Back to Back Willow Springs Weekends

We are exhausted.

That is the understatement of the year.  Back to back race weekends at Willow Springs, while nice for getting the bike dialed in and getting the rust blown out of our technique, are very physically and mentally demanding.  We have bruises on top of bruises.  I’ll do a quick summary of both weekends.

April 12th/13th ~ AHRMA 13th Corsa Motoclassica

Boy Wonder made a couple changes to the CSR to help me before we left. First off he changed the trail on the leading link front suspension from 35 to 22 mm. This lightened the amount of steering input effort required an amazing amount and allowed the CSR to turn in and change lines lightning fast. Secondly he installed the1/4 turn throttle that Fred from Yoyodyne Ti sent us to replace the full-turn stock throttle assembly. This allowed me to finally really discover what the double-digit numbers on the tach actually do.

It paid off. We took Roy, one of our biggest rivals and mentor on the first lap of Saturday’s race. I drove up on the inside of him into turn 4 over the top of the Omega on the power, I blipped the throttle, tapped the brakes, got the rig sideways and shot down out of the Omega like a rocket towards 5/6 just clipping the apex like a crazy woman. I laid down a blistering pace with Boy Wonder working to keep up on the back.

 I quickly caught up to and tagged onto the back of Sean, one of our much faster rivals who used to lap us all last season. All he saw the whole race was the nose of our F1 in his mirror. I was driving hard, the F1 skittering around the track, back end spinning up, we were running a pace that was unknown territory to the both of us trying to get around Sean. I tried to show him a wheel two or three times, but I knew I did not have the stamina to make it stick if I got the pass in. So going around turn 8 Boy Wonder reached up and patted me on the back, letting me know it was ok and to let Sean tow us around the track at this much higher pace to get comfortable with the speed. I gave him the nod, and just got back into the flow for two more laps till we saw the checkers waiving.  9th place secured right on Sean’s tail.

Sean came up to me after the race, gave me a big hug and said, “Bitch, when’d you learn how to TURN!”

Biggest, Compliment, Ever.

Sunday was more of the same…

 I said to Boy Wonder before the race, “Roy’s going to expect me to take him into 4 again because he knows I’m faster through there, I’m going to take him around 2.” Judging by Boy Wonder’s slack jaw and shocked expression, he didn’t know if  I could do it.  The tires would be cold, we’d all be bunched up, the outside line on 2 was pretty hairy and low traction.

But once again, the green flag dropped, and I launched the F1 like we were shot out of a cannon, and as the pack of 12 rigs dove into the high speed turn 1 of Willow Springs we were right on the tail of Roy. Down the short straight between 1 and 2 WFO, he turned in early on the ‘proper’ inside line and I spooled up the CBR1000RR into loud zone. Boy Wonder later said all he could think was, “My f’ing God, she’s going to go for it…” I felt Boy Wonder slide far forward on the back to get some bite on the front wheel under all that power. I walked around the outside of Roy and proceeded to climb the hill towards the 2/3 straight, the F1 bucking and drifting but I kept it right on line with a finesse touch, pouring on the power heading for turn 3.

Once again we tagged on to Sean and chased him down best we could. He had his more experienced passenger Pete Silva with him today and they were running quicker. So we were really working to keep up and I was pushing hard. There were a couple times going into turn one I could feel the rig chattering and drifting and the chair wheel was in the air.  I was screaming in my helmet as despite all that violence I still insisted on pouring on the power now that I had full use of the throttle. I was having fun using all the engine at my disposal.

Passing the white flag I looked back to see ROY COMING FOR US FAST! Someone had lit a fire under Roy’s ass because he’d made up an incredible amount of ground to catch us and Sean. Boy Wonder slapped the body, made eye contact with me in the mirror and pointed forward for GO GO GO GO. I thought he meant pass Sean. So now I really started to pour it on and nose into Sean’s line. I kept looking back to keep an eye on Roy while trying to keep my timing down. As we crested 6 and I got forward to keep the front wheel of the F1 down (they get light) Boy Wonder reached up and grabbed on my back pushing me forward for GO GO GO GO. We all were on the power into 8, I had the line, and Roy was back there but gaining. We turned in to 9 and I poured it .. racing Sean for the line. Sean got it by a bike length and Roy had let it all hang out, opting to turn in early on 9 and run wide on the power resulting in pushing himself into the dirt on the outside of the track. He kept it under control and crossed the checkers behind us.  11th place secured, once again right on Sean’s tail.

This is the note Boy Wonder to Fred with Yoyodyne Ti on Monday morning;

“I can’t say thank you enough for the throttle cables, and the throttle. I’m going to have Sarah send you a thank you note so she can tell you how much -she- likes the 1/4 turn throttle. Once I stop shaking uncontrollably, seeing Jesus and Elvis… maybe I’ll thank you too. Oh, and I’ll send you the dry cleaning bill for my leathers. I didn’t know Sarah could go so fast.”

April 20th ~ WSMC

Windy, very very windy.  Saturday practice we contend with winds gusting to 38mph and averaging 30mph.  Does not sound like much till you’re doing triple digits and you’re trying to keep something shaped like a wing pointed in one particular direction of travel.  Wind grinds away on you.  It’s irritating, it shakes the EZ-Up, it blows away anything that you don’t set a wrench or rock on, sometimes it blows away the wrench.  When we’re not on the track we’re huddled in the Rav4 or in a RV trying to stay out of Rosamond’s natural sandblaster.  First practice is slow and cold, with both Boy Wonder and I learning to contend with the wind variable.  The next two go better as we come to terms with the fact that the CSR is just going to hop around and change direction suddenly for no obvious reason, and nothing is actually broken or in the process of catastrophic failure.  I’m feeling beat up, it takes twice the amount of effort to hold the CSR on line, so much more mental focus to run near my race pace compared to last weekend.  Boy Wonder is complaining that his head is getting thrown around like a grapefruit in a washing machine.  Somehow we pull together something resembling decent practice sessions and flee the track to the sanctuary of the Devonshire Inn.

Sunday is just more of the same.  It’s freezing cold, and the gusts are over 40mph now.  Another neat thing is now the wind has decided it’s going to change direction at random.  Boy Wonder is yelling at the sky at this point and giving the finger to passing clouds.  We nail down our two practice sessions, and curl up in Pete’s RV waiting for WSMC to call Race 11.  Eventually after what seems like a lifetime that happens.

Mr. Bill decides for a nice change of pace they will do the grid by points, and then invert it.  Since our two LCR rock stars Frank/Dennis Oliver/Ian are not attending this race, this puts Boy Wonder and myself 2nd row outside right just behind Doug Dano on the Carbon-Fiber Windle F1.  This means I have the entire grid behind us banging off it’s rev limiters waiting for the green flag to drop.  No Pressure.

The flag drops, and of course I get wolf packed going into turn 1.  Doug is off like a shot, something to do with drag racing jet cars in a previous life.  We just get murdered on the start and I slot in behind Sean.  Ah well, they can’t all be epic starts.  At least from our point of view we get to see some excellent racing as the next three laps the pack stays very closely bunched up and on the same pace before tires start to come up to full operating temperatures.  After that third lap the pack starts to pull apart as the little ‘cliques’ of speed are formed.  We know we can run Sean’s pace, so we stay on Sean who has Leon not at all too far ahead of him.

Four laps in we’re presented with the crossed flags telling us the race is half over.  I think to myself, “Someone’s screwed up, this is a six lap race.”  But two laps later of chasing down Sean there’s no white flag.  I’m starting to fade, and I’m running on my lizard brain at this point keeping on his tail.  A lap later we get the white flag, at a total of seven laps in.  Ok, finally, only one more to go.  So I give it every last little bit I have, Boy Wonder reaches up as we’re going around turn 2 and pats me on the back, giving me the, “Hang in there!”.  I pull some ground on Sean going into and over the Omega, I drive hard out down out of turn 4 and into 5 trying to stay on his tail but it takes every ounce of my strength to keep the CSR turned in on the off camber left.  We hammer around turn 8 and I’m reeling him in, it’s going to be close but I’m too far back.  We dive in for 9 and I go WFO at the apex for a slingshot Hail-Mary exit.  Sean’s on the throttle and I cross the line behind him right on his tail.  Close, but just not enough.   I come across the line 8th behind Sean.

Given the conditions it was a good weekend.  I did set some new personal bests.

– New top speed in turn 8 at Willow Springs of 155mph.
– Stayed on the tail of someone who used to consistently lap me last season.
– Did not get lapped by the leaders / stayed on the lead lap the entire race (on a 8 lap race even).


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