Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015 WERA @ LVMS

In February, 2012 I attended my first on track motorcycle school. I attended Keith Code’s Superbike School, levels one and two. Why is that important? Because that was the last time I was on track at Las Vegas Motorsports Park. Until this past weekend.

I didn’t remember very much of the track. I remembered that it was flat, fairly slow and that there were not any amenities for trailers, etc.

And I remembered that it was hot; even in February.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I have not seen this track in 3.5 years. Worse, I knew nothing the last time I was here. Might as well be a brand new track to me.

To add to the challenge, there is no Friday practice. There is a Saturday practice but then the first race is also Saturday with no time for reflection between practice and the first race.

We ended up getting 5 solid sessions of practice in and by the afternoon I was comfortable with most of the corners. Two corners still vexed me, turn 3 and turn 8. Two very slow corners on the track.

To add to the fun, the weekend was one of the hotest, most humid in recent history. 100+ air temp with ground temp over 130 and humdity in the 30% range. Hydration was everything. I simply could not get enough water in me to stay fully hydrated.

The weather also impacted the track itself. Grip was way down. On many corners I could feel both tires sliding out under braking and acceleration.

Fun times!

Solo 16

On Saturday afternoon there was an usual race called a “Solo 16”. Basically a 16 lap race with one rider. No pitstops, etc. A small endurance race.

Considering most races at this level last 4–6 laps; 16 laps is a very long race. I spent the morning making sure that the bike would have enough gas for the entire race not to mention making sure that I could handle 16 laps at race pace.

Either due to the weather or to the type of race, the turn out was quite low. Low enough that they combined the heavy, middle and light races onto a single grid. 9 racers total on the grid; I was on the second smallest bike on the grid. Most of the bikes were 180+ HP 1000cc bikes. In 16 laps they were going to lap me. The only question was it going to be once or twice?

Green flag drops and we are off. Most of the bikes take off and pretty much left me alone. But a few laps into the race I started seeing them a couple of corners ahead of me. Hmmm…

I pulled in one of the middleweight bikes and was setting him up for a pass when he missed Turn 1 and went straight. Well, if he is just going to give it to me…

A few more laps and I see another bike to stalk and pull in. As I am reeling in the bike in front of me (which I realize is a 1000cc bike :) I get passed by the front runners. Not an issue for me as they caught me on the back straight and had no issues getting by me. However they caused the bike in front of me to hesitate, another second gained.

Then we catch the back of the field, the bike in front of me gets held up by the slower bike in one of the tigher sections. Another second.

Sadly I ran out of laps before I caught him. One, maybe two more laps and I would have been looking for the pass. Unfortunately it was not meant to be.

Unbeknownst to me though, a few riders retired before the end of the race. 16 laps at race pace in 130+ weather is rough. I had a hard time getting off the bike myself and I only did 15 laps due to being lapped once.

Nevertheless, I took 1st in my division and 5th overall in the race. A fantastic outcome and end to Saturday “practice”.

Sunday Racing

As is normal with WERA, I have three races scheduled for Sunday. Heavyweight Twins, Formula 2 and D Superbike; in that order.

I have been using the Heavyweight Twins race as a “practice” race. A chance to twist the throttle in anger. The green flag drops and we are off. The larger bikes take off from the line as expected and I work on dropping my lap times. Studying them and seeing if there is anything to learn. I dropped some time in the race and never really lost sight of them. Perhaps if I were a second or two faster…

The second race of the day was Formula 2. One of the two classes that I am expected to be competitive in. In general I am competitive in it and it usually turns out to be a good race. This time I learned something :)

The rule with AFM is that when the green flag starts to wave you go. In reality, racers tend to watch for the arm twitch and then go. The theory is that the twitch is followed by the flag in such a short period of time that you are not jumping the flag.

In practice this works most of the time. Every once in a while the marshal’s arm will twitch without raising the flag and you end up with a jumped start. Happened to me earlier this year at Sonoma.

In Formula 2 the flagger had an issue. He went to raise the flag and hit the railing. This delayed the raising of the flag and I waited until until it cleared the railing. The other racers did not.

Other than what I perceived to be a jumped start we were dead even the entire race. I dropped half a second, they would drop half a second. Faster and faster. By the end of the race I set a new personal best but was unable to move up a position. I dropped from a normal pace of 1:34 to the low 1:31s. Overall a good race.

After the race I spoke with the race director about jumped starts. Seems WERA is different than AFM. The rule is simple, when his arm moves you go. They didn’t jump the start, I waited too long.

The last race of the day is D Superbike. My race.

I had one competitor in this race and my pace was better than his earlier in the day. Of course his launch capability was much greater than mine. As long as I launched on time I would have a solid shot of beating him.

He got a better launch (expected) but I was soon on his tail. I had 6 laps to beat him. Three laps into the race and I was looking for opportunities and showing him a wheel. At the start of the fourth lap I knew I had him. He was much weaker than me on the entry into turn 5 and I planned to come up the inside of him.

Unfortunately for me the temperature of the track was rising throughout the race and I was getting a little sloppy on my corner exits. As I exited turn 2 and applied the throttle the rear of the bike stepped out on me in a big way. I pulled it back, applied power again and it again stepped out on me. Pulling it back the second time I got the bike back under control and went after him again. Unfortunately that cost me over a second and he was out of range.

I ended up taking second of two in the race, lost the rear tire three times in the race trying to catch him but ended up having a fantastic time trying to catch him. I look forward to the next time I grid next to him.

Fortunately for me I had already secured enough points to win the championship. As long as I didn’t crash (a near enough thing) I was finishing the season in first place.

Therefore I am (unofficially) the 2015 champion of D Superbike. It will be official in January of 2016.

Wrap up

In 2012, at CSS, my best lap time on a 2012 BMW S1000RR was 2:27.643.

In 2015, at WERA, my best lap time on a 2008 Yamaha R4 (450cc triple) was a 1:31.441.  A minute faster on 1/3rd the horsepower and torque.  A minor improvement :)


Racing with WERA was a test this year to see if I wanted to continue with the club.

I truly enjoyed every round this year, I got to experience tracks that I do not normally race on, and I got to meet some great people.

If it is possible I will be back in 2016 to defend my title in D Superbike and even take another crack at winning Formula 2 and Heavyweight Twins.

See you in 2016 WERA!

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