I've written this amazingly long winded account of my race weekend. Hope you enjoy the read?
The Racetrack Weight Loss Diet
Weekend #5 of the CRA season at Mid America Motorplex (MAM)
Tex picked Nikki (my girlfriend) and I up Thursday night and we headed for Council Bluffs, Iowa. I was originally going to take my van down, but ultimately it worked out to share the expenses with Tex and his truck and trailer. Pulled in about midnight and hit the sack.
Friday was practice day and it took me a couple of rear sprocket changes before finding the right combo for MAMís short straights, chicanes, and swooping turns. One wouldnít let me pull a good top speed on the main straight and others would be fine for the beginning of a turn but way beyond redline at the end and require a shift mid turn...no good. A 15 front with a 38 rear seamed to do the trick. Otherwise the engine, suspension, and tires felt great.
Two hairy moments during practice.
First a new track rider on a R6 who was ďwindingĒ up for the turns and not holding a predictable line. Tex and I came up behind him with Tex setting up to pass and the guy swings from one side of the track to the other and almost took Tex out. We backed off and tried to pass again on the next corner and the same occurrence. Now that we knew to expect the unexpected from this guy we went around him with A LOT of space. Tex had a ďfriendlyĒ chat with him after the session.
Second was a tight pass I made on a friend. Sheldon and I where turning comparable times and I was behind him for a couple of laps but I wanted to try and up the pace. Sheldonís lines and cornering speeds are excellent so it was challenging to find a way around him without making it close. I finally came thru turn one wide and took the inside line from him on turn two. I could tell I made him stand it up and felt bad, since it was practice and not a race. I apologized afterwards for not giving more space. He said it was fine and no problem.
I was pitted with Tex, Tony, and Mike. All three run Lightweight Novice class with SV650s. I always feel like the ugly duckling with my old, beat to hell GS500 with missed matched body parts and many a dings. (I run Ultralight Novice for those that donít know me)
Tex wasnít feeling on his game and his hand was bugging him with downshifts (Tex lost a finger during the May BIR weekend). Tony was showing a lot of promise and his riding confidence on the track seemed higher than the last couple of months. Mike was cutting amazing times and leaving us all in the dust. I think Tony and Tex where around 1:51-1:53 and Mike had a 1:46-1:48.
By the end of Friday my times where 1:52-1:54, about 8 seconds better than what I did down here in April. The top GS500 riders in novice where doing that, the expertís= 1:47. I think I ran 6 twenty minute practice sessions.
Saturday morning I woke up and couldnít feel my left shin. It felt like it was asleep with that tingly feeling that picks up only half the sensory input. I found out that my riding style was bruising my thighs so badly that it was cutting off the circulation and nerves to my left shin. Both thighs have black and blue marks the size of silver dollars. I like riding close to the tank and when Iíd hang off the bike my entire body weight is on my thighs along a gas-tank ridge. The ďsleepingĒ shin stayed with me all weekend and is slowly getting better today.
I decided to try and bump up to the lightweight class for the Supersport race. Something I definitely couldnít do at BIR, but the tighter, slower track here at MAM gives me a chance of not finishing last in the race. Plus Iíd get a chance to run with Tex, Tony, and Mike.
The temp was predicted to hit 97, not nice for racing. I headed out for morning practice and it was already warm. The practice was going well, I was feeling better about my brake points and shifting strategy. About half way thru the practice I come around turn 3 and see dust fly on turn 4 with yellow flags at the corner station meaning someone went wide in 4. Has I roll back the throttle I see Mike standing next to his fallen steed. Heís up and moving, which is the best sign to see right after a get-off. I finish off the practice and roll into the pits.
Mikeís pinky finger is sore, but otherwise heís fine. The track is where you see first hand (no pun intended) how full gear (helmet, leathers, gloves, boots) really do their job. Iíve watched some NASTY crashes that people just stood up and walked away from. Mikeís bike isnít has lucky. The tank took a nasty hit to the clutch side and his rearsets broke. The weekend ending injury is a badly bent front fork tube. Shitty. (Mike later went to the doctor and has a broken pinky finger at the tip.)
I cut a 1:51 during practice and figure thatís good enough, so I sit out second practice because my thighs hurt and itís getting hotter still.
First race: Ultralight Supersport sprint (8 laps). Because the grid numbers for Ultralight are getting smaller theyíve recently been launching the expert and novice riders all at once instead of two separate waves. I like this because it gives you more people to have fun with on the track. I get a decent start and come around three riders who started better on the outside of turn 3. Not the greatest place to pass because itís a decreasing radius corner. I figure everyone is a little nervous being the first race of the weekend and isnít going to drift all the way out to the candy stripes? My gamble pays off and the pass sticks although I didnít care for riding the candy stripes to do it. After that I just put my bike to the grindstone and rode a good race. The line thru turns 12,13,14 leading onto the main straight gave me the most problems last April (last time I rode MAM). This time I was getting a good drive out of 14 and it felt great. 1st place with a 1:50 as my best time.
Talk about dead, I was hurting!! At lap 6 I was praying for the end. Laps 7 and 8 I couldnít even get off the bike like I should for turn 3 because I was too exhausted. I had only a fifteen minute pause before the lightweight race. I joined Tex in his truck with the air conditioning running full blast in our faces...heaven.
Second race: Lightweight Supersport sprint (8 laps). A quick look around the starting grid and Iím the only GS500 out here in the novice field. Paul on a GS500 in the expert field. Otherwise itís all SV650 out here ready to eat us alive with 20 more horsepower, dual front disc brakes, and 10-year newer chassis and suspension design. My thinking is that Iíll get raped on the start and then try and pick riders off in the corners where I can hopefully carry some extra speed. Itíll be good practice for passing people or being passed, some of my main areas that need improvement.
Tex is two rows in front of me and Tony is gridded right behind me. I get a great start and take the SV in front of me to his left, several other SV come around me on both sides. I look up and see a blue bike right in front of me, itís Tex and he didnít get a good start. I pass him on the right side on the brakes while turning into turn 1. Coming out of turn 1 I see Tony right in front of me and cut him inside turn 2. Take one other rider on the outside of three and then wait for Tony and Tex to retake me...somewhere? Iím riding really hard and sliding the back end on several corners. At one point coming into turn 7 I hear a different grinding sound than my knee puck and think ďHARD PARTS? PEGS? NOT GOOD!!!!Ē After the race it was discovered to be my toe sliders...whew.
After 4 laps I still havenít seen Tex or Tony? I thought for sure theyíd catch me on the straight away by now? I look behind me after turn 8 and sure enough thereís Texís blue bike. Another lap and heís still at the same distance. Lap 6 and I see Mark (#108) about 6 bike lengths in front of me. Mark races a SV, but also campaigns a GS500 in Ultralight. We dice it up all the time, but I shouldnít be catching him on his SV. My competitive side takes over and I start thinking I can catch him in two laps. Well...it doesnít happen. I can keep even with Mark, but not gain the momentum to catch him. I roll across the line in 7th place. My new best lap 1:48 with sliding tires and chattering front end. Didnít think it was possible and didnít feel real comfortable riding at that pace, really scary, but still WAY too much fun!!!
Tex grabs 8th with Tony right behind him in 9th. Tex said he tried to get around me a couple times but didnít feel comfortable making a tight pass. That and my secret weapon, my smoke screen exhaust pipe. He said heíd get right up behind me and setup to pass and then when I let off the gas the smoke from my exhaust pipe made him think my tire slid or my engine blew-up. Making him back off and not make the pass. There is an advantage to having an old air-cooled motor after all.
Tony said he had caught up to me during the first lap coming into turn 9 and almost hit me. Iím glad he missed. He later went on to run a 14 lap trophy dash a couple of races later...absolutely nuts!! By this time it was easily 98 degrees with a heat index that felt like 200. I peeled off my gear and climbed back into the truck for salvation. Tony ran consistent 1:50 and placed 3rd in his class, awesome job!
Sunday morning was nice out, but Sunday afternoon was going to be HELL. Forecast said 103...103!! I only had two races to run and talked to others who were doing 4 or more, no thank you.
Thank goodness the CRA officials decided to cut the sprints down to 6 laps for the day, hallelujah!
Third race: Ultralight Superbike sprint (6 laps). Got a good start and pulled to the lead for novice. The two Ducati Monsters and Paul Jensenís GS500 in expert class were only 6 bike lengths in front of me for the first couple of laps. I was excited that I was keeping them in sight, but also thinking that I should not push it unless someone in my novice class was pressuring me. By lap three they sped out of sight. Never felt pressured and saw Sheldon (Expert) keeping pace with me the last couple of laps, but far enough back to not panic about being passed. 1st place, best of 1:49 and much happier with only running 6 laps.
Tex went out for his Lightweight Superbike race and pulled 7th. Obviously not riding up to full steam for the Amazing Spider-Man. Texís attitude was as impressive as his earlier race victories in the season. He even used the word ďfunĒ, a tremendous breakthrough for him!
Fourth race: Ultralight GP sprint (6 laps). Once again the good old GP race and the end of the weekend. This one always puts me in a different mindset because I canít win. The 125 two-strokes kick the GSís ass. The good news is that fellow list member Adam Bauer is the only novice here on a 125 this weekend, so second or third place is achievable. Itís easily 103 and I pop some ibuprofen in hopes of easing the pain in my legs. I get a bad start and Iím the fourth novice into turn 1. Adamís in first, Mark (#108) second and #630 is in third with Sheldon mixed in between them. I get by #630 on the outside of corners 5 and 6. Sheldon once again picks the right lines to keep me at bay for two laps. I kept thinking Iíll draft him on the straight and get around him that way? Nope, for some reason his bike likes the heat better than mine or he was just ringing itís neck that much harder than before? Two trips down the straight and I was right on his ass (I could count the stitching on his leathers). I couldnít make an inch on him thru the infield either. Third time around I got really close behind him in turn 3 and tried to power out sooner for a drive around him in turn 4. I got the extra drive and it would have worked if only the track was about 6 inches wider on the outside of 4. Both tires went off into the dirt. I gently rolled off the throttle and leaned her back onto the pavement. All I thought about was Mikeís bent forks and mangled bike from the same turn and mistake. I lucked out.
Got back behind Sheldon for another lap, once again I couldnít pass him down the straight, which sucked. Came into turn 1 a little faster on the outside of him and took the inside of two. The exact move that I apologized for on Friday got me by on Sunday. Practice paid off in a big way.
Now that I was by Sheldon I could start making progress on Mark, who was in second place. It took another lap to get right next to him coming down the straight before turn 5. My plan was to show him a wheel on the outside and then come around him thus giving me the inside line for 7 and 8. I didnít really need to out brake him because turn 5 and 6 has several effective lines to choose from. I pulled next to Mark and started braking.
Full lockup of the front wheel!!
The bars wiggled and I let off the brake. My brain thought: #1 try to make the turn at this speed? #2 hit the brakes again? I chose #2 because I hadnít scrubbed off much speed and several other riders had low-sided in turn 5 already today. I hit the front brakes again and locked them up all the way off the pavement. First time Iíve locked the front on my GS, hopefully the last. Once my wheels hit dirt I let off the brakes, but was still going 50-60mph Iíd guess. I thought ďwhereís the tire wall, how much space do I have before I hit anything solid?Ē It crossed my mind to jump off the bike before the front end washed out or I hit something, but instead rode it out. I scrubbed most the speed off by coasting thru the dirt and gently applied brake until it stopped. I had almost ridden across to the other side of the track. I turned it around and rode the half-block back to the track where I rode off. The corner workers waved me back on and off I went. I didnít know how many racers had come by me or what place I was in? I was pissed for making a stupid mistake and not being more patient to get around Mark. Also of concern was what condition my tires where in after treating them like motocross knobbies and the crap stuck on them from the dirt?
Made it thru turns 7 and 8 and found #135 and Chad right in front of me coming into the chicane of turns 9 and 10. Chad was right on #135ís tail and setting up to pass him. I stuck behind Chad and thought Iíd wait to make a move around either of them. #135 wasnít holding great speed thru 10 and Chad tried to cut inside him before turn 11. #135 pinched to the inside and in an instant Chadís front tire went off track and locked up. Chad and his bike did a somersault and slammed into the ground. Man, did it look painful!! I tried not to look as I banked into turn 11 and passed #135 before turn 12. One more lap without incident and I finished 6th, happy to be upright and healthy at that point. Best lap a 1:50.
Packed up the bikes and stuff and headed out. Iím SOOOOO glad we rode with Tex. My van doesnít have air-conditioning and I would have passed out without it.
Word is Chad broke his shoulder? Ouch.
Overall a fun weekend with good results for my little GS500 and me. Several people didnít have the best of luck or feel in top riding shape. No doubt about it that the weather sucked and deserved some of that blame.
Thanks to the corner workers as usual!!! Especially considering the high temps they endured.