Saturday, June 29, 2013

Utah Sportbike Association M.o.M race Round 2... a little late.

So, it's actually the night before Round 3, but I never got around to my recap of Round 2.  Mainly, because it was a pretty disappointing and frustrating weekend.

The lead-up to the weekend was actually quite mellow--none of the late nights in the garage or last minute engine work as there was before Round 1.  Carrie and I went out for the Apex Trackdays trackday on Friday; she was doing her first trackday of the year, and I was going to work on some suspension stuff and get in the groove for the race weekend.  We had a fun day, with perfect temps and got some quality tracktime in before the race weekend started in earnest the following day.

Saturday Practice.
Once again, I decided to use the endurance race for practice, so I could sleep in a little bit and take advantage of the warmer temps in the afternoon.  Not being a morning person, I really like being able to get to the track around noon instead of 7am!  

My bike was still at the track from the trackday before, so I didn't have much to do before the endurance warmup.  I hung out, talked with some friends and wandered around the paddock for awhile and to my kind-of-but-not-really surprise, Scott Decker was back.  I didn't totally believe him when he said he was going to quit at the last round, so it was good to see him back.  After saying hi and talking with him a little bit, I made my way back to the garage and got the bike ready for the endurance warmup session to get the bike up to temp and my mind up to speed.  I rode for about 15 minutes and came in to the pit, checked tire pressure, added some fuel and got ready for the start of the endurance race.  

When the track marshals let us out for the warmup lap, as usual, I went out pretty hard.  Given that we were racing on the Perimeter configuration, I had plenty of time to get the suspension, brakes, and tires warmed up.  I came around, found my grid position and waited for the start.  We were using starting lights this time (instead of our usual flagger), which I wasn't used to, so I fumbled the start a tiny bit.  I still got away OK and, after the super long run to Turn 1, I drafted and out-braked a few people to exit the turn in second, behind a visiting Canadian Royce McLean (who was also using the race as practice).  I followed him very close for the first lap and waited for my chance to make a move.  It came on the last turn before the long straight when he took a super wide entry.  Since this was called an Endurance Race, I put my bike up the inside and made the pass.  As I'm opening the throttle on exit and headed toward my exit point, I feel a bike on the outside of me.  We touched a little and he was forced to roll off.  We rode together for a few more laps and then he pulled in.  From then on, it was really just a long practice session for me.  

Sunday.  Race Day.
I did have to get to the track early for practice and the qualifying session for the King of the Mountain race.  Since my qualifying time would matter this weekend, I wanted to save my tire to put in some fast laps and only did one practice session to get the bike and brain up to speed before the qualifying session.  My plan for qualifying was pretty simple: since (despite my one session that morning) I was still half asleep, I just wanted to put gas in the bike and rip off as many laps as I could, knowing I'd get faster as the session went on.  I did that, and managed to qualify 2nd, behind Scott Decker.  I was on really used tires, so I was happy with the result and felt confident for the race.  I took the bike back to the garage and got fresh tires mounted and race fuel in the tank.  Then I waited a few hours until race time.  

Race time came and I was psyched.  Carrie, Tarik, Mark, Scott, and the crew wished me luck and sent me off.  I came around after the warmup lap and gridded up.  The grid marshal lowered the red flag and walked off the track, the red lights came on, and we picked up the revs on our bikes.  As soon as the lights went out, I fed the clutch out and, again, bobbled a tiny bit.  This time, I got to Turn 1 in third; Scott Decker was leading, Royce McLean was in second, and I was right behind them.  We continued on the first lap like that, and at the beginning of the second lap, I noticed my right knee slider was gone.  I think it got ripped a little halfway through the first lap, and when we went down the full straight, the wind from the 150mph speeds pulled it off completely.  Unbeknownst to me until after the race, my knee slider bounced up and smashed through my friend Chad Swain's windscreen and hit him in the arm--which hurt tremendously and he had to pull out of the race.  Luckily, none of his bones were broken, but damn, the bruising was the worst I'd ever seen.  

Back to me.  So, I'm now riding without a kneeslider, which is hard--it's like a motocrosser not being able to put his/her foot down.  I was still in third, very close to Royce, while Scott was starting to open up a bit of a gap ahead of us.  I was riding super hard to stay with those guys and it took a lot of concentration to do so without being able to put my knee down.  With a lap or so to go, I really couldn't keep up the effort and backed off, considering third place would be good enough for the day.  Then, just as I was approaching the penultimate turn on the last lap, by bike faltered, surged, and died.  I was left to coast and push my bike the 1/4 mile across the finish line as other riders caught and passed me.  I ultimately finished not-last and picked up some points.  

At this point, I was pretty frustrated and really had no idea what happened.  Was it electrical, was it fuel?  There is so much complicated shit on these bikes these days, it would be nearly impossible for me to diagnose what the issue was before my next race.  So, I took the bike back to the garage and stripped it down to inspect the wiring.  I didn't find any obvious problems, so I put it back together, and started it up.  It started and ran.  Problem solved.  

As I was getting ready for the Middleweight SuperStock race, I wasn't feeling as confident as before.  What if I had another problem.  I hate intermittent problems...  Anyway, I went out for the warmup lap and pushed hard to try to replicate the issue.  I made it around the lap and all was good.  I gridded up and waited for the starting procedure.  When the lights went out, I got a good start and got the holeshot into Turn 1.  Royce was right behind me and made a move for the lead.  I was content to follow at that point, because he was still using his wide line through the last turn and I knew I'd be able to pass him there on the last lap and hopefully win.  We ticked off a couple laps, nose to tail, with me behind.  As we started the last lap, I made sure to be as close as possible.  Then, about halfway through the lap my bike stumbled and died.  I limped it through the lap by starting it and getting a few hundred feet, then coasting when it died, then repeating the process.  I finished last, but a few people crashed, so I collected some points.  

I left the racetrack that evening pretty frustrated and completely confused about how to solve my problem.  I didn't even take my bike out of the van for a week after the race.  But, I finally got enough motivation to pull it out and start trouble shooting.  I still had no idea if the problem was electrical or fueling, so I dived into both.  Over the next few weeks I replaced a few parts, inspected everything and covered all the components I could think of, short of a full wiring harness and fuel system replacement.  

Which brings us to today.  Saturday evening before the race.  Actually, let's go back to yesterday.  It was the Friday trackday that Apex Trackdays puts on before race weekends.  I was using it to test some suspension settings and make sure my bike worked.  But most importantly, I was there with Carrie and my friend Doug for his first trackday.  I rode the first couple morning sessions and everything was fine.  But on the third session, the stalling problem showed its ugly face again.  That sucked, because now my bike was broken and instead of enjoying Doug's experience, I had to fiddle with and stress about my bike.  Plus, Carrie made a bit of a breakthrough and I couldn't ride a session with her.  The good thing is, Carrie and Doug did have a good time and we're psyched with their riding. 

Throughout the day, I would try something to fix the problem, only to have the bike die during the session.  I ended up removing huge chunks of the wiring harness, reinstalling the wiring, changing switches, different fuel and all sorts of stuff.  By the end of the day, I had something that I thought would work, but wasn't ideal because I had to remove my aftermarket quick-shifter module (this device allows for clutchless upshifts by electronically killing the engine for 60 milliseconds, which momentarily unloads the transmission and allows the bike to shift into a higher gear).  I wasn't psyched to try to race without the quickshifter, so last night, I put the module back in and decided I'd try something else during this morning's practices.  After some more pensive testing and ruling out all variables, we finally figured out my problem was the race fuel I was using!  Basically, it was boiling because it was getting too hot in the fuel tank.  I should be able to remedy this by insulating the fuel tank and keeping the fuel on ice before the races.   

So, tomorrow, I'll be racing on regular fuel.  It's not ideal and I'll be a bit under powered compared to my competitors, but hopefully my bike will stay running the full race distance.

We'll see tomorrow....  

No comments:

Post a Comment