From that discussion we decided to go down to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in January of 2015 and run the track on my 2011 MartianCraft ZX–10R. Being on a track in January in sub–60F (15C) temperatures was an absolute eye opener for me. Tire warmers are effectively useless at these temps. First lap will be hot, sure. But after that, if you aren’t keeping the heat in the tires they are going to cool down on their own. Needless to say I learned a lot about heating up tires and maintaining heat that weekend!
After sampling Chuckwalla in January the team manager approved us attending two races this year at Chuckwalla. One in the 2014/15 season and one in the 2015/16 season.
Fast forward to April!
Chuckwalla is really far away from where we live in NorCal so it takes 1+ days to get there. We got a bit of a late start on Thursday and did not arrive until Friday morning. Since I had forgotten to register for the track day on Friday it wasn’t much an issue.
Only one issue. This round is being run counter-clockwise and I have only run this track once – clockwise.
A quick conversation with the track provider (Big thanks to TrackDaz!) and I was able to get into the afternoon for practice. At the end of the day, after the “track day” was over, the track was opened to licensed racers for an hour. Full open track. Nice!
By the end of the day on Friday I was close to race pace and looking forward to Saturday.
Unlike AFM, CVMA runs a schedule similar to WERA. Saturday and Sunday are effectively the same schedule and every race is done twice per weekend. The only difference is the shootout which rotates through the classes. Saturday’s shootout was middle weight bikes and Sundays shootout was lightweight bikes.
I brought a lightweight bike :)
Morning practice went well and then I went through qualifying. Unlike AFM, CVMA does qualifying for every bike. Really enjoyed that!
I was gridded towards the back of each of my races which suited me just fine. These races are practice for me. Practice at being better. Launching from the back means I work on passing.
Throughout my races on Saturday I really struggled with passing. Not being familiar with the track seemed to compound my already known issue with passing. I ended up battling with novices more than I fought with the experts through out the day.
Each race was better than the one before it. Each race I got faster, learned more about the track and got more comfortable.
By the end of the day I was happy with my progress and looking forward to Sunday. This is my first experience with showing up at a new track, learning it and racing it in the same weekend.
Learning, learning, learning!
I always say that you can’t fully process what you learn in the day that you learn it. You need to sleep on it, consume it, let the rest of your brain process the new data.
Racing Chuckwalla was no different. Sunday morning only has two very brief practice sessions and then the races start. The idea, I assume, is to try and get everyone wrapped up and out as early as possible given the drive everyone has from Chuckwalla!
I was instantly faster than I had been all day on Saturday. Even in the somewhat colder temps I had shaved seconds by just sleeping on it. My confidence was high coming out of practice and I was looking forward to the races.
my first race of Sunday was an odd class for me. While being called Formula Twins this class actually allows a wide range of motorcycles with all of them around the same amount of horsepower.
When the green flag dropped I found myself heading to the first bend with a novice SV coming up inside of me.
Mistake #1 was not fighting for that apex. I let the novice in front of me.
Only afterwards did I realize who it was. It was the same swoopy rider that I had issues with the day before. I struggle with getting around slower riders who insist on going from paint to paint on every corner. Something I am working on this year.
I worked for several laps to try and get around him. However with the differences in our power band I was finding it difficult to get a clean pass. Every time I saw an opportunity I was not where I needed to be in the power and he was able to pull on me. There is work to be done.
After a few laps I noticed that he was very weak coming out of the bowl and since it was my strongest corner, I decided to make my move.
I went into the bowl hot and drifted wide so that I could pull the exit tight. As I was drifting out, I saw him go wide on the corner, very wide. My opportunity was shaping up perfectly.
I pulled the exit tight, stood my 2008 AgileBits R4 up and pinned it for the next corner. I saw two outcomes:
- He sees me, panics (common) and backs off, giving me the next corner. A net win.
- He sees me and drag races me to the next corner. He gets the inside line for the next corner and I get the inside line for the second corner. A net win.
What I did NOT expect was for him to ignore me/not see me and collide with me after the exit of the corner.
Unfortunately the collision knocked me unconscious and was the end of my weekend.
My 2008 AgileBits R4 suffered almost no damage but I ended up with an ambulance ride and a CAT scan.
End result was no lasting injury to me but I was done for the weekend.
I learned a lot from this weekend. I gained more confidence in my 2008 AgileBits R4 and in my own race craft.
I also added a lot to my todo list of things to work on.
I have the pace, now I need to get better at passing slower riders.