Archive for June, 2009

June 4, 2009

This is my writeup of my first track day, which came after Penguin, and my first 2 race weekends, as it so happened. It was awesome! Even though I’ve raced a couple weekends I’d never done a TD, so I was in the “intro to TD’s” package. Came with a cool BM shirt and hat, coffee, muffins, etc. Also included was loading and unloading your bike. I helped, but the BM staff certainly made it a lot easier.

Started out in the Nov group, but the pace ended up being a bit slow so I bumped up to intermediate. Got in plenty of track time, and had some really good help from some of the control riders. I’ve gotta throw out a special thanks to Bergs & A13X (Alex Dunstan) for the help on the track, showing me their lines, etc. I made some serious progress in the bowl (thanks Alex!) and through T12, which has been a serious weak spot for me. Exiting that chicane went from a train wreck to dragging my knee, and as a result I’m able to use most of 5th gear on the straight. Got to work on some passing, which I really needed work on. I didn’t have a timer, but I feel like I definitely got faster, which was my goal.

Scottie Ducati was the man with the suspension know-how, and he worked some serious magic on my bike. I’d been going through 3 dragging my toe slider and knee, with the back end of the bike loose. This was causing me to have to modulate the rear with the throttle, so I wasn’t going as fast as I could have been. Scottie put an insane amount of change into my shock (6 clicks & 4 clicks, I forget which was rebound and which was compression) and gave me some pointers on what to tear apart and grease in the future. After he worked his magic the bike was planted through 3 (when the tires were warm, anyway, more on that later), letting me stay on the throttle harder through the turn. I feel like I’m just as far off the bike and I’m actually going faster, but I’m no longer dragging anything, I guess the bike is sitting a touch higher now? Anyway, it feels great and is faster, I’m thrilled.

Sometime after lunch I went out and found myself on a full grid. Excited about the chance to work on some more passing, I lined up at the back of the longest line. Going through the chicanes I picked my first target, and the likely second. I decided to take the first going through 3/4. He pulled away a bit on the straight into 3, but braked a bit early and not as hard as me, so I had no problem coming around him on the outside as he turned in. I turned in outside him, came off the brakes, got into the throttle, hit the transition and found myself sliding down the track on my back. I remembered my tires were still cold before I even stopped sliding, which was still a couple seconds too late. Damnit! Patted the ground to see if I was still moving, turns out I was. Whoops. I think that’s what turned my slide into a roll, maybe it was turning my head to see if I was about to get run over since I thought I was done sliding and wanted to see if it was OK to get up, but it was still a hell of a lot better than if I tried to get up. I’m officially a fan of the “pat the ground to make sure you’re done moving before you try to get up” rule. Finally came to a stop, looked around, realized I was not about to get run over, threw a thumbs up and got up to go after my bike, which was in the tires. Bergs was already in the beach on his way to help me (thanks Bergs!). I couldn’t lift the bike alone, but with the help of Bergs (after he made sure I was OK, something he made damn sure of) we got it up and through the 3/10 split. It all happened fast enough that they were able to yellow flag the session rather than red flag it, which was cool. I didn’t want things red-flagged on account of my own stupidity. I assured a couple other people, including CEO and Bergs again, that I was indeed OK. My bike had a broken brake lever, and there were concerns of it leaking fluid, so CEO took it back in and had me bring his bike back in. That few seconds reminded me of how much I love the R6, and clinched my desire for GP shift on my Ex. Got back into the pits, got a new brake lever, fixed my throttle which was no longer snapping back, and was re-teched in no time at all. Didn’t even miss a session.

(This section added later: There’s no doubt cold tires contributed to this crash. I did the same thing at the same pace if not faster later in the day on warm tires and it stuck. That said, I’m sure the fast guys could have done what I did on cold tires, faster, with one hand, and made it stick where I ended up in the tire wall. I messed up somewhere. Most likely culprit is too much bar input, and not holding on tight enough with my legs.)

My next session I took it easy for 3 or 4 laps, wanting to be damn sure I had some heat in the tires. I wasn’t willing to make the same mistake twice in a row, and I’m getting used to riding with warmers. After that I got myself back up to pace.

Last session out I was back on pace, and only taking 2 laps to warm the tires before getting back to pace. I didn’t want to let my tire heat concerns mean I was riding easy for the first 3 or 4 laps in the future, so I got after it right after lap 2. In retrospect I don’t think I’ll ride without warmers again, so it was somewhat pointless, but I got my confidence back up and got back to pace, which was all I was trying to do at that point.

I couldn’t thank everyone if I tried, too many people helped make this a great day. All the Boston Moto crew, you created an awesome day. I heard from some of the other intro guys that just having you load the bike at the end of the day for them was worth the extra $ for the intro program. Everyone that worked with me to help me find some more fast, thanks.

Bergs, you were a huge help. Your lines were cool, your critique in the pits gave me good stuff to work on, and following you was a blast. Following you is what let me get some decent drive out of 12 and get my knee down in there. Thanks again for the help with that tramper.

Alex, you too man. Love your line through 6. Wish I’d spent more time working with you, I’d have loved to have heard what else you had to say about my riding/lines/etc after you followed me for those three laps before coming around me into the chicane. I know you had to go back out, no big deal, but I was getting a lot out of what you were telling me. I eased up in 9 to work on 10 like you suggested, and that worked. I think I’ve got the seat completely unweighted through there like I do the other turns now, due in part to thinking about it and in part to not blowing my approach by working too hard on 9.

Chris, you were really helpful. Wish I’d gotten to ride with you more. Just getting on your R6 made me miss mine, and it clinched the deal – I need to GP shift that EX. Fortunately, from what I hear, it’s just a matter of swapping a shifter.

Scottie, you made me faster through T3 without even seeing me ride, rock on man. That shock makes it feel like a different bike. It sort of feels slower because I’m not dragging a knee through there anymore, but I know it’s faster, I’m coming in at the same speed and getting on the throttle harder.

Kitt, thanks for the help with everything, including the ride, even though I ended up working it out from NH. Glad I was able to save you the detour of getting off the highway, you had a long drive in front of you.

Arcy, good to see you again. I’m thinking it might be a good thing you hit the head when you did.

Also gotta say thanks to S&C, even though I don’t think Miles posted here. If he didn’t have that lever my day would have ended early.

Sucks I need to replace the helmet, I don’t feel like I hit it hard enough to scrap it, but it’s got scrapes that I don’t think will get through LRRS tech. So, now it’s time to get another helmet, get back out there for the classic to see how all the stuff I learned translates into racing.

Thanks again guys. I’d recommend this day to anyone, and in fact plan on doing so. You all kicked ass yesterday.

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#319 LRRS Weekend 3 Report (Long)

June 1, 2009

Going into this weekend, there was a lot of talk about the temporary setup for T1. Three chicanes, back to back, on the apron to the Nascar oval. Seems a lot of people were really put off by this, some even didn’t race as a result. Personally, I wanted to race, and I was racing whatever they gave us.

Arrived Friday night. Movie night in my garage, some of the guys had a projector hooked up to a laptop. Cool setup. I got there fairly late and still had to do a clutch, so movie’s were not on the top of my priority list. Wrapped the clutch up in the wee hours of the morning, thanks in a big part to the help of my garage mates, and Dana, the EX wrenching Guru.

Sat Practice #1: Felt slow and out of shape. Was trying to remember the track and get back in the flow of things. Lap 1 just felt off. Had to figure out the way through the new chicane, try to remember the layout of the rest of the track, etc. Lap 2 felt better, still not great. Red flag after Lap 2, and we’re back in the garages. Went to check my times, no times. Bring transponder to media center, turns out they lost about 40 riders. They got my info and assured me it’d be good to go for 2nd practice, and more importantly the race. A lot of people up there don’t even check practice times, this makes me wonder if they check that something is up just to be sure their transponder is working. It’d suck to find out after your race.

Sat Practice #2: Everything felt much better, right from my out lap. I’m remembering where the track goes, and I’m no longer worried about getting lost in T1a-T1j. Coming through the bowl in T6 my knee touched down, surprised the hell out of me! I didn’t think I was leaning that far, so when I felt it I pulled my knee up out of reaction. Once it processed I motored up the hill with a smile. Next lap through I expected it, and kept it down a bit more. This was a nice confidence boost. Went to check the times after, and surprise surprise, I’m running faster than everyone else that I know of that’s in my class. I’ve only got a half second or so on Harrison, but last weekend he wasn’t even on my radar, he was ten and a half seconds/lap faster than me.

Sat Race #8 Nov PTwins: Everything felt good right from the flag. Got sort of a shitty start, which is normal for me, but passed a few people back going into 1 before the chicanes. Running in 3rd place with Harrison and another bike, which turned out to be Steve Hunt, in front of me. Harrison crashed out in T3 on Lap 2, which sucked. I pulled in second place and stayed there. Steve Hunt checked out on me in a serious way, he wasn’t even in my sights for me to try to chase or use as a carrot. Turns out he was ~5 seconds/lap faster than me, and finished the race in about a minute 3 seconds more than me, with an entire extra lap throw in. My best lap, a 1:40.526, was faster than my fastest race lap last weekend on the old setup. And I get a trophy. Awesome.

Sun Practice #1: Felt pretty good. Actually got all 5 laps in on practice for the first time this weekend. Was carrying much more speed through T3. On my second or third lap I dragged my boot through there. Since my knee wasn’t dragging I figured my position must have been off, so I made an effort to make sure I was on the forward part of the ball of my foot on the peg, as well as making sure it was right up against the engine case. Touched knee and boot that time, but it felt a lot better than just having my boot on the ground. Continued to drag boot & knee, both lightly and sporadically, through T3 for the rest of practice. Still getting knee down in T6.

Sun Practice #2: Felt good. Was getting a much better drive from T6-T9 than I ever did before. Still overbraking a bit for T1 & T9. T1 is hard because I don’t have any reference points. T9 is hard because I’m getting different speed drives into it. Focused on both, might have made some progress but nothing to write home about.

Sunday Race #1 Nov GTL: Fun race. I went into this with my only goal being stay on my line, be predictable and get track time. On the track with guys like CEO, I know I’m getting lapped, and with a serious speed differential. I started in position 8A, the very last row, all by myself. Got some people passed into T1, but not many. Ended up behind a couple bikes that were parked through the chicanes. Decided right then that I was going to need to get around them. They could both pull me on motor on the straights, but were slowing up early for the turns. I tried getting around the inside, but couldn’t get quite far enough and ended up needing to roll off so I didn’t get pinched between them & the apex. Tried going around the outside, but they’d motor away once we got toward the end of the turn and they got back on the gas. I was frustrated, and thinking I really needed to learn how to pass. I was also thinking there was no way I wanted go through the chicanes behind both of these bikes again. So… I’ll late brake the one closer to me into 1. Coming up the straight he’s pulling away from me, and I’m thinking “shit, I’m going to have to make up more than I wanted to, but it won’t be more than I can”. They brake, I’m to the outside waiting for it. They stack up pretty tight to each other and now passing one is not an option, I have to pass both of them. Got in front of them both, but I’m a bit too hot into the first chicane. Brake harder, start my turn while still on the brake pretty hard, and roll through the first chicane, a touch slower than I’d have liked due to losing my line with the late braking and the passes, but it works. I’m back in my line by the 2nd chicane and I’m out from there. I was told from people watching that I was around start/finish on the next lap when they came out of 12, so I made the right choice going around them. Sweet. After that the only bikes left in front of me in my class were a couple dirt bikes and one fast SV, and I didn’t have a chance in hell with any of them. I chased faster bikes when they lapped me for as long as I could and just did my thing. (Speaking of trying to chase faster bikes, CEO is damn fast!). Clicked off a couple low 1:39’s in that race, which is 2 seconds faster than my fastest race time last weekend, and the fastest I’ve ever gone around the track, old layout or new, practice or racing. Talked with CEO after the race, and he had some really good input for me from what he saw of me in that race. Apparently I look pretty good through 3, am getting off the bike and looking WAY over my shoulder (something he and I had discussed in the past). I’m making more than 1 input through T6, which I knew, I was having trouble finding the right spot to tip in this weekend in there once in a while. Oh well, I’ll get it.

Overall, an awesome weekend. Second time up, second place trophy, made some real progress on my riding, form and speed, and can’t wait to do it all again.

Huge thanks to 6 for getting me up there, Kurlon for the help with the trailer and Oreo for hooking me up with the ride home and the bench racing coaching session that was part of the ride.

Here are the only pics I’ve got for now, more to come in the next couple/few days.