laps.. After about 40-minutes, we signaled him in and Alan was going to be our last rider. He was an animal on that thing.. Going race pace for a good 1:30! We were worried about running out of gas, but we decided to not signal him in, so we don't break his momentum.

The last 20-minutes of the race, we were all excited! Our first endurance AFM race, and we were very close to finishing. Historically, just finishing the race is a feat in itself, but finishing after a crash and not coming in dead last was to be our ultimate goal.

When Alan crossed the finish line, we all jumped up and down and screamed. A lot of hard work was put into this race, and we did it. We endued up finishing 5th out of 6 FIV teams, but that didn't matter. We set out a goal and it was accomplished!

[Marcus was not pictured as he had to leave early, but we'll get another pic of him somehow!]

  • 650 Production

Having not been on my bike for about a month and riding the endurance bike had me a bit worried coming into my 650P race. I got to work on some new lines during the endurance race, that I could use, but I had no idea how my bike would feel after riding a different bike for the last day or so. I also decided to skip morning practice as much needed sleep was needed if I were to do my best.

I went out on my bike and did a few morning warm up laps, and the bike felt good! My stock end for some reason felt a lot better than Alan's GSX-R setup. I felt like I was home again. The warm up laps felt good, and I felt my confidence was back after last rounds dismal performance.

I also got to see Rick Williams #123 back after a horific crash back in round 2. Turns out we were gridded next to each other. We said our 'good lucks' at the start before the green flag was waved.

As the flagged dropped, I got a good start, and I went around outside in T2, as the pile went through the inside. I felt very comfortable on the bike and I just told myself to take it easy and pick off riders as you see them. For the first time, I felt that I was with the pack, rather than have them walk away from me right at the start.

After 2-laps or so, I found myself right behind #123, and I did my best to follow him and see where I can pass him. I know he is a much faster rider than me, but if I can follow him and chase him down, then perhaps I had a shot of passing him. My chance came after the 4th lap or so, I out braked him into T1, and for the first time all season, I found myself ahead of him! I knew he would be close, and I knew he would plan on passing me soon, so I did my best to find him off. I tried to speed up in places where I had been slow before, and on spots that I was quick at, I tried to open the throttle earlier and brake later.

After a few laps of being in front of him, I made a few mistakes (namely T11) at which he had passed me, but it was ok, I knew I had a shot to get him back on the last lap. As the white flag came out, I hunted him down, but I screwed up in T8 and he gained some more on me.. As we passed through the final corner, I tried to get inside and out brake him, but it was not to be.. He had a better drive and crossed the finish line before me.

But to be honest, that didn't matter. I felt I had ridden well, and I had someone to race with, so I was very happy with my performance. Next round will be the last round of the season, and nothing feels better than having a bit of confidence coming into the last round. Til next time!

I finished 6th in 650P - which matched my finish back in Round 3.

Friday, September 12, 2008

AFM - Round 5

Well, despite my somewhat minor injury, I was unable to race in Round 4. The bike -- although looked fine needed some $$ put into it. I bent the forks, which was the biggest bummer. I did however had them sent out to Zoran from TWF and he re-did the innards, and they felt a lot better than before.

When Round 5 came around, I was excited, and really itching to get back on the bike. I had not been on the bike since Round 3, so I felt very off. My goal at this point was just to finish, and not crash. Secretly inside, I didn't think I could beat my best time from several months back, but I thought I could come close.

This is also the first round that my teammate #782 and I would be racing together. We were stuck in the same slow practice group #1, so we just went out and tried to get into the groove together.

I felt good on the bike, but I lost all my markers and I felt very slow. I was also getting a bit of arm pump during braking, and it fatigued me a bit. I just felt off, and I decided it was best to ride within my limits and not go all out. The last thing I wanted to do was crash and hurt myself again. I figured i'll just turn up the heat on the Sunday race and just use my practice time to get used to riding the bike again.

When Sunday rolled around, I was very excited. I was doing some really crappy 2:01s during practice, but I figured during race pace, I should be able to pull off another few seconds.

I was gridded 2nd row to the left, right behind all the front runners. As the flag dropped, I had a terrible start. The bike wheelied too much, and I lost a lot of positions quickly when I had to roll off the throttle a bit. By the 4th turn, I can see the front runners just pulling away and gone they were. I just told myself to ride smooth and don't worry about what's behind you. I can feel some bikes very close to me, but I just decided to hold my line and if they were to pass me, i'll work on getting them back.

I had the same problem as during my practice the day before. My entry and corner speeds were way off. I got passed several times on corners where I used to be strong in. I had no idea why I was so off. After 3-laps I figured i'll just work on finishing this damn race. I wasn't having fun and I didn't know why I could not break my mental barrier. Although for much of the race, I didn't really have many people to race with, I just wanted to bring it in home.

When the race ended, I didn't feel so good. My braking arm was very tired from overworking the master cylinder, and I felt very tired for what I felt was a dismal performance.

The good news is that the bike worked great. I was dealing with a bunch of little problems prior to the race, but the bike held up well and felt good. I can tell that the fork work was much improved over what I was using. I just think at this point, I need more seat time to feel competitive again. I know what I need to work on and i'll be back!

I finished 7th out of 8 starters. My worse finish this year!

Monday, June 16, 2008

.Crashed at a trackday

In preparation for the upcoming Thunderhill round, I decided to do a trackday this past weekend. My goals was to re-learn the lines (haven't been there in 6-months!) and to have a solid good time.

Unfortunately, during the 4th session, I had a get off on T5. Normally, it's a relatively low speed turn, so any crash would be quite easy. Unfortunately for me, I tucked the front end somewhat hard and I tumbled down the hill with the bike on top of me. I remember hitting my head pretty hard, but I never lost conscious.

By the time the medics arrived, I was quite dazed and the sky looked chromatic. I remembered asking for oxygen, and my left thigh was in real pain. I didn't realize I was bleeding until I took off the leathers and I just saw blood oozing from a dime sized hole in my leg. We went to the ER and got patched up, and I was very disappointed in myself. I really wanted to continue riding, but I was in a lot of pain.

Fortunately for me, the bike faired well, and all I need is some new clip-ons, rearsets, and little odds and ends.

I'll take the next few weeks to heal up, and I should be back for the next AFM round!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Infineon - Part 2

After a disappointing Saturday practice, I was back early on Sunday to get all my track time in. I was in practice group 2 this time, and it was much better.. I got to ride out with my pit mate #707, and I didn't get passed at all by those pesky 600s. My race was next to last, so I had a bit of time to prepare myself mentally--actually, I had too much time to kill! I got a little bored, listening to music, watching others race, and just praying the weather Gods for no rain.. I must have looked up at the sky every 20-seconds!

By the time my race was called, I honestly didn't feel ready. I don't know if I was tired from sitting around all day, or If I had some sort of mental block. My other pit mate #413, had a bad crash the race before, and he was on my mind.. I just figured if I raced a smooth and clean race, I could survive this weekend.

This time around, I got gridded in the 2nd row, which was awesome. I knew if I had a chance to get a good start, I can hopefully keep some of the front runners in site for at least a lap. The warm up lap had me pushing a little more than I liked, but I knew this was a race, and I needed to really step it up a notch.

When the flag dropped, I had a good launch, I didn't really get passed by anyone til around the carousel, and I just kept my line and rode aggressively. By the second lap, #868 had passed me, and gained a bit of ground on that one single lap. By that time, I made it my mission to reel him in and pass him. The next 2-laps I gained on him, to the point where I was right on his rear tire. I lost a bit of confidence and almost crashed on T4 tucking the front and losing the rear, but miraculously, I didn't go down. I guess I just got carried away with too much throttle.

By lap 4, I had passed #868 on T1, which i'm sure was a bit ballsy, but I just had to do it. I heard he ran off the track, and I never saw him again.

When the white flag came out, I took a quick glance behind me and didn't see anyone. I knew I had this race in the bag, and I just concentrated on bringing it home. During the last corner, I noticed a motard on the ground in the horizon and just as I came to T11, I saw all kinds of oil streaks on the ground. Luckily I had seen it and wasn't really going full race-pace or I would have easily gone down. I tip toed through there and passed the finish line!

Just as I passed the finish line, the corner worker waved a black flag, and told me to pull over in the track - I did so, and I was only to assume that it was due to the oil slick, and others have probably gone down behind me. We didn't get a cool down lap, and was just told to return to the pits.

When I got back, I apologized to #868 for doing the strange pass on T1, but he wasn't worried. He said we had a very good battle and congratulated me on my finish.

I finished 6th in my 650p class, and 8th overall. I also got Top Novice, which was another goal of mine.

Unfortunately, I was only able to do a 1:58 in race pace, but I felt like I did much faster. I'm going to go ahead and blame it on traffic, as at no point during the race did I get to be by myself :)

AFM Round 3 - Infineon

First off - wow! what a weekend.. I've never had a weekend filled with so much excitement, drama, and disappointment.

I woke up bright and early Saturday morning to attend the practices, but when I started driving further up north, the weather looked very foul. There was huge amounts of overcast, and signs of rain to come. I had been checking the weather report like a hawk for the past 48 hours, and it looks like rain was tip toeing in the forecast. This time, I brought a long a friend to watch the practice, and it helps to have someone there to motivate me and provide some mental support.

To not disappoint her by crashing was my first goal to say the least! Again, they stuck me in practice group #1. After tech, I told the sticker lady that I was in group #2 last time around, and apparently they made some changes, and with so many faster riders, I was back in 1. Argh. I went out in the first session and started to warm up the tires, not 2 laps later, the session was black flagged and back to the pits I went.

When the next session came out, the weather was still looking very dim, but I did my best to re-learn my lines, and just to get comfortable on the bike. I finished the session with 5-laps and noted my best time of 1:59--which I was very happy about, since I didn't feel like I pushed it in any way.

After the session was up, I got called to the start/finish line - for some sort of problem! They told me my line through 7 was a bit off, and that I needed to correct it. I could only think of one lap where I went in tight to pass a slower rider, and that I came out kinda wide and funky. I immediately raised my hand in acknowledgment of my mistake, and I think I kinda pissed off that rider -- enough to report me.

Anyways, we went off to lunch and when we came back the rain was in full pour. Deciding that the track was done for the day, I headed home for some rest.

Monday, May 19, 2008

.ready for #3

With Round 3 rapidly approacing, I find myself a lot less stressed, and very excited. I'm happy to do Sear's again, and I know I could get myself back in to pace relatively quickly. I had not been on the bike since last round, but I have been riding my SuperMotard on the street, and getting used to the limits of traction on that particular bike.

With this round, I wanted to try a 650T or FIV race, but since my Production race was scheduled next to dead last, I felt that I could not risk falling down on either of those 'fun' races.. It's not that I expect to take the championship or anything like that, but I want to concentrate 110% on my class, and hopefully get myself a Top Novice trophy before the season is up, and I can't risk having injuring myself or the bike.

Time to go over my bike before this weekend's festivities..