Another August Heat Soaking
Everything seemed pretty good leading into this month. I didn't really do much R&D to the bikes, which was nice to start a month without testing. The 200 mile drive up went OK. There was a slow down on I-15 that was pretty bad: a pickup rear-ended a Discovery in the opposite direction. The Disco was hit so hard, the rear axle was missing and was on its roof against the K rail at the edge of the northbound lanes. Without the concrete barrier, they surely would have really made for a party of the freeway. I hope everyone was ok. Metaphorically, I hoped that I would get through another weekend without ending up on my own head. We got to the track, ate dinner with Stuman and Cleff then to the Park Plaza for some rest.
Saturday, I surprised myself with some good laps early on in practice. I worked on my corner speed in turn 9. My main goal for this month was to step up my pace through 9 so that the fastest of the new guys wouldn't pip me at the line so handily like last month. I got in 3 or 4 sessions as the temperature went from tolerable to pizza oven range. Unfortunately, fellow racer Ruben suffered a blown up cylinder. We decided the best thing was for Ruben to borrow Zina's bike for his Sunday sprints. Zina hadn't really planned on racing after the Solo GT Lights race anyhow.
I sat and hydrated all day and was looking forward to the Solo GT Lights. I consider the Solo GT this year to be a warm up for the "250 50" race that's coming up in October. The track, WSIR, is having the "Toyota 200" in October, with a $200,000 purse ($50k to winner) but they're also doing the "250 50", a 250 Grand Prix race for 50 miles with a $30,000 purse!! This is in conjunction with RoadracingWorld.com and counts to the class points in the roadracingworld.com 250 Grand Prix WSMC class. Since this race is a WSMC class, it grids by points (no heat races or qualifying) and thus I am blessed to get a front row start!
Anyhow, back to our 20 lap, 50 mile, Solo GT race. I'm using some pretty old tires for this race, but I think they'll be OK. I ran them the last two months and they're in pretty good shape since I rode around like a chicken last month after the rain. The wear dots in the Bridgestone 250GP slicks were intact and hadn't started "pulling" as when they start getting worn down. This month, Scott Cleff was concerned about the engine in his SV650, so he raced on his EX500. So I guess the Roadracing World guy was the only SV out there. On the start, he leapt out in front and I settled in behind him. Even with some time on the warmers, my tires didn't seem as grippy as they could have been. I was starting to worry a little about my decision to run the old tires. I sort of lost touch with the SV and settled into a good rhythm and got a feeling for the tires and the track. I took a quick look over my shoulder and was a little surprised to see the 699 of new Aprilia rider Craig. He just got out of novice, where he basically won everything. A couple laps later when going through turn 9, Craig just goes around me. Since the wind was blowing us out from 9, I wasn't exactly in hero mode through there. When he pulled that off, I was like, "Man, you must really want it!" So I kinda just hung back about 10 bikes behind him. He was taking what I'd call "normal" lines, which I avoid in the GTs because of all the fast movers, but it was a light field and not that bad. We started getting zapped by Dowie, Toye, and Company, and I thought I detected a slight slowing from my antagonist.
It's when the fast movers come along that I most enjoy the race. And conversely, catching riders from the fields ahead of us is my least favorite, as they can really affect your laps. Anyhow, one of the 600s (I think...) got by and anytime he let off the throttle, Foggy Petronas - like flames would just pour out of his pipe. I damn near overcooked turn 1 following him in! But I didn't hurt my drive, so I just kept chuckling in my helmet. Then WSMC Ops Mgr Kenny Kopecky and Stuman came along. Kenny passed me at the end of the front straight then Stuman showed up on my inside as I was leaning into Turn 1. I guess I saw the green 636 and immediately knew it was Stu, because I was like "Cool, I'll just leave room on the inside and do my normal thing" and then we went through elbow to elbow. As we apexed, both our throttles opened and he simply pulled ahead and my turn was absolutely unaffected by him showing up. If anything I got a slight draft.
I noticed while going into turn 2 that they got around Craig and he started to come back to me. Hmmm. Another lap and I'm right on him. I kinda wonder what's going on, so on the front straight, I just stay in his draft, pulling out slightly only to slow my pace and keep air in my radiator. On the next lap, I decide to go ahead and take off, so I really set up turn 5 well and ensure a good run through 8 and 9. I ended up timing 9 just right and got in his draft after the exit of turn 9. Since Craig kinda surprised me with his abilities earlier on, I really smoked into turn 1 and then carefully concentrated on getting clean laps until the end. At one point, I kind of blew turn 3, so got crap drive into 4, only I turned it into 4 like normal and about frikkin ran off the inside. So I steer out and end up dragging my knee through the infield, about ripping my damn slider off! Going to the exit of the turn, I touch down my knee and feel the slider, so all's still ok. Thankfully, that was my last mistake of the race. Then I caught a 600 at a somewhat inopportune time, around the exit of 2. So I kept on him and going into turn 3, I decide to pass him. I think he kinda dove down to the apex a little early, so I went around him and I figured if Craig was on my tail, it would help me to have a lapper between us. Anyway, I kept my head down and rode around for the white flag and the checkers and looked back to empty track! Whoa!
After the Solo GT race, I started swapping over my brakes and wheels while Michael Pastore and Ruben worked to swap his bodywork and wheels over to Zina's Aprilia. They also swapped the left rearset since Zina's was street shift AND had the toepiece moved back for her delicate and small lotus blossom flipper. We eventually got done and went for dinner at the Golden Cantina, where the management cannot seem to have enough wait staff for a mostly empty restaurant.
Sunday dawned early and presented me with a poor running bike after the first warm up. Considering that I was using one heat range cooler plugs for the Solo GT, I correctly surmised that the plugs were fouled. But while removing the tank to swap the upper plug, I realized that it was leaking, too. Greaaaaaat. So now, I swap with Zina's tank that was on the bike loaned to Ruben and we get that all sorted out. I end up skipping the second warm up session to work on my bike. Not the end of the world, as I felt pretty good.
Our first race of the day was the
We pull in and get on the warmers for the Aprilia race. It was about now that someone left the door to the oven open, because the temps started climbing. I did my usual trick of putting my cloth "neck gasket" in the cooler before donning it at first call. Leathers were already on… ear plugs, neck gasket, back protector, pull up the top to the leathers, and on goes the helmet. I spend a moment concentrating on my on-track weaknesses while waiting for second call. The race before ours gets the white flag and second call comes. I walk back to the generator to extinguish it then up to the bike. Front tire's warmer comes off then off the front stand. Rear warmer off, then I put on my gloves and hold the bike while it comes off the rear stand and I mount up, start up, and head out to the grid.
The warm up lap went well and I pulled up to pole position. It's weird to pull up to the 1st grid spot, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts! Craig did his starter dance and I got another great start. As I slip the clutch, I immediately tuck and simply stare at the tach. 2nd gear comes right away, then third a little thereafter. Now you can start thinking. Now I do not see anyone trying to pass me, so that's good. I grab 4th as I'm tipping into turn 1 and the throttle stays on the stop as I charge the corner. I come off the turn and get it on. I run the first lap like it was a qualifier. I concentrate on the 2nd corner ahead and hit my marks flawlessly. I forget now if it was after the first lap or after the second lap… probably the 2nd lap. Anyhow, Michael drafted by before turn 1. I latched on and unfortunately, it took my brain a minute to switch to aggressive mode and I didn't immediately attack back in turn 1. I kept the throttle to the stop through turn 2 and worked on Michael. I got back past going into 3 with a classic "block pass". I went in on the inside during the braking zone (before turning in to the apex) and we got on up the hill. My drive kinda sucked, but that's about the only place drive doesn't matter. We got going again and I again worked on hitting my marks and trying to improve on them. I was riding dirt to dirt everywhere. Setting up on the outside dirt before the turn, coming down to dirt on apex, and then running out to dirt on the exit. I saw Michael again going into turn 1. He pulled alongside, but wasn't able to get ahead enough to chop my front wheel, so we went in side by side and I was able to keep the lead. This must have been on the penultimate lap. On this lap, I noticed that the rear was easing out in turn 4 and 6. Man, the track and the tires are baking hot. I knew that I had to really step it up in turn 9 to prevent the draft pass before the start-finish line but also the right side of the tires are beginning to protest, too! Entering the last lap, I'm thinking about turn 9 all the way around the track. It's bizarre how while focusing on that, I was really making good time through the other turns. I was briefly "distracted" by having to hit 4 just right as my speed was a little higher than normal. So I focused on 5 and 6 as there would be plenty of time to think about 9 after them! Onto the back straight and I'm catching 5th and then 6th gears. Keeping tucked and watching for my marks as we go through 8 and into 9. I concentrate on being smooth and also to avoid the bumps to keep my tires that much happier. I briefly see a bike to my left before we go in, but there's no time for that as I need to get through my own turn. I went in huge and got out just as huge, taking my usual dirt line with the throttle pinned all the way from before the apex. Absolutely tucked, I ride down the middle of the track. I was absolutely expecting to get skunked again like last month. When I crossed the line in the lead, I looked back and saw… nothing. I did a double take and then noticed a huge dust cloud in 9. Noooo! Crap. Michael must have gone off.
The red flag came out as I entered turn 1 so I stopped and waited. We finally got back in the pits and my bike was acting like crap, but I figured it was just the heat and headed over to Michael's pit. The ambulance dropped him of and he was ok. Phew! Turn 9 is not kind to folks! Turns out that as he passed the apex, both of his tires simply let go! Oooofa. His bike is kinda messed up, but he's OK, so that's what matters.
Since my competitor was OK, I focused on getting ready for the roadracingworld.com 250 Grand Prix race. Got the warmers going, got my neck gasket in the cooler, went and peed. I got my Hansen's energy drink on and 1st call came quick enough. Repeated that whole routine and headed out for the race. My street gearbox ensured I was yards ahead of everyone almost instantly. And then they came. Just like the SVs, a bunch of them zip past going into turn 1. I'm 4th going into turn one but someone really checks up mid turn and I about have to frikkin brake mid turn. We all got back on the gas and got around pretty well. I more or less stayed in touch with a couple of them. On the 3rd or 4th lap, a former Aprilia RS250 racer on his TZ zapped by on the inside on the exit of 9. Earlier, I asked him to just wait until the front straight to get me. :-) I had been riding well up to that point and was actually starting to gain on the racer in 4th. Then IT happened. Coming out of turn 1, there was less power. Hmmm. Arm up as I stayed well off to the right of the track. I downshifted and it helped a little but not much. Going around on the inside of turn 2, the bike started losing power. Damn. Coming out of 2, I decided I needed to stop. But where? Then I saw the access road several yards to the inside of the track and get this: no trenches between me and it! So I bailed off the track and offroaded over to the road where the bike died. I push it up to the access road intersection and then coast down to turn 1. After the race, I coasted down across turn 1 behind a crash truck full of other broken or disabled bikes and then got a tow around to my pits. I was done. Absolutely beaten. This effort overtaxed me and it took hours to recover from the exertion. Unfortunately, I went from 2nd to 4th in the class. And unless others choose not to race in the next 4 rounds, it likely won't change.
Oh well. It was a good day and great race weekend. We didn't get hurt and I brought home a couple trophies and my class lead is intact.