Motorcycling16 Jan 2009 09:54 am

If you aren’t Trump, Gates or Jobs, you are hurting right now  In times like these, extraneous fun is often one of the first things to go (interestingly this doesn’t seem to apply to vice).  Thus as this year’s track dates were released by organizers, I sat on the sidelines wondering how and whether to place a deposit or two with K@TT.  And yet 13 days into the year and I’ve managed a trackday already.  But there was a catch or two.  One, word of mouth was heavily responsible for my opportunity.  Two, I had to work for it…..literally.

In the years past, I’d actually considered trying to host a trackday.  The way I saw it was garner enough interest to make the event feasible, rent the track, sign up for ambulance service, collect $ from attendees, bust the shins of those who fell through, lunch would be on each individual, and lets ride.  Hah!  There is so much more to it than that.  So instead I now work for a provider.  OK, really I just got to work -once- for a provider.  And I’m hoping I left enough of a good impression to be allowed back.

This past Monday was K@TT’s Customer Appreciation day and it was held at Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.  Cra1g tells me beforehand that they may have need of an additional grid manager.  To make the boring details short, an arrangement was come to with Lance and the cooperation of my manager made me available to go to the track Monday.  Normally this time of year isn’t prime trackday time, weather-wise.  But it’s almost been summer weather lately.  Monday was no exception.  Bright sunshine and pleasant warm air alllllllllll day.

The rider’s meeting (which I arrived well ahead of, for the record), was relatively short.  Lance figured everyone would be good riders.  My assumption is the customer appreciation is for people who’ve spent a pile of money on trackdays with K@TT and hence should know what a track is and how to get around one.  Nonetheless, a couple of people raised their hands when it was asked if this was anyone’s first time at Sears.

After the meeting, Mike F and I worked tech while Cra1g went off somewhere trying to pawn tires on people and such.  After a while we moved tech down to the flag station and climbed the tower to precariously set the countdown timer in place and get it working.  Another worker named Jeremy joined us down there.  Jeremy had the cutest 4 year old black lab/pit mix.  What wasn’t so cute was how much tongue-on-lips interaction I saw all day.   I mean hey, I love dogs like other people do (cats too).  But ….umm….has anyone noticed where else dogs like to lick (e.g. themselves)?  Not my cup-o-tea, but thats me.

I got to tech my own bike, which would have been doubly-embarrassing if something had failed.  I put myself in the A group.  Lance was allowing A and B+ (no B- or C) to swap around some with the agreement that the A rider’s would respect the slower B+ pace.  More on that later but in summary – FAIL.  The B+ (henceforth called B) group came out and I watched Mike K let them out onto the track.  Mike explained various responsibilities to me and so on.  We teched some late arrivals.  Other than that, I just stayed at the flag station, checking for tech stickers and doing tech on more late arrivals.  Being a two group day, each session was “30 minutes” with an actual 27 minutes given (3 minutes leeway to clear the stragglers at each checkered flag).  B group finishes and the A group goes out for their first 27 minutes.  These guys had a different feel or “aura” while waiting on the grid than the B group; this is reasonable since they are faster and have a higher ratio of licensed racers.  They also had less respect for the grid managers.  >:-(    Jeremy asked me if I wanted to go ride.  “no”.

In the 2nd B group session, Jeremy went out and rode.  I suited up, finally agreeing to ride a little after repeatedly being asked by both Jeremy and Mike if I wanted to go out and me repeatedly saying “no”.  I had a few reasons for saying “no”.  Primarily I wanted Lance to see I was serious about helping and being useful to K@TT in some way.  But also, in no specific order: Mike K and Tom were there but in the B group and that’s where Jeremy wanted to ride, I had no other riding buddies out there (Cra1g was working), I was just happy to not be at work -and- be at a racetrack.  I was getting a kick just watching the varying styles and sounds and smells of the front straight at close proximity.

2nd A group session and I go out for about 5 laps.  It was quite fun riding at such a fast pace.  I had one literbike rocket past me on the inside entering T2 but he passed so quick I didn’t have a chance to be anything more than impressed.  A few other very reasonable passes and an overall challenging pace.  After 5 laps I came back in and went back to work.  As the day rode on I started to notice two disturbing trends.  One was that the A riders were progressively passing the flag station faster and faster.  Frankly there is no reason for that.  Roll the hot pit mildly and wick it up on the track itself.  I notified Lance of this today and he says that pisses him off and he has to thing about doing something.  I hope he does.  There’s just no reason for it.  The second trend was the A guys were flying in the B group.   Since Lance was allowing intermingling, I guess they were getting as much track time as possible.  But they weren’t tempering their speed any.  Easy for me to comment on as I don’t have their speed and skill.  It was even more evident at times because there were some D- level people out there (IMO) too.

Speaking of fast guys, I noticed an all-white CBR1000RR in the A group absolutely FLYING.  In time I get a look at the back of the leathers and saw “Parriott” along with sponsor patches.  Could it have been Brian Parriott?  I never found out for sure, but this rider was crazy fast, easily faster than anyone else.  Then I saw him on another bike.  And then on a gorgeous white and powder blue 1098 (__, S, R, it didn’t matter) and still just as fast.  I though Gary Jaehne was fast but in this company it just looked like Gary was relagated to having fun wheelying his ZX10R.  Other fast(er) company was Ken Hill, also on a white CBR1000RR.  I like the CBR1000RR so I enjoyed seeing it represented well by these two.   Later in the day another 1098__ rider was out laying down eye-popping laps.  The A group is fast but these 3 were a notch above.  But again, these fast guys (a lot of the A group I mean) were also out carving up the B group like thanskgiving turkey.  Lance had specifically given permission for A to ride in B so long as they respect the fact that B riders were where they are because they don’t want to ride with A group.  So I didn’t think this conduct was fair.  It’s different when I do it.  Why?  Cause I politely pick my way through, I don’t carve anyone up mercilessly.  I’m not that fast.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  🙂

To add a strange twist to the matter, there was only ONE incident all day.  ONE.  Someone low-sided, I believe, exiting the Carousel.  But they were up and ok and eventually restarted the bike.  That’s it.  Despite the disparity of B group speeds and the blazing fast A riders, the day was very quiet problem-wise.  This was really nice.

I got lunch, met a very nice friend of Cra1g’s, chatted with Mike K and Tom (Q?) for awhile, picked up a spare rear wheel from Mike K, and then watched Spooks in my truck while consuming a chicken caesar wrap.

In the afternoon, more work.  By this point I recognized most of the bikes as they’d enter the track so I’d just give a thumbsup, majority of which would return a grateful wave.  But still there were those ones that seem to think blowing the flag station at 80mph is gonna cure cancer or win them a million dollars or impress some hottie, etc.  Nope, just made me view you as idiots!  Jeremy left at 3pm to go to work so I asked Mike F (who had been riding B group) if I could do a B session with Mike K and Tom.  As things would happen, Mike K and Tom chose that session to sit out, Mike being tired from a day hike.  But they came out anyway and I got to follow them around for 4.5 laps before doing the rest of the session myself.  And that was it for me.  I was happy.

Even though I didn’t completely trust them on their 6th day, the Michelin PR5/PRC combo gave nary a whimper and still look good.  Amazing.  Also I still have a brake problem that hounds my confidence.  The front isn’t firm despite much bleeding work.  Mike F is running Yamaha monoblock calipers on his GSXR1000 and loves it, I hear it isn’t an uncommon modification.  I have an alternative bleeding technique to try as well as a good caliper cleaning and if that still doesn’t get it good, then eBay it is for some monoblocks from the boys in blue.  Still I ran a couple of 1.54s and came away with some reminders which I’m about to address in a few minutes: goals chart.  I wanted (but forgot and failed) to do the following: find more visual turn-in points, work on head and body position more, try more trail-braking.  I can look at this chart before going out and avoid coming home thinking “awww, I forgot to….”

On the last A group session, it was really cool to see instructor Shaughnessy’s wife and kids come into the grandstands and watch daddy blast around doing his thing.  They cheered and pointed when he’d go up the front straight.  It feels great to have family/friends there to support what you do.  I’m gonna get my own cheering section out there too this year, and see if I can get some 2-ups approved in an Aerostitch.  At the end of the day, I helped Mike F dismantle the tech/grid area.  We assisted each other in loading the motorcycles and packing up.  I wandered around a bit to say good-byes and hit the road for home.  It was a really nice day.  Actually it was a great day;  the hit to my pocket was slim-to-none, and better weather couldn’t have been purchased with diamonds and gold.

Best time 1:54.3__ (in B group; 1:54.4__ in A.  What a hypocrite  🙂

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………