Ups and Downs...
This month's preparations were more frantic than I like. I lagged getting Zina's RS back together and finished that up Tuesday around 3. AM. That was after working until 3 the two nights prior. We stepped up our committment to racing and got an enclosed trailer. It's pretty nice... $3.5k from AzTex trailers. Wednesday and Thursday were spent completing the outfitting of that with L Track goodies. Had the trailer loaded Thursday night.
Friday We skipped FastTrack Friday as we're hitting the Streets of Willow for a track day on Monday. Got on the road with the trailer around noon and got to the track at 4. That seems to have added an hour to the trip, but we made a real long fuel stop, so 1/2 hour extra is more like it. Fuel consumption went from like 17 to 10 mpg. We got in and unloaded things so we could take some pictures of the MH with Zina on it in a Ducati shirt for her boss. We saw a trailer in our usual area with a note on it... Yup, Eric and Crystal made it out from Montana! Threw everything back in the trailer and went for a track walk with with soon to be new racer Joe Pitz and his squeeze Leena. Then we left for eats at the Golden Cantina with them.
Saturday A side benefit of the trailer is that we could take our doggies. We left them in the van with a baby monitor while we got the motel room and they were great all night. We got up earlier than usual, 5:45 or so, and after getting ice and water, pulled into the track around 7 and made the first practice rotation. Our Bud, Scott Cleff, picked up an SV to race, so he had Mel bring down the EX that Scott was trying to sell. He put my numbers on it and wanted me to ride it. So I get it out in the third session... it was different enough from the RS that I didn't want to race it in Sunday's 550 SBK or ride it more in practice.
I got back on the RS and started making some time. I did a couple :35s and 6s, so that's an improvement on last month's times on the Bridgestones. This month, I'm running the Pirellis that I had mounted up for August. Saturday was a good day - it was warm, but not overly so and seemed to pass quickly. Eric and Crystal brought a Metric Ton of people out with them. MASSIVE!!! Oh, and we had the world's most unusual pit bike parked in front of our pit... the Ducati mh900e. Many, many people said "I've never seen one before." It was pretty cool to share it with folks. =)
We're bummed that the Saturday Night Solo Series has concluded. It's our favorite event, as the 20 lap race really is a neat thing. In completing only 3 races, I managed to get 6th in the series. I was tied with Tim Knutson in points for 5th, but he won the tie breaker with his one win. Scott Cleff dominated the series and won the championship.
Saturday night, we got started on our track walk late, so we walked along the crash truck roads from turn 3 to turn 9 and hooked up with Scott Cleff and Crew. The "crew" would be Kevin Jump, Scott's bud from San Jose (Oscar?), Marcos, and still healing RS250 rider Ryan. Get well soon and get out of novice, Ryan, we need more RS racers!! Scott was having one of his usual "moments" out there in 9, so we went and got the van and waited until the troops mustered and we left for ... dramatic pause ... the Cantina.
Sunday Another unusually early wake up and we got to the track with time to hit the first session. Zina said her tires suck. She had wanted to try out the `Stones to see for herself what they were about and now she knows. Well, we did a real quick turn around on a tire swap and the Sport Tire guys did a quick change and we made the second warm up as they started out. Zina really likes her new Pirellis. And I really like mine, too! Even though a month used, I felt comfortable with the tires and really stepped up my intensity during the 2nd warm up. I kinda realized that there were a few places where I was slacking, so I turned on the gas and the difference was HUGE. I did a :36 and a string of 4 :35s. I haven't turned times like that since Fasttrack in June!
We did the Rider's Meeting and found out that a WSMC racer was killed at Daytona. Massive bummers. I wish less bad stuff would go down. The National Anthem was very stirring and it was all I could do to be "manly" and keep from letting a tear or two out. The racing started as a bunch of folks came by ... DRC's BadAndy and Timmmmmaaaaa with his newish squeeze. Kelly #500, Sue Fish #694 ?. Stu-man dropped by, too. And I remember a lot of BS-ing with the Libasci crew as they stopped in many times over the weekend.
I'm not sure when it was amongst the folks stopping in, but there was a pretty nasty incident in race 1. Apparently, someone's motor let go on the way into 3 and they pulled off. Then a rider hit this guy's oil slick and went down. Red Flags came out and as another rider approached the area, he hit the slick and kept going. Man, that was ugly... Clinton Whitehouse's bike tumbled massively and was thrown ahead of the bike. He didn't move much and I think was transported to the hospital. His dad posted to the wsmc bbs that he wasn't broken anywhere, but was shaken and stirred pretty well. I guess he had also planned to run 550 superbike on a an old 4 cylinder Yamaha. That was a trippy cycle and it had some pretty good motor - I'd match or better his corner speed and he'd walk on me in the straights. He had put some interesting moves on folks in Saturday practice and I wasn't exactly looking forward to another axe murderer in 550 Superbike. Especially one with enough skill and experience to garner the #2 plate!!
Race 4, the Aprilia Challenge, came up pretty quick. We gridded up, I was 3rd, on the front row, and got a great start - 3rd into turn one. I kept on my game and tried hanging with Tim K and Andre. Oh, Andre... crazy arse... basically rides around with his head facing the rear. Someday, I'll wave. Anyways, he and Tim eventually pulled away and I think that with me no longer a threat, Andre quit looking back. *I* wanted to look back to see where Zina and Donnie were but resisted the urge. Z was saying that Donnie's been on fire this weekend. I kept on the gas everywhere I could, kept my head down and hit my markers. Well, except for turn 3. There was some ugly looking grease sweep there and no one was riding in it. The crossed flags came ... then no flag (lap 4), then some fatigue, the white flag, and my nerves are standing on end a bit... I really really want to look back and I say No Way, I'll look left and Donnie will go around on the right. So I kept the gas on and my head down. I was fully tucked out of 9 sure that Donnie was there somewhere... after exiting 9, I put my head on the tank and I looked to the side ... nothing. Got the checkers and looked back to empty track. Whoa! So I waved to the folks around the track. It's cool when they wave back! I'm sure they don't know me from Adam, but it feels cool.
Our next race, number 8, was 550 Superbike. The time between them passed pretty quickly. I had my second can of "Whoop Ass" and started revving up for the race. I scrolled through the times on the MyChron timer and saw that I did 2 1:48s!!! These were the best two laps I've even done on the RS. I was heartened to see that the heightened focus I devoted to getting around the track Sunday helped. It really sounds stupidly easy to say "open the throttle more", but is far more difficult in application. I mean, you're scared so you let off, so why not keep the gas on and just stay scared anyway?
During the wait, a couple of races with friends in them passed. I heard a few of them list California Cycleworks as their sponsors!! Big Big Thanks to: Frank Nolan #79, Akos Feher #727, Scott Cleff #999. I'm not sure if Joe Pitz #567 or Isaac Ward #748 did, too, but y'all are cool either way. Racing at willow with the WSMC is amazing - you meet more and more folks and grow great friendships. I remarked to Kelly #500 after watching the turn 3 oil incident that the longer you're here, the more people you know, the more it hurts to see a crash. Why hurts *more*? Shouldn't they all "hurt" the same? Well, sure all the crashes suck - no one wants to crash and we all empathize with those whose bodies hit the pavement. At the very least, they've got expensive equipment damage and some soreness that'll distract them from their racing. We'll not talk about "at the worst"... It's getting to the point where I've talked to most of the folks that ride out there and when someone stacks, I'll know them. And witnessing a freind or acquaintence crash makes it more personal and it's worse for the observer. When Isaac went off in turn 3, I saw the field and knew it was him and had tremendous relief when I saw him running away from his bike - meaning he was ok.
Race 8 came and I gridded next to Zina in 10th. She still has more points in that class, so she gridded 9th. I got a reasonable start, but was more reluctant into turn 1 than in the last race. I don't quite have the aggression in 550 SBK that I have in the Aprilia Challenge because I don't know the folks as well. I did do better than I thought, though. I think Donnie got by me somewhere in the first lap and I remember trying to get game on him somewhere - anywhere, as I know he's a serious threat and I couldn't wait around behind him or risk him walking on me. So on the 2nd lap, I had more speed on him going into 2, so I went in on the tight line and made the pass stick. It wasn't a "huge" move, nor do I think it was close. I don't like being an a-hole and I really *really* don't want to mess with my Aprilia buds so was glad to get by clean.
Then we (I say "we" cos I'm sure that Donnie and probably Zina, too, are right on me) approach on this Hawk GT. I was a little surprised that it had a 2 digit number, as the guy (looking up his number - Jim) wasn't riding that fast. Maybe the bike was new to them? I've never seen it or him before in the class. Anyway, their experience showed, as his lines were good and he was very smooth. Pretty soon, they'll be someone to fight with for real, as it won't be long before they're up to speed.
Towards the end of the race, I caught sight of Jack on his Hawk GT. Man, that dude is fast and I've never "seen" him in the race before. For that matter, I'd never seen Steven Moonitz or Scott Cleff before either... Scott got himself a new SV and isn't used to it yet, so is off his usual pace. Don't worry Scott, them other SV dudes told me they're afeared of the day you get dialed in on your new toy. Back to the race... I never did get anything more for those just ahead of me and I was able to keep Don behind me and I finished 8th of 12 riders.
After the race, I pulled my wheels to install some fresh Pirellis for the Monday track day. I eventually got that done and we did some more BSing. I got my check and trophy. More BSing. Some packing and we shuttled the bikes and trailer over to the Streets course and Jay McDaniel showed up. So we went with Jay to (you guessed it) the Golden Cantina for some good eats on our third night at Willow.
Monday We got to the Streets at 7:40 or so and set up our little pit area. A couple of San Diego based Aprilia/Ducati dealers were running the track day and it was going smoothly. I really liked that they had a team of folks going through the pits teching bikes while we were in the riders meeting. That was pretty darn cool. Almost as cool as the fact they had fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I didn't know they were k-k, so I avoided the fat and calories. (maybe that's a good thing!) They started out with the new riders, then intermediate, and then expert. We gridded and got out to a REALLY slow pace. Up into 1 then 2 and we were really crawling and down to 3. As I tip left into 3, the front let go and I was on my side right away. F*ck!!!
I immediately felt some pain from my right hand. Then I could tell I was on the ground... then I felt a massive pulling on my left and I tumbled about a little bit. I could totally hear my bike and/or me grinding along the pavement. I didn't do anything special, I just relaxed to enjoy the ride. When I stopped, I looked around and saw that I wasn't immediately going to be hit, so I jumped up to run off the track. Donnie later told Zina that I brushed myself off!! Now, that's funny! I have no recollection of this.
I saw a couple of black bikes still behind me on the track and the red flag was already out. I turned to the bike just off the track and it was still running, so I turned it off to pick it up. It lifted easier than I thought it would and I saw that it was ridable save the shifter nub you put your toe on. I couldn't get it into neutral and eventually got it into 1st from second and push started it. I rode back to the pits reverse course.
The corner worker at the start finish line came over to the hot pit to ask if I was OK. I said yeah and gave him the thumbs up. I recognize him from the cornerworking staff on the big track. Those are the nicest folks on the planet. Somehow, they know everyone and are also nice to everyone and are always there when you need them, too!
Zina says that after I piled, Donnie Libasci kept turning to see that I was OK. Like for the whole rest of the lap. Thanks man!!! I really like them Libasci folks and his concern reinforces how I feel that we race WITH them and not AGAINST them.
Analysis: I had new tires and the track was cool. That's the only thing I can truly lay blame upon for the lowside. I have a mental snapshot of the pavement as I was falling and it was shiny but not smooth. We were in a slow train and I had no option but to go slow and easy, so it wasn't me being a squid. I was later told by Jay McDaniel, who has tons of time on both tracks that he's seen a lot of folks get caught out on the first lap in turn 3, so I'm not alone in my misery, anger, and disappointment.
I iced my right thumb in the pits as a lot of friends and folks came by to offer support. Thanks y'all!!! Their spirit motivated me to go ahead and work on cleaning up the bike and getting a new shifter on. I went to the garages to relieve myself when IT happened ... A gust from the heavens came down and literally blew our pits to pieces! Our canopies folded in on themselves, dragging a 50 pound LA Wheel Chock 10 feet between the MH and the "ugly" and newly crashed RS250. Dave J (I'm not even going to try spelling THAT last name!!!) helped me un-f*ck the canopy cluster and in the process, I managed to slice my good thumb.
With that all sorted and blood dripping form my left thumb, I knew my day was done, so I just started packing up my shit. Today was about having fun, and there was to be none of that had on track for me. AJ (Akos #727) offered to let me ride his SV, but I told him No Way! Nice guy but silly for offering!! =) We had a great lunch and their raffle was entertaining, too. Many thanks to our local dealers for putting on a great track day.
Zina did another session and we called it a day and tried to escape before more stuff could go down. As we were leaving the track, I realized that we left the beacon, so we went back and Zina learned that Akos low sided in turn 2. He thinks it could have been the wind and I wouldn't disagree, as it really really kicked up. It was the heaviest sustained wind that I've ever seen at Willow. I'm very glad that our race weekend went as well (not breezy) as it did! I hope you and your SV are ok, Akos.
Well, we got out of Willow alive, got our Sizzler and I'm pretty sore today. I can't believe you read this far, but I think my thumb will be OK eventually. I've got some marks and soreness here and there, but I'll be alright - just probably won't be on the streets anytime soon!