All photos by Oxymoron Photography
To say that the last couple years of “racing” (I’ll use the term loosely) have been frustrating would be an understatement. First, there was the broken leg saga that lasted nearly all of last year (still hasn’t even been a year since my last surgery), trying to adjust to the new, completely different bike, and then the bike problems. Oh, the bike problems!
After the last round, when the bike really started to act up, I decided to go and pull the transmission out myself (after arguing with everyone about what was the problem and finally replacing nearly the entire electrical system) only to find it destroyed. Good thing was I pulled it before it tried really, really, hard to kill me, although I’m still fairly certain that was the primary cause of my highside back at round 2.
I ordered parts, and one gear was on backorder, and since I wanted to rebuild this right I decided to gut my street bike and put that transmission and clutch into the race bike for the time being. All of that had some interesting stories and fiascos that I won’t get into here, but end result was I eventually got everything installed, bike ran, and after all my issue chasing, I now had a legitimate race bike with the kit ECU and harness too.
I got one chance to ride the bike prior to round 6, and things went well enough that day. Bike ran beautifully, and I started to get over the mental hang ups I knew existed after riding around the problems for so long. I looked forward to getting out to Sonoma – it’s my least favorite track, but the one where, last year, my times were closest to what I had previously been doing, and I had high hopes that the bike running right would give me a chance to finally break into a new personal best and be able to move past constantly comparing myself to myself.
I failed miserably in that regard.
I couldn’t afford to ride on Friday, so that meant Saturday would be my one chance to try to get back into the groove and get the bike set up. I had only ridden here once this year, and that was back in February when it was like 50 degrees outside and was my first time on the new suspension. There was no baseline set up to even start from, and losing Friday really hurt me in that regard. Practices went well enough, but I started out slow, just making sure things were still working and remembering which way the track went. I had a plan of attack from my coach, Tyler O’Hara, so I was trying to stay focused on that.
After my first session, things were off on the set up, so I went over to Jim at Catalyst Reaction who I’ve been working with for years now, and we made adjustments. I went out, and dropped some time, and found something else that wasn’t working. We adjusted that, and then I went out and dropped 4 more seconds, and now something else wasn’t working. My entire Saturday went that way, and while I was finally enjoying my bike a bit (and more than a few wheelies), my times weren’t where I wanted them.
It was suggested to try a different TC setting prior to my race that afternoon, and I didn’t see an issue with giving it a shot, figuring the worst thing that would happen would be that the bike would be a bit underpowered. Oh boy, was I wrong.
I headed out to AFemme, with hopes of finding a couple more seconds off my practice times. We gridded up, and launched. My start was okay, but Valentine and Shelina took off, and then on our second lap, we got a red flag. Okay, my chance for redemption. We gridded up for the restart, and I had a great launch – woohoo! Aaaand, that didn’t last long. Valentine and Shelina again took off, as I began to realize that my bike was severely acting up. I was getting really bad “pump” coming out of pretty much every corner, and the bike was sliding badly due to it. I rode the race that way, fighting with Jennifer for 3rd place, but I wasn’t able to make my passes stick, and she took the checkered with me right on her tail.
As I was rolling back to the pits, I realized how stupid I had been – I could have changed the TC back during the race – that could have been changed on the fly, I didn’t need to keep riding the bike that way! ARGH! Oh well, was what it was, race was in the books, and I learned another lesson about my “fancy” modern bike. The evening was spent hanging and chatting with friends, then heading off for a relaxing evening and some sleep.
Sunday I had moved the TC back – even if I couldn’t keep the front wheel on the ground (not that I really wanted to as I was kinda having fun with all the wheelies) – at least the bike was stable and predictable. The first race up was Open SB, my least favorite race of the weekend. It tends to be a meat grinder class, and it’s early in the day. We headed out, I rolled up to my grid spot and started to get focused on what was ahead of me – only to get bumped by someone screaming I was in his spot. I look over and my friend, Adli, who I’m always gridded in front of, is in front of me. I check my mark on my tank, I’m where that says, but see an open spot on the other side two rows up = probably about where I’m supposed to be. I roll out of the other guy’s way only to see the flagger moving forward to the 2 board, so I’m like “crap, guess I’m starting from right here between spots, better get a good start…..”
My start was good, so at least I knew I wasn’t going to hold anyone up behind me, and off we went. As usual the main part of the group takes off, but I knew at least one or two people were behind me, and I wanted to keep it that way. My times were still right where they had been, but I kept a few bikes from making passes and managed to finish the race in not last place. After the race I got called up to Race Direction where I got in trouble for my grid spot and found out the guy who’s spot I had been in threw a complete fit - like yelling and screaming and just in general a complete fit. Took my punishment, and found out my crew had given me the grid spot for Open GP, not Open SB, and I hadn’t looked close enough myself, either. They apologized to the guy who’s spot I was in on my behalf (I would have myself but to be honest, someone THAT upset over something like that had me a bit scared….).
After that, we had Open GP, where I’ve had a few friends I’ve been duking it out with, and I wanted to put in a good performance. I had a great start, and some fun battles, and I knew a few of my friends were back there, and I was determined to keep it that way. I put in my best lap times of the weekend, but still was over a second off from my old personal best, and that was really keeping an overcast to my day as I had high hopes of finally redeeming myself.
I had time to rest and relax before the final race of the day, Open Superstock, which was going to be my last chance to prove myself to myself. A couple of my Curve Unit “sisters” had shown up to support me, and I wanted to give them a good showing too. We gridded up, and instead of a great showing, I had my worst start of the weekend, and possibly since I tried using the launch control. Oh well, race was still on, and I still had bikes back there to keep behind me. My times were consistent, but near the end I knew there was a group behind me and I decided it was going to stay that way, dropping over a second off what I had been doing the rest of the race. Traction was starting to drop off by that point though, and my times were still slower than they had been earlier in the day.
Ultimately, I can’t lie, I was very disappointed with my performance over the weekend. Lots of folks working to help me get things sorted and the bike working the way it should, but I couldn’t seem to pull anything new out of myself. I had come in with high hopes that a properly running bike would be enough to propel me past whatever hang up is there, but it didn’t. I had fun hanging out with everyone, had a few fun battles, enjoyed many wheelies, and for once I wasn’t scared of my bike – just couldn’t seem to translate any of that into actually going faster.
There’s some time between now and the last round of the year, so I’m trying to focus on getting the bike set up the way it should be. There are a few track days, and I have some things I need to adjust/change on the bike, both electronically and on set up before then. I know I should just “trust the process” but that gets hard when time and races are ticking past, and things still seem stagnant. The bike is getting there, now I need to get with it too.