After 2 years of flying to LA to race my SV in the Chuckwalla Valley Motorsports Association, I've decided to save a little money and race full-time at home in Washington. I was voluntarily molested by the TSA for one last hurrah in the desert as #55.
The forecast called for a nice, sunny weekend in the high 60's. I woke up for Saturday morning practice to a frosty windscreen and visible breath, but thankfully I also had shiny new tires. I had asked my mechanic Andy to swap in some new cams for about 4 extra ponies, and also to fit a glistening pair of R6 monobloc calipers I scrounged off ebay. With my motor gulping in the cool morning air, and my new brakes flinging the rear wheel skyward with every light squeeze of the lever, the bike felt better than ever. I got up to speed quickly and qualified in the middle of the third row for all 4 of my races.
My previous strategy of focusing before a race and forcing adrenaline through my veins didn't seem to be treating me so well, so I did the exact opposite. I sat in the trailer chilling out to reggae for an hour until Formula Twins was called at about noon. As a respectable grid of 17 bikes lined up under the sun, I observed a few chubby clouds plodding in from the south. Hmm...
The marshall thew up a 2, then a 1, and when the green flag moved a single nanometer, I was the first to leap off the line. By turn 17 I had gained 2 positions, and when #19, Brian, drifted a little wide in 16 trying to get the drive on #49, I gassed up the inside and blocked him for fifth.
Brian rides a Ninja 650 with whole stacks of Benjamins dumped into the motor. His teammate, Kalvin, #624, rides an SV with about the same power. They both passed me on the back straight, but I was surprised to find that my new cams at least allowed me to draft them. I stuck on them for the remainder of the lap, and when we rounded turn 14 for the second time, a spattering of rain smacked me in the face.
Brian and Kalvin, both on slicks, kept the pace so I knew I could do the same with my DOT's. Kalvin got around Brian cleanly, and tried pulling away as we both latched onto him. We got on the front straight and Kalvin and Brian threw their hands up. I saw a flag with some red poking out of pit wall, so I threw my hand up too and let off. We crept closer and realized it was a meatball, so we all put our hands down and got back on the gas. I knew neither guy in front of me had done anything wrong, so I assumed the meatball must've been for me. Bullshit! Did they seriously think I had jumped the start? I opted not to pull in until the next lap to make absolutely certain it was for me.
The drizzle persisted but didn't seem to be soaking the pavement, so we dropped a second with Kalvin leading.
I kept getting better drive than Brian coming out of turns, but by the time I was close enough to pull out of the slipstream, his motor would kick in and he'd pull ahead. I managed to gain most of his advantage back on the brakes, but the few attempts I made at passing were getting a little sketchy. I still had reggae going through my head, and as I was belting out Toots and the Maytals, the rain let up in a sudden gust of wind and was promptly replaced by rivers of sand flowing across the track. The sand proved to be a little slipperier than rain, but we all dropped another second despite a little sliding. Back around the front straight and no more meatball. Excellent!
The wind let up and the sun poked through again, so I opted to go for it. I showed Brian a wheel braking into 10, but he was trying the same move on Kalvin. Rather than take all 3 of us out, I veered wide and stayed behind. Again I tried in 14, but with the same result. I stayed relaxed and didn't get frustrated, and it seemed to work because I dropped yet another second for my all-time PB of 1:58. Despite a better time than Brian or Kalvin, I still couldn't get around either them and I finished the last lap in 7th. Crazy race!
We had a few hours until Formula 2, and when they made first call the sun was already getting pretty low. Most of us swapped for clear visors and gridded up to a cooling track. I started well, but Kalvin passed me out of 14 and took off. My teammate Charles passed me into the bowl (T13) on his #33 SV. Charles and I have had some of my favorite battles at CVMA and I was happy he was throwing the gauntlet.
We were dead even for the first lap and I kept his rear wheel filling my field of vision. Entering T15 I swooped to the inside for the pass, but with the aid of the setting sun, he saw my long shadow and tipped in early. I almost ass-packed him and he gained a couple bike lengths from checking me up. I got better drive out of 11 and I hauled him in on the back straight. I saw my shadow just passing his front wheel, so I went to the inside to fool the dirty old man. He started braking a little early to hold the defensive line, thinking he could check me up again, but I flicked right, and threatened to take off his front as I out-braked him from the outside. I giggled when I knew it would stick and he was stuck behind me for the 10, 9, 8 complex known as Garcia Hill.
The sunset was making it exceedingly difficult to see through T4, so I was having to guess where my usual turn-in point was by the bumps and patches on the pavement. More often than not I ended up wide, but luckily so did everyone else behind me.
I stayed in the lead until, on the final lap, Charles late-braked up T12 into the rollercoaster. He blocked me out of an inside re-take for 11, so again I slotted in behind and plotted my next and hopefully last move.
He kept the pace through 7-6, and I looked inside for a pass into 4 but soon realized we were both way off the apex with the sun in our eyes. I let off the gas a little to close up, then went full-on a split second earlier than Charles. I whittled away at the gap and I knew he'd try to out-brake me into 3. I let him think he was safe on the inside and he tipped in a little early, as I trail-braked on the outside with the front giving a slight shudder of complaint. I managed to carry more speed though, so I was past him by the mini-straight before 2 (old Frenchman just out of picture).
I tipped into 2 a little late just to be positive I'd have the corner speed if it came down to a drag race to the line. Charles says he might've gone up the inside but it most likely would've ended ugly, and we were both proud that we had our first (mostly) clean race together.
I was a little let down on Sunday when Charles showed me his shredded rear tire which had been new the day before. Unable to ride it anymore, he ducked out of the Sunday races.
Formula 2 was first up, and having already gotten my PB and wanting to go home in one piece, I made it sort of a boring race for myself. I got a good start, but the leaders checked out and I was stuck in the middle all alone.
My teammate Drew set a PB trying to catch me, but never got close enough to make a stab. I finished in 6th despite looking over my shoulder for half the race.
Before Formula Twins, I promised myself I wouldn't do anything dumb so I could end my CVMA career on a positive note. I got ahead of Brian on his Kawi in T16, and put myself in a good mood as I regained a fast(ish) rhythm.
Drew managed to pass Brian and another teammate in the first lap, and the second time into 17 he screamed past me on the left whilst hard on the brakes. I anticipated him going off-track into the desert, but somehow he managed to slow it down enough to lean the bike. He was so far off the apex though, I knew it wouldn't stick so I held the inside line and looked ahead for the overtake. Somehow, Drew kept leaning until it looked like he was dragging elbow, shoulder, bar-end and helmet, and he actually began sidling closer and closer to me. I thought "oh dear" as he nearly took off my front and hit some semblance of a late apex. I concentrated on following Drew despite my awe, and kept him close enough to count the hairs on his neck (you can barely see my white helmet poking out behind him).
I got great drive out of 11 and started to edge past him, when a great honking 848 roared past on the straight, followed by Brian with his behemoth of a motor. F-twins SV's run a wave ahead of Open Twins because, well, they're all a bunch of slow guys on fast Ducatis. Shocking, I know, but that's why I couldn't allow one to stay ahead of me. I stayed tucked until the #2 braking marker going into T10, when I stabbed at the brakes in an attempt to get ahead of Drew, Brian, and Ducati boy, all on the inside. The back end hovered above the pavement, with the whole front shaking in protest. The pass was appearing to work when I noticed the guy on the Ducati had his back tire even higher in the air and I wasn't getting any closer to him. That...that can't be right...I was almost showing Drew and Brian a wheel when they both turned in defensively, and I started to panic as I realized what was about to happen. Unable to slow down enough to avoid taking out all 3 riders in front of me, I let off the brakes just enough to swing right and into the dirt towards Arizona. A little shaken, I rode around the corner worker station to re-enter the track at T8. I did a long look behind me and saw no one, so as I marveled at avoiding such a close call, I opted to pull in and DNF rather than putt around alone.
My friend and teammate Stephen asked why I pulled in, and after telling the story, he replied "you do know that was Zemke on the Duc right?" "Sorry?" "Jake Zemke, you know, the AMA racer?" Yeah...totally almost had him...