(link to short version coming soon)
Special Thanks to Pacific Track Time for lending us their canopy again for this weekend! East Bay Motorsports for providing cold water for everyone. And Happy Mother’s Day to the Mom’s who were at the track this weekend!
The weekend started off with a bit of chaos. I painted some brand new plastics for Digby the week prior, and we found out last minute as he tried to mount them on the bike that they were for the wrong year GSX-R 600.
Friday morning, before we left for the races Digby came over to my house and we did a quick repair job to his crashed plastics. We vinyl wrapped the tail and the upper and had to sand, fiberglass and paint the belly-pan. By the time everything was loaded and the paint was sprayed, we were already behind schedule by a few hours. We finally got everything loaded and got a chance to breathe as we drove up to Thunder Hill. Meanwhile, Digby’s belly-pan was in the back of the truck drying.
Setup was simple, and with every race our pit setup improves. The bikes took a small amount of time to prep at the track, which is a huge improvement over last year. Last season I think we all thought that the racetrack was actually a garage and spent a significant amount of time working on the bikes.
Saturday practice was going pretty well for Digby and Sergio. Sergio was getting close to the pace he finished last season at, while Digby was working out bugs in the bike and getting comfortable again. I was still struggling to get the suspension set up for the spec Dunlop’s from the week prior. My rear tire was tearing still, and not getting much better. We spent Saturday practice working on the old tire until after lunch when we put on a new harder compound rear tire. I got about 3 laps on the new tire and so far, no tearing—but it’s hard to test a tire when you’re breaking it in and going slow.
Saturday afternoon was the first Clubman race of the year, and both Sergio and Digby were racing Clubman Middleweight, and they were both gridded on the front row. When the green flag dropped they got on the gas hard. Coming out of turn 1, they were still up front, but the grid was aggressive and they would have to fight hard to hold their positions. This race was an eye opener for them both, Sergio had just changed his gearing before the race, and it didn’t work out for the better. In addition to the sprocket problem, his bike was having electrical issues and the power wasn’t consistent. He was slowly dropping from third, losing positions badly. Digby had to fight hard after losing positions on the first lap. Not a great race, but they both finished keeping the bike upright.
Sunday was a MUCH better day; it didn’t quite start out that way for Sergio, though.
Sunday morning practice was short, but I got another lap in to break the tires in for my races. I wasn’t racing until later in the day, so I had a good chance to rest and help out the team. Sergio was first up in the morning with race #1. Gridded on the front row, as he was for all of his races, he had a good opportunity for a great finish. When the green flag dropped, I saw him do a nice big wheelie, but being the wheelie hooligan that he is, he comfortably rode it out without chopping the throttle, allowing him to maintain his position through turn 1.
Unfortunately, a few laps into the race, he didn’t come around to where we were watching. There was no announcement for a down rider so we went back to the pits to find he had pulled off…but why? Because his exhaust fell off! Seriously, the exhaust muffler separated from the mid pipe. Luckily it was still hanging on to the bike and resting in the belly-pan.
The second race for the guys had Sergio again pulling off, this time due to electrical issues. He got back out in the race, but the bike still wasn’t feeling right and this didn’t lead to a good finish. Digby had a good warm-up race and he was getting ready to start fighting for a good finish.
Sergio Finally got a good race without any mechanical issues (other than having to ride without a quick shifter). He took a good start and ended up finished the Nv. Formula I race with a third place trophy! Congrats. Digby also had another good race, and spent the final laps having to fend off the GSX-R 750 of David La Bree. He held him off to the Line and Digby on his GSX-R 600, took 6th by just half a bike length over La Bree.
Finally it was my turn to race, I didn’t have any time since morning practice to test out the last minute suspension changes we made, so the 750 production race was a bit of a set-up race for us. I was gridded 11th and when the green flag dropped, I had a nice couple of wheelies which let a number of people go by. It took a couple of laps to work past the group in front of me, and by the time I got by, the leading group had taken off and I had a lonely race and finished in 8th. Not a bad result for the first race of the year, but it could have been better.
Similarly, in the next race of the day (600 production), my second and Digby’s third, I was gridded 18th and Digby was gridded 8th (I believe). I had a much better start, this time with no wheelies and I was moving forward in the pack through turn 1 and turn 2. I had to continue making passes to get towards the front and I was trying hard not to waste time. But just like 750 production race just before, I found myself in a lonely open space after making a mistake in turn 14 and opening the gap on the group in front of me. I finished 10th. Digs was moving up and had an exciting race (but I didn’t get to see it, sorry) finishing 5th in the Nv. 600 production class.
All in all it was a successful season opener and we all made progress on our bike setup’s and should be better prepared for the next round at Thunder Hill on June 2-3. Thank you again to our pit crew, BRG racing and Gerry Piazza from GP Frame and wheel for lending a hand in the pits. Thank you to all of our sponsors who help us to keep racing and keep getting faster!
We had another great day testing at Thunderhill Raceway; this time with all three riders.
I can’t thank everyone enough for the support and help, especially Kc Brg from BRG Racing for taking the time to help me at the track and give me a ride. Also I’d like to give a huge thanks to Freddy from BRG Racing / Motorcycle for making the trip up to help with all of the pit stuff, lap time recording and all the little things that really make a huge difference. Having you guys with me at the track the last two days of testing made me feel like a factory rider.
Also I’m really glad that my team mates, Sergio and Digby, finally came out of hibernation with their bikes rebuilt from last Octobers get offs and got a chance to shake things down and work on getting things right.
Thanks you Rita for helping with water and getting the rear stand when I came in. I’ve done a lot of track days by myself and having someone to just get the rear stand and pull off warmers is great. I’ll never take anyone who does this for granted, and neither should anyone else.
Can’t wait to get back out at Thunder Hill next Monday with Pacific Track Time
AFM Round 7 Report
AFM round 7 at Thunder Hill Raceway l wasn’t looking too good for me in the week prior. I got sick the Sunday before and wasn’t getting better. Since this round was a makeup round from round 4 being cancelled due to rain, it was scheduled very close to round 6 (two weeks after) and my wallet hadn’t had time to recover properly.
As much as I really should have skipped this round due to my finances and my health, Laura encouraged me to go and at least race in Clubman Middleweight to keep my points in the championship. My parents also wanted to go watch me race, so they helped out and encouraged me to race.
By Friday, I still felt awful on the drive up and had little motivation. We got to the track at around 11pm and set up camp. Even though I got a decent amount of sleep Friday night, Saturday morning I wasn’t feeling any better. The hardest part of the morning was walking the bike to tech inspection and back. The walk felt like a hike up Mt. Everest; when I got back I was exhausted with no energy left to ride.
Somehow I managed to make the practice sessions, but now my other problem was surfacing again. My Dunlop’s were taking some bad wear and shredding faster than cheese on at Taco Bell. Both tires were sliding and even with all the help from Dave, Jeff, and Nikki at Catalyst Reaction, the tire wasn’t going to get any better. The GP-A’s just aren’t meant for Thunder Hill. I wasn’t alone; Digby was also having a nightmare of a time with a shredding Dunlop.
I had been considering a tire brand change since the beginning of the season, but now it was time to make a decision. I talked to a lot of people about both the Pirelli’s and the Bridgestone’s. Both tires got great reviews, but ultimately I talked to Jeff at Viets Performance who was extremely helpful in getting me, and the rest of the team set up on Bridgestone’s. If you haven’t read it already, Dave Moss from Catalyst Reaction has a great in depth review on the new Bridgestone R10’s which helped in making the decision to go with Bridgestone.
After we made the switch to Bridgestone, there wasn’t much practice time left. I had one practice session to get my tires scrubbed in, and suspension dialed in. With no suspension change, the bike didn’t want to hold a line or turn in. After that session Jeff at CRST made a quick adjustment to the preload and it was an all or nothing adjustment with no more practice, but just the clubman race ahead.
On the warm-up lap of my first race, I tried to get a feel for how the bike was handling and it seemed to ride better, but the warm up isn’t a good indicator for how the bike will handle at race pace. I gridded up 7th (since Sergio had to miss this round) and waited for the green flag! I got a great launch, but as always I let my politeness take over when we got to turn one and let a few gents by. I was now in 5th. By the second lap the leading three riders were gone and no longer in sight, but 4th place still was.
I worked as hard as I could and by the 3rd lap, I was starting to adapt to the suspension settings and the new tires and slowly started putting in faster laps. With a few peeks from riders behind me on trying to take my 5th position, I put my stuffy head down and tried to concentrate. By the time the white flag came out, 4th place was within my grasps! I had planned in my head to catch him on the exit of 6, but surprisingly I was on his rear tire by turn 3 and decided to go for a tight inside pass in turn 5.
Again, my politeness and inexperience took over as I made the pass but decided that he might not have seen me and I got on the breaks hard. So hard the rear wheel lifted off the ground and I no longer could make the turn. My only option was to ride into the dirt. If only I could have kept the bike up in the dirt, I may have been able to salvage a top 10 finish, but down I went into dirt and it was a DNF for me. I had done exactly what Sergio did to me in the last race, but wasn’t able to make it back on the track like he did.
I’m sure you could imagine my disappointment. The whole reason I showed up sick was to keep points in the clubman series, and there I went getting absolutely none! And to top it off, when I rode the bike in on the cool down lap, I saw George, the race leader, down in turn 11. That meant that had I made that pass stick, I would have earned my first podium. But wait, there’s more! My exhausted mind forgot to safety wire the brake caliper bolts when I switch my tires; of course you know this means, $25 fine when I pulled in off the track.
The bike and I were uninjured and all I needed to do was make the dreaded walk back down to tech on Sunday morning to get my bike re-inspected. With all the bad news going on with myself, Digby pulled his first top 10, with a 7th place finish! The good news was starting to roll in. I put the clubman race behind me and focused on having a good time hanging out at the track and getting ready for the 750 superbike race the next day.
Sunday morning, I’m still only at 70% health, but I’m determined to finish the 750 superbike race and redeem myself for Saturdays mess. Sunday morning practice was a blur, I put down some decent times and the tires were still feeling good. I checked the grids and I was positioned 15th, my highest in the 750 SB class. I tried to focus only on finishing my race and not worrying about positions.
As the green flag flew out, I did too. I got a great launch off the line and was heading to have a great drive into turn 1 when the guy in front of me had a couple wheelie moments causing me to actually use the brakes. I got around Mr. Wheelie and just focused on getting through turn 1 without letting anyone else get passed me.
I had fun the first half of the race, I had no clue what position I was in, but I knew I was putting down some decent lap times since no one behind me was pressuring me. I was keeping up with my friend Alex who I was used to following around the track at track days. We were in a group of 4 riders and we both got through them and started to take off. At this point my adrenaline was pumping and my legs started to get shaky.
After this point it was just me chasing Alex, I knew he was faster than me, but I just told myself to follow him like we were at a trackday. My mind was now clear and my legs stopped shaking. After about a lap, I realized I was close enough to try to go for a pass. As we came out of turn 8, I had the drive and made a move on the brakes in turn 9. I felt as though I closed the door on him a little, and my drive out was bad, but I kept pushing forward knowing he would probably try to make a move.
As I came down the front straight, I’m not sure who it was, but I got the signal that I had plenty of space before the guy behind me. I was confused, since I didn’t know I would be getting pit signals and I thought Alex would be right on my tail. I decided to keep pushing forward just to make sure, when I came around of the last lap, I got the same signal. I looked behind me, and sure enough, there was no one in sight. GREAT! All I had to do was make a smooth lap to finish the race and I would accomplish my goal. I had one rider in front of me, and decided I was way too far back to catch them, but I decided to try anyways. I put down my fastest lap on the last lap and crossed the line in 13th.
What a better way to show support and thanks to my friends at Racer13 than to make my best finish in the expert class at 13th.
Because I was sick, that was my only race for Sunday and I started to pack things up. Digby still had a couple races left, and I stayed to watch Formula 1. We’ll have to try and get a video up, but Digby once again had a great battle the entire race with his number 1 rival, number 935 Keith Stie. Every lap they would come around wheel to wheel, at the end of the race, Digby made the pass and held the lead over Keith until the end. Congrats!
I’d like to give a huge THANK YOU to Laura for getting me to the races this time, my parents for their support and coming out to watch, my team for helping me out and making the weekend fun, all my sponsors who helped make this weekend count, my friends for your help and support, and especially Jeff at Viets Performance for getting me on some tires that work! I can’t forget to thank everyone who reads this lengthy report, thank you for your time