I've said many times how I was in massive debt and how that burdon has greatly effected my ability to race competitively by choosing not to buy race tires as needed to be a front runner and applying that money toward my old debts instead. Well, I've reached a point where I'm sitting a bit better than I was financially, so I figured it's time to get back up to speed! It's been such a long time since I've been a Top 5 finishing Expert Regional Racer that I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get my head and my bike's set-up back into the game once I made the choice to do it. I thought it might be interesting to let you guys follow my journey back up to speed, so I figured I would start a thread about it and keep you guys up to date. I hope some of you find this interesting.
The tires I've had on my 2002 GSXR 750 have been on there since I started racing that bike in the mid-summer of 2004, needless to say they only had so much traction available at this point for racing. For example, the track record at Blackhawk Farms Raceway (BFR) is somewhere around 1:09 per lap, at the last race at BFR that I ran my 2-1/2 year old tires (May 12-13, 2007) I had the following lap times in the Heavyweight Superbike race (the fastest lap set in that race by anyone was 1:12.939):
So last weekend at BFR (June 9-10, 2007) I had brand new Dunlop D208GP's on my bike with the intent to bring up the pace (my cheap self took the better deal on new 208's instead of the more expensive 209's
). There were going to be 2 issues for me concerning this event, that was my work schedule for Saturday and the heat that weekend. I unfortunately have been afflicted my entire life by a total intolerance for heat, I will get sick very easily from overheating if I'm not careful (no state of physical shape good or bad has effected this). BFR is my home track (I live in the same county) so doing only 1 day of an event there is not a huge deal for me, in fact I went and dropped off my trailer late Saturday afternoon and got my canopy set-up and secured so I would be ready to go the next day. The biggest problem with showing up at BFR to only race on Sunday is the fact that many of the racers not only already raced on Saturday, but many may have done the all day 'Racer Only' Friday practice and will be absolutely flying by Sunday while I'm just getting on the track for the 1st time of the event.
Sunday morning I got up at about 5:45 am, ate breakfast, then drove 45 minutes to BFR (it's located at the opposite extreme of the county and I drive thru the city to get there). I arrived at about 7:00 am and found my fellow racer freind MJ already there and starting to set-up our pit area, his father is a corner/safety worker so he has to get him to the track early for the morning pre-race safety worker meeting. MJ and myself got our pit area set-up and our bikes out of our trailers, I then went to registration to enter my races around 7:30 am. I debated between entering 2 classes or 1 due to the weather going to be in the 90's, I decided based on past experience I would probably be too hot to do the 2nd race since it would be at the hottest part of the day, so I only entered 1 race (better than nothing at least!). Since I was in practice group 5 I wouldn't be going out for 1st practice till about 9 am (practice almost always starts at 8 am at every track we go to), so I had plenty of time to get all my gear on and over to tech inspection before going out on the track. After tech inspection I relaxed for a few minutes and drank some water while I waited for my practice session.
I personally have never used tire warmers in my life, so I usually just take it a little easy the 1st lap or 2, but I imagine that will be a future purchase for me since everyone else is using them and it gives them an advantage at the start of the race. I went out for my 1st practice session on my new tires and ended up getting arm pump about 1/2 way thru the session, with me this makes it very difficult to squeeze the brakes and operate the throttle so I have to come in to be safe. Generally if I get arm pump it's only on the 1st day of an event and usually only in the 1st session out on the track, so I wasn't suprised when it happened. Even though I didn't do the whole practice session I was more than happy to see my lap times, here they are:
I decided not to go out for the 2nd practice session because I felt really good out there and I generally can get up to 'my speed' really fast. Instead I got my leathers off and cooled down till the racers meeting immediately after practice, then lunch break till noon. It started getting really hot in the afternoon (for me at least) and I was somewhat concerned how I would handle the heat during my race and if I would finish, but I know when I have to pull off the track due to the heat, so I wasn't concerned from a safety aspect.
I went out for my 'Hot-Lap' for my race and immediately felt really good (though the fast guys that had used tire warmers were passing me), I proceeded around the track to the starting grid and took my grid position. At BFR they grid us in a staggered pattern, 4 riders in the 1st row, 3 in the next, and then repeat that pattern on thru the grid. CCS also grids you based on when you entered the race, so since I had not pre-entered this event I was the 2nd to last person on the Expert grid - row 4, middle position, on a three rider row (position 13 out of 14 racers). I saw someone ahead of me on the grid that had held me up in practice somewhat so I wanted to make sure and get in front of him on the start, since I'm usually really good on the starts I did this without a problem. As we all charged into turn 1 we all started to take positions and I ended up behind a racer who was obviously on a newer GSXR 750 than myself (I believe an '06 or '07), he quickly proved how he could out accelerate me out of the turns. I spent a few lap behind him, but ultimately he was holding me up, but I was having trouble finding a place to make a pass stick. I ended up letting him be well aware that I was on him like fly's on stink, I was making alot of noise with the throttle and trying to force him into an error (not crashing, just missing a shift or screwing up a line thru a corner to give me an advantage to get by him). I eventually backed off before going into turn 6 because I new I was faster thru there than him, that way I created a gap so I could go thru the turn at 'my speed' and out drive him at the exit. Ironically as I was in the middle of doing this he looked back at me and actually motioned with his elbow to pass him on the right (where I was already heading)- I believe he knew he was holding me up. I completed the pass and immediately upped the pace to what felt good for me, I then continued to move forward advancing ever closer to the 2 bikes a couple hundred feet in front of me. As I was catching them I realized the back bike was gaining on the front one, but I was gaining on both of them so I figured if I had 2 to 3 more laps I would pass both of them but then we had a waving yellow caution flag in turn 1 because of a downed rider (which I slowed down slightly for loosing about 1/2 a second). The next time at the finish line the white flag came out to signal it was the start of the last lap - DAMN!!!! I ended up getting close, but not close enough to make a pass, so I ended up 10th place. Here are my lap times from the Heavyweight Superbike race I was in:
The fastest lap set in that race was a 1:12.267, so I was thrilled to see that with only a dozen laps on the track after deciding to 'up' my pace I was able to get within 3-3/4 seconds of the fastest rider in my race! Ironically I was also not overly effected by the heat that race, but I'm not disappointed I didn't race the 2nd race as well because I know I would have felt awful after it. I looked over the results and the lap times everyone was doing in my race and found out if I had started on the 2nd row I would have probably got a 5th place finish - man does it feel good to be almost instantly back up to speed! The other thing is I have not done any ride height, sag, or geometry set-up on this bike ever, I just revalved the suspension and put on heavier springs. Now I'm going to work on the set-up of my bike to make it easier for me to go even faster!
Next event is Road America (RA) on July 6-9, 2007, this will probably be an all time record setting entry event for CCS with most likely numerous 80 rider grid races. Though I won't be gridded anywhere near the front, my goal at RA is going to be how many positions I can move forward in all my races, it should be a blast!