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AFM Round 4, Thunderhill Raceway Park, June 16th and 17th
The second consecutive race event at Thunderhill is generally a faster one as riders are leveraging their experiences and gains from round 3 here just a few weeks ago. That requires everyone to up their game in order to stay in the points lead of various championships and ensure they get onto the podium. It also requires that you shelve arrogance, false confidence and taking things for granted as that will inevitably put you on the ground. So…… a fine balancing act between past experiences and improvements alongside pushing harder to improve lap times and class points.
As we venture into summer here in Northern California the temperatures also climb quickly which makes hot pressures and tire management quite difficult. Diligence about your environment especially before a race therefore becomes paramount. The other serious consideration is making sure that you are fully hydrated at all times and use supplements/eat appropriately to sustain your body throughout the weekend. I started drinking 1.5 gallons of water per day on the Wednesday before, visiting the bathroom around every 30 minutes by necessity.
Friday was 1-1 coaching with Haim so I increased my intake by 30% as I would be sweating profusely on and off the track, and calories jumped up quite a bit too. No need to fall behind on a coaching day with racing ahead. BTW: Haim won his first race this weekend after applying the 1-1 lessons learned!
Saturday qualifying: Formula 4
As usual, the 8 year old soccer game was gathered at the holding point while I sat back and smiled. Several other 450 riders knew what I was going to do, so they hung out too. I waited for the group to get to turn 6 and then headed out. The warm up lap was steady in order to focus in on the reference points and then I turned the screws on a little harder for lap 2. In doing so, I caught and passed Ian Smith at a point in the track where he could easily have latched on to me, so I put the hammer down on lap three and blitzed my way around the track. As I ended the third lap I looked behind and saw no one anywhere in sight and once I got back to the pits, Steve Driscoll informed me that I took pole position by 3 seconds with a 1:59.5 verses Ian’s 2:02.5. I was quite stunned by the gap but then realized that given the heat, as long as you are on the front row, who cares what lap time you get in qualifying?
Formula 40 lightweight:
At the end of the practice day and post qualifying, it isn’t difficult to get yourself going for the first race of the weekend. The goal was to string laps together at a relaxed pace and do enough to win verses go flat out and win by 10-15 seconds. Ian Smith was determined to stay close so when Mike Canfield showed me Ian was very close, the pace was increased and I made a push for faster lap times for the last 3 laps. Each time I came back onto the straight, Mike gave the same signal of Ian being right there until the last lap when I was clear by 3 seconds to take the win.
It is always good to head into Sunday with a pole position and win under your belt to make sure that the tone is set!
Sunday Race 6: 450 Superbike:
Paul Johnson and Ian Smith both set their sights on beating me in this race. Paul was fresh and eager to race and Ian was very motivated as well. Knowing that, I needed to get the hole shot and put in a really fast first lap to get them strung out slightly or see where they were at the end of the first lap.
Mike Canfield showed me that they were both right there and my airbox confirmed that with a howl at start finish as they closed right up to me in the draft. There was no difference in the second lap and on lap three into turn two I got a false neutral. I managed to keep the bike on track but lost the lead to Paul who was riding extremely well. I closed the gap up on him and planned a pass in turn 14 but overcooked the block pass slightly so Paul cut underneath me and resumed the lead. We stayed shoulder to shoulder for the last two laps, so I planned to pass him on turn nine and accomplished it. As I tipped in, Ben Hodges came underneath me with his 2003 GSXR 1000 (Super Dinosaur class) and pushed me out so yet again, Paul cut underneath me and resumed the lead. The next opportunity on the final lap was turn 14 so I planned this much more carefully but again, slightly misjudged the brakes off point and Paul cut behind me. His bike was powerful enough that I could not draft him to the line so Paul took the win by .095 of a second and congrats to him for a great race!!!
Race 9: Formula 4:
I was not going to be beaten in this race by Ian so the only way for that to happen was to not make any mistakes and ride as clinically as possible. I knew that we would be nose to tail for the first 2-3 laps until we found ourselves carving through the wave of Ninja 300’s, so if I could make it through to that part of the race while in the lead, I knew I had a really good chance of winning. Mike showed me a developing gap from lap four (lap 3 was two tenths off my lap record 1:58.1), so I kept my head down and focused on no mistakes to eventually win by 4 seconds.
Race 11: 450 Production:
The clouds had rolled in (this was a long unending bank as far as the eye could see) and ambient and ground temperatures dropped very quickly. The cooling was accelerated by a brisk breeze, so I lowered my hot temps by 1psi to compensate for the cooling track and wind.
Paul was back out on his 450 in this race, and there was no way I was going to make any mistakes to hand the win over to anyone. Yet again, it was essential to get away and settle in quickly. After that, it was all about holding pace and consistency and leading really helps me with that disposition.
As we finished lap three, we came up to a 300 rider at start finish that I slid by. There were another couple of 300’s ahead but nothing that would prevent Paul and Ian from staying right behind me. The next time around, Mike showed me a huge gap and I saw oil and debris flags at start finish and I had to take a wide line around two bikes approaching that corner. It was time to hold me breath, get loose on the bars and hope I made it through the oil. I managed to get through with no slide at all so I noted that for the next lap. Exiting turn 2 I took a look behind me and saw no one, and then checked again on the approach to turn 5 getting the same visual result. Knowing that Ian or Paul had fallen and with a good gap behind me, it was a case of riding fast and clinically to the checkered for the win and then finding out what happened later.
It was explained to me that Paul saw the 300 rider I passed a little too late and tucked the front in applying the front brake excessively in the moment and that put him down in turn one. Thankfully Paul was okay!
At the mid point of the season (4 events completed and 3 events left), here’s what we have for points standings in each of the Championships I compete in:
- Dave Moss 170 (49 point lead)
- Ian Smith 121
- Paul Johnson 114
- Dave Moss 173 (34 point lead)
- Ian Smith 139
- Charles Almy 74
Formula 40 Lightweight:
- Dave Moss 169 (28 point lead)
- Ian Smith 141
- Charles Almy 107
- Dave Moss 157 (25 point lead)
- Ian Smith 132
- Sam Romick 111
With a possible 45-50 points for a win with three events left, I need wins in all classes for the next 2 events to ensure I have each Championship locked up mathematically for 2018. You can be assured that I will leave nothing on the table in pursuit of those wins!
As a side note for 2018, AFM is allowing each racer to drop their worst event results, so you effectively score 6 out of 7 season events for your class championship points. That means that the pressure is on to do as well as you can every weekend and coming second at any time can create a real headache. In the overall scheme of things, Round 5 at Thunderhill is the first weekend of July, and I need 4 wins to put me in a very strong position with 2 races left for the 2018 season. Thunderhill in July can be well over 100F, so as for round 4, I will be hydrating from Tuesday onwards to the event!
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