Willow Springs Race Report

Sarah and I loaded up the Outback for the last time for the first race of the season. The ScoobyDoo which has served us well the last 1.5 seasons would be retired this year to be replaced by a much more powerful 2008 Rav4/v6 Sport capable of pulling a big enclosed trailer without breaking as sweat. 145 horsepower vs 279 horsepower. Not that the ScoobyDoo wouldn’t try, I’d just feel horrible making a vehicle that has served me so faithfully and flawlessly the last decade work so hard in the latter years of it’s life.

Down in Bakersfield we ran into a tiny fan. A local Supermoto king in his own field who was heading North with his Dad to find worthy competition, having stomped every kid in his region down South.

Arriving in Rosamond we found things cold as hell. Practice was done in the low 50’s with snow very visible at low altitudes on the surrounding mountains. Winds were gusty during practice, blasting up to 40/50 at times, and Friday night there were 90mph gusts. When people were not practicing or tuning, they were huddled in RV’s around heaters. It was cold.

Saturday practice went off without a hitch. Sarah and I were able to blow most the rust out, her remembering her lines and markers. Me remembering my timing and transition points, and getting used to the new bodywork and handholds. The new brakes/pads and new Yokohama tires cut in perfectly, and by the end of the day we were able to actually get up to about 75% race pace and work on some consistency.

Sunday was another freezing morning. Dark clouds off to the South threatened rain, but the track remained dry. We got the rig uncovered and rolled through tech with no issues.

We clicked off two fast morning practice sessions to scrub in the tires and work out last minute bugs, then it was the hurry up and wait game as they prepared to call race 11, our race.

I actually started to get butterflies. A first for me, I’d never got nervous before a race. But Sarah has drastically improved since the last time we were out on the Big Track, and our morning practice sessions we ran at around 85/90% and she was fast. Sliding into corners, drifting wide on the power, lighting up the rear over the top of the Omega. To the point that I knew I was going to be working to keep up with her, to keep the CSR planted. I was actually nervous.

They finally called our race, and it was suit up and shut up. We lined up on the grid, and the announcer immediately started talking smack about me being on the back and Sarah driving. “You’re a better man than I.” I believe was the comment.

We rolled out for the warmup lap, and then gridded up.

I was over the back tire, we were slightly behind mid pack, left of center with Roy to our right, Sean behind us, and Bill in front of us. The 1 board went sideways, and the green flag was dropped.

Sarah pegged the throttle and dumped the clutch, we got a beautiful launch and with me over the back wheel it wasn’t going anywhere but forward. We were all packed up nose to tail WFO right into turn one three wide. We got the inside line with Roy and Sean slipping by on the outside, and way outside them Leon and Steve passed everybody like they were standing still. It should be mentioned that Leon counts his laps around Willow Springs on a sidecar in the tens-of-thousndands.

Out of turn one it was Roy, Sean, and Sarah…

Sean had a novice passenger, and Sarah picked him off quickly on the outside of turn 2 driving up the hill towards three, she didn’t even bother to wait for the Yokohamas to come up to temperature and just put the bottle to it quickly chasing down Roy Janes up into the Omega.

But no matter how hard she tried, or how close she got, or how hard Sarah tried to force the issue down on the inside or around the outside. Roy pulled 40 years of sidecar roadracing experience out of his bag of tricks and made his Formula II very wide, sometimes missing us by inches with surgical precision. Sarah would lose focus and roll off, giving Roy the line. Two laps from the finish I was grabbing Sarah by the back and pushing forward on her leathers telling her to GO GO GO GO !!!! PASS PASS PASS. I knew we were faster than Roy, we had better handling, we had the motor all over him, all we had to do was squeeze by and he’d never be able to catch us. It’d be Streets of Willow all over again with Sarah’s stealth pass for the win over Roy.

The white flag came out, and Sarah was all over the back of Roy, the leaders had come by us, but we didn’t care. All that ment was that we might be able to sqeeze by Roy on their coat-tails, but Roy blocked Sarah before she could swoop in on the opening. We drove down through 7, Roy only 30 feet in front of us, me tucked in behind the intake as tight as I could, driving now for turn 8, two more corners to go. I slid up right, as low as possible, I could tell that Sarah was going out left, she was going do go in deep and late to 9 and try to slingshot out on the exit and pass Roy to the checkered flag on pure horsepower.

Roy pulled in tight to 9, as did Sarah, I went out right just far enough to keep traction on the rear and bias the front for turn in, and as soon as we passed the apex and Sarah was back on the power I slid back down into the platform and curled up into a fetal position as tight as I could for aerodynamic advantage. My legs and ass were hanging off the back of the platform and I was only hanging on with one hand. Sarah was winding the engine out into for her previously unknown territory. The CBR1000RR came to life and really started to sing. From my curled position on the platform I could just see the asphalt going by and I could tell we were going fast… really fast, faster than we’d ever gone before. The engine had to be getting close to the rev limiter, and then it was over. I saw the flagger and Roy’s rig vanishing behind us.

I popped up and braced as Sarah got hard on the brakes for turn one, got hard out left for her turn in, and that was it. The race was over.

We missed 9th place by about 14 inches. A pure drag-race to the finish line. Sarah said she looked down at the speedo (corrected w/healer) as she crossed the line and it said “One Fifty Something” A new personal best in top speed for her.

Next time, Roy. Next time.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.