Sunday, May 27, 2007

Motorsport Ranch

The Motorsport Ranch
by Greg Sampson
Originally posted on and

The morning warm-up went off without a hitch and the bike felt, as usual, amazing. I got myself into a good mindset and went to work at the office setting some reasonable lap times and getting acclimated with the bike and the track after being on the motard.

Mr. Roberts started the race from somewhere on the grid and, being that he was the first of us to ride the murderous hour and twenty minute stint, we decided that he was also the guinea pig. Poor guy. John had some great lap times and did quite well moving up into the field, but we did notice that he was off the pace and began to wonder why. John’s lap times were consistent, though they fluctuated while battling heavy traffic at the start of the race. It seemed like forever (for him I’m sure) but we were soon ready to call him and it would be my turn on the bike!

The pit stop went flawlessly and after filling up with 3.5 gallons of fuel and a quick chat with John revealing a fair amount of rear tire sliding in turn 5 (Boot Hill) and some front end slides in Turn 1 (Wagon Wheel), I was on my way. I glanced at the rear tire and noticed some cold tears, so I wanted to be sure and conserve the tires, but still try to run some hard laps and get the most out of my time on the bike.

I entered the race and was immediately in the fray, fighting with some 600s and trying to get my brain aligned to racing and getting up to speed quickly on the hot tires. Cathy came past me within a few laps but despite my best efforts she pulled clear away from me after chasing for 5 laps and then getting snarled in traffic. I was also experiencing a fair amount of sliding with the rear tire at the exit of turn 5 (Boot Hill is the uphill, off-camber, decreasing radius corner at the top of the track) and had quite a few front end slides in Big Bend (fastest corner on the track) that made me wonder if another low-side would be in the cards that afternoon! I toned back the pace for a few laps and tried to get my bearings, feel out the bike again and then began to push and make up some time. The dash (and tach) stopped working within about 10 feet of my exit from the pit lane so lap times and any indication of revs were non-existent for my entire stint. I spent most of the time playing with shift points and adjusting my line to stop the slides, conserve tires and still managed to have a few good battles with some teams in our class as well as some 600s and a handful of woefully slow 1000s! Still, the front end was getting a little vague and with the back doing some more slides I was forced to bide my time and never felt quite comfortable enough in my own skill set to really push the bike or slide it into a corner. Eventually, and I mean eventually, my stint ended and I was called into the pits to hand the bike off to David for the final hour and 20 minutes of the race.

Let me just attempt to explain that doing that much time on the bike is, easily, the best workout I’ve ever had. For those unfamiliar with track riding, it’s a lot like simultaneously doing presses, squats and crunches with no rest and long repetitions for the entire time you are on the bike. Needless to say I was dehydrated, tired, a little cranky and just a little disappointed in my performance on the bike as I knew I could have carried quite a bit more speed in several areas, if only I’d had more confidence in the tires, and/or my own ability to keep with the bike as it slides across the track. Seat time is the only cure for this and I’m hopeful of getting plenty of that this winter.

David’s stint on the bike was great. He started out conservatively and felt the bike out in traffic after my warning about some sliding, but quickly picked up the pace and settled into sup 1:30 lap times for most of his session before coming in unexpectedly at the 1-hour mark asking us to take a look at the rear tire.

That tire, I must tell you right now, was completely destroyed. It was brand new at the start of the race and should have easily lasted the entire race + all three sprints on Sunday… but at this point, with 30 minutes remaining, the tire was blistered, chunked, scalloped on the edges and showing cords! We made a quick decision to install my street rim complete with Michelin Pilot Road on the bike and send David out to finish the race.

Side note: I think we are all familiar with the Pilot Road but for those who are not, the tire is a high mileage street tire designed to be ridden about 9000 miles in highway and some sporty conditions. It is very, very far from being a race tire.

Despite the above, David went out and set the fastest lap for our team at a 1:26.7 (only a second or two off the pace of an SV sprint race)… before low-siding in Wagon Wheel with only 3 laps to go. Damn. The accident bent up a fair amount of parts but David was, thankfully, uninjured. Apparently the back tire finally spun up and let go at the exit of turn 1 and sent the SV into a low-side. The damage was enough to keep him from finishing and made David feel like a bit of an ass, but it was impressive to see the time sheet and what he was able to run on flat-centered street rubber! With our set of race tires annihilated and the bike a little bit of a mess, we made a team decision to forego Sunday’s sprint races and cut our losses.

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