So how's everyone's season coming along? Mine got a late start due to the leg, and a pathetically slow start at that, but at least it's started! Race report below:
AFM Round 2, 2017 Sonoma Raceway - My Not-So-Triumphant Return
As many know, my saga with this broken leg over the winter has been an ongoing thing. Recovery was longer than I had originally hoped (although still quick for what it was apparently), and things seemed to be going well until two weeks before I was scheduled to be at Sonoma Raceway. Some excess inflammation and pain over the tibia plate turned out to be an infection getting started, and surgery was scheduled for the next day once I managed to see my ortho. This was Thursday, a week and 2 days before I was supposed to be racing.
Doc was able to leave the hardware in for the time being, however, so my plan was to keep moving forward toward showing up to the races – if nothing else, be there, turn some laps and get to know my bike in that kind of environment. I was on crutches and cane for the better part of a week post op, but was managing to get back on the street bike the last couple weekdays before the races, so figured I could muddle through racing, even if I was slow.
I arrived Friday night and met my friends and garage mates and got my pit area and camp set up. DareDevil Motorsports would be arriving the next morning with the bike and pit help for the day. We hung out for awhile on Friday, then headed off to bed to get some sleep for Saturday.
The weather was looking amazing, and I was excited to get on the bike, but also knew I had my work cut out for me. I had basically only ever ridden the bike once, and that was at Thunderhill, and this was my first time back racing since breaking my leg. I hadn’t ridden this bike on a dry day at Sonoma – heck, I had only ever ridden a liter bike there twice – one of those being my second track day ever. There was a lot for me to process, so I decided to just take it easy and focus on fundamentals and being confident in what I was doing.
There was a huge learning curve. The bike is a completely different beast – absolutely amazing, but totally different. My brain was a bit overwhelmed with all of it. My leg was adding another level of complications by making downshifting really problematic – which was also causing a lot of corner entry issues as what should have been a short process was getting drug out into multiple steps. Autoblip helped, but I couldn’t make as good of a use of it since the leg wasn’t allowing me to use it like it could be.
We made it through practice with pretty sad times, getting into the 2:01s – pretty pathetic for Sonoma. I had one race on Saturday, Formula AFemme. Under normal circumstances I was pretty sure I’d have a good shot at winning, but with the way the day was going, I didn’t figure I’d be there – which proved to be the case. I had a decent start (at least I didn’t lose that skill), but within a few corners Jennifer and Daniela both managed to take off, leaving me to try to unsuccessfully reel them back in. While I found a couple more seconds, it was still almost 10 seconds a lap slower than I had been doing on my Daytona last year. I got a 3rd place by default since there was no one else in the class – my participation trophy LOL.
I knew Sunday was still in front of me, and that would be racing with the other liter bikes…my lap times were pathetic, but I hoped a night of sleep would help me process everything. Saturday evening was enjoyable, if a bit quiet, and I headed to bed at a decent time finding myself pretty tired.
The morning dawned bright and sunny, and we headed out for morning practice followed by the rider’s meeting. My first race would be race 5, Open GP gridded with the Super Dino bikes. I knew some of the novices in the front of their grid were putting down way better lap times than I was this weekend, so figured that’s who I’d be seeing passing me since I was at the back of the Expert grid. Sure enough, within time, a few of them started to come through. The race was over halfway done, and I was mostly racing my own race, with 2 experts still behind me – my goal was not last, and that was still within grasp.
I was heading down into turn 9, taking the line I was finding I liked on the bike. Due to the leg, however, I had to start the slow down process earlier than I would like, but I knew I could still carry the corner/roll speed and use my trail braking skills to scrub the last speed going into it – in fact, other than where I had to start my braking, this was a corner I felt like I was getting into pretty darn well, really using that awesome suspension the ZX10R has to maximize that turn-in braking. My line was a little wider out, and then I would dive in heavy on the brakes – unfortunately, there was a another rider coming up who thought he had me on the brakes – unfortunately he misjudged what my entry speed would be. I went for my apex, and just as I’m about to hit my mark I see the bike out of the corner of my eye. He hit my exhaust and the end of my tail, moving my rear end quite a ways. I was lucky and managed to keep the bike upright, ran over the dirt through the corner and nearly off the other side of the track before I had good control again but I stayed upright at least. He was not so lucky and ended up crashing. The race ended up getting red flagged, and it was called. I had found a few more seconds down into the 1:56s, but still was about 6 seconds slower than I had been on the 675 – but I wasn’t last, there were a couple other experts still behind me.
I had one more race that day, race 11, Open Superstock. I knew this race would be interesting as it was the Open SS and Open Twins – all big bikes – which meant that the fast guys would have less traffic to work through. My times were bad enough that there was a chance I’d get lapped. When I headed out I knew I was getting fatigued – the winter and spring spent recovering had taken a toll on my fitness, so I just wanted to, again, focus on being smooth and confident in the things I was doing. The fatigue issues were giving me problems with downshifting, and I was regularly missing downshifts. Other than that, though, this race was pretty drama free, I was mostly alone other than some faster riders getting through, and finally towards the end I got lapped by the front of the Open SS who were going about 18 seconds a lap faster than I was. We all snuggled through the turn 9 area, and off they went. Oh well, at least I was out there, and again, I wasn’t dead last – almost, but not quite lol.
Overall, the weekend was generally a success in the sense that I was out there, I got a feel for the bike, and I got it around what is probably the most difficult track in North America. My times were pathetic, but I was consistent and gained some more confidence in the new bike. I started to get really confident in the front end on the brakes, which, with a little more seat time, will translate to some significant improvements. As the leg heals and improves its range of motion, downshifting won’t be the issue it was this weekend, and I will be able to really utilize the features of this bike. I also got a little braver on the throttle, but there is a LOT of improvement in that department to make – I was still twisting it pretty gingerly, and I definitely need to get used to that bike’s massive acceleration, learn to have fun with the wheelies it wants to do, and just the “scoot” it has. I have a couple trackdays between now and the next race, and the next race is at my strongest track (Thunderhill), so I will focus on continuing to improve, making use of the seat time I have, and work on getting my lost fitness back as best I can in the time I have.
Huge shout outs to my sponsors this year, and thanks for hanging in there as I recover! I know there’s still a lot of good stuff in store, and I’m looking forward to where I’ll be come the end of the year. All of these companies have products and services I truly believe in!
• DareDevil Motorsports
• Roseville Kawasaki
• Kawasaki USA
• Dunlop Race Tires
• BARF Racing
• Pacific Track Time
• Ace Custom Graphics
• Ken Hill Coaching
• Motion Pro
• Woodcraft/Amour Bodies
• Skratch Labs
• PUSH Smart Guage