Head Games: Vibrations
For the first time in 2015 the AFM returned to Thunderhill. I had not been on this track since Round 7 last October. Friday fortunately was a Z2 track day that was perfect for practice and warm-up. Not only did I have to remember the nuances of the track but I had to re-trust the front end after my lowside at Sonoma. This turned out to not be much of an issue however new complications arose. A hard shudder under braking reminded me that after a get-off everything needs to be checked thoroughly, not just obviously damaged parts. What turned out to be a bent left brake rotor would haunt me for the weekend.
After running the 2-fiddy at Sonoma I had decided to go with it and continue racing Formula III. Running at a small displacement bike at Thunderhill requires the determination to hold the throttle full-stop for as long as you dare at all times. I again did not have much practice on the bike before the race started. And once again I had trouble launching the bike at the start. I keep thinking there is going to be more power than there actually is. The three hamsters are rather reluctant to get moving even when the green flag drops. As novice and expert waves are launched together it can be difficult to tell who you are racing against. On bikes such as the Ninja the number plates face upwards and are hard to see. I had an excellent battle that came down to the wire with a solid 6″ separating us at the finish. However I later found out that the green FLAP 300 I was going head-to-toe with was an expert and not my race at all. Nevertheless it was fun to battle back and forth planning out passes months in advance that would take seemingly eons to execute. Riding a bike with so little horsepower requires full dedication and to follow that form I plan on continuing my participation in this class. I just need to find at least 3 more seconds to find the top step in that podium.
With the addition of Legacy Middleweight my schedule ramped up to four races on Sunday. This ends up being quite demanding in the heat. After spending the last two days trying to definitively pinpoint the location of the vibration I concluded that it had to be the rotor or carrier and there was nothing that I could do. So I used the mindset to ignore it and ride around the problem. Another lesson on how to not let adversity stand in your way. The first race out was legacy Middleweight. I was late to the party in joining this race so I got to grid up all the way in the back of an ever-growing field. I started out with 8 riders in front of me and managed to end up tailing only three. Having launched with 600production I was hung up by slower riders and passing nearly constantly. The problem raised in the fact that many of these riders were not in my race. Mentally keeping position was very difficult and I set in to get as far up the field as humanly possible. However this race was cut short just over half way by a red-flag. As disappointing as this was, I realized that the energy was needed for the next few races.
My second race was Formula I. Despite having warmed up with Legacy, I was still off my pace from last year. Again, having only one finish so far this year I started near the back of the pack with somewhere near 15 riders in front of me. This makes for a tense and tightly packed drive into turn 1. Once the field spread out and normalized I spotted familiar pink and green fairings. I knew he was my main competition and also acted as my “carrot” to ride harder. This turned into a good battle as it took a few laps and a few failed pass attempts to get around him. I was over working myself by doing this and was getting exhausted. I made the known mistake of rolling off just a hair before the start-finish line. I maintained my 5th position however by a scant 0.071s.
600Superbike is the race that I historically do the best in. I got a mediocre start and was never able to reel in the riders ahead of me. This netted me a lonely 8th in a large between the front and back packs. I ended up feeling very tired by the end of the race and was unsure about running the last race which was 750sb. All of my classes have more or less the same roster so I see lots of familiar faces each time I grid up. There was another delay that gave me time to fuel up and rest. I had just enough gas left so I decided to roll out for one last race of the weekend for endurance training and practice. I get a decent launch and start reeling in a familiar rider. Only I had to pass one un-familiar rider. Funny thing happens when you pass someone. They suddenly find speed they didn’t have before. Every time I would make a pass stick he would find another way around me. We battled back and forth for a few laps and on the last lap I tried to out brake him into 14 which did not go as planned. After squeezing the bajeezus (technical term) out of the brake lever in order to not plow into him, I conceded the place. I felt good at least that I made him work for it and as always had fun battling even if it was for last place.
Overall the weekend went well and I have lots of data and video to review in order to study for next round. The surprising thing is that most of this sport is in your head. And when a factor unsettles you it is amazing how that can effect your lap times. My brakes shuddered and I figured this was going to cause me to brake to early when in fact my braking was nearly identical to my best lap times. However being unsettled cause me to get on the throttle later than before . This was enough to add three seconds to my lap times. With new parts on the way, I will be even more determined for round 4.