Motorcycling07 Oct 2010 12:35 pm

It’s been a long, long time. 5 more days and it would have been a full calendar year since the last track day. Am I complaining? Yes, and no. Yes because it is such incredible fun to be in a controlled environment to do what I enjoy and see old friends and acquaintances, and I’ve missed this. No because I’m grateful this happened at all considering how many people are unemployed and with nowhere to live – those folks have much more to legitimately “dislike”, and I feel for all that have fallen into such a state.

Some months prior to this date, Dale and Kevin (via Kevin) notified me that they’d selected an event to attend. Two back-to-back days of riding with K@TT/Keigwins At The Track. I had a similar desire to attend both days but as life marched on, it became evident that only one day would happen, and even the prospects of that one became sketchy at times. Finances were a concern, time off was a concern, and transportation was a concern since I don’t have my Nissan Frontier anymore. I’d planned to add a trailer hitch to the Odyssey but never got around to doing so. So I tried to get Francisco interested in going. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to attend. But in a gesture of awesomeness, Francisco offered to let me borrow his Tundra for the day. I picked up the truck on Monday and bumped up the tire pressures (they needed it). Very early Tuesday I installed my carrier in the trailer hitch, loaded my bike and all gear up, took a few cautious corners and bumps to check out the stability, and hit the road. Meanwhile, Dale and Kevin were probably sound asleep, having done both Monday and Tuesday and spending the night somewhere in a Willows motel.

The drive up to THill was uneventful and the weather gradually revealed that it was going to cooperate and be a very nice day. Once there, it was relatively easy to locate where Kevin and Dale were pitted, underneath the permanent canopy. I was very happy to be shielded from the sun when in the pits as they had saved a little space for me. After the riders meeting it was out onto the track for a great time. I spent some time throughout the day following Dale and/or Kevin as well as riding on my own. cRa1G was present, but working as usual instead of riding like he used to wayyyyy back in 2001 (ha ha). I spent a little time hanging out in the Viets truck scavenging interesting industry tidbits and watching cRa1g change tires and work with customers. And then something unexpected happened. cRa1g asked if I’d be interested in riding a mostly empty track during lunchtime. Sometimes Lance will let the instructors go out for some free-for-all fun amongst themselves during the lunch period. Other times he’ll make the last session of the day a free-for-all. Today it was lunchtime that the instructors would be able to play. cRa1g thought I might be interested in “experiencing” a mostly empty track. Me? My innerds cramped and tightened up in fear. “umm….hmmmm….well OK” I say, thinking “it’ll never happen”. Wrong. I’m eating lunch with Kevin and Dale and up comes cRa1G with a reflective safety vest and says, in effect, “when you hear the bikes go out, go have fun”. Oh geez, no more appetite. Just butterflies. I know I can be a safe backmarker in the A group but something about being amongst a bunch of instructors that had been hamstrung all morning babysitting a bunch of slow riders? I should have just said no.

I went back to the pit area, sat there staring at nothing, wondering what I’d gotten into. After what seemed forever, I heard a few bikes making more noise that just wandering around the pits. So I grabbed my gear, saddled up, and went out onto the track. Hey, where is everybody? A quick glance over at T4 had shown a small pack of 3-4 bikes making their way through. But nothing on the front straight, the 6/7/8 section, the back straight or anything. In fact the track was so empty I thought “dang, I’ve messed up and gone out too early. Someone’s gonna chew me a new one”. But as I completed the first lap, there were no waving flags or flailing cornerworkers so I stayed out for just a few more. I never saw another bike the whole time. It was really wierd, as if I was the only person in the world at that time. Very peaceful, sole focus on being one with the bike.

After these laps were over I returned to the pits, chatted with Kevin and Dale about it a bit, and then we spent the rest of the day having a great time. I enjoyed a couple of 1-way (meaning I didn’t get repassed) passes in particular. One- an RC51 slipped up the inside between T1 & 2 while I was following Kevin. It was fun to get him and another bike both on the outside in T2. Two- exiting the last turn and onto the front straight, a rider turned to look back at me just as I was about to pass. He pulled the trigger…on his R1. Even with getting the jump on him, he still easily matched my acceleration up the front straight. OK….I’ll see how he handles T1. It took milliseconds to conclude I was faster there so up the inside. But in the interests of being polite (and safe), I waited till the exit and just got on the throttle earlier. Pass completed. I skipped the last session as I was tired after an early morning drive and anticipating a long drive home plus needing to unload at home and then return Francisco’s truck.

After loading up and saying my goodbyes, it was time to hit the road. I appreciated greatly that the Tundra had no problem handling my bike hanging off the tail area on it’s hitch carrier, or any other problems. Nice enough truck. The drive home was uneventful, just long. Sears Point is SO much more convenient. But it is a very different kind of track. And variety is nice, so….Thunderhill, I’ll see you again, soon.

Best lap: 2:06.27

Here is a link to my experimental track footage, posted on YouTube. Sorry it is BUMPY, I used extension arms to hold the GoPro camera off the front of the windscreen. First section is the empty track lunch time riding. Second section is B+ group snippets including the RC51 & R1 passes & a rear tire spin-up (you can hear the engine spool up a bit) down the backside of T9.

Motorcycling27 Sep 2010 10:28 pm

Last Thursday was a most enjoyable day. Or maybe I should edit that to say mostly enjoyable. Cause it doesn’t really matter what you are going to do, going to bed at 1230am and having the alarm wake you at 430am is tough. Creeping around in the dark trying to quietly get dressed and not wake light sleepers is tough. Gathering a plethora of gear and parts in the cold dark of the morning is tough. Yet this is what I do…….to go to a track day. Side note – reverse this entire process at the end of the day, while exhausted and sore.

I got no further than a rough draft of my last track day which was in May at Thunderhill with Dale and Kevin. I don’t know if that write-up will ever happen now. But all things considered, it is quite a privilege to have gotten two successful track days in this year. I’d really like to see one more, but…

It’d been awhile since I’d seen Francisco other than occasional maintenance on his R1. But Francisco would periodically contact me to see if I had any track days scheduled (answer: “not yet”). Well finally we turned that into agreeing on a couple of Thursdays ago at the storied Sears Point, now known as Infineon Raceway (I’ll never stop preferring “Sears Point” or disliking the corporate “Infineon” title.) This cooperation worked out well for us both. Francisco got “free” labor from me on his R1’s wheels removal for new tires and a coolant change, I got a “free” ride for my gear, bike and self to and from the track. I guess free + free = we both paid somehow, but whatever. Having seen mini-trucks show up with two bikes in the bed, I was sure Francisco’s Tundra could handle two bikes. So, having never actually tried it, we planned to do that. Meanwhile, a fantastic, reasonable, better solution sat forlorn on the sidelines having been completely ignored. More on that in…..

Francisco’s R1 is mostly for street riding so it contained the factory, super slippery and almost impossible to clean up coolant. That stuff is a big no-no for the track. I run distilled water with Redline’s Water Wetter additive, and recommended Francisco do the same thing. That eventually resulted in him using up my supply vs. buying his own. But hey, what’s a little fluid between friends? Hmmm, that really really REALLY sounds bad, yuck. So a COOLANT drain and tire change was supposed to happen before the big Thursday. Unfortunately our schedules just didn’t jive and I barely managed to get the coolant job done. Thankfully cRa1G told Francisco he’d be at the track and would swap the tires if the removed wheels were brought to him. Francisco asked if I’d be willing to remove the wheels first thing when we arrived at the track, i agreed thinking it wouldn’t be too big a deal, and it wasn’t.

Some days before the event, I mentioned to some friends that this event was coming up. Two among them offered to come spend at least some time if not the whole time. One even arranged for a day off work. Among all my friends, I’ve only had one other do that for me, Tony D. Miss ya bro. My fault though since I didn’t tell you about it. To my disappointment, something or the other took over and one friend never showed. But Trevor Newkirk did. Along with a load of photography gear that, when combined, results in www.trevornewkirk.com. Trevor agreed beforehand to come out and spend at least a little time, hang out, take pics, socialize and so on. But back to the timeline.

Tuesday and Wednesday were incredibly busy days for me and I didn’t actually finish converting the GSXR750 from street to track until 540am Thursday. At this time I started moving items into the driveway, waiting for notice from Francisco that he was on his way. That notice finally came, unfortunately so was the sun; time was passing quickly and we still had to do a load-up that we’d never done before. When Francisco arrived, he had his bike squarely in the middle of the bed instead of to the left or right. I don’t know why but it was what it was. We loosened it and struggled to slide it sideways. Then we pushed and shoved my bike up the ramp into the bed and fooled around for what seemed 5-6 hours trying to arrange and tie the bikes down securely. Once that was done, the next task was loading pop-up tent, ramp, toolbox, front and rear stands, chairs, riding gear and more. Once that was done, the forgetting started. Francisco forgot gas (I had mine), also food, also something else. Meanwhile no word from Trevor. We got on the road after two roadside stops, one because the bed gate had fallen down and the other to ensure that since the gate wouldn’t stay up then at least all the bed contents wouldn’t jump out onto some BMW’s hood and windshield. We get to just before Novato and I’m wondering just when Francisco was planning on stopping for gas. Turns out he’d forgotten again. So we had to backtrack and go into Novato to a gas station. Then finally we get to the track.

We staked a claim and started unloading bikes and gear. Thats when i remembered the forlorn solution on the sidelines, my trailer. I am co-owner of an enclosed trailer which was purchased mostly for bike transport. Why did we struggle with all this loading problem when the trailer would have been a simple solution? Ugh. I was happy that this time all I needed to do was check tire pressures and fuel, roll the bike through tech, and be done. Francisco, on the other hand, had plenty to do. Lights to disable, tires to be changed, and tech. We (I) started removing the wheels and then got chased by Lance into the rider’s meeting. After that was concluded I popped over to the Viets truck to holla at cRa1g, or at least that was the plan. Not my matter so I can’t get into any details but suffice to say something had cRa1g fire-spittin mad. Madder than I’d ever seen him. Madder than most people after some goofball t-boned them off the track in T7. I thought about frying an egg on his forehead since I was hungry, but I didn’t have an egg so….. I got back to removing the wheels and Trevor showed up. After that step was complete and helping Francisco disable his headlights, I got set up for the 1st B+ group session. Still riding on Bridgestone BT-002rs tires that had already seen 2 track days, things were just a tad unsettled for the first three quarters of a lap. But by the middle of lap two it was all systems go. I’ve discovered now that I am capable of over-riding this particular set of tires. However I don’t know if that is a by-product of the tire model itself, or the residual life left in them. Regardless, there were a few moments throughout the day that made me exercise a little extra restraint.

After that session was over, I got Francisco’s wheels re-installed and then hustled out to our 2nd session. Somehow Francisco made it out into the 2nd session as well. The B+ group was interesting this day. There were some notably slow people that should have bumped down to B- but there were some pretty fast guys in there too. Probably A capable but not desirous of A that day. Starting with this session, I ran my GoPro camera off the front of the bike via suction cup to the windshield. To my later frustration, I discovered I used one extension arm too many so the resulting video is quite bumpy. I am still working on editing the last track day at THill in May so I don’t know when I’ll get to editing this event. But I’ll put them both up on YouTube in due time (somewhere around 2017) for public laughter and humiliation.

The morning sessions went well. After our last session before lunch, I rode with Trevor in his car up to T3 and 3a and compared engine notes and lines through that section while he took a few photos. Trevor also slipped us into the outside of T7 which was gated off because vendors and competitors were setting up over there for an upcoming Drifting competition. It was a big deal with lots of cool cars and set-ups, transporters, etc. Those folks were preparing to have fun. I really liked watching riders approach/cover/exit T7. Then we went back down below to the grill for lunch and looking at some of the photos Trevor had shot. By mid-day Trevor had taken over 500 shots, maybe closer to a thousand. At one point he waited right at the entrance to the hot pit while first Francisco and then a few seconds later I came down preparing to enter the track. I’m really excited to see his photos.

Before lunch we made friendly with an A group GSXR1000 rider pitted next to us who had a very long Mercedes Benz/Dodge Sprinter van. It was really cool. Diesel engine, barn doors on the back, interior set up to handle all manner of tie downs, space galore. A realistic track day fantasy transport. After lunch we looked at it some more. The owner was a quiet guy, not very outgoing, but willing to talk if talked to. At one point I just happened to notice that he’d bungee’d our pop-up tent to his. Later he told us that while we were out, the tent tried to play kite. It was really nice of him to save us some embarrassment and potential expense (damaged tent, knocked-over bike or equipment of fellow riders, etc). It was unfortunate that the guy later rolled back into his pit area with a scuffed up bike and leathers. He was fine, minimal damage to the GSXR. He’d low-sided exiting T3; said no warning or anything, just that the front end “went away”. I told him I knew his pain as a few years back I experienced the same thing on my ZX10R entering T3, the front end just “went away”. I’ve been leery of that corner ever since, because I never did identify a likely cause of the crash. Anyhow, with a missing rear brake lever and some other minor stuff, that guy’s day was done and he started packing up. I did skip on exactly one session, I rode every other session of the day. The one I skipped I spent with a restroom run, chatting with Dave Moss about my suspension (and then getting an adjustment that made some improvement), and hanging out with cRa1G (who was in a lot happier state of mind now).

As for the GSXR750, I need to do some work. I told Dave the bike felt like it was slightly resisting turning. Enough that I thought many times “if I muscle this thing hard, I might just muscle the tires right out from under me”. Don’t need that when there isn’t even a cheap plastic trophy or certificate on the line. He looked the tires over and asked me if I was trail-braking (“yes, I’ve been trying it today”) and commended me for riding smoothly and getting on the gas early. I don’t know how he saw all that in a tire but thats why he is Dave and I’m not. And that’s why I happily roll my bike right up to him for his magic. Dave’s conclusion was I probably have mud for oil in my forks and at least a fork oil change is highly recommended if not valving too. So I’ll be planning a tear-down and transport everything to Catalyst Reaction Suspension Tuning for rebuilding. The other major issue I ran into, all day, was the front brake lever coming back onto my throttle fingers. It was such that I actually made an adjustment to the lever one time while riding. I couldn’t brake as late or as hard as I wanted for fear of running someone over or off the track. I managed to slip a late brake pass in on Francisco once in T4 but got a poor drive out of T6 and between that, his R1 and his red mist (Francisco doesn’t like being passed, hee hee hee), he repaid the favor into T7 and I thought “that’s the limit for me, with these brakes”. There was a little tire wiggle a couple times coming out of T6, once exiting T2 and, fully opening my eyes and nostrils, a front slide mid-T10. I was passing someone around the outside and the front just got vague and then juddered sideways. No, there were no knee-puck heroic saves, I’m not capable of that. But I do appreciate that rather than chop the throttle, I managed to keep it stationary and the slide halted. It was small anyway, even if it felt epic. Goofing around stuff included tugging on the bars a few times exiting T8a and once out of 3a, getting 1-2″ under the front wheel. But there’s always a bigger goof. Today it was Cory Call. He’d been introduced in the rider’s meeting, and had a distant glazed-over look during the “no wheelies” part of the meeting. He passed me going into T4 WITH A PASSENGER. As soon as someone passed me in that place with a passenger at that, I knew exactly who it was and that hooliganism would proceed. Sure enough, exiting T6 he pulls alongside the guy I’d been chasing down and honks off a nice wheelie but doesn’t pass till the exit of T7 where he does it again along with a pass. And Cory and passenger disappeared into the future. I might have had some on video if it weren’t for all the bouncy distortion. I’ll be rethinking the mount seriously.

At the end of the day we tore everything down and with help from cRa1g and friend, managed the bikes back into the truck bed. I’ll be buying one of those folding alum ramps very soon. Having two is a lot easier than one ramp. I don’t care for the wide ramps (wider than two singles) as they are harder to squeeze into transport space and not scratch/damage stuff. Francisco bought a CD of his pictures from Got Blue Milk, we helped cRa1g load up his Viets service gear, hit the road for home and enjoyed another day of doing something we love. Excessive amount of stiffness and sore muscles the next day. I have to get back to exercising, and soon.

Best lap time of 1:56.27

Motorcycling12 May 2009 10:11 am

Aaliyah once sang “age ain’t nuthin but a number”.  What she left out was that the number keeps getting higher, resulting in a person’s get-up-and-go feeling got-up-and-gone.  I don’t think that last part is what she had in mind but I do, for 41 good reasons.

Two or three weeks ago I was contacted by a long time acquaintance that I don’t get to cross paths with a lot, Jeff Paris.  Jeff is a long-standing BARF member.  He emailed to tell me he was hitting a trackday soon and wondered if I’d be interested.  Surely you jest in asking such a question; of course I’m interested!!  It turns out that the location this time would be Thunderhill Raceway and the host was Z2 (I guess the original name Zoom Zoom isn’t cool enough, or they were spending too much $$ on letters or something).  A number of BARFers had signed up for May 8th and/or 9th.  As I followed the BARF thread on this for a couple of days, their enthusiasm was infectious.  So I decided to sign up for a few reasons:

  • I love trackdays
  • the 9th was a Saturday, I wouldn’t have to skip work
  • I love trackdays
  • I hadn’t ridden with Jeff in literally years
  • I love trackdays
  • Thunderhill (heretofore referred to as THill) is cheaper than Sears Point/Infineon or Laguna Seca Raceways
  • I love trackdays
  • My core group of trackday compatriots has dwindled (finances, life, children, work, etc) so I have to do on my own
  • I love trackdays!!!!!

When I went to sign up, I was disappointed to find that I was #7 on the waiting list.  What with all the excitement people were generating, I thought for sure it was an exercise in futility.  It was to my great surprise then when a few days later a “success” confirmation email arrived.  Intermediate (B) group here I come (cause that’s where Jeff and the majority of the BARF folks had signed up).

In the days leading up to the 9th, I installed Bridgestone BT002RS tires, deviating from the Michelin Power Race tires that had served me well but cost considerably more.  Cost is an enormous concern for much of the world now and I’m no different.  My GSXR’s previous owner had already installed a Power Commander.  I wanted to try a quickshifter as well.  There’s endless examples of much-faster-than-me riders that shift normally.  But I’d been experimenting with clutchless shifting by loading the shifter and then doing a quick throttle off/on to unload the transmission and make the shift.  That met with meager success.  A couple months of persistence paid off in finding a used ignition module and used quickshifter.  I got everything bolted up by Friday evening and got as much situated in the garage as possible to make Saturday morning loading a minimal hassle.

The other thing I knew needed work was my physical shape.  I’ve picked up some weight, picked up some pains, and lost some energy and endurance.  Knowing this, I started weeks in advance with moderate cardio work, daily stretching, drinking more water and vitamins/supplements.  I found that it all was helpful yet much more is needed.

Saturday morning.  It’s 5am and I’m loading my bike onto the JoeHauler when I notice flickering lights in the living room.  What?!?  I knew my wife would be up early for her own routine but that wouldn’t include TV watching.  I’d gone to great pains to quietly turn off the security system and sneak into the garage, so who could be up?  Well this proved to be a frustrating distraction because it threw my train of thought, leading to leaving a lot of needed things at home.  After snugging the bike down and loading the bed, I now remember a fleeting thought “the bed of the truck is kinda sparse”.  But the predominate thought was “who in the wide wide world of sports is up watching TV?”  It had to be one of the kids.  And that meant a shortage of sleep on that child’s part.  Which inevitably leads to attitude problems.  That equates to me later having to hear a crapload of complaining about who did what.  Sure enough it’s the middle boy, and then the oldest too.   I reiterate to them and wifey that I am NOT going racing (welllll….sanctioned at least).  But they can never get it right, first thing out of their mouths when people ask about me is “oh, he’s off racing today”.   Since no one listens to me anyway, an AFM licence may be coming soon to a brotha near you.  Anyhoo, I kiss wifey goodbye, receive her “be careful” admonition, hop in the truck and congratulate myself on getting out the door on-time.   The iPod and I stop by Peets in Pinole but it doesn’t look open so I keep going.   I pop a VitC and start in on today’s load of water cause the forecast is sunny and hot.   I avoid any of the fast food places after reading that their products can lead to lack of energy and a general “dragging” feeling.  Nope, don’t need that.

Fast forward to the freeway exit in the lil town of Willows.  I pop into Walmart for 3 Gatorades and then head on to the track.  I’d completely forgotten to call Jeff and find out where he was so I could pit with him IN THE SHADE, as planned.  And now, in the armpit of nowhere, I can’t get a signal.  Of course all the covered pit spots are over-populated already so I drive out to the end and park.  Silly me, thinking it’d all work out.  I eventually find Jeff but he’d only arrived 10 min before me and the people that were supposed to have saved him some space……well they didn’t.   So now I’m out in the sun.  If you know me, you know I love direct sun and heat like cats love hungry rabid pitbulls.  Where’s my popup tent?  Cozy at home in the ()@#$@ garage.  OK, let’s get setup to ride.  I need to re-check my tire pressure soon as I put my bike up on the stands…….hmm, they’re at home with the tent.  No problem.  Tire guage says both tires are right at the limit of where I want but I think I’d like to start a pound or two higher.  Lemme grab my air pump……thats at home.  Sigh.  What else can be forgotten?  Don’t ask, JG, don’t ask.  Just program the correct track name into your laptimer and put it in place.  Whoops, battery is dead – lemme grab a small Philips……d@mn, toolbox decided to stay at home too.  I close my eyes, pinch myself, and open my eyes to see if I’d left my bike at home too and was instead fooling with someone else’s steed.

We sit through the mother of all rider’s meetings.  It went on and on and on.  Jeff was there but disappeared.  I found out later he was concerned about some kids needing to get to the pool or something.   As I walk back to my truck, I see a couple of sizeable clumps of riders that apparently were all together.  I knew they must be BARFers that I hadn’t met before.  But being the introvert that I am, not a chance that I’m gonna wander around like a lost puppy introducing myself .

I find and sit with Jeff a bit and then head back to my truck just about the time the B group gets first call.  I suit up, once-over the bike again, look at my GoPro camera (that’s suction-mounted to the speedometer) and wonder “hmm, how DO you turn this thing on?”, push some buttons on it and go.  The first session is interesting.  I’ve discovered I don’t like crashing, so I always take it easy on the out-lap.  Tire technology has progressed leaps and bounds, some riders swear you can “go for it” even on the 1st lap.  I’m not one of those riders.  And ironically I’d remembered my generator but forgotten my tire warmers.  So it was sunday-driving for me.  Unlike new Michelin Power Race that literally can feel like marbles for the first lap or two, the Bridgestones don’t give that bad a feeling but just a bit of vagueness.  2nd lap I turn it up a bit and all is OK.  Hey, how bout trying this quickshifter on the back and front straights.  OMG, this is really flippin cool.  It takes a bit of mental adjustment.  But you don’t roll off the throttle at all, just keep it pinned wide open and tap the shift lever when ready – BAM an instant upshift.  I like this!  As the day went on, I discovered that the shifts were sometimes better than others depending on RPM, and sometime I’d miss the 2nd shift if I tried to catch two shifts in quick sequence.  That part was likely operator error/learning curve.  But a quickshifter is really cool.  I discovered I could use it to shift in places I normally wouldn’t because regular shifting would have upset the chassis and the quickshifter was too fast to allow that to happen.

Something else interesting about the 1st session was it hurt.  3rd lap and my legs and thighs were not happy at all.  I wondered what the heck was happening.  I’ve been stretching and drinking lots of water and exercising, so what is this?

The second and third sessions went without a hitch, just faster.  But not fast enough.  I wasn’t in the groove, realizing that I’ve spent so much more time (relatively speaking) at slower and more technical Infineon Raceway, my mind was slow adjusting to less technical but faster THill.  Also, the leg/thigh problem was going away quickly.  In fact, as I sit here droning along in type, I’m much less tired and sore than would normally be.  So that exercise/stretching paid off.  I’m very happy about that and will continue in this routine.  Unfortunately as the heat quickly rose, so did a headache.  I’d been continuously drinking water (days before even) and Gatorade and staying in the shade as much as possible so I didn’t expect it to last.  But it did.  The fourth session came and I decided to sit it out.  Instead a restroom visit and then walk around to see how some of the A guys (which is where I should have been) were taking the back straight and approach to turn 14 vs. the B and C folks.  Heckuva difference.

Lunchtime arrives and I walk over to Jeff’s area but he’s nowhere to be seen.  As I walk away, someone calls me and it’s Jeff.  We walk over to the cafe to get food but Jeff disappears.  I figure he is chatting with his friends but after waiting for a hotdog and fries, I can’t spot him.  I walk back toward my truck and in passing his area notice his truck is gone.  Turns out he decided it’d be better money spent to drive into town for lunch.  ?!?!?!  That woulda worked for me too, umm-kay?  So I sit in my truck and watch a movie while eating.  Some little voice in my head says “good lord, someone must have spilled the whole salt container on the fries and hotdogs” but for some idiotic reason i kept at it.  Well that probably was a bad idea.  The headache continued to increase and it was after-the-fact that I thought about how I’d just worked counter-productive to the liquids I’d been taking in.  I catch a little catnap in the truck and then go over to borrow a screwdriver from Jeff to put a new battery in the laptimer.

Jeff decides to skip the next B session.  I tell him I’m going out but with the headache issue it is likely to be my last one.  THill is a long drive, longer when solo.   I decided I’d like to get some caffeine in me and on the road before things got too much uglier.  This session is one of the best of the day.  The laptimer tells me I’m well off what I’m capable of, but who cares.   I’m having fun and it wouldn’t be fair to push it even more in the B group.  I’ve posted this session on youtube, complete with lots of vibration due to poor camera mounting decision.  You can see 10 minutes of it here

After this last session, I roll straight up to the truck and strip of out the leathers and all.  I get a few sips of water, pack everything away and drive over to say by to Jeff.  Of course he is gone again somewhere.  I wander over to “4theriders” area to see the photos they’ve taken, like none of them, and head back to my truck to find Jeff suiting up to go ride.  I tell him I need to hit the road.   He digs out a couple of Advils for me but I’m done.  The day would be over before they helped enough.  I drove into town for a venti 8-pump soy chai latte with no foam and no water.  Of course they get it wrong, but by the time I get to I-505 the intensity of the headache had broken.  The drive home was of no consequence.

I did get to meet 3 BARF members – Josie, Steve and …… someone else, so that was cool.  They all looked to be having fun and the post-event thread bears this out.  A few people did “faw-down-go-boom”.  The meat wagon rolled once but I think it was just precautionary.  Also, Jeff lost some brake pads at speed.  I didn’t tell you that huh?  After the 1st session I walk over to his area and he tells me he had no front brakes coming into turn 14 (if you watch my youtube, turn 14 is just after you go under a bridge that says “Keigwins” on it, check the speed and engine sound and then imagine finding NO BRAKES).  Each of Jeff’s front calipers have 4 brake pads.  On the right caliper the two lower pads had fallen out.  Pulling the lever just drove the pistons into the rotors instead of stopping him.  Jeff said he used a combination of downshifting (slipper clutch ftw) and the run-off area to get stopped.  A friend of his found him some spare pads and he pulled the retainer pin from a spare caliper to save his day.

Yesterday I visited Francisco to help him with something on his R6 (and oogle his new red/white R1).  We both agreed that we’re happiest at K@TT events.  Not that Z2 or PTT or any of the others are bad, it’s just that K@TT feels more home-like for us.  That said, I’m glad I went and would do it again but with a few changes and some lessons learned.  What lessons?  Don’t count on others so much, be prepared yourself.  I was supposed to have a spot under the permanent metal awning, that didn’t work out but I went in over-confident and paid for it.  Don’t forget tools, tent, stands, etc.  I was prepared for allergy problems but didn’t count on a headache.  And don’t get distracted.  All the items I forgot were prepped and ready to go, they just didn’t transition into the truck.  If these lessons had been applied actions instead, a much better experience would have been the result.
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Motorcycling16 Jan 2009 09:54 am

If you aren’t Trump, Gates or Jobs, you are hurting right now  In times like these, extraneous fun is often one of the first things to go (interestingly this doesn’t seem to apply to vice).  Thus as this year’s track dates were released by organizers, I sat on the sidelines wondering how and whether to place a deposit or two with K@TT.  And yet 13 days into the year and I’ve managed a trackday already.  But there was a catch or two.  One, word of mouth was heavily responsible for my opportunity.  Two, I had to work for it…..literally.

In the years past, I’d actually considered trying to host a trackday.  The way I saw it was garner enough interest to make the event feasible, rent the track, sign up for ambulance service, collect $ from attendees, bust the shins of those who fell through, lunch would be on each individual, and lets ride.  Hah!  There is so much more to it than that.  So instead I now work for a provider.  OK, really I just got to work -once- for a provider.  And I’m hoping I left enough of a good impression to be allowed back.

This past Monday was K@TT’s Customer Appreciation day and it was held at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.  Cra1g tells me beforehand that they may have need of an additional grid manager.  To make the boring details short, an arrangement was come to with Lance and the cooperation of my manager made me available to go to the track Monday.  Normally this time of year isn’t prime trackday time, weather-wise.  But it’s almost been summer weather lately.  Monday was no exception.  Bright sunshine and pleasant warm air alllllllllll day.

The rider’s meeting (which I arrived well ahead of, for the record), was relatively short.  Lance figured everyone would be good riders.  My assumption is the customer appreciation is for people who’ve spent a pile of money on trackdays with K@TT and hence should know what a track is and how to get around one.  Nonetheless, a couple of people raised their hands when it was asked if this was anyone’s first time at Sears.

After the meeting, Mike F and I worked tech while Cra1g went off somewhere trying to pawn tires on people and such.  After a while we moved tech down to the flag station and climbed the tower to precariously set the countdown timer in place and get it working.  Another worker named Jeremy joined us down there.  Jeremy had the cutest 4 year old black lab/pit mix.  What wasn’t so cute was how much tongue-on-lips interaction I saw all day.   I mean hey, I love dogs like other people do (cats too).  But ….umm….has anyone noticed where else dogs like to lick (e.g. themselves)?  Not my cup-o-tea, but thats me.

I got to tech my own bike, which would have been doubly-embarrassing if something had failed.  I put myself in the A group.  Lance was allowing A and B+ (no B- or C) to swap around some with the agreement that the A rider’s would respect the slower B+ pace.  More on that later but in summary – FAIL.  The B+ (henceforth called B) group came out and I watched Mike K let them out onto the track.  Mike explained various responsibilities to me and so on.  We teched some late arrivals.  Other than that, I just stayed at the flag station, checking for tech stickers and doing tech on more late arrivals.  Being a two group day, each session was “30 minutes” with an actual 27 minutes given (3 minutes leeway to clear the stragglers at each checkered flag).  B group finishes and the A group goes out for their first 27 minutes.  These guys had a different feel or “aura” while waiting on the grid than the B group; this is reasonable since they are faster and have a higher ratio of licensed racers.  They also had less respect for the grid managers.  >:-(    Jeremy asked me if I wanted to go ride.  “no”.

In the 2nd B group session, Jeremy went out and rode.  I suited up, finally agreeing to ride a little after repeatedly being asked by both Jeremy and Mike if I wanted to go out and me repeatedly saying “no”.  I had a few reasons for saying “no”.  Primarily I wanted Lance to see I was serious about helping and being useful to K@TT in some way.  But also, in no specific order: Mike K and Tom were there but in the B group and that’s where Jeremy wanted to ride, I had no other riding buddies out there (Cra1g was working), I was just happy to not be at work -and- be at a racetrack.  I was getting a kick just watching the varying styles and sounds and smells of the front straight at close proximity.

2nd A group session and I go out for about 5 laps.  It was quite fun riding at such a fast pace.  I had one literbike rocket past me on the inside entering T2 but he passed so quick I didn’t have a chance to be anything more than impressed.  A few other very reasonable passes and an overall challenging pace.  After 5 laps I came back in and went back to work.  As the day rode on I started to notice two disturbing trends.  One was that the A riders were progressively passing the flag station faster and faster.  Frankly there is no reason for that.  Roll the hot pit mildly and wick it up on the track itself.  I notified Lance of this today and he says that pisses him off and he has to thing about doing something.  I hope he does.  There’s just no reason for it.  The second trend was the A guys were flying in the B group.   Since Lance was allowing intermingling, I guess they were getting as much track time as possible.  But they weren’t tempering their speed any.  Easy for me to comment on as I don’t have their speed and skill.  It was even more evident at times because there were some D- level people out there (IMO) too.

Speaking of fast guys, I noticed an all-white CBR1000RR in the A group absolutely FLYING.  In time I get a look at the back of the leathers and saw “Parriott” along with sponsor patches.  Could it have been Brian Parriott?  I never found out for sure, but this rider was crazy fast, easily faster than anyone else.  Then I saw him on another bike.  And then on a gorgeous white and powder blue 1098 (__, S, R, it didn’t matter) and still just as fast.  I though Gary Jaehne was fast but in this company it just looked like Gary was relagated to having fun wheelying his ZX10R.  Other fast(er) company was Ken Hill, also on a white CBR1000RR.  I like the CBR1000RR so I enjoyed seeing it represented well by these two.   Later in the day another 1098__ rider was out laying down eye-popping laps.  The A group is fast but these 3 were a notch above.  But again, these fast guys (a lot of the A group I mean) were also out carving up the B group like thanskgiving turkey.  Lance had specifically given permission for A to ride in B so long as they respect the fact that B riders were where they are because they don’t want to ride with A group.  So I didn’t think this conduct was fair.  It’s different when I do it.  Why?  Cause I politely pick my way through, I don’t carve anyone up mercilessly.  I’m not that fast.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  🙂

To add a strange twist to the matter, there was only ONE incident all day.  ONE.  Someone low-sided, I believe, exiting the Carousel.  But they were up and ok and eventually restarted the bike.  That’s it.  Despite the disparity of B group speeds and the blazing fast A riders, the day was very quiet problem-wise.  This was really nice.

I got lunch, met a very nice friend of Cra1g’s, chatted with Mike K and Tom (Q?) for awhile, picked up a spare rear wheel from Mike K, and then watched Spooks in my truck while consuming a chicken caesar wrap.

In the afternoon, more work.  By this point I recognized most of the bikes as they’d enter the track so I’d just give a thumbsup, majority of which would return a grateful wave.  But still there were those ones that seem to think blowing the flag station at 80mph is gonna cure cancer or win them a million dollars or impress some hottie, etc.  Nope, just made me view you as idiots!  Jeremy left at 3pm to go to work so I asked Mike F (who had been riding B group) if I could do a B session with Mike K and Tom.  As things would happen, Mike K and Tom chose that session to sit out, Mike being tired from a day hike.  But they came out anyway and I got to follow them around for 4.5 laps before doing the rest of the session myself.  And that was it for me.  I was happy.

Even though I didn’t completely trust them on their 6th day, the Michelin PR5/PRC combo gave nary a whimper and still look good.  Amazing.  Also I still have a brake problem that hounds my confidence.  The front isn’t firm despite much bleeding work.  Mike F is running Yamaha monoblock calipers on his GSXR1000 and loves it, I hear it isn’t an uncommon modification.  I have an alternative bleeding technique to try as well as a good caliper cleaning and if that still doesn’t get it good, then eBay it is for some monoblocks from the boys in blue.  Still I ran a couple of 1.54s and came away with some reminders which I’m about to address in a few minutes: goals chart.  I wanted (but forgot and failed) to do the following: find more visual turn-in points, work on head and body position more, try more trail-braking.  I can look at this chart before going out and avoid coming home thinking “awww, I forgot to….”

On the last A group session, it was really cool to see instructor Shaughnessy’s wife and kids come into the grandstands and watch daddy blast around doing his thing.  They cheered and pointed when he’d go up the front straight.  It feels great to have family/friends there to support what you do.  I’m gonna get my own cheering section out there too this year, and see if I can get some 2-ups approved in an Aerostitch.  At the end of the day, I helped Mike F dismantle the tech/grid area.  We assisted each other in loading the motorcycles and packing up.  I wandered around a bit to say good-byes and hit the road for home.  It was a really nice day.  Actually it was a great day;  the hit to my pocket was slim-to-none, and better weather couldn’t have been purchased with diamonds and gold.

Best time 1:54.3__ (in B group; 1:54.4__ in A.  What a hypocrite  🙂

Motorcycling07 Nov 2008 08:43 pm

Tuesday was a <koff> <koff> day off in more ways than one.  Last year, when funding was considerably more “in the black”, I purchased a Keigwins 5-day ticket pack.  The end of the year is approaching and I still had one day to use.  Considering the red zone my funding dwells in now, a gas-thirsty drive in a gasoholic truck to T-Hill didn’t sound all that appealing as of about two weeks ago.  Hence I decided to use my last of 5 days at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.

I tried to get Mr Castellanos to come along, but he decided not to due to illness and fear of inclement weather.  The week before, I’d emailed Keigwins to see if I would have to pay extra for a premium-location event.  Days went by with no response and I’d started to think “heck, everyone is losing something in this economy, guess I’ll lose this last day among other things”.  And then Friday or Saturday I get a message from Lance that not only did I not have to pay more, but he’d thrown me on the A group list.  Oh well, now I have to go.

Unfortunately, Monday afternoon I didn’t feel the greatest.  Kinda lethargic and minor stomach upset.  Monday evening I finished re-assembling my bike from a still-not-right front brake bleeding attempt, and put a few things near the garage door for easy morning loading.  Monday night the trackday-tomorrow butterflies kicked in, leading to a night of unsettled sleep.  Tuesday morning I get up and feel pretty blah.  At this point I’m seriously considering blowing the whole thing off.  None of my friends (except for Cra1g, but I never actually see him ride anymore) are going, I’m tired, I don’t feel well.  The weather will decide it.  If I look out this window and see the slightest hint of possible rain, I’m going …… to work?  Oh heck no.  I know I’ll be miserable there and regretting every moment if it is sunny. 

Looking out the curtain there is nothing but beautiful dark sky.  Time to load up my bike and gear.  After this complex process is complete and I’ve triple-checked that I brought everything I wanted, I run errands.  Post Office, gas station, bank, back home to drop off $, Mc D’s for something small, then the freeway.  The nice thing about a track-prepped bike is you can basically roll in, unload, go straight thru tech, leather up and ride (if necessary).  Thus it didn’t bother me that I arrived just as the rider’s meeting was starting.  The meeting was interesting.  I’ve never seen such a small crowd.  I guess the economy and the ??? about November weather kept many people away. 

A few things would be different today.  There were no corner workers (initially) cause Infineon forgot we were coming, or something along those lines.  So roaming Keigwin instructors would keep an eye on things (and boy were they busy, more on that later).  No corner workers = no flags.  This has the potential to be interesting, in a bad way.  Also there was, for the first time in quite awhile, sighting laps to start the day.  A nice way to remember which way the track goes, or for new folks seeing it for the first time, or to get comfy with your bike, etc.  There was no A/B+/B-, just A and B, so we got 30 minute sessions.  There were quite a few first-time-to-Infineon riders present (the number of hands made us regulars all raise our eyebrows).  And last but BEST of all, we’re running the old skool high speed Turn 1.  It’s been many a track day with the safer, slower, chicaned Turn 1.  But something to do with the outside of Turn 1 being really muddy and wanting to keep people away from that meant no chicane.  Woot! Woot!  That turn is fun fun fun, if you have the nads to keep the throttle open.

After the meeting i go unload, sign in, pass tech inspection, and come back to my lonely pit.  On one side is a few guys that are hanging together.  One has a very nice sounding RC51 that brought back warm memories.  Another has a burnt-orange color SV1000.  There was another bike too that I didn’t really pay attention to.  On the other side is a sole guy who pulls out of his trailer a very race looking R6.  Race-DOTs, aftermarket bodywork, sponsor decals everywhere.  I’m expecting him to be a fast AFM racer.  I re-check over my bike and tire pressures, suit up, and head out into the A group with much trepidation.  I still don’t feel too good.  And while the sky is crystal clear, it is quite cold with a little breeze.  Those that know me know I prefer cold to heat, so for me to notice it’s cold, it was quite cold.  Cold air+cold track+cold tires = no traction.  I rode the first few laps super slowly.   A “4 The Riders” photog was already out shooting and I thought “these are gonna be the crappiest pics ever…..oh well, better than crash pictures”.  I notice that the left side of the rear tire is extrmely unstable.  Any kind of leaning into it resulted in a sporadic feeling that varied from “vague” to “slipping”, I didn’t like this at all.  In my head Grand Master Flash kept saying “don’t, don’t don’t do it!”  And it wouldn’t go away – the slippery feeling and Grand Master Flash.  Strangely it was only on the left side.   This first session seems to go on and on and on.  I pick up my pace some after becoming confident that there HAS to be some heat in these tires by now.  But others have already picked up their pace too soon, “the falling” had already begun. 

An enjoyable part of this session is falling in line with a TZ250.  He passes me with a 4 stroke tail in tow but doesn’t get away, I follow them for a couple of laps.  We hit a couple slower bikes, one at a time.  The first time the TZ gets by and it takes us other two a couple corners to get by but we do and then close him up again.  The second time when the TZ gets by the slower bike, I pick it up a bit to pass the guy I’d been following as well as the slower bike so I can stick with the TZ.   This is really fun, to see the corners he gets a better drive off of (especially left-handers as I’m still unclear on what the rear tire is doing) and other corners that I strangely catch him back up in.   Normally I’d bask in the scent of exhausted fuel and 2-stroke oil, this time my tummy says “hey man, either get out of his “six” or hold your breath a little bit, cause I’m not feelin’ this.”

“A” session -finally- ends and I immediately check my rear tire pressure.  27.5lbs.  Seems too high for a heated Michelin Power Race, so I drop a couple of pounds.  I look over the tire on all sides and there is no unusual wear and no signs of fluid contamination.  Hmmmm.

I check over some other stuff and get more settled in my pit area.  That’s when I notice the R6 next to me actually has a sidestand and a headlight disguised under color-matched screening over the light.  Something seems strange about that.  Maybe it’s just a streetbike and the guy just likes the race replica look, like I do.  Or maybe he does race but his race bike does double-duty as a streetbike too.  Regardless it just seems strange for some reason.  I lose track of time and who is currently running so I sit in my truck and rest.  After an undetermined period of time I hear a call for “B” group, and it’s just coming up on a 30 minute mark.  This is when I add 1+1 and conclude we’re running two groups at 30 minutes each vs 3 groups at 20 minutes each.  And that’s why the session seemed so long.    That extra 10 min is good for 5 more laps at Infineon.   OK I guess I got to the rider’s meeting a few minutes -after- it started.  Hmph!  So I’ve managed to miss the 2nd session, but with not feeling well I didn’t mind at all.  Other than feeling tired and having an upset stomach, there were no other symptoms.  I still have an appetite.  I wonder if maybe something I ate the day before was causing trouble on it’s way through. 

Meanwhile “the falling” continues.  I’d already noticed that the R6 didn’t come out with the A group but he was gone at the same time as the 1st B group’s session.  He’s gone again for the 2nd B group, so he’s riding the B group.  But this time only the rider comes back……walking……with mud everywhere.  He’s moving just fine, looks a little frustrated, then he’s on a cell phone as soon as he gets to his van so I don’t ask him anything.   This reinforces an existing mental impression on me, go slow at first cause the tires are COLD just like the track and the weather.  Speaking of which, the wind has picked up a lil bit now.

Third session of the day, my second.  I attempt to follow an identical GSXR out onto the track, but he decides to stop at track entrance to converse with someone at length.  Cra1g tells me some corner workers are here now.  And they were in use immediately as….yes….”the falling” continues.   I go out and immediately Turn 4 has a waving yellow.  Someone yet again didn’t heat’em up.  But I do, then give that left side a shot.  Hmm, not perfect but significantly better.  Now I’m feeling more confident.  The session goes quite well for about 3 laps and then the gas light starts flashing.  I pit and fill up and head back out.  3/4 lap to make sure tires don’t feel funny (who knows how quickly they’d cool back to ‘faw-down-go-boom’ unsafe in this cold weather).  2nd post-fuel lap and I catch a glimpse of fast bikes coming up behind while exiting 7.  Turns out it is a Keigwin instructor and Ken Hill.   The instructor I knew about and expected him to pass.  Ken Hill I didn’t, though I didn’t realize it was him till he passed.  But Ken threaded the rapidly closing hole I’d left so quickly I didn’t have time to flinch.  So instead I tried to tag along.  Yes yes, I know, I very bad decision.   But I’d immediately made up my mind I’d only go so far before waving them off.  Ken’s not sucking me into some corner wayyy too fast and then I end up muddy too.  I manage to keep them close for a few turns and marvel at their corner exits, watch a lil wheelie action from Ken’s CBR1000RR, etc.  Then we ran across a bike they were comfortable passing but I wasn’t, and that was that.   Instead I end up in another lil dice with the same TZ250.  Having had a number of laps to watch him earlier, I knew where both of us had relative strong points and weak points.  He passed me up the inside into Turn 7.  So I followed him to one of his weak points, T11.  He’s come in wide and carry a sweeping arc.  I theorize that maybe it was an attempt to keep his momentum and revs up since his bike would have ZERO low-end torque.   No problem for me – brake late, turn hard and fire out, point-n-shoot style.  I didn’t see him again for the remaining 2 laps.  I know he was within a corner or so though.  It was really fun.

Last session before lunch was my third and final session.  Before this session, I lowered the rear tire pressure just a hair more and adjusted my shift lever as I was having some trouble being comfortable with it.  Good moves in both cases.  This session went great, even though people were STILL running off in both groups.  Everything is cold people, don’t you get it ?!?!?  Afterward, Cra1g said he had to run crash truck bike recovery and then we could eat.  I went and watched video in the truck till he showed up.  We sat in the cafeteria and ate and talked about my 2nd favorite spectator sport now, F1.  He answered questions I had such as what is a prime tire and what is an option tire and what is the difference between?  What happened with Alonso and McLaren?  Is Ferrari considered a better team than McLaren?  He told me the story of how he got to ride in and then DRIVE…….something really cool at Miller (ask him). 

Meanwhile outside the sun started toward the hills, a few non-rain clouds were passing quickly thanks to the wind that had picked up even more, and the temps felt colder.  I went back to my truck and pondered why my stomach was still very unsettled yet I had an appetite and no bad symptoms.  The call for A group came out.  I got out of the truck, put on my back protector, leaned over to put on one boot, started on the other, and …….. called it quits.  Behind me the group of guys now had one of their riders all muddy and such.  He’d crashed his SV1000 somewhere or the other and it was back, packed with mud and minor damage.   On the other side of me the R6 had been returned and it too was PACKED in most crevices with mud.  It seemed like all over the pits there were crash repairs taking place.  Earlier I’d helped a guy load his crashed bike into the back of his Honda Odyssey just like mine (hmmm, don’t need this truck anymore).  I remembered that my tires were on their 4th event, the weather is still cold(er), the wind has picked up even more, the sun would be down behind the hills in 4-5 minutes, and throughout the day I’d seen plenty of instructors stopped to help fallers and then yellow flags when the corner workers showed up.  That was it.  I didn’t feel there was reason to ride anymore.  I’d already had much fun, no problems, and I was almost out of gas again anyway.   So I put everything away, strapped my bike down (which is when I discovered that two nuts and bolts holding the rear brake master cylinder to the rearset had up and disappeared, wonder who had the low morals to “take” them?), dressed a little warmer and went down to the hot pit to chat with Cra1g while watching the A group strafe turn 1.  It was too cool.   Lance showed up and I chatted a couple minutes with him, hinted at my appearance at Miller in Utah next year (actually Cra1g did), and then I headed for home.

This was definitely an unusual day, but good.  Managed to pull a 1:53.99 out of it, all things considered.  I wouldn’t have felt any better physically if I were at work listening to a bunch of cry-baby attorneys and secretaries whining about why they can’t print or why Outlook seems slow today and cry cry whine whine whine (really!!  I was warned that Legal I.T. is a little different, and it is.  Nothing but a bunch of crying…let me stop).  The stomach thing was gone by Wednesday afternoon.  It never did have a major impact, just came….made things uncomfortable…..then left.

Let’s see what 2009 brings………

Motorcycling19 Aug 2008 02:08 pm

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve been on track.  Plenty enough time to get crusty and stale, forgetting things I’d been advised to work on and more.  But I managed to keep in mind that I wanted to work on body positioning, trail braking and brake markers/turn-in points.  Success was minimal, with bad habits rearing their ugly heads pretty quickly.

It’s Friday August 15th and time for a Keigwins event at Sears Point.  I’d started the process over a month ago being 17th on the waiting list but still made it in.  Woot woot!

Despite an early morning foul-up with some new tiedowns, I managed to get loaded and fueled and thru Mickey D’s for some McIndigestion and to Francisco’s house.  He was running a hair bit behind himself so it all worked out and we still got to Sears Point……..ok I concede – Infineon, plenty early enough to get a spot despite it being 1) AFM race weekend and 2) a few Indy car transporters being there taking up space.  We claim a space and start to unload.  I spot Mike Kelley coming in a few minutes later and he drives within 5 feet of us….looking the other direction.  Mike eventually sees us though and comes back to pit with us, and later his-now-our friend Tom Quach does too.  So this should be a nice little day.  Cra1g and Marc are present and working, or so I thought.

Rider’s meeting is the usual stuff (that many people seem to promptly forget about once on the track).  Being an AFM race weekend, I figured not only is the A group fast to start with but would be fastER with the weekend’s competitors trying to sort stuff out and get up to speed.  The rider list showed Marc working the grid so there went my last reason to go A group (someone to ride with), so I went B+ which put me with Francisco, Tom and Mike.  Going through tech, I greet Marc and then find out he’s got his beautiful new 848 onsite and riding afterall.  D-oh!

The day went really well overall.  The weather was very stable if just a little warm, very few falls, everyone having a good time.  Marc came out in a couple of B+ sessions.  One he led me and gapped me with artful use of passing in (tons of) traffic.  Another I led him and, based on previous laptime reports from Cra1g, expected him to come around at any time.  When I came off track, I see him getting gas so I don’t know what happened (other than the obvious – he needed gas).  I got to follow Tom and Mike a couple times but never got to follow Francisco at all.  He always lights out of the pits early and leaves us still strapping on helmets and gloves.  The two times we tried to ride all 4 together, the grid workers and bikes doing random things (like stopping to talk to someone) messed it all up.  Then I’m stuck trying to carve through and catch up.

My goals were, again, to work on body positioning and trailbraking and visual markers.  I failed miserably on visual markers.  I did succeed in looking down-track better, serving to lead me the right direction as well as reduce the perception of speed a little (which brought on it’s own problems and a new goal; later on that).  I also managed to remember to look a few times for certain trees I’d decided on when apexing T4.  But I still grade that goal an F, maybe a D-.   I tried to work on trailbraking too, realizing that plenty more work is needed there as well.   Lastly, body positioning.  I found it disconcerting to get more butt off the seat.  I think I was at least working at it because it put a considerably larger than usual strain on my legs (which are still hurting 4 days later).  I also felt that my outside foot was losing contact with the peg when getting off the bike more, also disconcerting as I wanted to weight the outside peg and wedge the leg into the tank more.  Maybe this peg discomfort indicates I need to adjust the rearsets higher.   I also realize that I have such a problem with this because I’ve become so comfortable with my current body positioning.  Hence I become a hypocrite of sorts when telling Kevin or others “you have to get off the seat more”. 

So I came away not too happy with addressing my goals better.   To top it all off, I added a new goal – learning to become comfortable with/managing slides.  It could be the tires or it could have been inadequate setup or maybe that reduced perception of speed when looking down the track or (most likely) operator error.  I should think the Michelin Power Race tires are good for 3 events but maybe not 4?  Today was day 4 and the tires looked (still do) really good.  But I got real up close and personal with a potential highside twice. 

Session #1 right toward the end – I’m exiting T7 and rolling on the throttle looking downtrack.  Prior to this, I had this sense that the traction seemed a tiny bit vague but I wasn’t listening to my sense apparently.  So now the rear lets go good-n-proper, slides a good amount out to the left, engine tone racing upward.  I can’t honestly say I didn’t close the throttle, conversely I don’t believe I closed it entirely.  I was and am still mad at myself that I didn’t try to ride it out.  I think if I’d gone to a steady throttle and kept my body loose, the slide would have gently come back to me.  And then I could try to fool people into believing I’m related to Garry McCoy.  Thankfully I just got a small nad-whack from the tank and feet off the pegs.  I’ve thought and thought about this and feel that maybe I was still too leaned over and, looking past the 2nd apex down the track, was rolling too much throttle on.  Back in the pits I check for fluid leads or evidence of bad tire wear but see nothing. 

Session #2 about midway through – I’m exiting the carousel and the rear lets go to the right but just a tiny bit.  Enough to feel for a second and it came right back in line.  I didn’t roll out of the throttle or change anything.  No drama there but a mental note was in my head. 

Session # 3 just before the checkered flag comes out in T7 – I’m exiting the carousel again and on the throttle; the rear lets go again.  Same (wrong) throttle reaction, same feet off the pegs, ??????? floating around in my brain.  Up ahead in T7 the checkered flies so I have a look behind at no one and then back off a little and come in.  Again tires look ok, no fluid problems or equipment failure.  So I’m chalking it up to my error again.  Or is the rear tire really “going off”? 

What I have discovered as a new goal is that I need to learn how to manage sliding.  If its going to happen, the response needs to be appropriate.  I’ve been reading about various dirt schools where they teach you how to handle loss of traction in an appropriate environment at appropriate speeds.  Over the last 8-10 months this has been catching more of my attention as an idea to try; even more so now.  So I’ll be looking into that soon.  My wife’s been thinking she and the kids and I would all have fun on the dirt (as I stand gap-jawed and drooling in surprise) so maybe this will be good for all of us.  Have fun, learn something and experiment relatively safely.

Well after the last episode I scaled way back.  Whether is was me not knowing what I was doing or the tire or the suspension or ???, I decided to back off substantially for the rest of the day.  I didn’t have the funds to throw new tires at the situation that day, Dave Moss wasn’t there (Lindemann was but he was also charging $60 I’m told and I had $6 to my name total), and rashed-up leathers and plastics are never an entree’ I look forward to eating.  Soooo….slow down. 

We had the usual fun chit chatting during lunch.  But almost immediately my stomach started a minor protest so I skipped the session right after lunch and instead hung out with Cra1g and Marc in the hot pit for 40 or so minutes.  Then I ran one more slower session in which my stomach and diminshed mental capacity conspired to make me pack it in for the day.

It was quite a pleasure to hang out with Mike, Tom, Marc, Cra1g and Francisco.  Part of what makes these events so appealing.  In fact, if I hadn’t been having such a good time maybe it would have registered to relocate my rearsets on the spot instead of thinking of it a day later.  Putting new EBC HH pads on after the 1st session made late-braking passes into 7, 9 and 11 more fun.  It was highly enjoyable dicing with a Rossi-leather-clad Yellow R6 twice.  One time we were so evenly matched that I didn’t dare try a pass.  The other time I did pass and over the course of 3-4 laps we passed back and forth until I came back in.  I should have found the guy (or girl) and introduced myself.  Mike and Tom are trying to talk Francisco and I into a weekend trackday at Buttonwillow in Oct.  I’ve never been there before and do have one more day of my 5-day ticket pack to use up.  A weekend event certainly appeals in not requiring time off work but interferes with other important weekend activities for me.   Plus I hear it’s a 3 hour drive or something like that.  Hmmm.

Best lap time – 1:51.74   Each lap of each session jumps all over from mid 1:54s to 2-teens, indicative of the vast chasm between skillsets present in the B+ group this day.  There seemed to be some E- people out there at times.

Motorcycling16 Jun 2008 09:55 am

Hmmm, lessee….choices, choices.

Maybe Return of The Sandbagger

Or, how about Sandbagger, the Sequel

Maybe Hi, My name is Jonathan and I’m a sandbagger?

Regardless, I’ve fessed up immediately, thus taking away some of the sting I’m sure Cra1g has for me.  I stand by my reasoning though, which is a looonnnggg read away from here.

At the last two track days, I had a nagging feeling of stangancy (yes that is a word. www.m-w.com).  No forward progress, not even a little.  Just hitting up against an invisible wall.  Actually the wall isn’t sooooo invisible.  Being the sole source of income, a father/husband and having considerable community responsibilities is enough to quell too much “win-it-or-bin-it” mentality.  Oh, did I mention age too?  Yep, already things haven’t felt like they used to for a long time.  No lil blue pills though, woot woot.

So in talking separately with Cra1g and Lance, I decided to wheel-n-deal up some funds for another Keigwins At The Track two-day intermediate course.  I wish so much that they’d do it somewhere other than Thunderhill, but they won’t.  It could have been worse – Buttonwillow (farther and at minimum equally hot); Reno-Fernley (see Buttonwillow), etc.  It just so happens that the one intermediate school is again within a day of a three day convention I attended.  Up early every day for a new job, up early every day for the convention, up early one day for work, then up earlier for a 125 mile drive to Willows.  Well earlier in planning at least.  The reality was “huh?” <snooze> button…….shift around a bit…..contemplate losing mad money and staying home…..wishing more people I knew would get involved……doze a bit more…..rationalize that the bodywork and tires are alreary done so not much to load….doze a bit more…….dang – too much ambient daylight coming in the window.  Hustle into the garage and start kicking myself that despite my rationalizing, I had a lot still to get packed.  Eventually I got on the road, foregoing the Chai tea latte I’d wanted, and settled in for 2+ hours of driving.

After thanking my radar detector for multiple legit alerts and hating my truck’s pitiable gas mileage (no trailer at that), I arrive at the front gate.  Something was nagging at my periphery but I couldn’t place it until a young blond girl comes out of the booth to have me sign the waiver.  Her hair is blowing so hard she could have been a purple mutant and I wouldn’t have known.  I roll down the window and gale force winds blow my hair about too (LOL).  This..is..NOT..cool!

I drive on into the pits and am amazed to discover that though late, there’s still plenty of pit space under the permanent large metal canopy.  The relative absence of humans and activity tells me the rider’s meeting has either just started or is about to.  As I get out of the truck, off in the distance I spot a unique-looking, very familiar metal trailer.  Could Steve be here?  I sure hope so.  It can be rare these days to actually view it as a privilege to know someone.  Steve is one of those people it is a pleasure and privilege to know.  He is just the most awesome gentleman.  Lays complete and total waste to any and everything that can be said about aging (though only my mind accepts that at the moment, the body resists in favor of a barcalounger somewhere in the near future).  Anyhow, rather than unload, I just walk way friggin far to the rider’s lounge; the meeting started about 10 minutes ago.  I spot Mike K but knew from the rider’s list that he would be there.  I was disappointed though that I never got the expected last minute call from Francisco that’d he’d be coming afterall. 

After the meeting Mike shows me that he too is under the metal canopy and there was room right next to him so I moved over a few slots to pit with him.  I unload and get on down to registration, then tech, and back.  And taa-daa, here’s Steve!!  Just as healthy as ever for …. well I won’t say cause that’d be rude, but Steve has lived a long, full and likely very interesting life.  In fact, what I was soon about to ask him made me feel really bad, but I had no choice.   You see, circumstances dictated that while some would camp at the track (like Steve), other’s have Madden-esque motorcoaches to stay in (Keigwins) and other’s would drive 7 minutes to a cumfy-wumfy roachtel, I was dragging my sorry behind 125 miles BACK home to get up too early again and another 125……yes dangnabbit, over 500 miles in two day.  That’s just in the truck!!!!!  At 3.7 city blocks per gallon!

So, adjusting my panties a little bit, I whine to Steve about maybe just possibly letting my bike spend the night with his two immaculate R6’s.  I couldn’t finish the whiny excuses before he’d already said “yes no problem”.   Whew.  Make that 4.9 city blocks per gallon going home and coming back the next morning, woo-hoo.

The intermediate class assumes that you know things like …… how to turn the bike on, where the brakes are, etc.  You should be comfortable with riding, have experience, etc.  This class has way more structure than an open track day.  Actual classroom sessions on specific topics, demonstrations of topics (such as Dave Moss’ 675 being wheeled into the class so instructors can demonstrate how to use one’s legs in various ways to 1) support the body weight and keep it off the arms, minimizing/eliminating transferring bad stuff into the front end and going BOOM and 2) to get your upper body down low more effectively for cornering).  Then nice long sessions to put into practice what was discussed…..or work on something else.  Instructors are available all day for you to sign up with for one-on-one sessions so you can discuss what you’re afraid of or feel deficient at, and they observe and then commend/counsel as well as demonstrate….at speed.  Having ridden with all these instructors before and knowing how blindingly fast they are, it was painful to sometime watch them plodding along behind, or towing a really slow person.  But that was their job for the day and they did it admirably!!  If I remember correctly, they get to cut loose a lil bit at the end of the day, but I wasn’t around long enough to confirm that.

So this wind is blowing something terrible, just terrible.  And Thunderhill is a quite fast track.  I thought “no way I’m going in A group.  I need all my faculties to not get run over by these guys on a good day, I won’t have enough braincells to cope with this wind too”.  I backed off to the B+ (just A and B+).  I suited up and went out for a 3 lap follow-an-instructor sighting session, it was wierd.  The instructor I got paired with took off faster than I wanted to go into turn one, then when we got there and turned left, the southward hurricane said “hey, wanna go way up on the hill by that water tower?  I’ll help you.  The view is great up there”.  No dang-it, I wanna stay on pavement.  Turn 2 – more problems.  The first part of the turn was hard to drive at an angle into the wind, mid corner was head-on into the wind, then the last third of the turn if you blinked an eye you’d made a complete U-turn and were headed backward against traffic.  Turn 5a was tough.  The approach to 9, 10 and the front straight were like having a Titan II strapped to your back.  Approaching 14, you could have literally disconnected your brakes and left them at home, not needed (this turn plays a key role later).

So day one is very tentative.  I worked first on trying to relearn the track with this new variable affecting things.  Despite the wind, it was still warm so I guess it would have been really warm/hot without.  I signed up for a one-on-one with Paul Y., told him I felt deficient in my current cornering and braking abilities.  He said lets go out and after a couple laps he’d have me lead.  He said he wasn’t like others on the out-lap, he preferred to go slower than others.  He wasn’t kidding.  So as I walked along side his bike into turn one….LOL.  After a little bit of leading him, he brought me in to advise that I’m not getting my butt off the seat enough and upper body is staying too high.  I need to get the edge of the seat into the buttcrack and the upper body lower.  He also said while my lines were good and smooth, I was braking too early and needed to trailbrake more.  That would enable me to stay on the gas longer vs the safer line of braking earlier.  I knew he was right, but was afraid.  There, I said it.  I was afraid.  Truthfully I knew already I don’t get off the bike enough.  It always, always feels like I do but when I look at pictures later I’m thinking “what’s this garbage?”  So I commit to working on both these things.  We do some more laps.  Then it’s back to class.  Paul also deadpans that I should definitely be in the A group.  <:-/

Then things got ugly.  We’re in the class and I subliminally notice it’s gotten too quiet outside.  As we’re going out of the classroom I’m walking with Mike and I hear a helicopter much too close for comfort.  I say “uh-oh, that can’t be good, he’s too close”.  Sure enough, as we walk out into the sunlight, a bright red Reach copter is coming down into the 11/12 esses.   I ventured close enough to watch (partially because I’m fascinated with flight and the desire to be a pilot) but not so close as to look like an insensitive anus.  Sonia comes and stands with me and explains the medical reasons why it’s taking so long for the copter to leave (very informative), we banter about how small craft get tossed around quite a bit and what a heck of a ride this was guy in for when that copter lifted off.  Eventually it did and we went about our ways.  I found out later he got into 9 too fast and went on a not-fantastic voyage.

We had a nice tri-tip lunch and good comraderie with Cra1g and Steve and Michael L, then it was back to class and track.  Too much food equals sleepy time.  I don’t know how many instructors caught me eyes-closed, but I couldn’t help it.  Hopes that the wind would let off in the afternoon were wasted hopes, the wind stayed very strong all day.  Garbage barrels rolled like tumbleweeds at times.  So did my mind.  So much to absorb, so much to try to work on.  It seemed too much.  I hoped that sleeping on it all would make a difference for day two. 

Mike talked me into staying a little longer than I wanted at the end of the day but the reward was a Heineken and 3 slices of delicious pizza for the road (pizza for the road, not the Heineken).  After stashing the GSXR at Steve’s spot and giving him the key, iPod and I head for the long drive home.  I get home and the family is happy to see me.  I’m happy to see them too, but truthfully bristled at seeing 250 additional miles driven.  Ah well, the things we do.

Day 2.  More rationalizing about why I don’t need to get up so early.  Loading up is much shorter.  No bike.  No generator or tire warmers.  No pop-up canopy.  Loading goes very quickly but the time saved is wasted getting that Chai tea latte. Tracy Jordan and 30 Rock make the just-as-windy-as-yesterday drive to Thunderhill tolerable.  I arrive, retrieve the GSXR from Steve’s location and get prepped for the day.   But this time something is different, something I’d hoped for.  What seemed confusing and overwhelming yesterday was making sense today.  It seemed like things were coming together.   The late braking, egg method of handling turn 2, more body off the bike and lower, stronger drive off the turns was all making a lot more sense.  This had happened back in 2006’s intermediate school.  Also on single trackdays, I always see the previous day’s events more clearly afterward.  So today I had high hopes.  They panned out well.

I worked harder on my objectives and less on worrying about the wind, strangely it seemed to have diminished some.  That isn’t really true, what really happened was my concentration was elsewhere.  Today I signed up to have a one-on-one with Cra1g (who BTW also presented me with a beautiful 11×14 portrait of Colin Edwards aboard the Camel Yamaha M1.  THANKS CRAIG!!!  Long live 2001 WSB!!).  His method was a little different then Paul’s but the same advise mostly – get off the bike more.  The visual he gave me was to try to put my chin on my knee.  Just what I needed, a mental picture to shoot for.  Too bad infringing leathers and lacking dexterity hampered that effort a bit.  It was a funny feel too, I felt too close to the ground at times, it was more windy about my head and chest, and my leg muscles started protesting immediately.  Nevertheless I commit to continue the effort.

There was a purple-leathers-clad woman there that carries quite a story.  Remind me and I’ll tell you in person some time.  She was riding the A group and from the pits it seemed she could carry a fair pace.  I was intrigued and Mike and I decided we’d go out the next A session to see her pace.  But alas, the schedule says something else – time for the warm up lap/2 practice start/3-lap sprint event.  I had looked forward to this with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  Mike and I step out to the fence to watch the A group proceedings.  We’d spent more than our fair share of time hiking all over the pit areas because of our base location so walking even further to get into the hot pit area wasn’t all that appealing.  In the preceeding classroom session “intro to racing”, the instructors had told us how to handle a failed start (engine failure, stalled motor, etc).  Of course no one wants to see that happen because of the potential impact(s), however thats exactly what we saw one Ducati do on a practice start.  Thankfully everyone managed to get around him.  The second practice start took place, and then the A group 3 lap race.  I wanted to know what kind of pace the leader(s) would carry so I had my phone’s timer running.  The leading 2-3 guys stayed pretty close to each other the whole time, the “winner” running a 2:07.00 on the last lap.   At this point I had an urge to run to my bike.  I think it was just nerves manifesting themselves.  As Mike and I walk away, Cra1g is yelling something or the other at us.  Sounded like “go gettum you sandbagger” or something like that.  Yeah yeah.

We suit up and head out onto the grid and initially it looks like only 7-8 guys are coming out.  But really it was either a matter of a lot of people wanting someone else to go out first, or they were just taking time to show up.  Finally there was a decent sized grid and it’s off for a warm-up lap.  Coming in from the warm up lap I place myself on the 4th row.  There appears a sudden urge to check everything three times over – brake lever, clutch lever, rearsets, brakes, throttle, so on and so forth.  I figure a launch around 6500 should get me away without stalling, not fry the clutch, yet not wheelie into the hillside.  Flag drops and off we putter into turn one.  Hand up approaching turn 2 to show we’re slowing down.  Take the shortcut just before turn 6 to get back on the grid and do practice start two.  My first start and handling of turn 1 results in being on the 3rd row for this next start.  This time I figure “let’s see if we can pass a few people before or in turn one and get up a little farther”.  Sure, there is no trophy for a win nor is there any money.  It’s only 3 laps………But it’s still a 3-lap sprint complete with number boards, flags, a real start, and the potential for victory and fame within one’s own head.  Now a combination of things start to take place all at once.  Everything that we’d been told in class started to become clearer.  Paul’s and Cra1g’s personal recommendations were seen with clarity.  The trailbraking into turn 2 meets with my approval, with an egg-shaped approach seeming a viable option if needed.  Late apexing 4 for a better run up to 5.  Don’t finish turn 9, let velocity and the distant water tower take the bike right onto the desired line.  Late apex 11 so as to straighten (as much as possible, e.g. less swoopy) the 12/13 esses for a better drive onto the back straight.  Let the wind help you slow for 14, trailbraking if necessary. Suddenly there was no wind.  Yes there was wind just as strong as before but the mind wasn’t acknowledging it anymore.  The 2nd practice start and run through turn 1 has put me on the front grid with another GSXR750 and an RC51.  For some reason the grid managers put the RC51 on the outside of the row even though he was first back to the grid, the other GSXR750 is placed in the middle, and I am given the inside.  I’d think that is considered pole, but maybe not.  But the time is now here.  I’ve completely forgotten doing this same routine two years ago.  I don’t know what to expect, and I don’t expect it to be easy.

The two board is showing and I close my visor, fighting the strange urge to lower my sidestand and do a comprehensive triple-check of my entire bike.  Two board rotates to a one board and I reach to close my visor, discovering it is already closed and explaining why the helmet seemed a little stuffy.  Nothing like recycled bad breath.  I decide to keep my left foot on the ground and cover the rear brake with the right, just in case it is needed to quell a horn mono.  I adjust my hand placement on the throttle and blip a couple of times because some primal urge said to do so.  One board starts to tilt sideways, at any second the starter could throw the green.  Revs up to a steady 6500.  He twitches……and I wait.   Time has slowed matrix style.  The arm reveals a green flag……and I still wait.  Why am I not going?  For some reason an inexplicable desire to be polite hinders my start.  In reality it lasted probably a nano-second, but it did happen.  

We’re off !!!  I’m stretched over the front end so my weight can help the front stay down.  Peripheral vision shows the other GSXR750 and myself running about even, the RC51 has used his low-end torque to get ahead.  I’m not liking the prospect of entering turn 1 with a tight line, however I realize the other GSXR is outside of me and unless he’s got the bigger “set”, he’s gonna have to fall in line behind.  He does.  I now notice that the RC51 has held nothing back it appears and he’s going away.  I spend all my time up till turn 14 observing this RC51.  He’s running what I feel is a good pace, his lines look OK, he’s handling the bike well.  His body placement looks good too, a good reminder to me about mine.  His approach to turn 14 though catches my attention for a different reason – a passing opportunity.  I close the gap some on the brakes that I’d held steady up till that point.  

2nd lap.  I’m listening for signs of someone behind me while using working on a strategy to get by the RC51.  Some attempts at late-braking yield modest results but my brain says to use a safer strategy – not in a corner.  I’m nice and close to the RC51 as we come into turn 14.  The bridge comes to us and he shuts down.   Just what he’d done before.  I understand too, I do not like this turn at all.  It’s not natural to go barreling full-throttle under a bridge and over a slight crest only to find a slow 110-degree blind right-hander.  But today the wind is helping anyone who wants to go in faster, deeper (careful now, family friendly) and later, you just have to want it.  I do.  I pass.  I (feel like) I fudge turn 14, get out onto the tiger’s teeth a little but am happy with managing turn 15.  Front straight.  The GSXR is running heavenly.  The screaming engine sounds so true, so…..right.  All is right with the world.

Lap 3, final lap.  I’m hearing myself breath, I actually sigh as I exit turn 2 and talk to myself a little bit.  Getting on the gas harder exiting turn 2, that what Paul said to do and it feels good.  Listening for the thunderous sound of a mad vtwin.  Turn 5/5a is a fun turn.  If you show a little faith, you can reap some rewards.  I love to zip up the hill real fast, late apex the crest and flick the bike hard left.  Do it right and when you flick back to the right, you’ll scare yourself lifting the front wheel momentarily but also get a nice line down the hill.  I do, but must have stayed a little too tight as my boot, kneepuck, bottom bodywork and just a sneeze of my exhaust (I later discover) touch down thanks to the dip at the bottom.  I’m concentrating, trying to use everything I know and have been told.  The fast 6/7/8 section flies by.  The front wheel shimmies over 9, upper body already over the tank to keep things at no more than a shimmy.  I want to glance back.  Should I glance back?  The back straight leading to turn 14 and I steal a quick partial glance to the left.  But he’s there, I just know that RC51 just chose to be on my right.  He hasn’t taken my line though as I tip into 14.  15 comes and goes and I’m tucked in as tight as I can manage, banging away the gears.  I think I’m gonna pull this off.  Regardless, there are staff and instructors and A-group rider lining the straight.  I know Cra1g is there too and I stick a small thumbs up into the windblast approaching the checkers.  It is accomplished. 

No trophy.  No money.  No champagne.  No contract offers.  No TV cameras.  No interviews.  But an immense sense of satisfaction, a huge adrenalin rush.  I sit up but keep my pace brisk, wanting to get back to the pits.  Suddenly I feel withdrawn and shy, not wanting a bunch of attention or anything.  Guess I don’t need contracts and TV and interviews.  I get off the bike, pause and take a few deep breaths, then pull off my helmet and gloves and put them in the truck lest the ever-present wind blow something away.  Up comes a rider.  Initially it doesn’t register as I walk over to him, wondering what he wants.   His smile and direct eye contact make everything register suddenly, he’s the RC51.  We shake hands and chat.  He asks if I’d been stalking him or had to catch him.  I tell him he got a great start and a gap that I had to close.  He is very friendly and happy, congratulating me and asking which GSXR I have.  I tell him I knew I was in for a challenge, having had an RC51 myself.  He leaves as Mike comes over to see how it went.  We chat as we remove leathers and head for lunch. 

Lunch consists of a great time with Cra1g, Steve, Mike and Jeff Viets (www.vietsperformance.com, plug plug).  They tell me how things looked from a spectator’s perspective.  I listen but then try to change the subject, never wanting to be arrogant or cocky about anything.  See Mladin, Biaggi or Fogarty for reasons why.  Instead I get Jeff to talking about how his business came about and is succeeding, and other chit chat with the guys; it’s a great lunch.  Afterward I feel I’ve gotten all I want out of two days, and decide I’m gonna pack it in.  It’ll be nice to get home and unpacked sooner than 730pm. 

As Mike and I walk back to our bikes, Steve catches up to us (he’s riding this gorgeous Cannondale roadbike with carbon fiber this and Ti that, just gorgeous paint and everything).  He say’s he’s spoken highly of me to Lance.  I thank him, it’s nice to know people think well of you.  How cool would it be to instruct for K@TT !!!  Alas I know I can’t make every event and so it’ll probably never happen.  Mike decides to call it too so we get all packed up (he a little faster with a UHaul trailer vs me with a Joe Hauler) and chat with each other and a few more people.  Mike leaves, I look unsuccessfully for Cra1g and Lance but do find Linda.  She gives me a nice tshirt and I thank her for a great two days.  I depart Thunderhill to the sounds of vtwins, triples and inline 4s doing what they do best – moving their operators lap after lap at the desired pace.  Minds concentrating.  Bodies exerting.  Goals being set, accomplished and reset. 

The wind still blows terribly.  My gas mileage stinks.  A misread freeway exit reaps a splash of gas and some nasty Wendy’s fries.  But the sun is out, co-pilot “30 Rock” keeps me company, and the miles tick away.  I have learned and experienced much, and will again.  Yes, all is good.

P.S. 2:04:50 best lap time.  Should have been in A group.

Motorcycling28 May 2008 12:14 pm

This very very VERY late trackday ride report is made available by piles of money spent with Keigwins At The Track to gain access to what some call Infineon Raceway but will always be Sears Point to me. 

It’s been a long succession of months since my last track day.  Not that there weren’t any happening, just that I don’t gamble, and putting a pile of money on the line just to risk getting rained on during the late-fall/winter/early-spring months isn’t my idea of fun.   Though I did read an article a couple months ago that really spoke to the benefits of actually doing track days in the rain – what you can learn, that you actually can have a blast of a time, etc.  I’ll give that more thought then I ever have before.

Despite a slightly checkered history here, Sears Point remains my favorite California track.  True I have no experience outside of California thusfar, but I plan to change that eventually.  I’m scheduled for a Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah in August, but factors such as no co-pilots and the absurd (for the U.S.) gas prices mean I’m millimeters from cancelling that date.  But back on topic….

Once again, I’ve put one horse to pasture in favor of another.  My Triumph Daytona 675 is no more.  Frankly I lost confidence in it mechanically.  I’ve spent too much time watching a few disconcerting things.  1) a friend named Marc owns the same bike and his has been breaking down as reliably as the sun rises in the east.  2) his experience and my own with a couple of service bulletin issues shows that Triumph is stpendously slow in their repair work.  3) though it is a fantastic bike, there just isn’t enough aftermarket support or tech knowledge to suit a moderate DIY’er such as myself.  So the 675 lives (at last knowledge) in the Napa area now.  In her place now lives a black/yellow 2006 GSXR750. 

One of the first things I did this time was buy some Armour Bodies track bodywork.  A few days were spent pre-Sears Point learning the intricacies of removing the stock GSXR bodywork and fitting/drilling/trimming/cutting/messing up the Armour Bodies stuff.  No one wants to fall including myself, but I’d have a little less to be upset about if it happens to cheaper plastics vs the stock stuff.

So now April 22nd has arrived.  I have a new(ish) bike, new bodywork, and brand new Michelin Power Race tires.  The renowned PR5 in the rear and the shrouded-in-fantasy PRC in the front.  The game plan was to continue a newly turned leaf of arriving at the track early so I could wobble around in the pit area and hot pit lane and try to start some heat into the tires.  My head had other plans though, such as sleeping in a little bit.  So after meeting Francisco at his house, we make it to Sears enough before the rider’s meeting to register and tech but nothing else.  Francisco has brought his R6 again instead of his GSXR.  I’m disappointed but truly understand the reasoning behind bringing a track-prepped bike vs. a street-prepped one.

Mike Kelley is present today and so is Marc, having gotten Triumph to finish their latest round of repairs in time for him to make the event.  But Mike and Francisco are in B+ group, I’m in A with Marc.  Cra1g is on hand too, working instead of riding as usual.  Lance announces (to my chagrin) that there will be no sighting laps.  Why do I cringe at this?  Because I’m on brand new tires that need to be broken in, and I’m in the “fastest” group where it isn’t the best idea to be Sunday driving (or should I say riding).

Well the time has arrived.  Is the GSXR the wonder-steed Cra1g said it was?  Will I survive 2 laps without falling or getting run over by guys who seem to be immune to Lance’s line “there are no trophies today”?  Will we all have a good time?  Will the price of gas ever come back down?

Marc gets out well ahead of me in the group but that matters not because last lap times I heard in connection with him would push my skills on hot, well broken-in tires, not to mention brand new ones.  This time I notice the first 2 laps aren’t nearly as squirrly as they were with the same tires on the 675.  I tried to concentrate harder on hard acceleration and hard braking though, to get some heat generated.  After a couple laps went by I started to think about the bike.  The GSXR feels stronger than the 675, but that’s just a feeling and not solid proof.  The GSXR feels quite light at speed and, though the high-crown PRC likely played a role too, the GSXR felt very willing to get leaned over.  But the front brakes leave a lot to be desired.  It’s probably just time for new pads and a good bleeding.  Might as well do steel lines while I’m at it.

First session down successfully.  Didn’t get zapped a whole lot, but that would come later I was sure.  I get a chance to chat with Mike as he came to be in our pit site, oogle the other person’s GSXR, talk about future ride events and just hang out.  Things got faster in the 2nd session, as in more fast guys either showed up or decided to wake up.  It’s a different world than the B+ group.  But there are a lot more chances to see the fast guy lines and see if they make sense to you at your pace, or maybe discover you already are on the fast guy line but shouldn’t be there (yet).  It’s educational to say the least.

I thought that considering the way my GSXR feels, I’ve got to be riding faster than I do on the Triumph.  The reality of the matter seems to match up well to what a number of motorcycle magazines have determined – that these two bikes are pretty well matched.  I don’t know if the GSXR’s additional 125ccs isn’t enough to overcome a handling or confidence advantage the 675 has (I doubt that, considering the GSXR isn’t a heavy pig compared to the 675 either) or what.  But when I finally got the laptimer going (battery issue as always), I was surprised to find that i still have a better personal time on the 675.  But it must be stated that this was the very first track event on the GSXR, so maybe with more experience…..

 All sessions of the day went well in a general sense.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t some interesting happenings though.  I had my front end sawed a couple times by faster guys that aren’t using the best of judgement IMO when they do that to someone else.  But while that shouldn’t happen, it does and can even in B+ group, B-, C, D, E, F, G….X, Y and last but not least, Z.  The strangest moment of the day came right during the 3rd session.  I’m trying to make haste and coming down out of 3A I go for a downshift…..and feel nothing.  Whaaa….????….  Hand goes up to signal that I’m suddenly an unpredictable hazard.  I look down on the left and the shift lever is just merrily pivoting in the airstream, having lost it’s threaded connection to the shift rod which is also dangling about breezily.  I make my way through 4 and look down to discover the shift rod is no longer there.  I keep my hand up and make my way back to the pits.  I don’t know how this has happened so suddenly as I (thought) had done a good once over before the first session.  I would likely have been totally out of luck had this been the 675.   But being on one of the most common bikes present, i was sure someone had a spare.  Linda was kind enough to lend me a spare but I skipped the next session.  During lunch we all got to chit chat with Cra1g and the occasional passerby.  Cra1g was awesome in taking me out onto the track in his 4Runner since I had a strong idea of where the rod fell completely off.  As we exit T3 Craig tells me to scan the right side as it probably just fell to the side of the track, he’d watch the left.  Sure enough, 8-10 seconds later I catch a glimpse of the rod.  He stop, I hop out to run back and grab it, and off we go.  No damage other than a couple small scuffs.  I returned Linda’s to her and put mine back on with copious amounts of blue loctite.

The rest of the day went very well.  I never did get a chance to really ride with Marc.  He’d always get onto the track well ahead of me.  I was a little unhappy I didn’t get to ride with Francisco or Mike either.  But trying to tag along with faster guys was generally enjoyable.  The Michelins NEVER EVER gave so much of a blip or hiccup, just kept sticking and sticking and sticking.  Exactly what I want them to do.  That makes me the weak link in the chain.  It’s still quite an interesting thing to experience that Triumph was able to produce a bike good enough to be on par with what many would call a benchmark of sportbikes.  But they definitely need to at least ramp up their ability to respond to customer’s needs in a much faster and productive way.

The travel home was uneventful and the day proved, as usual, to be very enjoyable; just what the doctor ordered.  It took me a couple solid hours (three if I factor in changing both tires) to get the GSXR back to street trim and ready for commute duty.  The doctor has written a new prescription, two back-to-back days of Intermediate school at Thunderhill June 10th/11th with K@TT.  I’m not looking forward to managing approval for staying overnight, neither am I looking forward to two roundtrips.  Decisions decisions.  But I am looking forward to fast guys specifically tasked with listening to me and helping me go fast vs. just strafing me and each other.

Best recorded laptime:  1:54:47

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:23 pm

(Archived – original posting 7/9/07)

Note to self – do not sign up for a trackday immediately following a 3-day convention! Ugh, I was beyond tired.

The date – July 9th, 2007.  The location – Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.  The event – West Coast Crashfest ’07 (by no fault of K@TT).  The players (no pimps present, thank goodness) – Cra1g Smith, Francisco Castellanos, Kevin Peet, Jonathan Gardner, crazy French dude named Regis, and Wendy.  Conspicuously absent – all the rest of you.

Monday morning came really early and painfully.  My pillow had a mind of it’s own and was PMS’g or lonely or something as it didn’t want me to leave.  I asked myself why I didn’t sell my day and ride a different event.  And then I remembered things such as 1) how hard it can be to get into Sears Point, 2) how much cooler Sears is vs. THill especially right now, 3) how much CLOSER Sears is vs. THill/Laguna/Buttonwillow/Willow Springs/Fontana/Reno-Fernley.  Said considerations sufficiently pondered (took all of 5 seconds), I loaded up my truck and ……. proceeded to run errands?  Yep.  Post Office, gas station, bank, store.  Meanwhile Francisco is wondering if I’ll show up before dusk. Get to Francisco’s and since he’s already loaded and ready, off we drive.

We arrive at a plenty decent time and Kevin is already there so we pit in an area he’d picked out.  Get unloaded, go thru registration and tech, the butterflies start flapping in my stomach and the excitement that is a trackday starts to carve a path through the hazy fog that is my mind on too little sleep.  On the way to the track I convince myself that riding the A group isn’t the best option in my present mindstate.  I’d intended to go in that group at Marc’s past prodding and Cra1g’s not-so-subtle comments at me sandbagging in B+.  Well Marc’s Triumph decided recently to nuke his budget and shake my confidence in Triumph by coughing up the engine somehow (Marc, still waiting for an update from you on what happened and whats to happen).  So at registration I quietly mention to Linda that I’d like to move down to B+.  She’s all for it, but in her kindness she speaks a little too loud and dangnabbit if Lance didn’t catch wind of it and say “nope, go convince the grid managers to find you a space in B+”.  Linda frowned but realized there was nothing to do but go with Lance on this.  Suffice to say, without detail, I rode B+ this day.

A real trooper like Kevin (as in he rode to the track and will ride home) pulls in and pits next to us.  His name is Regis and he is French.  He has ridden his bike to the track from somewhere southbay-ish.  Regis is alone but not for long.  He and Francisco strike up conversation and eventually he ends up pitting with us for the rest of the day.  Sometimes sighting laps don’t happen but this day Lance does them and for a change I get there and thru tech in time to suit up and go out.  I thought it’d be a good idea so I could make sure my new brake pads were working.  The week before I’d installed new Galfer brake pads up front.  The instructions they gave me for bed-in were 1) wet sand the rotors with 600 grit paper, 2) install pads, 3) do a series of hard braking stops first from ~45mph to 5mph, then from 40mph to 5mph, then from 35mph to 5mph  and so on.  So in the back of the pit area I went 40 mph and hit the brakes with 2 fingers.  The initial feel of NO brakes lasted maybe 2 seconds and then the bike began to stop.  It felt like there was a 2 seconds delay on the brake lever – weird.  Then 35mph with 1 finger down to almost dead stop, oops.  Then 30mph, 1 finger firmly applied and the bike lifted the rear wheel!!!!  Totally caught me off guard, I wasn’t expecting that at all.  Wow!!  So after that it was out for the sighting laps.  As we did them, I could have sworn I smelled something burning.  But it was very subtle, just enough that I thought “I’m imagining it”.

Sighting laps conclude and we come back to the pits.  I ride down to the hot pit area to address the A/B+ group matter but the person I was looking for wasn’t present.  So I turn the bike on, the tach (which normally does a complete sweep from end to end on start-up) goes to about 7k rpm and sticks there.  The starter button does absolutely nothing.  I turn the ignition off/on/off/on over and over but nothing happens.  I end up pushing the bike back to my pit just as the B+ group goes out for their 1st session.  I start to panic – “what tha ()@_*$@_”  OK, OK, calm down, check the obvious stuff.  Do all of that, no go.  OK, start backtracking any bike work you’ve done lately, oh yeah check your fuses too for clues.  As I’m accessing the fuses I’m mentally tracing what I’ve done recently.  Oil and filter change; Hyperpro steering damper; Woodcraft right side engine case cover (left side backordered) and rearse…..uh oh.  About the same moment, I discover a blown fuse, appears to be for the lighting system.  I cringe as I start to look at the right rearset and ….yep….. some numbnuts (me) forgot to ziptie the rear brakelight trigger switch out of the way when installing the rearsets.  So on the sighting laps it sat on or so near the exhaust, it melted in half and shorted.  So I figure and hope that by cutting it off/taping the wire ends/replacing the fuse, all will be well in Sonoma.  So I go to get some tools….but I don’t have any, I left them all at home.  I use Francisco’s tools instead.  And Wendy comes over.

Who dis?  A really nice Asian woman who is pitted all by herself directly across from us and happens to be riding a red Daytona 675.  Full leathers, bike rear stand, Toyota pickup truck, everything.  It was cool to see.  Marc had mentioned such a woman in the past and as she introduced herself and asked what I was doing, I wondered if she was his friend.  She is, knew his name and description right away.  We chatted for awhile and then she wandered back to get herself ready as she was in B- (or B+2 or ????) and it was almost time for her group to go.  Marc, Wendy says hi and too wants to know whats up with the engine.  She thought you’d bought a GSXR (Lance’s) to replace the 675.  I got back to working on the bike and manage to slash a near-spurting gash in my left index finger with a utility knife.  About this time is when a superstitious person would pack up and say “today is not my day” and go home.

Home-made fix completed, the bike fires right away.  So in the 2nd B+ session of the day I go out and re-melt the wires again.  Just kidding, I zip-tied them this time.  Out on the track all goes pretty well……except for all the crashes.  It was a weird day, more on that later.  I’ve been experimenting with onboard filming, last time was the first time and there were some teething problems that I’d hoped were resolved.  But this time I couldn’t get my camera to show the forward view.  Much fiddling and frustration eventually revealed that the 9v battery powering the lens was dead.  Linda to the rescue.  But not before I missed filming session #2.  Too bad too cause I felt I rode pretty well that session and some passes would have been neat to have a record of.

Regis and Francisco turned out to be a bad combination, humor intended.  These two fed off each other in what I truly believed would turn into a symbiotic relationship of the destructive kind.  They found great joy in passing and repassing and blocking and pushing each other lap after lap all day.  It got to the point that they’d come in and be slapping hands and each other’s backs and laughing and carrying on.  In fact they were having such fun that Francisco decided to take take some different routes for a closer look at the runoff of turns 7 and 11.  I think he was just making sure the pavement was clear out there. J   I’m sitting in my chair watching and wondering if Dean and I ever did that back in the day.  But I observed a couple of their passes thru traffic that…….well I just wasn’t comfortable trying myself and so I didn’t get much footage of them at all since they’d put traffic between them and I and I was more ummm “conservative?” in getting through.  It was a chore to clear my mind and even attempt to keep up.  There was only one “moment” for me that day, 3rd session of the day and I’m trying to make haste.  I get into 7 apparently hotter than I expected.  No problem, push the bike on over and see solace in a knee puck.  Ummm, helps to have the throttle cracked at least.  I didn’t, and it became a little much for the front tire.  Thankfully it just gave me a stern warning slide, putting my knee puck harder into the ground and saying “open the throttle fool”.  I didn’t forget the rest of the day  J

  Regis was funny, kinda sailor-mouthed but a very good-natured guy and ALWAYS looking for a reason to laugh or at least smile.  It was fun working to follow him most of session two, him turning around and looking to see if the pesky 675 was still sitting on the fender of his GSXR750.  But he and Francisco spent a good deal of the day sand-bagging in the B+ group (ha ha, they are the sandbaggers now).  Where is Kevin in all this?  Quietly going about his own business, not (to external appearances at least) being rattled by much of anyone or anything, just laying down consistent and enjoyable laps.  Kevin always appears to be at peace with the world when riding and that translates to smooth.  And smooth is the doorway to fast, unless you are related to Kevin Schwantz or Troy Bayliss.What about those falls?  Well there were a lot, most falls I’ve personally been in the presence of.  Lance made it clear that if you fall, you MIGHT get an instructor to give you a ride back in but your bike would stay in place until it could either be retrieved at lunch or the end of the day (excluding major incidents leaving the track to be tended to).  I guess everyone was sneaking a listen to iPods or something because the track was shut down a number of times.  Two incidents of the day – one grid manager ran into someone in front of him at T11 who’s bike found a false neutral; he ended up with a collarbone break and a premature end to his day; don’t know what happened to the guy who had the false-neutral.  I found a false neutral just entering the same turn and just about soiled me-leathers cause I knew someone was close behind, I was hoping he didn’t accidently center-punch me too.  Another incident was the yellow flag party.  2nd or 3Rd to last session of the day, there were yellow flags everywhere.  I was tailing the guys and trying to get some footage of them and then in turn 2 there was one bike down.  We get to turn 9 and there is a bike down there.  We come back around to 2 and there are THREE bikes down, one a nice Aprilia Mille sitting helplessly on it’s side on the track.  Back at turn 9 the bike is still down.  Considering the yellows get thrown starting 3 corners or so before the actual incident, it seemed almost every corner was yellow.  But that didn’t stop some people from passing, unfortunately.  I’m quite happy that none of the incidents involved us or Wendy.
During the lunch hour I sat in the pit with Kevin and for a short while Cra1g, Francisco and Regis sat in the cafeteria with a friend of Regis’ (who appears to be an AFM racer and later took us out for some laps; AFM or not didn’t stop Francisco and Regis from eventually passing him which I got great laughter from – these guys……)
I skipped the last session of the day and instead stood talking with Cra1g in the hot pit.  It was cool to be up close to the bikes as they enter the track and watch the grid managers do their jobs.  Then I rushed back to get loaded up for the trip home, it was 5pm and I had a 7pm appointment.  Overall the day went well and I really want to get back out there.

But the frustration continued.  Two days later I turned the video camera on to discover that my wife…..who NEVER touches the camera……touched the camera……..without asking if the tape needed to be changed or if it was cool to use or anything.……and recorded her with the kids at Keller beach…….over at least 30 minutes of my footage.  I haven’t yet looked to see how much is left that I can salvage.

Best recorded lap 1:59:87.

 

 

 

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:19 pm

(Archived – original posting 4/16/07)

We’ll title this one “Passing of the Crown”.  Right Kevin?

This trackday was a little bit of a twist from the recent norm.  No Francisco, no Aldo.  This time it was some long-familiar faces and a couple new ones.

This past Monday, Michael Earnest’s Pacific Track Time put on a 3-group track day at Thunderhill.  Kevin Peet and Dale Wu were going to be there and later I found out so would Gino with a Sato-equipped RC51 that brought back some great memories.  It was nice to finally get to spend some time with Gino and a new friend, Eric.  Kevin and Dale signed up for the C group (later it was revealed that the decision was made because of wording on the website that indicated the C group may have some level of “intermediate” to it).  At the time I thought it’d be just us three so I signed up for the C group too.

Monday morning arrives and I manage to get out the door proper and to the track early; miracles can happen.  Driving thru the pits, I don’t see the big luxo-mobile I’d seen Kevin and Dale drive before.  That’s when I discovered that I had no cell phone # for either of them.  So I set up alone.  It was kinda strange but the aura of the event seemed different from a Keigwin event.  I couldn’t place a finger on it but something was different.

I stood at my truck for a little while and then decided I’d walk the pits and have a good look for the guys, and immediately saw Dale in the enormous multi-armed crowd trying to get their bikes tech’d.  After we said hello, he showed me that 1) they were pitted a stone’s throw away from me and 2) they’d driven up using a new SUV and VERY nice enclosed trailer I didn’t know Dale had.  I saw Kevin also in the tech line as I went to register.  After registration and tech myself, it was time for the rider’s meeting.  This was starting to be as different from a Keigwin event as I could imagine.  The aura, I now realized, seemed younger and funner (if I may invent that word) and sillier.  Michael started the rider’s meeting and it immediately became obvious that he’s got quite a sense of humor, if a little PG-13ish.  The group initially wasn’t too responsive but he hammered away and we finally warmed up to him, which encouraged him to be even funnier (IMO).  For example, an orange vest that would be forced upon any rider caught trying to ride in a group other than what they are assigned.  The vest has the label “asshole” in black letters on the back, and big pockets on the front to catch lots of air and a super abrasive zipper that was guaranteed to get up close and personal with your Ducati’s fuel tank paint.

What wasn’t funny was the “oh-boy” young lady that he had model the vest.  Now I hope I don’t offend anyone here but I’ve got to say that while that young lady was quite attractive IMO, she was 1) wearing little too much foundation, 2) had boobies a little too perfect (e.g. where’d you buy those?) and 3) I later saw her riding a little 50cc thru the pits with Cory Call on the back and he was literally holding a handful of both breasts to stay on the bike.  Ummm…..didn’t Michael refer to her as “sweetie” and “my sweetie” more than once during the rider’s meeting?  What the heck?  I won’t go any farther, I’m SURE there is some reasonable explanation.  :-\    But my mental opinion quickly turned quite dark and unflattering.  To each his (or her) own, I guess.

Michael finally got down to serious business, talking about the usual stuff regarding the meanings of the flags, track entry and exit, handling of “incidents”, what’s permitted in the A, B and C groups, etc.  This day seemed to be quite crowded and that was proven by the fact that Michael asked for 5-6 volunteers to move up from the B group to A, and 5-6 from C to B group.   Ding ding ding, a move up to the B group appealed to me.  PTT’s C group isn’t quite as restrictive as other organizations, Michael allows “polite” inside and outside passing in the C group whereas other organizations say no to “inside”.  However I was thinking about the newbies and 1st-timers and such and the fact that Michael didn’t want anyone riding in a group lower than where they belonged.  I didn’t particularly want to Sunday-cruise around in the C group so I was more than happy to see Dale indicate to me that we could/should move up.  Happily Kevin did so also – Kevin and Dale both understanding that while the website may have indicated the C group would be kinda intermediate, Michael’s spoken word in the meeting indicated the C group would indeed be slow.  So after the meeting, we all moved up to the B group and thus got to ride with Gino and Eric.

Last note about the meeting – I found it quite interesting that Michael’s warning about “no wheelies” was very light and airy and without much weight behind it; much more enthusiasm was given to concepts such as “come watch the A group, you’ll see quite a show of them pulling wheelies and backing it in”, “whoever falls, we’ll send a rider out to bring the fallen rider back in if they’re ok and hope they aren’t unlucky enough to get Cory as he’ll be backing it in and wheelie’g and ….”, “watch Cory Call, he’s really really talented (my thought – “that’s great”) and he’ll be wheelie’g and so forth and so on (my thought – “so much for no wheelies, guess I should have kept that wheelie-machine ZX10R…..oh wait, I can’t wheelie”).  Wow, we’re definitely not in Keigwin-land anymore.

I was quite excited to see how Michelin’s Power Race tires performed cause that’s what I’d installed.  The OEM Pirelli Supercorsa Pros didn’t let me down at Sears Point and when they slide twice (or more accurately when I screwed up and made them slide) it was quite controlled.  But 1) the rear did tear quite easily and 2) I was approaching pace within 2 laps because even though they were brand new they didn’t show any sign of being new.  But these Michelins?  They easily handled everything I could throw at them….eventually.  But the first 4-5 laps were downright scary.  The first two laps out I’d have bet any sum of money that someone had thoroughly coated the track with ball bearings and marbles.  Gino said he should have warned me, yeah so now I’m warning all of you.  J

  The 675 was wobbling the entire first two laps, even when running straight ahead.  Eventually things settled down and just as Gino said, these tires felt like glue.  I’m more than happy with how they performed, but be forewarned it you ever try brand new Michelin Power Race tires.  Once broken in they are your best friend, until broken in they are itching to toss you like stomach contents during a norovirus outbreak.After the second session, Gino/Kevin/Dale/Eric graciously allowed me to move my stuff and join them in their pit area and we had a great time hanging out together during down time.  At one point, while the others chatted, Kevin and I got to discuss different things including race (racial) issues and this always tickles me.  For one, because it’s interesting and educational to get someone else’s (of a different race) perspective on ……whatever the subject is.  But also because the chances of racial topics going thermonuclear are as high as the national deficit, yet that never happens with Kevin and me.  We trust enough and are respectful enough that neither of us gets upset if the other says “say, uhh, lookie-here….why do ___(insert potentially flammable question here)____?”.

For our group of buddies, it pleases me to report that there were no incidents.  The thought also crossed my mind that we were from another planet, as we appeared to be the only people there that didn’t suffer an incident.  For the entire day there were countless people either running off the track or literally crashing.  I’ve NEVER seen so many yellow flags.  And it was momentarily sobering to come up the front straight under yellow flag and see someone off in turn one and pretty well out “in the sticks”.  Thankfully they either rode it out or had already gotten up and were ok.  On my 2nd to last session of the day I saw something that shocked me.  I was following a yellow GSXR and just kinda watching him.  I am not generally an aggressive passer, tending to hang back a bit and observe how a person rides.  Suddenly this guy on an R1 passes me on the inside.  OK, no problem, done between turns 6 and 7.  But he doesn’t have time to get past the GSXR before turn 7.  We exit turn 7 toward 8.  He waits until it’s too late…….and then passes the GSXR on the outside.  Problem is GSXR has already set up toward the outside.  To me it looked like they had a minor collision, the GSXR bobbled a bit.  As we cleared turn 8 the GSXR rider was shaking his head and so was I as I (safely) passed him too because I wanted to observe this R1 rider.    He did it again to the next rider he came upon while braking uphill toward 9.  He really bumped this guy pretty bad trying to go around the outside and made him really get squirrly, I thought this guy would fall but happily he didn’t.  This kinda angered me a bit.  For some reason my thought pattern changed from wanting to observe and later speak to Mr R1 or report him, to “ya know, now I’m gonna pick on you with a smaller bike no less and see how you like it”.  Dumb idea for a number of reasons, but I did anyway.  Had thoughts about checking out but the checkered flag was out in turn 11 so that was that.  We exited the track and I slowed up to see where this guy would go, yellow GSXR was already at work though.  The two hadn’t even stopped rolling and he was giving the other guy an earful.  Turns out the GSXR was pitted directly next to us so I went over to tell him I saw what happened.  This guy was livid.  He said they actually didn’t make contact but that it was really close and scary.  He had some choice words and violence on his mind but calmed down shortly thereafter.  Despite the too-frequent yellow flags, I don’t think the ambulance rolled all day so that is a good thing.

My last session of the day had it’s own surprise too.  Toward end of the session, I guess I just was being a rolling road block.  I tell ya, some people just can’t resist a moment to emulate Val Rossi.  Here comes Kevin…..up the inside no less…..passing two of us at the same time….nice and smooth with no theatrics or drama, just “another day in the office for Kevin”.  So with humility and appreciation I present to Kevin the royal crown.  Beware Kevin, people will be after you now.  New guys who think they have the skillz looking to prove themselves.  But we’ve got your back.  We’ll run interference for you, like a good lil Dani Pedrosa SHOULD have done.

I had a 7pm meeting to go to and plenty to do before the meeting so I stopped after the 2:20pm session and got packed up to leave with some of the guys’ help.  It was quite interesting to compare K@TT with PTT.    I’d go to PTT again, but I think my preference is for the more mature (if I may) and controlled environment of K@TT.  K@TT customers seem more self-disciplined whereas the PTT crowd seemed younger and either less control.

Best lap time 2:14.xx

Can’t wait for more track time.  Kevin and Dale, I hope you had a good enough time to continue and not “hang up the spurs”.

 

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