Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Miller Motorsports June 8-9, 2013

Copyright 2013 Lyndia I. Zarra
This track weekend was the start of a very busy two weeks for me. I booked this weekend as I wanted to experience the full track at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah and I wanted to see what I could do on the 3500 foot long front straight.

I have been to this track before. Last July I spent two days here with California Superbike School. However that school was running a different configuration of the track. This track is fairly unique in that it can be split into two completely separate tracks. Miller East and Miller West. When I was here with CSS, we ran Miller East which is a much shorter configuration than what was planned for this trip.

Starting with this track, I have made a change to my practice. Most of my riding has been at two tracks, Sonoma and Thunderhill. Now that I am expanding my tracks, I need to start keeping notes. Naturally, I turned to my iPad to store those notes. Starting off, I found a track map and took a picture of it with my iPad. Then I took that image and used it as the background in "GoodNotes". From there I can zoom in and make notes about each individual corner.

With that said, this is a fantastic track. The pavement is great, the corners technical enough to keep everything interesting and the runoff areas are nice and wide, giving you plenty of safety.

The first morning was about exploring the track. I had never ridden the east section of the track so there was a lot of exploring to do on that side. What was also interesting is that my "entrance" into the west section of the track was changed. I had ridden it so that there was a left and then I hit the "Attitudes". With the configuration we ran this weekend there was a right and then the "Attitudes". Doesn't sound like much right? Wrong! For the first two sessions the Attitudes were surprising me in that I did not expect them to be after that right. It took a significant amount of retraining to get into the right position to be able to aggressively attack them. By lunch on the first day I felt like I was hitting them properly.

The biggest challenge of this weekend was the front straight. 3500 feet is a really long distance to go with the throttle pinned to the stops and banging through the gears. For the better part of the first day I was only taking her up to fifth gear as I did not have a solid braking marker and I certainly didn't want to overshoot corner 1. I had originally believed that there was a 30 MPH corner at the end of the front straight but fortunately that was bad data, it is a 70 MPH corner :)

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By the end of the weekend I was able to get into 6th gear on the front straight and was able to hit a final top speed of 155MPH. While my bike can potentially go over 200MPH there were several factors working against me. First, I am not a jockey:) My size definitely works against me. Second is the altitude. Miller is at 4000 feet above sea level which robs some power from the bike. Third is the gearing and configuration of my bike. I am running a +1/-2 configuration which means I have changed the front sprocket for one that has one less tooth and changed the rear sprocket for one that has two more teeth. This change helps to offset the 90MPH first gear that this bike comes standard with. In addition, I am still running her in 60% power mode. I plan on running her for at least this year in 60% mode and so far have seen no reason to change that.

All of those factors combined to produce the relatively unimpressive 155MPH top speed. However I did learn that 155MPH is a lot of fun :) Perhaps if I ever return to this track I will play with the gearing and see if I can get a higher number. It would be interesting to see what the top speed limiter feels like which kicks in at 186MPH.

An interesting factor I learned while at this track is that the top speed of my bike and that straight did not alter my lap times very much. 155MPH vs. 145MPH on that front straight changed the sector times by a very small number. Changes in my corners impacted my lap times far more than the front straight did. So that was another useful piece of information.

I also learned that just because you are on a faster bike does not mean you are going to lay down faster lap times. I learned this in a very fun way. In one of my sessions on Sunday I ran across this Panigale. Now this is a more powerful bike than mine even at full power. At 60% power he is impressively more powerful than me. I ran across him as he was entering the track. Since it was his out lap I didn't think much of it and figured that I would be seeing him again soon once he warmed up his tires. Sure enough, at the end of that lap he flew past me on the front straight and into turn 1. However, I was pretty close to turn 1 myself when he passed me so I thought, lets see if we can catch him.

I was able to catch up to him fairly quickly but I didn't feel like I had the strength to pass him right away. However, in the back half, the east side, I am very strong. While we were in that second half of the track I saw an opportunity to pass him, so I did. Yay for me. I hit the front straight hard since I know the final corner very well and proceeded down track. About 70% of the way down the front straight, he flew past me again! This time there was a bigger gap between us going into turn 1. Game on!

I was able to catch him again in that second lap and again in a third lap. In the fourth lap he got snagged up in some traffic and I passed him and the traffic on the inside. When I passed the group he decided to blow through the center of the group and pass me again. At this point I realized that egos were getting involved and someone was going to get hurt. After that I backed off and prepped myself to exit the track.

The lesson I learned was that more horsepower does not directly equate to faster lap times. The only reason he ever past me was because I was running at 60% power on the front straight. I was stronger than him in at least the west portion of the track and I was therefore able to "beat" a stronger bike. A very valuable lesson.

I have to say that I love this track. I really wish that it was closer to where I live as I would frequent it often if it were not 700 miles away. I think its location also contributes to its lack of use by other riders as the track is green enough that I went through two rear tires in two days. Damned expensive track day!

Worth the trip? Absolutely. Unfortunately a lot of other people did not feel the same and the track was definitely under utilized. Will I return next year? Doubt it. That is just too long of a drive and the track really tears up rear tires.

Copyright 2013 Lyndia I. Zarra
Immediately following this trip I had to be in San Francisco to speak at a conference less than 24 hours later. So Lyndia and I did a marathon driving session through the night and returned home 14 hours after leaving the track. This was further compounded by the fact that we had to head down to Streets of Willow Springs on Tuesday to attend Code RACE on Wednesday. Details of that adventure to follow in the next post.