I had grand plans for the upcoming races at Grattan Raceway. However, the track was pretty green Friday morning. Rain and vintage cars the previous weekend made for less than ideal grip on the sealer-portions of the track early on. The day eventually became a complete loss when someone oiled 2/3 of the track in the third session of the morning.
Not only did this person over-torque their oil filter, they stayed on the race line the entire time, rather than pull off in the grass. A major disappointment for the paying Sportbike Track Time customers that day, along with everyone who stayed all weekend and had to deal with oil dry on the track for all the races. Too bad, as they were a racer too. Anyway, by the last session of Friday, lap times were somewhat decent, but not great.
Saturday morning practice went off as well as possible. Times were slow for everyone, but we were relatively quick, pushing hard out right of the gate. We had fresh Pirelli's mounted and were ready to go for the races. I was ready to go.
First race of the day, I launched into 10B (going CCW, the turn numbers stay the same) to take the lead of the 1000 Superstock race. Pushing hard in all eight laps, I was working to be smooth and continually drop time each lap. The fastest lap came on the white flag, dropping down to a 1:21.4, four tenths off my previous best time here. We would win by some 30 seconds, three seconds faster than second place. There was oil dry still on the race line in several places, so there was more time to be found still. I came in, pulled out the laptop and downloaded data from the lap timer. The data showed I tried too hard, not relaxing enough – but the potential was there, it showed. Next race, I'd relax more and not work the bike so much.
Gridding up for the second race, I led again and built a lead early on. The first lap from a standing start was three tenths faster than in the first race. On the second lap, I was right at the fastest lap from the previous race. I was more relaxed, but incrementally pushing brake points and markers, as the sun was creeping out and the notorious Grattan sealer seemed to be building heat/traction into it.
Heading into the bowl, I trailed the brakes as I normally would, but on a slightly higher entry line than I had been using (due to the oil dry), to get a better entry into the bowl. As I started to ease off the brakes, I didn't get a chance to finish the task – as the front end suddenly tucked and threw me on the ground. My right boot hit and caught the asphalt, pitching my left knee onto the ground, landing squarely on the sealer-stricken asphalt, taking the brunt of impact.
I slid alongside the bike thinking, "keep the wrist tucked in", and, "please don't let her flip in the grass." I came to a stop, stood up and immediately realized I couldn't put weight on my left leg. Priscilla hadn't flipped at least. I looked up and second and third place came through the bowl, corner-worker flags waiving. I saw the bike wasn't in a spot I could easily pick it up myself, so I hobbled out of the way, up near the corner worker station where a number of spectators were watching – several yelling if I was alright, to which I begrudgingly nodded yes to.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. All the plans leading up to the weekend were suddenly tossed away. The bike wasn't bad, but the ram air duct split into two pieces and we didn't have a spare. Not only would I miss the restart of this race, I'd miss the next race I was in, where the track was increasingly getting better and better in regard to grip level.
Cause of the crash? Green track, sealer, oil dry, a used front tire, rider error. A spectator came over to our pits as I was icing my knee with a video of the crash. It was silly. I had gone into the bowl faster than that before on the R6. Even on the Gixxer. I thought back and hadn't had a crash like this, on my own – since something like 2009.
With the help of dad, Aaron and Doug, we got the bike back retech'd and ready for Sunday. My knee had swollen up pretty good, so getting the leathers off was a bit difficult. Ice, motrin and elevation for the remainder of the day, as I wasn't sure how bad it was.
Sunday morning was cool and by now, rain was in the forecast for the afternoon – so all chances at our goal were all but gone. WERA made the smart decision to go with one round of practice and start races before lunch, in an effort to get them in before the weather. With track conditions, the knee and being out of the points in most classes now, I figured it might be best to just park the bike for the day, as fast times weren't happening.
Around 9:25am, five minutes before first call for the 1000 Superstock race, I made the split decision that I was going to suit up. Gina, Connor and Sam were here – and I wanted Connor to see one of my races. I hadn't practiced or tested the knee, but I had popped a bunch of motrin and this was also the one class I finished on Saturday, so I could salvage some points by circulating. The JB Weld on the ram air duct had dried, so I told dad and Aaron I was going to give it a go.
Suited up, the warm up lap was my first lap of the day. I again got the holeshot and led the first lap. The track grip was poor, as expected. After my crash, I didn't want to lead or set the pace, so after the first lap, I looked back and threw my leg out to let Gene (Burcham) by. I didn't want to hold him up or get caught up pushing and doing something silly.
Gene pulled a bit of a gap in the next lap or two, but as I started to get warmed up, I began to reel some of that gap back in. With two laps to go, I had closed up behind him and noticed in the bus stop, he looked over his left shoulder to see who was behind him. I don't think he saw I was there.
Through the rest of the lap, I could tell he slowed the pace down. He had to have thought he was by himself and that I had pulled off. I stayed behind him and thought I might have a chance to get by. I followed him onto the straight and gauged if I could draft him to the line. Maybe.
As we crossed the white flag, he again looked to his left out of the bus stop and didn't see me, as I was on his rear wheel, just to the right of him. We flipped through the next series of turns and not wanting to wait until the straight (in case I screwed something up), I setup a drive out of T2 and dove to the inside of him, into T1, taking the lead. We raced down the straight and the Hoffer-Tuned R1 ripped through the gears with enough steam to keep Gene at bay, crossing the checkered.
Back in the pits, there was a happy reception from the crew. It was good I had raced. I never want to end a weekend on a crash and doing so would have been a quitting attitude. The knee was sore, but it was well worth it – and actually fun, although I'm sure Gene didn't think so. He came by afterwards and joked we were even for the last time at Grattan when I ran out of fuel, which handed him a win.
The rain was coming now and the chance to put in any laps in faster than Saturday were dwindling, so our weekend was done.
Overall, two wins and a DNF. I didn't meet the goals I had set out, which was disappointing. Track conditions, stemming over from Friday didn't help – but my error in the second race didn't help either. We'll just have to improve next year when we get back to Grattan.
I saw a quote the following Monday which I thought fitting – "When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you." I'll go with the last one.
Thank you to my dad, Aaron, Joe and Matt for their help this weekend. Thanks to Gina for bringing Connor and Sam and being there to support me. Thank you also to Honda East Toledo, Yoshimura, Pirelli Tires, GoPro, Dynojet, Motul, Millennium Technologies, RS Taichi/Moto Liberty, Chicken Hawk, Arai Helmets, Ballistic Performance Components, Worldwide Bearings, Samco, NGK, Motion Pro, Pit Bull, Hoffer Performance, Oakley, Witchkraft Motorsports, Evol Technologies, Sharkskinz, PopShadow Decals, Fast Frank Racing, Hammer Nutrition, Yamaha Motor USA, Spider Grips and MC Designs.
Thanks for reading.
This one will be brief. Saturday's races were wet. Extremely wet. Water out-lasting the track drainage systems in several corners. Over both days, I was content to sit back and not risk much. Mark Patterson checked out and won all the races on Saturday with his Aprilia RSV4, with John Fitz and Michael Leek battling it out not far behind.
Saturday evening, we barbequed at the track under the dryness of the Pitt Race garages, courtesy of 419 Racing. Had a great time. Dad and I hung out with Doug, Marion and a host of others. Highlight of the weekend, really. :)
Sunday's weather wasn't much better. While the rain let up, it allowed the track to dry, but not completely. Formula 1 was our first race and with a drying line, we elected to stick with full rains.
I was able to get the hole shot and lead for the first few laps. Parts of the track were dry, but other areas like T2/T3 and especially T4 – were still wet. All the accumulated water was draining/collecting down into T4, which made that the worst area, as we all tip-toed through each lap.
Dad was showing that we had someone behind us, John Fitz. The two of us had dropped the rest of the pack, running around in these sketchy. I was riding comfortably, not pushing the issue or wanting to do anything silly. On the last lap, I pushed a bit harder to try and edge out a bit of a gap, which we were able to do – winning by 1.6 seconds. It was good to get a win under our belts, as John has been riding quite well.
During the break, we (well, I mainly) made the decision to put a slick on the back, thinking it might be an advantage in the continually-drying conditions. A quick tire swap from Shag Moto, our Pirelli vendor – and we were ready to go. During that time however, two guys had already highsided in the mixed conditions, along with several other crashes – one of who had a slick on the back. The exit of T5 had some hidden water past the blind crest that had caught several people off guard.
Just as we went out for the warm up lap, the rain started spitting again. Damn. I decided to grid at the back of the field, not wanting to test out the grip limits of a slick as water came down. I was 7th or 8th for the first couple laps and took it easy, gingerly making our way up to 4th.
With back to back races, there wasn't time to make any changes. I gridded up again from the back and circulated to 4th place. Ending the weekend on two wheels was the primary goal of the weekend and we were victorious – if you want to call it that.
Overall, I had been looking forward to a dry weekend at Pitt Race, but it just didn't play out that way. It became a weekend of survival. There was more to lose than to gain, but the win in Formula 1 was an added bonus. In hindsight, we should have left the rains on all-day Sunday, but it was a crapshoot either way. Ideally having a full-on intermediate tire would have been the hot setup, but they're in short supply and hard to get if you don't show up to the track with one already.
In any event, this one is in the rear view and we're onto Mid-Ohio. There's plenty of room for improvement after our last couple years there. I used to go really well there, but the last couple years have been a struggle.
A special thanks to my dad who stuck it out under the lackluster conditions both days. It rained so much, we had to go shopping for a new pair of shoes for him. That's rare.
Thanks for reading.
Road Atlanta was next up on the schedule. Dad and I made the drive down Wednesday night, arriving Thursday afternoon for Friday practice. We made a stop along the way to visit our buddy Chuck Giachetto, who has been a big help in getting the new R1 setup properly out of the gate. It was good to catch up with him. After that, we met up at the track with Doug and Marion, who drove down separately. Hours before, there were long lines already waiting to get in. The Cycle Jam would be another big event.
Friday practice was uneventful, minus some electrical glitches with the R1 in the first session. After consulting with Flash Tune and more importantly, Gene (Burcham), we had the issue sorted out and were back on our way. Gene test rode the bike in the pits – I think to try and get a feel for how the R1 compared to his. lol.
Saturday's first race, 1000 Superstock. I nabbed the holeshot and led the first six laps. Times were dropping from practice, but local hero Opie Caylor caught me with a couple laps to go, into T6. I had a chance to pass him back on the straight, but wanted to sit back and learn a bit, as he has over 40,000 laps around Atlanta from being an instructor for Kevin Schwantz's school – not counting race laps! Crazy. I was hoping to acquire some education.
Opie was quite good. Smooth and extremely fast. He helped me along, but once he had a few bike lengths, I had a hard time making time on him. He'd end up winning by one second at the checkered flag. Overall I wasn't too disappointed. 2nd place behind a guy like Opie, I'll take. Times dropped into the low 1:31's, setting a new personal best around Road Atlanta, out of 30 or so bikes.
After a bit of a long delay, Formula 1 was next up. It rained in between races, but the track had dried enough, with only a few damp spots. Starting from the 4th row, I had a good launch, but Billy Ethridge took the lead and off he went. Billy is one of the instructors at Danny Walker's American Supercamp, which I took a couple months ago down in Georgia. He's a long-time roadracer and can definitely get around sliding on the dirt, whether on a big or little bike. He's done years of endurance racing in a variety of challenging conditions – and this race was likely right up his alley.
By the time I was up in 2nd place, he had already put a gap on all of us. I was pushing and trying to bridge the gap, but the times just weren't coming. I don't know what it was, but the bike and I just didn't feel strong during this race. Whether the track wasn't fully dry, the tires didn't feel great with the lower track temperatures, or I was just out of it from sitting around for so long, I don't know. Whatever it was, it wasn't one of my better races. I brought it home in 2nd, with a clear gap back to 3rd. Lap times in the 32's.
1000 Superbike was the last race of the day. After a disappointing previous race, I wanted to make this one count. With a good launch, holeshot and a good gap halfway through the first lap, I kept pushing. We would win this race by eight seconds. Our first 1000cc win at Road Atlanta. Billy and I flipped grid positions from this race to the last, so by the time he was up to second, we had a good-sized gap. Times were back into the 1:31's though and I felt much better/more aggressive.
Dinner and some tweaks to the bike Saturday night and we were off to bed. A couple full days in 90+ degree heat can wear you out.
Sunday morning practice went well. The changes we made to the bike were working and we were into fast times right away. The day's National races would be tough though.
1000/Open Superstock was the first race up. From the third row, I had another good launch and was 2nd into T1, behind Billy who had 5-10 bike lengths right away. I plugged along and tried to catch up. I slowly brought the gap down and with a couple laps left, had it down to a few bike lengths. I saw Billy look over his shoulder at one point, but wasn't sure if he saw me.
Approaching the white flag, out of T12, I had a nice drive out on exit and was able to pass Billy into T1. I pushed hard – too hard, running through the dirt up into the chicane twice, and then through the dirt before diving the left-ess – Supercamp style. I threw the bike down on my left knee and quickly kicked my outer foot out, signaling, "Sorry!" to Billy. I tried to tighten things up and run a good last lap, where we'd hold Billy off and take the win by .4 seconds.
That race was work. Billy was moving and we dropped into the 1:30's chasing him for the win. It turned out Billy didn't know we were that close and thought the signs my dad was giving me (a big gap back to third) were for him! Pretty funny.
1000 Superbike was up a few hours later and our last race of the weekend. Again from the third row, I had a strong launch and tucked in right behind Billy going into T1. The two of us would make a break from the rest of the field early on. I knew Billy was quick and looking to win this one, so I latched on during the first lap and drafted him on the back straight, taking the lead before the fast right kink.
We led over the next seven laps and I knew he was right there, by the signs dad was giving on the wall. I figured he was waiting for me to make a mistake or wait until the last lap to make a move. Knowing that, I slowed down the pace into the 1:31 and even 1:32 range. Billy didn't make a move. Wily-vetran he is.
Sadly, I made a mistake with about two laps to go. Coming through T5, I miscalculated the corner and ran wide on exit, up onto the curbing. I rolled off the throttle slightly, looked to my left to see how close Billy was – and by the time I turned my head back, he went rolling by on the right. Dammit.
I gave chase, but now with only a couple laps to go, he was putting the hammer down, back into the 1:30's. I kept up, but didn't have a good place to pass him. On the last lap, I thought I might have a shot into T10A. Nope. I squared off 10B and ran up over the hill and under Suzuki bridge into T12. My only shot was to try and square off the corner and beat him to the line. I got into T12 deep with the front end squirming and rear end dancing along the pavement – closed right up on Billy, late-apexed the corner and pinned it. The R1 started pulling and reeling Billy in, but not before the checkered flag. I went sailing past him after, but it was too late. He'd win by a tenth of a second. If you ask me, that start/finish needs to be further down the straight, for better last-lap passing. :)
Afterwards, we congratulated each other on some great racing all weekend long. Billy's a Georgia guy, so to be running with someone of his caliber, at his track, was something I was proud of. A couple more wins would have made me a little prouder though.
Overall, we had a great weekend. We dropped 1.6 seconds from our previous personal best and really got the new R1 working well. We now need to make a gearing change, along with a couple other changes to the bike, but those are good notes we'll have for next time.
I'm really enjoying being on a 1000 and the transition so far has been a new and fresh challenge. We've had plenty of bumps in the road with the bike, but we've been sorting them out and getting through the new-bike woes.
Thank you to my dad. As always, having him there makes such a big difference in my results. Also thank you to Doug for his help and congratulations on his races, where he had a big smile every time he came off the track – well, except for when his battery died :).
Thanks also to James Bock at Pirelli for taking such good care of us all weekend. He's a top-level tire vendor.
More to come.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:June 22th, 2015 – Maumee, OH – Honda East Suzuki ...
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
Press from this past weekend at the WERA Cycle Jam, held at Road Atlanta. National Challenge Series results: http://www.roadracingworld.com/news/wera-cycle-jamnational-challenge-race-results-from-road-atlanta/Sportsman Series results:http://www.roadracingworld.com/news/wera-cycle-jam-results-from-todays-pirelli-sportsman-presented-by-marietta-motorsports-races-at-road-atlanta/ ...
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Going into this season, I knew the first couple months would be a bear. Not just from jumping onto a 1000, or sorting a vast variety of electronic settings I had never dealt with before, ...
Monday, May 11th, 2015
The first race of the season was our first time on the bike since the GNF last October. It was also our first time ...
Press Releases All
Kraft Builds Momentum, Wins at Road Atlanta WERA Cycle Jam
Wednesday, June 24th
WERA Cycle Jam/National Challenge Race Results From Road Atlanta
Tuesday, June 23rd
Sponsor News All
Thank You Riders Discount
Thursday, March 26th
When in Michigan ..
Wednesday, February 4th
Wednesday, December 17th
WERA ’14, Grand National Finals – Barber
Monday, November 3rd
Monday, October 6th
Clean Bikes, Happy Bikes
Wednesday, September 17th
WERA ’14, Round 6&7 – Grattan (Beyond the Comfort Zone)
Thursday, August 7th
We Talkin’ About Practice?!
Tuesday, July 29th
WERA ’14, Round 4&5 – Mid-Ohio (Challenging Adversity)
Thursday, July 17th
WERA ’14, Round 3 – Pittsburgh International (Brake Check)
Friday, July 11th
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