Motorcycle Race Reports
The weekend didn’t start all that well, but it sure ended on a high note.
I threw a fan belt on my truck on the way home from work on Friday evening, and couldn’t fix it until Saturday morning, so I didn’t make my first practice until after lunch. After not seeing Sears Point for nearly a year, I was quite surprised at how challenging the track is. I guess I forgot. It took me a while to get up to speed, getting in the 2:12s in the first practice, 2:10s in the second, and then 2:07s in the Sunday morning practice. Pretty hard to get even one or two clean laps, though.
I was really glad for the Superbike race so I could get some additional practice, and spent most of it following Tom around under yellow flags. 2:05s.
I got a half-way decent start in 250P, and made it around all the riders behind me who got a better start than me by the time we were in Turn 3. I could see David out in front, Jay next, then Bob and Rick right on Bob’s tail. I had Richard Lesher to contend with. Something happened between Buttonwillow and Sears. At B-Willow, I could draft Richard, and was able to show him a wheel or pass him whenever I got a better drive from a corner. At Sears, drafting was impossible, and if I passed him on the exit he simply rode around me. I have a pretty strong motor – neither Tom or Bob and their G-Force bikes could beat me just on power -- but it appears that Richard has at last 4-5 more hp.
This meant that I had to work really, really hard in the Production race. I’ve never been all that good at late braking, but in order to catch Richard I had to late-brake everywhere just to catch up, and then get on the power as early as possible. Lap after lap, I’d catch him in Turn 4, the second apex of Turn 7, Turn 9, Turn 11 and lap after lap, he’d motor away from me.
We had some memorable dices – I passed him coming out of 11 on one lap and he caught me by the entry to Turn 1. We were thrillingly close all the way through the first part of the turn, but then he just powered up the hill. On one lap, I caught him in the Carousel as he was trying to pass two 450s at once, and he ran so wide making the pass that I nearly ran off the track.
Finally, I figured that just passing him was not going to do the trick, so I settled in to watch and plot. The places he was weakest were clearly Turns 9 and 11, so on the last lap I made my plan. I figured there wasn’t much I could do in 9, so I decided to get as good a drive as possible from 9, stay right on his tail into 11, and then pass him coming out from 11. This worked like a dream – with one little glitch. Coming out of 9, I got on the gas too hard while leaned over all the way on the exit, and nearly high-sided. The rear skidded sideways nearly all the way to the dirt. I could hear the tire screeching over the pavement, and when it finally caught I got thrown up off the seat. Luckily, I managed to hold on for the ride and keep the throttle on and didn’t lose much time.
I was right on his wheel by the exit of 10, and then I sat up and braked a bit early. He tried to protect the inside line, and ran wide. In fact, it looked like he went straight through the turn and tried to apex about where the cones are. I set up on the outside, downshifted into third, and nailed the apex at 12,000 on the gas. Upshifting, I headed straight for the wall on the left and knew I had him beat. I didn’t leave any room on the inside right up to the checkered, and for once he wasn’t able to come around me. Whew! My best race finish ever, fourth place. To make it even sweeter, Richard and I were clearing gaining on Rick Cramer. Another couple of laps at that pace, and we would have caught him.
I managed some low 2:02s, and even a 2:01. Granted, it was a 2:01.9999999, but hey, it counts – doesn’t it? And for that, I have to thank Richard for making me ride harder and smarter than I ever have before. Unfortunately, this may be the last race I can make at Sears this year until October, but we’ll see. Maybe I need to get my priorities straight and stop worrying so much about work. I am the CEO, after all.
John Anner Race Report
Sears March 2003
Racing always surprises me. Just when I think I’ve got some sense of what to expect, something happens – could be as small and seemingly simple as an act of generosity, or as showy and dramatic as a big get-off – that changes the way I view the sport and my place in it. Every now and then something happens that alters the way I see myself.
My first year was classic. Decent lap times and finishes for a novice, finished every race and AFM practice I entered save one, steady improvement over the year, no big mechanical issues. Went into year two ready for more of the same, but looking to better equipment to assist my efforts. Everything went wrong from day one. Highsided, lowsided, tucked the front, wrecked two bikes, blew an engine, spent untold dollars on mechanical problems and fixing race damage, broke a collarbone in four places, only managed four race weekends, yuk. Basically, I think I was trying too hard and not thinking enough. Combine that with a smug attitude from a good first season and a couple of juicy sponsorships, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble, and my second AFM season bit me in a big way. I got slower every race.
At the end of the season, I bought Dan Kimble’s proven bike and did a few track days. I was dog-slow. Looking back on those days and on my races at Sears this past weekend, I think I spent the past nine months training myself to be slow. Instead of analyzing what I was doing on the track and looking to improve my skills, I was stuck in a rut of simply hanging on to the bike, waiting for it all to somehow click (but not really believing that it would), and chasing other faster riders around with mounting frustration. It took the superbike race to show me that there is a better way.
Riding Kimble’s bike, it’s obvious that the limitations are not the machinery. And I went faster my first season on an stock motor in a poorly-suspended machine, so at some point my skills were better, and it’s logical that I could achieve that skill level again. Conclusion: The issues must be mental.
I was really wallowing in it starting from the DP School on Friday, which had my head all screwed up. See below for all the gory details. Saturday practice was another waste of time. I could barely get up a mild thrill for the production race Sunday, but then something happened on the last lap. Raghu and I had been dicing for a few laps, and coming out of turn 9 I realized I had the drive on him and could probably take him in ten if I had the cojones. Suddenly I could see the whole scenario in startling clarity: there was the turn up ahead, the turn-in point was obvious in the middle of the track, his line was set and there was room for me to squeak by. I just left it on full throttle, slammed the bike over, and peeled into the apex as fast as I’ve ever taken that turn. We went through it side by side, I passed him easily, and a strange feeling flooded my veins – not adrenaline, but confidence. First time I’ve felt it in a long while.
I did a 2:09 that lap, by far my best lap time of the weekend. The race was over, but the feeling lasted. Next up was the Superbike race. I did a 2:04 on the first lap and a 2:05 the second, despite having to contend with all kinds of two-smokes cluttering up the track. Then the bike died, and I was mad godammit, not at the bike, not at my rotten luck, but because I wanted to race! And that’s my race report. Except to add that I spent far too many laps in both races three bike lengths behind Jack staring at his ass.
A Sad and Painful Story
Here’s what happened on Friday: I collided with a street rider in the DP School and he went down hard, breaking his collarbone and probably getting a concussion. He told the school instructors that I cut across his front tire and took him out. My own analysis, after thinking about it really hard over the next few days, is that the error was his – but only if he could be expected to hold his line in a fast corner (T5) on a track he had never seen before, which is the same as saying I should have known better.
I was chasing Richard and Steve through a pack of slower riders in the B group. The guy I collided with was riding a yellow ZX6, all bunched up with a number of similar bikes. Richard, Steve and I pulled up on them under the brakes in turn four, and then went around them on the exit and short straight into five. I distinctly remember seeing a flash of yellow about ten feet away out of my right peripheral vision and thinking “whoa, that guy is not holding his line and is cutting across my rear.” I don’t know, but my guess is that at this point his front wheel was roughly even with my rear wheel, and that he was getting on the gas, contrary to my assumption that he was pulling a bonehead move by cutting across my rear in order to pass me on the left (there were a whole pack of bikes ahead of us on the right). We were on intersecting paths, but he was behind me. A second later, I felt a bump and my rear tire jumped sideways half a foot or so, chirping across the pavement. I had just started to tip it into five, in about the middle of the track (there were other bikes to the right between me and the apex).
It wasn’t until later that I connected the two things – the flash of yellow and the bump. At the time, I was all pissed off because I thought one of the street riders had used his superior horsepower to run into me, risking my life; I even went in and complained about the incident to one of the corner workers. After the red flag came out and we pitted, Richard told me that he had a video of the accident, which showed another rider on a white bike going off the track in turn five. But the video doesn’t show that rider crashing, and later we found out he might have run off but it was the yellow ZX that crashed. By this time the instructors had talked to the crashed rider, and he had told them that I took him out.
This incident really messed with my head. I tried to talk about it with the DP folks, but they didn’t seem interested in hearing my take on it. I felt just awful – here is this young guy on a nice bike, first time on the track, not much riding experience, and some wiseass aggressive racer asshole wipes him out. It’s not how I like to see myself, and it really made me question my riding. Bottom line – I simply should have been much more aware of the relative positions and trajectories of the street riders and given them a lot more space. And come to think of it, he probably should have been in the “C” group and I should have put myself in the “A” group. Way too many inexperienced riders in “B.”
John Anner Race Report
Sears October 4-5 2003
This will be short. I felt really good coming to Sears this past weekend; the bike was working very well (and making a lot more power due to having the head ported by Mike), I had two practice days at Thunderhill earlier in the week so I felt ready, and in the practices on Saturday I improved my times by three seconds over the last Sears round.
But the production race was about the most frustrating time I’ve ever had on a track. I got stuck behind Asaf and although I felt like I was faster than him for most of track, I just couldn’t get around him. His lines were erratic and unpredictable, and five or six times a lap I found myself rolling off or braking, in places where I was normally on the throttle, in order to avoid him. I’m not sure what was going on with him, since he was much faster than me at previous races, but he seemed to have forgotten how to enter corners. Maybe his crash in practice spooked him. Many corners he entered from far outside, dove for the apex, and then went slow through the corner. Many times he would start on the inside, then head for the outside, brake hard, and dive back to the inside.
I basically wimped out. I could have stuffed him on the inside on the brakes into turns any number of times, but chickened out at the last minute time and time again because I felt nervous about how he was riding, and thought there would be a good chance he’d simply run into me if he found me blocking his line. He came up to me after the race to ask me if I knew why he was so slow during the race, and I told him “mostly because you were riding like shit.” But if I was really faster than him I should have been able to get around him, and I wasn’t. So maybe I’m just blaming him for my own lousy riding, and especially for my inability to pass (which is something I’m usually pretty comfortable with).
Ugh. This went on for all eight laps. I was really looking forward to trying to keep up with Tom and Mike and hoping to drop my lap times below 2.00, but it was not to be. Oh well. At least the superbike race was fun, despite having to come to a stop on the starting grid to avoid Tom “Loopy” Hicks. I took it easy, didn’t push too hard, and did very consistent 2:02s. I felt sure I could have cut another two seconds off those times in the production race if I had had someone to race with. There’s always next year!