I would go on again about lots of work in preparation for this month and tell you to re-read last month's write up, but I think this time, there was even more work! I rebuilt both of our bikes and it turned out that my Aprilia was suffering from an electrical fault. The connector for the power valve servo motor was loose. At least it was due for new pistons, so the extra work rebuilding it was not for loss (yet).
We obtained some go-fast parts for Zina's bike two months ago and I think those are the source of our reliability woes. What an outstanding exploration into wasting money. All my work for her bike was for naught… we added an extra day of practice to get our bikes sorted by attending the FastTrack Riders Friday practice. In the third session, I was out and flying through 8 and 9 when the orange crush flag came out. I didn't want to risk a collision on the exit of 9 where the pit entrance is, so I rode up to the starter and pulled around at pit out. I looked around and didn't see Zina. Hmmm. Then I see a bike down in turn 3. I quickly get parked and fetch the binoculars to see the rider… and it's Zina! Damn! Well, at least she's up and walking around. I quickly shed my leathers and got the spares box ready. When the crash truck stopped, Zina yelled out mechanical. I was glad and sad at the same time. It's good to know that my Z didn't crash, but it sucked that her bike broke again. Zina's bike seized going through turn 3. She pulled in the clutch and rode off the track as 3 transitioned up to the hill into 4. Once off the surface, she looked around, carefully set her RS on its side, and ran away from the impact area.
We didn't bother to investigate beyond pushing on the kick lever. It felt and sounded like it was stirring a box of rocks. For my bike, I thought the plugs looked a little less rich than optimal. Not exactly lean, but could be richer. I had jets for either one size richer or 4, so I tried 4. Testing it was the session Z's bike crapped out. It had great power up in high rpm but was miserable if not in the power band. So when I pulled in early, I parked it and eventually tried out the one step up jets and then set out for two sessions back to back in order to prepare for Saturday's 20 lap event.
So you say 20 laps, big deal? Well, it's in California's high desert, and it was hovering around 106 degrees in the shade in the pits. 20 laps is a big deal. I did FastTrack's Intermediate and subsequent Advanced sessions. In intermediate, I had a great time passing 600s, 750s, and 1000s. There was one guy on a primer RC51 that was doing pretty well but still had to be put down. =) In intermediate, you're only supposed to pass folks on the outside of turns. Most folks kinda run dirt to dirt anyway, so I found it was easiest to pass on the "straight" between 8 and 9… hehehe. That or I'd simply drive around folks in 8. 8 or so laps into it and the session ends and I go back out in advanced. These folks are a little more skilled and ornery, with quite a few bikes wearing numbers. I ended up going back and forth with one bike until he figured out that he had to go a little faster to keep me from harassing him. Fatigue started to set in and the desire to keep riding was dwindling, but I focused on the corner ahead of the one I was approaching and mildly relished the checkered flag when it came out. Satisfied with that, we started packing for the day.
The heat is pretty insane. Two years ago, I learned that water wasn't enough for me. I would still suffer from heat exhaustion. Last year, we learned that Gatorade wasn't enough for me and started using Cytomax. It's real popular with bicyclists. We mix it at about ¼ recommended strength and also mix in some Gatorade powder as well. It was too hot even for tire warmers. We used them in the first session and the tires started out greasy and then got better as the session went on. Ever since, we didn't bother and I had no issues with grip pushing hard after a first lap.
Friday was also the first day of timed qualifying for the WSIR Toyota 200 unlimited race with the $150k payout. (website: http://members.aol.com/WSIRNews/index8a.html) Willow regular fast guy Jeremy Toye got the fastest time of the day with some breeze doing like a 1:22. Our bud Stuart Smith (Stuman) did his record best 1:26 and was the third fastest rider.
Since Zina was now in spectator mode, we hitched up the trailer and moved our pit to a place more favorable to Zina for watching the bikes in turns 1 through 3 at the far north-western end of the turn 1 paddock. We walked the track with Stuman and ended up going to Zuma's with him for dinner. They always have great food there. The usual bullshitting with friend(s) lasted until after dinner was over and I was kinda bummed that it was over. =) We pulled into the Desert Inn and got a room with a very cute dinette. It would be retro only it was actually genuine and perfectly preserved.
Time was spent readying the bikes, filling both with fuel and the Aprilia with injector oil. I also like the windscreen and instruments to be clean. The Solo race started drawing near and we went to the riders meeting where we were all reminded that it's a long race with riders of different speeds and skills and to leave room for others on the track. Dirt to dirt riding isn't really needed and be nice to your fellow racer.
After regular practice, WSMC has practice starts. It's primarily for the new racers, but experts can start in the second wave and do three practice starts for $10. When these start, it's time to start getting dressed for the Solo Series. I also had my can of Whoop Ass and the last bathroom visit. On hot days, those include serious pouring of water over the body. I wear a "neck gasket" made of some cotton pant legging that's cut up. It holds a good bit of water. First call for our race and the bikes get started for warm up. 2nd call and the ear plugs, helmet, and gloves go on. Wait a few moments and we roll out to the pre grid. I really waited a while before rolling out, as we were in the 3rd wave and I wanted the heat from the warm up lap to stay in the tires. I was also a little worried about over heating while waiting. Craig did his thing for the first wave of open bikes and the noise was insane. Once through 2, he repeated for the 2nd wave, only now we watch as the 600s warp ahead from us. I get the revs going, hammering on the throttle… keeping the engine loaded and knowing where both full throttle and max revs are instinctively. Pause, 2 board, pause, 1 board, sideways, and his arm moves for the green flag I drop the clutch to the middle of the friction zone and hammer the throttle to the stop. Once rolling, the clutch gets dropped and I quickly hit 2nd, noticing that I got a killer start and am side by side with Steve on his SV650. We let off for turn 1 and get the boogie on for T2. I'm finding that I'm not riding as hard as I could or would, but I don't really have anything for Steve. About this time, Mel appears on my outside. We all get on it for 3 and I figure it's going to be kind of processional. Over the Omega, down through 5, gas on, over Munroe Ridge (turn 6) and onto the fast part. Turn 9 reinforced that our bikes are dramatically different. He enters at a slower speed than I normally take it on my smaller bike. I wasn't watching him too closely and the speed difference caught me by surprise and I hit the front brake then got back in line behind him to go through the turn. We started pulling up the front straight and he motored away a bit, leaving me to think about what just happened. His line through 3 was pretty similar… very deep, but a little slower and with a relatively sharp turn. I was working on getting close to him again and studying his lines in 3 and 9, when on the third lap, Chuck Graves rockets by on his R1 or R1/R7 hybrid. Daaaam! He's 2 laps too early! So now I have to start leaving lots of room for the fast movers. I was hoping to have a good game plan by then for Steve. I latch back on to Steve and the next time through 9, I go in underneath him on an impossibly tight line but somehow manage to maintain speed through the turn. I didn't really have time to consider that I was leading my first race ever, as he repassed me before the start-finish line.
I was focusing on my technique and especially my posture and it seemed to be paying off, as the "breeze" wasn't affecting me as badly as usual going into turn 1 and I was able to attack the turn. Staying tucked into, through, and out of the turn, I kept the throttle pinned to the stop going into 2. With the partial head wind, my confidence is bolstered and I don't worry about the bumps going in. My knee plants firmly on the deck as the rear tire digs in for grip and the revs slowly increase at first then more quickly as the exit comes with the fatter power curve, some down hill, and tail wind thrown in for good measure. Steve looms larger and larger. I see his line and arrive at my braking point with full speed… my line is initially tighter, but opens up across Steve's line. I go in under him to the inside and work on leaving room on my exit in case my pass isn't as clean as I intend for it to be… my speed is lower than normal, so I drop down to 2nd to climb the hill. Into third up over Turn 4 and I hear his twin booming behind me, but see no wheel. I move to the inside but again lose speed, so I hit 2nd again to power down the hill to catch 3rd then right to set up and then hard left on into turn 5, knee bumping across the curbing, throttle on its stop. I pull off the rest of the lap OK and I recall Steve drafting past on the front straight. We get on with the next lap and he's far enough from me in 3 that I'm not there and ready to attack again. This time through 8-9 however, the timing is such that I get through 9 at my normal speed on my normal line and ended right on Steve's rear wheel! Perfect! I really feel his draft as my RS250 raps through the gears up the front straight like it has never done before!
I had to see if I could draft Steve… so I pulled out to his right and was very close along side and was able to pass before the start finish line. It was a drag race to T1. I was well ahead at the stripe, but by 1 we were really side by side again. I watched the apex, the cones, and Steve's bike. 4 cone… Steve's still there. Focus on the asphalt patch at the apex in T1… must leave room on inside in case Steve comes with me… 3 cone. Oh, it's gonna be mean! Throttle still pinned, he disappears. 2 Cone! Tap front brake, go down two gears and throw it on in. I had my line right where I wanted and the throttle was opened again to its stop. Under the bubble and into 2, I was relieved not to have immediately been repassed. I'm not sure if we went one whole lap with me in the lead or two.
I see Susanna and I see that the timing isn't going to be ideal. I saw that I'd be catching her in T5 somewhere and that turn is probably the most important for my drive. Down the hill off T4… hesitate a little to keep her ahead and into the turn I pin it. I approach with enough speed that I can sweep by underneath her juuust before 6, so I commit to the pass. Her line was smooth and I got by cleanly and just had to grin because I'm pretty sure that Steve's drive off 6 would be balked at least a little. I gave a wave to Pinky… thanks for the extra time and to acknowledge that the pass was close-ish.
It was near half way and I don't know if it was the lap that Pinky helped me or the one after, but going into 9, there are a bunch of other bikes there. Lappers, lappees, the whole thing, and coming out of the turn, I didn't realize that I had already dropped down into 4th to power out of the turn and clicked down into 3rd! F-----ck! So I immediately took corrective action… I was going backwards and needed to go forwards. My stupid "leading the race" excited brain equated "go" with downshifting. So I dropped it into 2nd. All I can say is thank the heavens that my line takes me way out to the dirt where no one else goes, because I'm sure I would have been rear ended! The tach only goes to 14k and it was stuck there. Pulled in lever, tapped up gears until it stopped, then back down two, pinned the throttle as I dumped the clutch. 8000 rpm around 85-ish mph and the bike is stuttering to climb into the power. Only it's not nearly as motivated as it should be.
My poor, abused, and now surely wounded Aprilia revved on out through 4th and into 5th and got me to turn 1 with Mel and Steve still in sight. I guess whatever I did in 9 and/or all them other people held them up, too. I was too excited and figured that I would hang out and see what Mel had to offer Steve while I calm down. I think a whole lap went by and Steve started to take off, so I went by Mel and set off in chase. My rest period helped me calm down and I got my head back down and got in a groove. My RS didn't rip through 2, it didn't pull out of 9, but it was still running well so I thought I had a chance.
Well, that chance was taken away big time in 9. Just before my turn in point came in earnest, a bike appeared on my left. No biggie… I'm still on the gas and they've already started slowing. Then as I start focusing on my apex, the guy totally comes over at me. Much faster than I've ever seen before! And I'm still going relatively straight and throttle is pinned! I nail the front brake and dive for the curbing and catch 4th all at the same time. This selfish open class racer steals my line and ruined my chance of catching Steve! I get through 9 and Steve's well ahead. I went and found this guy later on in the pits and he admitted fatigue and pulled off the track after nearly crashing several times. Well, it's good that he did, only I wish he'd have done it before being weird to me in 9. So I had to settle for watching Steve slowly roll off into the distance as my tires started going off.
That gave me something to think about, so going through 7, I took a good, long look back and didn't see Mel, so I kept in my mind to maintain some reserve in the usual danger spots like 1 and 3. Sure enough, through 2, the back of the bike would hang out big time over the bumps and what not. This kinda sucks as the rear Metzeler Rennsport Soft only has like 60 laps on it. The previous Dragon Evo Corsa would go at least 200 laps and then I'd take them off because the profile was misshapen rather than them going off!
I got the checkered flag, and slowed to wave at the stands when I saw something that didn't make sense… Zina's huge double arm wave and her floppy hat on her head. I looked twice and it was her. I figured she didn't like the FiZzeR and must have pulled in. Going through the paddock, the RS250 isn't too happy bout revving, so something in it is definitely sour. I pull in, start hydrating and Zina tells me that the FZR was chattering badly through 5, so she pulled in.
By the time we were done walking the dogs, no one was around. We set out on a quest to find the area's lone Baja Fresh for dinner. It wasn't as yummy as the one in San Diego, but was well received by these two heat stressed racers. Another night at the Desert Inn passed, which made for a whole weekend without serious or strange incident or interaction with others.
I went back to the pits, set the tire pressures on the FZR to 30/30, and headed to tech with it. Zina didn't want to ride it on race day, preferring to save the money from the entry fees. Got that done and fetched my rear wheel with its backwards tire. Once refitted to the bike, I start my RS250 to go to tech. The engine is pretty noisy. It revs perky enough but has this weird rattle as it returns to idle that wasn't there before yesterday's back shifting. The pistons are definitely weakened. I'm done with tech in time to just make the second warm up. The fact that it's a hot weekend is almost good, as we don't need to use the warmers, saving precious moments. Leathers on and the red flag comes out just before we head out. After a delay, we get called out and finally get out on track. My bike feels very strange as I enter 1, which makes sense, as the left side of my tire is all sawed off. It was weird but predictable feeling. The prescribed procedure to enter the track is to enter and go through turn 1 along the extreme left edge. Then you go through 2 around the outside. Mid way through 2, I see a big dust cloud on the exit and I get out of the throttle a little. When transitioning onto the 2-3 straight, the rear wheel stepped out a foot very quickly, but came back just as quick. OIL!! The guy that went off must have blown an engine! I rode up to the turn 3 barrel (corner worker's station) and just started yelling oil oil oil. I pointed and looked back and thought I saw 3 or 4 bikes slide off the pavement! F----ck!! By the time I was done spectating at 50 mph, I saw a red flag in T2, so I put an arm up and pulled off to the right half way up the hill. We finally got the crossed flags and we headed on back in. My bike felt fine on my one, interrupted lap. I drag Zina to the Club office to get her carryover and when Myra saw that Zina wasn't racing, she asked if Z would help score for the day. Zina jumped up and down like a 4th grader wanting to play! After a long wait, they called the riders' meeting! There were the usual announcements, etc, but I won the drawing for the free HyperClub track day!
Looking into turn 2, we see a water truck spraying down the track. Wow, they must have synthetic to clean up… simple green and a ton of water. I pass on the resumed warm-up to concentrate for the Aprilia Challenge, Race 2, while Zina disappears to help score. I get my can of Whoop Ass out, start working on my race face, and head after second call. I get to the grid in time for everyone to head out. I let them go a bit so I can really flog around the track and get some heat in the tires. Craig does his dance and we're off! I see Ryan pull up next to me right away - I figure that he jumped the start but I guess not. I must have launched harder though, as I pulled the entire field. Andre, though, zoomed by me going into 1, but at least it was later than usual. I kept my head down and concentrated on my lap and stuck to Andre. Well, "stuck to" is a bit misleading, as he was basically riding with his head pointing backwards. Every time I thought to wave, he'd look forward to see where the turn was, etc. On the 2nd lap going through 5, I got a pretty massive (for the Aprilia) slide from the rear tire. I just chalked it up to the fact that the left side was all burnt off so I kept the gas on lest my friendly competitors get by.
I forget the exact details, but at the start of the 3rd lap, there was a huge drafting war in which Andre went from the lead to 4th. Tim K got by me as I was drafting by Andre. I got in his wake and he pulled me into 1, so I went from 2nd to 3rd to 2nd. I stayed in touch through the rest of the lap, but going into 9, the bike wouldn't turn. I'm pretty sure my line was good and my speed consistent, but it wouldn't really come around. I watched the dirt start coming at me but refused to back off the gas. I crawled off more but it didn't really help and ended up letting off the throttle a little, but it didn't matter, as my line was blown and my exit speed sucked. Tim pulled a gap and Ryan got by as well. Dang. Along the straight, I looked around and Andre was right there. Going into 2, the rear stepped pretty big and did like it was doing at the end of the Solo race last night. I was hoping for more than 3 laps! Oh well… Andre handily went by going into 3 and I rode around 2 seconds off my initial pace. Sure I finished with Ryan in sight but I was rather keen on keeping that second place!
Race 7, 550 Superbike, came along and I fired up the FZR. It sputtered a bit, but Steve helped get it going and we headed out to the grid. Zina spotted me and asked me to bring some water when I came out for the next race. I let the field go out on the warm up and did a practice start. The FZR is a lot easier to launch, with noticeable torque and a linear clutch. My start went great! I shot up through the next row and had great position lining up for turn 1, but I've never turned a wheel on this bike yet! So I backed off gently and let a bunch of people by as I set what I consider a comfortable speed through 1. Mel Smith, friend and long time FiZzeR racer, goes by and I just try to stay close. He kinda pulled me, so I just worked on being smooth.
I was very careful going through 3 and 5. I think those are the turns easiest to toss an unfamiliar bike. The FZR is pretty fun to ride, with usable power from 10k to 15k on the tach. The real meat is say 11 to 13, but you're not penalized for going to the outer edges of the original numbers. I was able to get on the gas and actually power up the hill to 4. The FZR felt stable over 4's bumps and ripples but didn't seem to turn as easily as the RS250 going through 5, but I could still get the gas on and rip through to 8. I discovered that I could rest my helmet on the gas tank and still see out the windscreen! That's pretty cool! In 9, the only real shortcoming of the FZR showed up: ground clearance. This bike has rearset plates which move the pegs up and back. At first, I was lamenting the stocks pegs, worrying that my feet wouldn't' stay on them. That wasn't an issue, but when I buried the right peg going through 9, I sure liked the folding feature!! I was taking it a little easier than on the RS250, but I still had some pretty good lean angle. The next lap, I was more ginger going through 9 and only got a mild drag.
That's when the RZ350 showed up. Hey! You're not supposed to pass me! I kept riding and learning the FZR and noticed that I would gain on the RZ here or there, so I took a good look back and saw what I though were a couple of the unfaired vintage bikes catching us. OK, no one's ready to pass me again, so I relax a bit and let the vintage bikes through. When they get around the RZ, there's a pretty good gap, so I put in some flyers to catch up. I worked really hard on 9, as that's where I intended to pass the RZ. I'd go in a little wider and slower, but hang off more and get on the gas harder and sooner. With 9 pretty much worked out, the white flag came and I was closing in on the RZ. By the time we got around to 8, I was right on him and went to the inside when he set up for 9. On the exit, I had it pinned and drove out to the dirt, bum up and head planted on the tank! I watched to my right as I raced to the stripe and didn't see him! So I had a good little battle for 10th. Not bad considering I had never ridden a FZR400 on the track before this race!
Pulled into the pits, rehydrated, cooled down some, and grabbed a gallon of water for Z. Race 9, 500 Super Stock, was right up, so I fired up the FiZzeR and headed out with the water jug on the tank. Zina got her water and we went out on the warm up. I was gridded 7th and got another killer start! I was 4th going into 1 ahead of Mel and the race was somewhat processional, from there on out, but Mel really kept me honest! I was much faster this second race than my first one on the FZR. I could hear Mel behind me going up over 4, so I worked on being smooth, protecting the inside, and getting a run down the hill. I'm not the fastest into 5, so I kinda hogged the track, so I could get a good drive out. I stayed in touch with the 3rd place guy. Once in a while, he'd come back a little and other times, he'd pull a little. He definitely would make a good goal for me on a FZR. I was always trying to improve, but still being a little conservative… not only do I not want to crash, but I also don't want to crash someone else's bike! On the 5th lap, the rear wheel lost some grip coming out of 4 at the top of the hill. It didn't spin up, but I was a little worried if the tire went off, Mel would get by me. I kept in the gas on the rest of the lap for the white flag.
Craig, the starter, held his hands up shoulder length apart. Huh… is he telling me I've got a gap on Mel? Couldn't be. After I got out of 1, I took a look around the left and saw empty track, so I looked to the right - I could have put my hand on his front number plate!! I dropped back down in the saddle and really pushed through 2. I attacked the entrance and tried to pin the throttle through the turn. The rear was behaving, so I put it on the stop and drove out of 2 for all I was worth. I was still going easy into 3, but I'm sure my "Two stroke" lines are giving Mel fits… again I hear his bike at top of 4 and I roll on the throttle easier for the down hill run into 5. Into 5 and I drag knee on the left as I get on the gas for the final turns. I could only assume that if Mel had it in him, he'd skunk me to the line, so I went into 9 kinda huge and was able to really blast on out of there well and was surprised to actually finish 4th!
After the race, I diddled around on the DR200, ridin' around and jibber jabbering with different folks and I watched the end of the F1 race. Zina waved me down from the Hot Pit and asked me to bring her some food and stuff, so I went and got her some apples and turned our pit upside down looking for her granola bars. I brought those to her, took some pics, and headed over to Kelly Baker's new shop, Performance Unlimited. It's on the premises, just outside the WSIR track gate. Kelly was with Pro Italia and now has his own killer shop there at WSIR. I got my free burgers and a Pepsi and then we all headed back to the track. I went to pack up and he went to watch Chris run BoTT or F40.
This is a pic of Kelly's shop, Kelly Baker's Performance Unlimited...
This was an awesome race weekend, even though there is again a lot of money to be spent and work to be done for our bikes. Packed up, we headed over to the track office. We walked the doggies in the course's infield then over to the office for me to collect my two cans of red bull for 2 4th place finishes and Zina got her carryovers for the weekend. They want her to be a scorer all the time and since Z enjoys it so much, that will happen.
We rolled off the compound at 6 and started the lazy drive home. 138 was pretty nasty, so we started taking back roads over to 395. Oooooh, I'm glad we did that! Turns out that I-15 had been closed for hours due to the fire on Cajon Pass, so 138 would have boxed us in! We turned up I-15N to Victorville and sampled another Baja Fresh for dinner then backtracked all the way to Palmdale. By 9pm, we were where we started, 150 miles and 3 hours ago. Now we headed down 14 to 5 to 405 to 5 to 805 and home by 1 am. Gotta love them 3.5 hour trips that turn into 7 hour trips! At least we weren't stuck in traffic.
Next month, the Warrior Princess will race again… no more voodoo stuff!