|(This is a three-in-one race report because my frustration
with rounds 4 and 5 made me not even want to write them up)
WMRRA 2005 round 4
June 12, Pacific Raceways, Kent (Seattle) Washington
Due to circumstances beyond my control the new engine was still not ready. Ken and Todd ran away. I had nothing for them and ran the whole race after the first lap in a lonely 3rd place.
WMRRA 2005 round 5
July 24, Spokane Raceway Park, Spokane Washington
Due to circumstances beyond my control which are really getting on my nerves, the new engine is still not ready. I have everything up to the head gasket assembled and ready to go but still await the return of the rebuilt head. The old engine is now burning oil to the tune of a pint every 15 laps. Cornerworkers and other riders are approaching me in the pits to ask if I know how big a cloud I'm making when I shut the throttle. Oh yes, I know. I ride with my fingers crossed that I don't get black flagged for it. Todd and Ken get away early when I botch the start (again) but at least I can keep them in sight for several laps because we are back at my home track instead of theirs. At around half race distance I see a waving yellow flag indicating a crash ahead in the next corner. As I arrive there I see Ken looking down at his GSXR1100. He has lowsided in the slowest corner of the track and is unhurt but his bike won't continue. So through dumb luck I get promoted to second place. The resulting points haul compared to Ken's DNF moves me back in front of him in the championship but it is a less than satisfying race.
But the good news is that I was able to take delivery of my rebuilt head at the track and so will be able to have the new 6-speed engine ready in time for round 6.
WMRRA 2005 round 6
August 14, Pacific Raceways, Kent (Seattle) Washington
Finally! The fresh engine is in the dieci and I'm looking forward to seeing if I can finally challenge Ken and Todd at their home track. The well spaced 6-speed gearbox will give me much better drive coming out of the 2nd gear corners, and the dyno revealed that the new engine is up 10hp on the old one (from 125 to 135).
I use the Friday track day to determine appropriate final gearing because top gear on the 6-speed is actually lower than the top gear on the old 5-speed. With a fresh chain and sprockets and some idea of my new shift points, I'm ready for the weekend. Throughout my two Saturday practice sessions I drop my lap times and get down into the low 37's -- faster than I have gone in a race on this bike, and I generally go faster in races than in practice. Things are looking up.
As the red light goes out to start the race, I finally manage to get a decent launch. Not the hole shot by any means -- I'm still following Ken and Todd into turn 1 -- but this time I'm right on them. Ken is only able to hold Todd off for two turns, as Todd dives inside on the brakes into the downhill tight right hand turn 3. It appears that Todd is back to his old blazingly fast self now that he has had a few races to shake the rust off after his mid-season start. As Todd begins to pull away I feel like I'm being held up by Ken. This is a first. I've always tried to just keep Ken in sight as long as possible, but this day I find myself looking for places where I might be able to get by him.
As I follow him up the straight at the end of the first lap I see that I'm actually gaining on him. Apparently the extra 10hp and closer gearbox ratios have really improved my bike's acceleration. Turn 1 at the end of Pacific Raceways' straight is a very slight right hand kink taken at nearly full speed, so the race line approaching the end of the straight arcs left to set up for it. It appears that I will have the speed to pass Ken just before the kink, and I decide that it will be safer to go around him on the outside than to risk getting pinched at the apex. What I did not expect was that Ken's race line drifts all the way to the left edge of the straight before bending right for the kink. There is a cement wall on the left side of the straight. As my front axle comes even with his rear axle I see my hole shrinking to less than a bike width and so I have to roll off the throttle and give it to him. Being pinched between a GSXR1100 and a cement wall at ~160mph is not my idea of fun.
The entire next lap was an exciting but fruitless series of attempts to pass Ken. I could see Todd pulling away and I felt I could go faster but I just couldn't quite make a pass work, although I tried in at least 3 different corners.
As we came up the straight again I decided this time to go to Ken's right and just make sure I get through clean and get to the apex before him. I tucked as tight as I could and pinned the throttle for a few extra rpm in each gear and squeaked by. I wanted to do a little celebration for finally getting in front of Ken, but I knew we had 8 more laps to go.
I put my head down and went as hard as I could for a few laps and pulled a nice gap of around two seconds. Then we started getting into slower traffic. In hindsight I should probably have been more aggressive through the traffic, but this is just club racing and I don't want to hurt myself or anybody else so I take my time making safe and courteous passes of the slower riders. My lap times dropped off a bit and Ken reeled me back in.
On the last lap he had gotten right back up go me and could taste blood. I rode as fast as I could through the sections where I knew I was faster, trying to build a gap, but he had really picked it up. He was riding much faster than he had for the first couple laps when I was on his tail. Coming in to turn 9, a 3rd gear left hand sweeper leading to "the bus stop" right hand chicane which marks the start of the straight, I took a defensive inside line expecting Ken to try to pass there on the brakes. He saw my line change in plenty of time to react though, and he rolled through the corner tight on my outside flank. This gave him a better line for accelerating to the bus stop, and he was able to drive up alongside me and stuff his bike on the inside on the brakes.
But as is often the case with that kind of late-braking move, he was unable to hold his line at the apex and drifted wide. I saw the opportunity to cross our lines and drive under him on the exit, which would give me the advantage in the drag race to the finish line. So I threw it in and stood it up and grabbed a big handful of throttle. Too big. The old 5-speed's 2nd gear was too high for the bus stop and I was always bogging on the exit. I guess I hadn't fully gotten used to the 6-speed's better gearing there yet, because the front end came up with violent ferocity and I was unable to do anything more graceful than shut the throttle and slam it back down. It shook hard once because the bars were crossed up but then settled right down. So no dramatic crash in front of the grandstands, but by the time I got the throttle back open Ken had already made the turn and driven by. I crossed the line several bike lengths behind him for yet another 3rd place.
Even though it was another 3rd place behind Todd and Ken, I must say this was a supremely fun race. My dieci is working great with my new engine, and I was able to pass Ken once and hold him off for most of a race at his home track. He did take 6 points out of my championship lead, but that leaves me still 20 points up with only two rounds to go.
I am excited to get some more practice time with the new engine to become better accustomed to the gearing differences and increased power, and I am really looking forward to the next round which is back at my home track at Spokane on September 4th. Given that I was running essentially even with Ken at Seattle I think I have a great chance to finish ahead of him at Spokane. And even though Todd is back to his old very fast form, he is also less comfortable at Spokane. We'll just have to see how it goes...
-tim, WMRRA #420