Most might not know, but Berto and I are teammates this year. Although this is my first round of the year (as I came to the party late), Berto has been holding his own for the Team the first two rounds.
In one word, I can sum up this weekend for both myself and Berto – IMPROVEMENT.
This weekend was my first as finances didn’t allow me to do the first two rounds. But now that I have a job that pays enough to do extra-curricular activities, I can race the rest of the year. It was really tough to see the first two rounds go by without riding and knowing that once I joined, I would be behind in points and starting from the back of the grids. But it all works out for a reason and I couldn’t ask for anything more than to get out there and race and try and improve and set myself up for next year. My ultimate goal is to win a Class Championship and move up to Expert.
So this weekend started like any other race weekend. I met Berto at the airport hanger to load everything up. This means that I usually load everything up and Berto shows up to say ‘Goodbye’ HAHA. But this weekend was different. I get off work and head to the hanger and Berto is already there organizing and getting things ready! I was shocked but I’m not gonna get used to it. We finished loading everything up and I headed to Thunderhill Thursday night. Berto wasn’t riding on Friday but I was. I needed the laps as I haven’t been to Thunderhill since PTT’s Year End event at the end of 2013.
I get to the track, crash out outside the gate. I get in the gate and setup the shop and get on track just before lunch. I get many laps and get back in the groove of doing some fast laps. When I say fast laps, I mean fast for me, which for a track day is 2:05. I didn’t want to push it as Turn 3 had a new patch repave that claimed many bikes in the wake of the day and I just wanted to make it through to Saturday Practice. I knew for Saturday Practice I wanted to get down to 2:00 flat. 2:00.214 was my fastest lap from last year in a race, but I know I’m faster than that, I just need to push for it.
On Saturday, the best time I got down to in practice was a 2:02.164. I didn’t feel good about it as I know the pace of the front runners in Novice on a 600 are doing 1:55-1:57’s in Race Pace. But I had to deal with it and suit up for Clubman Middleweight anyway. No time to worry about practice as racing is a whole different story.
Clubman Middleweight – Since I had no points from the first two rounds, I started in the back of the grid in 20th position out of 23 riders. My goal was simple: break 2:00 and get a in the Top 10. I usually get great starts and get up to the front very quickly. Well, I got a horrible ‘Berto Start’ and didn’t make up more than 1 or 2 positions going into turn 1. As I go through Turn 2, I am behind the mid pack on the inside and at the apex, two bikes come together as the person on the outside comes inside into the bike on the inside. Right in front of me! I went to neutral throttle to get the bike to go more inside and stay close to the grass as the two bikes tangle up and start to push to the outside. Somehow they both saved it. And the worst part is they stayed in front of me! I had a lot of work to do to get up front and keep the lead pack in my sights. As the first lap completed, I was in 16th. Lap after lap I picked off people. After Lap 2 I was in 13th, after Lap 3 I was in 10th. I stayed there until Lap 5 when I passed my buddy Alex Wallace, that I was fighting with for a couple laps. We had a good battle going and I knew that if I kept the pressure on him he might make a mistake that I can take advantage of. I out-brake him into turn 9. As he tries to keep up and take the position back, he moves to my inside and overshoot his brake marker into 9 and shoots wide. I go underneath him and take the position. I finish in 8th place. After the race I realize that I only did a 2:01.497. It was disappointing knowing that I didn’t get under 2 minutes, but I was happy to make it through the traffic and get a Top 10. 1 out of 2 wasn’t bad!
I totally forgot to put the GoPro on the bike for this race so there isn’t any video….VERY SORRY!
Sunday races were going to be Novice 600 Production and Novice Formula 1. Sunday warm up was just a couple laps to get loose.
Novice 600 Production – Again I started in the back of the grid in 18th of 19 bikes. I knew I needed a good start, unlike Clubman to even be a little competitive. I knew that the Top 3 in this class (Joe Brown, Ilya Roytman and Wiles Stapp) have been killing it all year so far and it would be hard to keep up. We did have a smaller grid so if I got a good start I might be able to get a tow and keep them in sight.
As the flag flys, I got a great start, but didn’t have the Cahones to stay on the gas through Turn 1, but on the exit I made up for it. As we make our way around I find myself behind Max Sawicky on lap 3. I follow in for a lap trying to find a weakness I can take advantage of. I thought I found it in Turn 9 and overtook him. But he found his way back in front of me going into 10. As we come out of 15 down the front straight, I get a great drive on him and draft for a second before moving just to his inside to make a move into turn 1. As we get to the flag station, $h!t hit the fan. Max chops throttle and moves to his left right into my path! I’m in 6th gear full throttle right on his tail! I don’t let go of the gas until I make contact with his left side. As I hit him, my bike goes into a huge tank slapper throwing me up onto the tank. I keep telling myself to steer it away from the dirt or it won’t end well. After a couple seconds I save it and look back to see what happened. Max was OK thank god! Then I see three bikes parked at the flag station! What the heck just happened?! I see a red flag flying by the wall from one of the turn workers. Why on earth is no flag flying in the Starter Stand? I saw no flag coming down the front straight as Max was right in my line of sight the whole time. Also didn’t we change the rule of stopping on track for a red flag? Why on earth are those bikes stopped?! After reviewing the video I see that one of the bikes is my buddy Alex Wallace #613. He was slowing up because two bikes in front of him were coming to a stop. The two bikes in front of him was number #987 and another that I haven’t been able to identify. I really want to know why they stopped on track. Did they not know the rule? This was the exact reason why the rule was changed, to avoid these kind of situations. After looking back at the video, I saw that a Black Flag was flying in Turn 13 and 14, but Max and I both missed them as we were focused on our markers. Partially my fault, but again, the rule changed to NO STOPPING on track for this reason alone. Watch the video and see the whole thing unfold.
I make my way back to our pits and jump off the bike. I thought that since the leaders had gone through and completed 3 laps that the race was completed. Then I hear “This is first call for a full restart of Race #5 600 Production.” HOLY SMOKES! Put the warmers on now! Get gas in the bike! Get some water! Wait, look at the bike and see if I have a ride-able bike! I see on the right side of the lower fairing has a huge gash. Looks like where Max’s rearset slashed right through it. Now my right pinky hurts. I’m able bend it so I pull on it thinking it might have been jammed. I’m able to squeeze it closed so I’m ok. Oh joy, bike got damaged..
So I put some duct tape on it and all was good. It was still structurally sound, I just felt more comfortable with some tape on it.
Third call comes and warmers come off and we go out and grid up again. This time I get a great start as well. I start on the back row again. By the end of the first lap I’m in 15th. I thought I got a better start than that. After Lap 2 I was in 8th, and after lap 3 I was in 7th. I finally got back up behind Max. This time I’m the last bike of a train of 4 of us. Nose to tail. I try to find a place to pass, I just can’t find one. This is just inexperience talking as there’s always an opening, you just have to create it yourself.
I follow this train until the finish and placed 5th. But there is a silver lining. I broke the 2 minute mark and set a PR of 1:59.294. IMPROVEMENT. I ran consistent 2:00 times as well. Unfortunately I forgot to restart the GoPro for the restart as I was in a little rush.
Novice Formula 1 – No need to explain this race, you can watch the video. I spent a lot of the time by myself in a lonely position of “I wish I was 2 seconds a lap faster” and “I wish I would have had more confidence in myself to push it harder through the first two turns after the start.” Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone…I started 12th, finished 6th.
After the dust settled and everything was said and done, I sit here reflecting on what was a pretty positive weekend. I can complain about the fact that I didn’t get any hardware to put up, or the fact that I’m not quite up to par with the top 4-5 guys, but I’m not going to. I’m going to sit here and feel accomplished. I am exceptionally proud of my weekend. I am feeling very accomplished for it being my first race weekend and knowing the challenges I had ahead of me without any points on the board. But one thing I am not going to do is SETTLE. Not for a minute. There isn’t any time to settle. There is 4 rounds left to get up front and battle with those top guys and if I let up now, I won’t have that opportunity to battle with those guys and IMPROVE. I didn’t come to race to say I did, I race because I want to win!
Wiles – I’m coming for you! See ya next round!
There are a lot of people I want to thank for supporting me. First and foremost my Fiancé, Edie. She was there all weekend supporting me and pushing me when doubt crept into my thoughts. Thank you love!
I also want to give a big Thank You to my teammate and great friend Berto. You have gone above and beyond helping and mentoring me to push myself. You always find time in your busy schedule at race weekends to give me some insight and feed me that knowledge you have on how to get faster. Can’t thank you enough.
Catalyst Reaction – You guys were there to help with all my bike needs; Suspension AND motor. Im able to make my bike go around the track because of you guys. Thanks for all the support and being such great friends. Also thanks for the new Moto-D undersuit! That thing rocks!
MotoGloss Paint – For all your painting needs, give them a call. They will make your racebike look nice and shiny until you wad it! Now I need to get them (ME!) to do some bodywork now.
CT Racing – Cory and Chris run such a professional setup. There Pirelli tires give you the best grip and all the confidence in the world that your bike isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to. Best tires in the paddock in my opinion. Thanks guys for all your help this weekend! Especially thanks to Russell for hanging out in our pits and being Crew Chief for a weekend. Your help was nothing short of amazing.
Fastline – Alex is so knowledgeable when it comes to tuning. He has got my bike so dialed in. After my motor was built, Alex has tuned it to perfection and I can’t thank him enough.
Oxymoron Photography – Thank you Max for taking such sweet shots and capturing all the action as it unfolds!
4theriders – Joe came out and took some awesome photos. Great to see him around as always!
And thank you to the AFM Corner Workers and staff. You guys work so hard to make everything run so smoothly and you do it for nothing in return. Thank you so very much!
Special Thanks goes out to:
– Leo Vince
– Pacific Track Time
– BARF Racing
– EDR Performance
– Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys – Thank you to all who signed up for the BAM Program. If you weren’t able to sign up, please go to [url=www.russbrown.com/what-is-bam.html]HERE[/url] and read about it. It is a Rider-for-Rider program that is free to sign up. There are over 1.5 million members and help is only a phone call away when you are in need.
Until next time…