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Somehow there seems to be less energy here today. Everything seems quieter. Maybe the humidity took it out of everyone? Maybe it was that talk of rain in the forecast? Either way, the morning seemed to drag and it took an eternity for first practice to come around.
By the time it did, the skies were blue and it was getting warm again. I've talked through my plan with Jeff and i think I'm able to go faster today. Heading out, I take it easy for a lap or two and watch my lines, making sure I know where I am meant to be hitting. I'm also trying to tuck better and lean my upper body into turns more. It hurts, sure, but it's a good hurt. For starters it makes me feel more like a racer but I've no idea if that's the way it looks. At 200lbs on a 250, I probably look more like Moby Dick heading down the back straight.
In terms of the track, my first goal is those esses. I'm pushing it a little harder, at least on the right, to flick the bike over more quickly and thus turn faster. I manage to put the right peg down a couple of times, which means I should be off the bike more. Next time through I'm off bike more but I screw up the line, and the rest of the session seems to follow this pattern. I get one bit right and then I blow something else. Perhaps most encouraging is that my right turns are getting tighter. Towards the end of the session, I'm definitely more comfortable in that section and I feel that my lap has improved as I leave the track.
I'll be blunt: I am disappointed. Yesterdays practice went well I thought, and I also thought I had a base to build from. I'd identified the esses on the front straight as my main problem and i think i improved them. My body position was the other key factor and I think that was better, too. So why was my best lap two-tenths slower? Ok, its not much but I did think I'd put in a couple of reasonable laps. Maybe I'd hit my plateau? Maybe it's the Honda CBR250R? Maybe it's down to my weight? I think I can rule the latter out as I'm not much bigger than Costa (if at all) and we're on the same bike so I can rule that out (and it's so very good around here anyway). No, it's down to the rider and technique.
While I think I improved in the areas I wanted to, I also think I lost some focus on the rest. I did ground out more than I would have liked (on the carousel, for example) so my problem now is putting it all together and more importantly, doing it lap after lap. The problem is that that was qualifying and it puts me eighth on the grid. I hadn't expected to go much higher and I had needed a couple of seconds to catch Pascal Bastien () and Jean-Pascal Schroeder (motoplus.ca), but it wasn't the time that hurt, not the position.
Mid afternoon, there is a late entrant. Eric Moffette, president of ASM motosport (ASM Motosport) and seasoned veteran/teacher at this track has managed to grab a seat. Fantastic. Someone else I can follow around...
Race time: I've deliberately not tried to spend time over-thinking this. The plan is thus: Go out and stay relaxed. Do mostly what I've been doing but add in the better approach to the esses and stay tucked. it's a plan I think I can do and I'm not nervous as a result. After a lap and a half warm up, we're back on the grid and under starters orders. Lights flicker. I can't see the amber well, but the red is obvious. Gear in, head down, throttle held at about 6000rpm. Lights out. The clutch goes out and I pin the throtttle. I get a reasonable start, and the first lap is reasonably tight.
By the time we hit the start line again, we're starting to spread out. Lap two at the carousel sees the afternoons only real disaster. Eric's lack of seat time on the CBR250R shows when he hits turn five and then the air fence before turn six. "Racers mistake" is the verdict later on, which I take to mean over- estimating the grip on road tires.
Eric was the guy just in front of me and I slowed as he went down anticipating the flags. I probably shouldn't have and by the time I get back up to speed I'm alone. It stays like this for most of the race and I'm basically racing myself. In other words, it's a big practice session.
By the end of lap 12, I can hear a rumble behind me. Sure enough, Even though I am tucked as tightly as I can, Ryan passes me on the back straight, followed in short order by Stacey and then Tomas. Costa passes me after the next turn. I wish I could carry corner speed like that...
A lap later and I see the flag. Again, I've been lapped by the kids, but only Costa from the journalists. All I'm going to be looking for is time...
On the cooldown lap, Stacey, having just narrowly taken the win somehow manages to run onto the grass and goes down. After riding the way she did, I've no idea what happened and she's far too young to be having senior moments. Shes fine as I ride past and the body language says embarassed rather than hurt.
Post race and post podiums, I'm searching for my time like a junkie looking for a fix. The CSBK web site no longer has it and it's not on the wall. Eventually Jeff texts me: 1.03.5. That's marginally slower than practice. I conclude I've hit a metaphorical wall. I'm making all the same mistakes I was making yesterday afternoon, if not quite so badly. That, and I'm fully realizing the painfully obvious fact that I could also stand to lose 10, no make that 20lbs. Tomorrow might be too soon, but I can feel the dawning of a new longer term plan.