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Summit Point Again, What a Weekend!

MAY 25-27 2013, Summit Point Raceway, WV

This weekend was a challenging one from the start. We had planned on making our normal start Friday evening so we could be set up and ready to go for the MARRC Roadracing School on Saturday morning. However, my military duties found me working until 1500 on Saturday so things had to change. Luke and Cecilia left at 0330 on Saturday in order to take the MARRC Cornerworker School and help working corners on Saturday. While there, they had the duty of staking out a pit spot for the rig when Denise and I arrived.



It was a bit crowded this weekend!

As we started down the road, reports were coming in that the pits were jam packed and space was at a premium. With our larger RV, this was a real concern. Luke and Cecilia were trying to reassure us but it did not look promising. As we arrived around 2100, they had a very tight spot staked out for us and after 5 attempts, the RV and trailer were squeezed in and locked down. We all went to work quickly to set up the canopy and bikes so the trailer would be empty for Luke to get some sleep. We picked up the Ducati (Athanatius) from European Cycle Services who had brought it to the track following some serious work. We had a lot of work to do to get it ready, including fitting the bodywork for the first time in a year! We also had to fit the new “Franken-tank” and route fuel lines to feed the new carburetors. A little after midnight, we called it a day and hit the sack. Denise would be up at 0500 to start on breakfast for the MARRC crew.


Getting the Ducati ready.

Morning came way too early and we were back at it again. We put some finishing touches on the Ducati and tech inspection for it and the SV. The first practice was upon us and I was eager to ride the Ducati for the first time since this same race weekend a year ago. Even though we forgot to attach the transponder, I went out. The bike felt good and the engine strong and the front wheel lofted as I accelerated onto the track for the first time. I cautiously entered T-1 on the cold track and rolled on the throttle at the exit. It was here that my heart sank. The engine was bogging and sluggish. It would not accelerate at all. It wasn’t getting fuel. I nursed it around the track to pit-in with the engine sporadically picking up as fuel made its way to the cylinders. Luke had the SV ready (also with a new engine) so I hopped on and went out on it. It was still very cold and we had no blocking on the radiator. So, I came in after only one lap because I didn’t want to hurt the new engine with it dropping to 111 degrees after only two turns.

While practice was not going well for us, it was worse for others. Summit Point’s famous deer problem lifted its ugly head yet again. Arnie Hastings ended up in the hospital after hitting one on the front straight with his GSXR 750. Another was hit on the entry to T-4. Later, during the lunch break, Cecilia was able run Luke’s car to the hospital to bring Arnie back.


Looking for the fuel problem.

We checked the fuel lines and found nothing and buttoned it up for another try. We added some cardboard to the radiator on the SV to keep the temperature up. Third call came and out I went again. The results were the same for the Ducati and now, with the temperature up, I was able to try out the new SV engine. It seemed low on power but really put me out when it started to detonate on hard acceleration. I thought maybe I was hearing things the first time but the next uphill corner proved me right. Not again, I was crushed. I headed back into the pit again after my fourth attempt, on two different bikes to actually complete a lap.

The lunch break found Luke and I hard at work trying to fix two bikes. We increased the main jets on the SV from 165 to 172 to add some fuel to stop the detonation. And, after some consultation with others, decided to take the advice of good friend Bob Robbins and ditch the fuel pump and run it on gravity feed. I also looked at the main jetting and after finding the jets too small, I upgraded them as well. Now, we were ready for ASRA Thunderbike qualifying. The bike ran much better. It lasted past T-2 on the first lap for the first time. It continued on and after 8 more turns, I headed down the front straight for the first time this weekend! However, it still acted up here and there. After three sketchy laps, it really started acting like it had fuel problems again. Then coming out of T-8, it was done. I coasted through T-9 and pulled off the track. After a long hard push to pit-in, I made it back to the pit. We would have to use the SV for the Thunderbike race coming up in a few minutes.


Still looking for the problem, now with Denise’s help.

On the warm-up lap, the SV was still detonating. Extremely discouraged, I returned to the pit. Luke said he had the Ducati running again so I hopped on and headed out. However, I was sent back to the pit because leaving the hot pit lane caused our disqualification. I guess we have no racing today.
So, for the rest of the day, we encouraged others, visited friends and worked on the Ducati fueling problem. Without much confidence in the Ducati and knowing the SV was down, I decided to head back home to pick up the other SV so we would have something to run Monday and the following weekend. Nine and a half hours later, I returned with the bike, put it in the pit and at 0100, hit the bed.

Monday morning practice would find us finally being able to test the latest “fix” on the Ducati. It felt good on the way out of the pit lane, but then, it always did. But, it kept running. It kept running well. It would just run out of fuel right before the braking point for T-1 but that was it. It ran all the way to the end of the session! We were on for the first race of Monday.

Monday would hold more than just racing this weekend. There was mischief and mayhem afoot!

I was still a bit nervous but I rolled out on the line. The start was difficult as I had not started a race on this bike in so long. I went through T-1 in 5th but I felt good. I continued on and was able to hold my own. I diced it up with the 4th place rider for a few turns but then, got clear and headed for the 3rd place bike. After dispatching him and then taking second, there was only Art Diaz left between me and victory. I could not believe that after all the work and problems, I was running in second! I chased down Art and finally caught up to him. I followed him around for a lap then tried to make up the last bit of ground going into T-10. I ran out of talent and went wide in the turn so I had it all to do over again. The bike was running well. I caught Art again halfway through the lap and this time, took T-10 at a faster pace than Art which set him up for a pass at the start/finish tower. I held the throttle on as long as I dared and stuck the line through T-1 and came out ahead. From there, I ran like a scalded cat, all the while waiting to hear the rumble of Art’s bike at my rear wheel. Two laps later, I took the checkered for the win! This win was only eclipsed by my first back in 2008. Not only was I on a bike that ran its last race a year ago, I was on the same tires it wore and ran back then too! We had written the bike off this weekend as well due to fuel problems. There were so many things that said this wouldn’t happen but it did.


Victory!

The second race before lunch was not as good. I was on the SV and only managed a 5th. I was not happy with my performance but it is what it is. Lunchtime was the focus of the day anyway. During the rider’s meeting, I introduced Luke to the crowd and told them he had an announcement. Luke then proceeded to propose marriage to Cecilia. Yes, it’s official, another milestone has been passed. This was the one year anniversary of Luke’s first race event with the team. He thought it would be fitting to do it here and in front of so many friends that he has made over the last year and all the friends Cecilia has made over the years. The CCS crowd seemed pretty pleased at being included in this special moment and there were congratulations abounding. Minutes later, Denise was first to the pavilion where the MARRC crew was eating lunch. She made the announcement and the uproar began. There were smiles, looks of shock and tears all at once. It was a good day.


The big question. (for which you should know the answer before asking!)

I was asked and delivered the invocation for the day. Memorial Day is always a special one for me. Not only do I make sure to remember our soldiers from years gone by in conflicts before our time, but, I have lost friends and fellow soldiers in my time as well. I have cried with mourning families and watched people’s lives come undone at the loss of their loved ones. As always, I asked God to watch over these families whose pain goes on long after the initial loss. After the invocation, Cecilia let rip with another excellent National Anthem which again, brought cheers. Not bad considering she was sick the entire night before and hoarse from cheering me on during our win on the Ducati earlier.

The rest of the day was a bit anti-climatic for our team race wise as I was extremely tired and not riding very well. However, there was yet another traumatic incident as Scott Childers went off in T-3 and hit the tire wall, hard. The track was shut down as his life-flight made its way to the track. We were not sure as to the extent of his injuries other than that there was a leg bone protruding through his leathers. After some time, the report came back and listed his injuries as multiple breaks in his right femur, a broken knee cap, multiple breaks in his right arm, three broken ribs, and a partially deflated lung.


We had never had three race bikes at once before!

For the last race of the weekend, we managed a 6th place finish with my riding the Ducati two seconds a lap slower than the morning session. I’m not sure what the problem was however, I think several factors were involved. I was very tired, still on the same, year old tires, and a little apprehensive from Scott’s helicopter ride.

Another great part of this weekend was the reuniting of old friends. Danny Ronca, Constantine “Rocky” Vondari, Dave Loikits, Bob Michaels, Viki Trifari, Bill Sylvester and Beth Neuer were all long time friends that we had not seen in a long time. It was amazing to see so many all at once!


Danny “Angry Snowman” Ronca and Viki Trifari seen for the first time in a two years!

So here we are at the end of another weekend full of trials. I can only hope that God has enabled me to handle them with dignity and in a way that brings glory to Him. Sometimes, this is the best work we can do. Luke and Cecilia are headed home. Denise and I are settling in for a few days of vacation in the RV. We will be ready to do it again next weekend with WERA. I also have a sermon to write as I will be doing chapel service next Sunday!

 
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