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 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

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