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Old 04-28-2003, 11:44 AM   #1
Gary J
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: South Bay
Motorcycles: Street & Track
Name: Gary
Gary J's 636 Sears Point AFM Weekend Report: Wet-Dry-Wet

What a three day, wet-n-dry, roller coaster ride it was this weekend, at Sears Point!

Friday I was scheduled to be teaching at the “dP Safety School” trackday event, that had nearly 100 riders signed up. The hight sign-up was due to the adjacent AFM race weekend. Unfortunately Mother Nature had every intention to try to keep us off track on Friday, with the early morning rain developing into full downpours at various times during the day.

Seeing that the whole riding situation was looking pretty gloomy (around 10:00 AM) as to whether anyone would get on track with the wet conditions, being the rain-junkie that I am, I volunteered to be first guinea pig to get out and see if the surface was rideable or not. After leading Dennis Pegelow (the dP School founder) around for a few laps to show him the rain lines that made the track rideable, the green flag was offered for the brave souls that wished to venture out. Gradually picking the pace up as I got used to the very challenging traction conditions, it got pretty fun to be blasting through the puddles at WOT, and sending rooster tails of water into the air in exiting the Turn 11 area. I was running my 636 on regular Dunlop D208GP A tires, with sparse amount of tread grooves that quickly showed that they were not intended to be an optimum tire for wet weather riding. The slick track and these tires made smoothness the key word on the day. One really big front and rear slide through Turn 8, at over 60MPH, did get my attention!

As the morning moved on, and the rains continued to keep the track very wet, the combined A/B group only saw a handful of riders elect to take advantage of the open track. The C group did have a very full turnout on track however, thanks to the very slowly led format with instructors keeping everyone off the bad lines, and at a very conservative pace.

The rains finally let up late in the afternoon, and the last session of the day actually provided a track that was about 80% dry. Quite a few riders from the A/B group, that had stuck around, did get a chance to venture out and get in laps in those closing sessions. I was surprised to find that I ended up going through about 7 gallons of gas, and logging close to 180 miles on the track by the end of the day. The only penalty for the day spent on the rainy track, was the ugly dried brown water residue that covered my bike from top to bottom. A bucket of soapy water and about ½ hour of scrubbing at an available hose at the track, had that all sorted out before I packed it in at the end of the day.

Saturday brought sunshine and very decent track conditions for the full-day AFM practice. A few wet spots outside of Turn 11, and the apex of Turn 8, were really the only items that served as reminders of Friday’s downpours. Practice went well for me, though I was having to reprogram my brain to trust that I could actually go through certain corners with more serious speed/lean angles ….. after having spent so many laps tip-toeing through the same turns in the wet on Friday.

Sunday morning’s weather welcomed us with relatively clear skies, and practice sessions were run on steadily improving track conditions. With the change in race order that the last minute schedule had created, I was locked in for races 8, 12, 13 (last race of the day). The threat of possible bad weather moving in by late Sunday/early Monday, combined with my last two races of the day slots, made me nervous.

After a lot of sitting around and waiting, my first race of the day (Formula Pacific: Race 8) finally arrived around 2:00PM. Thanks to having now run one FP race in 2003, my grid spot was a lot better than last month where I’d been way back on the 10th row (thanks to having zero points in that class from 2002). When the green flag dropped, my inner-most spot on the 5th row had me struggling to not lose too many positions as I got pinched off trying to get on line going into Turn 2. It was definitely shoulder-to-shoulder as the pack banked through that Turn 2, but fortunately the combination of very skilled riders and everyone keeping their head, everything began to slowly sort itself out. I settled into a pace that I felt comfortable over the course of the race, passing and being passed in various situations. The choice to keep the stock, well used brake pads in my 636 for one more race would come back to haunt me, as the front brake lever gradually came further back towards the bars in the hard braking zones of Turn 1 and Turn 7, as the race progressed. A few nervous moments ensued getting the bike slowed and through Turn 1 on a few laps, but I managed to adjust as needed, and get through all 10 laps. The WAY too short of a cool-down distance from the checkered flag to the new Turn 1, resulted in a bit of a hairball dash to the finish line for me on the last lap. Mark Smith’s 150+ GSXR-1000 managed to nip me by a few hundredths of a second at the line …….. when I decided to ease off versus not be able to get stopped before making Turn 1.

Despite making a few personal riding mistakes along the way, and the less than ideal braking I’d caused by my procrastination, it was a good race for me on the 636. I managed to knock about 1.5 seconds/lap off my best lap times from last month …… running consistent low 1:43’s, and despite a very large and strong field of competitors in FP this month (due to the AMA event being next weekend), I managed to hold on to 19th place at the finish. I was happy with the times, as getting into the 1:43’s (or the equivalent on the AMA circuit) had been my initial goal in the “750 Superstock” class that I’m signed up to race during the AMA national event at Sears Point this coming weekend. Now that I’ve met that goal during Sunday’s AFM event, it raises the bar just a bit higher for me.

Unfortunately the combination of red flag delays, and an early arrival of the predicted bad weather, brought a rain cancellation of the day about 4:30PM, after only 10 races had been run. As a result, the opportunity to return to the 750 Production grid, to see if I’d be able to repeat the “David vs. Goliath” (636 vs. GSXR-750’s) win that I’d been fortunate enough to see last month in that class ……. was not to be. Looking at the lap times the 636 had allowed me to achieve in the one race I did compete yesterday, and the lap times that I’d seen the front running 750 Production guys put down up to that point on the day, I knew I had at least a decent shot of making that happen. Oh well, I guess going into the third round of the AFM season still in the points lead in the class, doesn’t make it quite as painful ……. but I’d rather race to continue to earn it.

My maiden voyage into racing with “the big boys” at this coming weekend’s AMA event is fast approaching, and I’ve got lots of last minute details to get completed. The weather reports at this early point are showing some less than ideal predictions, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and still going ahead in my preparation in a “full steam ahead” mode. Please keep your fingers crossed, that the weather will cooperate and the event will go off as scheduled. My race (750 Superstock) is the last race on Saturday afternoon, so I’m praying for things to at least be clear that long. Obviously I hope for all three days to be good, but if it has to rain ….. Sunday would be my choice.

That’s the weekend past, and the weekend ahead report …… for anyone interested.

Gary J
AFM #13
AMA #231
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