Archive for April, 2009

Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated…

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I’ll write up my normal race report later, (we got a 7th (1st race) and 5th (2nd race) overall) but this is too intense to wait.

It was a close call today… I nearly got my ticket punched. =D

Sunday Round 3 AHRMA Willow Springs Corsa MotoClassica SRA-West Round Three Race II start. Footage from onboard the Formula 1 Sidecar of #101 of Sean Bakken.

Sean gets hit with a tremendous amount of force by Rick Murray on the LCR from behind forcing Sean into Leon Van Orsdale on the FII snagging Sean’s NACA ducting near the nose on the right hand side of his bodywork on Leon’s exhaust. Rick Murray and Brother Bill shoot up the back of both rigs doing a complete barrel roll landing upside down. Sean’s passenger Roger was ejected after being contacted by Rick’s LCR and Brother Bill (who you see tumbling in the video) was shot forward in front of the tumbling LCR. Sean had the choice of hitting Brother Bill or running into Rick’s LCR and chose to sacrafice his bodywork and nudge Rick’s LCR. Luckily Brother Bill was not sucked under either bike but was instead nudged down the track by overturned LCR.

Injuries were minimal with only a couple minor broken bones for Brother Bill and Roger despite the violence of the crash. Leon Van Orsdale #291, Sean Bakken #101, Rick Murray #75 were not able to re-grid for the restart due to damage sustained to their sidecars during the incident.

All I really remember is looking over to my right and seeing a sidecar upside down about five feet off the ground at near triple digit speeds and thinking to myself that something was very wrong with this picture…

Like a skier sensing an avalanche chasing him I nailed the gas and got out of danger chasing me the best I could. But we did take a pretty good beating before it was all done. Apparently Rick’s chair wheel came down on us upside down which explains why my right hip is twinging pretty good. It got the right rear of my bodywork tearing his wheel arch off missing Cindy by about a 13 inches or so, and his chair wheel grooved a huge NASCAR style burnout down the rear of my bodywork.

But the good news is that despite the violence of the wreck(s) the injuries were minor, most the sidecars were able to restart, and I was able to pull a 5th place finish.

Race Report ~ Round 2, Willow Springs ~ Behind the Throttle

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Images taken from Brian at ~ See Brian for all your Socal/Willow Springs/WSMC photo needs.

A few changes in BCR for the remainder for the 2009 season.

First off, Sarah has stepped down as the primary driver for Bad Cat Racing. If everything goes well she will be back in the cockpit and on the throttle for 2010 ready to chase that checkered flag.

This moved me off the platform and into the saddle for the remainder of the season while putting out feelers for potential candidates for permanent replacement passengers for the remainder of the 2009 season.

I make a few changes to the cockpit of the Becker and adjust the brake pedal to adapt things to my arm and leg length, but other than that it’s a perfect fit for me.

So I get a call back. Cindy Creech enthusiastically wants to take a crack at learning how to passenger a F1 sidecar. She has lots of motorcycle experience, track experience, a great deal of dirt experience, and has run the Sheetiron 300 more than once so she has the physical stamina. So I get her the paperwork to fill out, and it’s off to the races we go.

Saturday morning rolls around and our practice session is called. During the week prior I’d been sending Cindy the Superside FIM episodes on Google Video to watch, and she’d stopped by a couple times so I could show her passengering techniques on the Becker in the garage.

We roll out on the track and I start to take it slow, getting used to the hub-center-steering raise-an-eyebrow-change-direction flickability. I’m watching Cindy in the mirror the whole time while getting used to the tiptronic auto-shifter. First practice goes well, we run about 50% pace and don’t even rub the marbles off the tires.

The next couple practices I start to consistently ratchet the pace up, exploring the limits of the Becker and the powerband on the GSXR-1000 engine. How fast it can go down the front straight is amazingly stupid. It’s redefining late braking because it’s capable of pulling 2 G’s of braking force. My taint is touching my eyeballs when I wack the Wilwood with my right foot, grab two down, and flick it over feeding the throttle open into turn 1.

Cindy is hanging in like a trooper, flicking around like it’s no big deal… glued to the back of the sidecar.

Pushing the Becker down the Turn 1 to 2 straight I’ve quit rolling off the throttle and just started to throw it into turn 2 slightly outside left with abandon. I’ve yet to find the limit of traction, but I’m starting to find the limit of my physical mettle. The long sweeping uphill right turn 2 is much easier as a passenger where you can use your legs to brace you and lock your ribcage against the bodywork and let inertia do the work to hold you in place.

Inside the cockpit it’s a far different story. I’m using every bit of abs and quads to push myself to the inside of the corner and forward to put weight on the front tire. I’ve got my hands light, the throttle pinned and my left palm open pushing on the left bar to keep the Becker turned in and on line. I can feel the front end going loose as my speed increases around the corner and it starts to paw at the asphalt for traction pushing to the outside. I keep the throttle pinned, jaw clenched, the entire rig drifting towards the dirt on the outside exit at the top of two… it catches traction with a good six feet of asphalt to spare telling me I could go through there even faster. I catch a gear and I’m slammed back into the cockpit as the foot wide Yokohama slick finds traction and I’m shot out of a cannon down the 2/3 straight towards the braking cones.

I think I just peed a little. But I’m grinning like a lunatic.

We get our pace ratcheted up and start to work together as a team by the final practice. Throughout the day Cindy and I were the last ones out on the track in practice, and put the most time in out on the track in each session. We got our money’s worth.

Sunday, race day.

It’s a little warm, and we roll out for our first session. I get some heat in the tires on the first lap and bring the brakes up to operating temperature. I start in on our first real lap. We’re up above yesterday’s fast practice pace and pushing hard, we slingshot around turn 9 and are heading down the front straight when the red flag comes out. I gently get out of the gas in case anybody is on my butt and roll around turn 1. Rick Murray in the black 75 LCR is sitting backwards on the inside of the turn 2/3 straight in the dirt. He’s out of the sidecar and his passenger is standing up. I turn around to Cindy and point, and whip back around to wave to the turnworker in 2 to let them know I see the incident. We roll around the track and back into the hot pit, sit for a moment, and are flagged back into the paddock.

Rick was running with a Novice passenger ‘Mike’ from the WSMC crowd. As they were exiting turn 2 Mike may have transitioned from right to left a little soon and took the weight off the back end turning the LCR into a pendulum snapping it in a 180 and shooting it off the track backwards. This catapulted Mike off the back since he wasn’t expecting it… in front of the LCR, which promptly ran him over. The nice thing about most sidecars is they have smooth carbon/Kevlar belly pans that cover the entire undercarriage. Rick hopped out of the LCR, ran up to Mike who was laying face down in the gravel, and Mike… still laying face down simply gave Rick a thumbs up.

Driver, passenger, and LCR came back into the pits. Mike needed a new helmet, and his leathers were a little worse for wear.

Cindy and I were able to get in a good final practice session, and I cranked up the pace by following Sean Bakken, a rival that ran a pace that Sarah and I were running when we were dicing with him last season. Sean gave me an excellent tow around the track and picked up my speed in 8 and the entrance to 3.

Now the long wait.

We were booked Race 11 on the roster which meant we were looking at least two hours or so to kill before showtime. The grid sheet came out, and it was an inverted start. Lucky me. I was pole position right, with Leon VanOrsdale to my left, behind me right was Johnny Killmore who was a total psychopath, and left Sean Bakken… my rival for this race. Behind them it broke down into the wolves of Rick Murray, Bill Becker, and Wade Boyd.

Eventually we were called, suited up, I put nerves behind me, and we rolled out for our warm-up lap and gridded just as I stated above.

Being a goofball stunner I’ve always been good at launching a bike. I knew I needed to get off the line good or I was going to have several sidecars up my ass in a hurry. The 2 board came out and I took that GSXR up to 10 grand and held it there. I put my right foot firmly on that brake and fed the clutch out into the friction zone till it caught. The starter flipped the one, it almost immediately went sideways and no time at all he dropped his shoulder and my foot came off the brake and I fed in the rest of that clutch.

It was like someone fired a JATO.

Only Rick Murray beat me down the straight into turn 1 on his LCR. I knew my entrance speed into turn 1 was going to suck so I did the best I could. Wade went around me on the outside about half way though like I was standing still. Turning into 2 Bill got by pulling Johnny, I turned in and got behind John, and suddenly realized John was going way slow for turn 2 and that I had it all over him in speed. I could push him off the track if I wanted.
All I had to do was get over and give it some gas and I could walk him up the hill and take the line away from him into 3 and over 4.

But this is my first race as a driver… John is well faster around 3/4/5/6 than I am, I chose to learn rather than ruin his Christmas and let him tow me around. And I’m glad I did, I picked up a better brake marker for 3 and more speed coming down 5 and over the top of 6.

Checking my mirror I saw the yellow 101 of Sean about three car lengths behind me. I kept it pinned down the straight and threw it into 1 clipping the gators on the inside, throttle pinned, chair in the air, rear end sliding on the exit. I knew I had speed on Sean around 2 so checking that Cindy was in position I kept it at 8k on the tach and rolled into 2 and fed in the throttle feeling the Becker yaw and twist under me as it clawed the asphalt with that wide front tire. At the end of three I looked back and saw Sean RIGHT on my ass knowing that he was much better on the brakes and turn in than I was into 3, so I just pinned it driving up over the top of the Omega, chopping the throttle past the apex, Becker sliding sideways lining up with the downhill drive into 5.

I got Sean on the power down into 5, stole his line and flicked left over 6, glancing back to Cindy to make sure I still had a passenger. I ripped over the rise, front wheel light and bars wiggling in my hands down into 8 faster than I had ever gone before.

I managed to pull a gap on Sean again but he got a good amount of it closed again on the brakes into 3. I drove up the hill to 4 and disaster struck. I missed a shift and hit a false neutral losing all my drive. I just managed to snag the gear again, fan the clutch and literally burn my way around and down 4 to 5 purposely blocking Sean who was trying to go around my inside.

I was rattled and couldn’t hold my speed in 8 for my turn in for 9 throwing my line off. Sean saw this and as soon as I was on the straight I looked over and right next to me is his helmet, a drag race down the front straight to turn 1. We were dead even and once again experience won with me hitting an early brake marker and giving up the line to Sean who rolled into 1 with me dropping behind.

I followed into 2 knowing that I had more speed, and followed him deep into three to see where his brake marker was. My line over 4 was actually better than his inside line and I tried to out drive him down the hill to take away the inside line around 5 but he cut across my nose at the last second. I was pissed.

I was WFO up over the rise at this point, the front end came off the ground and the rear wheel lit up and stayed lit up for a good 40 feet. I kept it WFO and clicked from 5th to 6th following Sean into turn 8. I’d never kept it pinned in top gear accelerating into turn 8. Baby Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Tom Cruise… please let this sidecar stick when I turn in because there is no way in hell I am moving my right wrist from WFO, Sean is not getting away from me.

I turned it in and it stuck like glue, I was hunkered down in the cockpit pushing as hard as I could with my body to the right. My eyes were just peering over the top of the canopy at my line as G force made me grit my teeth and the world was going by at a stupid Stupid STUPID speed.

Jesus waived from the side of the track, he was dressed like Elvis.

I saw my 4th cone, I was on the painted lines on the track, I then spotted my laid down cone at the apex of 9. I rolled off enough to put some weight on the front end, caught one gear down, and against all better judgment and sanity pitched it in and went back WFO towards the apex of 9.

I lightly dusted the blur that was the gators and the Becker shot out of 9 in a full three wheel drift. I was still turning, but there was a very definite lateral drift “LOL ur going to the outside of teh trak!” motion going on with the rear wheel spinning as well. I just kept it pointed the right way, politely suggested steering inputs now and then, we hit our exit marker, and I caught sixth and we rocketed towards Sean like a Tron lightcycle.

I wish I could say I passed him, I closed the gap amazingly but he beat me on the brakes into 1 again. We’ll work on that next week. This went on for two more laps with me scaring the ever loving crap out of myself chasing Sean down till we took the checkers. It was over way too fast, the cool down lap was great… and felt like the speed I started that first practice session at.

When we came back into the pits Cindy was practically nuclear she was so happy. She said, “OK, next week… we PRACTICE at the speed we just ran at!” I had to agree. We’d just ran a pace that was nothing like the pace we ran in practice and it was a blast.

We pulled a sixth for our first race out. Did not come even remotely close to getting lapped. And battled it out with an experienced driver most the session. The hardware is home intact, we’re intact, and the AHRMA Corsa MotoClassica is this weekend which is a back-to-back 2 race event Saturday/Sunday for us and there will be probably 14 sidecars on the track.

We’ll top 5, easy.