The plan was to bring the camera and do some more documentation of what a club race weekend looks like for me -- the loading, the driving, where I sleep, the pits, etc. Because I managed to leave it behind at the track at weekend's conclusion (thankfully Bob picked it up for me), the pics will have to wait. Apparently there may be some video from my second race on Sunday around as well -- I'll post/provide a link if it surfaces.
Saturday saw a total of 7 novice trackday riders show up. Novice trackday riders are a good sign, as some may eventually come out to race (we all started somewhere, right), or become frequent trackday riders regardless. On Saturday I went out with them for 4 sessions, got some video of all of the riders (I think), and posted it to the MRA forum. Francisco also worked with the riders... there was a pretty large discrepancy in riding speed, so a few were advanced to the quick group right away. Towards the end of the day, I also got out with the trackday advanced group to circulate the track "at speed" in order to get comfortable for Sunday. I turned a few 1"07s, but I had to admit I was a bit frustrated, as I did do a few 1:05s last season. I thought about my shift points and other things. Faster riders said they had nothing on me in the infield, so I needed to find some more speed through 1, 2, and 6... and perhaps (and I'm not really sure) the lack of a fairing may have had some impact on my lap times... hard to say, and I don't want to point the finger at a bunch of fibreglass as the reason I wasn't going that fast. The conditions were ideal... I just needed to press on. Saturday evening was a nice one - went in to town for some real food... I'd save the leftover pizza for Sunday's lunch.
It was even warmer on Sunday, and during first practice I finally got into the 1:06s for a few laps. Practice 2 saw me only do a few laps again, and I saw a 1:06 on the timer. Better, but more is in the bag I am sure. I decided NOT to upshift to 6th in a few spots on the track -- holding 5th, and hopefully still accelerating, saved me 3 downshifts in 3 corners throughout the track. Seemed to make a bit of a positive difference.
Race 1 was an up and down experience... on the upside, I finished in 2nd, albeit after a poor start (Geoff, the top novice rider a few rows behind got by me on the start... it took a number of laps before I could get by, and by then the leader was off in the distance). The downside was that one of my competitors went down in turn 8/9, breaking bones and conking himself out. Kinda a sick feeling coming off the track with red flags waving, and seeing a friend lying motionless. The race was deemed done after 7 laps. The rider made a trip to the hospital, and returned with his arm in a sling. While "that's racing", that corner claimed me last season, and the bike in question has some bad karma in it -- the previous owner of the machine crashed, in the same corner, and lost a tip of a finger... something is heinky about that bike and that turn. The post-race benchracing also revealed that I nearly caused a pileup on the start as well. Gridded in 6th, the riders ahead of me were moving to my right, so I deked left, and then cut back to the right when (I thought) I was past... turns out I cut off the same guy who crashed, and his front wheel touched my rear. Of course I didn't notice it, but as a rider who considers himself "safe", a pretty silly move on my part... no, I didn't see anyone, but a bit less argy bargy on the start would have been the smarter move.
Race 2 was a bit lonely. After a pass going into turn 3 on the opening lap, I held 2nd place again for 7 laps, until Glen powered by me on the front straight. The eventual finish was much tighter between 1st and 3rd, and I was in the 1:06s again, but there was no real battling going on, and I had a considerable gap to 4th. So, another 2 podiums in 2 races.
I drove through a torrential downpour on the way home, and Monday saw me work on the bike to make sure things were clean. I happened to notice a few things... as I continue to ride the bike hard, it becomes apparent the stresses the machine is under. I actually lost the left hand side woodcraft frame slider (and an engine mounting bolt) sometime over the weekend... I was sure it was during the last race, as I recall something hitting my left leg, but I was too focused on the riding to figure it out. The rear hugger has cracked at two mounting points, and the clutch return spring on the RHS case slipped out. The clutch still worked, but it seems vibrations are taking its toll! Internally the engine is still stock, but it is living close to redline.
Next two rounds will be interesting; its been a tough season on the Thunder grid, with 3 riders now out with injury. I anticipate 2 being back for round 5 in August; both are fast riders, so I will need to dig deep to maintain my podium record. The new fairing should help my speed, but I'd be surprised if it means a second a lap? I'm also tweaking my gearing slightly to allow me to hold 5th longer, to see if reducing the amount of shifting I do means some reduction in laptimes. There were some photographers at the track on the weekend, so perhaps some pics will come my way so I can post them.
I'll be picking up my cylinders from Fast Enterprises tomorrow. I'll be sure to have some information as well as another sponsorship announcement soon after. I'll also begin painting the fairing in preparation for August.