Motorcycling12 May 2009 10:11 am

Aaliyah once sang “age ain’t nuthin but a number”.  What she left out was that the number keeps getting higher, resulting in a person’s get-up-and-go feeling got-up-and-gone.  I don’t think that last part is what she had in mind but I do, for 41 good reasons.

Two or three weeks ago I was contacted by a long time acquaintance that I don’t get to cross paths with a lot, Jeff Paris.  Jeff is a long-standing BARF member.  He emailed to tell me he was hitting a trackday soon and wondered if I’d be interested.  Surely you jest in asking such a question; of course I’m interested!!  It turns out that the location this time would be Thunderhill Raceway and the host was Z2 (I guess the original name Zoom Zoom isn’t cool enough, or they were spending too much $$ on letters or something).  A number of BARFers had signed up for May 8th and/or 9th.  As I followed the BARF thread on this for a couple of days, their enthusiasm was infectious.  So I decided to sign up for a few reasons:

  • I love trackdays
  • the 9th was a Saturday, I wouldn’t have to skip work
  • I love trackdays
  • I hadn’t ridden with Jeff in literally years
  • I love trackdays
  • Thunderhill (heretofore referred to as THill) is cheaper than Sears Point/Infineon or Laguna Seca Raceways
  • I love trackdays
  • My core group of trackday compatriots has dwindled (finances, life, children, work, etc) so I have to do on my own
  • I love trackdays!!!!!

When I went to sign up, I was disappointed to find that I was #7 on the waiting list.  What with all the excitement people were generating, I thought for sure it was an exercise in futility.  It was to my great surprise then when a few days later a “success” confirmation email arrived.  Intermediate (B) group here I come (cause that’s where Jeff and the majority of the BARF folks had signed up).

In the days leading up to the 9th, I installed Bridgestone BT002RS tires, deviating from the Michelin Power Race tires that had served me well but cost considerably more.  Cost is an enormous concern for much of the world now and I’m no different.  My GSXR’s previous owner had already installed a Power Commander.  I wanted to try a quickshifter as well.  There’s endless examples of much-faster-than-me riders that shift normally.  But I’d been experimenting with clutchless shifting by loading the shifter and then doing a quick throttle off/on to unload the transmission and make the shift.  That met with meager success.  A couple months of persistence paid off in finding a used ignition module and used quickshifter.  I got everything bolted up by Friday evening and got as much situated in the garage as possible to make Saturday morning loading a minimal hassle.

The other thing I knew needed work was my physical shape.  I’ve picked up some weight, picked up some pains, and lost some energy and endurance.  Knowing this, I started weeks in advance with moderate cardio work, daily stretching, drinking more water and vitamins/supplements.  I found that it all was helpful yet much more is needed.

Saturday morning.  It’s 5am and I’m loading my bike onto the JoeHauler when I notice flickering lights in the living room.  What?!?  I knew my wife would be up early for her own routine but that wouldn’t include TV watching.  I’d gone to great pains to quietly turn off the security system and sneak into the garage, so who could be up?  Well this proved to be a frustrating distraction because it threw my train of thought, leading to leaving a lot of needed things at home.  After snugging the bike down and loading the bed, I now remember a fleeting thought “the bed of the truck is kinda sparse”.  But the predominate thought was “who in the wide wide world of sports is up watching TV?”  It had to be one of the kids.  And that meant a shortage of sleep on that child’s part.  Which inevitably leads to attitude problems.  That equates to me later having to hear a crapload of complaining about who did what.  Sure enough it’s the middle boy, and then the oldest too.   I reiterate to them and wifey that I am NOT going racing (welllll….sanctioned at least).  But they can never get it right, first thing out of their mouths when people ask about me is “oh, he’s off racing today”.   Since no one listens to me anyway, an AFM licence may be coming soon to a brotha near you.  Anyhoo, I kiss wifey goodbye, receive her “be careful” admonition, hop in the truck and congratulate myself on getting out the door on-time.   The iPod and I stop by Peets in Pinole but it doesn’t look open so I keep going.   I pop a VitC and start in on today’s load of water cause the forecast is sunny and hot.   I avoid any of the fast food places after reading that their products can lead to lack of energy and a general “dragging” feeling.  Nope, don’t need that.

Fast forward to the freeway exit in the lil town of Willows.  I pop into Walmart for 3 Gatorades and then head on to the track.  I’d completely forgotten to call Jeff and find out where he was so I could pit with him IN THE SHADE, as planned.  And now, in the armpit of nowhere, I can’t get a signal.  Of course all the covered pit spots are over-populated already so I drive out to the end and park.  Silly me, thinking it’d all work out.  I eventually find Jeff but he’d only arrived 10 min before me and the people that were supposed to have saved him some space……well they didn’t.   So now I’m out in the sun.  If you know me, you know I love direct sun and heat like cats love hungry rabid pitbulls.  Where’s my popup tent?  Cozy at home in the ()@#$@ garage.  OK, let’s get setup to ride.  I need to re-check my tire pressure soon as I put my bike up on the stands…….hmm, they’re at home with the tent.  No problem.  Tire guage says both tires are right at the limit of where I want but I think I’d like to start a pound or two higher.  Lemme grab my air pump……thats at home.  Sigh.  What else can be forgotten?  Don’t ask, JG, don’t ask.  Just program the correct track name into your laptimer and put it in place.  Whoops, battery is dead – lemme grab a small Philips……d@mn, toolbox decided to stay at home too.  I close my eyes, pinch myself, and open my eyes to see if I’d left my bike at home too and was instead fooling with someone else’s steed.

We sit through the mother of all rider’s meetings.  It went on and on and on.  Jeff was there but disappeared.  I found out later he was concerned about some kids needing to get to the pool or something.   As I walk back to my truck, I see a couple of sizeable clumps of riders that apparently were all together.  I knew they must be BARFers that I hadn’t met before.  But being the introvert that I am, not a chance that I’m gonna wander around like a lost puppy introducing myself .

I find and sit with Jeff a bit and then head back to my truck just about the time the B group gets first call.  I suit up, once-over the bike again, look at my GoPro camera (that’s suction-mounted to the speedometer) and wonder “hmm, how DO you turn this thing on?”, push some buttons on it and go.  The first session is interesting.  I’ve discovered I don’t like crashing, so I always take it easy on the out-lap.  Tire technology has progressed leaps and bounds, some riders swear you can “go for it” even on the 1st lap.  I’m not one of those riders.  And ironically I’d remembered my generator but forgotten my tire warmers.  So it was sunday-driving for me.  Unlike new Michelin Power Race that literally can feel like marbles for the first lap or two, the Bridgestones don’t give that bad a feeling but just a bit of vagueness.  2nd lap I turn it up a bit and all is OK.  Hey, how bout trying this quickshifter on the back and front straights.  OMG, this is really flippin cool.  It takes a bit of mental adjustment.  But you don’t roll off the throttle at all, just keep it pinned wide open and tap the shift lever when ready – BAM an instant upshift.  I like this!  As the day went on, I discovered that the shifts were sometimes better than others depending on RPM, and sometime I’d miss the 2nd shift if I tried to catch two shifts in quick sequence.  That part was likely operator error/learning curve.  But a quickshifter is really cool.  I discovered I could use it to shift in places I normally wouldn’t because regular shifting would have upset the chassis and the quickshifter was too fast to allow that to happen.

Something else interesting about the 1st session was it hurt.  3rd lap and my legs and thighs were not happy at all.  I wondered what the heck was happening.  I’ve been stretching and drinking lots of water and exercising, so what is this?

The second and third sessions went without a hitch, just faster.  But not fast enough.  I wasn’t in the groove, realizing that I’ve spent so much more time (relatively speaking) at slower and more technical Infineon Raceway, my mind was slow adjusting to less technical but faster THill.  Also, the leg/thigh problem was going away quickly.  In fact, as I sit here droning along in type, I’m much less tired and sore than would normally be.  So that exercise/stretching paid off.  I’m very happy about that and will continue in this routine.  Unfortunately as the heat quickly rose, so did a headache.  I’d been continuously drinking water (days before even) and Gatorade and staying in the shade as much as possible so I didn’t expect it to last.  But it did.  The fourth session came and I decided to sit it out.  Instead a restroom visit and then walk around to see how some of the A guys (which is where I should have been) were taking the back straight and approach to turn 14 vs. the B and C folks.  Heckuva difference.

Lunchtime arrives and I walk over to Jeff’s area but he’s nowhere to be seen.  As I walk away, someone calls me and it’s Jeff.  We walk over to the cafe to get food but Jeff disappears.  I figure he is chatting with his friends but after waiting for a hotdog and fries, I can’t spot him.  I walk back toward my truck and in passing his area notice his truck is gone.  Turns out he decided it’d be better money spent to drive into town for lunch.  ?!?!?!  That woulda worked for me too, umm-kay?  So I sit in my truck and watch a movie while eating.  Some little voice in my head says “good lord, someone must have spilled the whole salt container on the fries and hotdogs” but for some idiotic reason i kept at it.  Well that probably was a bad idea.  The headache continued to increase and it was after-the-fact that I thought about how I’d just worked counter-productive to the liquids I’d been taking in.  I catch a little catnap in the truck and then go over to borrow a screwdriver from Jeff to put a new battery in the laptimer.

Jeff decides to skip the next B session.  I tell him I’m going out but with the headache issue it is likely to be my last one.  THill is a long drive, longer when solo.   I decided I’d like to get some caffeine in me and on the road before things got too much uglier.  This session is one of the best of the day.  The laptimer tells me I’m well off what I’m capable of, but who cares.   I’m having fun and it wouldn’t be fair to push it even more in the B group.  I’ve posted this session on youtube, complete with lots of vibration due to poor camera mounting decision.  You can see 10 minutes of it here

After this last session, I roll straight up to the truck and strip of out the leathers and all.  I get a few sips of water, pack everything away and drive over to say by to Jeff.  Of course he is gone again somewhere.  I wander over to “4theriders” area to see the photos they’ve taken, like none of them, and head back to my truck to find Jeff suiting up to go ride.  I tell him I need to hit the road.   He digs out a couple of Advils for me but I’m done.  The day would be over before they helped enough.  I drove into town for a venti 8-pump soy chai latte with no foam and no water.  Of course they get it wrong, but by the time I get to I-505 the intensity of the headache had broken.  The drive home was of no consequence.

I did get to meet 3 BARF members – Josie, Steve and …… someone else, so that was cool.  They all looked to be having fun and the post-event thread bears this out.  A few people did “faw-down-go-boom”.  The meat wagon rolled once but I think it was just precautionary.  Also, Jeff lost some brake pads at speed.  I didn’t tell you that huh?  After the 1st session I walk over to his area and he tells me he had no front brakes coming into turn 14 (if you watch my youtube, turn 14 is just after you go under a bridge that says “Keigwins” on it, check the speed and engine sound and then imagine finding NO BRAKES).  Each of Jeff’s front calipers have 4 brake pads.  On the right caliper the two lower pads had fallen out.  Pulling the lever just drove the pistons into the rotors instead of stopping him.  Jeff said he used a combination of downshifting (slipper clutch ftw) and the run-off area to get stopped.  A friend of his found him some spare pads and he pulled the retainer pin from a spare caliper to save his day.

Yesterday I visited Francisco to help him with something on his R6 (and oogle his new red/white R1).  We both agreed that we’re happiest at K@TT events.  Not that Z2 or PTT or any of the others are bad, it’s just that K@TT feels more home-like for us.  That said, I’m glad I went and would do it again but with a few changes and some lessons learned.  What lessons?  Don’t count on others so much, be prepared yourself.  I was supposed to have a spot under the permanent metal awning, that didn’t work out but I went in over-confident and paid for it.  Don’t forget tools, tent, stands, etc.  I was prepared for allergy problems but didn’t count on a headache.  And don’t get distracted.  All the items I forgot were prepped and ready to go, they just didn’t transition into the truck.  If these lessons had been applied actions instead, a much better experience would have been the result.
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Motorcycling19 Aug 2008 02:08 pm

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.

Motorcycling16 Jun 2008 09:55 am

Hmmm, lessee….choices, choices.

Maybe Return of The Sandbagger

Or, how about Sandbagger, the Sequel

Maybe Hi, My name is Jonathan and I’m a sandbagger?

Regardless, I’ve fessed up immediately, thus taking away some of the sting I’m sure Cra1g has for me.  I stand by my reasoning though, which is a looonnnggg read away from here.

At the last two track days, I had a nagging feeling of stangancy (yes that is a word. www.m-w.com).  No forward progress, not even a little.  Just hitting up against an invisible wall.  Actually the wall isn’t sooooo invisible.  Being the sole source of income, a father/husband and having considerable community responsibilities is enough to quell too much “win-it-or-bin-it” mentality.  Oh, did I mention age too?  Yep, already things haven’t felt like they used to for a long time.  No lil blue pills though, woot woot.

So in talking separately with Cra1g and Lance, I decided to wheel-n-deal up some funds for another Keigwins At The Track two-day intermediate course.  I wish so much that they’d do it somewhere other than Thunderhill, but they won’t.  It could have been worse – Buttonwillow (farther and at minimum equally hot); Reno-Fernley (see Buttonwillow), etc.  It just so happens that the one intermediate school is again within a day of a three day convention I attended.  Up early every day for a new job, up early every day for the convention, up early one day for work, then up earlier for a 125 mile drive to Willows.  Well earlier in planning at least.  The reality was “huh?” <snooze> button…….shift around a bit…..contemplate losing mad money and staying home…..wishing more people I knew would get involved……doze a bit more…..rationalize that the bodywork and tires are alreary done so not much to load….doze a bit more…….dang – too much ambient daylight coming in the window.  Hustle into the garage and start kicking myself that despite my rationalizing, I had a lot still to get packed.  Eventually I got on the road, foregoing the Chai tea latte I’d wanted, and settled in for 2+ hours of driving.

After thanking my radar detector for multiple legit alerts and hating my truck’s pitiable gas mileage (no trailer at that), I arrive at the front gate.  Something was nagging at my periphery but I couldn’t place it until a young blond girl comes out of the booth to have me sign the waiver.  Her hair is blowing so hard she could have been a purple mutant and I wouldn’t have known.  I roll down the window and gale force winds blow my hair about too (LOL).  This..is..NOT..cool!

I drive on into the pits and am amazed to discover that though late, there’s still plenty of pit space under the permanent large metal canopy.  The relative absence of humans and activity tells me the rider’s meeting has either just started or is about to.  As I get out of the truck, off in the distance I spot a unique-looking, very familiar metal trailer.  Could Steve be here?  I sure hope so.  It can be rare these days to actually view it as a privilege to know someone.  Steve is one of those people it is a pleasure and privilege to know.  He is just the most awesome gentleman.  Lays complete and total waste to any and everything that can be said about aging (though only my mind accepts that at the moment, the body resists in favor of a barcalounger somewhere in the near future).  Anyhow, rather than unload, I just walk way friggin far to the rider’s lounge; the meeting started about 10 minutes ago.  I spot Mike K but knew from the rider’s list that he would be there.  I was disappointed though that I never got the expected last minute call from Francisco that’d he’d be coming afterall. 

After the meeting Mike shows me that he too is under the metal canopy and there was room right next to him so I moved over a few slots to pit with him.  I unload and get on down to registration, then tech, and back.  And taa-daa, here’s Steve!!  Just as healthy as ever for …. well I won’t say cause that’d be rude, but Steve has lived a long, full and likely very interesting life.  In fact, what I was soon about to ask him made me feel really bad, but I had no choice.   You see, circumstances dictated that while some would camp at the track (like Steve), other’s have Madden-esque motorcoaches to stay in (Keigwins) and other’s would drive 7 minutes to a cumfy-wumfy roachtel, I was dragging my sorry behind 125 miles BACK home to get up too early again and another 125……yes dangnabbit, over 500 miles in two day.  That’s just in the truck!!!!!  At 3.7 city blocks per gallon!

So, adjusting my panties a little bit, I whine to Steve about maybe just possibly letting my bike spend the night with his two immaculate R6’s.  I couldn’t finish the whiny excuses before he’d already said “yes no problem”.   Whew.  Make that 4.9 city blocks per gallon going home and coming back the next morning, woo-hoo.

The intermediate class assumes that you know things like …… how to turn the bike on, where the brakes are, etc.  You should be comfortable with riding, have experience, etc.  This class has way more structure than an open track day.  Actual classroom sessions on specific topics, demonstrations of topics (such as Dave Moss’ 675 being wheeled into the class so instructors can demonstrate how to use one’s legs in various ways to 1) support the body weight and keep it off the arms, minimizing/eliminating transferring bad stuff into the front end and going BOOM and 2) to get your upper body down low more effectively for cornering).  Then nice long sessions to put into practice what was discussed…..or work on something else.  Instructors are available all day for you to sign up with for one-on-one sessions so you can discuss what you’re afraid of or feel deficient at, and they observe and then commend/counsel as well as demonstrate….at speed.  Having ridden with all these instructors before and knowing how blindingly fast they are, it was painful to sometime watch them plodding along behind, or towing a really slow person.  But that was their job for the day and they did it admirably!!  If I remember correctly, they get to cut loose a lil bit at the end of the day, but I wasn’t around long enough to confirm that.

So this wind is blowing something terrible, just terrible.  And Thunderhill is a quite fast track.  I thought “no way I’m going in A group.  I need all my faculties to not get run over by these guys on a good day, I won’t have enough braincells to cope with this wind too”.  I backed off to the B+ (just A and B+).  I suited up and went out for a 3 lap follow-an-instructor sighting session, it was wierd.  The instructor I got paired with took off faster than I wanted to go into turn one, then when we got there and turned left, the southward hurricane said “hey, wanna go way up on the hill by that water tower?  I’ll help you.  The view is great up there”.  No dang-it, I wanna stay on pavement.  Turn 2 – more problems.  The first part of the turn was hard to drive at an angle into the wind, mid corner was head-on into the wind, then the last third of the turn if you blinked an eye you’d made a complete U-turn and were headed backward against traffic.  Turn 5a was tough.  The approach to 9, 10 and the front straight were like having a Titan II strapped to your back.  Approaching 14, you could have literally disconnected your brakes and left them at home, not needed (this turn plays a key role later).

So day one is very tentative.  I worked first on trying to relearn the track with this new variable affecting things.  Despite the wind, it was still warm so I guess it would have been really warm/hot without.  I signed up for a one-on-one with Paul Y., told him I felt deficient in my current cornering and braking abilities.  He said lets go out and after a couple laps he’d have me lead.  He said he wasn’t like others on the out-lap, he preferred to go slower than others.  He wasn’t kidding.  So as I walked along side his bike into turn one….LOL.  After a little bit of leading him, he brought me in to advise that I’m not getting my butt off the seat enough and upper body is staying too high.  I need to get the edge of the seat into the buttcrack and the upper body lower.  He also said while my lines were good and smooth, I was braking too early and needed to trailbrake more.  That would enable me to stay on the gas longer vs the safer line of braking earlier.  I knew he was right, but was afraid.  There, I said it.  I was afraid.  Truthfully I knew already I don’t get off the bike enough.  It always, always feels like I do but when I look at pictures later I’m thinking “what’s this garbage?”  So I commit to working on both these things.  We do some more laps.  Then it’s back to class.  Paul also deadpans that I should definitely be in the A group.  <:-/

Then things got ugly.  We’re in the class and I subliminally notice it’s gotten too quiet outside.  As we’re going out of the classroom I’m walking with Mike and I hear a helicopter much too close for comfort.  I say “uh-oh, that can’t be good, he’s too close”.  Sure enough, as we walk out into the sunlight, a bright red Reach copter is coming down into the 11/12 esses.   I ventured close enough to watch (partially because I’m fascinated with flight and the desire to be a pilot) but not so close as to look like an insensitive anus.  Sonia comes and stands with me and explains the medical reasons why it’s taking so long for the copter to leave (very informative), we banter about how small craft get tossed around quite a bit and what a heck of a ride this was guy in for when that copter lifted off.  Eventually it did and we went about our ways.  I found out later he got into 9 too fast and went on a not-fantastic voyage.

We had a nice tri-tip lunch and good comraderie with Cra1g and Steve and Michael L, then it was back to class and track.  Too much food equals sleepy time.  I don’t know how many instructors caught me eyes-closed, but I couldn’t help it.  Hopes that the wind would let off in the afternoon were wasted hopes, the wind stayed very strong all day.  Garbage barrels rolled like tumbleweeds at times.  So did my mind.  So much to absorb, so much to try to work on.  It seemed too much.  I hoped that sleeping on it all would make a difference for day two. 

Mike talked me into staying a little longer than I wanted at the end of the day but the reward was a Heineken and 3 slices of delicious pizza for the road (pizza for the road, not the Heineken).  After stashing the GSXR at Steve’s spot and giving him the key, iPod and I head for the long drive home.  I get home and the family is happy to see me.  I’m happy to see them too, but truthfully bristled at seeing 250 additional miles driven.  Ah well, the things we do.

Day 2.  More rationalizing about why I don’t need to get up so early.  Loading up is much shorter.  No bike.  No generator or tire warmers.  No pop-up canopy.  Loading goes very quickly but the time saved is wasted getting that Chai tea latte. Tracy Jordan and 30 Rock make the just-as-windy-as-yesterday drive to Thunderhill tolerable.  I arrive, retrieve the GSXR from Steve’s location and get prepped for the day.   But this time something is different, something I’d hoped for.  What seemed confusing and overwhelming yesterday was making sense today.  It seemed like things were coming together.   The late braking, egg method of handling turn 2, more body off the bike and lower, stronger drive off the turns was all making a lot more sense.  This had happened back in 2006’s intermediate school.  Also on single trackdays, I always see the previous day’s events more clearly afterward.  So today I had high hopes.  They panned out well.

I worked harder on my objectives and less on worrying about the wind, strangely it seemed to have diminished some.  That isn’t really true, what really happened was my concentration was elsewhere.  Today I signed up to have a one-on-one with Cra1g (who BTW also presented me with a beautiful 11×14 portrait of Colin Edwards aboard the Camel Yamaha M1.  THANKS CRAIG!!!  Long live 2001 WSB!!).  His method was a little different then Paul’s but the same advise mostly – get off the bike more.  The visual he gave me was to try to put my chin on my knee.  Just what I needed, a mental picture to shoot for.  Too bad infringing leathers and lacking dexterity hampered that effort a bit.  It was a funny feel too, I felt too close to the ground at times, it was more windy about my head and chest, and my leg muscles started protesting immediately.  Nevertheless I commit to continue the effort.

There was a purple-leathers-clad woman there that carries quite a story.  Remind me and I’ll tell you in person some time.  She was riding the A group and from the pits it seemed she could carry a fair pace.  I was intrigued and Mike and I decided we’d go out the next A session to see her pace.  But alas, the schedule says something else – time for the warm up lap/2 practice start/3-lap sprint event.  I had looked forward to this with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  Mike and I step out to the fence to watch the A group proceedings.  We’d spent more than our fair share of time hiking all over the pit areas because of our base location so walking even further to get into the hot pit area wasn’t all that appealing.  In the preceeding classroom session “intro to racing”, the instructors had told us how to handle a failed start (engine failure, stalled motor, etc).  Of course no one wants to see that happen because of the potential impact(s), however thats exactly what we saw one Ducati do on a practice start.  Thankfully everyone managed to get around him.  The second practice start took place, and then the A group 3 lap race.  I wanted to know what kind of pace the leader(s) would carry so I had my phone’s timer running.  The leading 2-3 guys stayed pretty close to each other the whole time, the “winner” running a 2:07.00 on the last lap.   At this point I had an urge to run to my bike.  I think it was just nerves manifesting themselves.  As Mike and I walk away, Cra1g is yelling something or the other at us.  Sounded like “go gettum you sandbagger” or something like that.  Yeah yeah.

We suit up and head out onto the grid and initially it looks like only 7-8 guys are coming out.  But really it was either a matter of a lot of people wanting someone else to go out first, or they were just taking time to show up.  Finally there was a decent sized grid and it’s off for a warm-up lap.  Coming in from the warm up lap I place myself on the 4th row.  There appears a sudden urge to check everything three times over – brake lever, clutch lever, rearsets, brakes, throttle, so on and so forth.  I figure a launch around 6500 should get me away without stalling, not fry the clutch, yet not wheelie into the hillside.  Flag drops and off we putter into turn one.  Hand up approaching turn 2 to show we’re slowing down.  Take the shortcut just before turn 6 to get back on the grid and do practice start two.  My first start and handling of turn 1 results in being on the 3rd row for this next start.  This time I figure “let’s see if we can pass a few people before or in turn one and get up a little farther”.  Sure, there is no trophy for a win nor is there any money.  It’s only 3 laps………But it’s still a 3-lap sprint complete with number boards, flags, a real start, and the potential for victory and fame within one’s own head.  Now a combination of things start to take place all at once.  Everything that we’d been told in class started to become clearer.  Paul’s and Cra1g’s personal recommendations were seen with clarity.  The trailbraking into turn 2 meets with my approval, with an egg-shaped approach seeming a viable option if needed.  Late apexing 4 for a better run up to 5.  Don’t finish turn 9, let velocity and the distant water tower take the bike right onto the desired line.  Late apex 11 so as to straighten (as much as possible, e.g. less swoopy) the 12/13 esses for a better drive onto the back straight.  Let the wind help you slow for 14, trailbraking if necessary. Suddenly there was no wind.  Yes there was wind just as strong as before but the mind wasn’t acknowledging it anymore.  The 2nd practice start and run through turn 1 has put me on the front grid with another GSXR750 and an RC51.  For some reason the grid managers put the RC51 on the outside of the row even though he was first back to the grid, the other GSXR750 is placed in the middle, and I am given the inside.  I’d think that is considered pole, but maybe not.  But the time is now here.  I’ve completely forgotten doing this same routine two years ago.  I don’t know what to expect, and I don’t expect it to be easy.

The two board is showing and I close my visor, fighting the strange urge to lower my sidestand and do a comprehensive triple-check of my entire bike.  Two board rotates to a one board and I reach to close my visor, discovering it is already closed and explaining why the helmet seemed a little stuffy.  Nothing like recycled bad breath.  I decide to keep my left foot on the ground and cover the rear brake with the right, just in case it is needed to quell a horn mono.  I adjust my hand placement on the throttle and blip a couple of times because some primal urge said to do so.  One board starts to tilt sideways, at any second the starter could throw the green.  Revs up to a steady 6500.  He twitches……and I wait.   Time has slowed matrix style.  The arm reveals a green flag……and I still wait.  Why am I not going?  For some reason an inexplicable desire to be polite hinders my start.  In reality it lasted probably a nano-second, but it did happen.  

We’re off !!!  I’m stretched over the front end so my weight can help the front stay down.  Peripheral vision shows the other GSXR750 and myself running about even, the RC51 has used his low-end torque to get ahead.  I’m not liking the prospect of entering turn 1 with a tight line, however I realize the other GSXR is outside of me and unless he’s got the bigger “set”, he’s gonna have to fall in line behind.  He does.  I now notice that the RC51 has held nothing back it appears and he’s going away.  I spend all my time up till turn 14 observing this RC51.  He’s running what I feel is a good pace, his lines look OK, he’s handling the bike well.  His body placement looks good too, a good reminder to me about mine.  His approach to turn 14 though catches my attention for a different reason – a passing opportunity.  I close the gap some on the brakes that I’d held steady up till that point.  

2nd lap.  I’m listening for signs of someone behind me while using working on a strategy to get by the RC51.  Some attempts at late-braking yield modest results but my brain says to use a safer strategy – not in a corner.  I’m nice and close to the RC51 as we come into turn 14.  The bridge comes to us and he shuts down.   Just what he’d done before.  I understand too, I do not like this turn at all.  It’s not natural to go barreling full-throttle under a bridge and over a slight crest only to find a slow 110-degree blind right-hander.  But today the wind is helping anyone who wants to go in faster, deeper (careful now, family friendly) and later, you just have to want it.  I do.  I pass.  I (feel like) I fudge turn 14, get out onto the tiger’s teeth a little but am happy with managing turn 15.  Front straight.  The GSXR is running heavenly.  The screaming engine sounds so true, so…..right.  All is right with the world.

Lap 3, final lap.  I’m hearing myself breath, I actually sigh as I exit turn 2 and talk to myself a little bit.  Getting on the gas harder exiting turn 2, that what Paul said to do and it feels good.  Listening for the thunderous sound of a mad vtwin.  Turn 5/5a is a fun turn.  If you show a little faith, you can reap some rewards.  I love to zip up the hill real fast, late apex the crest and flick the bike hard left.  Do it right and when you flick back to the right, you’ll scare yourself lifting the front wheel momentarily but also get a nice line down the hill.  I do, but must have stayed a little too tight as my boot, kneepuck, bottom bodywork and just a sneeze of my exhaust (I later discover) touch down thanks to the dip at the bottom.  I’m concentrating, trying to use everything I know and have been told.  The fast 6/7/8 section flies by.  The front wheel shimmies over 9, upper body already over the tank to keep things at no more than a shimmy.  I want to glance back.  Should I glance back?  The back straight leading to turn 14 and I steal a quick partial glance to the left.  But he’s there, I just know that RC51 just chose to be on my right.  He hasn’t taken my line though as I tip into 14.  15 comes and goes and I’m tucked in as tight as I can manage, banging away the gears.  I think I’m gonna pull this off.  Regardless, there are staff and instructors and A-group rider lining the straight.  I know Cra1g is there too and I stick a small thumbs up into the windblast approaching the checkers.  It is accomplished. 

No trophy.  No money.  No champagne.  No contract offers.  No TV cameras.  No interviews.  But an immense sense of satisfaction, a huge adrenalin rush.  I sit up but keep my pace brisk, wanting to get back to the pits.  Suddenly I feel withdrawn and shy, not wanting a bunch of attention or anything.  Guess I don’t need contracts and TV and interviews.  I get off the bike, pause and take a few deep breaths, then pull off my helmet and gloves and put them in the truck lest the ever-present wind blow something away.  Up comes a rider.  Initially it doesn’t register as I walk over to him, wondering what he wants.   His smile and direct eye contact make everything register suddenly, he’s the RC51.  We shake hands and chat.  He asks if I’d been stalking him or had to catch him.  I tell him he got a great start and a gap that I had to close.  He is very friendly and happy, congratulating me and asking which GSXR I have.  I tell him I knew I was in for a challenge, having had an RC51 myself.  He leaves as Mike comes over to see how it went.  We chat as we remove leathers and head for lunch. 

Lunch consists of a great time with Cra1g, Steve, Mike and Jeff Viets (www.vietsperformance.com, plug plug).  They tell me how things looked from a spectator’s perspective.  I listen but then try to change the subject, never wanting to be arrogant or cocky about anything.  See Mladin, Biaggi or Fogarty for reasons why.  Instead I get Jeff to talking about how his business came about and is succeeding, and other chit chat with the guys; it’s a great lunch.  Afterward I feel I’ve gotten all I want out of two days, and decide I’m gonna pack it in.  It’ll be nice to get home and unpacked sooner than 730pm. 

As Mike and I walk back to our bikes, Steve catches up to us (he’s riding this gorgeous Cannondale roadbike with carbon fiber this and Ti that, just gorgeous paint and everything).  He say’s he’s spoken highly of me to Lance.  I thank him, it’s nice to know people think well of you.  How cool would it be to instruct for K@TT !!!  Alas I know I can’t make every event and so it’ll probably never happen.  Mike decides to call it too so we get all packed up (he a little faster with a UHaul trailer vs me with a Joe Hauler) and chat with each other and a few more people.  Mike leaves, I look unsuccessfully for Cra1g and Lance but do find Linda.  She gives me a nice tshirt and I thank her for a great two days.  I depart Thunderhill to the sounds of vtwins, triples and inline 4s doing what they do best – moving their operators lap after lap at the desired pace.  Minds concentrating.  Bodies exerting.  Goals being set, accomplished and reset. 

The wind still blows terribly.  My gas mileage stinks.  A misread freeway exit reaps a splash of gas and some nasty Wendy’s fries.  But the sun is out, co-pilot “30 Rock” keeps me company, and the miles tick away.  I have learned and experienced much, and will again.  Yes, all is good.

P.S. 2:04:50 best lap time.  Should have been in A group.

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

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:23 pm

(Archived – original posting 7/9/07)

Note to self – do not sign up for a trackday immediately following a 3-day convention! Ugh, I was beyond tired.

The date – July 9th, 2007.  The location – Sears Point/Infineon Raceway.  The event – West Coast Crashfest ’07 (by no fault of K@TT).  The players (no pimps present, thank goodness) – Cra1g Smith, Francisco Castellanos, Kevin Peet, Jonathan Gardner, crazy French dude named Regis, and Wendy.  Conspicuously absent – all the rest of you.

Monday morning came really early and painfully.  My pillow had a mind of it’s own and was PMS’g or lonely or something as it didn’t want me to leave.  I asked myself why I didn’t sell my day and ride a different event.  And then I remembered things such as 1) how hard it can be to get into Sears Point, 2) how much cooler Sears is vs. THill especially right now, 3) how much CLOSER Sears is vs. THill/Laguna/Buttonwillow/Willow Springs/Fontana/Reno-Fernley.  Said considerations sufficiently pondered (took all of 5 seconds), I loaded up my truck and ……. proceeded to run errands?  Yep.  Post Office, gas station, bank, store.  Meanwhile Francisco is wondering if I’ll show up before dusk. Get to Francisco’s and since he’s already loaded and ready, off we drive.

We arrive at a plenty decent time and Kevin is already there so we pit in an area he’d picked out.  Get unloaded, go thru registration and tech, the butterflies start flapping in my stomach and the excitement that is a trackday starts to carve a path through the hazy fog that is my mind on too little sleep.  On the way to the track I convince myself that riding the A group isn’t the best option in my present mindstate.  I’d intended to go in that group at Marc’s past prodding and Cra1g’s not-so-subtle comments at me sandbagging in B+.  Well Marc’s Triumph decided recently to nuke his budget and shake my confidence in Triumph by coughing up the engine somehow (Marc, still waiting for an update from you on what happened and whats to happen).  So at registration I quietly mention to Linda that I’d like to move down to B+.  She’s all for it, but in her kindness she speaks a little too loud and dangnabbit if Lance didn’t catch wind of it and say “nope, go convince the grid managers to find you a space in B+”.  Linda frowned but realized there was nothing to do but go with Lance on this.  Suffice to say, without detail, I rode B+ this day.

A real trooper like Kevin (as in he rode to the track and will ride home) pulls in and pits next to us.  His name is Regis and he is French.  He has ridden his bike to the track from somewhere southbay-ish.  Regis is alone but not for long.  He and Francisco strike up conversation and eventually he ends up pitting with us for the rest of the day.  Sometimes sighting laps don’t happen but this day Lance does them and for a change I get there and thru tech in time to suit up and go out.  I thought it’d be a good idea so I could make sure my new brake pads were working.  The week before I’d installed new Galfer brake pads up front.  The instructions they gave me for bed-in were 1) wet sand the rotors with 600 grit paper, 2) install pads, 3) do a series of hard braking stops first from ~45mph to 5mph, then from 40mph to 5mph, then from 35mph to 5mph  and so on.  So in the back of the pit area I went 40 mph and hit the brakes with 2 fingers.  The initial feel of NO brakes lasted maybe 2 seconds and then the bike began to stop.  It felt like there was a 2 seconds delay on the brake lever – weird.  Then 35mph with 1 finger down to almost dead stop, oops.  Then 30mph, 1 finger firmly applied and the bike lifted the rear wheel!!!!  Totally caught me off guard, I wasn’t expecting that at all.  Wow!!  So after that it was out for the sighting laps.  As we did them, I could have sworn I smelled something burning.  But it was very subtle, just enough that I thought “I’m imagining it”.

Sighting laps conclude and we come back to the pits.  I ride down to the hot pit area to address the A/B+ group matter but the person I was looking for wasn’t present.  So I turn the bike on, the tach (which normally does a complete sweep from end to end on start-up) goes to about 7k rpm and sticks there.  The starter button does absolutely nothing.  I turn the ignition off/on/off/on over and over but nothing happens.  I end up pushing the bike back to my pit just as the B+ group goes out for their 1st session.  I start to panic – “what tha ()@_*$@_”  OK, OK, calm down, check the obvious stuff.  Do all of that, no go.  OK, start backtracking any bike work you’ve done lately, oh yeah check your fuses too for clues.  As I’m accessing the fuses I’m mentally tracing what I’ve done recently.  Oil and filter change; Hyperpro steering damper; Woodcraft right side engine case cover (left side backordered) and rearse…..uh oh.  About the same moment, I discover a blown fuse, appears to be for the lighting system.  I cringe as I start to look at the right rearset and ….yep….. some numbnuts (me) forgot to ziptie the rear brakelight trigger switch out of the way when installing the rearsets.  So on the sighting laps it sat on or so near the exhaust, it melted in half and shorted.  So I figure and hope that by cutting it off/taping the wire ends/replacing the fuse, all will be well in Sonoma.  So I go to get some tools….but I don’t have any, I left them all at home.  I use Francisco’s tools instead.  And Wendy comes over.

Who dis?  A really nice Asian woman who is pitted all by herself directly across from us and happens to be riding a red Daytona 675.  Full leathers, bike rear stand, Toyota pickup truck, everything.  It was cool to see.  Marc had mentioned such a woman in the past and as she introduced herself and asked what I was doing, I wondered if she was his friend.  She is, knew his name and description right away.  We chatted for awhile and then she wandered back to get herself ready as she was in B- (or B+2 or ????) and it was almost time for her group to go.  Marc, Wendy says hi and too wants to know whats up with the engine.  She thought you’d bought a GSXR (Lance’s) to replace the 675.  I got back to working on the bike and manage to slash a near-spurting gash in my left index finger with a utility knife.  About this time is when a superstitious person would pack up and say “today is not my day” and go home.

Home-made fix completed, the bike fires right away.  So in the 2nd B+ session of the day I go out and re-melt the wires again.  Just kidding, I zip-tied them this time.  Out on the track all goes pretty well……except for all the crashes.  It was a weird day, more on that later.  I’ve been experimenting with onboard filming, last time was the first time and there were some teething problems that I’d hoped were resolved.  But this time I couldn’t get my camera to show the forward view.  Much fiddling and frustration eventually revealed that the 9v battery powering the lens was dead.  Linda to the rescue.  But not before I missed filming session #2.  Too bad too cause I felt I rode pretty well that session and some passes would have been neat to have a record of.

Regis and Francisco turned out to be a bad combination, humor intended.  These two fed off each other in what I truly believed would turn into a symbiotic relationship of the destructive kind.  They found great joy in passing and repassing and blocking and pushing each other lap after lap all day.  It got to the point that they’d come in and be slapping hands and each other’s backs and laughing and carrying on.  In fact they were having such fun that Francisco decided to take take some different routes for a closer look at the runoff of turns 7 and 11.  I think he was just making sure the pavement was clear out there. J   I’m sitting in my chair watching and wondering if Dean and I ever did that back in the day.  But I observed a couple of their passes thru traffic that…….well I just wasn’t comfortable trying myself and so I didn’t get much footage of them at all since they’d put traffic between them and I and I was more ummm “conservative?” in getting through.  It was a chore to clear my mind and even attempt to keep up.  There was only one “moment” for me that day, 3rd session of the day and I’m trying to make haste.  I get into 7 apparently hotter than I expected.  No problem, push the bike on over and see solace in a knee puck.  Ummm, helps to have the throttle cracked at least.  I didn’t, and it became a little much for the front tire.  Thankfully it just gave me a stern warning slide, putting my knee puck harder into the ground and saying “open the throttle fool”.  I didn’t forget the rest of the day  J

  Regis was funny, kinda sailor-mouthed but a very good-natured guy and ALWAYS looking for a reason to laugh or at least smile.  It was fun working to follow him most of session two, him turning around and looking to see if the pesky 675 was still sitting on the fender of his GSXR750.  But he and Francisco spent a good deal of the day sand-bagging in the B+ group (ha ha, they are the sandbaggers now).  Where is Kevin in all this?  Quietly going about his own business, not (to external appearances at least) being rattled by much of anyone or anything, just laying down consistent and enjoyable laps.  Kevin always appears to be at peace with the world when riding and that translates to smooth.  And smooth is the doorway to fast, unless you are related to Kevin Schwantz or Troy Bayliss.What about those falls?  Well there were a lot, most falls I’ve personally been in the presence of.  Lance made it clear that if you fall, you MIGHT get an instructor to give you a ride back in but your bike would stay in place until it could either be retrieved at lunch or the end of the day (excluding major incidents leaving the track to be tended to).  I guess everyone was sneaking a listen to iPods or something because the track was shut down a number of times.  Two incidents of the day – one grid manager ran into someone in front of him at T11 who’s bike found a false neutral; he ended up with a collarbone break and a premature end to his day; don’t know what happened to the guy who had the false-neutral.  I found a false neutral just entering the same turn and just about soiled me-leathers cause I knew someone was close behind, I was hoping he didn’t accidently center-punch me too.  Another incident was the yellow flag party.  2nd or 3Rd to last session of the day, there were yellow flags everywhere.  I was tailing the guys and trying to get some footage of them and then in turn 2 there was one bike down.  We get to turn 9 and there is a bike down there.  We come back around to 2 and there are THREE bikes down, one a nice Aprilia Mille sitting helplessly on it’s side on the track.  Back at turn 9 the bike is still down.  Considering the yellows get thrown starting 3 corners or so before the actual incident, it seemed almost every corner was yellow.  But that didn’t stop some people from passing, unfortunately.  I’m quite happy that none of the incidents involved us or Wendy.
During the lunch hour I sat in the pit with Kevin and for a short while Cra1g, Francisco and Regis sat in the cafeteria with a friend of Regis’ (who appears to be an AFM racer and later took us out for some laps; AFM or not didn’t stop Francisco and Regis from eventually passing him which I got great laughter from – these guys……)
I skipped the last session of the day and instead stood talking with Cra1g in the hot pit.  It was cool to be up close to the bikes as they enter the track and watch the grid managers do their jobs.  Then I rushed back to get loaded up for the trip home, it was 5pm and I had a 7pm appointment.  Overall the day went well and I really want to get back out there.

But the frustration continued.  Two days later I turned the video camera on to discover that my wife…..who NEVER touches the camera……touched the camera……..without asking if the tape needed to be changed or if it was cool to use or anything.……and recorded her with the kids at Keller beach…….over at least 30 minutes of my footage.  I haven’t yet looked to see how much is left that I can salvage.

Best recorded lap 1:59:87.

 

 

 

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:19 pm

(Archived – original posting 4/16/07)

We’ll title this one “Passing of the Crown”.  Right Kevin?

This trackday was a little bit of a twist from the recent norm.  No Francisco, no Aldo.  This time it was some long-familiar faces and a couple new ones.

This past Monday, Michael Earnest’s Pacific Track Time put on a 3-group track day at Thunderhill.  Kevin Peet and Dale Wu were going to be there and later I found out so would Gino with a Sato-equipped RC51 that brought back some great memories.  It was nice to finally get to spend some time with Gino and a new friend, Eric.  Kevin and Dale signed up for the C group (later it was revealed that the decision was made because of wording on the website that indicated the C group may have some level of “intermediate” to it).  At the time I thought it’d be just us three so I signed up for the C group too.

Monday morning arrives and I manage to get out the door proper and to the track early; miracles can happen.  Driving thru the pits, I don’t see the big luxo-mobile I’d seen Kevin and Dale drive before.  That’s when I discovered that I had no cell phone # for either of them.  So I set up alone.  It was kinda strange but the aura of the event seemed different from a Keigwin event.  I couldn’t place a finger on it but something was different.

I stood at my truck for a little while and then decided I’d walk the pits and have a good look for the guys, and immediately saw Dale in the enormous multi-armed crowd trying to get their bikes tech’d.  After we said hello, he showed me that 1) they were pitted a stone’s throw away from me and 2) they’d driven up using a new SUV and VERY nice enclosed trailer I didn’t know Dale had.  I saw Kevin also in the tech line as I went to register.  After registration and tech myself, it was time for the rider’s meeting.  This was starting to be as different from a Keigwin event as I could imagine.  The aura, I now realized, seemed younger and funner (if I may invent that word) and sillier.  Michael started the rider’s meeting and it immediately became obvious that he’s got quite a sense of humor, if a little PG-13ish.  The group initially wasn’t too responsive but he hammered away and we finally warmed up to him, which encouraged him to be even funnier (IMO).  For example, an orange vest that would be forced upon any rider caught trying to ride in a group other than what they are assigned.  The vest has the label “asshole” in black letters on the back, and big pockets on the front to catch lots of air and a super abrasive zipper that was guaranteed to get up close and personal with your Ducati’s fuel tank paint.

What wasn’t funny was the “oh-boy” young lady that he had model the vest.  Now I hope I don’t offend anyone here but I’ve got to say that while that young lady was quite attractive IMO, she was 1) wearing little too much foundation, 2) had boobies a little too perfect (e.g. where’d you buy those?) and 3) I later saw her riding a little 50cc thru the pits with Cory Call on the back and he was literally holding a handful of both breasts to stay on the bike.  Ummm…..didn’t Michael refer to her as “sweetie” and “my sweetie” more than once during the rider’s meeting?  What the heck?  I won’t go any farther, I’m SURE there is some reasonable explanation.  :-\    But my mental opinion quickly turned quite dark and unflattering.  To each his (or her) own, I guess.

Michael finally got down to serious business, talking about the usual stuff regarding the meanings of the flags, track entry and exit, handling of “incidents”, what’s permitted in the A, B and C groups, etc.  This day seemed to be quite crowded and that was proven by the fact that Michael asked for 5-6 volunteers to move up from the B group to A, and 5-6 from C to B group.   Ding ding ding, a move up to the B group appealed to me.  PTT’s C group isn’t quite as restrictive as other organizations, Michael allows “polite” inside and outside passing in the C group whereas other organizations say no to “inside”.  However I was thinking about the newbies and 1st-timers and such and the fact that Michael didn’t want anyone riding in a group lower than where they belonged.  I didn’t particularly want to Sunday-cruise around in the C group so I was more than happy to see Dale indicate to me that we could/should move up.  Happily Kevin did so also – Kevin and Dale both understanding that while the website may have indicated the C group would be kinda intermediate, Michael’s spoken word in the meeting indicated the C group would indeed be slow.  So after the meeting, we all moved up to the B group and thus got to ride with Gino and Eric.

Last note about the meeting – I found it quite interesting that Michael’s warning about “no wheelies” was very light and airy and without much weight behind it; much more enthusiasm was given to concepts such as “come watch the A group, you’ll see quite a show of them pulling wheelies and backing it in”, “whoever falls, we’ll send a rider out to bring the fallen rider back in if they’re ok and hope they aren’t unlucky enough to get Cory as he’ll be backing it in and wheelie’g and ….”, “watch Cory Call, he’s really really talented (my thought – “that’s great”) and he’ll be wheelie’g and so forth and so on (my thought – “so much for no wheelies, guess I should have kept that wheelie-machine ZX10R…..oh wait, I can’t wheelie”).  Wow, we’re definitely not in Keigwin-land anymore.

I was quite excited to see how Michelin’s Power Race tires performed cause that’s what I’d installed.  The OEM Pirelli Supercorsa Pros didn’t let me down at Sears Point and when they slide twice (or more accurately when I screwed up and made them slide) it was quite controlled.  But 1) the rear did tear quite easily and 2) I was approaching pace within 2 laps because even though they were brand new they didn’t show any sign of being new.  But these Michelins?  They easily handled everything I could throw at them….eventually.  But the first 4-5 laps were downright scary.  The first two laps out I’d have bet any sum of money that someone had thoroughly coated the track with ball bearings and marbles.  Gino said he should have warned me, yeah so now I’m warning all of you.  J

  The 675 was wobbling the entire first two laps, even when running straight ahead.  Eventually things settled down and just as Gino said, these tires felt like glue.  I’m more than happy with how they performed, but be forewarned it you ever try brand new Michelin Power Race tires.  Once broken in they are your best friend, until broken in they are itching to toss you like stomach contents during a norovirus outbreak.After the second session, Gino/Kevin/Dale/Eric graciously allowed me to move my stuff and join them in their pit area and we had a great time hanging out together during down time.  At one point, while the others chatted, Kevin and I got to discuss different things including race (racial) issues and this always tickles me.  For one, because it’s interesting and educational to get someone else’s (of a different race) perspective on ……whatever the subject is.  But also because the chances of racial topics going thermonuclear are as high as the national deficit, yet that never happens with Kevin and me.  We trust enough and are respectful enough that neither of us gets upset if the other says “say, uhh, lookie-here….why do ___(insert potentially flammable question here)____?”.

For our group of buddies, it pleases me to report that there were no incidents.  The thought also crossed my mind that we were from another planet, as we appeared to be the only people there that didn’t suffer an incident.  For the entire day there were countless people either running off the track or literally crashing.  I’ve NEVER seen so many yellow flags.  And it was momentarily sobering to come up the front straight under yellow flag and see someone off in turn one and pretty well out “in the sticks”.  Thankfully they either rode it out or had already gotten up and were ok.  On my 2nd to last session of the day I saw something that shocked me.  I was following a yellow GSXR and just kinda watching him.  I am not generally an aggressive passer, tending to hang back a bit and observe how a person rides.  Suddenly this guy on an R1 passes me on the inside.  OK, no problem, done between turns 6 and 7.  But he doesn’t have time to get past the GSXR before turn 7.  We exit turn 7 toward 8.  He waits until it’s too late…….and then passes the GSXR on the outside.  Problem is GSXR has already set up toward the outside.  To me it looked like they had a minor collision, the GSXR bobbled a bit.  As we cleared turn 8 the GSXR rider was shaking his head and so was I as I (safely) passed him too because I wanted to observe this R1 rider.    He did it again to the next rider he came upon while braking uphill toward 9.  He really bumped this guy pretty bad trying to go around the outside and made him really get squirrly, I thought this guy would fall but happily he didn’t.  This kinda angered me a bit.  For some reason my thought pattern changed from wanting to observe and later speak to Mr R1 or report him, to “ya know, now I’m gonna pick on you with a smaller bike no less and see how you like it”.  Dumb idea for a number of reasons, but I did anyway.  Had thoughts about checking out but the checkered flag was out in turn 11 so that was that.  We exited the track and I slowed up to see where this guy would go, yellow GSXR was already at work though.  The two hadn’t even stopped rolling and he was giving the other guy an earful.  Turns out the GSXR was pitted directly next to us so I went over to tell him I saw what happened.  This guy was livid.  He said they actually didn’t make contact but that it was really close and scary.  He had some choice words and violence on his mind but calmed down shortly thereafter.  Despite the too-frequent yellow flags, I don’t think the ambulance rolled all day so that is a good thing.

My last session of the day had it’s own surprise too.  Toward end of the session, I guess I just was being a rolling road block.  I tell ya, some people just can’t resist a moment to emulate Val Rossi.  Here comes Kevin…..up the inside no less…..passing two of us at the same time….nice and smooth with no theatrics or drama, just “another day in the office for Kevin”.  So with humility and appreciation I present to Kevin the royal crown.  Beware Kevin, people will be after you now.  New guys who think they have the skillz looking to prove themselves.  But we’ve got your back.  We’ll run interference for you, like a good lil Dani Pedrosa SHOULD have done.

I had a 7pm meeting to go to and plenty to do before the meeting so I stopped after the 2:20pm session and got packed up to leave with some of the guys’ help.  It was quite interesting to compare K@TT with PTT.    I’d go to PTT again, but I think my preference is for the more mature (if I may) and controlled environment of K@TT.  K@TT customers seem more self-disciplined whereas the PTT crowd seemed younger and either less control.

Best lap time 2:14.xx

Can’t wait for more track time.  Kevin and Dale, I hope you had a good enough time to continue and not “hang up the spurs”.

 

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:18 pm

(Archived – original posting 3/14/07)

 

My last event can be summed up in the following simple statement:  I went to back-to-back track days, burned up Sears Point raceway and set a track record in the process.

      

However, the holes in said statement are large enough to drive a train through; the only truly factual point being I enjoyed back-to-back trackdays at Sears Point.  So then, WTH am I babbling about?

 

Keigwins At The Track had back to back trackdays at Sears Point on Tuesday/Wednesday March 13/14.  I believe Zoom Zoom had the track Monday the 12th.  Francisco Castellanos went to that day as well (for a three-peat) but I couldn’t afford it. 

 

This was a pair of days I really looked forward to for many reasons.  One – the winter was long and wet.  Since I rarely ride the street anymore, I was itching for some quality track time.  Two – I had a Daytona 675 that I was really excited to experience, having only ridden it briefly on the street twice since obtaining it.  Three – Sears is so much closer to me than any other track so it doesn’t require nearly as much gas, money, an overnight stay, as early a departure or as late a return home as the other two NorCal options.  Four – Sears is a fun and challenging track.  Five – I’ve had a bone to pick with Sears, it having bitten me in the hiney thrice now.  Six – a year ago I’d purchased a used Mototote via craigslist and was excited to see how it handled the 675.

 

Late last year when I bought the 675 from a man in Martinez, he’d been advised by Hattar in San Rafael to immediately change to street tires and so he bought Metzelers, leaving the Pirelli Supercorsa Pros untouched.  He was nice enough to give them to me with the bike.  So before the track day I installed the Supercorsas and got the bike all prepared.  We lucked out (for lack of a better term) and scored FANTASTIC weather both days.  Due to the trailer vandalism last year, I decided to not bring it.  So Tuesday morning I loaded all my tools/tent/chairs/gear in the truck, installed the mototote in the hitch and loaded the bike.  Being the first time, I took lots of time triple checking everything……and was still skeptical.  I had visions of my bike falling off and down the freeway.  It put one heck of a load on the rear tip of the truck but ol’ gas-thirsty handled it anyway. 

 

I got to the track late as usual, the rider’s meeting having started about 5 min before.  I didn’t bother to unload after finding Francisco’s pit spot, instead rushing over to the meeting to make sure I didn’t miss any new procedures or changes (bottom line – nothing new).  After the meeting I unloaded and chatted with Francisco.  Just so happens that we ended up next to the coolest —

 

We interrupt this long droning report to bring you this equally useless observation – the Malaysian F1 qualifying is on and they have a camera apparently just above or beneath the front wing of someones car.  The perspective and speeds are so intense it is dizzying and somewhat nauseating.  Extremely impressive viewpoint though.  Now back to your report—–

 

older guy ever.  Steve has to be 70-something, has a nice aerodynamic enclosed trailer, and two immaculate R6s.  Steve is very kind, generous, conversational, and really added a fun element to the two days.  Steve also added a big ol’ container of cookies that were both healthy and delicious, and became quite a hit among us.  While getting my bike tech’d, a red 675 rode by.  As he rode by I noticed he was black.  Wow, is today the end of the world?  Never expected to see that.  Back in the pits, I set my tire pressure and got suited up.  I was quite concerned because I’d long since missed the siting laps and the B+ group was already on track.  I don’t like the idea of going out amongst fast people while I’m on brand new tires.  First lap out and I’m happy that it seems everyone else is still coming up to speed as it is still early.  One lap down and I decided to up the volume a slight bit; halfway thru lap 2 things feel good so I up the volume a little more.  Lap 3 and I’m waiting for some new-tire-wiggles, but they never came.  No wiggles and squirms at “which way do I go” pace was no surprise, but at higher speeds and greater angles there were still no problems.  This was awesome, as I’d expected the worst from new tires.  Let me state at this point though that new tires should always be broken in carefully, lest you engage frame sliders.

 

Back in the pits we’re hanging out relaxing and chatting, and up walks………..my cousin.  Well I could have sworn it was.  The black guy on the 675 walks up and introduces himself.  I am absolutely baffled, this can’t possibly be Mark.  But……it is!!!  Not Mark, but Marc.  Really. 

 

  • His name is Marc, I have a cousin named Mark. 
  • Marc is black, my cousin Mark is……well, black (wouldn’t that be obvious?) 
  • Marc is very tall(er than me) with apparently 0% body fat, so is Mark. 

 

So it was quite a mindtrip for me.  It was also cool to see another black guy at the track, and on a 675 no less.  Anyone who goes to trackdays knows black people actually riding on the track is about as rare as black people at a Garth Brooks concert.  Marc is a really cool and funny guy, it was fun to make another friend.

 

The remainder of the day went quite well.  I was happy to find that the 675 and I are good buddies.  Best lap of the day was 1:54:xx and while I felt I was pushing, I didn’t feel scared.  Looking back at my laptimer history, I have a 1:53:xx on the 996.  There were two “moments” but we’ll get to those later.  Cra1g came and had lunch in our tent (both days) and it’s just about impossible to explain the cool camaraderie (sp?) that takes place at the track.  Francisco, Steve, Cra1g, Marc and myself just hanging out, with assorted people Cra1g knows passing by and stopping to introduce themselves.  At the end of day one I was kind of tired and wondering what day 2 held in store.  I loaded the 675 back on the mototote and went home.  While sitting in traffic in San Rafael, Marc rides by, bike restored to road-legal and his gear in a backpack.  What a trooper.  Ride to the track, ride THE track, ride home from the track.  You da man!!!

 

At home, I decided that while I’d had absolutely no problems with the mototote and the anti-wobble device (a nut/bolt and washer vs a standard hitch pin), I decided it’s either the enclosed trailer or using the truck bed from here on out.  A couple days or so on craigslist and someone else now owns the mototote.  I just spent too much time worrying while driving and trying to grow a 3rd eyeball to attach to the rearview mirror.

 

Day two – I manage to be late again.  WTH is my problem?  It wasn’t as much an issue though because Steve camped out at the track (yes, he spent the night there) and offered to babysit Francisco’s R6 and my 675.  So we didn’t have to take the bikes home and back.  Also my tires were fully broken in, in fact too broken in.  I have tearing on both sides of the rear.  Dave Moss’ assistant set up my suspension on day two and advised some tire pressure adjustment so the tearing would fix itself.  It didn’t quite complete the healing but it did get somewhat better.  Some suspension adjustments made the bike feel even better than before, best $20 you’ll ever spend. 

 

Today Marc pits with us and we have another great day.  Marc doesn’t feel quite comfortable with his bike and ends up buying new tires and such.  But geez, I had to about if he HAD been comfortable.  Marc is pretty darn fast.  Over the two days we had multiple opportunities to play around and it was challenging each time.  I took opportunity to follow Steve for awhile too and he doesn’t bother with trying to win non-existent trophies, instead he rides predictably and smoothly and that’s a very good as well as impressive thing.  Francisco and I had lots of fun too, but his bike was playing mind games with me.  My redline is in the high 12k rpm range, Francisco’s R6 is somewhere around 100k rpm.  So we’d come off T11 or whatever the last corner is, head up the front straight, and I’d be bouncing off my rev limiter.  I could hear the R6 exhaust note rising and rising so I’d keep accelerating myself, not remembering that crucial difference of redline.  BAM – I’d hit my limiter and his engine is just getting going, you might say.  It was disorienting (and kills your drive), but kinda funny too. 

 

Day two went really well as well for our immediate group.  No problems for Steve, Marc, Francisco or myself.  And therein lies the hazy truth of my setting a record at Sears Point; I didn’t go down.  Sears couldn’t get me this time.  No freak downpours to cause the front to wash, no faulty Dunlop tires to cause the front to wash, no drenched track on which your author loses his head and charges T8 too fast and plowing his 900RR into a muddy hillside after ….. you guessed it, the front end washes.  Laptimes were about 2 seconds slower today, whether pushing myself alone or tracking one of the guys.  I only mention laptimes as a non-critical conversation point, since these aren’t races.  For me though it’s just something fun to track and maybe something to learn from.  Not necessarily learning to go faster but more as a comparison tool.  I look at the times and compare them to how I felt doing those times (comfortable, pushing, out of control, who brought some spare shorts, and so on).  It’s just short of amazing how 2-3 seconds can feel so different.  Laptimers make for some great lunchtime lies too.  J

 

How about those “moments”?  Day 1.  Trying to get a good exit out of the Carousel for a nice drive up to T7.  There is such a thing as too much throttle.  I’m leaned over and rolling the throttle on a little too hard.  The rear lets go and drifts out to the right.  It’s at times like these that nanoseconds stretch into minutes where you can analyze things and think about whats going on and weigh the pros and cons of a particular action and……yeah right.  The reality of this situation is I started to chop the throttle in fear but then stopped myself and forced my hand to freeze in place (e.g. maintaining a steady if incrementally-lesser-than-before throttle position) while lifting up a bit off the seat and onto my legs.  When the rear grabbed and recovered, the seat didn’t throw me up into the air.  A trailing rider would have seen a much less dramatic event than it felt to me.  The second moment (Day 2) occurred after following another rider for almost 2 laps.  This would be our 2nd time through turn 2 and I remembered running up behind him in that turn the time before.  So I thought this time instead of back off, I’d pass on the outside.  We came into the turn, I drifted left a bit and started to accelerate around the outside.  It would have worked but the rear spun up and out to the left.  This time I didn’t freak, just waited for the slide to stop, but half a microsecond later when it had stopped and traction recovered, we were only side by side and again there is no trophy at the end of the day, only scarred plastics and metal and leather and a lighter wallet.  So I backed off and tucked in behind him.  This moment was kinda fun cause it felt like Aaron Yates or Miguel Duhamel, lighting up the rear and blazing toward the next corner, just not nearly as impressive. 

 

Later in the day Marc and Francisco started riding the B- group as well as the B+, getting more track time in and having a barrel of fun.  I chose not to do that as my concentration was starting to give way to being tired.  Steve was being selective in his riding as well, too being conscious of his mental and physical state but still having a load of fun. 

 

Unfortunately the ambulance did roll at least twice over the two days.  Once someone apparently highsided to the moon and back in T7 and was lying motionless on the track when we passed by.  It was unsettling rolling slowly by and trying to will the rider to at least shift a foot or move a hand.  I think the end result was he got his bell rung pretty hard but came around fairly quickly.  The other ambulance-rolling accident was really really really weird.  I never found out the bottom line but apparently someone’s fork tubes sheared off at the bottom on the approach to T7.  Literally.  I saw the bike later and the lower quarter of the forks (and brakes/wheel/etc) were completely gone.  This one had to have hurt as that approach to T7 is a high speed uphill straight.  I don’t –think- the rider suffered anything major though in the long run. 

 

I skipped the last couple of sessions of the day.  I took opportunity to go to the grandstand and watch instead.  It was a lot of fun watching A group riders pull wheelies onto the front straight, and to see some B+ and B- riders who chose to ride alone at their own pace while others circulated in groups either as friends or as people who just had similar paces.   Finally it was time to head home, this time using Steve and Francisco to help muscle the 675 up into the truck bed for the ride home (note – mototote-type carriers are much easier to load into).  Overall everything went really well, it was great to see familiar faces (Cra1g), re-acquaint with others (Steve), make new friends (Marc) and play around (Marc, Francisco).  Next episode – 4/16 at Thunderhill.

 

If you go to www.gotbluemilk.com (on site professional photographers), click on the motorcycle in the middle of the screen, select month of March, then look at dates 13th and  14th (one at a time).  Select the Y category pics for pics of Francisco (yellow R6, blue color scheme helmet), and then the T category for pics of Marc (red/black leathers, red Daytona 675) and myself (face should be recognizeable, black/red/purple leathers, charcoal bike, red/black helmet)

 

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:15 pm

(Archived – original posting 8/8/06)

“The Human Unicycle is my friend ”

In due time, the Subject header will make sense.  Until then….

August 7th and 8th I spent with www.keigwin.com doing one of their intermediate two-day schools, along with Aldo.  Boy did Irene make me pay for that one, but thats another story to be told……..ummm…never.  I feel like my riding has reached a plateau of sorts and so decided it was time for some more specific instruction.  This school took place at Thunderhill.  Timing and schedules between Aldo and I just didn’t work in the days leading up to the school so that Monday morning I ended up driving out to Dublin to pick Aldo and his bike up.  Problem.  Aldo lives in Danville.  ($(@#*$)(@(#@(  My error.  So I start the day with a big ol’ pre-dawn bay area loop, dragging a big white parachute (trailer) with my truck that thinks gas is still $0.98/gal.  Argh!!!

Loading Aldo up is uneventful, we grab some Threebucks (Starbucks overpriced coffee product, Aldo paid.  Thanks dude!) and hit the road.  We arrived with mostly-prepped bikes and just minutes before time for the class to gather in the classroom.  CRa1g is present so I’m happy that we’ll get to hang at least a little.  The class starts up and i’m happy that there are booklets with a specific agenda for each day and class topics.  Prior to this day I’d been worried that the weather this time of year at THill would send me straight to intensive care…or the morgue.  But just as strange as it was for Sears Point to be well over 100 degrees on our MotoGP track day, THill was strangely beautiful but “pretty warm” at worst.  I was SOOOOO happy.

The next two days held topics such as track breakdown (as in reviewing the track in sections, not as in how your bike can break down on the track and screw everyone else up), suspension setup and troubleshooting, body positioning, advanced braking, advanced passing, overcoming plateaus and more.  PLUS practice race starts and a real 3-lap race.  Ohhhhh boy.  There was an A group and a B group.  For each, 45 minutes would be alloted to classroom and 45 min to the track in rotation.  Reality – 30-35 min of each as you had to get into/out of gearing, onto/off of the track, and into/out of the classroom.  Aldo and I did group A on day one and I experienced again what I like about the A group – stability.  People there may be faster (maybe a LOT) but they are more skilled and stable.  No worries all day.

No time to go into the details of each topic and session, plus any minute now my machine will prob. blue screen and dump everything.  In fact lemme do a “save”….OK done.  But day one ended with everyone piling in various trucks for a trackwalk.  We went to turns 1, 5 and 9 and watched the Keigwin instructors come thru at speed after discussing specifics about the corner.  I’d done a trackwalk at Willow Springs once before and it was incredibly helpful to really seel things like elevation changes, camber, etc.  Things you don’t notice on a bike (or in a car I’d imagine) at speed.  But this was even better, having people demo for you.  One instructor kept coming into turn 1 seemingly 10-15 mph too fast, rear end chirping and jumping sideways like mad.  Everytime I swore the crash truck was going to get more business…..but it didn’t.  Turns out he was showboating – I overheard him the next day laughing with another instructor (who apparently wasn’t there on day one) that he was using the rear brake to intentionally get the rear squirrley.  Shame shame, scaring all of us like that.  😉  After the trackwalk, there was free pizza, beer/water/soda and a viewing of “The Doctor, the Tornado and the Kentucky Kid”.  I really want(ed) to see this but instead preferred to enjoy hanging with a table full of cool folks just chatting and such.

Aldo and I checked into the AmeriHost motel, paid $10 to watch M.I. III, drooled over his Powerbook and then fell asleep.  Next day we didn’t wake in time for more than gas and more threebucks and get to the track in time for school.  I’d paid Dave Moss to change the fluid in the 996’s forks after his lecturing on how rear shocks should be serviced every 2 years and fork oil changed once a year or every 3000 mi (my 996 has 9k+ miles).  Picked up the bike from him and immediately felt a positive difference.  In fact the rear then became a problem.  Dave helped me do the best I could with it for my level and the limited time available to us.  Overall the bike came thru once again with flying colors, being a joy to ride.  Aldo seemed to be getting on quite well with his 636, Dave having helped him out too.  In fact Dave’s advice and labor was free and unlimited the entire day 1 – Lance had compensated him for the day.  Day 2 students had to pay if they still wanted suspension work.

Strangely day 2 I seemed slower than day 1, lap timer usually doesn’t lie.  Though Aldo and I got more than a few completely missed laps.  Anyhow day 2 progressed well and as the race starts/race approached I got big butterflies reminiscent of Willow Springs.  Aldo didn’t initially want to do it, which would have been fine as this was completely optional.  But I wanted him to try it. Other instructors and even Dave Moss were telling students that if afraid then just grid up on the back and let everyone else bomb into turn 1 first.  Sounded like good advice.  Another friend, Mike on an Infostrada replica 748 was also leery of participating, but eventually decided to do it, so did Aldo.

Since grid positions were chosen by you yourself, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be up front, or start mid-pack.  But before that we got to watch the A group do their thing.  A group?  Yep, I’d chickened out and switched to the B group for day 2.  So as group A goes out and starts their warm-up lap, Aldo and Mike and and bunch of others and I who’d gathered at the fence to watch climbed over or walked around the fence and went right out to the front straight K wall under the starter tower to watch up close.  Quite impressive to be that close as 40+ bike (students with instructors sprinkled within for “monitoring thing”) blasted off the grid for both practice starts.  We’d been firmly instructed to treat this as a race only until turn 2, then raise a hand and slow down for a shortcut exit from turn 5 back to the front straight.  The 3 lap race would be the entire track though.  Everyone in A group behaved well.  Cool to watch some instructors power-wheelie’g down the front straight on the starts at arm’s distance.

A group starts their 3 lap race and a student CBR1000RR literally ROCKETS into a big lead.  A fairly hefty Samoan or Polynesian guy had a baby-blue custom painted Jordan replica GSXR1000 and matching Jumpman 23 black/blue leathers – quite the getup, but honestly I kept wondering “Squid?”.  Well before long he was in 3rd and impressive.  In the course of the 3 laps a 2nd student CBR1000RR chased down the leader and parked on his tail and then passed toward the end of the race and won by a small margin.  It was quite fun to watch.  Michael Jordan dude?  He ran off the track top of turn 5 for a mild fall but his race was over.

As the checkered flag flew, I suddenly realized we (B) were next and so took off back toward my bike.  I swore I was gonna pee my leathers I was so nervous.  How do you balance “I want to get with the program” with “this really means nothing and so don’t push any limits”?  I guess due to the proximity of our viewing spot to our pit spot and our pit spot to the track entrance, and needing only to grab helmet/earplugs/gloves, I found myself one of the 1st 2-3 bikes out into pit lane.  Ohhh boy, decision’s been made and the decision is I don’t want to be on row 1.  But I am.  However this is just the warm-up lap.  So when they release us I let a couple other bikes go first.

Man-o-man there is something to be said for the adrenaline associated with lining up on the grid on the front straight.  As we come around to line up for the 1st practice start my stomach is all over the place.  Are the tires in good shape?  I should have gassed up.  Uhh, what rpm did they recommend launching a twin at?  Am I going to fry my dry clutch doing this?  And myriad other thoughts/doubts/distractions.  1st practice start goes well, I gridded myself on row 2, a little front wheel air and into turn 1 3rd or 4th.  Come around for practice start 2 and same thing with a little better launch.  Then we line up for the race.  Oh boy, whats gonna happen?  Whats gonna happen is……Aldo is gonna line up on row 2 also, next to me.  YEAH DUDE, WAY TO GO!!!!!!  This should be fun.

At this point let me regress a little bit.  Prior to all this, in the “intro to racing” class session, they showed the following video clip to emphasize that even small bikes make power.  Watch clip now. http://www.stfunoob.com/movies/Racing%20Bike%20Wheelie%20Start.mpeg 

Can’t get enough of watching that one.  Also can’t manage to save it to my HD, but…..  Anyhow that was a Ninja 250, just for the record.  Now, back to real-time.  The starter shows us the 2-board (a 3″x8″ or so piece of white board with a “2” on it), engines all around me start revving, people are starting to hunch over the tank and settle their feet and make sure of things like helmet visor is closed, etc.  Starter rotates the board to show us a “1” and then engine noises increase.  At this point time seems to go slo-mo.  Starter turns the 1-board sideways (once that happens the green flag will be waved at any second), engine rev noises steady out to a solid roar.  I’m holding the clutch just on the edge of gripping, revs ~5.5k rpms.  GREEN FLAG!!!!   What tha…..?!?!?!?!……  Out of my left peripheral vision I see a front wheel and forks eye-level with me.  Gasp, that was Aldo, henceforth known as the Human Unicycle.  If a 10k rpm launch on a 600cc bike isnt gonna getcha, feathering out a little too much clutch IS gonna getcha.  Thankfully he had presence of mind to clutch-in so the front could come down and then proceed, unlike the video.  My compliments to the pilot on this one, great save Aldo.  And lots of other spectators and racers told him the same thing later.  I have to admit, I was laughing in my helmet.  Only because the turn 2 corner worker didn’t throw a yellow (or worse red) so I concluded Aldo wasn’t in danger.  Hence I had to laugh at the irony of it all.  First Aldo doesn’t want to even try this, but he goes ahead anyway, gets two clean practice starts, and then this.
Meanwhile I hit turn 1 in 2nd place with an orange 636 just ahead.  Wow, 2nd place.  I like this.  And the red mist decends.  I decided to maintain position and see what the 636 has.  For the first lap he didn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable emulating and I thought “unless he has some reserve, maybe I can put a little sumthin on him”.  Instead somebody put a little sumthin on me on lap two.  I recognize the leathers of the guy that passes me – heyyyyyy thats the same guy that won the A group race.  Whats he doing out here and why didn’t someone catch him?  He pulls a little gap on the 636 and me and that makes the decision for me.  Let’s get past the 636 and see what happens.  Turn 2 seemed like a possibility based on the previous times through there but better to try to use hp on the straight.  I strive for a better exit out of turn 15 and it works as I’m closing on his tail right away.  I fade right for a pass and the starter tower’s red light is on and red flag is waving.  Takes a second to register that this means something bad has happened and you are to SAFELY stop right away so the matter can be dealt with.  The leader, 636 and I pull over and an instructor joins us.  He says we were riding well.  Eventually starter tower waves us to backtrack up te front straight and exit the track.
The incident took place on the backside of turn 9, one of the worst places something could happen.  Apparently a cbr1000rr rider was cresting the turn and highsided himself down the backside.  His bike was in the middle of the track and he was off to the left of it.  Some say the cornerworker there was slow waving the red flag.  Whether true or not, rider after rider came over the hill only to plow into the carnage. 5-6 bikes and riders down, incl one instructor who was the first to plow into the fallen bike dead-center.  If the carnage didn’t get some, the spilled fork oil and synthetic engine oil got them.  Thankfully there was no serious injury.  Ambulance did roll for one person but they turned out battered a bit but released.  Broken bikes but no broken people.  And therein lies the joy of riding on a track.  All this might sound terrible (and it is), but all things are relative.  Imagine had this happened up on Grizzley Peak or Hwy 9 or Mines Rd or on the freeway or…..  At the track, everyone is of a similar mind when it comes to “why am I in this location at this time?”.  Everyone is properly geared and doing their thing in the proper environment.  There are to cell-phone weilding SUVs acting erraticly, no road rage, no people drifiting their car/truck/van/rv over the double-yellow into your lane, no one turning left in front of you because “I didn’t think he was that close”, etc.  Wheelies on the freeway (stunting), racing cars or other bikes on the freeway or streets, or trying to be Ricky Racer on some mountainous backroads plus riding in jeans and tennis shoes WILL turn out much much worse.  Sadly, thats what lots of motorcycle riders choose.  Showboat around in less-than-ideal gear and utilise the machine’s capacities in the wrong environment.
Anyhow, off the soapbox.  The track was cleaned up and the day continued.  At the end of the day we filled out reviews of the event and had a raffle for stuff, some cool (like free track days) and some “ehhh” (like tshirts).  I skipped the last track session cause I knew a long drive was ahead and I wanted to be home asap.  But even with packing everything away early, I still didn’t get home till after 9pm.  Worn out, but happy and with good suggestions and such to ponder and work on in the future.  Thanks to Aldo for chipping in on the eats, covering the room entirely, and being really cool about everything.
 
 

 

 

 

Motorcycling17 Mar 2008 11:13 pm

(Archived – original posting 11/27/06)

“Rain rain, go away, come again on a Zoom Zoom day

Rain was a concern this past Monday as Francisco, James (Andy) and I hoped for one last track day in ’06. And we got it……rain, not track time

You may also deduce (correctly) that I’m not the biggest Zoom Zoom fan, after butting heads with a couple of employee/donkeys there 2-3 years back. But at least I’ve relaxed my personal “I’ll never solicit them again” stance, in the interests of being the mature party (more truthfully, in the interests of more track time…if other friends are going too).

Francisco has his own truck now and that was good because Andy was putting in a rare track appearance (thanks to yours truly, paying back a big favor from months past) and needed to get his bikes to Sears Point. Yep, bikeS. We loaded his ZX7 in the trailer with the 675 and he rode his (wife’s) new Hyosung 250 to the track. Francisco trucked his recently-repaired, Sharkskin-shod beauty of an R6 in his T100.

Frankly I was hoping for Noah’s flood-level rain within an hour of being at the track but it was not to be, hence I was not to ride. Some of you know that I augured my cbr900 into the Sears Point T7/8/9 muddy hillside some years ago (probably due to overconfidence and a degree of “lemme put a lil gap on Dean”) thanks to rain. And more recently I threw my beloved RC51 down in T4 the millisecond a rain front assaulted the track. Well today I felt like there were 3 strikes available and I had all 3 against me – wet track, very cold, and brand new Pirellis. I figured I wouldn’t make it even to pit lane, let alone break the tires in and stay upright.

In the a.m. the sprinkles came and went, incl a massive sideways-sheeting downpour that lasted 5 min but thoroughly soaked everything. Francisco, James and I huddled inside the trailer while James spooks us with mention of lightning (nope, just the flimsy trailer roof rumbling under the power of the wind) while a large flat metal roof hovers 6” above our heads. <:-0 But the rain was not frequent or bad enough for Sears to have mercy and close up shop and offer a 50%, 25%, 10% or even 1% credit. And so bikes took their chances.

So I hear, from James’ eye-witness experience, the LEADER of a sighting lap went down on the 1st lap. No more than a couple hours later I saw someone else sitting in their pits digging mud out of every crevice on the right side of their bike with a screwdriver. And more. I don’t –think- the meat wagon ever had to roll though. As the day droned on, more dry than wet happened and more bikes took their chances. For a few moments I even considered going out if someone could confirm a dry line was there. Bottom line – nope. I’m not into omens and such but when your bike starts with no problem……and then suddenly won’t, you start to kinda look skyward. The 675 started at home…..and in the trailer (don’t remember why I fired it briefly in there) but when I got it outside and wanted to tech it wouldn’t do more than turn over 4 rotations and stop. Hmmm, some goofy British fuel pump that makes the whole bike act strange when low on fuel? Add fuel…..now it won’t turn over once. All fuses check good, no other obvious mechanical or physical problems. Oh boy, is this the dreaded Triumph reliability demon rearing it’s head? No dummy, it’s a dying battery from lack of (riding) use. Lance loaned us a portable jumper and she fired up immediately. But that event plus the 3 strikes meant I was gunshy now, and did no more than roll down to pit lane and tech the bike and ignore Cra1g

James did a few laps on his Hyosung and declared the track scary, Francisco and I spent the day wavering between “ride” and “don’t ride”, with the latter taking hold. It was fun to sit right at the wall on the front straight and watch the bold adventurers come off T11 and zoom by, wave and thumbs-up at James as he went by, etc. For a period of notably-wet-surface time, there were 4 bikes only on the track. Two were slow (incl the leader that had fallen earlier, kudos to you for getting right back on the horse) and two were stomach-churning fast on an amateur level. Literally, I got queasy every time particularly one of them came off T11, blasted by and went into wet T1 WAYYYYYY too fast; the other rider too though not quite as fast. By the end of that session I’d decided I had to go see up close who these two were. Both had #s on their Hondas and both also had……….rain tires. Ah ha!!!! We talked to one of the riders and he and the Dunlop guy (who’d also come over to check on him) emphasized how truly amazing rain tires are. He even let us feel on his……tires (so nasty-sounding). The tread was sticky like touching a surface that had syrup residue or something equally sticky on it; it was weird. And softttttttttt. Hmmm, rain tires….maybe sometime in the future we’ll (notice how I throw y’all in there with me) have to try them.

Eventually we packed the bikes back up around 1:30-ish. Francisco went home, James and I went to Denny’s, then had the trailer latches replaced (from the theft event) and then home.

About Cra1g; dude, I’M SOOOOO SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would never knowingly brush you off. Lance announced you among others as present in the meeting, but I didn’t see you in his crew. It wasn’t until much later that I made my way down to pit lane for a tech. If that’s when you called out to me, I kid you not that I heard nothing. I was distracted, hoping the battery had enough juice to start the bike so I didn’t have to push it back. Later when Francisco and I came down to watch the front straight, he said you were down at the finish line area. Again I got distracted by the two rain tire riders and ran off to go pay homage to their skills. So sorry my friend, just some old age and dense brain matter here.

About the 675, yes a graphite one. Bought used from a guy in Martinez who put a little over a thousand miles on and decided he wanted a speed triple instead to go with his Mille and FZ1. I sold the ZX10R and this replaced it. It’s an interesting bike. I didn’t think anything could get more narrow than a Duc superbike, this one did. Also at certain rpm the 3-cylinder configuration takes on interesting engine notes. Not bad, just…….different. Overall it’s a very easy-to-ride bike, more low torque than an inline-4 600, but still willing to spool way up high like an inline 4 vs. pooting out at high rpm. Bottom line – I like it!! But most of you know how I am with bikes. You’d swear I thought they were underwear. As a matter of fact, whats on the chopping block now?  J

Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:11 pm

(Archived – original posting 5/11/06)

It has been quite a treat to have so many trackdays in just a couple of months, and what better place than Sears Point.   This time we managed a total of 3 in our little group – Francisco, myself and Todd Bernsdorf.

I decided to try something different this time around and have everything prepped and packed no later than the day before…..but I was nerve-racked as a result.  I just knew someone would steal everything the night before.  So I put an Alpha Lock on one of the trailer wheels, a lock on the trailer ball section locking it to the truck, locking tow hitch pin, disc locks on both of the bike’s wheels, padlocks on all the doors, and the alarm on the truck.  Figured I’d make them work for it if they really wanted it.   But they didn’t (this time).

Packing ahead worked great.  I put some brand new Metzeler Racetec tires on, soft in the rear and super soft front.  Had everything loaded up so all I had to do Thursday morning was get dressed and walk out to the truck.  It was so nice cause we got there plenty early.  That’s a first for me.  We didn’t know what to do but stand around and watch people arrive.  About the time we were taking the bikes thru tech I ran into Craig.  He was highly instrumental in helping me get out of the B- group (only one available when I signed up) and into B+ (where Todd and Francisco were).  To this very moment I’m still very grateful, we all got to ride “together” as a result

First time out – I was very leery of the brand new tires and knew I had to break them in.  But this was ridiculous.  The Duc was wobbling and pogo’g everywhere, I knew it wasn’t just the tires.  So I came in the very first lap.  It wasn’t meant to be anyway – 1) I needed gas as the light was on but they’d already called our session ready, 2) I knew my tire pressure was too low, 3) something was wrong.  So I hit the Dunlop tent for some air (they were very polite to my Metzelers), hit the gas station, and then went to see Catalyst for some suspension help.  They made a lot of adjustment and noted that the front end was way off (no surprise, I’d never tried to make an adjustment since I got the bike).  By then the session was over and Todd and Francisco came back.  We set up our tents and got comfortable as the day was beee—uuuu—tiful but the heat was coming.  Oh, and the allergies were full blast.

Next session – WOW!!!  Brand new bike.  Metzeler tech support gave me target air pressures to shoot for, Catalyst’s adjustments made the bike incredible.  A couple of “new tires” laps and I couldn’t help but go for it.  We had a great session.  I just can’t comment how much better the 996 felt over the last trackday.  I don’t know if it was the race D.O.T. tires vs street tires, or Catalyst’s adjustments.   I think it is both

3rd session out and we had an “incident”.  I’m not very good at passing.  Part of it is fear from not knowing the person ahead of me (and so I tend to watch them for a few turns to see any erratic tendencies) and part is that I try to take Lance’s 6’ separation rule for passing very serious whereas others don’t seem to care.  Anyhow 3rd or 4th lap in, I was this time carving thru the group.  I came upon a group of three.  I passed one guy and figured “1 down, 2 to go.”  We were going into T3 and before I could get them, the 1st rider checked up for some reason.  Spooked himself, made a mistake, who knows but he slowed up a little quite suddenly.  Rider #2 had to stand it up as a result, and I had to do that too.  Well according to Todd, the guy I’d just passed apparently didn’t want to settle.  Maybe he was trying to re-pass or whatever, but he didn’t check himself as well as we in front of him did and BAM-mechanical sound-tire chirp… I feel a solid impact to my left rear side, knocked my foot off the peg.  My first thought was “no pain” and a tenth of a millisecond later “stay on the track, stay on the track”.  Being that I was trying to survive a complicated turn (3) I only managed a flash of a glance back……and saw a bike sliding along behind me.

I went to put my foot back on the peg and instead hit the ground.  “Where is my peg?”  Part of the fallen rider’s impact was his front tire on my footpeg and the rotation of the tire bent the footpeg straight down.  I threw my hand up and limped the rest of the way around and went back to the pits

In the pits I surveyed the damage – toasted footpeg, cracked rear fairing, very very tiny scratch on swingarm.  Funny thing is the bike felt sooooo good and the tires had been working sooooo well and I didn’t fall so I was actually happy.  I sat down and thought “I’m truly happy, even if I don’t ride the rest of the day”.  Francisco and Todd and I talked about it all after they got back in, Todd was the one who said he thought it looked like the guy I passed “wanted to play”.  Which is cool.  Unfortunately it was his turn to be the statue and not the pidgeon, and I felt bad for him.  I went to Lance later and told him that I’d been hit by another rider, it was a mistake but if the guy came to speak about it, I was the one he hit.  Lance was cool, as I expected.  Hey, it’s part of the game, gotta pay to play.  All things considered, track riding is still light-years ahead of riding on the street

I went down to the grandstands to just kinda hang out and watch the purrty bikes go zooommmmm, and ended up talking with Craig.  Told him what happened and he arranged for a PA announcement to be made about the part I needed.  No luck there but later in the day Craig introduced me to a student of his that also rides a Duc and this fine gentleman, Steve, pulled a footpeg and a whole left rearset out of thin air for me, no questions asked.  End result, I only missed 1.5 sessions total.  The rest of the day was fantastic.  Todd and I had a blast – me chasing him, him chasing me.  We managed to get down to a best time of 1:53.8x right at the end of my day.  I was ecstatic as last time out my best time was 2:00 or 2:01 (I forget).

What else made the day so great?  All the celebrity presence in the A group (getting practice in for AMA next weekend I presume, woohoo, can’t wait).  Not only Doug Chandler, but Larry Pegram on his Honda, Tony Miering on a (literally) screaming Suzuki, Andy Carman (very, very fast AFM’er) and more.  The A group was stupendous to watch.  And Doug was cream of the crop out there on his new ZX10R.  I don’t know if he was using a Muzzy engine or stock or 2 rabid hamsters or…. but he would move thru the group like a shark thru water.  But the remainder of the group (except for one guy who was just minding his own business and toodling along) was still stoooopid fast too

I skipped the last session as the one before I’d felt too many signs of fatigue and reminded myself “ignore these signs…and disaster will surely follow”.  Packed up most of the stuff, helped Todd get packed up and we left for home.  All in all it was a great day and I’m so ready for more.

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