Tuesday, May 31, 2016

AFM Round 3, 2016 -- Thunderhill Raceway

Experience vs. Bad Habits

A have a love/hate relationship with this track.  Thunderhill is the first track that I learned how to go fast on.  Thunderhill is the track that I have the most experience with, literally thousands of laps around this circuit.

Thunderhill is also the track that I have the most bad-habits.  I know I can go faster here.  I know how to go faster here, I have gone faster here.

Not this weekend.

Round 3 of the AFM was at Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California, just outside of Willows, CA.  With the drought slowly fading away, this was our first "hot" race weekend this year with air temps in the high 90s and track temps well above 130F.

This weekend I was again on my B bike as I have not solved the electrical gremlin on my A bike.  Not for a lack of trying!

Saturday Practice

Being an instructor now with Z2 Track Days, I do not consider Friday to be a proper practice day.  I do not have the time nor the focus to work on my lap times while also working with other riders and improving their skills.  Therefore, my focus on Friday was 100% on instructing, and I waited until Saturday to start twisting the throttle in anger.

Saturday morning went fairly well.  Not my fastest times but I was able to get comfortable with the track fairly quickly.  I spent most of the morning playing with gearing, not changing my gear ratios but playing with where to change gears as I go around the track.

There was, of course, plenty of time to tinker with the A bike and try and get her fixed so that I could run the stronger bike.  That, unfortunately, did not end in success.

Formula 40 Light

Saturday afternoon ends with the F40 Light race.  F40 is for racers who are 40 years and older and racing anything smaller than a 600cc bike.  The race has matured over the years from "slow old guys" to "ex-champions" and it is a damn fast race.

The launch of this race was an absolute laugh off for me as my muscle memory tried to launch the B bike in a manner that works great on the A bike but nearly stalls the B bike.  I was in the middle of the grid but ended up going into T1 dead last.  I was honestly laughing in my helmet as I started working my way back through the pack.

About half way through the race a red flag was thrown which was not a surprise considering the crazy number of crashes that were occurring.  It felt like there was a bike down in every corner of the track!

On the restart, I got a much better launch and flew into T1 in a much better position.  However, even with a re-do on the launch, my pace was not what it should have been, and I finished near the back of the race.


Spent Sunday morning practice again trying a theory with the A bike and again confirming another piece of the bike is not at fault for the issue.

450 Production

The first race of the schedule is 450 Production.  I was gridded 8th which is a solid position as it is on the outside of the grid and gives you a great line for a wide entrance into T1.

The launch was solid, and I was in the mix by T2.  Had a short battle with a good friend of mine and did a wicked pass on him on the outside of T14-T15 and started to reel in the next target.  Unfortunately, it was cut short with another red flag which sent us back to the pits.

Unfortunately, the red flag was for the friend of mine that I had passed on the lap previously.  He, unfortunately, was air-lifted to the hospital while we restarted the race without him.

On the restart, I got a decent launch, not as good as the first but enough to put me into the thick of things.  I ended up battling (and losing) to another friend on the grid and finished towards the back of the pack.

450 Superbike

Race 3 of the day was 450 Superbike.  Not a back to back race but pretty close.  A decent launch put me into the middle of the grid with a few bikes in striking distance but plenty of track to work on dropping my lap times.  By the end of the race, I finished in the middle of the pack and managed to drop my lap times by a small amount.

By this point, I was convinced that my gearing was wrong and no matter where I shifted gears that was simply not going to get much better.

I also realized that it was too late in the weekend to be mucking with the gearing.  Only one race was left.

Formula 4

Last race of the weekend for me and one of the most interesting races.  Instead of purely equal bikes in this race, it is a mix of bikes that make relatively the same power.  Very similar to the Formula 40 race in many respects.  Never one of my strongest races, but it is an opportunity to learn from other racers and get faster.

Again, a disappointing finish for me as I found myself at the end of the pack but a pleasure to race none the less.

Wrap up

The worst day racing is better than the best day at the office.

Not my best weekend by far.  I spent more time wrenching than racing, but I poured my heart into every race and gave it what I had.

The results were not what I wanted, but it was still a fantastic weekend in the sun.

I am looking forward to Round 4, also at Thunderhill, where I will have the right gearing and hopefully will be back on my A bike.

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