The weather for the weekend was uncharacteristically fantastic. I say that, because it is spring and we've held this race in rain and cold, and had snow after it was done. But NOT this time.
Practice sessions on saturday were a mixed bag of trying to get my own poop in a group, and combatting others new to the track (as well as racing in general) all at the same time. Our practice sessions are split into 3 groups, old and slow bikes go out with the novices in one. Intermediates in another, and fast intermediates (under 1:03) and experts in the third group. I was, and will be for some time, in the old and slow category. This meant blasts of clear track were scattered and scarce. Bike was feeling good, and the times were coming down closer to what I was doing last season. A damn sight better than my first track day a few weeks ago, where it felt like I forgot everything about riding, even how to shift! But that's my own fault:
In general I'm quite resistant to change, ahem, hushup you! So a new helmet, new Knox armoured shorts AND a different clutch lever meant I was like a newbie out there. How I didn't just curl up in the fetal position and whimper all comes down to sheer stubbornness (yes, it has two N's). The armour was a sensible upgrade from the seriously crappy supplied foam in the leathers, so in the closet they went, on go the fancy undies. Do they make my hips look big? The first problem with them is the coccyx protection pad in the shorts conflicted with the same protection part of my back protector. The shorts pushed up on the BP causing the top of the BP to push on the back of my helmet forcing it down towards my chin, not much will frustrate me as much as this, as looking up/forward really helps with forward progress. It was also pushing the shorts down, and the flexible parts that allow for a sitting position was displaced too low, and quite uncomfy. Out with the offending pad, and much better.
The new Shoei lid is wonderful, if they made one to fit my head years ago I would have happily converted from Arai at that point and never looked back, but alas, only now can I settle in to the sinister all black/patriot theme in such comfort
The clutch lever, hmm, yes. For years, I've run a $5 fixed lever thinking that if I crash, who cares it was only a $5 lever. Problem with a fixed lever is it's never where you want it to be, so I lived with it. The friction point was a loong way from the bar, making consistent smooth launches kinda tough. The flip side however was that clutching upshifts was a mere finger twitch away, and yes, I still clutch all my shifts. After almost 200,000kms on the same 2 bikes, it's such a habit it would be harder to change. The dumb part of my reasoning became apparent during the winter when I was taking stock of supplies and spares. I had a spare factory lever in the toolbox just in case. I also have a lever on an M/C ready to go, again just in case, and if I was really in a pinch I have the street machine with one too. So why the F&^k am I fighting with a cheap piece of poo with THREE factory levers at hand!
Not anymore, which is why I was trying to re-learn how to shift with the lever adjusted to a happier place.
Sunday morning had a cool-ish practice session where I was helping a friend try and sort some lines out for herself and kinda shoulda done another session to work on myself, but oh well. The first race of the day is our Senior Open. Any bike, so long as the rider is over 35. For me it's a chance to shake loose some butterflies, get the first race start done, and see how the day is shaping up: if I'm about to get lapped as the 1/2 way flag comes out, it's gonna be a sucky one. If I can hold the fast guys off until almost the end, things are looking up. New clutch lever in hand and voila, terrific start. Up and battling my pitmate who was gridded an entire row ahead of me, but as he flinched towards me because someone spooked him on the outside, it left me with less room than I'm comfy with on the inside, so I digressed. He's faster than me anyway and it would have been a temporary victory. As it is our first round, we grid based on last years positions, meaning I was in the very middle, ahead of guys much faster that just haven't raced here, or that particular race before. So I marched myself back down the standings in a hurry. The pic where I'm in the thick of it is the first lap, hence all the tentative lean angles. By the end I was close to the back but was being hunted by a fellow exec member on her 750 Suzuki. All I knew was that there was an exhaust breathing down my neck, but despite a couple mistakes on my part, she didn't manage to get by. A red flag 2 laps before the end meant I also didn't get lapped!
I also had some of the best laptimes of the whole weekend, so for a race I usually consider a dud, it was a lot of fun.
The second race of my day was the Open Sportbike (intermediates only), and although I got a pretty good start, love that clutch lever, I kinda foundered near the back with only mediocre times and no one to really race with. Concentrating just on lines, isn't as much fun, but this is kinda the way this race has gone for me in the past. Some times there are simply enough bikes on the grid (the most was 32 last year
) that there is always someone to battle with, but that was not to be. meh.
The race I most look forward to is a mixed class race. As we have some race classes with small numbers, and really not much relevance to modern "exciting" racing, we get stuffed together. For me, the mix of supermotards, GP style, and smaller displacement twins, as well as bikes over 10 years old, is an awesome mix of lines and speeds. My old beast has one happy line on the track, motards have no particular line but lack horsepower, and the GP bikes define classic racing arcs. So it's a hoot to be wrestling my Ace through a particular corner only to have a motard come across my nose from the inside crossed up with rear tire sliding, while a shrieking 125 comes across his nose from so far out, "outside" doesn't even start to describe it. Unfortunately this race only had one TZ250, 4 motards (2 experts=fast) and 7 of us old bike riders. So, kinda low on the numbers. I had the chance at a great start again, but the bike directly in front of me 2 rows up stalled and I almost used a Husqvarna as a ramp with my streetbike, checkup and swerve, and the start was blown. I did get to run down a friend on his motard, but his ongoing issues meant that a short chase and a horsepower pass on the straight left him well behind for the remainder of the session. It also meant that I was some distance behind the next guy and not gaining no matter how badly I rode.
So in a strange twist of fate, the race I most look forward to was a disappointment, and the one I rarely place much importance on was a hoot. When I made the comment that "the day didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but in the end was better than I thought", a friend responded "well, that's just life for ya". Truer words were never spoken. Upright and unscathed means there will be another chance. http://www.stevenszabophoto.com/Motorcy ... N&lb=1&s=Lhttp://www.stevenszabophoto.com/Motorcy ... &k=jVbhXpQhttp://www.stevenszabophoto.com/Motorcy ... &k=BpJpGpt