Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 WERA at Miller

One of my major goals for 2015 was to get more track experience on as many tracks as possible. While going to track days on various tracks is fun, racing on those tracks is far better experience and a fire hose of knowledge compared to a track day by itself. Therefore, I signed up with a few different clubs in the western United States.

Arguably the biggest short circuit club in the United States is WERA and they were a no brainer to sign up with. WERA races as dozens of tracks around the United States and has both regional races as well as national races. As luck would have it, my schedule this year allowed for me to attend three rounds of WERA. The first round was a national round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.



Rickdiculous


It would be completely improper to have this race report without mentioning Rickdiculous. Rickdiculous is a motorcycle riding program that aims at making you a better rider no matter what your skill level is. When they post their schedule each year the dates sell out very quickly. I was able to schedule two days with Rickdiculous at Miller just before racing with WERA. A perfect opportunity to brush up on this fantastic track and to get some excellent coaching as well.

By the end of the second day I was ready and extremely excited to race. I had the track in my head, I was comfortable with my pace and wanted to bang some bars!

Saturday racing


Unlike AFM (and OMRRA), WERA does double header weekends which means you race on Saturday and Sunday. Same race class, twice. Awesome!

My only issue when I signed up for the Miller weekend is that I only got to do two races per day. While this seems like enough, when you are traveling over 1200 miles to race you want to get as much value for your dollar as possible.

After a consultation with the race organizer, we found a third race for me to participate in each day. Six races in the weekend. Now we are talking!

The only issue though was that this third race was against heavy weight twins. Twins meaning the bikes have two cylinders (I got in on an exception because of having an unusual three cylinders) and heavy weight meaning they can be any size motor they want. I have 450cc and I can expect to be up against 1200cc bikes.

But it was the first race of the day and it will be excellent practice for the two races that “matter”.

Heavyweight Twins


One of the things that I found odd about WERA but ended up really liking was the way they handle their grids. When the grids are small (4–5 bikes) they just combine the grids for comparable races. Your points are against the other 3–4 bikes in your “race” but you are racing against a much larger number of bikes. Sounds strange but it is great fun. The whole point of racing is to beat the racer in front of you, do you really care if that racer is in your race or not? I generally don’t :)

In this race I was on the second row and watching these bigger bikes grid up in front of me. I was expecting them to check out on me and I would never see them again. I was going to get to practice with clear track and twisting the throttle in anger. What more could you ask for?

Green flag drops and we are off. As expected they all check out in front of me and head down the 4,500 foot long front straight.

Something interesting happened as we approached turn 1; they were all braking really, really early for the corner. I passed one bike who was on the brakes while I was still WOT! Hmmm…

I had prey to stalk!

Half way through the race I caught another one of those bigger bikes and passed him at a spot I knew I was stronger at. After that pass I looked for my next victim but realized that there were no more to be had. I finished the race in 4th place with a smile on my face.

Formula 2


Formula 2 is a catch all class for bikes of lower to medium horsepower. A fairly full grid and one of my races that I should be competitive in.

Green flag dropped and, as is normal on the 450 triple, everyone flies by me on the launch. But, going into turn 1 I am again surprised to find myself in the middle of the pack as people are aggressively breaking for the corner. Time for some fun!

The race flew by me in a blur. There were passes I made on people and a few small battles as I worked my way through the pack. I remember being surprised by the checkered flag as I was completely focused on the bike in front of me. When I pulled into the pits I had to ask what position I was in, so focused on the battle that I didn’t have a clue where I finished. Another race in the bag and my first podium of the weekend. 3rd place!

D Superbike


My final race of the day is my premier race of the weekend. SV 650s do not race in this category (unlike Formula 2) and smaller bikes tend to go to another class. As a side effect of how narrowly focused the category is there are only two bikes on the grid, including me. The good news is that we are gridded with the lightweight twins (SV 650s) so I will get to race in a nice pack even though they do not count against me in the points.

This is where things got … interesting.

Normally, when you begin a race you are let out on course and do a warm up lap and then take your grid position. This lets you see the track, get your head into the right place and makes it easier to grid. For the warmup lap I generally like to get out front and run at near race pace. I find that it helps me to get into the zone.

In this race though, it was a little off. When I came around the last bend to the grid there were no marshals out to tell the riders where to go. This was unusual. I looked up at the starter tower and the marshall was waiving me on. Very unusual.

I proceeded down the front straight at a slow pace expecting someone to open one of the many gates along Miller’s straight to get me off the course. From my perspective something had gone wrong, perhaps during the warm up lap, and they were not starting the race.

You never stop on a live track during a race without a marshal so I kept moving.

Once I reached turn one I knew something was really off. I picked up the pace to come around to start finish again and kept watching the corner workers for a signal to tell me what to do next. Throughout the entire lap, no signals. Very strange…

When I reached the last corner I looked up at the starter tower again and this time the marshall was waiving a green flag!

Green means go!

I missed the start of the race. I immediately put my head down and went to full race pace.

For 3 laps I didn’t see anyone. I was on the track by myself. At the end of the third lap I saw the pack of riders ahed of me. Time to see if I can catch them.

I was in a zone, not my normal race zone but a red misted zone that was desperate to catch and pass every rider in the field. I was aggressive, if there was an inch to pass I took it. In some cases I had an incredible speed delta on some people that it felt like they were standing still.

I lost count of the number of people I passed in that race.

All that mattered was the next bike.

By the end of the race I took 6th position from being 3/4ths of a lap down on start. I set the fastest lap of the race (of any of the waves) and had a few riders convinced that I had lapped them :)

Once the race was over I spoke to race direction and found out the story:

The marshals were a little late getting out to the grid. The starter saw my bike and incorrectly assumed I was a 600cc bike from the previous race and waved me through. After he realized his mistake he didn’t want to make the rest of the grid wait for me to do another lap so let them all go without me; effectively putting me a lap down in the race.

In the end I took second in my class and 6th overall in the race. While not happy with the results, I was quite pleased with my performance.

Sunday Racing


Heavyweight Twins


There were some minor changes to the line-up between Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the Heavyweight Twins grid was merged with the Women’s Superstock race that was not held on Saturday. This meant a larger grid and a fair number of high horsepower bikes.

I ran a good race and ended up battling with a few of the women while working on getting a podium finish. I ended up finishing third in my class and setting a new personal best which put a huge smile on my face since my Agile Bits 450 is nowhere near a heavy weight bike :)

Formula 2


On Saturday I took third in Formula 2 and my goal for Sunday was to improve on that. On Sunday with the combination of the King of the Mountain race I was not able to make that possible. I had a fantastic race battling with Draik Beauchamp the entire time but was not able to get past him and ended up taking 4th.

Definitely need to work on passing those SV 650s…

D Superbike


This is the race I had been waiting for. Because of the small grid size, WERA merged the D Superbike grid with the Lightweight Twins. Not only do I get to race against the other 450 but I get another shot at beating Draik Beauchamp. Once I lined up on the grid I got my first look at the other 450. As I was lined up in the third position on the grid, the other 450 was in the second position and Draik was on pole. Once I saw the line up my goal was clear. Get past the other 450 as quickly as possible and then go after Draik.

After 2 laps I was past the other 450 and in first place in my class. But I wanted Draik. For the next two laps I hung onto his rear wheel. Every lap we went faster than the lap before. In the end I was unable to catch him but we had a couple of amazing laps. Meanwhile, I set a new personal best and a full second faster than my last one.

Sponsors


I could not do this without my sponsors. Every single one of them is worthy of your attention and patronage. I have said it often before but it bears repeating:

I am very selective of my sponsors. I do not look for a sponsor then buy their equipment. I value my life way too much to trust it to just any piece of equipment from a manufacturer that will give me a discount.

My normal process is to find a piece of equipment that I like, usually through testing it at my own cost, and then approach them about sponsorship. Quite often I will support a product without receiving any monetary benefit from them.

As a racer I am literally trusting my life to these companies. When I put on a set of Woodcraft rear sets I am making a statement that I trust them to work perfectly. If a rear set were to ever fail on me that would probably result in a life threatening crash.

The same goes with every other piece of equipment that I wear or put on my bike. I trust them.

When you are looking for equipment for your bike and you don’t know who to trust, look at my Sponsors page. They have earned my trust.

Wrap Up


WERA at Miller was a fantastic race weekend. It was a very friendly environment and well run. I look forward to competing there again very soon.