Saturday, October 13, 2012

UtahSBA Masters of the Mountains Season Finale

The last race report of the year... It was an amazing weekend (as seems to be the case lately), but bittersweet. I'll start off by saying I could have (and maybe should have) won both of my races; which, because Scott Decker (one of the fastest guys in the club) got hurt on Saturday and wasn't racing, would have given me the win in both my championships (KOM-U and MWSS). Don't take that the wrong way, I don't want to seem cocky or anything, so let me explain. I qualified 3rd for the King of the Mountain race; Chad (my friend and closest competitor) qualified on pole and a visiting Canadian Geoff Gerbrandt split the two of us on the front row. I felt good, because I was on used tires during the qualifying session and was able to set a good laptime. I made a very small rebound change on the front and added two teeth to the rear sprocket--that was the setup I went with all weekend and it proved to sweeten an already awesome motorcycle.

So the KOM race starts and I get off the line great and was looking to have a race on the brakes with Chad for the holeshot, but then the Canadian dude (Geoff) comes powering by just before we get on the brakes. He gets to Turn 1 first, and I relent to Chad. We ride in formation for about a lap and we're definitely not running my rhythm and I almost hit them mid-corner a few times. Eventually, Chad gets around Geoff and starts to pull a little gap, meanwhile, I'm trying to pass Geoff. I was much faster than him going through the ultra fast Turn 2, so I closed up and made the pass on the brakes going into Turn 3 (that's one section where home-track experience helps for sure). I set off to reel in Chad. It took about a lap, but I was soon right on his wheel. Again, my rhythm wasn't quite matching up, so I almost ran into the back of him in a couple corners. I started to get a little desperate, so I started making attacks at every turn in hopes of forcing him into a mistake--even to the point where we entered Agony and Ecstasy side by side, inches apart; I was on the outside and had no hope of making a pass, but I wanted to make my presence felt. He never faltered, so I took a breath, chilled out and decided to go for it into the Attitudes on the next lap. I lined up a good drive out of Agony and Ecstasy and pulled out of his slipstream near the top of hill, braked a little later and slotted my bike in front of him. 

Then the gods intervened. When I tried to grab a taller gear on the straight before Tooele Turn, nothing happened. Then, on the short straight to Club House, I couldn't shift again. Luckily, Chad didn't get back passed me and I was able to hold him off for the rest of the lap. As soon as we got on the straight, I reached down to pull up and down on the shifter to see if I could get it to work--as soon as I hit the limiter, it slid into gear. Ahhh, I get it. I figured out my quick shifter stopped working and there was nothing else wrong. Had I been more calm under pressure, I would have realized sooner, but in the initial moment I couldn't shift, I panicked a little and instantly assumed the worst. Anyway, by this point we were starting the white-flag lap (that's the last lap of the race) and, since I haven't used the old-school method of shifting in years, I was off my rhythm and didn't really have a chance at breaking away from Chad and Geoff. Knowing Chad was behind me and very good on the brakes and didn't really have much more engine than me, I just kept braking as late as possible and taking defensive lines. I made the mistake of assuming Chad didn't get passed, though and going into Tooele Turn on the last lap, I took a defensive line. But it was actually Geoff behind me and he definitely had an engine on both Chad and I.  He powered passed halfway down the short straight, we touched in the brake zone and he ran me a wide a little--block pass style--and, though I tried, I couldn't get underneath fast enough to be positioned on the outside of Wind-Up corner to line up a block pass of my own on Release corner. So, I ended up finishing second in the race and second in the championship. 

The MWSS race was much less eventful, albeit had its own cosmic intervention. As it was, all the races later in the afternoon were shortened because there were a lot of crashes and subsequent red flags throughout the day. So we were lining up for a 6 lap sprint. I got the holeshot, with Chad stalking behind. We instantly gapped the field, only to see the red flag at Turn 2 of our second lap. On the in lap, I saw Brad Moore laying motionless in the dirt at Club House (it was scary, but he was ultimately totally fine later in the day).  So, banking on an ambulance ride for him I headed straight for the garage to get the bike on warmers. After about 10 minutes, they let us back out for the restart of a 5 lap race. The restart went the same as the first start, with me getting holeshot and Chad behind. He passed me on the brakes going into Agony corner and I tucked in right behind him. I stuck in behind him and waited to make my move on the last lap. We came around and saw the crossed flags, so I narrowed my focus and pulled in as tight as I could to apply pressure and be in position for a pass on the next lap. On the next lap, the flagger is flying the checkers... And that was the end of my MWSS championship bid. 2nd place in the race and 2nd in the championship. Even Chad was bummed, because he kept waiting for a move from me to make a race of it. 

I did manage to get into the 1:36s laptimes and have good battles, but like I said, the weekend was bittersweet. I have to be proud to have been able to run with (and sometimes beat) the "fast guys" this season. I wanted to prove a simple race program and a basic machine can be competitive at a high level in our club. I mean, a stock engine, stock wheels, stock brakes, and re-valved forks is all that bike has and it's sweet! It is tough to come so close to winning two championships, but have something like a quickshifter and flagger issue keep me from really going for it, but I do need to be honest with myself--if Scott hadn't crashed on Saturday, there's no way I would have taken 2nd in the KOM-U championship. So, I guess there was something out of my control that actually helped me along a bit. Although, I would have rather raced him this weekend, than have him on the sidelines.   

Thanks again to everyone that helped out during season, I could not have done this without you.  It has really been an amazing experience.  


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