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.