News

06/28/2005
 

AFM Round 4
Thunderhill Park Raceway
June 18, 2005

The weekend started out early. Tamara and I had signed up for a practice day on Thursday to go along with the open practice day the track puts on Friday's before the AFM weekends. As part of the two practice days, we lined up a 250 racer that has moved on to open twins to spend the two days coaching us. I offered him up my NSR as a bike to work with us on.

Got to the track late Wednesday night, and went to sleep so we could get up early Thursday morning. Wednesday night was nice warm, clear night. Thursday morning turned into something different. Parked the trailer, and started to unload the bikes as it started to sprinkle. Got the pits setup and it started to rain. Since I was running slicks, it wasn't looking like a good day for me. We spent the day hanging out with a rain soaked track, and pretty much everything getting drenched. The added wind made it even worse.

Friday was a little better. Never really got warm, and the wind kept up, but it was dry, so we rode all day. Michael Aron from MojotownRacing.com spent the day with Tam and I coaching us both. This went on all day long both on the track and off the track.

Michael pointed out some good lines, as well as some good race craft tips. Michael was used to racing with my RS, since he was battling with it when it was owned by the previous owner. Michael was running my NSR since he is now racing a Ducati 999 in open twins and we felt he could do us better on a 2 stroke showing us proper lines, then on a big twin. I think he enjoyed being back on a 2-stroke.

On the second to last session, Tam came in early. When I came back in she told me she lost power, and the bike wasn't kicking over. Since we had re-jetted just prior to the session, I was thinking it was jetting gone bad, so checked it out. Got it started, but it wasn't running right. Pulled the lowers off, and the pipes to look into the exhaust ports. Found the issue right away. The lower piston had lost part of the crown, and gouged enough of the cylinder wall to jam the power valves shut.

I finished the last session chasing Michael around. He got a couple riders between me, and I was having a problem passing a CBR600RR for a lap, so Michael got a good lead on me. Once I passed the 600, I started working on catching Michael. This was good, as it gave me a carrot to chase. After a couple laps I came out of turn 13 and onto the back straight, and I saw Michael with his hand up getting ready to exit the track. Came around him, and was thinking he would pull in behind me, so I really wanted to give him a reason to push me harder. Did two laps really pushing it, and didn't see him at all. Turns out he went in feeling bad that he left me behind. I didn't mind, as it gave me someone to really push to get with.

After coming off the track for the last session, I knew I had to get into doing the top end on Tam's NSR or she wouldn't be riding the weekend. I got a call into Tony Munoz to see if he had a spare cylinder, and if so, could he bring it with him.

Since I had a spare with some small "issues" I started on working on that cylinder in preparation for putting it on the bike. After I didn't get a call back from Tony, I decided to get the bike buttoned up, and going. Put a new piston and the spare cylinder on the bike, and torqued it all up. While I was in there, I cleaned up everything I was working. Since working with Roland Cushway I tend to find myself cleaning pretty much anything that comes off the bikes, and making sure it's "acceptable" before it goes back on (or at least a close to acceptable as possible). Cleaned up and got dinner going since it was getting late. Even got Tam to clean the power valves (didn't let her know I had all new ones since all the old ones needed were a good cleaning).

Saturday morning came, and it was a little better in terms of the weather. It was warmer out, and clearing up a little. We got Tams bike heat cycled in the morning, and made sure it would start. Ran fine, got it up to temp, and sounded okay for a questionable cylinder. After it cooled down a little pulled the bottom exhaust, and looked at the piston to see if it was okay. The piston, rings, and the back wall all looked good. Put the exhaust back on, and ran another heat cycle. Got Tam out on the bike for a break in run, and see if it would hold up. She came in, and the bike did fine. So it was going to race on Sunday.

Sunday morning came around, and it started out warmer then the past three days. Clear skies and no wind made the morning perfect. Since we were lined up for morning races I was happy as we would be ready to pack up after lunch, and get home early. The night before I decided that the RS was just taking enough of my concentration that riding the NSR would hurt me in my race, so I asked Michael Aron if he was interested in riding it in 250 SB, and see what he could do on it in a race. We worked on adjusting the floats to see if we could clear up a flat spot coming out of the esses onto the back straight. We found the right floats out of adjustment from the left, so hopefully that change would make it better.

I went out for practice after putting a gallon of fuel into the tank to add to the already gallon in there. Since I normally get 20 minutes out of a gallon, I was thinking I would be fine for the session (normally only 20 minutes). On lap 6, I came out of turn 5, went to get on the gas, and lost all power. My first thought was I was in a higher gear, so I dropped a gear, and tried again. The bike still made no power. I was starting to think the worse so I grabbed the clutch, and coasted to a stop off track after turn 6. Pushed the bike as far from the edge of the track as I could without spending some time with the cows, and waited for the end of the session.

After the session ended, I rolled the bike to an access road between turn 7 and 15, and waited for the next session to end. Once the next session ended I pushed the bike the rest of the way to the pits and started checking the bike over. As it turns out, I ran through more gas then I expected to, and it was only out of fuel. The engine was fine as it turned out. So I made note to add more then the standard 1.5 gallons for the race, as the bike was drinking more fuel then the month prior.

Since it was getting warmer, the humidity dropping a good deal, and the air density changing, I decided to drop the jets on the RS to see if I could get some better drive down the straights. This I would find would pay off during the race.

I went out to watch the 250 SB race to see how Tam and Michael would do. Michael got an excellent start and went from the back row up to about eighth before the first corner. He ended up finishing seventh over all. He was happy to ride a 2 stroke again.

F-II race was race four, just before lunch. I had the bike fueled with extra fuel (2.0 gallons instead of the normal 1.5 gallons). Got the bike warmed up, and they made a quick 3rd call before I was ready to go. Raced to get my helmet and gloves on, and pull the warmers so I could make the grid. Checked the radiator one last time, and decided to pull half a strip of tape off, leaving me with 2 strips. Since it was running fine in practice, and had warmed up a little, I didn't want to run the bike hot during the race.

As we went out on the warm up lap, I noticed the temp getting close to 70. Figured it would cool down before getting to the grid. Once I got to the grid, the temp was still at 70, so I was hoping for a fast start. Since we were gridded second, I knew it wasn't going to happen. The temp went up quickly, and hit 75 before our wave was ready to go. We went to the one board, got the revs going, made sure it was in first, and got over the front end (didn't want a repeat of last months start). The One board went side ways, and the revs came up to redline. As the flag dropped, I started to slip the clutch, remembering there is a grab point that would lose all my drive if I hit it. Let the bike get launched, with the clutch still slipping, and waited till I knew it was all good before grabbing second.

Hit second, then third, and started seeing riders dodging back and forth in front of me trying to find good lines into one. With all the action, I decided to hold back a little for turn 1, as I didn't want to be part of any crashes that can happen at this point. Came out of turn 1, and drove to turn 2, where traffic was still heavy. Between turn 2 and five, I knew traffic would still be tight, so I just held back and figured I would make some ground on the down hill through turn 6. Came up over five, and went to the outside to drive down the hill, and grabbed a couple spots.

After six, things really cleared up, and allowed good drive through seven and eight, which I tried to use to my advantage, and get as much distance on people behind me as possible. Since I wasn't running an onboard timer, I wasn't able to keep track of my times as the laps went on, so I had to gauge things on feel. Something I shouldn't do anymore. By lap five the top runners of the class behind me caught up, and started to pull me out of my complacency, as I was pretty much by myself, and needed something to keep me going.

As I came out of turn 15 behind one of the leaders, I found that my drive and straight speeds were much greater then the other classes bikes. I knew I could pass the guy back, and get him into turn 1, but since he was racing for the front of his class, I decided to let him have a clean line through the tight section of the track (turn 1 through 6). By the entrance of turn 1, I was holding off big time, and I really killed my drive out of 1. That was fine, as I followed the rider through the tight section, and stayed with him for the rest of the lap. Coming out of turn 15 for the last time, we found our selves passing the back markers from the other class on the track with us. In half the front straight, I dodged my way through three riders, passing the finish line just behind the rider I was following for the entire lap. Made for some exciting straight weaving to stay with him.

The bike had run hot all race, and I was worried about the engine, but I felt since I was out there, I would either seize it, it would run to the finish. The bike finished at about 78 degrees and I knew I would be going through the engine to make sure the hot temps didn't mess anything up. I had a good race, and was happy to find my times were all consistent within a second, as well as an improvement from the year prior.

I will be back at the track for a three day practice weekend in early July, as well as have two days of practice just prior to the next race. So hopefully with five days at the track on the RS I will find some good time, and get my times down to a more "acceptable" pace.

 

AFM Round 3
Infineon Raceway
May 28, 2005

The weekend started off with a track day on Friday at Infineon. I had signed up with Red Shift Track days since they were having a track day the Friday before the race weekend. Figured nothing is better then seat time on a bike I am still getting used to. This season has seen nothing good in the way of track time outside of the race weekends. I have had two other days scheduled at Infineon since the first round of the season, and each of those track days has turned into heavy rain, and wind. They were both cancelled, leaving me with no time at all on the track. My times are really showing it.

Friday morning was looking good. A little cold, but the sky's were clear, and it was warming up nice. Skipped the first session, as it was going to be a full course yellow session so people could get a handle on the track.

The second session got out, and found that my assumptions of the B group being made up of medium paced AFM racers was bad. Found myself in heavy traffic with mostly street riders that didn't really know what race lines were. Made the best of it, and came in.

The third session was with an instructor, so I made sure I was ready. Went and discussed what I wanted to work on, and where I was having troubles prior to going out. Figured this would save some time by not having to do this while my session was going on. We went out for the "warm up" lap, and kept it slow due to the lap being under yellow. On the front straight, the instructor waved me past him, and I passed him going into turn 1. Coming into turn 2, I found a large group of bikes going slow, so I went to the outside, and passed a couple of them. Turn 3 did the same. As I came up over the top of turn 3a, my instructor got on the inside of me, and made a gesture that I thought was "fall in behind me". When I started to lean into turn four, I was slightly surprised to see the instructor (who was still on the inside of me), not leaning in. This caused an issue as his bike grabbed my front brake lever. I saved the bike from going down, and stood it up, wondering what the instructor was doing as a line straight off the track from turn four seems to be a bad line for winning a race. Well Infineon had paved a "shoot" from turn 4 to turn 7, cutting off turn 5 and 6. This allows NASCAR to have less turns, and turn the track into a much more oval course then it normally is. This means we had track surface to run off on, and not just dirt. The instructor runs down to where it enters turn 7, looks back and sees me, but missed me trying to figure out where my front brake lever is. He takes off, and I am left behind with a flapping brake lever, wondering what he had in his Wheaties that morning, as he had just pulled off one of the most stupid moves I have seen in a long time.

I found my brake lever, and felt I could get it back to the pits to see what I could do to fix it. Got back to the pits, and found that the retaining clip that holds the plunger in the Brembo master cylinder was broken. This was going to require a rebuild. Checked my spares, and found I didn't have the proper parts, so I had to wait for Roland to get up so I could call him at his house. While waiting to make the call to Roland, I found that Galfer had a new Brembo master cylinder I could buy, but at $250.00 I decided I would wait to see what Roland had. Turns out that Roland didn't have the parts, so it was off to buy a new master cylinder. By the time I got everything together, the day was pretty much over, and with only one full session, and 1.5 laps, it was a wasted day. That and it cost me $250.00 for a new master cylinder.

Saturday morning came around, and it was cold, overcast, and windy. The day stayed rather cold, with gusts of wind all day long. Made trying to find a good setting hard. As it got a little warmer later on, the bike was feeling a little stumble on open throttle, so I dropped the mains a step, and found that cleanup it up a little in the straights. Saturday went over with little excitement, and not much improvement in my times, but I was finding a better line through the new turn 9 section of the track.

Late Saturday afternoon I decided to switch to new tires for Sunday, so I pulled out of the last session of the day, and spent the time swapping new rubber onto the bike.

Sunday morning came, and things were looking nice. At 6:30 AM, it was already warmer then most of the day before, and there was no wind, which was nice. Got the tires on the warmers early, so they had all the heat they could for the first session, and started to get a heat cycle into the engine. First practice session came around 8:30, and it was already feeling like a nice day was coming. Practice went good. Got some good solid times in, all around the same. Still not as low as I would like, but better then Saturday, so I couldn't complain. I knew I could knock a couple seconds off these times as well in the race.

After practice, it started to get really nice, so I decided to drop the jets again, as it was still running rich, and I didn't want to have a bad race due to fouling the plugs. Since my race was late in the afternoon, I spent the day resting, and making sure that everything would be ready. Got my grid spot, and wasn't that happy with it. I was on the 7th row, on the inside. Really like the outside starts, as it gives you miles to run up through all the traffic in the slow first couple corners. The inside gets really pinched on turn one, and the entrance of turn 2.

Earlier in the day, I spent some time talking to a racer who used to race in the F-II class, and he gave me some good tips on turn 2, and turn 6. During the morning practice, I found that the turn 2 tips weren't that good for me, as it really upset my bike. However, the line he gave me for turn 6 was really nice for passing, and getting some good drive out onto the strip, so I could practice this more in the race.

My race came finally, and I had the bike warmed up, the tires all heated, and ready to go. Got out to the pre-grid, and waited for the warm up lap. Luckily I timed it just right, where I didn't have to wait that long for them to let us out. The warm up lap was useful, as there was a crash earlier in the day, and oil had been laid down in turn 3a on the line. They had a hard time cleaning up, so I would need to adjust the line to deal with that. Seeing the oil on the track allowed for me to find a good line for the race.

Finished my warm up lap, and found my grid spot. Really wasn't like it at all, due to it being up against the wall. Waited for the 2 board to go to the one, and made sure I was in 1st gear. Kept an eye on the temp gauge to make sure it didn't get that hot. The 2 board went to a one board. Checked for 1st gear again, and got the revs up. As the board went side ways, kept the revs at 11K RPM, and looked for the green to come out. As the Green flag came out, slipped the clutch, keeping the revs up, and got a good launch. So good the front came up, but I kept it managed without dropping it, and losing all the start I was getting.

Went into turn 1 with a large group of the grid pinching me on the inside up against the wall. Turn 2 put me on the outside, which gave me some breathing room, and allow some room to get around some people on the outside. By Turn six things cleared out a bit, so picking up the pace was a little easier.

With Traffic the new turn nine was still exciting, even after two race weekends there. This month, the lines were a little cleaner, and speeds were picking up a little through there. On the third lap, I came into turn 9 on a wide entrance, tipped in, and found another rider had decided to late brake on the inside. Only problem was they went real late on the brakes, and didn't give either of us room to make the turn.

This put me in the dirt on the outside of the entrance of turn 9. In the excitement I pulled the clutch in, but forgot to keep the gas on a little. The bike stalled, and I found myself with no power. I had to push the bike out of the dirt to the access road between 9 and 10, and got it bump started prior to looking for a clearing back onto the track. After looking at my times, it turns out I lost 15 seconds on that one corner issue. I know I also gave up a good five plus spots which was hard to make up again.

After getting back on the track, I really started to push hard, and get back as much as I had given up. By turn 6 I made up most, but wasn't able to get them all back. The screw up allowed me to push a little harder, and get some good clean times in.

On the last lap, I setup for another turn 9 mid track, and when leaning in found another rider on the inside doing another late brake. This one like the last miss judged the brakes, and put us both up on the exits candy stripping throwing us both off. We both kept it up, and went over the finish in line.

The only good thing out of the race was that my times were all consistent with the exception of the one lap I lost 15 seconds due to stalling the bike in the dirt.

 

AFM Round 2
Infineon Raceway
May 1, 2005

The weekend started the week previous to the races. Spent 15 hours with the tuner going over the bike. Found a couple issues we cleaned up, and put a new top end on the bike. Some issues we found didn't get addressed for the race weekend due to no spares, but they should be addressed by the next race.

Wednesday prior to the weekend was spent at a one day advanced race school at Thunderhill raceway. The school was put on by Keigwins at the track, and was well worth the time and money. A good number of AFM top runners where on hand to do one on one instructing, as well as class room sessions were going on all day. Gave me some good things to work on the coming up weekend.

Got an early start Friday afternoon heading out to the track. Needed to get there for 8 PM before the gates closed, so we left at 5 PM. Ended up missing the exit, and had a fun time doing the scenic route through most of San Francisco with a 22' trailer in tow. I am sure some city travelers wondered why on earth a 40' van/trailer combo was driving around Fisherman's Warf at 6:30 PM on a Friday afternoon! Got to the track with ten minutes to spare, and got setup and ready for Saturday morning.

Saturday morning came around, and it was off to find the tuner for a run down on proper break in techniques for the new top end. Did one simple heat cycle, then two mellow sessions on the track. After that, checked out the top end and it all looked good (got buy in from the tuner just to make sure).

The third session was spent learning the new turn 9 layout, and determining that there is no fast line through. Just a fast exit, so there was no time to be made up in that corner (just needed to brake later).

By the end of the afternoon, I was about 6 to 7 seconds off my times for last year. Determined that was due to the new corner, as it seems in traffic everyone else was in that same range.

Sunday morning came, and it was nice to wake up to no rain. The reports were calling for rain into the day, so to see clear skies, and temps near 70 by 8 AM was nice. Got ready for morning practice, and got some much more consistent laps in. Only problem was they times were no lower then Saturday afternoon.

My only race was Formula II. This was the ninth race of the day, so had a good amount of sitting around to do. My race came around 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was perfect conditions. Mid 70's, sunny skies, light breeze, perfect.

Lined up on my grid spot, and found Kevo grided next to me. He finished just in front of me last race, so I really wanted to beat him today. The board went to a 2 board, so clicked it into first, checked the temp, and dropped my visor. Board went to 1, sideways, rev the engine, green flag comes out, and I slip the clutch just perfect. Being on the outside allowed me to slide past two rows, getting a pretty good run into one. Only problem was it put me on the inside of two, and with the entire grid pinching me off I lost all the spots I picked up on the launch.

By turn six, the pack smoothed out, and I started to get into a groove. Didn't see Kevo coming around me, so I felt good. Within a couple laps of the race, I had one of the 125's dicing with me. After a couple laps of that, I decided I was probably holding him up in the corners, and decided to let him go, and just chase him. On the very last lap, the leader of the class came around me on fire. The guy was FLYING. Turns out he was doing almost 4 seconds faster then the others in the front of the pack. Coming into seven I found myself catching one of the back markers from the other class on the track. I planned a pass into the new turn 9, and setup on the outside. Problem was the other rider didn't feel like giving me the line, and now I had to make a decision. Either take the line, possible causing a crash, or bypass the turn, and wait to get back on the track as to not get DQ'd for missing the turn and gaining a position. Well, I took the exit path, by-passing the turn, and slowed way down, waiting for the slower rider to get in front of me where I was about to enter the track again. Problem was the other rider was slowing way down, and I had already come to a near stop. Quick thinking told me "Hey, that riders in another class, so I can always argue my point that it wasn't gaining a spot!". Took off, and finished the race.

Got back to the pits, and found I had dropped another 4 seconds off my times from practice. Wasn't as low as I wanted, but still put me a couple seconds off my average times from last year, and that was with the new corner, so I felt pretty good in general.

 

AFM Round 1
Button Willow Raceway
April 3, 2005

Opening round of the AFM 2005 series came not quick enough after a long winter of no track time. I found that dirt bike riding is fun, but doesn't keep you in tune with road racing. So next winter its track days at least once a month for me, and possible some visits to WSMC for a couple races to keep me going.

Wednesday evening, I got the trailer loaded, and ready to go. I arrived at Buttonwillow Raceway around 10:30 PM. Pulled up outside the gate, and went to sleep.

Around 6:00 AM got up, and waiting for the gates to open for a track day/practice with Zoom Zoom track day. Setup shop for the four days I would be there, and brought the 1996 NSR250, and the 2001 RS250 through tech.

Thursday and Friday were to be spent getting used to the RS with the new suspension work, as well as the first time on the track with this bike. First couples of sessions were just getting used to the bike on the bumpy track. The suspension just wasn't working, and I was getting real bad feedback all over the track. Couldn't get comfortable on the bike at all.

Thursday afternoon found a little better setup in the rear, so I could at least get some traction on the corner exists, but the front was just way unstable, and it didn't feel all that confident to me. I didn't push it, as I wasn't going to throw the bike away the first day of a four day weekend. That and I figured Friday would have some suspension people there, so I could work with them.

Friday morning brought more of the same, so I waited for Aftershocks to show up. By mid day, it didn't look good, so I talked with Jim from Lindemen Engineering, and he helped me work out some of the issues I was having. About ten minutes of work, and some good advice, I was knocking times down quickly. On the first outing I went from an extremely slow 2:25 to a 2:16. By the end of the day, I was feeling really comfortable on the RS, and I was getting some good feedback out of the front end.

Saturday was spent on the NSR since I hadn't touched it all weekend. Since I had spent an entire year on the bike, I really didn't need much on this bike, and since nothing really changed on it, It was more just to make sure nothing really did change.

Sunday morning came, and I had two bikes lined up for practice. I was in group 1 (NSR), and group 2 (RS), so it would be interesting at most to do back to back practice sessions on the two different bikes. I got the RS heated up, and on the tire warmers, and ready to go. Went out for the first session on the NSR knowing I would need to pull off on the white flag lap so I could switch bikes. Did just that, and went out on the RS for group 2.

As I went out, I realized just how different the two bikes are. I found it rather hard to run the RS and feel confident on it. Mostly because the RS takes so much more to ride then the NSR. After a couple of laps, I started to get a little more comfortable back on the RS, but it really wasn't a good feeling. As I came in I decided that running these two bikes probably wasn't the best choice for me, so I came to the conclusion I would just race the RS that day, and not race the NSR.

The Formula 2 race was scheduled as the first race of the day, so I was pretty much already to go after practice. After the riders meeting, went back to the pits, and got ready to go out for my warm up lap. Had the bike all warmed up, and tires ready with their warmers. Got out to the pre-grid, and waited for the warm up lap to start. They let us out pretty quickly, and we finished the warm up lap, allowing us to get into position on the grid. Found my spot, and got ready for the green flag.

Since I hadn't raced the class the previous year, I didn't have any points, so I was grided pretty far back. That was okay, as it would allow me to get a better idea of the new class, and how things went down.

The green flag dropped, and I got a pretty good start. Ran past a couple rows of other riders, but since I was on the inside of turn 1, I ended up in a very large crowd trying to all get through at the same time. The first half of the first lap wasn't anything exciting. Just trying to not get into a scuffle with anyone as it was very crowded. Once out onto the long sweeping right hander, things opened up, and allowed me to pick up the pace. Had a couple good laps trying to get used to the bike still.

By about lap three, I had another bike come around me on the outside of the AFM corner, and it turned out to be another rider I had thought was slower then me. Turned out he had dropped a good 10+ seconds off his practice. We diced for the next lap, and feel into the back makers of the 500 twins class. For the most part it was okay, until four of us came up on one rider in the twisty part of the track. I was the last one through, and lost a good five seconds on the pack of racers I was with. I finished the race trying to reel back in the last rider of the group I was dicing with.

 
 
 
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