Monday, May 21, 2012

Round 1

Round one of the MRA season took place May 12 &13.  As usual, I left work as soon as possible, after loading the bikes and trailer the night before, and hooking up the rig just before 7 am.  It does get me to the track earlier, and allowed me a decent pit spot and a chance to really give the supermono a go.  Typically the warm day led to a very cold night, and I slept in the back of the car, with a touque on.  Saturday dawned clear but cool, and I got ready to work with Francisco with the new trackday riders.  It was a bit of a juggle getting out with the new riders to the MRA, and getting some decent practice in, but it seemed to be going OK.  The weather cooperated, except for the wind which began to pick up, and in an abbreviated racer practice session, I turned a 1:06:948 -- it was the second or third round of 2011 before I was able to manage that, and at no time was I seemingly at the limit.

Race #1:  Canadian Thunder GP (15 laps)
The luck of the draw saw me gridded into the third spot on the front row.  A decent start saw me second behind Doug (on his new Ducati 900) into turn one, although Wilson passed me before the end of the first lap on his TZ250.  However, unlike last year, neither he nor Doug pulled away (much).  I was quite happy with the race, as mid-way through I took a look behind and could see no one.  I did it again the following lap, and with no one in sight, I worked hard to keep Wilson busy.  Not really the case, but I crossed the line in 3rd place, just 3 seconds adrift, and 18 seconds ahead of 4th!  My best time of the race was a 1:06:109, tantilizingly close to the 1:05s I strove for last year.  Again, there is time to be gained, I just need to dig a bit deeper in a few areas.

Race #2:  ULGP #1 (12 laps)
This was the debut of the mitovarna, against a tough pool of RZ350, an Aprilia Rs250, and a SVX450 supermotard.  While the bike ran ok, it didn't stand much of a chance.  A distant third overall, with the bike losing a bit of power towards the end.  It was jetted far too rich, and by all accounts the plug was just loading up.  It also vibrated far worse than the DRZ tigcraft of last year, with both feet and hands going numb.  I decided to sit out the second ULGP race as I wasn't sure about the state of the engine at the time, and I was likely going to tool around on my own in the small grid.

Aside from a few more trackday sessions, my racing was done for the day.  A bit chuffed at the first result, as it was a Westman sweep of the podium, with fellow Brandonite Doug taking the win, and Wilson from Killarney the 2nd spot.

Sunday looked to be a better day weather-wise, but once again the wind picked up as the day wore on.  The first practice session was a disappointment, and the second a bit better... into the high 1:06s again.

Race #3:  Canadian Thunder #2 (10 laps)
A shorter sprint distance, and a good start had me solidly in second for the first lap, again behind Doug.  Mert on his hot-rod SV came by out of nowhere on the front straight and motored off.  I could catch up in the turns, but my bike's power was no match for his.  Wilson came by after a few laps, and I was shuffled to 4th.  Not feeling great about my riding, I peeked back to see Jason on his new SV right behind me.  It was a battle to the end, with me finishing just ahead of Jason in 4th, with Mert in 2nd and Wilson 3rd.  Slowly going slower... the rear tire was eating itself again, just like at MAM, so my best was a 1:06:979.  Things did not look good for me for the final race of the day, with the rear squirming, and me simply losing confidence in the traction of the rear end.  This was a soft Michelin I bought purposely for dealing with the cold tearing, but despite running lower temps, it was still too cool, and was shredding pretty badly.

Race #4:  Canadian Thunder #3 (10 laps)
A repeat of the last race, and my 4th likely only came due to Mert crashing on the warmup lap.  I tried to keep up with the frontrunners, but I finished a lonely 4th, behind Doug, Wilson, and Jason.  Slow lap times -- 1:08:2... over 2 seconds slower than Saturday!  I had to figure out something to preserve my rear tire or I was going to go broke(r) racing!!!  I packed up and heading home, after cosulting some people in the paddock for suggestions.  All indications pointed to some issue with the suspension, so armed with a few videos (lent by Jason), and conflicting rebound vs compression suggestions, I headed home.


The reality is that I am at the point now where my riding style/speed/skill makes suspension adjustments more critical.  In the past, on lightweight machines, my smooth (slow) riding style allowed for tire preservation... now I am wrecking a tire a weekend.  Normal on a 1000, but not on a stock-engined 650.  It was time to get serious about my suspension.  I spent the following long weekend finding my old suspension books, printing off manuals and log sheets, and checking out Jason's DVDs.  All very helpful, and I took the time to reset the sag and log everything.  Then based on what I saw and read, made some changes, primarly to the rear, but the front receieved some attention as well.  At least I've started the process of elimination to solve the problem... after I had installed the 3rd rear tire of the season... I've got none left!  Basically the rebound on the rear was over-damped, and so I backed that off to speed it up, hopefully keeping the tire on the ground and generating some more heat.  The Michelin guy I buy from is out of 180 softs for the rear, so it will be back to the mediums for now on... until they run out!

Also, the front end is bottoming out constantly.  Not sure if it is under braking, but regardless, I am blowing through all the travel.  I've upped the oil level (which is supposed to help the final 20mm or so of travel) and increased the preload -- we'll see how it goes next round.

I also finally got the front brakes working the way I want.  I got a set of r6 radial calipers, a set of carbon lorraine race pads, and a 17mm nissin master cylinder.  The calipers needed to be machined down 5mm at the mounting posts, but otherwise fit perfectly.  The brakes finally work, with the right feel and balance I prefer.

With the increased cost of tires and the shrinking grid, I think I am going to step away from the supermono for now.  I know some readers may be disappointed, but I want to focus on the ex650 for awhile, to see if I can get the lap times down further and end up closer to the pointy end of the field.

I'm currently 3rd overall in the championship, just ahead of Jason.  Roll on Round 2!