Tuesday, June 25, 2013

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts...

... we'd all have a great race weekend.  In reality, it was a great race weekend, but had fate intervened as it should, and schedules followed as they were supposed to, I might have come up with my first win in awhile.

Saturday dawned clear, warm, and windy (as usual).  Rain was a possibility, but it never materialized.  I spent the first part of the day working with 2 trackday novice riders, showing them around the track and some of the ideal lines, turn in points, apexes, and of course how to safely enter and exit the track.  I also brought a 2nd cheap laptop I was able to purchase, and allowed the riders the opportunity to see video of their riding that day, rather than wait until I posted it on youtube.  I think this has potential, but my onboard camera seems intermittent at best, and not as much footage was gained as I would have liked.  By noon, both guys were riding at a safe and controlled pace, and so they didn't need me out there as well.  I switched over to the trackday advanced group, to get some practice at speed and re-learn the track after nearly a year.  It was really fun.  While I didn't participate on the Saturday race, I think this is the best bet in the long run.  Both of my crashes last year happened on Saturday, early in the race, and so either Irish superstition or common sense is perhaps the better choice.  I ended up getting quite a bit of track time, when all was said and done.  I turned a couple of 1:06s... not as fast as I would have liked, but not bad either.

The forecast for Sunday was biblical rain and thunderstorms mixed with cloudy periods.  The weather is always changing at Gimli, with the "lake effect" kicking in.  However, I brought my rain wheels and set out my tools ready to go for a quick change if need be.  Practice went well for me in the dodgy conditions.  I was 2nd fastest overall in the first session, and the fastest overall in the 2nd session.  Now a caveat... not a whole lot of riders came out, and it was spitting/raining during both sessions.  I did scramble and put my wets on for the 2nd session.  My "fastest" time was a glacial 1:20 in the rain, but if the weather stayed the same... but back to the title...

First, for the first time in awhile, the ambulance was nearly 40mins late for some reason.  Had it gotten here on time, the track would have still been quite wet for our first race.  Secondly, "someone" asked the referee to send some people out to dry the entry into turn 8.  I was quite surprised to see 3 of my class competitors heading out to turn 8 with brooms and a leaf blower at the end of the last practice session to try to dry the track... this after it was announced at the riders meeting that there would be "no delays if it rained".  I must admit I was a bit pissed and expressed my disappointment to the ref.  The reality is, the two top riders in the class were flying on Saturday, and the only way I was going to finish ahead of them would be in the rain.  Had things run on time, I'd be at an advantage.

When we finally gridded up (over an hour late), the track was damp but drying.  I searched out some puddles during the warmup lap and took my grid spot -- 6th, due to my lack of points in rounds 1 and 2.  The flag dropped and I entered turn 1 in fourth.  I got up to 2nd before the end of lap 1, and then led laps 2-7.  My advantage was the ability to not search out dry lines and ride where the track was still damp.  However a dry line was forming, and Glen blew by me on lap 8, ran 3 seconds a lap quicker on his dry tires, and took the win.  I ended up a solid 2nd place.  By the finish, my tires were feeling quite greasy, and the edges of my front rain tire were quite ragged.  They aren't destroyed, but there is a reason why you don't run rains in the dry.

I didn't swap back to slicks right away, hoping for some more rain, but it never materialized.  Over lunch, the dry tires went back on and we gridded up for the 2nd Thunder race of the day.  Back in 6th, I got a good start and barged my way into third, threading the needle off the start between 2 riders in front... it seemed tight to me but I likely had plenty of room.  I was able to stay with the leaders for the first few laps, but they eventually pulled away, particularly when they caught a lapper on the exit of turn 9, and I got held up in turn 1 by the same rider.  Considering the gap I had on 4th, it made no sense for a hard pass in still sketchy conditions, and I lost them.  I finished in 3rd.

Two podiums from 2 starts is a good way to begin the race season.  The lack of a proper fairing, while not a big deal on trackdays, reared its head during the races... to the point where a few old salts mentioned it to me, especially considering the ease at which Glen caught up and passed me on the front straight.  I do have a solution in mind, and hopefully can have it fitted before the next round, if not painted as well.

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