The last round of the year can have a lot of mixed emotions:- introspection, elation, anxiety, pride, confidence to list a few.
For those in the hunt for a Championship you face the universal dilemma of win it or bin it OR, get as many points as you can while keeping 5% in reserve. If you race in a race, it is very hard to do the latter………. The other note worthy piece of information is that you keep the best 6 scores from seven races. With a DNF in 450 Superbike and 450 Superstock, racing with a reserve was not an option.
I needed time to get the set up right on the bike for Thunderhill, especially in regards to tire pressure given the cooler temps this time of year. With track temps in the 80/90F range verses 120/130F, attention to detail was required so for the first time this year I booked in a full day of practice on Saturday. I worked diligently on lap pace and pressures finding exactly what I needed given track temps of 90-100F with perfect tire wear while juggling set up help for all the racers that kept pulling into the DMT canopy for help!
Saturday Formula 4 qualifying:
I had the lead in this class so all I wanted to do was get on the front row. I ran my usual warm up lap, faster lap and full on lap BUT this time I was held up on the full on lap. I knew I had a good lap but also knew it would not be good enough for pole. My suspicions were proved correct and Ian Smith took the pole position and I took second by.032 Kudos to Ian for his first Formula 4 pole position of the year!
Saturday Formula 40 Lightweight:
I was absolutely ready for this race and thankfully got my best start of the year to take the hole shot. I was unchallenged through to Turn 5 so I knew that I could start getting a gap if I could stay on point to create a gap. As I came around at the end of the first lap, Mike Canfield gave me 1.0 second on the board to show me the lead I had. Lap 2 was 2 seconds even though we had a vintage Ducati single turning 3 minute laps that popped up like a Volkswagon bus in Turn 6.
By lap 3, the gap was 3 seconds. By then we all had to deal with traffic and find our way around the 300cc bikes. As everyone knows, traffic can be kind or just simply rude to you. I was very fortunate with traffic until the last lap when I came upon that Volkswagon Ducati again and of course, he was in the yellow flag zone so no passing. I was probably 60mph faster and had to hammer the brakes as he slowed down for the corner with the bike down on the edge of the track at the apex. My braking skills came to the fore as did my unicycle balancing skills. I didn’t know I had stunting skills……..
You have to fight off a sense of dread when these situations happen. You follow the rules, stay behind the slower bike and wait to pass the incident (bike on the ground). Then and only then can you pass. I did the mental math and knew that someone would be right there behind me so everything had to be perfect through turns 11-15. Hitting all the marks I came on to the front straight and pancaked myself on the tank.
Mike Canfield was clapping as I went down the front straight and that normally means I will win the race. The throttle remained pinned until I got by the electronic start finish line (not the flag) and took the win by 5 seconds. That was exactly the way I wanted to start the weekend!
So, for the season in this class – 7 races and 7 wins! Safe enough to say that this Championship was locked down 🙂
Sunday: 450 Superbike:
This was a race that I needed a good result in, so I made sure everything was ready. Or, I thought I did. Being busy in helping racers with set up and post race tire wear, I made the mistake of checking my rear hot pressure twice. I didn’t know that of course until I went out on track and 2 laps had been completed.
As this race was going to be the lunch time podium, everyone was going to do their best in making sure they got the result to feature in the interviews and sure enough, the top 4 were covered by 1 second over the first two laps. Brandon Souza once again had a perfect start and took the lead with inspired riding. His lead lasted until lap three when we encountered lap traffic in the off camber turn 3. Ian Smith went from 4th to 1st in one pass and took off. As I hot the throttle hard in turn 6 to chase Ian, the rear tire put on a smoke show for the riders behind and that of course inspired them as they knew I had no drive compared to them.Paul Johnson came by into turn 14 so slowly but surely, I fell back from second to fourth by the end of the race.
As we have the best 6 of 7 scores count for the Championship and with one DNF in this class from a crash at Sonoma, a 4th place may have cost me a Championship. We will see when the official results are posted! No matter what, I did my best and congrats to Ian for his win, and to Paul and Brandon for completing the podium in that order.
Sunday Formula 4:
Rear tire hot pressure was correct – any surprise there? Didn’t think so 🙂
Sitting in second place after qualifying was a really nice feeling so now I needed a good start to claim the hole shot and get my head down. No hole shot for me but I took the lead in turn 9 and then got to work. As I came around the front straight, Mike Canfield showed me 0.0 on the pit board. Focus…. Lap two 0.0 on the board again. Lap 3 – same. Okay, this was going to be a fight to the line. Sure enough, the draft pass came at the end of lap four and Ian passed me into turn 1. His line was off so I re-passed him on the exit, then he passed me in turn three. Game on…….. We were less than one bike length apart for the last 2 laps in every braking zone of the race but on every straight he would gain 2-4 bike lengths via his ZX6R engine. Coming into the last corner for the last time I weighed the odds of out braking Ian and possibly taking us both out as there was a huge gap to make up from the back straight or roll the dice on him over braking and getting an inside pass on him.
You don’t win Championships by crashing, so I went for the latter and came out of turn 15 level with his rear axle. I stayed in the draft and Ian walked away from me as expected BUT a huge congratulation to him for his win and making a great fight out of our race.
At the start of the race, I had an 8 point lead in the Championship and the difference between 1st and 2nd is 7 points. Once again, I will need to wait for the official results to see where I finish in this class.
Sunday 450 Superstock:
New tires front and rear and correct hot pressures as this was the race that I wanted to win for nothing other than pride and the great feeling of winning your last race of the 2018 season.
First race start? Did not happen due to a crash on the warm up lap??!!??
Second race start – another red flag prior to the end of the first lap so back to the pits again.
On the warm up lap I could see the fatigue with everyone in their body language. Even though this was going to be a 5 lap race, I knew I had a great chance of winning this one. Did I get a good start? No……. Ian and Brandon took off so I had to play catch up. By the end of lap two they were just a couple of bike lengths ahead of me and they were swapping elbows and paint so coming into the last corner on the second lap I could sense they were going to out brake each other and not be able to turn in.
That was my Marquez/Dovi moment. I swept inside them both to take the lead and said to myself, 100% output!
With the 300cc bikes being another wave in this race, traffic was certainly going to be a factor and to some of those riders my apologies for giving you a “moment” when I came by on corner entry. On lap 4, Mike Canfield showed me 1.0 so I knew that I had a chance as Ian’s faster bike could not make up that gap and of course – there had to be a challenge right?
On the last lap, a 300 was ahead of me as we approached turn 14. The closing delta was about 40mph and it visually was questionable as I started braking for the corner. As long as the rider tipped in a little deeper due to mid pack 300 pace, I should be fine. They turned earlier than expected but I was already committed so in I went. There was 3 feet of available race track and inspired by Jonny Rea’s passing technique, I went in probably 15mph faster close to the apex but with a buffer of a couple of feet. I know I won’t be getting a Christmas card from that rider………
Head down, pancaked again on the front straight and more applause from Mike Canfield as I took the win. That should give me the 450 Superstock title with 6 wins in 6 races!
Thanks to Grace and crew for the fantastic Halloween genre trophies too! Note that second place disc was a very sad and sulking face, appropriate for the first loser lol……
Season results summary:
A total of 28 races in all 4 classes resulting in 23 podiums and 18 wins.
A couple of weeks ahead waiting for the official class results and for me, a hope that I won a top ten plate this year as I was #6 going in to this weekend.