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………