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2005 Season Log

My second season of racing has begun. The first race weekend of '05 is April 23/24.

My simple goal for the season is to stay upright. I'm not yet at the stage where I should be chasing points and positions. I will be making a conscious effort to concentrate on proper technique, being smooth, and in general learning the logistics of going through a full race season one weekend at a time.

I will not be chasing improvements in lap times as the ultimate end yet; instead, I will only be observing them to gauge my performance and changes in setup. Once I work out the kinks in my equipment, schedule, riding style, learn good technique and gain more track experience, then I will be able to start setting performance goals and working on improving lap times and percolating through the race ranks. After all, I am planning on continuing racing for years to come, so I have plenty of time to do that.


Over the winter I swapped the front end on the SV that I tweaked in last season's big crash. I had to install the RaceTech cartridge emulator valves from the old forls into the new ones. That went pretty well, considering that it was my first time taking apart motorcycle forks and sorting through their internals. (BMW telelever forks don't count, 'cause there ain't no internals in those babies.)

The last thing to do was to repaint the number plates, as this season the names of racer level and color schemes have changed. Last year I was an «amateur» — the lowest of three expertise levels — with black-on-yellow numbers. This year, I am a «novice», still the lowest of three levels, which now has red-on-white plates.


We had a team meeting, where we discussed the garage situation as well as the team members' personal goals for this season.

This season we will be having six motorcycles in a single garage bay, so it will be quite a bit more crammed than it's ever been. The tentative team member list this year is as follows:

  • Paul Conley, Ex
  • John Doll, Ex
  • Caleb ???, Am
  • Allan Jones, Nv
  • Lisa Marolda, r00kie
  • Ilya Kriveshko, your humble Nv

Every team member stated his/her personal goals for the season. For the only two experts among us, Paul and John, the goals are unsurprisingly tied to hard lap time improvements. Caleb wants to learn to race "in the zone". For novices — Allan and myself — the goals are getting comfortable with the race weekend logistics and staying safe. I would like to advance to Amateur class this year, but this isn't a goal per se but more of a "nice to have" item. Lisa's goal unsurprisingly is getting through the first race weekend uninjured.

All goals seem achievable with a reasonable amount of effort and care.

To successful 2005! "Na zdorov'ye!"
(I know that toast is merely a cliche, but I see no harm in maintaining this stereotype.)

2005-04-19, Tuesday

Yesterday I looked up the weather forecast for the weekend, and it looked like rain was highly likely, if not certain, one or both days. Meanwhile, the weather on Tuesday was supposed to be outstanding, and it appeared that Penguin Racing School had some vacancies for their street rider track day. What choice did I have, really, but to jump on this opportunity? Thankfully, my boss granted me the day's leave on such short notice, and off I went to the track.

Just in case you have to ask: no, Penguin Racing School desn't teach you to race penguins, although I completely understand how you might have been led to believe that.

Woo-hoo! The first track day of the season sure was fun. It was in the mid-70sF, not a cloud in the sky — which around here is about as likely in April as 35F and freezing rain. The track was still cold (it was near freezing overnight,) so there was some slipping and sliding to be had, but I was sure glad to have nice weather for the first track outing of the season.

By virtue of having a race license I was assigned to the fast group "C" which was mostly populated by experienced racers looking to get some practice laps in before the first race weekend. However, staying true to my objective for this season, I voluntarily downgraded to the intermediate group "B". Despite being a bit slower on average than my preferred pace, riding in group "B" was still just as much fun, while also allowing me to stay out of trouble. It also allowed me to practice safe passing in a non-competitive environment, which is one of the more difficult manoeuvres for me in a race.

I shared my commute to the track and the garage space with Craig D'Andrea, who was having tons of fun getting used to his new RS125 grand prix bike. As tiny as that bike is, it is a true purpose-built race machine and is entirely suitable to a technical track such as Loudon. I hope some day I get to do a few laps on one of these beasties.

The stupid thing that I discovered is that I'm running D208's on my bike, not D208GP's (that's DOT streets instead of DOT races.) I must have screwed up when ordering and then didn't notice it when I mounted the tires. With my slow-poke race pace on the cold track it was probably not much of a disadvantage, if at all, but I am still going to buy a new set of sticky tahrs from the Dunlop guy at the track on Saturday morning. It's rather silly to make a mistake like that and then not notice it for so long...

2005-04-20, Wednesday

Ow! My legs!

And here I thought I was in a good physical shape...

2005-04-23, Saturday

It is raining and cold. I packed up the trailer on Friday and drove up to the track early on Saturday morning. The pre-entry that I had faxed in two weeks prior was apparently received, and there was a transponder with my name and number on it waiting for me at the front gate. Easy-peasy. I think I'll be pre-entering from now on, just to avoid the hassle of waiting in two different lines.

Anticipating inclement weather, I had already mounted my rain wheels the night before, and tech inspection was quick and painless, so I did not miss the first morning practice. The only glitch was that they assigned me to the blue sticker (i.e. fast) practice. I didn't feel confident enough my first time out on the track in the rain this year, so I voluntarily downgraded to a yellow (intermediate) sticker.

As it turned out, I was one of four people on the track in the first practice, and one of two (!) in the second practice session. I guess most everyone else was miserable enough to just sit it out. I don't mind the rain - I even acquired a used GP1 Kevlar one piece suit to wear under the rain gear. It makes me look like a blue smurf, but it doesn't get soggy, like leather, and with a layer of hot chilis underneath I don't feel the wetness.

My first and only race of the day was LWSS (LightWeight SuperSport) sprint race, so I volunteered to work the flags for turn 3 for the whole day. The timing works out pretty well - the corner captain would let me go with enough time to prep and catch my practices and the race, and I would come back to the station as soon as I was done. I had done this last year too. The US Marshalls are always struggling to recruit enough cornerworkers to man the events, and it's the least I can do to help. In exchange, they refund my $20 gate fee, give me a $5 lunch voucher and pay me $30 for a day of work. I decided to keep the gate fee and the lunch - but return the day's pay as a donation to the US Marshalls. They are there to help us, not to make money, and helping them in turn is only fair.

So, now we get to the main development of the day. The supersport race. I ended up gridded on the first row, probably because of submitting my registration early. That would have been great if I had any ambitions to win the race. But I was fully intent on taxiing around at a safe pace, and just have fun and be comfortable. And in my mind, I did not deviate from that goal. In fact I was so relaxed that I didn't even rev up the engine when the one board came up. When the green flag flew, I got this crappy pedestrian start, as if pulling froma stop-sign with a police cruiser in sight. Two bikes on both sides of me easily got ahead of me on the front straight, but quickly dropped back as we approached turn one. One of them was running DOT race tires, so that was not very surprising. But most of the rest of the field had rains, so I assumed they were right on my tail. Noone appeared to challenge me through turns 1a, 2, 3, up the hill, into the bowl, etc... For two full laps I was not looking back, because I was assuming that there was somebody there. However, when I finally did look back I saw that I had developed a wide gap on the rest of the field. I was still in disbelief about my leading the race, when I started lapping some other riders. The race ended with me taking the checkered flag, and thus I won my first ever motorcycle race.

My teammates looked jsut as surprised as I was, and I got a warm reception from them in the garages. I thought them (and I still think) that it was just a fluke. For some weird reason all the faster riders must have not shown, and I got a first by default.

Still, it felt great! I came, I entered, I won, and I got a plaque to show for it.

2005-04-24, Sunday

I had submitted enteries for two races on Sunday: the GTL endurance race, and the LWSB (LightWeight SuperBike) sprint. It was still raining in the morning, so I used the exact same setup - rain tires on the bike, and the blue smurf suit with rain gear on the rider. I did not sign up to cornerwork on Sunday - I wanted to have one day to socialize with friends and introduce myself to a few racers that I met online over the winter.

Again, I did not miss either of the two morning practices. If practice makes perfect, then practice I will.

The first race, GTL, is a 30 minute endurance race. That means that taking it easy was again key, or else I might get tired at the end and start making mistakes. Novice GTL class runs concurrently with GTO and GTU classes, and the riders are started in two waves. I was gridded at the first row of the second wave. There were only four racers in the second wave, and a total of only nine racers in all three classes. If you don't like raing in the wet in the first place, it only makes sense that you wouldn't want to race a long endurance race when it's raining.

The green flag went up for the second wave, and despite another pedestrian start I again emerged first out of the turn 1/1a chicane. I ran two laps at my comfortable pace, again very surprised that I was leading, when all of a sudden I heard a bike buzz by me on the outside in turn 6. It was Craig D'Andrea — a good firend of mine — on a tiny Honda RS125 GP bike. I was not yet comfortable starting to dice it out with anyone, especially a friend, so I just followed him around closely for a couple of laps. I saw his rear wheel spin up once in turn 2, but he managed to keep it together. Then, we came upon a lap rider on a Ducati 900 SS. I watched Craig try to pass him in turn 2, when the two bikes made contact, with the riders shoulders touching all the way from the apex of turn 1a into turn 2. Both stayed upright, and Craig ended up ahead on the 2-3 back straight. The racer on the Ducati seemed a bit shaken up, and took a very conservative tight line around turn 2, which allowed me to ride around him and chase Craig into turn 3. On the next lap I positioned myself close behind Craig through the 12/12a chicane, and used the Suzuki's grunt to passed him on the front straight. I managed to keep the advantage braking into turn 1, 1a and 2, and came out still ahead on the back straight. The next few laps I rode assuming that Craig was on my tail, but when I finally turned around to look for him, all I saw was clear track behind me. I continued lapping, eventually passing all but two of the bigger bikes, and got the checkered flag first in my class. Another fluke win? Wow!

I later found out that Craig crashed in turn 3 (he blamed poor visibility and spray from my bike,) but managed to restart the bike and reenter the race. Despite the crash, he finished 2nd in class. This was Craig's first race weekend, too. Quite impressive, if you ask me.

By my second race of the day, LWSB, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and the track started to dry. I rushed to change the wheels, and rolled onto the track with a fresh Dunlop D208GP/D207GP combo, still with stickers. I never started a race on fresh tires before, and was more than a bit concerned about throwing it all away on the opening lap. I saw that there was one rider on the grid — Ofir Abergal, on the #245 Aprilia RS250 — still with rain tires. I caught him looking nervously at everyone else's tires and the dry track. Rains don't last long on the dry track — they need constant cooling, normally provided by the water on the track, or else they literally melt in just a few laps and become very greasy and slippery.

After a very careful sighting lap I pulled into my grid position. I looked at my tires and saw that I only used up a tiny portion of the middle. I still had giant chicken strips on both front and rear covered with oily mold release. Not a very confidence inspiring sight.

The green flag flew for my wave, and off I went. Ofir on his rain tires beat me into turn 1, and started pulling away quite rapidly. By the end of the first lap, he was already half the length of the front straight ahead of me, chasing someone in the earlier wave. I decided to play the conservative card and just cruise around, gradually increasing the lean angle and slowly breaking in the tires. I was not passed in this race, nor did I pass anyone after the first lap. I came in second in class, which is not much of an achievement when you consider that only three LWSB racers were entered in the race. Two wins were plenty, and I still get a plaque for getting second, even if it happens to also be second to last.

Overall, the weekend was a total success. Team MotoMarket did great and scored loads of trophies - Allan Jones and Lisa Marolda also won their respective races. I had lots of fun, reminded myself why I went racing, met some nice people, like B.J. Worsham, Ted Temple and many others. I do not want to make any predictions about the rest of the season based on this quite likely aberrant weekend. I'm just going to take this season one race at a time, and enjoy the heck out of it.

2005-04-25, Monday

Team MotoMarket Track Day

As if I hadn't gotten enough track time last week...

Team MotoMarket had a track day at NHIS on Monday, following the race weekend. Paul had asked me to stick around and help, and I had already put in for a day off from work, so I just left my bike, trailer and tools at the track, and drove home on Sunday night to attend my family's Passover dinner.

Despite it having cleared out towards the end of the day on Sunday, by Monday morning the weather turned crappy again. It rained overnight, and the on-and-off drizzle stuck around through most of the morning and afternoon.

The opening sessions of the day commenced on the wet track. I drew the chore of flagging from the tree house between turns 8 and 9. I had never been in the tree house before and didn't know what to expect, but soon enough I learned that it has its own microclimate. It's shaded by the trees, eliminating any chance of benefiting from the brief bouts of sunshine, and the altitude above ground and absence of walls, while allowing for a good visibility, expose the flagger to constant wind.

By lunch time I felt like I was frozen solid, and the brief half-mile bicycle ride to the pits did little to fix that. I ended up eating my lunch in the showers with the propane heater turned on full blast. (The showers are colocated with the bathrooms, but it would not be socially acceptable to phrase it that way. Besides, I sat on the other side of the wall from the stalls... err... Why am I even mentioning it? Fuggedabutit...)

Anyhow, having thawed off a little, I mentioned to Paul that I might not last the full day in the tree house. Having heard my complaints, Caleb volunteered to switch off with me in the afternoon after every session. That worked out just great. We kept rotating as the sessions went on — one would ride while the other one flagged, and vice versa. Riding the bike allowed me to warm up just enough that I would last in the arctic tree house until the next switch without getting too cold. I had fun at the track. The track remained mostly dry after lunch, and despite the few short periods of drizzle, the track day was quite enjoyable.

The unfortunate part of the day was when I came to replace Caleb at the tree house for the last time: after going out on the track he promptly high-sided on cold tires on the first lap, ending an otherwise fun day on a rather sad note. Caleb seemed mostly unharmed, but the bike would need at least a new rearset, a new clutch lever, a frame slider, and some other miscelaneous repair.

After everyone left, we packed our cars, vans and trailers, and drove home. I clearly was tired, as evidenced by a couple of missed exits on a thoroughly familiar route. A good night's sleep was urgently needed.

2005-05-14, Saturday

The weather.com forecast for this weekend was changing back and forth as it drew near, but by Friday night it was iffy at best. Saturday was supposed to be cool and possibly wet, and Sunday was all but certain to be a cold rainy day. I packed the trailer on Friday night, and was on the road by 6am on Saturday morning.

I got to the track around 7am, spent 15 minutes waiting in various lines to get my transponder, and pulled into the garage by 7:30. Allan, Lisa and John were already there, all unpacked and ready to go. Took the lower fairing off, passed the inspection, lower fairing back on, put on my new tire warmers, suited up, and it was time for my first practice.

It was still chilly in the morning, so I wore my Rev'It Celsius gloves. I discovered that if I put them on top of the wheels when I turn the tire warmers on, the gloves' PCM (Phase Change Material) fabric will store enough heat to keep me warm for the duration of one race or practice. What a great product!

I did not sign up to cornerwork this time, because I was expecting a few visitors and though it would be impolite to leave them unattended for the day.

The first practice went without a hitch. My times were nothing to write home about — about 1:32 — but I wasn't trying to push, and the laps were fairly consistent. The second practice of the day was similar: times were a little quicker, in the 1:30's, as my body loosened up. One thing to note is that I used to be of the opinion that tire warmers were an unnecessary luxury - opinion formed mostly by the fact that I didn't have them, and wanted to justify that somehow. But having tried them this time, I am all but ready to retract those earlier statements. It definitely made the tires feel great on the first lap out. I don't know whether the difference is in my perception or in fact, but it felt great to be able to go faster from the get-go. I took the tire temperature reading before going out and after coming back in, and it appears that the warmers get the tires up to about 140F-160F, and by the time I pull back into the pits the temperature gets back down to 120F on the left side and 100F on the right side of the tire. It is partially a NASCAR track after all...

My First and only race on Saturday was LWSS. The grid was the largest so far this season — 19 people — thanks to it finally being a dry race this time around. Warm-up lap felt good. I pulled into my grid position on the front row and waited for the starter. As the 1 board turned, I under-revved the engine and the green flag saw my rpms drop below the peak powerband as I eased out the clutch. Two or three people went by me into turn one, and I lost one more position by the turn 2 exit. Most of the rest of the race felt good. I didn't make many immediately apaprent mistakes, except two laps before last the bike started running poorly, choking on acceleration on the front and back straights and going up the on the hill in turn 4. I tried to ride through it, but allowed two more people to slip by me before finishing in the 7th place.

Since the bike ran perfectly fine in both morning practices, and only started acting up in the race after I put in more gas in the tank, bad gas was the prime suspect for the engine's hiccups. I drained the tank, dumping all the remaining gas into my car, and also checked the tightness of the spark plug caps. No longer willing to trust pump gas, at least not until I diagnose or fix the problem, I decided to buy some race gas when the pumps opened in the morning.

In addition to checking the spark plugs and draining the tank, I decided to take a look at the air filter, just to cover all the bases. Boy, was I glad that I did that. The filter was full of sunflower seed husks, grass and rhodent poo. Dang! I need to make checking the air filter a yearly post-winter maintenance item. At first I tried to shake the crap out, seeing how the stuff just kept coming out as I shook, I quickly realized that a new filter was needed. To keep the bike supersport legal, I had to maintain the size of the air intake. Luckily, Street & Competition folks at the track had one BMC street filter in stock, ad I bought it for a hefty $70. That is the price I had to pay for not checking it ahead of time... Lesson learned.

When I later checked my lap times from the LWSS race, I was treated to a pleasant surprise: I did a set of fairly consistent sub-1:30 laps (except for the last two), with a 1:28.4 for my fastest lap — a personal best to date. Great! I'm making good progress.

After the end of the day, I drove to visit with my friend Bob Gould, who lives near the track and offered me to stay overnight. While there he and I rode his KTM 400 R/XCe and his DRZ400E on an easy trail to a nearby restaurant to get dinner. Bob's KTM was for sale, and after riding it, I wrote him a check, signed the title, and loaded the bike on my trailer. Excellent! If only it was as easy to make room in my garage as it is to fill it.

2005-05-15, Sunday

As I was driving from Bob's house in the morning, the sky looked pretty grim. It was a chilly gray morning, and the forecast for the day called for showers in the morning and rain in the afternoon. By the time I got to the track, no rain has actually fallen, so I kept DOT race tires mounted on the bike for the first practice.

As soon as the pumps opened at 7:30, I bought 5 gallons of race gas, in hopes that the bike's rough-running problem from Saturday's race was going to be cured. Apparently, it was! The first practice did not reveal any of the symptoms from the day before. It was cold and early, and I did some 1:32's. My teammate Allan was out on the track at the same time, but I never saw him. We were probably lapping at about the same pace, and didn't manage to cross paths.

The second practice, I pulled out of the pits right behind Allan. He set a fast comfortable pace from the start, and I hung in tow. While I didn't try to pass him, I don't think I would have safely been able to do that. So, I stayed behind Allan for most of the practice. Towards the end of the 20 minute session it started to drizzle lightly. Staying on the safe side, I eased my pace, but Allan didn't seem slow down, at least for the first drizzly lap. I then decided to pick the pace back up and catch up to him. A lap later, coming onto the front straight, Allan waved his hand, indicating that he was letting me pass. I took the invitation, and shot past. The traction still felt adequate, even though there were droplets breaking on my faceshield with increasing frequency. This is when I should have eased off and safely cruised around, but it was not to be...

... I was going into turn 11, and as soon as my front wheel rolled over the new patch of pavement past the apex, I felt the steering go limp, and the next moment I was sliding on my side. Too late to save — I pushed away from the bike, which slid over the curb and off the pavement onto the grass. I followed on a slightly different trajectory. A few moments after I stopped sliding, I got up, waved OK to the cornerworkers, and tried to pick the bike up. I did that with a tad more entusiasm than required, and promptly flicked it over on the other side. I walked around the bike, and lifter it again, this time successfully, and threw my leg over the seat. Immediately, I realized that the left footpeg was nowhere to be found, along with the shift lever, the left clip-on was bent, and the steering dampner was binding. It took me a few seconds of manipulating the selector shaft directly to get the bike into neutral. By then, a helpful cornerworkers arrived on the scene and helped me push the bike into the pits. Exiting the pit road, Bruce Leung took over the pushing duty, and assisted me in getting back to the garage. Thanks, Bruce!

Once in the pits, I I had some spare parts in my toolbox, but not enough to cover all the damage. I did a quick shopping trip to the Woodcraft garage, which netted me a straight clip-on and a shifter set. I managed to manually straighten the steering dampner rod and the bolt holding the frame slider which spared me that addional expense. Borrowing an M8 bolt from Ted Temple concluded the replacement parts inventory, and the bike was back together and operational just a short while later.

Just then, as the first race of the day was gridded and I was pondering whether the drizzle was enough justification to switch to my rain wheels, the sky opened up and took any shade of doubt out of the equation. I spent another 20 minutes putting on my rains.

My first race of the day was Novice GTL. After the second call, I unhurriedly dawned my blue smurf track pajamas, the rain jacket and pants, waterproof boots and gloves. By the third call, I took the bike off the stand and got on. I pushed the starter button, and... Nothing. Naught. Push it again... Dead silence. Just then I realised that I hadn't started the bike since the crash. Trying not to panic and telling myself that the worst thing that could happen is that I would miss this one race, I calmly looked over the controls. Thinking of the repairs that I had to do, I wondered if I forgot to connect the clutch engagement sensor. Allan had helped me take the clutch perch off, and when I put it back on I might have simply forgotten to plug back the sensor. Sure enough, I saw a loose plug dangling in the air. With help from John who saw my predicament, I managed to get the little connector plugged into the switch, fired the bike up and rode to the pre-grid with little time to spare.

We pre-gridded for GTL, did the warmup lap, waited for the starter, launched, and barely finished the first half-a-lap, when the red flag came out. We rode back to the pre-grid, and proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes sitting in the rain as the cornerworkers were cleaning the mess that someone created in turn 1a and 2.

Finally, the track was ready. We were told that our race was going to last only 20 minutes, and that all the remaining sprint races were shortened to 6 laps. Another warmup lap, another launch. Going into turn 1a I noticed a giant oil slick glistening on the wet track. Having crashed once already, I was not in the mood to repeat it again. I set a conservative pace that allowed me to stay within the margin of safety. A few people from my wave passed me, including Craig on his RS152. Then I started passing backmarkers from the previous wave. The race was a crash-fest with yellow flags coming out seemingly every other lap, and sometimes in several corners at once. I saw Craig down0, up and OK in the bowl; then I noticed a few other people who passed crash out too. By the middle of the race I managed to catch and pass a KTM supermotard on DOTs that had passed me on the opening lap. I denied him several attempted passbacks, and stayed ahead of him for a few laps. On the last lap he squeezed by me into turn 3, and I didn't manage to pass him back either accelerating up the hill or braking into the bowl. He was sliding a lot, dragging his feet in almost every corner trying to stay ahead of me. And it worked. He exited the 12/12a chicane first, and beat me to the finish line by maybe a bike length.

The bad news was that the guy on DOT-shod supermotard outraced me on my SV650 with rains. The good news, as it turned out, was that we were the only two racers in the GTL class to cross the finish line. Everyone else crashed out with a DNF. Thus, I got a secod place finish. Another lesson learned, this time at other riders' expense: riding safely and finishing the race in bad conditions is better than pushing it and risking a DNF. At the very least, this rule applies in the Novice class, where there is no championship and the stakes are low. I'll have to revisit it later, if I am ever a contender in the points race.

The second race of the day, the LWSB, was a sprint shortened to a mere six laps. Ofir, who rides an Aprilia RS250, was the winner three weeks ago. So, I naturally assumed that if I was going to challenge anyone, it was going to be him. I managed to pull off a holeshot off the start, leaving Ofir behind. He showed me his wheel on the inside going into turn 3, but didn't follow through with a pass. Same thing on the next lap. The lap after that, the managed to squeeze under, but ran wide and I came out ahead going up the hill and into the bowl. On the fourth lap he pulled off a successful pass, again in turn 3, and stayed ahead of me up the hill. Having previously checked his wet race lap times, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to keep up. But for maybe a lap and a half I stayed close enough that he pulled me along a bit. Later, it turned out that following Ofir helped me set my fastest ever wet lap, at 1:40.855. I finished the race in second place, scoring my second plaque of the weekend.

That's pretty much it. After the LWSB race I loaded the bike on the trailer, packed all my stuff in the car, and drove to the Smokey Bones BBQ place in Concord, where the team decided to have a dinner together.

Despite the crash and the subsequent expense of repairs, it was another successfull LRRS weekend, with two plaques, and two personal best lap times: both dry and wet.

2005-07-23, Saturday

This is the first weekend since I returned from my two-wheeled almost-X-country trip to watch US Grand Prix in Laguna Seca Raceway in California. After conquering the sky-high mountain passes of Colorado, enduring the searing heat of Nevada, taking in the beauty of Arizona's unimaginable vistas, and riding the impossibly awesome twisty roads of California, everything at home seemed so aniclimactic. Watching two Americans take the top two spots on the USGP podium was certainly a treat, too. After spending the week easing back into my boring work schedule, I was psyched to finally get back to racing.

During last week, I changed the oil on my bike. Following Ted Temple's advice, I used the fully synthetic Mobil 1 15w50 of the plain automotive variety. Ted's sponsor, Spears Enterprises, recommends using Mobil 1 in their built SV motors. If it's good enough for their fire-breathing monsters, I can hardly see any reason why it wouldn't work well for my bone-stock powerplant. Besides, at $20 per gallon from Wallymart, it's a huge bargain, especially in comparison to $15 per quart price of other motorcycle-specific 100% synthetic lubes.

The Gods of cranky North-Eastern weather must have taken a weekend off, because there was not a single cloud in the sky, and the forecast called for a sunny day with temperatures around the 80F mark.

After unloading the bike, as I was getting it ready for tech inspection, I noticed that the right clip-on was bent. I was certain that it was caused by the tie-down on the drive over, becuase it was so severe of a bend that I would have surely noticed it while loading the bike. Luckily, I had a spare clip-on tube, and rushed to replace the bent piece. I managed to do it in time to inspect the bike before the first yellow practice.

During the practice the bike felt pretty good - the engine was strong and I really started enjoying the grip of the new Michelins that I had put on last weekend. I ran a time that was only a few tenths off of my best lap time so far, so I knew I was going to do well this weekend.

On the way from the novice red practice, one of the racers stopped by our garage and told us that Lisa had gone down in turn 4. We rushed to help, and saw the ambulance give Lisa a ride to the infield medical center. Paul and I helped get her bike back to the garage, while Allan rode the scooter to check on Lisa's condition. Turned out that despite completely destroying her brand-new expensive Arai helmet and scuffing up her leathers, she was nonetheless well and was released immediately. The bike sustained some damage, including a broken rearset plate and a cracked windscreen - but nothing that couldn't be fixed before Lisa's first race. It was very nice to see our team trying to help out with the repair, and our neighbors scouring their boxes for needed parts and tools.

As I was waiting for my second practice, I noticed that there were people running towards the T3/T10 area. I also saw an ambulance drive down from the hill towards turn 10. When I approached, the EMTs were trying to take the helmet off a rider who lay motionless on the ground. I noticed the #52 bike being picked up by the corner workers, which meant that the unconscious rider was my garage neighbor Ted Temple. When the helmet came off, I saw Ted's expressionless face, with blood at the lips. The part of the helmet that hit the ground looked shattered, with delaminated edges of fiberglass sticking out. It looked serious, and it got me pretty shaken up. It's very scary to see a friend down and hurt, and being unable to help only added to the stress.

Turned out that electrical problems prevented Ted from going out in his expert blue practice, so to make up for the lost track time, after fixing the bike he went out in expert red practice instead. However, since he hadn't put the tire warmers back on while working on the fix, he was riding on cold slicks. Since Loudon is run in counter-clockwise direction, right turns dominate, leaving the right side of the tire cold for longer. Turn 10 is one of the few right turns on the track. Ted high-sided coming out of it and landed hard on his head.

Ted was taken to the infield medical center and then to Concord hospital. After hearing the news that he was conscious, though seriously confused, indicating a likely concussion, with heavy heart I went back to try to catch my second practice session. However, because of the unusually high number of crashes, it was cut short, and I only managed to put in one lap before the checkered flag - not even enough to have the lap time counted.

In my first and only race of the day, LW Supersport, I didn't do so good. Mainly, it was because the bike fell out of gear as I was feeding the clutch out on the starting grid. I quickly banged it into second, but the damage was done, and I was one of the last ones to turn one. Passing is still one of the most difficult manoeuvres for me, so I didn't make up too many places during the race, and my finish was deep into the second half of the pack. I guess, partially, because I had given up on that race right from the start, my best lap time of 1:31 wasn't very impressive either.

But the weather was great, and I still had Sunday to look forward to.

2005-07-24, Sunday

The weekend's second day of racing began with two morning practice session. The weather was perfect, but despite feeling like I was riding fast, my lap times said otherwise. I was still doing the slow 1:30/1:31's, and was only encouraged when I got a couple of high 1:28's in the second session, almost matching my previous fastest lap.

There were some disturbing news of Ted's condition. Turned out that they put him into an induced coma to prevent seisures as they air-lifted him to Dartmouth, where there was a neural surgeon. Scary. I kept trying to find out any more news throughout the morning, but most of the information probably came from the same source, so I just got different interpretation of the same story from different people.

The first race of the day for me was GTL - a half hour endurance race, which I mostly use as additional practice session. I was gridded on the first row of the third wave. Determined not to repeat my Saturday's fiasco, I made sure to pull the shifter up through its full range of motion, so it sat firmly in first gear. Up went the green flag, and after going through a few gear shifts, I found myself being the first bike to go into turn one. Woo-hoo! I got the holeshot!!!

But can I keep it? I wasn't kidding myself. By the practice times that I kew that I was by far not the fastest bike in the class. That was confirmed over the following few turns by the three faster riders who passed me and began to quickly pull away. I lost three more positions throughout the rest of the race and finished 6th, with the best lap time of 1:28.095, which was two tenths of a second faster than my previous best. I was happy with that outcome, and I still had one more race to improve on it.

In LW Superbike, my second race, I was also gridded up front, thanks to faxing in my pre-registration early. I did not manage to pull out another holeshot, but I did have a pretty decent start. A few faster racers from the back of the grid passed me on the first lap, and I caught and passed a couple who got a better start than I. Just as I settled on a steady pace, a fellow SV650 racer #295 passed me going into turn 3, but I manage to hang with him up the turn 4 hill and traded the pass back on the brakes going into turn 6, aka The Bowl. My pass stuck only until turn 11, where he squeezed by me on the inside, but this time I didn't manage to pass him back. I tried to stay with him, but he pulled away steadily over the next lap. Two laps before the end of the race, however, I found that I managed to catch the #295. I passed him in turn 8 and managed to stay ahead through turn 9. Knowing that he is surely on my tail, I put my head down and tried to not make any mistakes. A stayed ahead of him through turns 10, 100, 12 and 12a, but heard the echo of his motor nearby as I neared the wall on the front straight. I kept the throttle pinned through my pre-turn point near the 4-board, and began braking for turn 1, when I saw him take the outside line and try outbrake me. Instead, he ran wa-a-a-ay too wide, almost grazing the grass by the time he left my field of vision. Not seeing where exactly he ended up, but knowing that the continuation of his line would take him across mine, I apexed turn 1a a bit wide, leaving some room to my right, just in case. A cornerworker on the outside of turn 2 waved his fist, cheered me on, and I realized that it was John Doll, my teammate, cornerworking after his own races were over. I tried to make the rest of the lap without any mistakes, riding as if #295 was still breathing down my neck. After I came across the finish line, I looked back to see the other SV quite a ways back. I imagine that his turn 1 excursion must have cost him more time than he could make up over one lap.

I finished 6th, out of 14 entries. But the real treat came when I went to look at my times. Turned out that I put in almost a full race of mid-1:27 laps, with my last lap coming in at 1:26.059. A full two seconds improvement on my own best time from earlier int the day. I was psyched!!!

For me, it was an awesome weekend. I couldn't have wished for better track conditions. My bike ran flawlessly, all of which resulted in a substantial lap time improvement.

Another good news was that I heard from Todd (Ted's garage mate) that Ted was out of the induced coma and communicating. They were going to keep him under observation for at least one more day, but the head CT scan didn't show any internal bleeding or swelling. When I got home, I posted a message on the WERA board, wishing Ted a complete and speedy recovery.

2005-07-26, Tuesday

Ted is back! He posted a message on NEAR saying that he had a mother of all headaches, but that he was finally home and in one piece. In the same message he said that he had been a fighter, but that his bike was now for sale, and that he was "out."


This is the first race weekend since I changed jobs. My efforts to quickly get up to speed and become a productive member of the team came at the expense of free time, which is why I didn't get around to writing about this weekend until after the following one. By now the memory has faded, so I will just do a quick recap of the major happenings.

One of the major goals for this weekend was to kill the imaginary demon that has been haunting me wince the beginning of the last season. The first LRRS weekend of '04, I had registered for one race on Saturday, and three on Sunday. My first Saturday race was race #3, Novice (then Amateur) GTL. My second race, #5 LWGP sprint, followed closely, with barely enough time to rest. It was the crash in that second race, which put me out of comission for most of the rest of the season. Then, I attributed the crash to being over-tired after a grueling GT race, and barely getting any rest before having to go back out. So, for all of the '05 race weekends up to this point, I was only registering for two races on Saturday: #3 GTL endurance race, and #11 LWSB sprint.

However, since that fateful weekend I had achieved marked improvements in my physical endurance and strength, lost a lot of weight, and gained some measure of racing skill. So, tempted to try to repeat that same three race daily schedule - except this time without any mishaps - I pre-registered for GTL, LWGP and LWSB races.

My first race, the GTL, started out pretty well. The weather was the best we've had all season, the bike ran well. I got a good start, and on the second lap set my personal best lap time of 1:24.494. Even though over the next few laps I let two other racers slip away from me, I felt that I was riding at a good pace, and was going to place well. I don't yet have a good feel for how many laps are still remainig in a GT race, but it felt like it was well towards the end, when all of a sudden my bike sputtered...

...I was accelerating up the hill in turn 4, about to double-lap another rider, and the power just went away. Pretty much right then and there I realized that I was simply running out of gas. I gave the bike a gentle wobble, hoping to slosh some more gas into the line, and the power picked right back up. I decided to write it off and keep racing while I could, when the same story repeated itself in turn 7 as I was coming out of the bowl. This indicated that whenever I was running at full throttle, the rate of fuel flow out of the carburetor bowl was higher than the rate at which it could be replenished from the dwindling supply in the tank. I realized that if I were to have any hope of finishing, I was going to have to tone down my pace, and start ridding in a higher gear with more judicious use of throttle. I decided to just follow the rider whom I was about to lap, hoping that I had developed enough of a lead on whoever was behind me. Pretty much the instant I thought that, I heard the high-pitched whine of an RS125, and racer #556 buzzed by both me and the lapper as we were accelerating out of turn 10. I knew I had lost one position, but I was still well in the front half of the field, and decided to keep riding conservatively, and keep trying to squeeze every last drop.

Luckily for me, I saw a white flag waving as I passed by the start/finish line. Just one more lap remaining. I was measuring my acceleration and doing some major short shifts on the front straight, letting the lapper ahead to pull a gap, but then I'd reel her right back in going into turn one. Then, lugging and sputtering, I gave up more time on the back straight, caught her again in the turn 3 braking zone, only to let her motor away up the turn 4 hill, etc.

Then, coming down from turn 9 and out of 10, the engine stalled completely, which warranted my standing up on the pegs and jumping the bike like a pogo stick to slosh some gas into the nozzle. I restarted the bike, but almost immediately it started to run crazy lean, with no power above quarter-throttle. I barely made it across the finish line, well away from the outside wall, to avoid being a stationary target for those with full power and anxious to finish.

Luckily, noone passed by me before the start/finish line, granting me the 4th place finish. Unfortunately, by then I totally ran out of fumes, and coasted to the end of the front straight. Pointing at my tank, I made the left turn immediately behind the pit wall and got coasted to a stop inside the hot pit. I pushed the bike onto the upper pit road, and proceeded to walk the bike to the garages. By the time I made it to the false grid (about half-way) I was completely out of breath, burning up in my leathers and seeing purple. I leaned the bike against the wall, and peeled off the top of my sweaty leathers. Just then, I saw Jack Aksel straddling his scooter near the false grid. Jack is the previous owner of my bike and a very cool fellow who likes to play practical jokes. I motioned and tried to run towards him. Being Jack, he saw me, and proceeded to hurriedly turn the scooter around and ride away, only to make another U-turn and approach me. Ha-ha. That would have been a funny joke under other circumstances. I asked Jack to ride to my garage and get me a jug of gas so I could at least ride the bike back.

By the time I made it back to the garage, the second call for my next race was being announced. I was still out of breath, sweating like crazy, and really in no condition to go out. What a great way to slay demons: give them a running start and show up unarmed.

But that ended up being a blessing in disguise. Knowing that I was very tired helped me justify not trying hard to stay at a good pace, and allowed me to finish the following sprint in the seat and rubber side down. Despite being almost an average of one second per lap slower than in the GTL, I managed to place 3rd.

In my last Saturday race, #11 LWSB, I placed 4th, but the major achievement was getting my best 1:23.507 second lap time, among a solid set of 1:24 laps.

In short, for the weekend I got two 3rd and two 4th places, and chopped more than 2.5 seconds off my best lap.

How's that for a "quick recap"?