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The Canadian Superbike Championship (csbk.ca)Â race calendar is a small one comprising five weekends, with two races at each. This means there's a lot to get in. Friday is practice, Saturday am is qualifying with one actual race on both Saturday and Sunday. It means there's only a single qualifying opportunity at each race track. I qualified on Saturday, today is Sunday - race day. You can follow my race notes at @EatSleepRIDE
This morning we only have ten minutes to practice with race #2 at noon. But that's OK as I'm starting to get prepared.
My impromptu racing advisor, Jeff Lowe, whom I met on Twitter, is taking the race seriously. I'm not quite sure if he sees me as a potential project or a hopeless basket case who doesn't deserve to die in a low side at turn one. Either way, I'm grateful for the help. Jeff texted me Saturday night around 9 PM, the message said: "do your homework - draw the track and visualize your braking and gear changes". Sunday morning, I took his advice and got out my pencils...
This is what I came up with. For anyone affiliated with Shannonville, I can only apologize as it's certainly not perfect. However, in my defence, I've only previously drawn cartoon monkeys and have trouble writing my own name legibly. I later my track drawing against the official map of the pro track and it's not too far off.
The point of drawing the race track is to visualize and note my shift points and braking markers. As I'm drawing, I start to realize where I was going wrong. Too much braking is causing me to shift up and down to often. This means I'm entering corners too slowly and losing time on each shift and 250 racing is all about maintaing corner speed. That's not my only problem, but it's the easiest to fix and it's what I want to focus on.
In practice, I reduced my shifting and tried to stay in the fastest gear possible. That wasn't enough to reduce my lap time. As it turned out, Sunday's new tires meant my first couple of laps needed to be at a normal speed to scrub them off. As a result, first practice wasn't a success.
My best lap time was 1:34. I showed my map to Jeff and we spent at least an hour philosophizing on how I could improve. We came up with a more definitive shift pattern and identified a couple of corners where I needed to carry more speed. Jeff also pointed out what's probably obvious to anyone who has ever been on a motorcycle track before: if you're not braking, you should be accelerating.
For me, that meant gassing it along a couple of the shorter sections to avoid losing even more speed. To better illustrate it, we went up to turn nine and he had me listen and watch the superbikes go past. In each case, as they are exiting turn eight they're gassing it despite the short distance. I'm mostly coasting there and losing speed into turn nine as a result, which means I exit the front straight too slowly.
Jeff imparts so much wisdom in such a short time that I admit, I have a hard time processing it, but he boils it down to this:
- Less gear changes
- Less braking
- More tucking
- More gas (and accelerate early) any time the track is straight
It's now almost noon on Sunday. Race #2 is looming and I'm suiting up. I'm still processing as I roll onto the grid and my warm up lap is all about trying to execute what Jeff was telling me. I'm too busy thinking to be nervous.
At the amber light the CBR250R doesn't want to go into gear. Clutch in, I keep tapping down only to have it bounce back to neutral. In the moment, I remember the CBR gear box can be a little fussy. Clutch out, I blip and then hit first. The last red light shows and in a split-second everyone is gone and so am I.
I manage another decent start and pull away from Derreck Roemer #11, my competitor and journalist, who's next to me on the grid but qualified ahead of me.
This race, I'm feeling better about my performance! I'm pushing it a little bit more and I'm feeling smoother as a result. I'm sure I still look like I learned to ride yesterday, but I feel faster!
I'm holding Roemer off. Yesterday he passed me by turn three, today, I manage to hold him off until lap three! I don't remember where he passed me but when he does, something in me sinks. I sit up on the bike, slow a little and start to give up.
And then I think "screw it"! I tuck back in and ride a harder still. Deep down I know I'm not going to catch him, but if I'm not going to try, why bother? I kick it; I'm feeling more fluid. I'm definitely braking later on the back straight and enjoying it even more as a result. True, turn five and turn nine are still giving me trouble, especially turn nine, but I'm tucking and I'm on the gas earlier.
By mid-race, I'm starting to do OK. Sure, I get lapped again but this time, only by the real racers: Tomas Casas, Stacey Nesbitt and Ryan Roche. I didn't get lapped by the journalists!
On lap seven, as I'm coming around the hairpin, I see the leader, Tomas Casas in the grass and there's paint all up the track. Tomas low-sided but he's fine. The anger in this kid's body language tells me he is OK. As I come around to lap eight, there's another bike down, this time on turn three. It's David Booth, one of the journalists riding #6, Booth is lying about 15 feet from the bike. The race is red-flagged and I slow down to exit the track.
The first concern is the crashers. Tomas Casas is fine, but David Booth isn't. I learn later that Booth had a few bruised ribs, a separated shoulder and a mild concussion. By late afternoon, David was his usual self; arguing about who had the better race. David won't be back for the Round #2 at the Autodrome in St-Eustache (July 8th, 2012) but plans to be on the track at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Halifax for Round #3 (July 22nd, 2012).Â
Back to the debrief from Race #2. Post-race, Jeff comes over and calmly announces 1:31 as my best lap time. I've cut my time by 0:03 and I'm somewhat overjoyed. Actually, I'm ecstatic! If only I had another twenty minutes on the track - I'm sure I could have taken another 0:01 off my time!
Sadly, I'm going to have to wait for St-Eustache on July 8th weekend! From what I understand, it's a much smaller, tighter track than Shannonville. Jeff Lowe is once again hoping to be there and seems to be looking forward to coaching and I'm looking forward to being coached. More so, I'm seriously looking forward to riding my CBR250R again.
Driving home, Marina tells me that Jeff spoke to her before we left, try to get him to eat a few more salads, he said, even five pounds will help. I know what he means and yes, I plan to. Just after I finish my celebratory butter chicken and beer...
Well, my first weekend motorcycle racing, with only a few hours of accumulated track time and I've managed to improve my lap times by around five seconds from when I started! I had an incredibly fun time and I do like the CBR250R - it's a great machine to learn on.
Next, Round #2 at the Autodrome in St-Eustache, July 8th, 2012. If you're around, come and say "hey". EatSleepRIDE.Â
Here are the official results for Race #2, for more info, see:Â CSBK.ca/Race2- Final
And the CSBK winners are Ryan Roche lap inÂ 1:19.926, Stacey Nesbitt lap inÂ 1:21.880, and Sean Smith lap inÂ 1:25.753
On the media podium, Costa Mouzouris lap in 1:23.717, Neil Graham lap in 1:25:397 and Derreck Roemer lap inÂ 1:23.924.Â
Â Last but finished, Alex Crookes lap inÂ 1:30.915. Hopefully this will not be as close as I get to the trophies.