WERA West Las Vegas MotorSpeedway
After literally freezing during the opening round at Fontana in January, we were greeted with the low end of the weather curve again in Las Vegas… although thankfully not nearly as cold as Fontana… this time it didn’t get below freezing for a low!
I arranged a half day with Racer’s Edge Friday track day, and holy AMA paddock Batman! When I arrived there was a semi in one corner, and the brightly colored kids from the Red Bull team near my pit; amongst a slew of AMA pro riders in attendance!
Practice went pretty well, but my bike was overly squirrely under the brakes going into Turn 1… not having a slipper clutch, I’m used to the considerable tail wag, but after having a moment where it “wagged the dog” I seriously thought I was going to go completely unstable and crash in a straight line.
It was unstable coming off the back straight/kink as well, but not nearly as bad as Turn 1… well… turn one is downhill.
Then I looked at my bike… looked at my notebook… what was different from November?! Lenny Albin of Superbike Chassis, LLC refreshed my suspension, and my forks were bumped up in stiffness…. Oh man they are amazing! But that wouldn’t cause excessive chassis instability… it was as if the rear was so light it was allowed to gain momentum as it wagged while slipping the clutch… while the weight was on the front end from braking… the front end! Aaahhhh!
I had lowered the front triples down the forks while at Chuckwalla in December… that was it! Too much weight on the front! Duh…
2mm…. that was enough to nearly make me lose complete control of the entire motorcycle. That combined for a perfect storm into turn one that created escalating instability… reminded me of all the curves in our Controls Class on stability… and damping… ahhh college.
Put the forks back to flush with the triples, and all was back to normal. Now… the other thing… I think I need to take a look at my shifter mechanism before the next ride, because I was blowing shifts a bit too often. I couldn’t move the shifter up (GP Shift) with enough power a handful of times, and just got it between gears… it was noisy, annoying, and just made me cringe to think of what the gears in my transmission were doing. One of the slightly negative side effects of being an engineer, and being familiar with your internal parts… picturing them getting destroyed when you hear the clack clack clack of the tranny gears when it doesn’t quite get bumped into the proper down shift.
Due to funds, I opted to sit out Saturday’s 20 lapper; and subsequently, Saturday practice, which was just as well, because practice was ridiculously cold.
Sunday morning was overcast and the track took longer to warm up, so I went out only in the second practice round. I followed JD Beach of the Red Bull AMA team, and we both tiptoed a bit as we felt out the track conditions. He decided to take off, and I watched him for a few corners… “well… he didn’t crash… track is good” So I took off too! I felt good during this practice – confident, in control, hitting my marks. I was surprised how the cold really got into a lot of people’s heads, as I passed some people as if they were beginners! My confidence paid off in that I was the top third of the time sheet
Open (A) Superstock
First race of the day… I was ready. Mentally, physically, aggressively. I was on row three, and got a killer start! Slammed the door on a BMW, and lit off out of turn 1 in third place!!!!! Hells yeah! In the opening lap AMA riders Tucker Lancaster and Aussie Dave went though me, but I found myself tail grabbing the ZX10 of a relative new comer to our grid, and pretty damn fast… so be tail grabbing him… I was stoked!
Going into lap two I was trying to hang on to him, and figure out if I was going to have something for him or not when the red flag came out. Ugh…
Back to my pit to see my friends jumping up and down and so stoked on my start!!!! Then my long time pal (and one time coach!) who was on that BMW I slammed the door on into turn one, came over and picked me up off the ground and told me he was coming for me… “I was sooooo close… arrrghhhhh!!!!”
Sadly, by the time they cleaned up and brought us back out, I was still feeling good, but that razor sharp edge of aggression had dissipated. That’s a mental game I’ll have to work on.
My re-start was decent, but my friend on the BMW got me into turn one, and I spent the rest of the race trying to find a way around. Although I ran faster lap times, he beat my 0.08 at the line. So frustrating.
Those shifter problems haunted me when I couldn’t complete the downshifts into turn one, and had to finish them between turn one and turn two.
But what I will say I’m very proud of… I held off AMA Superbike racer Aussie Dave for the full opening lap! Sure he had to start at the back of the grid… but I slammed the door on him coming off the high speed back section, and made him take the pass under the brakes into turn one… where it was borderline getting stuffed… I wasn’t that far off the mark for his turn one… and that… I am quite proud of
In talking to him after the race, he was shocked at the flying braided pigtails… he said “oh my gosh.. those are pigtails! Holy crap that’s a girl!” Ha ha ha! I heard later, he wasn’t the only one to be shocked at the girl factor.
It’s not unusual for these fast guys to be shocked when they come upon a girl who’s going a smidgen slower than they are. I certainly do not take offense… I’m quite proud
No matter… I had some struggles with that tricky long, slow turn three, and could’ve had a better turn one – like the bad ass turn one I had in November.
Thankfully we have a double header in April.
Finish: 5th/12 after Aussie Dave Anthony DQd himself since he was on his superbike.
Best Lap: 1:20.8
Tires: Med front/Med Rear – new
No Women’s race this time!
Open (A) Superbike
This grid was stacked. I got a decent start, but got really beat up going into turn one. I still feel a bit more intimidated about Superbike vs Superstock, and it shows in turn one. I’m slowly gaining more confidence in this class. Just because there are a few riders who are in it with fancy bikes doesn’t mean I can’t still rock it.
I was proud to hold off AMA Pro and top club racer Reno Karimian until turn five!!! The high speed kink! He got me with his bizzilion horsepower But I chased him, and my long time fast pal Corey Sarros. Oh I tried so hard to get with those guys… I reeled them in over a few places, then lost them in others. I worked and worked and worked but I just didn’t have much grip left in my medium tire – which worked fabulous in the first race and the cold track, but the sun had shown on the track all day and now it’s the last race of the day.
However, I was still proud to be running with those guys!!!! They used to suck the paint off me as they went by!!!!
That shifting issue cropped up again, going into turn one clack clack clack… it made such a racket that my pals on the wall near start / finish!! heard my transmission, heard my squealing rear tire, and apparently everyone cringed! Ha ha ha… It was just fine, I had to put it back into 4th gear, and grab the two down shifts between one and two again. My pals commented how proud they were of me for maintaining my composure as my bike looked and sounded out of control.
Best Lap: 1:21.7
Tires: Med front / flipped Med Rear – one race
In summary, I learned some lessons this weekend in the mental game, and found I’m still working on some key areas around the Vegas track.
I’m very much looking forward to running the double header in April. I may or may not do one of the Women’s races in April. There just aren’t many women running in the expert class, and to save money, and wear on my bike, I’ve opted to run it at only select events.
Oh… the back story… apparently a notable AMA rider crashed on Friday because he was “so shocked” that I was a girl he got distracted. That is just hilarious! (he was ok, btw)
I’m very proud to have matched my previous best lap times on a great tire, and warmer temps on a harder tire, and brutally cold temps!
Huge thank you to my amazing friend Lyle Geoff Brown (LGB!) for huge assistance as pit crew on Sunday. To my amazing friend Steve Weir for being so supportive that the girl he used to coach is now giving him a run for his money
Thank you to Barry Wressel & Sean Gager for being available for good discussion over the weekend. And thank you to my wonderful friends who were out there to cheer me on and support from track side and via phone <3
Very Special Thank You…
Graves Motorsports (gravesport.com)
Lenny Albin (superbikechassis.com)
Pirelli Tires (CT Racing – ctracetires.com)
M Racing (mracingperformance.com)
Scorpion Helmet (scorpionusa.com)
Five & Dime Tattoo (fiveanddimetattoo.com)
Hella High Oakland (hellahighoakland.com)
Moonstone Cellars (moonstonecellars.com)
STAR School (starmotorycle.com)
Five-0 Racing (five-0racing.com)
Valley CrossFit (valleycrossfit.com)
Chicken Hawk Racing