TigerBike Racing Race Report - AFM Round 2 - April 26/27 - Infineon Raceway
Well, this one is going to be a bit shorter...
I rolled in to the weekend with the goal of getting down 1:46.5 (about a second faster than I'd gone last year). The thinking was that would put me within spitting distance of the time I'd need to qualify for the AMA round at Sears in a few weeks. I felt like the combination of running rocket fuel plus getting towed along by faster guys would be enough to find an extra half-second there.
Coming into the weekend, I had been having intermittent clutch issues with my stock Ducati clutch. I'd click a downshift and the clutch would not re-engage in the lower gear until I'd get on the throttle again. Just a weird thing and it was really messing with my head. We tried a few things at the trackday on Tuesday and thought we had it figured out.
First session out, I got down to a reasonably good pace (1:51) with a pretty cold track at 9am. I was sliding in a few turns and just wasn't willing to push it. Next session out, I turn in a new personal best at the track (1:47.5). The next session out, I take another tenth out. However, now I've got suspension issues -- rear tire wear is bad and front end is very close to bottoming out. I make some adjustments and go back out in the first session after lunch and drop over a second: 1:46.4, as part of a string of 3 laps under 1:47. I was REALLY happy!! After that session, I spent the rest of the day working on a few turns and chasing tire wear issues. Also, the clutch starting acting up again, so I disassembled, cleaned, greased, and reassembled.
Saturday rolls around, and with my burned-up tire, I couldn't put together anything better than a 1:48. *sigh* I felt optimistic that Dave Moss had solved the tire wear issues on Saturday -- it was unfortunate he wasn't allowed to be at the track on Friday to help or maybe I wouldn't have chewed my tire up so bad. Anyway, I felt confidence I'd get the most out of my tire on Sunday and the bike was handling pretty good. I was also glad that my re-do on the clutch was enough to get it through a full day. We overhauled the clutch again on Saturday night and put in a different (used) pack since the new pack I had tried since Friday was too difficult to launch. I was due for starting farther in the front in my classes and was concerned about stalling out, so I went with the clutch pack I could trust.
Sunday morning practice: I turn in a 1:47.4, so I felt ready to roll. Good news: the clutch is working perfectly.
750 superbike rolls around. I grid up in 17th, and actually get a decent start. I didn't get passed by anyone from the row behind me, and ended up tucking in just behind everyone from my row in 18th. After a couple laps, I manage to work my way up to 15th, and felt I still had the ability to get close and put a move on the next rider in front of me.
Coming around, I think on lap 5, I come over turn 8A, the fast right-hander leading down to the slow chicane at turn 9. I got some headshake coming over 8a, and as I straighten the bike out and point it down the hill, I see something shoot out in front of my bike -- I couldn't see exactly where it came from, but it looked fairly big. I assumed it was my brake lever. I confirmed my suspicion when I attempted to start braking and felt nothing. 0 front brakes.
Now I'm doing over a 100mph, pointed downhill at a wall of tires. I didn't have a lot of time to think here -- and I'm sure other riders would have tried other things. Knowing that my rear brake was fairly weak, and seeing another rider just in front of me, I decided to point the bike to the right of the tire walls and just bail. :wtf Yep. I can't remember exactly how I did it, but I just thought "I need to be off this bike" and kinda rolled off the right side -- I'm pretty sure the bike tipped over with me at that point.
Next thing I know, I take a couple tumbles and then am on my back sliding -- thinking to myself "I hope I slow down before the tires, I hope I slow down before the tires".
In retrospect, I might have been able to click a couple downshifts and slow it down enough with the engine and rear brake to navigate the turn through the dirt around T9 on the right, or to go through the gap in the tire wall.
Anyway... the end result was:
-I got a little banged up
-my bike got thrashed pretty hard
-no one else was harmed
Not an ideal result, as it would have been better if me and my bike are good, too. I'm just glad my decision, right or wrong, didn't get anyone else hurt.
It turns out the piece that I saw flying in front of my bike was not my brake lever or the plunger from my master cylinder. It was the cross-over brake line from my right calipers to my left. It had gotten caught up between the fender and the wheel. A simple zip-tie could have prevented everything. In the future, I'll be running a t-line setup to avoid this problem. Anyway -- I'm giving full disclosure here so it might prevent the issue from happening to someone else: the brake line got caught under the front fender. If you don't have a t-line setup, please zip-tie/etc so this doesn't also happen to you.
As a parting message, I'd like to thank my crew with TigerBike racing: Dan, Dan, and Adrian. Also, all the DML folks who showed up to lend support today. I hope I at least gave you guys a good show. I'd also like to thank Helimot for supplying me with gear that got me through my gnarliest crash yet without a mark on my body -- to literally walk away from my highest speed crash with a twisted knee and a sore bone in my foot is pretty incredible.
Anyway... after the crash, I was bummed out pretty hard. Reasons:
-it was *so* avoidable by being more thorough in my tech inspection of my own bike
-I've never been scared so shitless in my entire life
I'm sure I'll be back out, and I hope I'll be welcomed back. It's hard for me to get past today's incident too quickly. At this point, I'll probably sit out the AMA National in a few weeks... but we'll see what the doctors say and what my credit card companies say.
Tigre / Steve