The last round of the season took place on Sept. 8 and 9. Looking at the points table, the best I could do going into the round was to consolidate 5th place in the standings. Wilson was about 45 points ahead, and Glen had leapfrogged us both into 3rd. Scoring 0 points at Round 5 essentially robbed me of any chance at a top 3. Jason and Doug were duking it out for the overall.
The weather forecast was off yet again -- the mild temps promised for Saturday never came. No rain, but winds gusting to 50 kph, and temps hovering around 10C. Chilly. Camping overnight was pretty brutal as well... actually frost on the car Sunday morning as well!
An embarrassing start to the weekend... after staring at the bike for 3 weeks while I made repairs, I didn't notice that the forks were askew. In the end it appeared the lower triple clamp was bent, but Saturday morning was spent with blocks of wood, rubber mallets, and a lot of head scratching trying to straighten things out. In the end it was serviceable, but I did miss instructing for the morning, and all the racer practice. I got out for about 6-7 laps of the trackday advanced session; with this in mind I gridded at the back (in 14th place) in order not to get in anyone's way or do something foolish.
Canadian Thunder GP (15 laps): at the drop of the flag I actually hesitated before starting off. However the weather appeared to be giving some riders difficulty, and I was able to progressively work my way through the novices and into the experts at the front. I was helped a bit as a lap 1 melee saw Jeff and Wilson go out, and scattered those around them at the time. I got through the area at race pace, and despite the yellow flag though the remainder of the race, got by other riders elsewhere -- turn 3 is a favorite passing spot for me. By the penultimate lap, I was behind Stevie who was alone in 4th; I was able to make the pass along the front straight and brough it home just off the podium. Lap times weren't great (1:07s) but very consistent which did help in the end. I was wary of the cold conditions and the fact that the tires, especially the rear which was getting a bit ragged. I also tried some more swoopy lines through 5 to avoid the debacle of the last round.
I spent the rest of the day working with the novice riders, and got a number of laps in.
Racer Practice on Sunday went fairly well. The overnight low was near freezing, and with the deteriorating rear tire I only went out for a few laps first thing in the am... the conditions were going to change considerably before my races, so there was little sense burning up tires when it was still so cold. The second practice session went well, and I got down into the 1:06s. The entire grid seemed to be a second or so slower than usual, so this seemed OK.
Canadian Thunder 2 (10 laps): I enjoyed the previous day's race starting at the back, so I decided to do the same -- again considering that my overall standings would not change. I was far more agressive, as I had less time to move through the pack in the shorter race. Starting at the back in 12th (two less riders today), I again got up to 4th by the finish. While the top 3 were slowly pulling away, lap times indicated it was fractions of seconds per lap. Racing in close proximity to bikes and planning moves and passes was great practice. I don't think I am sandbagging -- I am only a second or two faster than most of the other riders. I'd like to think the battles we had for positions were fun for them while it lasted.
For the last race of the season, I offered to follow another rider with my camera and try to catch some footage. I duly did so, likely crossing the line in 6th or 7th place. Unfortunately, what would have been some great video (the rider in question had a great battle himself, and made a super pass on the last lap) did not pan out as the bloody card in the camera pooped out. Dammit! For what it was worth, I had a chat at the end and gave some suggestions.
So the 2012 season is in the books. In some regards, one of my best (in terms of the on-track battles, the bike development, and the laptimes), or one of my worst (two crashes and several DNF/DNS results). More consistency this year would have assured a top 3 overall. Congrats to those who finished in front and behind; we'll see you all next year. Big thanks to AJ Enns for the pictures of this round.
The next step is of course the off-season, and continued development of the ex650 as a competitive racebike. It needs another visit to the dyno -- I am hoping a few more ponies can be found via the new exhaust and a proper map. I have a larger rad in the works, and some photos from Alex Hutchinson in the UK showing his setup. The oil cooler did its job on Sunday -- with temps in the mid-20s, the bike did not get over 100C -- first time ever! I've already started fitting some more aerodynamic bodywork -- 99-02 R6 plastic, which has a neat little cutout duct for the oil cooler -- it will also clear the wider R6 radiator I will fit. The tail section is going to be replaced with something a bit more aerodynamic as well. This will necessitate a modification to the rear subframe, but will ultimately save some more weight as well as I can eliminate some more extraneous tubes. I will be sending off the forks to be rebuilt; I am awaiting the confirmation of a new Piston Broke sponsor that will help in that regard. As soon as it is confirmed, I will post a notice and a link as usual. Finally, I have been able to communicate with Ryan Farqhar. The TT winner returned an email and agreed to sell me one of his ram-air systems. I sent the payment prior to the Manx GP, and was shocked by his (understandable) immediate retirement after the death of his uncle. Despite the traumatic events facing his family, I got a lovely email from his wife assuring that the part will be on its way to me shortly. This will have an impact on radiator placement, so it is important I have it in hand prior to any work with the upgraded cooling system. Ryan is a solid guy in my books!
As always, keep checking back as I update the work done over the winter.