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Yesterday I was annoyed with myself. I've been stuck at this 1:03.5 or so lap time for most of the weekend but I need to go faster. I feel I can go faster, but for whatever reason I'm not. I know my size isn't helping so I only had four cheeseburgers for dinner last night, and they weren't even quarter pounders.
Actually, it was a simple salad and it's easy on the beer from now on. I've resolved to lose a good few pounds before Shubie in two weeks. For now, I'm practising at losing weight.
Like last Sunday, we've got a ten minute practice on a completely new set of tires. The Pirellis are pretty decent and don't take long to scrub off, even if they are (technically) road tires and after two laps of being (marginally) cautious, it's time to open it up.
I spend most of the remaining eight or nine laps following Sean Smith around. Sean is one of the younger competitors. Like me, he's never ridden around here. Unlike me, he's been doing this a while and is pretty talented, but maybe today is my day. For most of my session, I am on his rear wheel the whole time. In fact, on a few occassions, I manage to draw level with him, especially out of the hairpin and think I might be about to pass. I'm tucked in as tight as I can be, every sinew straining to get my head and body behind the meagre fairing on this bike. Alas, it's not to be. He's got 50lbs on me as well as some racecraft and can control his line better. I settle for playing follow the leader, convinced I've broken my wall.
Off track, the iphone is open and looking at CSBK Live timing. I'm still at my wall, which means Sean has lost even more speed. When I chat with him later on, he congratulates me for getting quicker and looks amazed when I tell him I'm not, which he realizes means he's slower. I can understand why. He came off at the hairpin yesterday - no real damage - but the wall does loom large and I can only imagine it takes some nerve to approach it at speed again. As a result, he's not gassing anywhere near hard enough or early enough out of the corner. Bizarrely, I find myself (veteran of a whole three track sessions now) giving Sean just this advice. I'm not sure who is more surprised: me or him. He takes it with very good grace however and acknowledges his hesitation. He'll get faster though. I'm another story, apparently.
Back at the Honda stand, I'm not sure if Costa is BS'ing or not but he says that the tires aren't going to warm up well here today. With DOT tires, there's no warmers and being mostly a left turn track, there's not much heat in one side of the tire, either. Grip may be an issue if you believe him. Mind you, he also told me how he likes to relax before a race and I'm not writing that as my mom might read this. Come to think of it, he did look rather flushed before the race, but he blamed it on the Harley he'd just ridden. Yeah, right...
Come lunchtime, it's race time again. Same setup and same grid as yesterday. I get another average start and am just behind Sean and Eric Moffette. I've no idea why, but I am more relaxed than earlier and I can feel it flowing. Turns are starting to come together. I'm getting further down on the bike. Maybe salad is the key... Most importantly, I can see that Sean and Eric aren't getting too far ahead as the laps roll by. And they're also having a fascinating battle, not that I can really watch it.
As I settle in and run my own race as usual, I start to become aware of the leaders not being as far up as normal. By lap 10, I'm usually starting to hear the engines behind me. Today, there's still a clear half track behind me. Either they're slower, or I've found something. By the last lap, I am able to quickly glance over the track and realize the only way they will catch me is if I off. Head down, I'm focused on a complete lap and as I cross the line, I realize for the first time, I've not been overtaken in a race. Even if my times are the same, it's an improvement I will be very happy with.
But first, there's the podium to deal with. It's Tomas Casas (@casasracing) taking his first podium of the year.
After the podium, I'm almost too nervous to look at the times. The leaders were fast with 58's and as I glance down the list, I realize I may have finished a place lower than yesterday, but I did my fastest lap in 1.02:188. That's over a second faster than this morning. I saw Colin Fraser at the podium and he came over to congratulate me. "you're no longer Ms Congeniality", he tells me "You're Miss Improved now". He promises to make me a certificate using his own crayons to mark the occasion.
I am, to be frank, overjoyed. 1.02 was my goal after doing my first lap on this wonderful little track riding this wonderful little CBR250R. And to have achieved it is a memory I will always retain.