Tuesday, June 6, 2017

AFM Round 3: The return to Thunderhill

AFM Round 3: The return to Thunderhill

The last time that I gridded at Thunderhill, I left in a helicopter. To say that I had a bit of trepidation would be an incredible understatement.

But let's start this report with Friday.

Friday practice with Zoom Zoom

Working with Z2 is always a great day. Helping other riders gain skill and experience is incredibly rewarding to me.

The challenge today is that I need to get up to speed for racing as well as assisting other riders. This goal requires me to run at least 14 sessions; 7 sessions helping other riders and 7 sessions to go faster.

To compound this fun challenge of my fitness is my bike. I did not race at round 2 due to having no motor to race with. Both of my race bikes were sitting with my mechanic being rebuilt. In the category of last minute, one of the race bikes was finished and delivered to me on Thursday, hours before I headed to Thunderhill.

I spent the morning both working with students and listening to every sound and feeling every twitch on my race bike. By the lunch break I was satisfied with the motor and felt my confidence rising. Time to practice for speed.

The afternoon was a test of endurance and attention. Every session that I went out I had to remember: Practice or Teaching? It would not do well to lay down a hot lap in C group...

By the end of the day I was exhausted with a huge smile on my face. My pace was off, but not by a huge amount and my confidence levels in the bike were extremely high. I was looking forward to the race weekend!

Saturday — Formula 40 Light

Here it is. The race that was the issue last year.

I felt great through the day and in preparation for my one Saturday race. I did a couple of warm up sessions, made sure the bike was still purring from Friday. Everything was set.

I went out on the warm up lap with some trepidation. I went out towards the front of the pack like I normally do. I like to hit the warm up lap hard to make sure my tires are up to temp and that there are no surprises on the track.

When I lined up to my grid position and looked up at the starter tower, that is when it hit me:

  • WTF am I a doing here?
  • There is no way this is going to end well.
  • This is how I die.

Then I saw the "2" board and put the bike into gear. I focused on the starter's elbow...

The world disappeared

The green flag dropped and I launched.

Not the best launch of my life but acceptable. I entered turn 1 intentionally wide with the goal of taking an outside line around 2.

The rest of the race was a blur. I was slow but consistent. I went faster at the end of the race than I did at the beginning of the race. I had a single goal with this race ... finishing.

Finishing was winning.

I finished dead last, but I finished. Demon faced and bested.

Sunday — 450 Superstock

First race on Sunday was the 450 Superstock race (formerly the production class). When I gridded for this race all of the trepidation was gone. No fear, no demons.

I got the best launch I have had all weekend (arguably all year) with the front tire just being light on the ground as I went through the first two gears. By third gear I was tipping into T1 in a pack of bikes with a smile on my face.

I finished the race, not in first but not in last. A great race and my personal best of the weekend.

Still slow compared to where I was but a huge improvement over Saturday.

The healing has truly begun.

Sunday — 450 Superbike

The superbike race launched without an issue. I got a good launch but not as good as superstock. When things settled down (around T6) I saw a few prime targets in front of me and went after them.

As with most races, the individual laps were a blur. I was out on the track for 10 seconds and 10 years; all at once. Time was both stopped and flying by.

I passed a few fellow riders and felt great on the bike.

Unfortunately we received a red flag after the checker which caused the race to get rolled back one lap. I finished 11th out of 13 due to the rollback. I think I would have been higher in the standings without the red.

Sunday — Formula 4

Formula 4 was my final race of the day and a crazy race it was.

First, the race before us oiled the track; in T14.

I mentioned that T14 is where I was hit last year right?

No worries (yeah right)

First lap was a mess. As I am heading towards T5 I see waving yellow flags and several bikes down with a huge dust cloud. Many bikes were slowing down; no doubt expecting a red flag.

I gained a few positions once past the incident but had concern in the back of my mind, at least two of the bikes down were friends of mine.

Focused on the race and kept going.

I ended up spending most of the race behind a novice on an SV 650 and just did not have the confidence to stuff him in a pass. Too many bikes on the ground, too many distractions in my mind.

Finished 11th but most importantly, I finished.

Wrap up

I would not put this one in the books as a fantastic weekend of screaming performance and wins.

This was a weekend of facing demons and pushing them out of the way.

Round 4 is back at Thunderhill. My performance will be better now that I don't have the demons to battle with.

See you all at the next round.

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