Decreasing breeze weekend
Up front, I'd like to thank Zina and our friend, Scott Cleff. They helped me out a lot with my 100+ hour rebuild of Zina's RS250. Pretty much everything but the pipes and forks were bent on her bike. I had to do a new top end rebuild on my bike, too, so I stripped her bike down early on to figure out what was toast and what wasn't. With her bike in boxes, I did my top end, and her "new" frame came in from CCS/F-USA RS250 racer James Monson. It also had been a while since her top end was done, so I went ahead with that while the engine was on the table. Scott was there helping me with lots of tasks on the rebuild. We got her bike assembled from scratch in basically two days. Then I spent another day and a half sorting out the bodywork and some other details.
Friday, Zina saw her foot doctor, who gave the go ahead for her to race, and we headed up to the track. I wanted to get in a little early so we could mount up new tires to her bike. We were going to be cheap and run some left overs, but I said screw being cheap and made it happen. Well, we got to the track and mother nature was being mean and nasty! Massive gusts, pretty cold temps, we were suckin. Z was particularly not looking forward to "breeze" and riding. Oh, man. After checking in to the hotel, I was walking out of the lobby and I heard this vehicle kinda motoring up. So I paused and looked in the parking lot to see this Ford F450 flatbed truck with all this crap loaded up on it hauling ass across the "drive up". I immediately saw that his load was like 3 or 4 feet taller than the structure he was driving under. I covered my head and spun around headed towards the lobby doors. KA BAAAAAAMMMMMM. Someone was an idiot. It looked like some film/entertainment production company. They were still un-f%cking the mess an hour later when I went up to the front desk to get some towels that our room was shorted. THAT was pretty entertaining. Glad I'm not dead. Forget racing, walking out of a motel lobby is dangerous.
Saturday was a completely different day. There was some breeze, but it was from the opposite direction as usual, so the only turns we had to watch out for were 2 and 9. No biggie. Buuuuut, Zina wasn't feeling good about riding. Plus, it didn't help that the mechanic rebuilding her bike (me) left the swingarm pivot pin a little loose. "Honey, the bike is pitching in turn 8." Huh. "Like REAL bad, like it's going to buck and send my flying, I can't keep the gas pinned." I went around the pits talking to a lot of folks and ended up raising the pressure 2 psi in the rear tire. While waiting for the next session, I was staring at the bikes and realized that I don't recall torquing down that pin. Sure enough, it was kinda loose. Zina asked for some tools and she went over the rest of her suspension bolts ensuring they were tight. They were, thanks. By the way, this picture is all about the bugs. You had to clean your visor, windscreen, and numberplates after every 6 or 8 lap session. First time the bugs have been that bad in years.
My lap times basically sucked, too. I'm not sure if Zina's apprehension was rubbing off on me or what, but I was 4 or 5 seconds slower than I should have been. It didn't help that I spent the morning working on my bike. I was running an experiment to see if it would help to have the power valves locked open. It felt OK when I went to a drag race night, but it wouldn't pull up turn 3 at all. So I pulled in and set the PVs back to stock configuration. We're also trying out racing slicks. Our guy Scott loves Bridgestone slicks, so I figured why not try them. Oh, and they cost less than other slicks. They felt great and well planted. But I was still slow.
Saturday night, we couldn't believe the difference to Friday night while walking the dogs around the track's infield. It literally went from the coldest night we've had yet this year at willow to the warmest. Pretty bizarre. Sunday morning, we got up early so I could ride in both of the pre race warm up sessions. The first one was OK … I went out and rode around. Something clicked in the second session. It was like the "go faster" switch was thrown in my head. And I went faster - just about on my old pace. That was a huge relief to me. Maybe it was Zina telling me not to worry that she's not feeling so well and not on her pace? Anyhow, I pulled my head out from somewhere and made some good laps. Zina skipped the first warm up and felt miserable in the second, choosing to follow others around at a slow-ish pace.
My first race was 550 Superbike. Zina sat out this axe murderer festival. I'm glad I didn't. I was starting to lose hope of fighting the good fight with the SV Scourge. Said lovingly, of course! I'm admittedly a little bitter that as I started getting up to speed on the Aprilia, the weapon of choice in the class shifted from the Aprilia to the SV650! :-) BUT, I got an OK start and was 5th into turn 1. Going into turn 2, the SV650 in front of me faltered off line a little, and I zapped up underneath him, hard on the gas. Throttle pinned, I got up behind another one, but I screwed up and didn't leave enough room behind it going into turn 3 and almost hit him. OK, so we go up around turn 4 then going into turn 5, it was the same thing, but this time I had to brake twice, so I lost all my drive. I was shocked that the SV I just passed didn't get me back going down the back straight. Heading into 8 and 9, I caught back up to the 3rd place rider and was looking forward to a fight. But I couldn't quite keep up his pace. He inched away slowly. My fish hook was in him, but my reel couldn't draw him in. We rode around for lap after lap. On the penultimate lap, one of the scorers indicated I had a gap, so I stole a quick look around and saw no one. I didn't exactly back down, I just wasn't quite as eager to hang it out everywhere. I crossed the line 4th, with the 3rd place guy in sight.
My next race was #11, the Aprilia Challenge. I turned on Zina's tire warmers as I went out for race #8 then warmed her bike up when I got in from the 550 race. Zina went out for the Aprilia race. Craig did his starter dance, but I screwed something up and my bike bogged a little bit. Zina and another rider beat me into turn 1. Zina and I went into turn 1 side by side so I just kept the throttle on its stop and kinda whisked around her on the outside. John was in front of me, and I told myself to fight 100% of the time and not lurk around behind him like I did last month. I reeled him in over the lap… always looking for a chance to pass. I wasn't close enough to make anything happen in turn 2. Going into 3, he was fast enough that I couldn't really do anything un-stupid. I let him get a little breathing room so I could really nail it through 5 and set up my back straight / turn 8 drive. His drive was good, too. Man, this could suck. I started getting pissed at myself. I was on his tail section coming out of 9. Rather than allow my bike to run out to the track's edge, I turned extra hard to stay in his draft. I was on him up the front straight, but not gaining advantage. I started thinking about a pass in turn 1, but nothing presented itself, other than me getting a great drive and gaining on him into turn 2. He flared out to the left to set up for the entrance to the right hander and eased off the gas. I saw my chance, kept the throttle pinned and stayed tucked as I dove for the early apex. I knew I could slam across the bump there and be OK.
He started coming over as I was going by on his inside. "ooooooooo" I kinda held my breath and he saw me at the last moment and lifted up for me. It looked like there was enough room that I could start moving over to the dirt on the inside if we got real close… Anyway, once we were going along through 2 OK, I waved with my left hand. I tried to be super clean and smooth with my pass … compliments to John for being a fast and smooth rider. I got my head down and worked on braking deep and maintaining good corner speed everywhere and led the next 4 laps, ultimately finishing with a little bit of room. Much respect to John for riding well and keeping me honest!
We pulled in and I started thinking about the 250 GP race. I wasn't sure if my rear tire was starting to go off or if I was simply riding its butt off. So I took the relatively unused tire (and wheel) from the back of Zina's bike. Her rear tire looked slightly better than mine, and certainly had less abuse. So I did the swap then got my warmers going. I added some fuel and then started packing up the rest of the pit. I cleaned up then put away Zina's bike, walked the doggies a little. Then it was time to start getting ready.
The Roadracing World 250GP was my best race of the day - also rather late, the next to last race of the day, #17. I didn't win, but the race was hard fought the whole time. I got a great start and was 3rd going into turn 1. I was trying to stick with the guy in front of me. I didn't recognize his number, so I just assumed there was a chance that I'd get to hang with some real GP bike on my little Priller. We got around the track and going into turn 7, he looked back. I said, "keep on doin that, so I can pass you!" Well, he didn't look back again and kinda slowly motored away. Whatever. So then going into turn 1 on the second lap, this guy zips by close on the outside as I set up for the turn. Then I almost rear end him mid turn! Hmmmm. So I keep on the gas and the fight is on. I get great drives off of turn 2 so I reel him in and get in the draft going to turn 3. He sat up and braked, while I just zipped by him on the outside. I got my head down and my faithful RS250 hauled my butt as fast as it could. 250GP bike guy zoomed me between 8 and 9. Even with me landing on his tail section on the exit, I couldn't stay in his draft. So I reel him in some in turn 1 then get on his tail again on the exit of 2. Since I passed him on the outside last time, he took a wider line on the entrance. So I stayed low and then when he let off, I went up underneath him. Up over the omega and I really worked to get a good drive through turn 5. This time, I stayed wide on the entrance to turn 8 to see if he'd go by on the inside. Yup. I got down in his draft to see what would transpire in turn 9. No real opportunity arose, other than me again exiting the final turn absolutely on his tail. Now we repeated the same drill. He walks on the front straight, I gain half of it back in turn 1 then the rest through 2. Now going into 3, he kinda goes down the middle, so I go up around the outside, only now, he figured out to brake a little later, so we're literally side by side going for the apex. Now I know he can pretty much pass me at will, so I sacrifice some speed to totally leave the apex open for him. I kinda look over and I see miles of pavement off to the left, so knowing that he's OK, I downshift to get more speed up the hill and work on getting around turn 4.
Being on the outside through 3 means that I'm automatically on the inside for 4, so I just kinda forget about him. :-) Well, that is until he passed me again. This time, I think it was around the outside in 8. For the 5th lap, he really connected a few of the turns. He did well enough in 8 and 9 that I wasn't on his tail on the exit of 9. This means that he was that much further away in turn 1. And I think he got through there a little better than before. I still reeled in a lot of time in turn 2, but the result was that I arrived in 3 after he was done braking, so no pass for me. Once completely unhindered by my street bike, he went well enough that I couldn't aggravate him anymore and I had to settle for 4th. We gave each other the thumbs up after the race. It was a great dice and I look forward to riding with him again. Only I hope I win! HE got the $8 trophy and John Ulrich's $40 for third!
Later on, we found out from friends that during the Aprilia race, the announcer was talking up Zina's return to racing … and commenting that her husband, "Mr Kelley", was leading the race. I guess that he made a couple comments about that, which is pretty cool. Zina couldn't understand why so many people were giving her the thumbs up after the race. Thanks for the props, Kenny!! Zina is still philosophizing over racing, so every bit of family, camaraderie, and brain washing to keep her in the fold is appreciated. :-)
See ya next month! We get to do the 20 lap Saturday Night Solo Series!!!!