Monday, May 2, 2016

AFM Round 2, 2016 — Sonoma Raceway

I love racing at Sonoma Raceway (formerly known as Infineon Raceway; formerly known as Sears Point). Sonoma is by far the most technical track on either circuit that I currently run. There are very few flat spots on the track, and the front straight is incredibly short. A great track for small bikes.

The challenge for Round 2 is that there is no Friday practice before this round. Due to the scheduling of another motorcycle event, Friday is booked. Fortunately, there was a charity event held on Wednesday before the weekend that allowed me a chance to practice on the track before racing.

Wednesday Practice — 3Js Charity Event

The weather reports were disagreeing before the event, and we were all hopeful that it was not going to be rained out. Unfortunately, the morning started with rain while we were still at the riders meeting. The track remained closed until lunch.

After lunch the track was dry, and we were allowed out to start working on our lines. There were a few spits of rain through the remaining sessions of the day, but there was sufficient time to get some testing completed.

For me, the testing resulted in finding a fault with the bike. The first incident occurred while driving hard up the drag strip. The bike stuttered then just died. I had to raise my hand and pull off to the “access road” with a dead motor.

I gave the bike a moment and then fired her back up. She started, roughly, but then appeared to be running fine. I returned to the pit and pulled her tank to make sure the fuel injector dummies were still attached. Everything looked to be in working order.

I went out again, and she was running fine. I started to push and work on my pace when she acted up again. This time, as I was heading up the hill towards T2, the most dangerous part of the track.

After a few terrifying moments, I was able to get her to the inside of the track and out of harm’s way. Fortunately, with this second incident, I was able to catch the error code before she shut off. Primary Injector failure.

Since this second incident was at the end of the day, I packed her up and took her home. Once home I pulled the dummy primary injector and replaced it with a spare. Guess we find out at AFM if that was the injector that failed!

Saturday Practice and F40 Light

Saturday practice started smoothly, and I began getting my pace up. All the while waiting for something to fail underneath me. As I worked through the morning practice, I was able to confirm that the injector problem is gone and that I can start working on pace.

After lunch, I switch to a new fuel. Instead of running pump 100 octane, I started using VP Fuel’s newer “VPR” mixture. VPR is also 100 octane but comes in sealed 5-gallon pails and is more consistent compared to what you get from the pump.

During the practice, it was immediately evident that there was a difference in the fuel. My 2011 Serious R4 started running significantly smoother and while I didn’t feel a major increase in her pull she was smoother through the rev range. A noticeable improvement.

Saturday ends with my first race of the weekend; F40 Lightweight. This class started with older racers and was a slower race. In recent years, it has turned into a class of former champions who are still damn fast. As a result, I am not currently anywhere near the sharp end of the grid. Fortunately, it is not about who is fastest on the grid but who is in front of you. From my position, there was not a shortage of targets :)

The race was great fun, lots of passing and battling but I didn’t make very many places by the end. I started the race 22nd on the grid (out of over 30) and finished the race 18th. Not a great outing but a great confirmation that the bike is running great ready for Sunday!

Sunday, Formula IV

Formula IV is another huge race and has an unusual mix of bikes. A total of 9 rows of bikes on the grid and I was in the middle of row 5.

I got a solid launch off the line, one of my better launches and I raced up to T2 safely to stick my nose in the mess that is always there on the first lap. I took a tight line through T2 and worked on pushing my way through the grid.

Two riders from the novice grid (the two fastest) got in ahead of me and became the two riders I was destined to fight with throughout the race. Neither racer impacts my points, but I need to get past both of them if I am going to move up in the points in my race.

By the end, the three of us had swapped positions a number of times; we were able to put a couple of other expert racers behind us, and I finished my race in 18th place while they finished in 1st and 2nd respectively. A great battle all the way around.

Sunday, 450 Superbike

Entering this race I was still feeding off the energy from the Formula IV race and was looking forward to coming out of the gate hard.

Another solid launch off the line and I was in the mix going into T2. This time, I saw one of the two novices from the last race and was able to get past him (along with a couple of other racers) during the chaos of T2. By the end of the first lap, I was working my way up to catch two more expert racers who were in front of me and within reach.

My 2011 Serious R4 was running perfectly. My Dunlop tires were sticking no matter how hard I tried to break them loose. My confidence was extremely high. Everything was right with the world.

Halfway through the race the battle was fierce. No one giving an inch and with the trust that develops when you are racing against people you know well, the passes were close and unforgiving.

Half way through the race another rider joined in our mid-pack battle and introduced a new element. This caused us to spread out a bit and allowed another racer who had been behind me to catch up and join into the mix.

By the end of the race I finished where I started but with a huge grin on my face knowing that I gave as good as I got.

Sunday, 450 Production

The final race of the day for me. A smaller grid since a number of bikes that qualify for Superbike cannot qualify for production. Plus there was a thinning of the herd in the 450 Superbike race which further reduced the grid. Nevertheless, the fighting was intense.

The first lap left the novice racers behind us. Only experts in front of me. The grid spread out quite a bit on the first lap, and the first battle in front of me were two people that I am at pace with.

As I reeled them in I watched one stalk the other and finally make a perfect pass which slowed down the passee and let me gain a few precious tenths of a second on him. Now it was my turn.

Two laps later the rider in front of me makes his mistake, and I take advantage of it, doing a pinch pass on him out of T7. I immediately up my pace and try and catch the next racer in front of me.

Unfortunately, I ran out of laps. I was gaining on the next rider, but there just was not enough time. One more lap? Two more laps? Hard to say. I will have something for him at the next round

My Thanks

As I have said before, I cannot race without my sponsors. Sponsorship is not just about money, but it is about trust. I trust my life with my sponsors.

I trust that my Woodcraft clip-ons and footpegs will hold me as I muscle my 2011 Serious R4 around the track.

I trust Sunstar chain and sprockets are going to hold for the entire race and won’t spit me off the bike at the wrong time.

If I did not trust my sponsors, I would not use their products. Simple as that. If you are looking for a company to trust, take a look at my sponsorship page. I literally trust them with my life.