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Old 03-25-2021, 08:43 AM   #1
drew.w
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Post A novice racer's first round at Buttowillow

2021 Round 1 was the full spectrum race weekend experience for this novice racer. It had awesome highs, and a huge bummer thrown in. Overall though, a great start to the season full of good racing and better people.

I started riding on the track 3 years ago after my wife gave me the gift (curse?) of a weekend at Laguna with California Superbike School. Getting out on track for the first time was a real Holy Shit experience for me. One of those moments that Iíll never forget. I had a new hobby that was going to be great for the soul and bad for the wallet.

I rode a few track days that year, more the year after, and decided to go racing the next after I picked up my 2007 SV (formerly ridden with tremendous effect by #836). COVID delayed that dream temporarily, but I got my NRS in with PTT right before Round 2 2020 and finally went racing in Round 3. Instantly hooked again.

Fast forward to this weekend, and I was more than a little nervous heading into the weekend. I had my single 2020 race weekend under my belt, but had never been down to BW for a track day, much less a full weekend of racing. My track experience was limited to T-Hill, a weekend at Sonoma, and my OG track experience at Laguna, and my only experience with feeling Ďfastí was T-Hill. I heard stories from friends and fellow racers about the Ďpancake flatí track, lack of reference points, and the infamous ĎButtonwillow bumps.í Anxieties abounded.

Fortunately, I was headed up with a great support system. My wife, Crew Chief and good friend Jeffery Lee (The S Shop Pacifica), and friend and fellow racer Kenny Shuen (AFM #918, VAS Auto SF) along with his son Tyler and my two pups were all headed down as well. One of the things Iíve learned right away in my AFM journey is that the people around you, and the people you meet, are who make it possible. That was especially true this weekend.

We arrived Thursday night around 8:30 to find Kenny, Jeff, Tyler with the pit already set up and looking sweet. We had dinner (some damn fine grilled pork chops), a few cold snacks, and headed to bed at a reasonable hour in preparation for Friday practice.

Jeff took me out the first session to show me the track, and after that Kenny towed me around the rest of the day. I LOVE this track. I definitely didnít feel fast yet, but I already loved the section from grapevine to the sweeper. No times from the day, but I already felt a lot better about the weekend and the upcoming races. We managed to get all of our gear + belly pans teched after the Friday practice, and settled into another killer dinner (grilled lamb + veggies). Additional beers were had.

...then the rains rolled in. I was jealous of all the awesome rigs around the paddock before... sitting in my cold and increasingly damp tent had that feeling turning closer to an unhealthy envy. Luckily the weather on Saturday was great, albeit a bit cold in the morning and everything, including the track, dried out pretty quick.

We got the bikes teched Saturday, I picked up my transponder (anyone have a no-subscription one for sale?....anyone?), and got the bikes ready for the track. I was placed in Practice Group 2, and opted to sit out the first session @ 8am over concerns about the cold and still-a-bit-damp track surface. I headed out for the second group 2 practice and the track surprisingly felt great with plenty of grip despite the cold morning and some residual moisture. I did touch the inside curb at speed going through the bus stop which almost resulted in a need to change the leathers. Noted that Iíll do my damndest not to touch that again. I ended up putting in a 2:13, which I was happy with for a first timed lap and knowing that there was more in the tank when everything started to heat up.

I moved up to group 3 after putting in a 2:06 after a few more sessions, which was awesome because it meant that I got to ride the last practice with Kenny before the Clubman Lightweight Race later in the afternoon. I spent the last session trying to focus on Sunset (still donít have a great brake marker) and turn 2...both of which Iím still feeling my way around. I got off feeling as ready as I was going to be for my first BW race, got a new rear shoed on, and started doing my best to get my mind right for the race start.

Right before Clubman LT, Kenny headed out for Formula III qualifying and fired in a 2:01 on his Ninja 400 -- good enough for the first slot in the second row of the grid. The 400s are damn fast this year, and the classes seem like theyíre going to have some great competition during the whole season. In qualifying I think the first 7 riders were separated by less than 2 seconds in qualifying. Pretty awesome.

For my Clubman race, I gridded up on the second row, inside. On the flag, I got a great launch and led into Sunrise. I ran wide on turn 2 and got passed by #997 and another rider who I didnít catch the number of at the time. I managed to get on the wheel of #997 for most of the first lap until we ran into traffic. He diced through it quicker than me, in addition to being quicker all around. I lost touch about midway through the second lap, but not before he showed by how much speed those bikes can carry through Riverside. He was hauling the mail through there, and it definitely gave me a bit more courage. I ran consistent 2:05s with a 2:04 thrown in. Brought it home in 2nd place and felt great. Between Kennyís qualifying and my race, we had a lot to feel good about in the VAS Auto/S Shop pit that night. A supplemental beer run to Lost Hills was required.

Sunday morning was cold again, but without the damp and everything warmed up pretty quick. I hit the one and only practice session of the day mostly to get the blood moving. I was up first in race 1, Legacy Lightweight. It was a lonely grid with just me and #704 for the novices, and no experts. I realized after the fact that my bike qualifies for 450 Superbike, so Iíll probably be entering that class next round for more opportunity to mix it up. When the green flag went, I got another solid launch off the line and led from the start. This time I needed to contend with a lot of traffic and used the opportunity to try to dial in my passing zones. I was starting to feel a lot more comfortable executing my passes towards the end of the race. Got down to 2:04 again, and hey, 1st out of 2 is still a 1st, right? I was feeling pretty good.

The second race of the day was what I was looking forward to the most on Sunday. Kenny would be riding in the Lightweight Twins Expert class, and I would be on the same grid riding Lightweight Superbike Novice. Leading up to the race, I noticed that my surge strip had tripped, and my warmers had been off. I didnít know for how long. I got them back on for about 10 minutes before the warm up lap and decided not to worry about it too much.

I took the warm up lap at a decent pace, and thought I had good grip, so I decided to go for it. Mistake. On the flag I got the best start of the weekend, was immediately ahead of the other novices, and hot on the tail of the expert pack feeling awesome. We got to Cotton Corners -- right, left...bam! (https://www.oxymoronphotography.com/.../840/i-Xb5Shfs) Absolutely no grip on the left side of the tire and I lowside into the dirt. I am fine, the bike looks...mostly fine? Once I got it up and loaded into the bus of shame, I saw the shifter assembly looking pretty haggard. I was pissed at myself for making such a novice mistake, and hoping that Jeff would be able to work some magic to get the bike re-teched and ready for Formula IV later in the afternoon.

Initial repairs were quick. Jeff replaced the shift lever, linkage, and foot peg and we were looking pretty good...until we tried to actually shift the bike through the gears. Trying to downshift, the shift shaft spun freely, and didnít engage any gears. Shit. Turns out that I slightly bent the shaft itself. It looked like I was done for the day. In a last-ditch effort, Jeff took to the bike with a mini crowbar and a hammer. Bingo! Everything worked! I hustled my bike over to tech inspection and just like that I was good to go for Formula IV Novice.

I got another decent start and was leading the novice pack by the time we hit Cotton Corners. I definitely tiptoed more than usual through there. My primary goal was to bring the bike home. I settled into consistent 2:07s which at that point felt very comfortable and was enough for another 1st in the novice class. This trophy was definitely for Jeff.

And that wrapped up Round 1! Overall, it was a great first experience down at Buttonwillow. Iím incredibly thankful to Jeff & Kenny for their support. Without them and my other sponsors, I wouldnít be able to do this at all. See everyone at Round 2 next month!

Donít use surge protectors with tire warmers.

Andrew (#840)

Thank you thank you thank you to:

Jeffery Lee - The S Shop, Pacifica
Kenny Shuen - VAS Auto, SF
Zig Chu - Pacific Collision Care, SF
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Old 03-25-2021, 01:01 PM   #2
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Old 03-25-2021, 01:18 PM   #3
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Very nice write up!
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Old 03-25-2021, 07:44 PM   #4
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Whew, you’re quick, Andrew. Sorry about the crash and look forward to seeing you at round 2.
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Old 03-25-2021, 07:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drew.w View Post
Initial repairs were quick. Jeff replaced the shift lever, linkage, and foot peg and we were looking pretty good...until we tried to actually shift the bike through the gears. Trying to downshift, the shift shaft spun freely, and didn’t engage any gears. Shit. Turns out that I slightly bent the shaft itself.

It looked like I was done for the day. In a last-ditch effort, Jeff took to the bike with a mini crowbar and a hammer. Bingo! Everything worked! I hustled my bike over to tech inspection and just like that I was good to go for Formula IV Novice.

I got another decent start and was leading the novice pack by the time we hit Cotton Corners. I definitely tiptoed more than usual through there. My primary goal was to bring the bike home.

I settled into consistent 2:07s which at that point felt very comfortable and was enough for another 1st in the novice class. This trophy was definitely for Jeff.


love club racing crash/repair/win stories ... you and Jeff are the men!

thanks for the pics link and super-fun write up.
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Old 03-25-2021, 08:11 PM   #6
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Glad my bike is OK after that crash.

JK. Glad to see you're out there, having fun and getting faster on that SV. That's what they're great for!



Quote:
Originally Posted by drew.w View Post
I did touch the inside curb at speed going through the bus stop which almost resulted in a need to change the leathers. Noted that Iíll do my damndest not to touch that again.
Don't do that... that's why I had to rebuild it after R1 in 2019
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Old 03-26-2021, 07:49 AM   #7
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Thanks for not hitting me when you crashed. Sorry for yelling at you to get back. Corner worker was yelling and I wasn't sure you heard him pumped full of adrenaline.


Corner worker gave me mad props for not flinching... (I didn't see you crash until you had already hit the dirt).
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Old 03-26-2021, 03:05 PM   #8
drew.w
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Whew, youíre quick, Andrew. Sorry about the crash and look forward to seeing you at round 2.
Can't wait! See you on the grid

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Originally Posted by SFMCjohn View Post


love club racing crash/repair/win stories ... you and Jeff are the men!

thanks for the pics link and super-fun write up.
The feeling of getting everything fixed and getting back out there more than made up for the low of the crash....not that I'm trying to do that very often

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Originally Posted by Kalvin00 View Post
Glad my bike is OK after that crash.

JK. Glad to see you're out there, having fun and getting faster on that SV. That's what they're great for!

Don't do that... that's why I had to rebuild it after R1 in 2019
Hey Kalvin! Yeah, believe me I'm going to do my best not put it down again. And I remember you mentioning your crash at BW when I bought the bike, but I couldn't remember where it was. After clipping that curb I was like, "yup, this is a place where you could crash really fast at this track." I'm lucky to have gotten off with a warning for sure.

Anyway, I didn't really know what I was getting into at the time I bought it from you, but the bike is sweet especially now that it's getting dialed for me. Hopefully I'll be able to do it justice.

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Originally Posted by i_am_the_koi View Post
Thanks for not hitting me when you crashed. Sorry for yelling at you to get back. Corner worker was yelling and I wasn't sure you heard him pumped full of adrenaline.

Corner worker gave me mad props for not flinching... (I didn't see you crash until you had already hit the dirt).
Super glad that I didn't, and I appreciated your help making sure I was safe, and with the bike afterwards. Thanks for all the great pictures!
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Old 03-26-2021, 06:52 PM   #9
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Nice write up.!! Congrats on the success an over coming!!

Look forward to more.
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