Last year I did a couple of rounds just to see if I could still ride at speed, and if I had the drive to push myself. After those 2 rounds I felt pretty good and I didn't give it a lot of serious thought. Maybe is all I would tell people. And yet when and opportunity came up to acquire a hopped up engine I jumped at the chance. So much for Maybe. Sometime in the fall of 2015 my buddy Mark decided he wanted a track bike. We looked at various options that were on BARF at the time, and the bike that I just couldn't get away from was this racing EX650 very similar to mine. We decided this was the right bike for Mark but it came with a racing engine that needed to run high test fuel, and that's not ideal for a novice track rider so we hatched a plan, and after a long day we bought the bike, got it to my house, and swapped in a stock engine. There sitting on the ground for a couple of months was this superbike engine taunting me.
Finally in January I made the decision to give racing a full go. Not just a dabble here and there but a real commitment. That meant I wanted to put this superbike motor into my bike, but I don't trust anything on the surface so I gave Greg Spears a call about freshening up the beast and making sure it was ready to race. Well January actually means the end of January and by the time Greg actually got the motor apart to figure what needed to be done it was too late to get it ready for the first round at Buttonwillow. Typical racers. Wait until the last possible minute to do anything. It was probably for the best. I now had about 6 weeks to prepare for the first race with several major work projects in the mean time. That gave me about 2 weeks before the first race of any real free time. I needed that time to go through all of my bits and pieces. I'm also way out of shape. I was doing really well last year as far as physical therapy and gym time, but but a new injury and an old one made me stop going. Honestly I wasn't sure I could even ride a bike until I went to the doctor just before the race. The new issue is my right hip. I don't know what's up, but stretching and some exercises are helping. The old injury is my right shoulder. I hurt that in 2002 riding a bicycle and it has never healed correctly but 4 months ago is started hurting really badly. So badly I had to take pain killers to sleep at night. The X-rays showed calcification in my right upper tendon. That's not a good thing. I nice fat shot of cortisone really helped. So for about 3 weeks I tried hitting the gym as often as my body would allow. I knew it would not be enough time to get fully fit but it was better than nothing at all.
It has been 3 years since I did a pre-season race prep and I wanted to go through all my personal equipment, spare parts, etc ... as well as have the suspension on ye olde' race bike freshened up by my friends at Catalyst Reaction. The bay area was saddened to see my friend and long time shop sponsor Jennifer close her shop Werkstatt. Jen decided she wanted to do some things different with her life and running a business was taking too much time. Lucky for me the guy that got me started racing in the first place recently opened his own shop so it is my privilege to welcome Napa Valley Moto to the team and to the AFM.
The Mrs and myself drove down Thursday evening and dropped off our gear at the track. Friday morning we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise welcoming us to the first race of the year.
|Sunrise over power lines and I5|
It was great to be back at the track and visit old friends. I spent the first half of the day trying to remember which way the track at Buttonwillow went, and then in the afternoon my parents arrived as well as Team Fry and they had along with them a new racer. Not only his first race weekend but his first time at Buttonwillow. As it seems to be the case with Team Fry when you're a new racer the proper thing to do is crash on your first Friday practice ever. I think this is a way of engaging with the racer culture as quickly as possible to you can feel you "belong" It also ensures you get the least amount of sleep while you spend most of the night repairing you bike.
|So many dudes So little ninja|
Saturday brought us more sunshine, hot dogs, hot parents, more working on bikes, and fresh chances to go faster. I didn't.
Finally at the end of the day we got our shot at the Formula 40 Lightweight race. I finished 7th in that race which was mainly about not hitting the smaller bikes they had gridded in front of us. I often refer to this as "bowling for Ninjas" as we tend to come upon them in groups then scatter them like so many bowling pins as we roll through them. Otherwise not too bad, but I was not on pace yet so I didn't think much of it. Saturday night Peter got a chance to put his new portable burners to use. After instilling some serious BTU's into a pot of short ribs we all groaned with full bellies before getting to bed early.
Sunday our first race of the day was Race #1 650 Twins. Normally I like race 1 because you can come off of morning practice still rested but warmed up. The downside is it's hard to be mentally ready. Full on racing at 10am is just not fair. My brain is not awake yet. And of course another round of "Bowling for Ninjas" thoroughly pissed me off. At this point I was not having any fun. 2 races now I spent most of my time dodging slower bikes.
Here's some other great racing photos courtesy of Oxy Moron
|In the thick of it|
|crossed up and on the gas|
|having a Catching good time|
It was a great first race weekend of the year. Great to be with my parents (and take advantage of their RV). Great to hang out with friends we haven't seen in 6 months, and make new ones. But mostly it was great to be at the race track. There is nothing in the world like a race track. The smells, the sounds, the energy. There's a crispness to the air. Maybe it's the feeling of everyone being so intensely focused on the task at hand. I don't know what it is, but I do know I love it. I can't wait to do it again at Sears Pt in a few weeks time.