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Make good choices.
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AFM 2014 Round 4 - Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Round 4 came after a 6 week recess following round 3. I had been at the track a lot of days in May/early June and decided to use the time to take a little mid-summer break from the race track. After a month and half off the bike mid-season my first practice session out on Saturday morning felt a touch rusty. Something felt off. The engine braking coming into turns didn’t seem quite right. What could be causing this feeling...what could wrong with the bike? I came in after the session and thought about it. Then I remembered the last time I rode was not actually a race at round 3, but a trackday the Monday after the race weekend where I worked as an instructor. I would have ridden my SV650 most of the day; which acts much different off throttle. That’s the last thing my body remembers and that’s why the R6 feels different. There was nothing wrong with the bike. I went out next session feeling better and put in my normal sub 2 minute practice laps.

There were some conspicuous absences in the front of the novice field this round. Max Sawicky (#842) and Chuck Herrera (#440), both of whom I have battled with this season, were no-shows. Alex Wallace (#613) had bike problems during Saturday practice and elected not to take the green flag and front runner Stephen Anatiychuk (#380) injured himself in an off-the-bike accident. As a friend and competitor it’s a bummer when your rivals aren’t there to race; the paddock is worse off. However, your pragmatic side realizes that if someone who may have beaten you doesn’t show up, maybe you just gained a position.

Without Stephen it meant that Tom Kuchno (#898) was probably going to run away by himself off the front leaving second place up for grabs in Clubman Middleweight and Formula 1 for Joe Brown (#822), Ilya Roytman (#333), and I to fight over. Unless, of course, a new challenger emerged.

Saturday Race 1, Clubman Middlewight

Last time out my starts were atrocious; one of my goals this weekend was to fix that. I’m third in class points, so with the absence of Stephen I was gridded P2; Tom to my left and Joe to my right. The green flag drops and as usual Joe takes off like his grid square is spring loaded. Tom gets a good start too and I’m through turn 1 in P3. I consider this start a success; at least no one passed me from the row behind this time.
We catch the back of the Clubman Heavyweight field, released ahead of us, in record time by the end of the first lap. Tom and Joe both overtake the first of the heavyweights down the front straight, and Tom sneaks under Joe into turn 1 for the lead. I’m just about to pass the traffic around the outside of 1 when I see a standing yellow flag from the turn 1 corner worker station. I have to back off and abort the pass. Cresting the hill in between turns 1 and 2 I’m following behind the rider in front of me, who is going much slower than my race pace and I still can’t pass, when Robert Brittain (#823) comes blasting by the both of us. I keep following the heavyweight close and as soon as we pass the downed bike in the dirt outside of turn 2 that was causing the caution flags I finish what I started in turn 1 and pass around the outside.
Now before I can try to catch up to Tom and Joe I’ve got Robert to contend with. I’ve been riding faster than Robert this year, but by a very slim margin, which makes it tough to find a place for a clean pass. On lap 3 I finally find my chance and overtake him out of turn 2 into 3. Luckily Tom and Joe have been up ahead dealing with more traffic from the heavyweight wave so they haven’t had a chance to run away.
In the second half of the race we continue to circulate around the course in the same order; Tom to Joe to me. Now I’m thinking I have to find a way past Joe to claim that 2nd place spot, but despite a couple looks I couldn’t quite get by. Coming around the back side of the track for the last time, I could see we were coming up on no less than 3 riders from previous waves. As it turns out, traffic would decide the race for Joe and I as made an ‘accidental’ pass on him in the last corner. Coming down the back straight and onto the brakes for the last time it doesn’t look like I’m going to be close enough to pass Joe in 14/15. Then, all of a sudden in the braking zone, I’m closing on him really fast; I realize he is having to scrub off more speed than usual as we’re coming up behind a slower rider. I was caught off guard and I wasn’t stopping fast enough. I thought I was going to hit Joe. I had braced for impact. Then at the last possible instant I realize I’m target fixating on his back tire, there is plenty of track to the right, and I swerve. Collision is avoided and now I find myself with an inside line into 14 past Joe and the rider ahead of him. I manage to still make the apex, get a good drive out of 15 and hold on down the front straight to take 2nd place. We’ll never know how that one would have turned out if we had clear track in front of us, I suspect I wouldn’t have made it around Joe in that last corner. But, it’s in the books, and I’ll take my 2nd place trophy.

Click here to skip straight to the 'accidental' last lap pass.

Sunday Race 6, Novice Formula 1

Unfortunately Ilya crashed out of his 750 Superbike race earlier in the morning and wasn’t able to make the grid for this F1 race. It looked like this race would more or less be a carbon copy of the Clubman race the afternoon before. Grid positions 1-3 were the same; and the start went the same with Tom and Joe beating me through turn 1. Tom checked out in this race; so long, farewell, out of sight. I followed Joe around for a few laps, eventually passing him down the back straight where I would stay and claim another 2nd place trophy.

Sunday Race 11, Novice 600 Production

I was gridded P3 for this race, with Ilya and Joe to my left, respectively. I was glad Ilya was able to get his bike back on the grid to come play with us. The green flag flies and I pick up a spot off the line to follow Joe through turn 1 in P2. Joe is riding great this race and he’s putting a gap on me over the first few laps. I just try my best to keep him in sight. Nothing much is happening and I’m just trying to put in good laps, waiting for Ilya to show me a wheel, but he never does (it turns out Ilya’s bike was not 100% after the crash, he would slip backwards all race for a 6th place finish). By the time we go under the white flag I have closed the gap up to Joe; I’m not sure if he is slowing down or I’m speeding up but after being a bit of a snoozer for the first 5.5 laps it’s about to get real exciting. The first half of the final lap I’m right behind him and thinking I might have a shot to pass him for the lead. We have caught a rider from the expert wave but he’s going quick and he's tough to pass. I’m thinking once again we may be in a situation where traffic plays a part in the outcome of the wave behind. Coming through turn 8 for the last time, I’m not sure if Joe was held up by the rider ahead or if I just carried more speed than him, but I’m able to pass him up the hill before turn 9. Down the hill and into 10 I have a bit of a look on the expert rider. I’m thinking if I can get passed him here there is no way Joe is going to get passed both of us for the win. But I decide I can’t make the pass safely and give up the corner. Then around the outside of turn 10 here comes Joe. We thread through the esses side by side, I think he’s going to hit the hay bale and I give extra room. I certainly didn't expect to see him there; I may have been a little spooked. He's on the gas harder from 12 to 13, he makes it out of turn 13 first with a better drive down the back straight. At this point I know the only chance I have is to get a better drive than him out of turn 15 and hope to win the drag race to the line. We slot in to turns 14/15 behind the expert rider and out onto the front straight. I’m tight behind Joe drafting in his slipstream waiting for the exact moment to pull out into the clean air. I’m also watching the expert rider’s position on track to make sure he’s not going to be in the way. What I’m not watching is the tachometer. Just as I pull out to slingshot around Joe I get bucked forward in the saddle by the rev limiter. Shit. I stomp on the gear shifter and we cross the line side by side. I ended up losing out on the win by 0.022 seconds. I can’t help but wonder if that late shift down the front straight was worth two-thousandths of a second…

Sunday Race 13, Novice 750 Production

This has been my best class so far in 2014; with two wins and a second I am leading the points. But this time around Tom, who had previously been racing his GSX-R750 in the Superbike and Formula classes, decided he needed some extra points in the overall novice championship and would be racing a production legal 750 in this class too. From pole position, I come out of turn 1 in 4th. Sigh. Joe and Tom are out front with Christian Diegelman (#937) one spot ahead of me. I pass Christian on the brakes into turn 14 on the first lap, then Joe on the brakes into turn 9 on the second lap. For the rest of the race I put my head down and concentrated on turning mistake free laps not giving Joe a chance to get back by. Tom faded into the distance and I crossed the line after 6 laps for my fourth and final 2nd place finish of the weekend.

Overall it was another great weekend. Some good racing, some good company, and some plastic trophies.

Round 5 mini report and standings update:
I was out of town for a wedding and had to miss round 5. It turned out to be quite a weekend to miss. Tom crashed out of the Clubman race leaving the win for Joe. Joe closed the gap to Tom's lead in the championship points, he's within striking distance. I was bumped down to 4th by scoring no points, passed by Ilya.
Then, Joe crashed out of his first Sunday race and would be done for the weekend, scoring no points in 750p, 600p or F1.
I kept my points lead in 750 production, but Ilya's close.
Joe kept his lead in 600 production, but by a scant 4 points from Ilya; no change in the top 3 order.
With both Joe and I not scoring points in Formula 1, Tom has built a nearly 100 point lead.

*Points awarded for 1st place are 35 plus starters beaten. That means you pick up anywhere from 40 to 60 points, depending on how many riders started the race, for a win.

Thanks so much to my supporters:
Woodcraft/Armour Bodies
Lockhart Phillips USA
Precision Trackdays & ARC Trackademics

Images by OXYmoron Photography.

9,250 Posts
That accidental pass was actually pretty awesome. Quit calling it accidental and just tell people you have superior racecraft and traffic negotiation skills. ;)
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