Thursday, September 22, 2016

WERA West 2016 Round 5 -- Fontana

Round 5 finds us back at Fontana for the second round in a row.  This is another single header event which means we are racing for only one day.

There is a track day available on Saturday for practice, but my current schedule did not allow for me to get to Fontana on Friday, so I was not able to practice on Saturday.

Fortunately, due to the classes that I run, I am afforded two practice groups in the morning which gives me 4 practice sessions before racing starts.  

Practice Sessions

My first practice session is always slow.  My goal of that session is to inspect the track, feel the bike, get warmed up.  I don't look at my lap times; I do not try and push the limits at all; the goal is to make sure everything is working and feels right.  

The second session is when I start to push, a little bit.  Again, the aim is to make sure the bike feels right.  While pushing, I am "listening" to the bike.  Listening is not 100% accurate as I am not only using my ears, but I am also using my hands, my feet, my knees and even my rear-end.  All of that sensory input tells my brain how the bike is behaving; they are my connections to the bike, and I want to know how she feels.

The third session is when lap times start to matter.  The first goal, can I meet the lap times from the last race I was here.  Ideally, I want to meet or exceed my current personal best lap time.  If I am not able to do that then it is time to look at the data; find where I am slow and correct it.

By the end of practice, my lap times were close to my personal best, and my optimal lap time was well below.  A quick look at the data surprised me; I was very sloppy on the throttle coming off the embankment, she wasn't pinned as much as I thought she was.  

D Superbike

This round my most important race was up first.  I am the points leader in this race, and no one is close to me.  However, I have been battling with Marc Rittner for the last couple of rounds and in both instances, I was found wanting.  

I was determined to correct that error this round.

The green flag drops and Marc is off like a rocket. 

By the end of the first lap, I am on his tail.

By the end of the second lap, I have passed him on the embankment and start pulling away.

By lap four I can no longer hear him behind me.  Success!

At the last hard braking zone of the track on the last lap, I hear him, and he passes me on the brakes.  I try to go around the outside of him, but he has me blocked, and I lost my drive; the bike dropping out of her power-band and needing to wind back up again.

Marc beat me to the line by 0.21 seconds.  21/100ths of a second.

Next time...

Formula 2

The second race of the day was Formula 2.  The current points leader was not in attendance for this event (overall attendance for the event was low, probably due to it being a one-day event) so there was no concern for points.

However, also due to the low turn out, several races were combined on the grid and while I was in pole position I was on the seventh row of the grid.  As a bonus, Marc Rittner was on row one in a different race but racing under the same green flag as me.

I spent the first lap battling with an Aprilla and managed to pass him on lap two.  The only other person in front of me was Marc.

After making a few mistakes, I was able to reel him in by mid-race and then overtake him on the banking.  My goal at that point was to hold onto the lead of the race and not give him an opportunity to pass me back.

In the end, I crossed the finish line in first place of the race as well as first place in my class.  While we were not racing against each other, it still felt good to cross that line first.

Heavyweight Twins

Normally heavyweight twins is my first race of the day and is used for "practice in anger."  While I have always considered this to be a practice race for me I am nevertheless the current points leader in the class due to highly unlikely circumstances.  The person who has won the most races was also in attendance for this round, and I am certain he was looking to correct the points and claim the top spot.

As I have mentioned previously, this class is geared for 1000cc (or larger) twins, and I originally started racing in it purely to get more track time out of the weekend as I love to race even if I don't have a chance of winning.

The green flag dropped, and the other competitors took off into the distance and by the middle of the first lap, I was left alone.

Time to practice!

Half way through the race I destroyed my personal best on this track and decided to see if I could push it a little more…

Last lap of the race, I dropped another half of a second and more importantly, I know how I did it.

Wrap Up

Even though I did not beat Marc in the D Superbike race it was a damn good race and I look forward to the next round.  He has been pushing me to be better at these tracks and I appreciate it.  Now if he would just slow down a tad bit…

I am now securely in the points lead for D Superbike and Formula 2.  The big question will be if I can keep the points lead in Heavyweight Twins with two more races to go and the second place being only four points behind me.

Guess we will find out in Las Vegas!

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