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