Today was the bottom section, combination practice/ qualifying. The name of the game was getting a clear run of the track. People were launched at intervals but it’s possible to catch the bike in front of you (usually an ATV for us) and it’s difficult to pass. We did several runs, only sitting out 1-2 of them (I think there were 6 total, but am not sure).
Chris and I ran into some troubles with the very end of this section. The final 2.6 miles of gravel were located here last year, and finding new lines was proving to be difficult. With no internet access we had to wait for timing and scoring to post our times the old fashioned way, and it wasn’t until our 4th run that we got the word; Wade and Christine were close. In fact, they were shy of our time by less than a second. With one run left, we both set out to better our times. This time Wade and Christine went first. With about a 10 second interval between our starts, we would only occasionally catch sight of them through the twists and turns. On the longest straight of the section, we looked to be closing the gap, but it was pretty hard to tell. We had one huge moment where I entered a right-hander and guessed it wrong. This is the same turn I went off during practice two years ago, throwing Gina and myself into a ditch. With it now paved, I was able to get the bike slowed down, but in dramatic fashion. We finished the final few turns and saw Wade and Christine in the turn-around area still in the middle of making their U-turn. There was just no way to tell who was faster.
Down below the time sheets showed Wade to be a little over 2 seconds faster than us. We weren’t sure if timing was showing us the 2nd to last run when we hit traffic, of if that was our fastest time. Checking the website, it still only shows the results of “run 6” so we can only assume we will start out 2nd on Sunday. Hopefully the official website will make all the runs available for viewing, or at least show official fastest times from the session, so we can know for sure. Yesterday I was told we were only 1 second faster in the top section, and 15seconds faster in the middle section. I would like to see the times myself, but I’m still only able to view today’s final session from the live timing feed [UPDATE: the middle section shows us 5-6 seconds faster, top section less than 1 second faster, and the qualifying times still appear to have Wade as 2-3 seconds faster on the bottom section).
It’s hard to discern much from what I currently know. Being 15sec faster in the middle section is great, but this was also the first time Wade and Christine had been on the bike in about two years, so they could have been blowing the cobwebs out. It could be they are getting faster with each day, and we are in for a whooping on race day. It could be that the middle section simply does not suit their bike (it’s almost entirely made of hairpin corners). Their machine is wider and longer and has much wider rubber on the ground then our machine. This could be giving them the grip and stability needed to rail the fast sections, and alternately hinder them in the tight sections. It’s all left to speculation, which is great news for people tuning in. There will be a race on Sunday.
Remember there will be a live webcast Sunday if you go to www.ppihc.com and the racing is set to begin around 9am Mountain Standard Time. We will be the 2nd to last group of the motorcycle division. Bikes will be released about 10 seconds apart in each group so they can race against the clock. There will be longer intervals in between each class, to try and prevent the fast guys of one group from catching the slow guys from the previous group. With 12.42miles of racing, it’s very likely that passing will be required at some point. We are after the quad class, and there are 3 large ATV’s in that class that are slower than us. However, in today’s qualifying, by spacing ourselves out by a minute, we did not catch them. That works well when running only the bottom half in practice, but on race day it’s feasible to encounter traffic. Meet them in a straight, and pass them easy. Meet them in a turn, and get held up. This is also true for our competitors. As I said before, this Sunday there is going to be a sidecar race.