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”.