|WMRRA 2005 Round 7, Spokane Raceway Park, Spokane Washington
My best race of the year, but only another silver medal...
I knew coming in that this race weekend would be my best chance for a win. The race was at my home track and my Dieci is working great with the new engine. But Todd and Ken have both raced around this track with lap times significantly better than my best so I knew I would really have to step it up.
I spent the whole practice day working on places where I was losing time. I managed to break into the high 1:37's, which is the fastest I have ridden this bike at this track, but still off the 1:35 pace Todd has run and the 1:36 pace Ken has run. On race day I had the opportunity to once again play in the modern open superbike class which I sometimes use as an extra race-practice. I have no chance of competing in this lap-record class on my 15 year old machine but sometimes find someone to race with near the back. This time I had great fun racing with an RC51 (which I beat) and a GSXR1000 (which I finished just behind). I got my lap time down to 1:36.7, and for the first time in this class I finished on the lead lap. Then I had to just watch other races for 5 hours while waiting for my real race which would be near the end of the day.
I lined up on pole position, being the current points leader in the class, and got my best start of the year. Todd got a great launch and was first into turn 1 but I was right on his rear wheel. I couldn't see Ken but I knew he had to be right on my rear wheel because he always gets good starts.
I followed Todd for a lap, looking for where I might be able to get by. Once again I found that my Dieci allowed me to carry more corner speed than Todd's GSXR1100 allowed him, but it is hard to turn that advantage into a passing opportunity.
Midway through that lap, coming out of the tight right hand 2nd gear turn 7, I saw Ken's front wheel as he tried to use a tight corner exit line to outdrive me to the high speed left hand kink that is turn 8. I said aloud in my helmet "Not today Ken!" as I stayed hard on the gas and we drove towards the turn 8 entry point side by side. Having the inside line meant that I would be able to block Ken on the way in, but it also meant that I couldn't take my normal wide approach to that corner. But I knew that if I backed off he would go by -- Ken doesn't back off. So I turned in as late as I could but still a little too early, which caused me to drive wide on the exit. I stayed on the gas and came closer to the edge of the track than I like (no safe runoff
there) and it worked -- I ended up on a perfect wide entry line for the 90 degree 3rd gear left-hand turn 9, leaving Ken no chance to try again. I never saw him again for the rest of the race, but I would learn later from spectators that he was never far behind me.
I followed Todd up the long front straight, with my Dieci finally having a motor that proved to be the equal of Todd's well-build GSXR. I was just able to draft past him at the end of the straight (165-170mph) before grabbing a quick downshift and pitching it into the no-brakes turn 1 kink.
For the first time I was actually leading, with Todd and Ken in hot pursuit. I managed to hold the lead for one and a half laps, lowering my lap time in the process to a personal best of 1:36.5, but it was simply not enough to hold off Todd. He got past me on the brakes going into turn 4 on lap 3 and put his head down. He ripped a 1:35.8 and pulled a nice gap I was unable to do anything about.
At the midway point we got into traffic and I remembered how in the previous round I had not been aggressive enough with that traffic and had allowed Ken to catch up and pass me on the last corner of the last lap. So I just went for it. Every bike I came upon I made a snap decision on whether to go inside or outside and gave it all I had. That required taking some unusual lines which I have not practiced, and I made a few mistakes, but it worked. I managed to hold my gap over Ken and take the checkers in 2nd place. Talking with Ken after the race I learned that he had turned a personal best lap time of 1:36.3 chasing me but that was just not enough today and he had to settle for 3rd.
Now as we head into the final round at Seattle on October 9th I have a 26 point lead over Ken in the championship, with Todd only another 2 points behind in 3rd position. Those guys are both really strong at Seattle and will be fighting hard for the race win and 2nd in the championship. I think I'll just follow them around and watch the fun from the best seat in the house, because all I need to do to clinch the championship is finish. If I crash trying to win I will have thrown it all away, and what a waste that would be.
Thanks again for reading.
-tim, WMRRA #420