What a weekend it has been. Long days, early nights, and sore muscles is the result, but it has all been worth it. Here’s the rundown…….
Friday morning, up at 5am to get out to Blackhawk Farms in time for some morning practice. Josh and I get there, set up and await the word for how practice sessions will go. First couple sessions go well, with Josh offering up very insightful advice on technique, and pointers on what faster guys were doing at different points on the track. We decide to get some lunch, found a nice little pizza place, and got back to the track. Things were getting better, and I was improving on my times. I was feeling good, confident, and felt the tires would do their work throughout the weekend. The inevitable had to happen. Coming up to the carousel, I saw there was some traffic up ahead. I thought that the traffic would be fun to work with and see what it was like for my upcoming race. All things were good until turn 4. I was up into the traffic, slowed up my pace, and began preparing my line for getting around the slower guys. I came into turn 4, and turned in. Much to my surprise, the guy in front of me all of a sudden let up mid turn. I tried my best to stand the bike up and brake, but apparently I clipped his rear wheel with my front wheel. I low sided and found myself about 5-10 feet off the track in the grass. I was frustrated, and ended up having to ride the bike back to the pits with a broken clipon.
Josh and I get back to the pits, fix the bike up, and go to roll out for a test ride. I sit on the bike, and see that while the handlebars are straight, the wheel was off to the left. I thought my weekend was done. Much to my amazement, we loosened up the triple clamps, re-positioned the forks, and we were off riding. I took it out for the last practice session, and things felt well. My confidence was a bit shaken, but other than that things were mechanically sound. We pack up, and head home for some much needed rest.
Saturday morning rolls around, and as imagined, I’m a bit nervous about things. I get through tech, and manage to get all ready for 1 practice session in the morning. My parents, grandpa, and Kim show up to help support me. I go to the riders meeting, and realize I gotta get ready for my race. I was a bit nervous since I had no idea where I’d have to go for lining up, and all that jazz. Luckily things were rather intuitive when I ended up getting out to the line.
I took my warmup lap, and got to my grid position. I was at the back of the pack (18th out of 22). I see the experts take off ahead of us and know that our (amateur) green flag will drop anytime soon. I watch the flags and rev up the bike. I hadn’t practiced my launches really at all so I was a bit nervous. The green flag drops and I let out the clutch. I try not to lift up the front end too much. I take off, I see I’m getting passed a couple people, but mis shifted going into 3rd gear. I lost a little bit there, but go into turn 1 with what seemed like 100000 other guys trying to make the same turn and little to no space to do it in. I decide to hold back a little bit, since it was a 25 minute race, and would rather finish the race, than sit it out on the sidelines. I found myself eager to get passed people and work my way up to the front the best I could. I knew from practice there were 2 guys that were just smoking fast. It was incredible. About mid-race I found myself behind an expert rider (experts started about 30 seconds or so before us Am’s). He was on a kawi and I felt I needed to get past him. I had a few openings, but without having much knowledge in good lines for passing (the downside of track days), I was stuck with passing in areas that I knew better. I finally had an opportunity to get around him as I came out of the long left hander 5. Coming up to T6, I gained a bit outbraking him coming into the turn. I had a better drive on the exit than him and was pulling on him, then for some reason there was a guy on the left hand side of the track right where I needed to be. He was going incredibly slow, and just as I get up to him, he kicks his right leg out signaling that he is coming off the track. I lost much valuable time from this (probably only 1 or 2 seconds tops, but still too much), and mr. Kawi man pulled away. I fought as hard as I could to catch back up to him and overtake whenever I could. Unfortunately I saw the white flag waving coming out of T7, and knew I had to really bust out something to catch up to him. I managed to get right back up on him, but couldn’t get a final move in in the last lap. I ended right up next to him at the finish, but right next to isn’t right in front of, so I’d have to take that as it was.
I took my cooldown lap, more excited than I could imagined. My pre-first race jitters were gone, and I wanted more. I got back to the pits, and got my bike on the stands and got some vitamin water. My adrenaline was still pumping, and despite the fact that it was rather cool out with a breeze, I felt like I was at about 100*. Everyone got back to the pit area from where they were watching, and filled me in with the random crashes that they saw during the race. I had seen the yellow flags, and the guys on the sides, but had no idea on what actually happened. I felt positive and was excited that I made it through my first race unscathed. After awhile we decided that I had to know what place I came in. I took a scoot on down to the control tower to look at the results board. I looked frantically for 529 up there, hoping I was in the top 10 dreaming of being in the top 5. Much to my surprise and delight, I made it all the way up to 6th! I was quite ecstatic and brought the good news back to the pits.
I brought in the good news, as we all celebrated the fact that I made it through my first race, and got to pass up some people. My parents, grandpa, and Kim had to head home, so Josh and I stayed to watch a few races. Didn’t get to see too much more action, other than a guy on a 250 going like a mad-man. That was quite awesome to watch. The speed carried through the corners was just downright phenomenal. Josh and I headed home and hoped\dreamed that it wouldn’t be raining the next day.
I went to bed at about 630 after we got home, and woke up the following morning at 6 to the pitter patter of rain coming down. I dreaded the thought of racing in the rain (due to A. not having ridden the R6 in the rain, and B. no rain tires). We got out to BHF, and not a single person was on the track. We asked around what was going on, and people were just waiting I guess to go out on the track. Josh and I figured I should at least try it out and see how the bike was and take things from there. All I can say is this: Race tires in the rain\puddles feel like you are hydroplaning all the time. Not a great feeling. I took about 3 laps going quite slowly, and despite how slow and easy on the throttle I was, the rear tire would spin up far too easily. I came back in the pits, and decided to call it for the day. We packed up, and got ourselves back home.
I learned a lot this past weekend. I feel as if I’ve improved my riding ability and feel as though I am no longer worried about all the new experiences of a first time racer. I have to thank my brother for helping push me to my next level of skills in racing. Despite him not having ridden a bike on the track, his insight has been more helpful than I could have imagined, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Not only that, but with all the little things he helped out with in the pits and whatnot made life much easier. This weekend was also much greater with having my parents and grandpa there. Their support has gone a long ways whether it be in letting me use their vehicles, or financial help in getting things all taken care of. I gotta thank my girlfriend Kim for not totally freaking out at the idea of me racing again. I’m sure she’d prefer I stuck with the RC planes\helicopters, but has been super supportive of me doing this. I gotta thank my dads shop Three R Plastics for allowing me to do this, otherwise, I’d probably be broke and whatnot. haha. I also want to thank John at Economy Cycle for being a great shop sponsor. He’s helped immensely with not only getting me the best pit-bike in the world, but also with hooking things up with product and services. Thanks so much!
Again I gotta thank everyone for helping make this weekend (and future weekends) happen. My racing has just started back up again, and I couldn’t be anymore excited. I will get some pictures of the event once I collaborate with Josh a bit here. Thanks again to everyone, and I’m looking forward to more excitement at my next race!
ps. I apologize for the length.