The WERA opener is always just after the New Year, and nothing gets me through the holidays like the anticipation of the season opener!!
After the opportunity to race at Miami-Homestead with Sean Dwyer and Luie Zendejas; followed closely by Femmewalla at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway; I was lucky to go approximately a month between riding.
Where I wasn’t so lucky was having a crash during the Femmewalla event… ugh… that was just frustrating. It was such a dumb crash… I hadn’t crashed in over 2 years… cold conditions, and a small error on my part resulted in a small tumble.
Thankfully most of the damage was limited to the body work… and my amazing friends helped me to get the bike up and running again, and I was able to ride a considerable amount later in the weekend; sans bodywork.
Femmewalla is an all-girls track day started up by Micky & Aimee Grana, who own and operate Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, near Desert Center, Calif. Femmewalla was brought around by an idea from Aimee, and she opted to make it a charity event where all the proceeds go to the Unforgettables Foundation. This foundations helps parents pay for funeral expenses when their children are taken from them way to early. In the Grana’s case, their young daughter lost her life in a tragic accident. The foundation helped them when they needed it the most, and their story, as told at the riders meeting, was so heartbreaking yet such a positive outcome to the dire situation.
Over 60 ladies showed up to ride – an unbelievable number!! When I started riding, in 2001, there were usually one or two girls at the track – when I say one… I mean me.
I was so thrilled to be out there to meet more ladies, and help encourage girls to ride more and race!!! I met some really cool girls, and got to know more ladies who race the Femmewalla class at the CVMA races.
The event was amazing… Jason Pridmore and Dale Keiffer were offering coaching where all the proceeds went directly to the Unforgettables.
My suspension had just been refreshed by Lenny Albin of Superbike Chassis, LLC; and I had finally scored a kit ECU for my 2006 Yamaha R1; so I was more than stoked to test out my new goodies at the track before the WERA season opener at AutoClub Jan 13th.
Once mid December passes, there are little to no track days available through the crazy holidays.
While I was monitoring the weather closely, my stomach just turned when I saw the predicted temps… highs barely cracking 50 deg F with lows below freezing – dipping to 28 on some nights. Not a great way to start the season. The worst was that the weekend before and the weekend after were 70+ deg!!!
Friday practice went really well, as soon as the track warmed up – well after 10am. A hard lesson I learned towards the end of last season was I needed to invest in some track side assistance from a suspension guy. While Lenny is my guy, and I’m very loyal to him, he is but one man who cannot be in a million places at once… and I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes we could clone Lenny!
With Lenny’s blessing, I enlisted the help of GP Suspensions’ Barry Wressell for assistance in twiddling my knobs and clickers track side, at AutoClub. Someone to be at the wall just for me… to come to my pit for a debrief, and discuss how we can improve lap times.
I learned this lesson when I seemingly pissed away half the day of practice when one simple change would allow me to go forward.
It is time for me to learn that I can ride a motorcycle… and that when I’m getting passed in the braking zone, or can’t pick up the throttle out of the corners it is more likely to be an issue with my set up than with my riding. While I am not perfect, I need to switch my mindset about myself.
Having Barry to talk to helped me to make huge progress throughout the two days of practice. I was able to get more aggressive, faster, and as I improved by fixing little handling issues, it brought up new ones.
By Saturday late afternoon, I had found a really good set up that I was confident I could put to good use on Sunday.
Sunday Race Day
Practice started at 8am, and it was 30 deg F. I made an executive decision not to practice at all Sunday morning. I had already fallen down once from cold, crappy conditions, and I wasn’t about to go out and degrade my confidence by practicing in bad conditions.
Cousin Matt Buanno (Cousin Matty), had a family emergency, and couldn’t come out to help me this weekend. I enlisted the help of several awesome pals; namely Corey Baum. My races were so close together, and I had some serious rear wheel swaps to perform between each race.
Open (A) Superbike was first, one race break (approx 15 minutes), Open (A) Superstock, one race break, then Women’s Superstock.
I had two rear tires to use between the three races, and immediately following Superbike we had to swap wheels, and haul the used one to CT Racing Pirelli to be flipped for use in Women’s Superstock. Following Superstock, the rear wheel had to be swapped for Women’s Superstock. My pals let me borrow another rear tire warmer, so we could keep the spare rear hot – especially given the horribly cold conditions!
Thankfully my races landed in the prime part of the day for the best temperature/track condition combination. It was approximately 52 deg F when I raced, and the track temperatures were rumored to have barely reached into the 70s.
Open (A) Superbike
I rolled out for the warm up lap, and my first time on the track all day Sunday, feeling very confident on my brand new set of Pirelli tires.
The green flag dropped, I got a pretty good start from row 3, but got a bit mobbed in turn 3 and turn 4. I tried to hang on to the mid pack guys, but as the laps counted down – 6 laps total – I was sliding a bit much for having brand new tires. When the front slid, I was beginning to wonder what was going on. As I motored down the front straight I realized I had completely forgot to set my tire pressures… I couldn’t believe it. What a bonehead mistake!!! Cousin Matty has definitely spoiled me!! More importantly, he has allowed me to focus on my riding, rather than my bike. While my pals are awesome, it ultimately lands on me to have my shit together. While I did think of my tire pressures several hours before the race, I just completely forgot… I forgot to set them myself, or to ask one of my pals if they had checked. Ugh… well, at least I hadn’t crashed… yet….
I was so distracted by this stupid mistake, I blew my turn 3 entrance, and another rider got underneath me… ugh…
As I chased him into the horseshoe (turn 5/6), I thought to myself… hold this position, and don’t crash….
We took the white flag the next lap, and another rider showed me a wheel going into turn 5, but I slammed the door on him… I held onto 9th place … out of 16 riders. Given the level of competitors – like 5 current or former AMA riders on my grid – I was pretty stoked to have held my position, be in the top ten, and run 1:36s.
They widened the chicane after turn 9 (the decreasing radius) over the course of the weekend, but it was a little bit more open than back in September. The guys who ran 1:29s in Sept were in the 1:28s this time.
While I got to 36s towards the end of practice on Saturday afternoon, I was pretty excited to finish so well given my tires were 5-8 psi overpressure – we checked when I came in.
I admit, I got incredibly lucky that the fantastic Pirelli guys (Chris Maguire, Corey Neuer, and Dale Kieffer) set them considerably lower than most tires get mounted at. For example, my other new tire (after being on the warmer for a good hour) pegged the needle on the pressure gauge… a pressure gauge that goes to 60 psi!
Tires: Med/Soft – new
Open (A) Superbike: 9th of 16
Best lap: 1:36.6
Open (A) Superstock
With a new rear tire, proper tire pressures, and a boosted confidence from finishing so well in Superbike, I was pumped to bring it.
Another good start from row 2 netted me in the top five into turn 3 (turning into the infield). I got a little mobbed as we flipped over for turn 4 and I made the mistake of not taking a defensive line into turn 5, which allowed one more rider past me.
I chased him the entire race!!! I was considerably stronger than him in some areas of the track, but it just wasn’t enough to make a pass happen. Several times I could have tried for a pass, but it would have been a lot more risk than I was willing to take.
I wasn’t sure where I was in the pack, but I knew I wasn’t close to the leaders. The two of us ran down another rider, and I can’t help but think of what I could have done had I not let him pass me….
Coming away from these two races, I have recognized some technical areas that I will be working on. I’ve noticed one particular technique that my competitors are doing profoundly better than I. It gives me the greatest margin for improvement. Getting more aggressive on the throttle.
In the end, I held my 8th place of 16 riders, and when I turned around at the end of the race, I was rather shocked to see who I had finished in front of!
Steve Kidd, a racer from the Pacific Northwest, came down for this event, had a GoPro mounted on his ZX10, and he spent the entire Superstock race chasing me. That made for a pretty cool video… I hadn’t seen myself on video for a long time… all I have to say is… wow!!! My bike is fast!!!! I keep thinking how slow it is – when I’m not able to rocket past other liter bikes, but to see it from that perspective… wow….
Link to Steve’s video! My R1 has the twin tail pipes coming from the tail section, and while I mostly look like a white dot; you can make out my flying braids when he gets close on a few occasions… but for the most part, he follows me almost exclusively in the video. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=IwTuRMMaT3I&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DIwTuRMMaT3I
Tires: Med/Soft – 1 race/new
Open (A) Superstock: 8th / 16
Best Lap: 1:34.4
For 2013, I have opted to reduce the number of times I enter Women’s Superstock; especially given its proximity to my Superstock and Superbike. Now that I am running considerably stronger, and the fact that so few women enter the class in the Expert classification, I have decided to run it just enough to win the Championship.
Last year, my Pirelli sponsorship was increased because I was winning the class. It was with Pirelli’s blessing I changed my strategy for 2013. However, Corey asked me to run the Women’s Class in the WERA opener and “smash it”… so that’s what I did =D
Although I was the only entry for Women’s Superstock Expert, I smashed it just as I promised Corey I would. I ran down every single Heavyweight Twins Superbike contender, except the winner, despite their 10 second head start. They had their own green flag, and there were several big Ducatis in the class this time! I used the race to work on some immediate issues I felt needed improvement from the previous races.
While I did slow up to make safe, clean passes on the twins class competitors, I still caught the second place guy on the last lap. While I caught him in turn 6, I followed him until the front straight because a safe, clean pass did not present itself.
Passing him was purely for my ego. So I made a run on him and caught him at the line. While the transponders showed I was technically 0.02s behind him… I still credit myself with beating him
Tires: Med/Soft – 2 races/1 race – flipped
Women’s Superstock: 1st of 1
Best Lap: 1:35.5
Such a Bright 2013… I’ll Need Sunscreen!
While I feel I did not ride my best, I am happy with how I rode given the conditions. I am terrible about the cold… I really struggle. Plus not having Cousin Matty there as my racersitter… I came away from the opener having put myself against a slew of ridiculously fast competitors, and came out strong!!! Mid pack!! I am so thrilled with that!
I am also thrilled to announce that I will be competing with AFM in 2013, namely in the AFemme class, but I will do a few other classes on occasion.
Hold on tight… 2013 is going to be a hell of a wild ride!!!!
Very Special Thank You…
Huge thank you to my amazing pals who helped so much over the course of the weekend…. While they affectionately referred to me as the moto princess… they let me share garage pace with them, they jumped into help me when I needed it, and I know I would not have had such a a successful weekend without them…
Corey Baum & his dad, Tim Weig, Mike Castro, Steve Kidd, Josh Kent, and a few guys I didn’t get introduced to.
A very deep gratitude is extended to Thomas of Pirelli/Racer’s Edge for bringing his toy hauler out for myself and a few pals to sleep in for the weekend. Thanks to Thomas, we did not freeze!
Huge thank you to Corey Neuer, Chris Maguire, and Dale Kieffer, of CT Racing Pirelli (and Racer’s Edge – Dale’s extra trailer full of goodies)… They always take really good care of me.
Special thank you to M Racing for supplying my fuel for the weekend!!! Five & Dime Tattoo of Oakland for helping to make this weekend happen!!!
I am also very excited to announce new sponsors for 2013!! Cortech, Valley CrossFit, and Chicken Hawk Racing!!
The following sponsors are who make this weekend – and all my race weekends – possible…
Graves Motorsports (gravesport.com)
Lenny Albin (superbikechassis.com)
Pirelli Tires (CT Racing – ctracetires.com)
M Racing (mracingperformance.com)
Scorpion Helmets (scorpionusa.com)
Five & Dime Tattoo (fiveanddimetattoo.com)
Moonstone Cellars (moonstonecellars.com)
STAR School (starmotorycle.com)
Five-0 Racing (five-0racing.com)
Valley CrossFit (valleycrossfit.com)
Chicken Hawk Racing (chickenhawkracing.com)
Vortex Racing (vortexracing.com)