Alexey's Log
Tuesday, June 08, 2010

5/29-31/2010: CCS, Summit Point

Following the New Jersey debacle, I didn't think Summit Point would really happen, given the time constraints. But as every cloud has a silver lining, something very nice came out of those troubles. My friend Aron of Rev'It association heard about what happened and graciously offered me to use his Honda RS125 at Summit. His plans included taking a newer RS125 to try out in hopes of possibly buying it. Having regretted missing out on an opportunity to try a 2-stroke GP bike before, I jumped at the chance.

This was a holiday weekend and the schedule was a little unusual: we were going to practice all of Saturday and race Sunday and Monday with some morning track time available both days. Friday night, we went through registration and I was able to change my pre-entry to the new bike -- a longer GTL race on Sunday and a sprint 125GP on Monday.


Aron and I went over some last-minute preparation on the bike the night before and by the time I got to swing a leg over it, I had seen more of its inner workings than I'd seen on a bike like my CBR in the first 6 months. They are that simple and they are made to be worked on. Every aspect of the little bike meant business -- from abundance and simplicity of quick-release fasteners to the relative spaciousness under the tank. Even though the bike is tiny (the whole thing weighs 165 lbs soaking wet!), a 2-stroke single-cylinder engine with a tiny flat-slide carburetor is not exactly space-age stuff. I did get to see some other 125's with a fair bit more electronics, but with the bare-bones mechanical nature and a straightforward old-timey setup, they don't leave one feeling like they are lacking anything.

Needless to say, a 30 hp motorcycle that weighs about the same as the rider requires a somewhat different approach than a typical 600 sportbike-turned-racer with some aftermarket parts and suspension setup. As I rode in the van with Aron and Andrew (another member of the 125 NYC group), I tried to soak up as much information as I could. "Is there really no engine braking?" "How much to trail brake?" "How's the new pavement at Summit?" "Do you blip the throttle on downshifts?" "Where's the power band?" And on and on. And so I stayed in the student mode for the duration of the weekend.

Aside from the technical aspects of learning to ride a true GP bike, I also found myself on the inside of a ragtag group of fun and friendly people, a subculture within a subculture -- the 125 crew. There were Aron and Andrew -- the guys I came up with, Reet, Jordan, Rebecca and Dave. We were all pitted together and the sense of "community" was immediately apparent. Everyone made me feel welcome. They were obviously excited to have a prospective addition to their circle.

But enough chitchat, I had important business to attend to -- learning the bike and the track! There were two things I was told that were dancing around in my brain as I swung a leg over the bike for the first time: "You're gonna love it!" and "You're gonna hate!" Indeed, as I promptly struggled to even just start the bike, by the time I got myself rolling down the pit late, I had worked up quite a sweat and a bit of nerves and there was little brain cycles left for expectations. Luckily or unluckily, given complete lack of experience with Summit Point in dry conditions, I was paying attention more to the track than the bike that first time out and as such was able to not mind missed shifts and my general mishandling of the machine too much. It was amazing to compare my perception of the track from riding it on a 600 in the wet vs now -- it seemed to have opened up immeasurably. I had a few moments that would have ordinarily scared me on any other bike, like losing the front, but whether it was my own mindset of a 125 being closer to a bicycle than a motorcycle, or if it really was that way, once I learned firsthand how forgiving that chassis was I stopped worrying about dropping it and concentrated on ironing out my riding mistakes.

I had a full day of riding, a beautiful working bike, perfect weather, and a great old track. Yukio Mishima spent his life looking for "harmony of pen and sword." With each session, I was able to translate more and more abstract information into action. I was reminded of the time I was learning to ride a bike again. The feedback from the machine was non-threatening and instantaneous -- too few downshifts for a corner and there is no perceptible engine braking, but get it right and you feel it tug a bit as you let out the clutch; get it into a corner too hot and you find yourself taking a different line (not flying through dirt); wait too long to upshift or do it too soon and you lose all power. I must admit, I sat out one or two sessions near the end of the day as I was trying to keep each outing purposeful and not ride too tired (or while still digesting lunch). The day was hard work and now it was time to let my body rest and allow my brain to process and organize overnight what I now held in my conscious mind into new muscle memory. Sweet dreams, brain!

Alix and our friend Amelia drove up that day and arrived at the track as the sun was sinking. With them came our newest addition to the family -- Chloe, an 80 lb Newfie "puppy". She was to sleep in the 3-person tent with Alix and me. She took to it rather well. I recall feeling her sandpapery tongue licking the back of my head sometime in the night. It's a wonderful feeling -- that child-like mix of exhaustion and exhilaration at the end of the day, full of promise of tomorrow.


The next 2 days imposed a more typical race weekend structure: practice in the morning, race in the afternoon. We were to get 2 sessions and then do just the 25 min "endurance" race. I was able to make some more progress in the morning in my riding, mostly having to do with shift points, body positioning, corner speed through the final turn, and paying closer attention to where I was getting on the throttle and how. I also remembered to practice a race start. 125's are rather tricky to launch, as the engine makes no power below 9,000 rpm and the grabby clutch is all too eager to pull it down below that mark if the clutch is let out too soon. Yet another life analogy: when time is precious, be patient.


I was unsure how the race was going to go. It was to be split into 2 waves between amateurs and experts. So, being an amateur, I was not going to get to race my friends. In my wave, there was only one other 125, some big air-cooled singles, and the rest of the grid was filled with SV650's -- my arch-nemeses from the EX500 days. As the flag dropped, I promptly messed up the start. As I told the guys later, I got to start 3 or 4 times in that race. After passing the non-SV crowd, I was more or less left to my own devices. Toward the end of the race, some ultra-fast SV650's from the expert wave came by and lapped me. I was expecting that, given that they had nearly 10 seconds a lap on me and this was a long race. During the event, I must have missed the half-point signal at the start/finish straight and was starting to get worried that I wasn't up to it physically as the laps ticked away with seemingly not even half-way point in sight. I was relieved when I finally saw the final-lap white flag. Final result: 7th out of 10. I beat everyone I was supposed to, was the first non-SV bike.


Monday was to be a lot easier physically due not only to the race being a sprinter, but also because it was to be held earlier in the day. In addition, we learned that we only got 1 practice session that morning, on account of all the riding we'd been able to do previously, and our race was even to be run before lunch. Practiced the race start once more -- a slight improvement, still leaving a lot to be desired.


This was our show -- all the 125's in one group in our own wave. Everyone was looking forward to it. Jordan and Andrew were my main competition. As was now my custom, at the start, everyone took off, while I was in the middle of my 3-start procedure. I put my head down and tried to put in a few clean laps. On a bike like this, it's an absolute pleasure to do this, as it rewards you for getting it right with that perfect timing of its buzzy song on each exit. Feels so good knowing you're carrying good speed past the apex on the right line, anticipating running up on the exit curbing, holding the throttle open. By the end of the first lap, I caught up to Andrew and Jordan. I was able to get Jordan into the final corner and set off after Andrew. I believe I got him on the brakes at the end of the straightway -- something I'd done in practice before. After Andrew, I could see Rebecca about 10 sec ahead. I was never able to stay with her previously, but to my amazement she was not losing me this time. I thought for sure, I can catch her. Why not? For a couple of laps it looked like I was beginning to reign her in, but then the tide turned and she started to pull away. Not having access to our lap times, it's hard for me to say if she sped up or I slowed down. I had half accepted that that was going to be my result. Soon after I saw the white flag. Never did I look behind, though it did occur to me. Sure enough, coming into a tight section, after turn 5, I saw Andrew appear and take away my line into 6. It was a beautifully timed and executed move. Our speed differential was not great, but the place, where he did it, he put me on the outside line around a tight right-hander. He must have put a second and a half right there. I couldn't believe I had let that happen. I was rapidly running out of corners as I inched a bit closer. Pretty soon I knew I had just one opportunity -- the fast kink that is the final corner (turn 10). I knew that section had more to offer me than I'd used so far. As we raced our way to it, I tried to think of how much experimentation I was willing to do just then. Some pushing was definitely in order. I took a deep breath, stayed away from the brake as much as I could, and set faster entry than I ever did before. I came out on the curbing, within Andrew's draft. I willed myself to disappear behind the windscreen, elbows still sticking out, as I locked my eyes on his rear tire, cursing myself for not changing the slightly cracked reed valves that were likely making the bike slightly down on power. Alas, the finish line came too soon with no position change. Once again, 7th out of 10.


Cliches abound when I think about riding these bikes, but what sticks out in my mind most of all is an almost tangible link one feels with the cream-of-the-crop bikes and riders in GP's and the essence of racing now and in years past. It's the single-mindedness of it all, the way the bike disappears beneath you when you do it right, the glimpse of what's it's really like when you try to master a quarter of a 500 GP bike. How did they do it?!

I can't express how grateful I am to Aron for letting me use his bike. I'm inclined to get a 125 just to get up to his pace and duke it out proper :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

5/15/2010: NJMP Lightning, NESBA trackday

I'm baaaaack! That's right, after sitting all of 2009 out, it was time to get back to business. The overarching plan has been to rebuild the trusty old F4i and contend in CCS's Mid-Atlantic region -- no more Loudon for a little while. In some ways, I have temporarily accepted defeat embodied by New Hampshire rain and a seemingly endless streak of mishaps on the tight and bouncy Loudon circuit. It was time to try something else.

This spring saw a dash of activity in my garage, as the engine went in the frame and boxes of parts kept coming in the mail, seemingly every other day. The motor had a new head, forks got revalved, and all manners of little odds and ends got replaced all over. The bike was getting a new lease on life, or so it seemed.

A track day was scheduled at New Jersery Motorsports Park's Lightning course. Idea being to shake down and issues with the bike, learn a new track, and just generally refresh the track part of my brain. My crew for the day consisted of Alix' cousin Tim (cousin-in-law?), who proved to be a helpful hand during the weeks preceding the event. On the morning of the event, the conditions looked to be perfect, the sun was shining, reflecting in the newly repaired and painted bodywork and fresh slicks. The day was full of promise.

Sadly, the day got cut short. As I came out into the first session of the day, the bike was fully warmed up, but sounding a little on the rough side. It appeared to have full power though and I focused on learning the track. A first session at a new place is always a bit of controlled chaos. I managed to get around the lap with minimal drama (all the while missing just about every single apex) and headed onto the front straight, giving the bike a chance to stretch its legs a bit. This went fine, all vitals appearing normal. As the second lap was drawing to a close, I downshifted just before the final section -- a long right-hand sweeper with lots of positive camber. Just as I did so, a "clunky" noise appeared to emanate from the bike and all went quiet -- no power, no nothing. I looked back and there was a rider behind me. I raised my arm and got the hell off the track. Half-heartedly, I pressed the starter button to see if it would fire -- nothing. At that point I figured it was best to leave it alone until Tim and I could look at it in the pits.

Nothing seemed out of place, except the battery was low. At that point, the working theory was maybe the battery malfunctioned (it was a couple years old and not well maintained) and the computer shut off when the voltage dropped. We managed to find a battery at a local auto parts store that could fit, filled it with acid, charged it and put it in the bike. By this time, half the day had gone by. First session after lunch came up and we fired up the bike. It idled -- charging system seemingly working -- and came up to temperature. We took it off the warmers and stands and I rode it to the tech garage for a post-off-course-excursion tech inspection. As soon as I rode away, unbeknownst to me, plumes of white oily smoke started coming out of the exhaust. All I knew at that point was that the bike was sounding a bit rough. As I shut it off in front of the tech garage, some people came up and let me know what they saw. Tim showed up quickly thereafter and confirmed their reports. I looked down at the oil sight window and saw that we just burned a good quart in about a minute -- no good. Our day was done. There was oil seeping out of every join in the pipe and the tip was coated with oily residue.

All we could do was pack up and go. It was early enough in the day, that we were able to bring the bike to CycleTherapy in Manhattan. At the time of this writing, the bike is in their care, awaiting a possible engine replacement (depending on what it turns out to be).

Despite the lousy outcome, a lot of things went a lot better and smoother than they could have. Most of that, can be attributed to Tim coming along, working in the garage despite his work schedule and showing a lot of enthusiasm and ability to learn. I wish he wasn't moving, as I'd love to have him by my side at race time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
8/9-10/2008: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

I was waiting until now to get official race results from this date, but seeing as they are still unavailable, I'll do a quick update post later.

Originally, this was supposed to be our bike debut on the endurance scene with WERA at Summit Point, West Virginia. After the previous round, I was no longer comfortable committing to a 6 hour event, given that stability issues were not completely resolved. When we got home, I determined the bike still had too little trail, while steering head and wheel bearings appeared to be fine. I decided to cancel the endurance race until the bike was better sorted and instead go to Loudon yet again and see what we could do towards that goal after a few adjustments.

This time, Alix was my pit crew. Due to work-related issues, we were forced to skip Friday afternoon practice. We arrived at the track Friday night, set up the pits, registered and passed tech inspection, made a planned rear ride height adjustment and checked into the hotel.

After the initial ride height adjustment, the bike felt noticeably better. I was able to hold the gas wide open almost the entire length of the straightaway and I was getting less of a nervous feeling through the bars going over the hill towards turn 6. The biggest difference, however, was in how much more I was able to be aggressive. The main reason for this is likely the fact that, while I calmed the bike down by giving it more trail, I was able to back off the near-maximum setting on the steering damper, which freed it up considerably. I began to make passes at places I hadn't done before, as well as my usual spots. I knew it was still just practice, but things were beginning to feel like the old times. We made another rear ride height adjustment for the second session and, while it didn't yield as big of a gain, it was a bit better still.

Middleweight Superbike
It was quite the field -- somewhere around 38 starters. Given the improvement in the bike, I was really looking forward to seeing what I could do finally. Practice times were not as big an improvement on the previous weekend, but I knew the race would bring out some more speed from me, as it usually does. I got a pretty shoddy start, once again having forgotten to practice launching in the morning, and had to fight a little bit. There was quite bit of shuffling going on, but all in all, the action felt pretty clean until a red flag came out. With that, I discovered what appeared to be a new restarting procedure, which I rather liked. Instead of reverting back to initial grid spots, everyone, who made to pre-grid was given a new starting position based on last completed lap. To my disappointment, I discovered I netted a loss of 3 positions from where I started. I was determined to get a better start this time. Physically, I felt like I hadn't done a lap and was not the least bit tired, which would have been great if we were in West Virginia doing an endurance race, but oh well.

On the restart, I got a slightly better launch than previously, but still not what I wanted. It dawned on me that the clutch will probably need new friction plates soon. After the start though, things were much more orderly than before, seeing as everyone was theoretically ordered by pace. It was easier to keep track of your advancement in the field too. One rider came up charging through the field, but otherwise I was just working to see who I could catch. I did not have to make any banzai passes, instead it felt like certain people were coming back to me and I was making my way around them with minimal drama. At one point though, Kevin, one of my pit neighbors, caught me on the straight, where I was now mostly having issues with my Summit Point gearing, which was entirely too tall for Loudon. He went by me and I really wanted to get him back, as I knew I'd been able to pass him in practice. I focused on Kevin's entry speeds and lines and looked for anything I could exploit or incorporate into my own riding. It started to feel like I was able to get close to him, but he continued getting a very solid drive onto the front straight, as well as out of turn 2 -- my usual strong point. The turn 2 improvement caught me a little off guard. I thought I could still get him there if I just didn't let him get away on the straight so much. Unfortunately, when the white flag was out, I did not make much headway driving out of the final chicane and Kevin once again left me for dead. I knew the gap was too big to close in one lap. Lacking official results, Alix said we took 12th in that race. On Sunday, I found out Kevin was running an onboard camera borrowed from David, who graciously burnt me a copy right on the spot. I'll try to edit it down some and post online. It was the first time I saw my own riding in motion and was pretty educational.

Given that instability was still a factor, I decided to seek out some help and went to Mike of GMD Computrack NYC. He said forks were definitely on the soft side, both in terms of springs and damping. He tightened up the damping some and let me go with a suggestion that I give him the forks to redo for my weight later.

The very first thing that happened was the bike felt transformed since yesterday, which was obviously due to the damping changes by Mike. It was fantastic. Once again, it was easier to ride and closer to what I remembered it being like before the big crashes. We made a bit of an improvement in terms of lap times, but I felt like there should be more to come.

Out of my 2 new pit neighbors Steve and Kevin, I was the only one entering GTU, despite them both being novice license holders on 600's. The grid was not big and the weather was promising. I've really come to appreciate doing a long'ish race first thing after the lunch break: your body is fresh, the pits are quiet, you can really focus and relax before the event. Hearing the first few bikes firing up and rolling through the pits on their way to the pre-grid, about to open the new day of racing -- the only sounds in the paddock at that point -- is kind of cool too.

One thing everyone typically complains about as far as the GT races for novices is that they never really seem to go full distance without red flag interruptions. Luckily, this one went off without a hitch. I was still struggling a bit with the launch, but I began to consciously compensate for the clutch wear and was starting to get a hang of it once again. In a GT race, though, it really didn't bother me much being shuffled back a little at the start. After the initial first lap craziness, I settled into a comfortable pace. I was in touch with a group of riders I really wanted to stay with, when I caught neutral entering the final chicane, which killed the launch out of it, as if I needed any more problems there on top of my incorrect gearing. They took off, but I didn't get passed. I put my head down and tried to get a few clean laps together without fading, as can happen to me sometimes when left alone. Fortunately, I was able to catch the last bike out of that group, but by then the rest of the group had spread out away from him. I made a clean pass on him and soon thereafter we took the checkered flag. I am not sure what our results were for this race at this point.

Middleweight GP
In this one, Kevin and I were going up against each other again. For once I got a good launch and didn't let too many people get away. As I recall, Kevin was in front of me, but I just could not catch him no matter what. I was also beginning to feel some fatigue. At one point, I made an inside pass in the middle of turn 3 and just as I was getting on the gas, the rear stepped out a bit. This was most unexpected, as I never had traction problems there before. On the next lap I took a closer look at the pavement and realized I started to crack open the gas on a small bit of pavement that was different from the rest. It was a corner of a rectangle that the racing line went through and apparently it has less traction than the rest -- good old Loudon with its patchwork of asphalt. I'm sure the tire, which at that point had accumulated quite a few heat cycles, was past its prime. Before long, the race was over. I believe we once again finished somewhere around midpoint. We'll have to wait for the final results.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
7/18-20/2008: New Hampshire International Speedway

This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the 6 hour even at Summit Point. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the results put the viability of the Summit race in question. First things first, though.

This time, I was going with Alan as my right hand man. Straight away, we knew the weather would be good on Friday, but there would be a chance of rain both Saturday and Sunday. We got to the track on time for the afternoon practice on Friday and put in 2 reasonably good sessions in the dry. I wasn't looking for outright speed at that point, seeing as there were enough new things on the bike that I wanted to break everything in, not to mention re-acclimate myself with the track I hadn't been to since last September. We were having a problem with the battery, as it was dying a very rapid death, refusing to accept charge. So much so, that we couldn't even bump-start the bike much of the time. This wasn't a showstopper, but having to take off the seat, hook up the jump starter, and put the seat back on before every session was extremely annoying in practice and certainly would not be acceptable, come a more hectic race schedule. We asked around the paddock, but no one had a battery that would fit the bike, so we decided to cut the day a bit short and go look for a shop. We didn't have much luck that day, but soon after leaving the track, thunderstorms moved in and made for a rather miserable afternoon. We heard about another place we could try for a battery, but elected to go Saturday over lunch.

Saturday morning was sunny and warm. Things seemed to be looking up. Practice went well, dialing speed incrementally in both sessions. The bike was beginning to show some of that familiar instability on the front straight. I was gripping the bars a bit too tight, so I began to focus on my body position and relaxing, which seemed to keep bar oscillations in check. It seemed like that was the ticket and I prepared myself mentally for the only race of the day. With the bad battery, we were able to make the grid, but barely. I asked Alan to come out to the hot pit and wait there until the race started, in case I should need a bump start. As it turned out, the bike shut off as soon as I got to the pre-grid and if Alan hadn't been there, I wouldn't have made the race. It was only a minute or so before Alan got to pre-grid, but it seemed like an eternity, as I was desperately pushing the bike by myself after everyone had gone out on the sighting lap. I almost resigned myself to the possibility of having to start from the pit lane, but lo and behold, Alan appeared and ran to my rescue. Later, he told me, he'd never pushed anything this hard in his life. One push, however, did the trick, and I raced around the track on my "sighting" lap not wanting to hold up the start. After all that drama, I couldn't wait for the start, which caught me sleeping and it seemed like half the field went by me before we got to turn 1. I made up a few positions and started to settle into a pace. Almost immediately, the bike began to do a whole new thing on the front straight -- as soon as I got around the last corner and got a bit of speed, I could see the whole front of the motorcycle shaking up and down, seemingly in tune with the road speed. I brought it down gently for turn 1 and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. They say engineers work best while being shot at. I suppose trying to race on an unstable bike is a good enough approximation. Within a lap or 2 I had a suspicion I was dealing with an out-of-balance front tire and decided to see if it was managable. In my expert opinion, it wasn't :( I could continue to circulate, but the speed I was able to sustain on the main straight was creating quite a closing speed with people coming from behind that it did not seem safe, as well as some other areas, where the balance issue could affect traction. Mad at the whole world, I pulled in. We pulled off the front wheel and took it to the Dunlop guys, which confirmed that indeed the wheel was off balance. I still don't know how it did not exhibit the same behavior prior to the race, but I guess some things are destined to remain a mystery forever. I put the wheel back on and tried to be optimistic toward Sunday's 2 races. Having finished riding for the day, we were able to find a new battery and install it in the bike, just as the evening thunderstorms moved in.

Sunday morning did not look so good, with a bit of drizzle right away, but it didn't look like it would be that bad. Practice felt like there was a bit of improvement, but I suspected the speeds would be down due to the track being a bit damp still. When the times were posted, it was confirmed, as we were going about 4 seconds slower than the day before. It was a bit discouraging, but I chalked it up to the dampness, had some lunch, and began to pray to the racing gods for decent conditions. We had the first race of the day and a decent grid position. I was really looking forward to it, privided it didn't turn into a semi-wet mess. The battery worked great, but drama wasn't to be avoided entirely. The PA system was completely silent that day for some reason, so we weren't quite sure what the race calls were. As soon as I heard some bikes rolling through the pits, we fired up and I made my way to pre-grid, which was filled with bikes with amature and expert plates. I knew something was up and was quickly told it was a rerun of one of the races that got screwed up by the weather on Saturday and that we were up next. Back to the pits I go and back on come the tire warmers. Finally, it was time for our act. I made a better start, but it still wasn't perfect (gotta check the clutch for wear), and the 20 minute race got underway. I was able to keep the leading group of about 4 bikes in sight and started to try to find a pace. First 3 or 4 laps, things were staying mostly unchanged. I could see the bikes in front of me, and they were mostly staying single file. I was getting a bit of headshake on the front straight again and it was clearly hindering my progress. Little by little, I began to lose touch with the group in front of me. Soon after that, it seemed like the headshake got worse. I wasn't sure if it was the bike or I was getting tired and holding the bars too tight again. I decided to relax a bit more and drop a couple of seconds off my pace. That seemed to calm things down and I was able to ride it out, it seemed. No one was coming from behind me. I was afraid I was last, but the leading group didn't seem to be everyone in my wave. As the race drew closer to the end, I tried to get some more speed again. It worked, but on the very last lap, I was passed by the leader of the first wave (I was in second wave at the start). I watched him for a few corners and before I knew it, we took checkered. We later learned, we took 7th out of 10 starters.

The final race of the weekend came and as soon as I pulled out on the sighting lap, what was very light drizzle, began to accumulate on the visor and windscreen into proper drops. It looked like it was intensifying. I was out on slicks and figured the dry line would hold out for the length of this sprint race. My third start of the weekend was approaching decent and I started to make a move on a bike I knew I didn't want to get stuck behind. As I got next to him after turn 1 and was able to see the track in front of us, a bike was already down -- right smack in the middle of the track. Luckily, we both made it around and 2 corners later, the race was red flagged. I knew it would be restarted, but I was getting concerned about the rain, which was starting to pick up more and more. On the second pre-grid, a track marshal asked me if I really wanted to start, as I was apparently the only one on slicks. I started anyway and this time people were falling down on the sighting lap, not the most confidence inspiring thing in the world. Once again, the race was started, and this was really raining now. People continued to fall down all over, and I went into "just bring it home" mode. A few unexpected slides later, I'd finally had enough, came around the track one last time and pulled in early. As soon as I was in the pits, someone else must have really gone down and the race was red flagged for the second time. At that point it was not restarted. We were done. We packed up and went home. Later, I learned that race was rerun, but I can't say care.

The main problem coming off that weekend was that there were unexplained handling issues with the bike, which seemed to be going away and coming back during the course of a 20 minute race. I did some quick steering head bearing checks, but it looked okay. At that point, the Summit Point endurance event was put in question. To be continued...
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4/21/2008: Summit Point Raceway


This has been unannounced on purpose. I wanted to take the first
step and see how things went before speaking up and committing myself
to it. Here's the deal: Aron and I are going to try our hand at our
first endurance event with WERA in August at Summit Point. The plan
is to use my F4i, add at least one more rider, get some extra spares,
go to the gym more, and see what happens.

Of course, that's not the only thing we'll be doing. We need some
prior track time. Until now, I had no experience with Summit Point
and Aron had been off modern bikes for some time, concentrating on
his vintage racing effort. So we organized our first “test”
day as a track day, where we were allowed to share the same bike.
Alix and I got there Sunday (4/20) afternoon, after Aron had raced
there that Saturday, adding 2 wins to his resume and improving his
own lap record on the new pavement. Unfortunately, starting Sunday,
the rains had moved in and it didn't look like Monday was going to
clear up for us.

That meant that we could not go out on slicks, the speeds would
obviously be down, so the gearing I had calculated previously was not
going to get tested, and of course neither one of us would really be
able to put any load on the bike to see how the suspension and
chassis geometry was working. So that morning, we unloaded and
teched the bike in the middle of relatively persistent drizzle and we
resigned to just putting in some laps on full rains and take whatever
the day would give us.

On our first outing, Aron and I came out together: I took out the
F4i and Aron unloaded his vintage racer (1963 Ducati 350 single).
Due to the rain, I thought it might be possible for me to follow him
around while I learned the track. We were allowed to do this in the
intermediate group. Summit Point is a nice flowing circuit with 9
(?) turns and not a whole lot of elevation changes (certainly nothing
like Loudon). Being on full rains and with the presence of several
straightaways of considerable length, I decided to get ahead of Aron
and give it a shot on my own. By the end of the session, I felt like
I at least knew which way the track went, not concerning myself too
much with shift points, since I knew it was all going to change
eventually. To me, the most fun points of this track are the long
straight (god, I missed being able to open up a 600 ever since we
moved away from California with tracks like Thunderhill), and the
section that follows it: a tight right hander that opens up, allowing
the gas to be dialed in fairly early and the bike to drift out to the
outside, and then a momentary slow-down for a left hander that in the
dry allows you to get on the painted section on the exit as you crest
a little hill and then run the bike in on the brakes into a pretty
tight series of esses. I've seen a few onboard videos of fast riders
being able to experiment with the lines going into that last part
quite a bit for the sake of making a pass and it looks like it'll be
a lot of fun. Obviously, we were exercising some restraint when it
came to passing due to the conditions and the fact that it was a
track day. In the fast group, people were quite a bit more
predictable and initially Aron and I had some difficulty keeping up
the pace, but as the day wore on, we both began to settle into a nice

By the time, we did our last sessions, a lot of people had packed
up early and the riders were pretty spread out. In fact, my own
final session started out with me doing one or two laps being the
only bike on track. It was kinda fun, seeing the track marshal at
the entrance get on the radio and probably say, “one bike on
track” and wave me on – I got to pretend like we were
doing our own event and running the show. Aron made good progress
too, having adopted to shifting with his left foot again and being
able to anchor his upper body on the bike. He said he really enjoyed
riding the fast and heavy beast (his 350 tips the scales at about 200
lbs – roughly half the weight of the F4i).

We're currently in the planning stages for another test. We're
not sure if it'll be a track day or we'll work it into practice at a
race event. I myself need to do the paperwork to get my WERA
license. And we still need to find a 3rd rider. Aron's
been asking and getting a lot of interest, but no definite commitment
just yet. This is really exciting and I can't wait to get out-there

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2008 LRRS Schedule Announced

Season opener in New Hampshire is fast approaching and the 2008 Loudon series schedule has been officially announced:

April 26-27
May 10-11
May 31 - June 1
June 14-15
July 19-20

August 9-10
August 30-31
September 27-28

I'd love to attend some other meets at other tracks (like VIR), but for now my focus is on getting everything prepped for end of April.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Buy a T-shirt, save a whale!
(not really)

I'd like to thank:

Who says artists don't know anything about tire warmers? Visit my crew chief Alexandra Deitz-Zinger's Art page.

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