Saturday, August 10, 2013

NJMP Race Report

Wow, I have not written a race report in a long time and longer still since it was me riding!  Nice to break that streak.  Its also a long time since Mom was able to visit.  I think she brought some of the good luck we had.

One of the things I forgot in that time period is all the effort a roadrace weekend takes.  While I had leathers and boots, the rest of my safety equipment was shredded or missing.  I called a few friends and ended up with a set of Jerez gloves and a summer undersuit from Will and Gus at Rev-It USA.  The gloves were great and the summer undersuit make moving around while in my leathers much easier.  It is not mentioned much but you need to be pretty flexible when racing smaller bikes.  You really crawl all over the bike through the various phases of acceleration, cornering and braking, and the smoother it can be done the better.  Having leathers grab at your sweaty skin while transitioning from side to side does not help that  much.  It also makes getting out of leathers much less like a spastic dance.  I also got a new Bell RS-1 helmet from Chris at Union Garage.  Race organizations want the latest agency approvals and my helmet was too old to pass.  I've been an Arai guy for most of my roadracing time but before that I wore a Bell when MXing as a kid.  Seeing them getting back into pavement stuff and some childhood reminiscing (and a great fit) was enough to make a change back.  Chris was a big help and got me the helmet in time for the weekend.

Overall, I have not had many better weekends at the track.  The first amazing part is I never took the engine out of the frame but that is jumping ahead of the game.

I shared in a van rental with friends of a friend, Lex and Alex, who were also heading down.  They showed up with one nice Ducati and....... not much else!  Really, not much else at all.  I wondered what they thought about me with my one small bike.  And toolbox.  And spares box.  And spare tires and rims.  And tire warmers.  And remote starter.  And cans of race gas.  I guess that's the difference between store bought and home rolled!  Anyway, it all fit and off we were.

Getting to the track Thursday night after a 2hr drive was also a welcome change.  I'm used to LRRS, Summit Point, and VIR, which are 6, 5, and 9 hr drives respectively.  2 hrs is just getting warmed up!  I also shared an above-garage apartment with Jamie Waters, part of the original Spannerland crew and Norton collector extraordinaire.  Jamie brought 3 bikes.  When some people crash or break a bike they fix it.  Jamie switches bikes!  Just kidding, they all ran well as did the rider.

I had to take the Friday school to renew my license since it has been 3 years since racing.  Damn, its been too long!  This was a smart move anyway since I was extremely rusty.   I guess my brain likes to keep it out of consideration but I have not ridden a motorcycle since my Duke was stolen nearly 1 year ago.  It has been too long.  Anyway, going from not riding to a racetrack is a bit much so the slow pace of the school was a nice welcome back.  The AHRMA school was nice, even though they made me wear the bright orange vest!

The bike ran great all day, helped by my slow pace not taxing anything but my out of practice brain and body.  I had my pre-season testing paint scheme in place.
Friday went smoothly so I was expecting some tantrum on Saturday.  I was only mildly disappointed in this.  I had some family and friends there for both days so was hoping for at least a decent showing.  Saturday practice was only one session which went well.  After that I had a new set of tires put on for the race.  A new set of slicks.  I did have a set of rains (I thought) but not installed, but no worries, its sunny!

Famous last words.  As race 7 got close the sky darkened and some drops started to fall.
In a span of 20 minutes we went from sunny to rainy.  I suited up and asked Scott to go have Miles at Street and Comp do a quick tire swap.  When he came back without tires it was not good: turns out I brought 2 front rains and no rear so rains were a no for this race.  As I was hoping the rain would stop, it started coming down harder.  With a bunch of people having come down to watch me I had to go out with my new unscrubbed slicks when 3rd call was made.
Worst case I would crash.  2nd worst case, I pull in and feel stupid.  I never expected to have a best case to consider!

Due to my late entry I was gridded pretty far back.
When the flag dropped I proceeded to spin the rear tire and almost drive off into the grass.  Not the best move but I didn't dump it yet!  I recovered, wiped off my faceshield and started to tiptoe around the track.  The rain only got worse but I started to get into a groove.  Not a smooth groove, but a slipping, sliding, moving all around groove.  It was enough to bring a little of my confidence back.  Little by little I started going faster.  Every now and then I passed someone.
Then I passed a few someones.  Then I had some clear track and made some good progress in working the rust out of my riding.
I was having a bit of fun.  Due to the rain and the slick tires I could spin the rear at will.  OK, I was having a lot of fun!  What I didn't know was that all my friends were on top of the scoring tower and could see me around the entire track and I was putting on a pretty good show!  About 2/3 of the way throgh the race the bike start coughing and spitting a lot.  They could hear it on the tower.  Thinking some water got in the electronics I was hoping to just nurse it home.  The only problem was that it ran best when wide open so that's what I had to do.  That's when the weirdest thing happened.  2 bikes came past me and it turns out they were the leaders of the twins class (which started in the first wave, I started in the 2nd wave) and they were lapping me.  They lapped me so I only had to do a 7 lap race, not 8!  The bike couldn't die on the last lap because this was my last lap!  I don' think anyone has ever been happy being lapped until today.  Talk about making lemonade when the world gives you lemons!

Anyway, coming thought turn 1 dead last I had no idea of my finishing place in the race.  After a few minutes they posted the results and we found out I won my class!  I think it was also 3rd overall which means I did a lot of passing!  I really felt on top of the world, even if it was only a small club-racing world.  I've had a lot of lows while racing and sometimes forget how high the highs can bring you emotionally.  It is nice.

Anyway, no rest for the weary: I was also race 9 which means we had 10 min to swap out the tires for new rains that Scott had put on my spare rims.  It was a scrambling scene from the old days but with some new characters!  I had my brother, Uncle John, and cousin Johnny swapping rims and brake rotors while my mom and sister tore the tailsection off to dry and cover the electronics.  I'm really disappointed we didn't get a picture of this.  I guess they were all busy!  They were a great pit crew and as everything was tightened up we heard 3rd call. They finished just in time!  No worries, now just start the bike and I'm off.

Except I couldn't get the bike started.  It turns out that the battery on the external starter I use was a bit low and couldn't then the engine over.  It is one of those heat of the moment things that I could not think clearly and resolve the issue so missed the race.  I was not too bummed as this race was against all twins so was not something I would be competitive in anyway.

In the aftermath of thinking the engine was broke I found what caused the rough running in the main race.  Turns out the throttle body had popped off the rubber intake manifold and was bouncing around under the tank.  There is not much room for it to go anywhere but at part throttle the lower fuel injector was likely squirting into the airbox, not the intake port.  When I opened the throttle all the way the fueling switched to the shower injector which did point into the intake port.  Mystery solved and NO BROKEN ENGINE PARTS!!!!  Simply amazing.

After fixing that and zipping the rest of the bike back together we were ready for Sunday.  A dry Sunday, which is nice for the spectators, as I had another group come in, some friends with their kids, all of which had a great time.  They particularly like the stunt show.

Sunday's race was nice and sunny and almost hot.  A nice change from Saturday.
I had a similarly bad start and did start to pick a lot of riders off but couldn't pull off Saturday's result again.  I ended up 3rd place, not too bad, with the lead group in sight ahead of me.  All my race laps were faster than the previous so that is another positive to take away.

At the end of the day I was not sure how to feel.  I finished the races that counted, didn't crash and the bike still ran!  Was I still me?  A nice dinner with the Sunday pit crew was the perfect ending to the day:

Well, that was a great weekend.  Hopefully I'll be able to do another sometime soon.  Barber in Oct maybe?  Who knows....

Monday, August 5, 2013

The best flag ever

Is always the chekered one!  Had a ball this weekend at NJMP and will do a proper race report this week but now I need to pay some serious attention to some clients that have been neglected.