Saturday, October 8, 2016

AFM Round 6 -- End of the Season

I sit here in my home office trying to get started on this race report. It is the hardest one I have ever tried to write.

As of today, October 8, 2016, I have not been on a motorcycle in seven days. This is the longest “break” in recent memory.

I am battling depression on an hourly basis.

I am supposed to be in Las Vegas, battling for three championships.

This is my last race report for 2016.

Friday Practice

On Friday, I woke up at the track and was looking forward to the day. Friday practice for this AFM round was hosted by Zoom Zoom and I am a part of their on-track instructional staff.

Helping other riders realize their potential and (to steal a phrase from Ken Hill) to be faster, safer riders is such a joy that I do not do any race practice on Fridays; I focus on helping other riders be safer and faster.

Since I am currently down to one race motor I decided to run my 2011 ZX–10R on Friday and save my last race motor as much as possible as I have a double header the very next weekend and cannot afford to blow my motor by running it hard for 7–14 20 minute sessions on a Friday.

First session in the morning was the normal lead follow with the beginner group and at the end of the session I struck up a conversation with a relatively new rider who had lots of questions and lots of hunger.

Second session I set up at the side of the grid in case any of the riders wanted an instructor to follow along with them and work with them during the session.

That is what we are there for.

The same rider I spoke with wanted some one-on-one so we spent the session working together. I would lead, show him lines, then have him lead. Following him I would pick a couple of spots that can get the largest improvement, get ahead of him, and help correct his line.

He did fantastic in that session and I encouraged him to continue working with the lines. He decided to continue working with me for the rest of the day.

By the end of the day he was doing absolutely amazing. Hitting his markers, being extremely consistent and generally having a great time. He wanted to try the intermediate group to ride with his friend but the friend ended up having an incident and he stayed in the beginner group continuing to hone his skills.

A great day, impossible not to have a smile on your face when you see the joy another rider gets from the improvements they have made through the day.

Saturday Practice

Saturday morning is my first time on my 2011 SeriousRnD R4 this weekend. Very first session is all about feeling. Does she feel right. Does anything vibrate? Is she singing her normal song or is something off?

By the end of the session I was absolutely happy with her. She was running perfectly, the tires were exactly right, suspension got warmed up, engine is singing her beautiful song.

Session 2 is about getting my head up to pace. Find my markers for the weekend (they change week to week), confirm where I want to apex the corners, get settled into my lines. At the end of the session I am within 2 seconds of race pace. I could not be happier.

Session 3 is the first session in “anger”. This session is about running at or near race pace and a double check that everything is where I want it.

Session 4 and 5 are after lunch on Saturday and it is always a toss up if I go out for them. I decided to use Session 4 and I skipped Session 5. I need to save this motor.

Formula 40 Light — Saturday Race

As I have mentioned before, F40L started out as “slow old guys” and now is “fast ex-champions”. My pace is not at the front in this race at Thunderhill and I tend to use it to have fun and to settle the racing nerves before Sunday.

Considering I am not in the points this weekend and my championship battles are next weekend in Las Vegas I had an extremely clear head.

  • Get a good start.
  • Find someone to catch.
  • Have fun.

As we got off the line I see my friend Owen slot in front of me as we enter T1. Owen and I have had some great battles this year and I was looking forward to another one this race.

I had no interest in pushing on the first lap. You can’t win the race on the first lap but you can lose it. I followed Owen around the track and planned where the dance would start in lap 2.

As I passed under the bridge and entered into T14 is when everything changed.

I have no memory of that corner.

Incident in Turn 14

On lap one, there was another racer behind me. Unbeknownst to me he was right on my tail. For an unknown reason he did not brake for T14 when I did. Instead his front tire made contact with my rear tire and caused me to crash in T14.

If that was the end of the story you would be reading about Sunday races next.

Unfortunately, after our bikes made contact, while I was sliding off the track, the other rider’s bike made contact with my right shoulder.

This broke my right clavicle and caused two brain bleeds.

If it was just the clavicle, I would probably be in Vegas right now grunting through the pain to finish my races. But with the brain bleeds it is simply too risky to race until my brain has time to heal.

What went wrong?

Unfortunately the answer will forever be “I don’t know.”

My rear camera failed to record all day and the other rider did not run any cameras.

Naturally, he claims I did something unusual but I don’t see anything unusual on my front camera.

I passed the bridge, I broke for T14.

On Lap 1 I always grab a little extra brake to make sure they are hot because it is literally the FIRST heavy braking zone on the track for a 450.

What I expected to happen was to grab a solid handle on the brakes, feel how they are biting and modulate from there.

If they are hot, I would drop down to probably 20% braking.

If they are cold, I would hold them and modulate through the corner as they heat up.

Normal first lap at Thunderhill.

What happened is another story and one that will forever be unknown.

The aftermath

I will be working from home for at least another week.

I am scheduled for surgery on my right shoulder in two days (Monday morning).

I was points leader in three classes in WERA West and as I sit here writing this race report I am watching those championships going away.

The bike will be repaired.

The gear will be repaired/replaced.

I will be spending the winter break getting back into race fitness once I am able to start exercising the shoulder. Right now I am losing muscle mass on a daily basis and need to combat that as quickly as possible.

My goal is to be fit for the season opener of WERA West which usually starts at the end of January.

The only unknown is how well the brain bleeds will heal.

I demand a full recovery.

My Sponsors

I am extremely disappointed that I have let my sponsors down this year by both not being able to complete the season in AFM or WERA West and by not winning championships for them.

That will forever be a scar on my soul.

Everything they have done for me has performed spectacularly and I would not change a thing. I implore you to take a look at their offerings if you are looking for gear, tuning, parts or vinyl. You simply cannot make a better choice.

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