I am so worn out from this weekend, I will make this brief.
Team Johnny Killmore arrived with some modifications and new ideas for Saturday practice at Willow Springs Raceway. The biggest change was a front tire, a full half-inch wider. This means more grip and really helped with the understeer problems we’d had last month. However I suddenly started over-driving the bike and kept lofting the chair wheel in left turns. After changing my style a little I was able to really feel a balance between the front and rear of the machine. Before it simply felt like I drove the front of the bike with the handlebars and the rest followed. Not I was sliding the rear, 3-wheel drifting, and also learning to apply throttle to hold the chair wheel down while exiting corners. This is counter-intuitive, since having the bike on 2-wheels feels unstable. More throttle actually pushes it back on the ground though and I was feeling great for our Sunday afternoon race.
With only seven machines on the grid I found myself in the 2nd row for our inverted start. This still had the fast guys behind/beside me, and the slower teams in front. With my archaic 750cc engine it didn’t matter much, as everyone got away faster than me. I managed to keep the revs up this time and was in the mix going into turn 1, finding myself in 4th place. Team Badcat, with passenger Mike Jones now driving with a first time passenger, sat in front of me as we exited turn 1. Piloting the exact machine I raced last year, I knew he would have an edge in high-speed turn 2.
Mustering all the little engine had, I stormed up the inside of turn 2 on the brakes, hoping Mike wouldn’t slide around the outside. The pass stuck, and although the pass cost me time in the corner, the two lead bikes were only about 5 lengths ahead of me. I again mustered all I had and figured I’d try to show them my nose come tight turn 3. I wasn’t able to get close enough, but through the tight section that followed I was just out of striking range. This brought us to the bottom of turn 5, just before the long high-speed half of the course. I knew I’d not stand a chance, so I looked behind and, sure enough, there was the bright red-and-yellow of Bill Becker’s #84 machine. I was already drifting wide and left some room, which he really didn’t need. He was around me and off into the distance in no time.
My plan at this point is to push as hard as I can, learn about the handling of the bike, and stay as close to the leaders as possible in case one of them made a big mistake. This worked well until I approached turn 1 at about 140mph. The brakes had faded. With the pedal to the stop and no real stopping actually happening I tugged hard on the front brake (seperate brakes between front and rear/chair) and managed to run wide without leaving the pavement. I looked back and saw no one, so I eased up on my pace, hoping the brakes would cool. I still pushed as hard as possible but left ample room for slowing so as not to over-work the front (not to mention the bike is very unstable with only the front brake applied).
The brakes finally came back… in turn 2 turning the cool down lap. However I still crossed the finish line in 4th place, which I’m very proud of. My little gixxer motor was absolutely strained, making scary noises and smelling of burnt oil as we came off the track. I’d be stunned if it made even 100hp, against the 155-170hp of the fast guys. Every time I go into Bill Becker’s shop I see the five engines he has and wonder who I could kill to get the $$$ to mount one up. Sadly, that is at least a year away.
With more mods planned for the cooling system and brakes, I have far more pressing matters to attend to than dreaming about modern engine technology. Next race is only a week away, at the same track but with the AHRMA vintage series, who have a full race schedule on Saturday and Sunday. I should also have a new tire for the chair by then and hope to push the limits just a little further next time.