Thursday, August 28, 2014
WERA NATIONAL AT MID-OHIO
WERA National at Mid-Ohio, July 14th/15th
Our original plans were to do Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio on Saturday and Sunday and then roll it into the Mid-Ohio WERA National on Monday and Tuesday. Having two days of practice before we went up against the WERA National competition would have been great, but we stayed back on Saturday to finish a few customer bikes at the shop. The rationale is simple though, without happy customers we aren’t going racing. We ended up arriving at Mid-Ohio on Sunday morning totally burnt out from a long week and we decided to save some tire and entry money and just wait for the Nationals the next day. This is a tough decision but would free up some money to run fresh tires during the entire National. We could also watch some good racing and have some fun with our family and friends who always show up for the Mid-Ohio Vintage weekend.
On Sunday night once the Vintage dust had settled, we moved into the paddock and set up our Pit which turned out quite nice thanks to all of us arriving early in the day to get a good spot. It was a total bonus that we were near tech, the rider’s meeting area, food, hot pit, and the bathrooms. We had four riders in a huge footprint that included Chad Lintner’s 848EVO, Brian Healea’s 1199, Matt “Stymie” Spannon’s GSXR1000, and my CarrMoto 1199S. Tommy helps out with all the bikes but he calls me his “A” rider so I get almost all of Tommy’s time. When we get home I pay him back by finding him parts for his 999. This is our 4th season at the track together and we have kicked some major butt. I owe a lot to him and my results are his results because we are a team.
Tommy and I got good sleep in the trailer, on separate beds I might addJ, and the sound of Stymie getting his bike ready woke us up. I went to post registration and decided to run A Superstock and Heavyweight Twins Superbike, Race#2 and Race#4 of the day. We would get two practice sessions in the morning to prep for the races. Two weekends ago Chad and I came over for a practice day which was successful due to setting a good pace with only minor tweaks to the 1199. During this previous test we started with our Putnam Park race setup and made a few tweaks to the chassis and gearing until we felt good about where to start in this mornings 1st practice.
Mid-Ohio can be very squirrely in the morning with the bike moving around underneath you but after a few laps the bike felt great. I got hooked up with fast guy Dave Grey on his Triumph675 on the second lap and he towed me around. He had raced Vintage Days the two days prior so he was really moving. When I came in Tommy checked tire temps and pressures like he always does. This is our gauge for where to set the pressures when the tires are on the warmers right before we hit the track for practice or a race. If the tire temps and pressures are not correct when coming off the track then we need to adjust the “off the warmers” pressures or the warmer settings themselves. 2nd practice went very well and when I came in we immediately implemented our tire change strategy for the next two races by removing the rims and taking them to the Pirelli guys for some fresh rubber. We would run the Pirelli SC1(Blue) Slicks front and rear all weekend.
1st Race A Superstock
Without quoting the entire rulebook, this class is very limited as to the modifications you can do to the bike. I was gridded in Row 3 of this race and things started off with a bang in Turn 1 when right in front of me 4 bikes tried to take up the place of one due to one rider stuffing it in on 3 riders who had no room to give! This never works out very well in racing and one of the bikes was Stymie. He kept it on two wheels but got punted off into gravel trap and had to rejoin the race at a significant disadvantage. This is not how I wanted to gain positions but I was in 3rd place and had the leaders right in front of me. Frank Babuska was leading on a GSXR1000 and Commonwealth’s Garrick Schneiderman was in 2nd on a ZX-10R. These two guys were fast as all get out! I did everything I could to keep Garrick in my sights but Frank slowly started to eek out about 1 second a lap on us. At the very end of the race, Garrick pulled off for some reason right as I got super close to him and I finished a lonely 2nd. Of course I would have rather won the race, but I turned my fastest lap at Mid-Ohio ever at a 1.31.2 and Tommy and I were excited about that. My previous best was a 133.2 on the 1098R.
2nd Race Heavyweight Twins SBK Race#4
Although our bike is still in Superstock form, this Superbike class is unlimited cc’s twins with nearly unlimited modifications other than stock frame, engine cases, and swingarm. I got a killer start off the second row and then screwed it up by the time I got to the exit of the keyhole. I don't know how I did it but the bike got into 4th gear and it just killed my drive as I should be in 3rd. I thought I could just keep fourth and roll through it but Borello’s KTM1190, Meister’s 1098S, and Brain on his 1199 motored by me like I was standing still. I had to sit behind in 4th place for about a lap before I could draft Borello and Meister on the back straight. I was then able to hang in behind Healea for a couple laps and try to figure out a spot to attempt a pass. Healea knows the track very well so he was very difficult to pass. I just sat behind until I got a good run on him out of the keyhole and drafted him at about 170mph. The wind buffeting coming off his bike made my bike shake quite a bit before I got the slingshot and it was a wild ride at that! I was able to get enough of his draft to block pass into 7. Blocking into 7 isn't the fastest way through but it gets the job done for gaining a position. I put my head down and sunk my teeth in for a couple laps and got a few second lead. Tommy was giving me hand signals on the pit wall to let me know the gap back to second. When there are 3 good riders behind you this helps quite a bit. I won the race by a few seconds. I ran a 1.31.9 which was good for the lead but I ran faster in my earlier race with a faster rider in front of me. It was cool for Brian and myself to get 1st and 2nd under the same canopy. Right off the track Tommy and I checked the tire temps and pressures and then we went into the trailer to take some notes on the race. One of the things I have been working on a lot over the last year is body position but I kind of reverted during this race. I wasn't getting my body far enough off the bike and into the turn. Last year the gym really helped with this but this year my training has pretty much just been on the bicycle which is good for cardio but doesn't build enough core strength. Core strength is what it takes to put down good laps over and over again.
After we got the bikes and the pit situated for the evening I had a glass of wine with some friends and then dinner with the team and friends. Dinner was a lot of fun and we had some good laughs with Moose and his son Wade. Moose took the track photos for us that I included in the article. As soon as we got back to the trailer at around sunset I was really zonked and I just fell asleep within 10 minutes. I did wake up a few hours later and heard some heavy rain hitting the trailer. I was worried that the track would be 'green' in the morning because the rain might wash off all the rubber and make the track squirrelly. You never really know what you are going to get at Mid-Ohio for traction. Sometimes it is amazing and sometimes it is really squirrelly.
It was foggy and misty in the morning but it looked like it was going to be sunny day when I checked the weather on my phone. I was still worried that the track had turned with the intense rain the night before and the track was still wet about an hour before first practice. At this point I was really thinking about calling it a day and Brian was really razzing me for not signing up for a few races during the day. On my mind also was helping Brian and Chad with their bikes. Chad had a rough Saturday with his bike cutting out about 1800rpm before redline which was completely ruining his lap time. Brian's bike wasn't even starting in the morning. While Tommy, Chad, Brian, and I were spinning wrenches I took a break to sneak over and sign up for one late day race. I was hoping the track would be nice and grippy by then and I needed this entry to qualify for the WERA Grand National Finals at Barber in October. Brian was pumped when I told him I would be racing him today and we had some good laughs about the race I chose. It was a race that he ran the day before in which they grid us behind the 600 experts in a combined race with a one wave start.
Before 1st practice we had a theoretical fix ready to test on Chad's bike and we fixed Brian's bike with a spare fuel fitting. My bike was still parked and I was waiting to hear 3 things. The first was that Chad's bike was fixed and revs to redline The second was that Brian’s 1199 was still running strong. And finally, I wanted to know that the track had good grip. I was stoked when the answers to all of these were ‘Yes”. Tommy and I got ready for 2nd practice by warming up the bike and getting the tire warmers going.
With only 1 race today I figured I needed a strong practice session. Everybody was saying the track was better than yesterday so I was pretty confident going out. They held us up for a good while waiting for a crash truck and I was checking out all the fast guys about to head out in the front of this group. Nick McFadden, Frank Babuska, Stymie, Gene Burcham, Dave Grey, Brian Healea, Chad Lintner, and James Dellinger to name a few. I think I got a little too pumped up looking at this talent pool and I rode a little too aggressive around a couple guys. I burned up what was left of the rear in about 6 laps and then pulled off. On the last lap of practice I drifted the rear in the kink for about 50 yards at 160mph! When I got back I received a couple comments about how I was riding. I knew they were coming because when I was mentally downloading my session I realized that I got overzealous trying to practice hard for my one race. I should have signed up for more. As much as I love racing I am always undecided as whether to race or just help out the other riders. I like doing both but when I don't race I can relax and not have to deal with the stress caused by the inherent risk of racing., When I do race I get that sweet reward of challenging myself and going fast on a motorcycle.
Brian won his first race of the day which was cool, Stymie was running on the podium, and Chad was starting in the back and putting his 848EVO well inside the top 10 with the middleweights. The sun kept shining and things were good in race land before my race. We had mounted fresh Pirellis for the day and we went with some VP U4.4 Race fuel that Brian had donated to me in an effort to see a 1.30 today. I told him I'll give it all I got and my goal was to track down the leader of the 600 race while trying to keep him behind me. We both laughed and said that this was going to be crazy going with 600s down the back straight with such a speed differential. He had done it the day before and he confirmed that it was indeed, crazy! Insert crazy laughter.
Race#10: C Superbike and Heavyweight Twins Superstock
When we gridded up behind 20 Middleweight 600's for our race it was Brian, Rusty(848EVO), and I sitting back there. Rusty is part of our IndyDucati family and pitted across from us all weekend. He is always awesome to have around and has a passion for Ducatis. I think we all looked at each other for a moment on the grid while waiting for the madness to begin! My goal off the start was to pass as many 600's as possible and get up to the leaders of the 600 race. I found a way to the outside of T1 and I had a pretty clear path all the way down the straightaway to T2 where I got about 10 guys right there! By the time I got to the exit of the keyhole I had 600's strewn everywhere in front of me. When there is that many bikes in front of you on a race track it is not super easy to get through them safely. I did what I could and found my way into 6th overall by the end of the back straight. Now I had some fast 600 guys in a battle in front of me and it looked like the leader was beginning to check out already. He and I technically aren't racing but if the carrot gets too far away it is hard to put your head down and catch it. After a lap I was still behind Dave Grey and company all glued nose to tail and sometimes fairing to fairing. This was good racing. Even though I had the power of the 1199 I couldn't just shove my big bike in on a nimble top 5 600 guy. They will just saw off your front end and scoff at you! At the end of the back straight on the second lap that is exactly what happened. Dave and the other 3 guys with him were all over each other on the back straight. I wanted to pass them and had the power to do so but their battle was taking up all safe passing zones! I came in with all of them hard on the brakes and the one guy got in there too hot but ahead of all of us. Dave was second going in and he made a smart move by seeing that the guy was blowing through the corner so he turned in as tight as he could underneath him. He had to slow up just a bit to do so and that caused the rest of us to come up on him really fast with me being the closest to an actual collision with Dave at the apex. I tucked it up as tight as I could all the way up on the curbing and Dave picked it up just ever so slightly to avoid contact. Then the guy who blew it somehow recovered and jammed back in front of Dave. This is classic 600 battling, sketchy as hell. Ha ha. On this lap one of the guys made a mistake on to the front straight which caused them to check up for a moment. I was then able to draft them on the front straight and get after the leader. He probably had a 6 second lead at this point and I began to real him in. He had slowed the pace a bit in the middle of the race but then got the signal that I was coming. Right when I thought everything was going good I had a huge wheelie out of the keyhole. It was almost a 12 o'clock straight up in the sky wheelie. I just hadn't had the bike do that all weekend and I wasn't over the front enough and it was a huge mistake. I didn't see anyone close behind me after I saved the wheelie so I put it on cruise control for a couple more laps and won my class. There was nothing in it to beat the 600 guy other than I wanted to. He just got too big of a lead when I was part of the 5 way battle for second in a 600 race. I'm still smiling about this race
When we got back in the pits Brain and I were just laughing about the 600 experience. It was like a video game, it seemed unreal. It was awesome, but not so awesome that I would feel safe doing it all the time. I prefer the predictability of racing with other liter bikes. At this point I did not know my laptime but I thought there was a chance I got a .30 when I had the carrot in front of me. I later went to timing and scoring and saw that I had done it, a 1.30.7. I was really excited as this was a huge step for me. This put me 2.6 seconds faster than my fastest lap here on the 1098R and very very close to qualifying time in AMA SBK. I can't imagine what more development of the bike and more time in the gym will do to that lap time. As of now the plan is to run AMA SBK next year at Mid-Ohio on a 1199R Superbike.
We loaded up our bikes, tools and gear and hit the road by 6p.m. Tommy and I wrap up the weekend into three categories on the way home; Things that work, things that need work, and things that are fun to talk about. Things that work included the Pirelli ties, the bike electronics, brakes were good, and suspension settings were good. Sometimes thing cross over and an example of this is suspension. While it was very stable and predictable I would like the front and rear tire to last longer and not tear up in 20 laps. I think we are real close on the springs and preload. The front tire looks like I am pushing the front but it feels good out on track, If I am pushing the front now and then I fix it, this that would possibly lower the lap time. My fitness needs more work in the core strength department and my diet needs to change to drop about 15 pounds. The bike needs more weight off of it also. Next year we will be on a 1199R which accelerates stronger and has more overrev. It also has the adjustable swingarm pivot, which can fine tune the handling of the bike. Now that we are going faster we will try some different gears also during the next test. Basically, we are off in the right direction but to make the AMA superbike grid, things will need to jump to a whole new level.
Finally, we had a lot of fun at the Mid-Ohio WERA National. Part of having fun is being serious when you need to be and the bike is usually more fun to ride after serious preparation. The 1199 was a blast to ride! I will never forget riding on one wheel while leaned over going into Thunder Valley. The sheer acceleration of the Panigale on the back straight was very impressive and being able to spin the tires in the kink at 160-170mph is pure insanity and I love it! Just being able to ride the technical layout of Mid-Ohio and come back smiling is always an amazing thing. I left there, as I often do, with a tremendous amount of respect for the track. I also left with good memories of the people I spent time with and the smiles that went along!
520 Chain and Quick Change Gearing Kit
Termi Slip-on and UpMap
Armor Bodies with Motoholders Aluminum Front Fairing Stay
Metal Tech Rearsets
31's 15-41, DTC1 EBC3
1.1kg Front Springs __5FFI_______preload __4mm______fork height
85n/mm Rear spring ___15mm______preload 126mm_______ride height from top of clip
(Be in the right spot on the track, get on the brakes late, look through the turns, get on the gas early)
I haven't figured out my exact braking point for T1 but I brake fairly hard and leave it in 4th. I don't know if 4th will work out in the long run but it seems ok now with the 15-41 gearing. I can drive it hard to the T2 kink then begin braking leaned over. Brake pressure is key here as I am braking while leaned over to the right, then I stand it up straight while still on the brakes, downshift to 3rd, and then I should still be hauling ass leaned over left while raging to the keyhole.
I double apex the keyhole by almost clipping the curb coming in and then drift out a little before hugging the last part of the keyhole and getting the gas on as soon as possible. Currently, I only see one line out of the keyhole due to the choppy beat up pavement on the exit. If the bike wasn't able to powerslide then you wouldn't be able to get on the gas that early. A little rear steer here then I get it pinned. Use the rear brake a little as there is a hump in the track and I will surely 12 o'clock the 1199 if I don't.
I always kick myself for not training hard enough for the exit of the keyhole and down the back straight. To get my big frame under the bubble requires some intense contortion of my body that leaves me short of breath. I am wearing a chest guard now which makes it even harder. There is something here for me to gain if i can keep my breath and stay tucked while making perfect shifts. I also don't want to lean the bike over to far as it scrubs speed. I'm still working on exactly how to nail the line and keep the bike more upright on the fatter and faster part of the tire. Its fun to light up the rear here at 170+ when the tire is going off but for fast laps that is not good at all.
The end of the back straight is a really heavy braking zone. On any given weekend I'm not sure where the orange cones are going to be placed but the yellow photographer spots in the fence are a great fixed object. There are brake markers out there also but for some odd reason they don't even show up on my radar. It must have something to do with being in a cramped tuck with my helmet pressed on the tank. It is important to me to get on the brakes really hard right away in the weekend to acclimate my body pulling as many g's as I dare. This weekend I was using the Ferodo XRACs with the stock discs and they were good. I think on a 1199R Superbike with a full race setup I'll find even more time here. The problem I see with a lot of us club racers here is that this fast corner at the end of the back straight is treated as a slow corner at the end of a fast straight. I try to blow through it with a lot of speed in 3rd gear and enter the left turn at the top of the hill very tight. The hill helps slow you down but I use a little brakes while getting it into 2nd gear before turn in. I run it up over the top of the corner and exit the corner right in the middle of the track to get a good entry into the right hander at the bottom of the hill. I'm coming down the hill with a good squirt of gas so I really have to hustle it down onto this apex. With good sunlight on a warm/hot day there is alot of grip here so I get on the gas early. I drive it off mid track click 3rd gear and then shove it pretty tight up the hill trying to crest the hill as straight up and down as possible with only a few feet of track left on my left side. Once over the hill and in the correct position I can absolutely attack the right hander from off to the left with my knee down hauling ass and putting heat into the right side to grip the entrance over the hill into thunder valley. Getting on the gas ealy with fresh tires I can wheelie a bit over the hill but no matter what I want to use all the track over the top of the hill and straighten out on the yellow curbing down on the outside at the bottom of the hill. Clicking into 4th I hang out on the left side and drive it under the 2 board on the brakes hard for a second while grabbing a down shift into 3rd. I tuck it in tight towards the inside curbing of the left hander out of thunder valley and gas early off towards the grass on the right side that leads to carousel. Very important not to over load the front here in this left hander by waiting too long to get on the gas. Not only does gas save the front here but it gets the rear loose enough to charge it hard towards the carousel. On a good lap I have to climb on that front end to avoid a wheelie past my braking spot for the carousel. I treat the double apex carousel a lot like the keyhole by clipping the grass and drifting out a bit the then tucking it back in, with the gas on early, and getting a great drive and late apex style entry into the final turn. This turn has good grip but I have to watch my wheelspin and avoid pumping which upsets the bike and causes my right wrist to stall or back off slightly. I am still working on correcting my riding here to get the best drive down the front straight.