WERA ’14, ROUND 6&7 – GRATTAN (BEYOND THE COMFORT ZONE)
With rounds six and seven next up on the WERA schedule, we arrived at the Grattan double header Thursday night and set up in the garage we’d be calling home for the weekend. Over the next three days we would be working together with famed tuner Dave Moss, as Steve Palella had brought him in to work with a few of us. It was an opportunity we were all looking forward to, as Dave has been all around the world, involved in racing. And no matter how long you’ve been racing, there’s always something new to be gained by working with someone with as much experience as Dave has.
With Doug and Aaron not arriving until Friday, Dad, Steve, Dave and I did a track walk that evening to help familiarize Dave with the track and were ready to go for Friday practice. In addition to our full team being present, we would also have some added family and friends coming up to watch during the weekend which was cool – given this was the closest track to us.
Friday practice started off well. We were dialing in the Honda East Yoshimura Suzuki’s and with clean laps, making good progress. After lunch however, I had a bit of a crash in between T1 and T2, avoiding another bike and just touching the outside grass with the front tire. The crash report included bodywork damage, along with a broken fairing bracket, brake reservoir and the front brake lines getting snapped off at the master cylinder. Not happy with what had transpired, I picked the bike up in the grass and saw that the tank was at least untouched – minor victory. I unhappily rode the bike back into the pits, sans front brakes.
Back in the garage, I thought our day was done. However between dad, Doug and Aaron – new brake lines were mounted and bled. I put the new fairing stay on (which had just arrived from Honda East, from the crash on the other bike at PIRC), and we borrowed a couple parts from various people (thanks Richard and Eden), had the tires remounted and balanced to get the grass out of them (thanks Bavol) and were back in business. Two crashes in one season? Pretty rare for us, but it happens sometimes.
We made it back out just in time for the last session and by the third lap, did the fastest time of the day. After half a lap, the bike felt good where I could push right away. Funny what a little adrenaline and motivation can do. I think everyone back in our garage was a little surprised too!
After wrapping up the last session and an overall busy day, a good group of us went to eat at Timbers that night. It was good times as always, laying out plans for the following day, along with a little bench racing.
Saturday was a bit of a gamble. I decided to try slicks for the first time. Don’t ask me why. Probably because everyone else was doing it. It worked somewhat well, although we didn’t have the exact compounds I would have liked. They’re legal in our classes and everyone else on the 1000’s seems to be running them. Race results were good, with two wins and a third, but the times weren’t coming easily, compared to Friday.
The 1000 Superstock race was a fun one as we passed Stymie on the last lap to take a hard-fought win. 750 Superstock was a solid win and the Formula 1 race was the third place, behind Gene (Burcham) and Stymie. I couldn’t hold those guys off on the straight, and then couldn’t get back around them in the back sections of the track. We decided to sit out 750 Superbike race due to my wrist getting sore, as we had a 35 point lead in the class. Overall – given that the results on slicks weren’t there right out of the gate, we elected to go back to the known DOTs for Sunday. It was something we knew and were familiar with.
Sunday practice was off to a good start. After a night of Motrin and ice, we were right near our times from Saturday and the bike felt good. With Moss conferring with dad, Doug and I throughout the morning, we were getting pointed in the right direction with steady progress. Dave was doing everything dad and Doug do already, but he was adding insight and little nuggets of information that were proving beneficial.
First race was again 1000 Superstock. This one didn’t go to script like it did on Saturday. I had the holeshot and early lead a couple laps in before Stymie went by on the straight. I was right behind him, but couldn’t find a clean way through. Times in the race started in the 1:20’s and dipped down into the 1:21’s, which allowed Stefan (Dolpinksi) to catch up and make a run at us on the last lap. He got us on the straight and I couldn’t find a way past either bike on the last lap. We’d finish third, the three of us within .3 seconds at the line. Great, close race, but I was disappointed that one got away.
750 Superstock was again a clean win, similar to Saturday. However Formula 1 was again a tough one. Holeshot and early lead. Stymie passed. Gene passed. Gene passed Stymie and gapped us slightly. We finished 3rd. 1:20 lap times while leading again. Gene ducked down into the 1:19’s and would have been a great carrot to chase if I could have gotten back by Stymie, but he was riding well. It was noticeably apparent that both Stymie and Gene, our chief competitors in the 1000 classes, were upping their game and riding better, setting personal bests themselves. As Gene later said, the three of us racing against each other has amped him up a bit more. Great. Just great.
750 Superbike was our last race of the day. This was probably the toughest race all season. Holeshot into T1, Dave (Grey) passed into T2 to take the lead. I passed back on the straight to take the lead. The wrist was all swollen up by this point and it was flat out painful to ride. I could hear Dave behind me the entire race and knew any mistake would let Dave and possibly Brian Cavinder by, who was right there as well. If you want to feel pressure, having someone on your back wheel for an entire race is a suitable example. It was similar to days of racing against Sammy (Gaige), where that was a regular occurrence.
Throughout the race, the thought crossed my mind to simply let the guys through and just take some points. I was exhausted and over-compensating. Yet I just kept saying, “one more lap, one more lap.” As we passed the white flag, I kept from making any drastic mistakes and ended up winning by a tenth of a second over Dave and then Brian. Down at post-tech, we all congratulated each other on a great race.
Afterwards, all the family in the pits were excited – Gina, mom, dad, Doug, Aaron, Dave, Greg, Kathy, Ryan, Karen, even Connor. Apparently the race was pretty exciting to watch. Dave is a great rider and tough to beat anywhere, especially Grattan. During the race I thought the the lap times were slower, but it turned out we went faster – down to a 1:20.3 and a new personal best.
Thank you to dad, Doug and Aaron for their help all weekend. Also thanks to Dave, for all his help over the three days. His knowledge is something that will benefit us in the long-term – especially for dad and Doug and their overall suspension and chassis knowledge. Also thanks to the family and friends that came out over the weekend to support us. Thanks to Ryan Megiveron, Tom Rubin and Mel for their photos over the weekend as well. While not pulling out a win in all the 1000 races stung a bit, there were some fast guys there turning some times we haven’t seen at Grattan in several years. So sure, I want to go faster and get into faster lap times, but for our first year on the 750’s still, it’s hard to complain.
On the drive home, I kept thinking how the weekend went. It’s easy to get discouraged at not winning a race or meeting a time-goal, but I would have been most disappointed if I had given up in that last race. Sticking it out and pushing beyond my comfort zone was the most rewarding thing all weekend – and not just that last race, but also getting back out there after the crash on Friday. Those were two small things that made a big difference and something everyone on our team contributed to. To me, it defines the best traits that racing can bring about in someone.
Thanks for reading.
BTW, Charles recorded his announcing of the races from the weekend. Right click here and select “Save as” to listen to his call of the 750 Superbike race. It’s pretty cool.