2002 Race Report
9/28 - 9/29 GingerMan Raceway
Having never been to GingerMan Raceway before, I committed to running the Friday practice. I spent the weeks beforehand studying the track layout and getting a mental picture of what turn was where, and trying to think of shifting points and gearing.
We hit the road about 6:00pm and made it to the Bates Motel by 10:30pm my time (11:30 local). No, it wasn't really the Bates motel, but you couldn't tell by looking. The place was the Budget Lodge in South Haven, but on the GingerMan Raceway website it is listed as the Econo Loge & Suites. Well, I reserved it figuring the Econo Lodge was a chain and had standards. I was wrong. Let's just say it was "rustic".
After a quick de-lousing from Motel Hell, we grabbed some breakfast and hit the track. I still had my brand new slicks on from last weekend. The plan was to run the slicks until lunch and then change to an old pair of DOTs on lunch in order to get maximum track time and conserve the slicks for race day.
They didn't structure the practice day, just opened it up all day long. This was awesome. 2 thumbs WAY up for the G-Man staff on that call.
The track lived up to what everyone has said. It is extremely technical. I love it! Power doesn't do you much good on this track because despite the pictures, there really are NO straights! I tried out 3 sets of gearing and settled on a 15/46 combo to use gears 2-4. Anything taller caused too much shifting, and anything shorter started sapping power. The 15/46 combo only worked because I have the HRC box and can go +13.5k if I needed to.
After 2 15 lap sessions, I came back in to shed the slicks. Well, during the 2 15 lap sessions, I really started to SHRED the slicks! Unreal! The track has absolutely incredible grip, but it really chews up tires.
I switched to an OLD pair of DOTs with the intention of chewing them off, and I did just that in 4 more sessions. I've never seen a DOT shagged as bad as this rear tire was. There was literally no tread left on the sides. Not even a hint that there was a tread pattern ever there. I really got my money's worth out of this tire. The front tire wore VERY well, but the power and corners just destroyed the rear.
During the practice, I was running consistent 1:33's. I felt this was respectable for my first time out at the track.
We swapped back to slicks for Saturday's GTU, and headed out.
After getting NO sleep on Friday night because of some girl banging on all the doors looking for a set of jumper cables, we checked out and moved into the Holiday Inn Express.
I got to the track and ran a round of practice without incident.
The launch on this race proved to be a frightful one. I was on the front row, but really unsure as to where to brake for turn 1. Knowing that I launch well, I had the ability to overshoot the narrow 68-degree left hander. Well, it made no difference since I had a horrible launch. I now found myself in just as difficult a predicament. I was in a huge pack of bikes headed through this turn. Oh well, I hung with it and through the turn we went.
By turn 3, I settled into about 5th place. I fell into immediate consistent 1:31's and began trading places with a number of local riders. I would pass a few, and then get passed by one or two. The local riders were great. They really knew the track, but a lot of them seemed to have no idea on how to race. They would get terribly spooked when a bike would come around them in a turn. This was great because it evened the playing field so to speak.
On the 4th lap or so, I passed a familiar bike, #227 of Mike Chachere. I then worked my way up to a group of 3 unfamiliar racers (local guys I guess). I worked on them as best I could, and on lap 8 we came into turn 3 and there was a huge crash. The waving yellow was out, and 2 of these 3, just about came to a complete stop. I waited until I was past the incident and immediately passed them. By the time I got into the next corner though, the red flag was waving.
They called the race, and despite being 3rd when the flag came out, I was 5th on the last recorded lap. Oh well, more wood and a check to offset the weekend.
We pulled off the slicks as my first race on Sunday required DOTs. Taking the shredded rear DOT from yesterday over to Andy the Dunlop guy, I was intending to put on an old take-off which I had that still had a few laps left in it. Andy had a pile of D208A AMA take-offs which he was getting rid of. I found one in BEAUTIFUL condition (looked like just the mold release was scrubbed off) and had him mount it up.
After an excellent meal at Clementine's in downtown South Haven, we went back to a CLEAN room.
I don't know that I've ever slept so well in a hotel. I guess that's what spending 2 nights in an infested WWII bunker will do to you. All I could think was "I might not win any races today, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!".
Woke up, ahhh refreshed! Pull back the shades to look for a sunrise. What the hell?!?! Rain... The weather channel showed nothing but RAIN coming across the lake. It looked like we would need an Ark to continue the day.
We got to the track and I had to run the slicks over to have the rains spooned back on the rims. About an hour later, I had the rains on the bike and went out for about 30 minutes worth of the 90 minute open practice.
The track was very decent, even while wet. Much better than BlackHawk while wet.
I had race 5 & 15 today, but they combined 3 races which moved my races closer together.
Right before the start of race 1, the clouds left, and the sun came out. The track started RAPIDLY drying. Well, back to the pits I go and off come the tires (yet again). I put the DOTs on, and got the warmers on with about 20 minutes before my race. Watching the races before mine, the track looked to be VERY dry.
The sight in lap showed a few wet spots here and there, and I never did get a good look at turn 1. A lot of people had left because of the rain, so there was only like 10 people in the race. I figured it would be an easy win, but my confidence in the track was pretty slim and I went into "protect the points" mode so I ended up 5th. It was tough to tell what was wet, and what was a dark spot. Oh well, 5th is better than last or crashing...
Huge congrats goes out to #70, David Vaughn. I'm chasing him for points in this class. He's 2nd and I'm 3rd by a gap of around 25 points. David crashed HARD on Saturday. Came back into the pits in the ambulance, hardly able to move just because he was so bruised and beat up. I didn't want to take 2nd place like that, and he didn't let me! He mounted up and ran for 2nd place in that race! Way to go David!
With a bone dry track, I went out prepared to race. The *only* thing I would have changed would be that I wanted to run slicks, but wasn't sure if the rain would return, and was getting pretty sick of swapping tires.
David Didier showed up this weekend, and was sweeping *everything* he entered. He is an incredibly fast racer and has a consistent record of victories. With him in this race, I knew it would be an interesting one.
The green flag flew and I was off into turn 1. David was the only one to challenge me for the turn but I refused to give it to him. I held him off through 1 and 2, but he got me on the small straight between 2-3. I followed him *right* on his rear wheel for 2 laps, and then made a couple of minor mistakes which gave him a slight gap. I held firmly onto second, but a few more very minor mistakes would allow #227 Mike Chachere to nudge past me. I traded spots with Mike 2 more times, and settled into 3rd after pushing the front tire out about 2 feet going into turn 7. 1st place through 3rd was probably about a 2 second gap, and most of that was David's lead on Mike and I.
I don't know what my times were because there was no beacon left on the track, but I'm very certain I was in the 1:28-29 range because I had topped out my gearing (which took me comfortably into the 1:31's) in 2 different spots on the track during this race.
Despite leaving yet another track without a 1st place wood, I came back with 3 plaques from 3 races, which is a feat I have never accomplished before. I feel very good about this weekend. I had a great time and ran excellent races. I look forward to coming back here more next year. This is really a fun track.
After calculating out the points I currently have, I'm 3rd in all classes. Unless Robert Borowicz or David Vaughn do not show up (or I miraculously manage to CRUSH either of them), I will remain in 3rd place for all classes. Of course, this is provided I stay upright for at least 1 lap in each of my races this next weekend at Gateway.
It's been an incredible season so far, and with one weekend left to it I'm actually ready for it to be over. (sure, in Feb I'll be complaining my head off, but for now...)
If you haven't seen me race yet, your last opportunity comes this Saturday and Sunday (Oct 5-6) at Gateway International Raceway...
Thanks to everyone for your support, life wouldn't be the same without this, and you all help make it happen for me.
See all of my pics at www.sliderphoto.com. Just pick an event and rider #42!
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