2002 Race Report
10/5 - 10/6 Gateway Intenational Raceway
Friday 10/3: Since the weather looked miserable until late morning on Friday, we packed up on Thursday with the intention of leaving early in the AM and making 1/2 a day of practice.
We drove down through the storm and arrived at around 2:00. The track was dry, but it was ferociously windy. We settled for just unpacking and taking off the rain tires from last weekend in exchange for the slicks. We also needed to change gearing from the 'extremely' short GingerMan to the 'very' short Gateway.
With the temperatures looking reasonable, we opted to camp at the track vice take our chances with a cheap hotel. Plus, being late in the season the budget had been exhausted 3-4x over. It worked out very well though due to good planning (bring twice the clothes and twice the food you think you need).
With no Friday practice, I went out for both of my practice rounds to get my bearings and remember which turn followed which. I was having problems finding my line through turn 6, and then through the make-shift chicane before the straight. The track was as I remembered it, and I felt confident I could get around the track safely and at a reasonable pace.
I ended up changing my shifting points several times during the race in hopes of getting better drive, and being more smooth. My lap times were in the 1:12-1:13 range which was 1-2 seconds off of the leaders.
The race was rather uneventful until the last lap. I went into turn 6 (long decreasing-radius right hand carousel) and was passed by 3 riders (turns out they were lappers!). Well, I wasn't about to lose 3 positions on the last lap. I wicked it up and went REAL hot into turn 7 (tight left hand which exits onto the banking with a nice concrete wall to stop you if you mess up). I was almost through the turn when I lit up the back tire and spun it ALL the way up the banking!
They set up hay bales and then an air-fence for protection, and the whole slide I just saw myself hitting that air-fence thinking "this is gonna hurt". Well, thank God for slicks! The slide was very manageable and I managed to square the bike off just before the air-fence and regain traction. I made it around the 3, but it was one hell of a scary moment along the way!
I finished the race 7th or 8th which really wasn't bad considering I was basically "lost" during the race.
When I got back into the pits following the race, there was a bit of smoke coming from the front of the bike. I smelled it, and it was oil. Dropping the lower showed me a leaking head gasket. Shane, my local wrench from Lake Country Powersports was down for the weekend (racing his super-motard). He came over and took a look, telling me to just finish out the weekend like it is with a loss in power, but very minimal risk of severe damage. This was reassuring, because I was ready to drop the motor and replace the head gasket that night.
AM #70, David Vaughn who crashed HARD last weekend at GingerMan and rode injured the following day just to hold me off in points, ran out of luck again. He spun up his R6 in the same spot that I did. Only he wasn't as fortunate as I. His bike spun and slid backwards at ~100mph into the concrete wall. It literally exploded. The back wheel shattered, the frame snapped, and about all that was left was a motor and a few bits and pieces. On the good-side though, he was OKAY!
David gets my utmost respect for his complete dedication though. He shoveled that bike into the crash truck, brought it back into the pits, bought a new frame, swingarm, subframe and rebuilt this bike overnight! He finished around 3:00am on Sunday. Hats off to you David!!!
Why! Why? Why?!?!?! I yell as I shake my fists at the clouds unleashing rain...
I skipped both practices, and held out to see if the rain would subside. My first race was #5, and the rain stopped about 1 1/2 hours before my race. The problem is that 1 hour of this was lunch break so there was no one out to dry off the track. Plus, the sun wasn't coming out! I was at a toss-up of leaving the DOT tires on and risking it, or running rain tires (which meant another tire change because I only have 2 sets of wheels, 1 with slicks on and 1 with DOTs on). Running rain tires on a partially dry track will completely kill the tires in a matter of 2-3 laps. Having a decent set, and not wanting to throw away the $350 they cost me, I opted to go for the DOTs although I spent the time and money to have the rains remounted on the wheels that held the slicks.
I launched pretty good, but took EXTREME care in getting around the track because it was still very wet and my rear D208A is almost a slick on the side. I had a couple of little slides, but nothing real significant.
I watched my wife Jennifer signal how far the next rider behind me was each lap. The signals showed closer and closer until around lap 4 of 9, I was passed by AM #279, Doug Dubson on his F4i. Doug is a race buddy, and it was nice to see him pass me. I followed Doug, and was envious of his rain tires. With his rains, and my experience we could have won that race :-)
I watched Doug slide out a couple of times, but he held control of the bike. On every lap, I realized that I could pass him through turn 1 and through the last carousel. On around lap 7, I went up the inside of him in turn 6, but then completely blew turn 7 onto the banking. In the rain, I always ride a gear higher than normal to prevent "over power". Well, when I came out of the corner with no power and WAY off line, I looked back and waived Doug by me in a gesture of good-will versus holding him up.
On the white flag lap, I knew I could pass in turn 1 or the final carousel. I didn't want to pass him in turn 1 and then have the pressure of him behind me so I waited for the carousel. Well, my chance never came because I lost the rear end in turn 5, and even though I kept it up, it created a gap which I couldn't recover from.
I finished 5th in this race, but the best part of it was the fun I had dicing with Doug. His 4th place finish was his first top 5 finish so he got his first wood! It was an awesome moment, and I'm thrilled for him. I know it meant more to Doug for him to beat me than it would for me to beat him, and that makes me happy.
With the sun coming out and the track drying off, I took the rains over to have the slicks mounted back on them for the final race of the day, final race of the weekend, final race of the season...
They combined experts and amateurs for this race, and the grid was small enough that they started us all in 1 wave. I got a great launch, and of amateurs, I only saw #27 Robert Borowicz and #227 Mike Chachere in front of me. We were in the middle of a bunch of experts, and it got pretty hairy as we worked our way through the slower experts.
I held my position, eventually losing a place to an unknown rider, but since there were only a few laps left and Jennifer indicated I had a large lead on the following bikes, I settled for what I thought was 4th. Unfortunately it wasn't... It was 6th! There were 2 local amateurs who had smoked all of us.
I was pretty frustrated in this, but realize that hind-sight is 20/20. Looking back, I never should have settled in for any position. I should have rode the wheels off that bike and took a couple of spots. But....
Anyhow, it was still a great weekend. I kept everything upright and despite riding with a leaking head gasket, managed to run respectable times.
Sadly to say, I'm glad to have the season behind me. The pressure is now off, and I can take some time to relax before focusing on doing it all again come March 2003.
In the meanwhile, check out my 2002 Season Wrap-up.
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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