Saturday, July 30, 2016

WERA West 2016 Round 4 — Fontana

Auto Club Speedway is a unique track in my racing circuit. It is the only track that is run inside of a NASCAR oval, and it also uses part of that oval. It is also one of the few tracks where I am using 6th gear and hitting the speed limit of my motorcycle.

This event was a single rather than a double header for WERA. We only raced on Sunday which, as luck would have it, was a good thing since the heat on Saturday was causing many people problems. Although I did not attend the track day on Saturday, I heard from a few how the heat was a major issue. Fortunately, Sunday was only in the 90s.

Practice Sessions

For my first practice session, I decided to try out some new gearing to see if I could get some more speed on the bank. Unfortunately, I realized fairly quickly that the gearing change was wrong. It left me too low in the RPM range for the 450 in several corners.

Fontana ACS Track Map
The good news is that I was within 1 second of my previous personal best even with the wrong gearing.

My second session was spent adjusting the set-up of the bike a little bit. The shifter lever was too high, the clutch lever rotated too low, small details that make the bike more comfortable to race.

Heavyweight Twins

My first race of the day is the race that makes me laugh every time. By the rules, my bike qualifies for this race, but my 450 is underpowered compared to the bikes that are also legal in this race; the Panigale, the RC8, etc. Despite that, I am the current points leader in WERA West and finish on the podium most of the time.

I gridded up on pole position with my main rival (on a Triumph 675) next to me and two others on the grid including an older air-cooled Ducati.

The green flag drops and everyone is off like a rocket. I get a solid start, but the power difference is obvious immediately. Nevertheless, I find them all in T3, and I stick my nose right back into the fight. Within a lap, two of the bikes are several corners ahead of me, and I soon found myself all alone. Excellent time for practice (which is the purpose of this race for me).

On the final lap, I see a yellow flag in T12, a tricky corner, and see a white bike down. Wondering if that was the triumph or one of the other bikes I completed the final lap and took the checker.

I ended up taking second in the race; was never challenged by the air-cooled Ducati and the bike on its side was the Buell and not my main competitor. An additional three point gain for him in the season and now he is only six points behind me.

Formula 2

This race is historically dominated by the SV 650 and tends to provide a good race. This weekend the grid had two of the new FZ–07s which added a bit of a difference to the mix.

I was disappointed that my two main competitors were not on the grid this weekend. I was looking forward to a solid battle with both of them, alas it was not meant to be. Free championship points for me :)

When the green flag dropped the two FZ–07s sprang forward as expected with twins but a new player joined them on the launch, an electric bike.

Through the first lap I worked my way back through the pack of 650s, and as we approached the banking for the first time, I saw that the FZ–07s were quite a bit ahead of me and pulled.

I put my head down and worked on hitting my numbers, apex, brake marker, exit point, etc.

Hitting my numbers is my way of focusing on the task instead of the race. If I focus on the race, I try too hard and go slower. If I relax and just “hit my numbers” I get into a rhythm and my lap times drop.

By lap 5 I was within a corner of third place as he had made a few mistakes and my lap times were dropping.

At the rate I was gaining on a third place I suspect I would have been looking for a pass in a couple of laps; unfortunately, I ran out of them.

Next time…

A solid fourth place finishes for me with no other championship contenders on the grid.

I’ll take it :)

D Superbike

This is my main race.

I grided in the number one spot for my race. A 450 Supermoto was gridded to my right.

Launch strategy:

  • The supermoto will get the hole shot. Triples do not launch well.
  • Catch him in T3 and look for the inside pass.

Life never goes as planned. The supermoto’s pace aligned perfectly with the sharper end of the race behind us and caused a fair amount of chaos.

Every chance I had to pass the super was disrupted by an R3 trying to get past both of us. The race can be summed up as:

  • The R3 would pass me on the brakes.
  • I would check up to avoid taking him out.
  • I would pass the R3 back on the power.
  • I would catch back up to the super moto.
  • Rinse and Repeat

My pace for the weekend was significantly higher than either the super moto or the R3, but it requires clear track to get that pace going.

Had I launched better and gotten the hole shot then there would have been no chaos.

I finished 2nd in class.

Time to work on that launch and first corner entry.

Wrap Up

Fontana is a fun track, and I would love to do a double header weekend there sometime. It is a long drive for a single race day but nevertheless a blast.

I look forward to returning in September for another battle on the banks!


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