Tuesday, April 17, 2018

AFM Round 2, 2018 - Buttonwillow Raceway Race Report

The second AFM Round of 2018 was following closely on the heels of the previous round, with a short month in between. In that time, I had a grand total of one whole day on track, and that was it, but I was seeing progress even on that one day. I was looking forward to my next opportunity to keep building with this bike and improving from where we started the year.

Since we had just been down here, I decided to drive down Friday morning to catch a couple afternoon sessions so I wouldn’t feel so pressured in practice. With the weather looking better, I figured my Saturday race was likely to run on Saturday, and I didn’t want to wear myself out for it. Friday went well, and I looked forward to continuing to move forward on Saturday.

Practices went well enough, and I was dropping a little more time, going just over a second faster in practice than my best race times the round before. Yay for progress! We had the bike set up and ready to go, and the afternoon races kicked off. I was in Race 3, AFemme, but our grid was a bit more full than last time, with Shelina Moreda there on her R1. I was hoping to give her and Valentine a run, although Valentine was holding steady on the time she had found at round 1, which was still quite a bit faster than I had managed on this bike so far.

The waves in front launched, and eventually our wave was ready. I had a decent start, but so did the other gals, and by turn one, I was behind Valentine and Shelina. I was determined to give chase, and was putting in a decent fight, but we were hitting traffic by our second lap, and those two did a much better job of getting through the traffic than I did. I started to drop back and pretty soon realized I was highly unlikely to make up the difference, so I kept my passes clean and neat, even though my laptimes suffered, my position in the race was pretty secure, so no reason to be too aggressive (besides the fact that is something I’m still needing to get back a bit after last year). I finished in a lonely third place, but was happy to have hung onto the tails of the other two as long as I did. Considering both of their racing careers, I’ll take it with my head held up!

That evening we hung out for awhile and then eventually went in for dinner and some sleep. Sunday was looking good, and I was determined to shoot for getting down below the 2 minute mark again. It would mean grabbing a couple more of those seconds I was missing, but there were a lot of places I knew I was lacking, so where wasn’t the issue, just a matter of execution.

My first race was Open Superbike. I had a pretty nice start, but something I’ve noticed this year is that I lose my fight into the first couple corners. This stems from knowing most of the grid is significantly faster than I currently am, so I don’t fight back like I should. One of those things that will start to come back, but hasn’t quite done so yet. Had a few back and forths, times got back down to where they were in AFemme, and I noticed a couple places where the faster guys were putting a decent gap on me. 

One of those places was over the hill and into the last right of the Cotton Corners, and I began to wonder if I could get on the throttle harder and sooner than I was, that maybe I was being too patient out of not liking the camber and crest. I mulled it over a bit and decided to give it a try on my next race.

There wasn’t much of a break between races and we went out for Open GP. I was near the front on the warm up lap, so decided to give it a try now when it wouldn’t matter as much if it didn’t work. Well, I discovered the answer to my question rather quickly and violently. The answer was NO, NO I cannot get on the throttle harder and sooner over that crest. I went to try my theory, and almost immediately had an aerial view of my bike as I got launched into a low orbit. Thankfully Viserion decided that tossing my butt was enough and he pretty much just flopped over and slid rather than tumbling. 

Many thanks to the rider behind me, Johnny, who did NOT run over my legs as I tumbled down the track right in front of his front tire!

The Dainese D-Air suit did its job, and once I stopped tumbling, took an assessment, and everything seemed to be A-OK. Got up and moved away from the bike until there was a pause in traffic at which point Max, the Oxymoron photographer, ran over to help move the bike and we pushed it out of the way, plowing through some deep ass dirt in the process. We watched the Open GP race from the sidelines, then between races pushed the bike over to the corner worker booth were I watched the next race until the lunch break when they brought the crash truck around to pick us up.

My awesome DareDevil Motorsports pit crew then went to work, fixing, cleaning, and getting Viserion into riding condition again. I took the time to relax, do a little more assessment of any potential damages, and get some food and water. They had him back together and reteched before Formula Pacific, so we all went and watched what was a pretty amazing FP race again this year.

The last race of the day was Open Superstock. My bike was rideable, but other than tech, hadn’t had a shakedown run, and we had also put in the Motion Pro race reel (instead of the one I had in there) while we had it apart, so I had a few things to be sure of during the race. Since I’m not fighting for any serious positions, it was a chance to go shake things down and get back on the horse so to speak. 

I was definitely slower than I had been earlier in the day. My neck was a bit sore, nothing scary, but turning it enough to see through corners like the sweeper was tough. Plus I wanted to adjust and try out the new throttle reel without a repeat of earlier in the day. I wasn’t even close to what I was doing in the morning, but at least was about ½ second faster than I had been at Round 1, so I’ll take it.

That pretty much wrapped up my weekend. Monday I was pretty sore, but already a significant improvement by Tuesday. That D-Air did an amazing job, as did my gloves. I’ve got some pretty bruises but other than my neck, even my muscle soreness is extremely minor (I’ve been more sore after workouts than I am from this crash). Even the neck is quite a bit better, and my bike isn’t too bad off, so I’m looking forward to these upcoming trackdays to keep working on my techniques and learning to ride the bigger bike.
A second here, a second there – we’ve only been on track a few times this year, and there’s been noticeable progress each time. I’m excited to keep nipping at 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

AFM Round 1, 2018 #302 Race Report

The 2018 season was rapidly approaching, and for many of us in the northern California region, there had been very little (if any) seat time on our bikes over the winter months. Rainy, cool weather meant track time was limited, and what days there were, had less than ideal conditions. Race season was kicking off anyways, so time to head down and get our game faces on! RiderzLaw was back on board as title sponsor for me, and I was looking forward to showing off the new livery.

My plan for this weekend was simple – lay a solid foundation to build from for the rest of the year. My leg, which had been a major issue throughout 2017, was far less of an issue now, and I wanted to kick the year off figuring out how to get my Roseville Kawasaki ZX10R around the track. To that end, Tyler O’Hara (who I decided to use as my primary coach this season) was going to be at our Friday practice, so I arranged to work with him for the day. I had never really gotten any lessons on getting this bike around this track, and figured I’d be better off taking this round as a learning experience and fixing things earlier rather than later.

I arrived Thursday evening, got unloaded and set up, then headed into town for a little sleep. Bright and early Friday morning I arrived to make sure me and my bike were ready to go. Tyler arrived, and we laid out the plan for the day. Each session we worked on some new things, sorting out some of my problem areas, tweaking and changing my lines and inputs on the big bike, and adjusting how I was “seeing” the track. I walked away with a pile of information, and my brain was a bit on overload, but I also figured once everything had time to process and I had a little more seat time to implement it would pay off.

Friday night my fellow Velocity Racing teammates plus a few other friends headed into town for dinner, and eventually off to bed. Saturday dawned sunny and bright, promising a good start to the day, although rain was threatening that afternoon. My pit crew arrived, and we got the day lined up, and eventually started heading out for practice sessions. The entire plan for Saturday practice was for me to work on stringing everything we had worked on the day before together. I knew that flow would be key to being able to eventually pick up the pace, so I just wanted to work on making things feel smooth and connected.

My practices went well enough, and the afternoon races got started. My AFemme race was the last race of the day, and the weather decided not to cooperate, and we got pushed to Race 0 on Sunday. I realized I’d have a chance to really see if my fitness over the winter had paid off, as I was now looking at 4 races in one day, 3 of them being before lunch. Saturday evening we socialized for awhile, then back into town for dinner as we were all rather hungry, and then turned in a bit earlier as we were all pretty darn tired, too.

Sunday dawned looking better than Saturday had left us, and things kicked off on time. As an added bonus (and pressure LOL), the AFemme class was chosen as the lunchtime podium celebration, which sounded pretty cool (the lunchtime podium is always a Sunday race, so since we normally run on Saturday, we never get up there). Practice sessions went out, and I made sure I was ready to get going for the race start.

Finally, the anthem played and the races kicked off. We rolled up for our warm up lap, gridded up, and when it was time for our wave, we launched! Valentine and Shiree both got great starts, mine was okay, but Valentine took the lead from the start. I obviously have some horsepower on her 600 though, and we diced it up for the first half of the race. Eventually she got back around me and seemed to find 5th gear, while I started to fatigue. Valentine took a clear win, and I was determined to make sure she had to work for it a little harder come the next round.

Back to my pits where my DareDevil Motorsports pit crew got the bike ready for Race 2, which was Open Superbike. We headed out, and the grid seemed to have a lot of heroes out there. We got a red flag in the first 2 laps, and back in we went. Race restart was called, and we gridded up again. There were still bikes dropping like flies, but (thankfully?) I was slow enough to pretty much stay out of that. Coming through Riverside, however, there was a crash that had occurred on the left kink, and glanced over to see what looked like my teammate. We were red flagged shortly after, and as I rolled past on my way to the pits, I took a closer look, and sure enough it was him. Bummer. Race was in the books, however, as we were past the halfway point.

Next up was Race 5, Open GP. Thankfully I seemed to be holding up pretty well physically, at least at the pace I was running, so that was a good feeling after putting in the work over the winter to get my fitness back as best I could. Apparently, my fatigue during AFemme was just the warming-up-slump. This race things started to get more fun again as one of my pit mates, Adli, and I were running a pretty similar pace. We got to duke it out for the race, right until he messed up the bus stop and ran off track, leaving me to take the spot.

Our lunchtime podium was a blast – it was fun to stand up there, get to represent our sponsors and open the champagne (my leathers still smell a little like fermented grapes). This was the highlight of the weekend for me, as it’s not something I’ll be doing again anytime soon, so it was fun to have the chance to experience it! Still brings a smile to my face when I think about it.

I had some downtime in the afternoon, so watched the rather exciting Formula Pacific race, and did a little pre-packing that I could. My last race was Race 13, the second to the last race of the day. I figured there’d be a good chance Adli and I would be battling it out again, and this race did not disappoint. We were back and forth a couple times, but I managed to get past him heading onto the front straight and held my position.

That wrapped up the opening weekend for the AFM. Overall, I consider the weekend a complete success. I managed to keep my focus on my fundamentals and flow, and by the end of the weekend that all paid off in a willingness to try things I had been scared of doing before. My times were nothing brag worthy, but I learned a ton, had fun, and actually enjoyed racing and riding my bike again. I wasn’t overly pressuring myself, and keeping focus on what I needed to focus on meant I enjoyed the entire experience.

My “bad” leg held up quite well. Other than the fact that I can’t feel about 2/3 of the bottom of my foot, it really wasn’t anything I noticed. Hard to tell if my foot was in the proper place on the peg, and I kept bumping the shifter accidently (not enough to shift, but enough to trigger the sensor and cut the engine) but some seat time and muscle memory development will eliminate that problem.

This weekend was a great way to kick off the year, and I’m looking forward to continuing to apply the things I learned. Best wishes to all the injured riders, and here’s hoping everyone makes a full recovery!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2018 Season Trackday Opener with Pacific Track Time

I was just going to do a quick Facebook post about the opening weekend with Pacific Track Time here in Northern California, but it started to get rather long and I was barely into the write up, so turned it into a blog post instead.

I’m going to start with a spoiler though. If you’ve followed me at all, you know last year was tough with the whole situation with my leg. Most don’t know the real extent of it, and that’s fine, but the reality is even at the end of last year, when the scare was gone, my leg was still giving me a lot of trouble. I worked pretty darn hard this winter to keep at rehabbing my leg and body, while making sure I didn’t cause a new injury or aggravate an old one. 

At the end of last year, I still couldn’t tolerate wearing my race boots between sessions, and my leg would swell up like a balloon at night, and was cranky for days afterwards. I’m stoked to report that I got home after the weekend, and my leg felt like it did on any normal day! No extra cranky, no unusual swelling, and nothing more than it typically does. Seems the winter work, the time, the pain, the stretching-to-the-edge-of-tears on a daily basis has paid off in a VERY measurable way. Oh, and I kept my boots on all day (unless I was completely out of my suit LOL). 

This weekend was scheduled for our most local track, Sonoma Raceway. The weather was looking okay – cold, actually pretty darn cold at night, but warming up a bit during the day. Rain was threatened, but looked like it would hold off until Sunday night long after we’d be gone. 

In a last minute rush I managed to get all the parts for my bike collected, assembled, and on the bike, and thankfully Viserion fired right up after sitting there mostly disassembled for the better part of 3 months. I headed to the track right after work on Friday, and got there at a decent time thinking I’d get unloaded, say my hellos, and then have some time that evening to relax. Unfortunately, the track had other plans, and instead we all got diverted to Lot 2 while a car group took their sweet time clearing out of the paddock. This gave some time to catch up with some friends, and finally, long after it was dark (and we were all starving), we were allowed in to get set up for the next day.

The chill in the air was obvious, and once unloaded and mostly organized for the morning, with my bike tucked under its cover, I headed to the hotel, some delivery pizza, and to get some sleep in a warmer spot. 

The next morning I arrived to the track to find everything covered with a nice touch of frost – proving the chill of the night before. I finished setting up and helping get everything ready for the trackday to kick off, then go ready to head out for the first C group lead-follow session. The track was cold and slick, but most people were being pretty reasonable with their pace and the day moved forward. I had a couple of customers that requested some coaching, so spent some time working with them in addition to general control riding.

During all of this I was also just trying to feel out my bike. I had changed a lot over the winter, some of it pretty major (like completely different suspension). I was also finding some small adjustments that needed to be made, such as the angle of my clip-ons. The footpeg position on the bike had been a problem since I started riding it, and after getting my street bike, which had a different brand of aftermarket rearsets, I was really not happy with these. My fellow instructor, Greg, was getting to hear about my complaints, and he takes a look at the rearsets and pointed out that I could simpley swap the base plate to the opposite side and have them angled up instead of down. Duh!! Never even occurred to me, and that was an instant problem solver. Now the only issue was going to be retraining my body as I had found a “work around” that wasn’t great, but helped, and had ridden that way for over 10 months by that point. 

The track stayed slightly slick the rest of the day on Saturday, and being the first day of the year and all the changes, I took it easy and just worked on feeling everything out. The new suspension was HUGE. Suddenly my bike did what I felt like it should be doing under braking. I finally felt like I could be confident on the brakes, although a year of fighting was still in the back of my mind/habits, the difference in how the bike responded was massive. I was really starting to look forward to Sunday and my chance to work with Tyler O’Hara and get some on-track dedicated coaching for myself the next day to kick off the season on a good foot.

Saturday evening was a chance to hang out with the crew and catch up after a winter away from the track family, and then I headed back to the hotel a bit early to get a good night’s sleep as I was exhausted.

Sunday morning, once I had worked through some stuff for PTT, Tyler arrived and we sat down and went over the plan for the day and in general. Then, at the second session of the day, we headed out to get things started. 

Throughout the day we worked on a wide variety of things from topics I already knew I needed to work on, to things he picked up on and saw as we were riding. Getting the immediate feedback, and having the lead-follow options were great as we could discuss lines or how to handle a certain corner, I could follow, then apply, and tweak all in a session. We ended up discussing pretty much every corner on the track, lots of little tweaks here and there, plus a few changes in how I was riding up to and including body position, and using the pegs a lot more.

The track heated up nicely through the day, and grip was significantly better than it had been the day before. Some people were really rolling! Overall, I was having a lot more fun on my bike. The suspension, even without so much as a baseline sag, was such a massive improvement (along with fixing my footpegs) that I was feeling FAR more confident on the bike than I had since I bought it. Having Tyler there to keep my head in the right place was rather helpful too, as at one point I was getting to the “trying too hard and getting frustrated” point, and it was pretty obvious and he made it a point to get the focus back on the important things.

By the time I had to head out to manage the grid, I had a full day. My brain was starting to go into overload, and I had a lot of things to think about and process through. I knew I’d be spending the next couple days processing all the information and how best to apply it to my riding in general, to other tracks, and just making sure I “recorded” everything so I could remind myself of it as needed.

I went out a couple times the last hour – track was cooling off, so I just chilled and repeated what we had been working on earlier in the day at a more relaxed pace. The shiny side had stayed up, and I wanted to finish the day that way, so just reiterated to my mind and muscles the lessons from earlier.

Overall, it was a terrific weekend, and I’m really glad with a lot of my choices and decisions over the winter in terms of my off-season training, the bike upgrades/changes, and overall outlook. I know I had fun – and in fact, I’m fairly certain that I had a lot more fun than I’ve yet to realize since my mind is still processing all the information. I think in another 24-48 hours I’ll realize just how much fun I actually had this weekend 😊

Huge shout outs to my 2018 sponsors – you support of the sport, this gal, and motorcycle racing in general is invaluable! I’ve got a great group of partners this year, and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve as a rider, racer, and representative! 

See you at Round 1 in a few weeks!!