Race report for AHRMA Mid Ohio 7/19-21 2002
6th of 17
And now for the whining and excuses...
As a long time spectator of racing at Mid Ohio I was really looking forward to racing at this "world class" facility myself. Sure, I'd heard the complaints of poor traction on the many concrete patches and seams but didn't expect to have so much trouble with them. Actually, I took my first track school there in '98 on my Superhawk but I was going so slow back then I didn't recall any problems with the track surface.
Friday's first practice session started off ok, but after a few warm up laps I started trying to pick up the pace and things started going awry- I was sliding all over the place. My SV wore hard rear and medium front compound slicks, the only fresh (matched pair) tires I had left. I figured that Mid OH's long straights would heat them enough to make them stick, 'fraid not! We got a second practice in, then it rained HARD. By the time the track dried, we only got one more session in. My arch rival Kelly was going 4 LONG seconds faster a lap than I was- not good. I decided to mount up the supersoft front tire I had in reserve.
Saturday we were alloted a single practice session. The softer front tire stuck nicely, but the rear was rather drifty in about half of the turns. This was actually kinda fun, but not conducive to fast lap times. My fast lap was almost dead even with Kelly's best friday times. I took a gamble once again with tire selection and replaced the rear with a medium compound slick that had a full weekend of racing on it already. After a long, nervous wait our first race (F3) is finally called. Have I mentioned that I hate turn 1? It's amazing that more guys didn't blow by me as I tiptoed through it. After just a few turns the lead group has pulled away, and there's nobody close behind me. For the next 3-4 laps I try to chip away at the 100 yard gap to Kelly and Rob Mahr. I feel like I'm slowly getting there, but we're getting into some pretty heavy lapped traffic (mostly the slower open twins). We all get past a bunch of them cleanly, but the last 2 park themselves firmly in my path for the next lap or two. By the time I stuff the Ducati on the way into Thunder Valley, the leaders are long gone. Twins F2 starts the same, but the guys in front of me are going faster (or was I going slower?). It's another lonely race, the only bikes I get to pass are lappers or the previously mentioned slow folks on fast bikes. It wasn't until I pulled into the pits that I found out Kelly had crashed on the last lap and took out another rider, bumping me up 2 spots.
Sunday rolls around and I'm still not "feeling it". I plan to salvage what I can in points and avoid crashing. Kelly's bike is (mostly) repaired, but he is understandably slowed by his first race crash (I'm not counting YSR's). However, J.D. Hord thoughtfully brought out his "slightly modified" Hawk to ensure I stay well off the podium. In F3 a big wheelie off the line blows my start, and once again I find myself riding around alone, while all the racing goes on in front or well behind me. F2's start sees another wheelie, but I get this one under control and enter turn 1 in 6th. Rod Mahr and another guy hesitate long enough for me to swoop by between T2 and T3. Bob Robbins, Derek Keys, and Matt Winnacker have their own private race up ahead, and I manage to put a comfortable distance behind me. On the second to last lap I see Rick Patrolia is right behind me, and I try to go a bit faster to foil his plan of a last-lap pass. That wasn't necessary, as they called our race a lap early because the F1 leaders were all over us.
All in all, some good results considering the level of talent present. I would gladly give up a couple of places in exchange for some more close battling though; that's what makes it fun for me. I'm glad to see Kelly improve so dramatically, we should have a great race at Putnam Park next month!
Thanks to all my Columbus friends and family for coming out to watch and help, and thanks to my sponsors Bridgestone and LP USA.