2002 Race Report
8/2 - 8/4 Road America
If you'd like to see the track layout and how to ride it, check my 2001 race reports.
Preceding 2 weeks:
Tasks at hand: Close on new house, Move to new house, Unpack new house, Change sticky thermostat, Clean throttle & switch assy, change gearing, Reload trailer.
I completed the above (less most of the unpacking bit) by around 10:00pm on Thursday night. I found out late on Wed that this weekend would not be the twin-sprints weekend I thought it would be, and that I was entitled to a full practice day on Thursday which I would not be able to make because of work commitments.
I arrived at the track before it opened and met up with fellow racer Phil Lambos from Minneapolis. I was racing alone today as the kids were at Grandma's while we moved and Jennifer was working. I don't really care to race alone because I always like that 'support' structure in case anything happens, but I had Phil and likewise he was racing alone so we were watching each other's back.
Practice went okay. I was having a problem with the front end of the bike, where I would get a "high speed weave". This was the technical term that my suspension tuner (Ed Kwaterski of Trackside Engineering) gave it. It's not a wobble, or headshake, it's a distinct 4 hertz weave that is only present at top speed. It's always induced by something, either a small bump or simply shifting into 6th gear. Let me tell you, at 150+, this can be extremely disconcerting.
The race for today was the 30 Minute GTU:
I donned a pair of slicks for the first time in my life for this race. I was gridded up front, while Phil was stuck about 2/3 through the pack due to his late entry. The green flag dropped and I was off. I had a good start and was in the top few positions through turns one and two. By the time I got to turn 3, the red flag was waving so I slowed and made my way around the track.
Normally they leave us on hot-pit lane for this and we're back out in a matter of minutes after they clean up whatever/whoever. However, they told us to go back to our pits and we'd get a full call again when they were ready. I threw the bike on the stands got the warmers back on the tires, and waited for Phil. Well, people stopped coming around and there was still no Phil.
Damn! I grabbed the pit-bike and went up the straight to the crash. Bikes, people and ambulances everywhere. I look and there's Phil's bike leaning up against the wall. I ask what happened, and all I'm told is that there was a pile-up shortly after the start and that 5 bikes went down and all 5 are going to the hospital. "First call, Amateur GTU, First call..."
I get back out on the grid after 3rd call and raced as best I could with my head completely out of the game. All I managed was to finish and not crash. Pulling lap times in the (hideous) 2:40 range, I crossed a paltry 11th.
Off to the hospital I go to collect Phil. He's a sight to see. Broken right wrist, and they claim a "sprained" right ankle (although we continue to insist that it has to be broken. They admit the following day that it is broken). They splint Phil up, dope him up and send us on our merry way with instructions to see Phil's Orthopedic surgeon for surgery on the wrist (and ankle) on Monday. This is all fine and well excepting the fact that he can't walk, and can't use crutches! But I digress.... Phil's full crash report with many pics coming soon...
Woke up early and loaded Phil into the rear of the van. Got to the track and Jennifer rented a golf cart so Phil can at least get around. He wasn't feeling well at all so we dropped him off at the med-shed and I went about my day checking in on him periodically.
I ran my practice, but still had the weave which was just killing my lap times. I went over to Ed from Trackside Engineering and he pulled the whole front end apart, cleaned everything up and put it back together. The thought was that the frame and/or swingarm could be tweaked from my MAM crash, causing the front wheel to be mis-aligned with the rear. However, head bearings and fork alignment could add to this so we wanted to eliminate everything we could.
With the bike back together, I hit the grid for the MiddleWeight SuperBike:
The green flag flies and I drop the hammer. I'm 1st off the line, second through turn 1 and the red flag is waving by turn 3 again. Back around, and back onto the grid. Again, we're off. I got another great launch and was second through turn 1. Mike Chachere motored me between 1 and 3, putting me 3rd into turn 3, and then Matt Weber passed me on his new F4i going down the back straight into 5. The running order stayed with Robert Borowicz in the lead pulling away from us. Then it was Matt Weber and Mike Chachere dicing for 2/3 and I was following them closely in 4th.
The race was incredible. Matt and Mike would make mistakes and lose positions to each other, and I was right there gaining on both about 3 bike lengths behind. I moved an inch or two closer with every mistake, but in the end just didn't have the motor to catch them and wound up with 4th place.
I ran the race without ever looking back, just assuming that there was someone right on my tail ready to pass me at any moment. In fact, the gaps were a 13 second lead from first to our pack of 2-4, and then a huge gap of +20 seconds between me in 4th and the rest of the grid.
The weave in the front end was all but gone. There was one instance where I had to roll off slightly in order to settle the front end, but all in all it felt rock solid. The magic that Ed from Trackside Engineering worked on this bike was unbelievable. It was beyond a night and day difference. I shaved 12 seconds off my Friday lap times, and 4+ seconds off the best times I'd ever run at Road A. My times were all 2:30-2:31. I was hoping to break into the 20's but didn't get it today.
The rush I got from this race is still with me. Every bad moment I spend on the track, loading and unloading in the pouring rain or beating down sun, driving 10 hours, etc is completely wiped away by a race like this. Races like this make everything I do worth while, and this race is owed to Ed Kwaterski of Trackside Engineering for the miracles he worked on the front end of my bike. I also owe a great deal to my incredible wife Jennifer for her massive amount of reassurance and moral support.
We collected my Road A 4th place wood and headed back home for the night (Phil in the back of the van).
We got to the track and it was still wet from the rain during the night. I still had slicks on from Fri/Sat races so I passed on practice and loaded Phil's truck & trailer. Against everyone's recommendations he drove himself out at around 11:00 back to Minneapolis. Left hand and left foot, off he goes...
Today's combined CCS / Formula USA MiddleWeight SuperSport race required me to run DOT tires, so I shed the slicks and went back to the DOTs. Made my suspension adjustments and away we go for the race from hell.
This was the race from hell because for Formula USA, we did a full parade lap behind a pace car, then a warm-up lap, then the launch. Well, in that time everyone's bikes were overheating because of the amount of time running 'slow' and sitting on the line.
We launched and on lap 2 of 5, there was a pile-up in turn 8 which stopped the race. We re-gridded, and did another warm-up lap. By now, the bikes were ready to boil over. We're on the line, the 2 board goes up, everyone is in gear and starting to rev up for the start. A guy in the 7th row or so blew a coolant line which promptly spewed boiling water all over his inner thighs. He dropped the bike on the ground and ran off the track. They set down the #2 board and told us to shut our motors off while they cleaned up.
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! Now this is REALLY wreaking havoc on the bikes! People are running out of fuel, everyone's bike is BOILING hot, all of our nerves are shot and tires are getting cold! Then they tell us we are doing yet ANOTHER warm-up lap. 90% of the grid stayed put, but I took the warm-up lap to keep the tires warm, and to cool off the engine.
Back on the line for the 3rd launch. We managed to start the race successfully. It was cut down to a 3 lap sprint race, so it was definitely a time to give it my all. I had a pretty bad start, about 15 people passed me going down the straight, but I held braking until late and gained 10 or so spots back. Down into turn 3, I passed Mike Chachere and poured it on!
I was in 6th, with a bunch of FUSA guys ahead of me. They were running insanely fast times for amateurs. Their times were as fast as most of the top experts in CCS. I held 6th securely, but coming into Canada corner on lap 2 I had a problem. The bike starts rattling and making the most awful sounds I've ever heard. I didn't know if something was dragging or if I was about to blow the motor. I came out of the turn slow and took time to look down to see if I was dragging bodywork. Then I looked at the corner workers, expecting to be waved off. In this time, I lost 2 places and Mike was now back in front of me. In retrospect, I believe that I had the bike 1/2 in gear (between 2nd and 3rd) and that was making the noise because nothing was dragging and after shifting, everything sounded fine.
I pushed the bike as hard as was possible, pushing the 208's to sliding through every corner. Finding the limits of traction through the carousel and in 5th gear through the kink is pretty scary. In pushing the bike, I found a few corners where I could catch Mike, but there was never enough difference for me to be able to get around him. I ended up with an 8th in this race.
I was a little disappointed in myself for the bad shifts which likely ruined my last transmission, causing problems earlier in the season and now it seems like I'm starting to repeat history. I really need to concentrate on shifts!!! However, I ran a good race, and it just happens that other people held it together a bit better than I did. In all though, I have absolutely no complaints. I ran excellent races, and had very respectable finishes. I also added more wood to the wall of fame!
Of the many things I learned this weekend, I will *never* again run a race on DOT tires when the rules will allow me to run slicks. The difference is phenomenal. Going from DOTs to slicks is easy, but the opposite can be pretty hairy. I had hoped to break into the 2:20's for lap times today, but the best I could muster on the DOTs were 2:32's. I can't wait until BlackHawk in another 2 1/2 weeks because
The weekend's pics:
Photos by Jack Beaudry of Sliderphoto.com
Thanks to everyone for your support, life wouldn't be the same without this, and you all help make it happen for me.
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