Friday, October 4, 2013

End of Season Report

This is going to be a fairly multimedia-heavy post, as I have both pics and video to go with the write up.
I was able to get away from work at a decent time (not early, but not late either) and make my way to the track.  The forecast was for cold but clear temps; overnight would be hovering around the freezing point, but I would only have to stay in Chez Mazda for one night.  My parents were coming out for a visit.  Dad can watch from the track while mom is too freaked out... she'd spend Sunday in Gimli.  At least Saturday night meant a stay in a hotel room, which made me feel like a factory racer, at least for a day.
Saturday was my last day as novice trackday instructor.  It has been an enjoyable 2 years, but not racing on Saturday takes me out of any chance for a championship... certainly top 3 anyway.  AJ was out for the weekend and got some pics of me, with video camera perched on top of my helmet for the benefit of the new riders to see themselves.
One of the things we do is the "I lead, I follow" process.  I basically lead for 2 laps, and then in turn, each trackday rider works their way to the front so I can follow, take video, and offer some suggestions.  A smaller group this round, and they were all quite quick (until one guy fell in the afternoon -- lowside in turn 3).  In this pic, we are exiting turn 9 and I am about to go way wide to let the rider on the honda by so I can follow.

Eye of the tiger!  Prior to starting I talk about body position, being smooth, and foot position.  The key thing I focus on is vision -- looking through the turn, not just past your front wheel.  Overcast conditions, a clear visor, and AJ's f-stop setting shows that I remembered my own advice.

My hope for Sunday was to maintain my podium streak... that way I could say that every race I entered this season, I was in the top 3.  I'd really like to have a few "1s" in there, but it was not to be.  In both races I was closer to the front than before, but could not finish higher than 3rd.  Early on during the weekend I realized that the quickshifter was not working well with the agricultural transmission of the ex650, but the gearing change was better for top speed.  Another 7mph (indicated) and the ability to pull 6th gear on the front straight led to some better lap times on Sunday morning.  Going against my superstition (the last time I videoed my racing I crashed), I left the camera on my head and got both Sunday races recorded.
As always, from the rider's perspective it is far more interesting.  I made 2 errors this race that got in my way of improving my position -- I missed a shift on the start (you can see riders from behind me on the grid pass), and less obvious is a missed downshift going into turn one around lap 8 or so.  That left me with no drive exiting the turn, and Jason pulls a gap.  Got a solid 3rd, with 4th a fair distance (13 seconds) adrift.  A number of consistent laps in the mid 1:06 range.

My last race of the season was just weird.  Another crap start had me stuck in 5th, then 4th for awhile, before I got into 3rd place.  Everyone's lap times were down, and it resulted in a tighter finish 1st to 4th.  In a weird twist, had I kept the same pace from race 3 as I did in race 2, I would have won by 5 seconds.  Bizarre.  I felt I was going fast, but I obviously wasn't... the laptimer doesn't lie!  At seasons end, I finished 5th overall (again!) in the Expert Canadian Thunder Championship.  Not bad for missing 2 rounds and competing in only 8 out of 18 sprint races.  And I kept my season-long podium streak intact!

Some pics from AJ...

Looking at these pics I feel a bit old, only because for some reason, I hardly ever drag a knee at Gimli.  It doesn't seem to be affecting my speed or laptimes, but I guess my body position and slowly decreasing flexibility in my hips are making it more difficult.  While I am riding, I don't really care, but everyone likes to see themselves tipped 'reet over.  I think I am getting decent lean, but I just don't bother or aren't able to stick out me knee as much as I used to.  The track has something to do with it as well -- both MAM and Mid-America are far smoother with longer turns with more time at lean... I drag my knees all the time there!  But aside from a quick scuff (usually over a bump when the suspension compresses!) my knee sliders stay unscathed.  Perhaps some yoga over the winter...?

The off-season began as soon as the last race ended.  Pop helped me load the trailer, I had lunch in Gimli with my folks, and the drive home had me planning the steps to, as quickly as possible, get the old engine out and the new (finally finished) racebike engine in.  Kate had suffered long enough -- 8 months sharing the computer room/office with a motorcycle engine had to end.  The following weekend I got the old engine out, the new one in, filled with fluids, and with anticipation I thumbed the starter button.  The engine turned over, and over, and over, and... didn't run.  The process of the rest of the weekend and evenings over the following week would fill a book.  In a roundabout way, at time of this post, I am pretty sure I've figured out why.  No internal engine parts or small animals were harmed during this process... but if the solution I've arrived at doesn't solve the problem, all bets (particularly involving small animals) are off. I hope to post a video shortly to show what is up...

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