I'm going to race .. No, I'm not going to race. Wait, I'll be ready to go… eh, on the other hand, I'm really not ready yet. These were the thoughts occurring in a cyclical pattern over the course of a month leading up to the first WERA round at Grattan Raceway.
Dr. James Chao, who performed the second wrist surgery, said 6-12 months would be the necessary recover time. As soon as he said it, my first instinct was to beat that timeline. At best, by a couple months – at worst, to at least be at the front end of his estimate. As the days and weeks of recovery tinkered on, it would be a mixed bag of results. One day the wrist would feel good, the next day – not at all enough to ride or support any type of weight of a bike, let alone do typical day-to-day things. I was doing PT three times a week, along with gym workouts every day and other cardio classes mixed in between – sometimes working out three times a day – sometimes overdoing it and having to take a day off. As the weeks continued to click by and I was slowly improving, I still didn't know if it would be enough to race a motorcycle. With about a week left before the event, I felt I turned a small corner and thought I'd be able to give it a shot. Surgery had been on February 12th. Friday practice was May 3rd. It was certainly pushing Dr. Chao's timeline.
We arrived to the track early Friday morning, setup shop and were as ready as we were going to be. My dad and Aaron were there, among everyone else and it was great to catch up with the friends we hadn't seen since last season. Doug and Marion would be arriving Sunday, which would complete our core team. The bike hadn't changed much since last season. The R6 was essentially in the same state she was after the GNF last year. Sure, we went through and tore her down, went through everything and did our normal routine of detailed maintenance, but parts and everything else were all pretty much the same, minus trying a different type of air filter and having a really nice paint job by Andrew Swenson done, which turned out much nicer than what a race bike should have.
This season was a first in one way, in that we hadn't ridden at all prior to this weekend. We typically go down south to Barber or Jennings, or find our way to a local track beforehand, but for obvious reasons, we didn't do any of that. My dad and I felt weird and uncomfortable as everyone else had seemingly been on-track already, but the benefit may have been that the last time we rode we were racing, as opposed to trying to get early-season track time in 40 degree temperatures somewhere.
As Friday practice got underway, I skipped the first session to make sure there wasn't any weird track conditions (call it a new habit, considering how I broke my wrist in the first place) and went out in the second session. As I put my leathers on, it seemed like a slow and deliberate process. I could tell my dad would have rather I waited to ride, but my determination (aka, stubbornness) at times runs in the family and was the primary factor in getting back out there. As I put my leg over the bike and headed to pit-out, I was the last bike out in the group, not wanting to get in anyone's way. With 800mg of motrin as my co-pilot, off I went. The first couple laps felt good – nothing crazy good or bad, but I did about 5-6 laps and came in. It was tight and sore, but no major lingering pain or anything serious it seemed, so I continued to cautiously ride the rest of the day, feeling better and more comfortable as the day went on.
Friday night we hit the Grattan Bar with Nick (aka Phil) for dinner and I was in a bit of pain, using the cold water glass as a make-shift ice pack. I ate quickly and was ready to get back to the hotel. More motrin and ice for dessert and off to bed. Devin and Aubrey were coming up with Sportbike Track Gear, doing Pirelli tire service for the weekend with Pirelli's latest V2 race tires. I was hearing great things on these new tires from fast guys I had raced against before, who were living out west and racing early this season, but hadn't had a chance to try them yet. The V2 tires are the same spec of tires being used over in World Supersport currently and one thing with Pirelli is that the gap from what they test/develop to what they race is pretty small, so we would be using the same tires the guys over in WSS are currently using.
As Saturday morning rolled around, we arrived to the track bright and early. Once through WERA's registration and tech, practice began. I sat out the first practice and went out in the second session. Times slowly started coming down and I felt comfortable heading into the race, which would be the Middleweight Solo 20. I didn't plan pushing my wrist through all 20 laps, given there are no points up for grabs, but I wanted to get a race-start in and a little bit of race pace, given this was my first event of the season. I was worried about overdoing it early on, so minimizing the lap count, even at the expense of track time was worth doing.
We started the Solo 20 from the 3rd row. Off the line, I had a good launch and was somewhere in the top 5 heading into 10B (technically T1, but running CCW the numbers of the turns don't change). I felt good the first couple laps and was able to move into second place behind Eric Swahn, a first-year expert who's become really quick. Eric started racing last year and won most of his races as an amateur. We took the Jason DiSalvo Speed Academy together down at Barber last year and he's definitely applying those techniques and continually improving his riding – meanwhile, I'm still working to apply those techniques while fighting some old habits at the same time. :)
Things felt good and I was able to catch up to Eric and pass him a lap or so later for the lead. I led the next few laps and built a bit of a gap back to him. I wasn't sure at this point how many laps we had done, but after doing just short of 10, I decided to pull off early and make sure I didn't overdo things for Sunday's races. I should've told more people than just my dad I was planning on pulling off, as people were checking to make sure I didn't re-injure something. Everything was good – the bike felt good and the pain was manageable. Lap times were surprisingly good too, as a 1:23.0 was the best lap, only seven tenths off our best lap time. We had our Grattan setup dialed in and the gearing felt perfect. I was pleasantly surprised.
My dad entered the Lightweight Solo 20 with his SV and did great. In his first race of the season as well, he went and won the race comfortably, against a fleet of freshly-tuned SV650's (mainly the 419 Racing clan). He looked great and controlled the race from the beginning. He was so smooth out there – especially into the sometimes-bumpy 10B. It was impressive to watch and awesome to see him doing so well, after fighting through bike issues most of last season. He previously had a motor that hadn't been worked on since 2008, so when Jamie (Hanshaw) finally looked it over and went through it this past winter, he found a list of things that needed attention – enough that Jamie was surprised the engine was still running. I think dad was really outriding the machine last year, as it visibly didn't have the stink it once had for power. It was funny because before the race, dad was worried he'd need to be carried off the bike after 20 laps, but at the end of the race, he felt fine and looked relaxed.
After hanging out with some friends and bench racing for awhile, we headed to the Grattan Bar again, this time with Stymie, Jillian, Plarp (aka Tom) and a couple other friends we had just met. Brian (Van), Aubrey and Devin sat across from us, which made for a good time.
Sunday morning arrived, bringing Doug and Marion along, which was great. Gina and Connor arrived just before lunch, as did my brother Matt and his girlfriend Becky. We had a full crew and perfect weather – sunny and 70. I sat out the first morning practice again and went out in the second session. I was loosening up mainly in my first session, but Stymie was already telling me he was in the 1:23's. While we're not racing against each other this year (he moved out of the B class and into the A class this season), apparently we're still competing for which one of us can turn a faster lap during the weekend. :)
By the end of practice, we had gotten back to a low 1:23 – I'm not sure who was winning the contest between Stymie and myself, but it was close. :) I was hoping to get into the 22's, but the temperatures were cooler and maybe the bike and I just weren't in sync yet. We tried a couple small setup changes, one of which was worse so that likely played into things as well. The tires looked great though and grip was near-perfect, as the latest V2 180/60 SC1 looked like new. For us, six practice sessions and a race at a good pace will usually show some wear on the tire. And even if it doesn't, I can usually feel the tire going off slightly. As we typically plan to put new tires on before the sprint races, I said, "let's just keep the rear on – it's perfect." What? No new rear before Sunday's races? This was borderline crazy and certainly a first.
Fueled up and ready to go, our first race was 600 Superstock. I was gridded on the front row and had a good launch into 10B. I led the first half-lap, but apparently wasn't yet up to speed. This was demonstrated as Eric passed me into T4 on the first lap. Eric had one race under his belt already and was up to speed and ready to go. As Eric went by, I snapped into gear and started moving.
I chased Eric for the next few laps. I hadn't actually raced with him before up until yesterday, so I kind of sat back and followed him to see how he was riding. There's some newer riders who are fast, but erratic, miss apexes, run all over the place, or will run into you before making a clean pass. Eric wasn't riding like that. He was hitting his marks, running great lines and just looked smooth. While I didn't see the laptimer, it would show that we were into the 1:22's. At about the halfway flag, it felt like we had slowed down, but the pace remained the same – it just felt easier to do. My plan was to wait until the last lap to make a move.
With a couple laps to go though, I almost made a try for a pass going into T2, but didn't want to force the issue. Eric may have seen me there, but it didn't affect him if so. My next best spot was through T1 coming onto the straight. I was working on my drive out of T1, and could sneak up into his draft as we led onto the straight. His bike was quick though, so it wasn't like I could just take it easy – I had to maximize the drive coming out of T1. As we came onto the straight, approaching the white flag, I had a line picked out where I felt I good about making the pass before start/finish on the last lap. We raced down the straight, past the white flag and into 10B for the final time.
As we went through 10B and 10A, Eric was fast through all of it. I thought if he made a mistake early-on, I'd pass and not wait until the end of the lap in case something went wrong, but he rode great – through the sweeper and into the esses as well. I was on his back wheel through those as we then raced over the jump and into T4. He was good through T4 and pulled about a bike length. I tried to gain that back through T3 and was right there heading into T2. I tried to square the corner off, as this turn had everything to do with getting a drive into T1. Hard on the gas, I setup just outside his rear wheel through T1, planning to get a good drive onto the straight. Problem was, he got a good drive too!
By the time we stood our bikes up, I couldn't grab the next gear fast enough. I had about 1.5-2 bike lengths to make up and we were ripping down the straight at this point. I kept the throttle pinned and tucked my arms in as tight as I could. As I clicked through the gears, I could feel the suction of the draft as the distance between us closed. I've been at both ends of this situation before – drafting someone down the long Grattan straight for position, and getting drafted and beaten to the line as well. It's hard to play it perfect, but the extra distance past the scoring tower to where the start/finish line is makes for exciting racing on the last lap.
The R6 continued to pull and suck up to Eric's tail section. I angled over to the right slightly, enough to sneak by and edge Eric as we crossed the checkered flag. We won, but it turned out to be pretty close – a scant .048 seconds .. phew. We congratulated each other after the race, on what people watching later said was a great race. I know Eric wanted to win, but he sure did look good for being a first-year expert. Our best lap was a 1:22.1, which was a new personal best. And for a change, it didn't feel like I was pushing super-hard to do it. Maybe some of the JDSA techniques I had learned were working.
Our second race was 750 Superstock. Eric nagged the holeshot and led into 10B, again running well. I was able to pass him on lap two or so, where I then wanted to put down some hard laps and see what kind of times could be done. I didn't look back and didn't know how close Eric was, but after a few laps I could see him going through 10B/10A as I was exiting the bus stop, so I had a bit of a cushion. I didn't want to relax too much, but I worked to put in consistent laps for the remainder of the race and was able to take the win. So far it was definitely a pleasant surprise on how the weekend was going.
The way the schedule was, we had back to back races so I hurried back to the pits on the cool down lap, where Doug and Aaron put the bike up on stands outside our garage on hot pit lane. Jim (Sublet, Race Director) gave us a few minutes to cool off, so they put warmers on and checked fuel. I looked at my lap timer and it showed a 1:20.96 – whoa. I figured that couldn't be right. The fastest time around Grattan in this counter-clockwise direction was a 1:20.6 and only a few people ever have gotten into the 1:21's on a 600. I assumed the timer had a glitch and would confirm later with WERA's timing system.
Back on pit lane I was telling dad, Doug and Aaron that I felt the rear of the bike pogo'ing through the sweeper when leaned over, as well as in a couple other places. The guys made a small change to the bike to try and fix it. We'd see if it worked. Final call was made for 600 Superbike and the 5-minute board went up at the scoring tower. Helmet and gloves on and out I went. On the warmup lap, I could feel the change they made. It was a little weird at first, but it was doing what it needed to do – hold the tire into the ground and let it bite. The downside was that it felt like it rode lower through the corner. Ah well, I'd have to deal with it.
Up on the starting line, I had a really good launch this time, leading into 10B and down into the bus stop. I again wanted to put in consistent laps and see what happened. I was wondering where Rick (Lind) had gone, as he always runs fast laps around Grattan, but it turned out he had motor issues in the first race, so it ended up being Eric and I again racing each other. I was able to squeeze out a decent gap and manage it for the rest of the race, up to the checkered flag. On the timer, the fast lap looked to be a 1:21.5, which was definitely faster than I've ever gone this direction. There was a new announcer who was great at calling the action (Charles) and some people were saying that during the race, he was calling out that we were getting close to the lap record apparently, which was really cool. As it turned out, the lap time on the timer from the second race was nearly spot on, although instead of a 1:20.96, official WERA timing showed a 1:21.005. Pretty close and clearly our fastest lap here.
Our last race of the day was 750 Superbike. I had a okay start and was second, behind Rob Cummins on a GSXR 750 into 10B. I followed him for the first lap but couldn't get by cleanly. I looked to the inside in T4 and that didn't work, and to make matters trickier, Eric passed me on the outside of T4, moving me back to third place, and he took the lead later in that lap from Rob. On the following lap, I was able to get alongside Rob over the jump and pass him into T4. Eric had about a 10-bike gap at that point and I was able to close up to him within a lap or two. I felt I was really getting a good drive out of T1 by this point and was able to pass him on the straight, sooner than I had in the first race. I gave him a thumbs up as we were side by side, because man – he was railing! I was able to put together a couple mid 1:21-second laps and etched out a bit of a lead, keeping the gap consistent for the remainder of the race, to the checkered flag. I rolled through each turn on the cool down lap, still not believing how well things had gone. Winning all of our races was of course the goal, but not something I necessarily envisioning happening right away.
My dad and Aaron each had two races themselves during the day. Aaron put in solid finishes in his two starts, not having ridden on Saturday and switching over to Pirelli's for the first time after being on another brand for a number of years. He was comfortable right away and in practice, was carrying monster speed out of the corners. With time, I know he'll get more used to the tires and how well they work compared to what he had been on. What was funny was that Aaron actually went faster in practice than he did in the races, so I think there's a lot of potential there for him to drop time.
My dad continued his Saturday progress and won both Lightweight Superbike and Formula 2 races on Sunday. He had to make some passes early on, but ended up leading most of his laps and able to further drop time, down to a 1:27.7, which is his personal best counter-clockwise lap ever. I looked back through the official lap times over the years and couldn't find a faster SV/lightweight time than what he did.
Overall it was a great weekend. Great weather, great times with friends and really solid results to start off the season. I sound like a broken record, but I can't believe the tires were still working as well on Sunday as they did on Saturday. As you can see from the photo above – that rear tire has all day Saturday and Sunday on it. Usually most tires start fading early on at full race pace, but the Pirelli's didn't feel any different and I didn't have to change my riding at all to accommodate a tire losing grip. It also helped that with my dad and Doug's suspension knowledge, we were really able to dial the bike in to both the challenging Grattan layout and the new tires (it was cool seeing how many customer bikes over the course of the weekend had Witchkraft Motorsports stickers on their forks or shock too). Grattan is a track I've struggled at for awhile and this was the easiest I remember it being to ride there. With that and how the wrist managed, I couldn't be happier.
Thanks again to my dad, Aaron and Doug for their help throughout the weekend. Also thanks to Devin and Aubrey with Pirelli and Kevin Graham as well from Orion Motorsports. It's rare race weekends go this smoothly, so we need to prepare and make sure we don't miss anything for our next event coming up. We've got some time as the next event isn't Mid-Ohio until July, but we'll find some track time before that I'm sure. We haven't been to Mid-O in a few years and I know there will be some fast locals there to contend with.
Thanks for reading.
From a press release issued by Honda East of Toledo:
May 7, 2013 – Maumee, OH – Honda East Yamaha Suzuki of Toledo's rider Eddie Kraft won all four of Sunday's WERA races this past weekend at Grattan Raceway, located in Belding, MI. Eddie turned the fastest lap of the weekend and set a new personal best lap, less than half a second off the 600 lap record in his first time on the bike since having a second wrist surgery just short of three months ago. Eddie rode a Honda East-backed 2012 Yamaha R6, fitted with Pirelli tires.
"It was a fun weekend", Kraft states. "Honda East has continued to back our team during my down time this past winter, which has been a big vote of confidence. I wasn't sure if I'd be ready to ride, but as Friday's practice progressed I became more comfortable on the bike and decided to give the races a shot. Dr. James Chao said there'd be a 50% increase in mobility as part of the procedure and I can see some of that improvement already in riding the bike, which has been great. My dad, Doug Cornett and Aaron Bagwell were a huge help and I can't thank them and everyone at Honda East enough for helping me get back out here."
Kraft continued, "There were quite a few fast riders and new talent on the grid this weekend, so I was just happy to be on the bike and able able to race with them. We used the latest Pirelli V2 tires for the first time and they worked extremely well. We ran the same rear tire all day both Saturday and Sunday without a drop in performance, which is something we've never done before. I'm really looking forward to putting more laps on these new Pirelli tires."
As a family owned and operated Ohio motorcycle dealer, Honda East's philosophy is to treat each customer like a family member, every visit. Our award-winning sales staff will strive to meet and exceed your expectations, whether you are purchasing a new vehicle, calling with a question, picking up a part, or just looking in our shop. Located in Northwest Ohio, Honda East is the #1 ranked dealership in both Ohio and Michigan; offering a full line of sport bikes, cruisers, dirt bikes, ATVs, scooters, watercraft and snowmobiles – not only by Honda, but Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, Sea-Doo, Ski-Doo, Can-Am, Kymco, Bombardier, Polaris and Artic Cat. Honda East prides themselves on the best out the door deal, period. No games, no hassles.
The team would like to thank Pirelli Tires, SportbikeTrackGear.com, Animal Aid Foundation, Oakley, Hanshaw Engines, Pit Bull, Dynojet, Sharkskinz, Motul, NGK, Worldwide Bearings, Chicken Hawk, Shoei Helmets, Motion Pro, Full Spectrum Batteries, Ohlins, Knox Armour, RS Taichi, M.C. Designs, Spider Grips, Spiegler, XT Racing and Andrew Swenson Designs.
For more information on Honda East, visit hondaeast.com. For information and news on the racing team, please visit witchkraftracing.com.
Press release can also be seen on Roadracing World.
Amidst my down time, I opted to put my trusty and reliable mountain bike up for sale. It was a Jamis 26 full suspension that I had bought a couple seasons prior and had ridden a great deal on. I loved the bike. I listed it because I kind of wanted to try a 29er hardtail – a bike with bigger wheels and without the shock on the back. I didn't really want to sell the bike, but I figured if the right buyer came, it would justify trying something new. Well after one day on the MMBA forum's classifeds, I got a call from an interested buyer – a WERA racer no less. 24 hours later the bike was out of my garage and I was left without my favorite outdoor training partner. Damn, I should have listed it higher. :)
The hunt began for a replacement. Andrew (Burry) and I went to a Jamis bike demo in Brighton and tried out all their bikes they had to offer. 29 full suspension, 29 hardtail, 27.5 hardtail, 27.5 full suspension. It was great to try everything and actually take the bikes out on a mildly-technical trail to compare the differences (with a wrist brace I was still riding one-handed for much of it). I was left wanting to buy a Jamis, but after a fair bit of research and talking to people, found that Focus (made in Germany) has some really nice and well-built bikes. I found a dealer out in PA looking to move a 2012 model they had, which happened to be the exact one I was looking for – a Focus Raven 3.0. It had the big wheels, an ultra-sexy carbon frame and a really nice set of Shimano XT components – which are higher-tier in quality, without getting crazy in the amount of money you can spend for the top-tier components to save a few grams of overall weight. The acquisition was complete after finding a new set of pedals, water bottle holder and aftermarket seat for a little more comfort on those soon-to-be long rides.
So just what I needed .. another disassembled bike in the garage. That makes three currently. The R6 is awaiting a tank and her finished painted bodywork, while the XR100 is getting the forks and shock freshened up by dad. I can't wait for some warmer weather and this wrist to get better.
Monday, April 15th, 2013
We received this extremely nice email over the weekend:"The 1st time since 2007, I went to the WERA forum to sell some 06 gsxr ...
Friday, March 29th, 2013
Wrist rehab has been going well. PT is three times a week and I've gone back to the same place that I went for ...
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Courtesy of Roadrace Factory, Yamaha. Impressive.Jake Gagne:httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ6YfHR6qkQJD Beach: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72k4Osocn1k
Thursday, March 7th, 2013
In STG's second video with Joe covering Ohlins, Joe installs an Ohlins 30mm kit for the Project Yamaha R1 giveaway. Check out the full install below:httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWNeVBYMc6QIf you missed the first video, you can find ...
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
If you haven't heard, Sportbike Track Gear is building a track-ready Yamaha R1 that they will be giving away later this season to one lucky winner. Amidst all the race parts and goodies that will ...
Press Releases All
Honda East Kicks Off 2013 Roadrace Season
Wednesday, May 8th
Pirelli Presents New Range of 17-Inch Tires for 2013 WSBK Championship
Friday, January 25th
Sponsor News All
STG Visits Joe at WKR HQ, Video Part 2
Thursday, March 7th
STG Visits Joe at WKR HQ, Video Part 1
Tuesday, March 5th
Bone Donor – Finally
Monday, February 25th
Bodywork in the Works
Tuesday, February 5th
Pit-Bull Rear Stands Video
Monday, January 28th
Racing Keeps the Soul Warm
Wednesday, January 23rd
Video – Chicken Hawk Tire Warmers
Thursday, January 10th
Video – Grattan Practice
Thursday, January 3rd
Honda East Talks to K&N
Wednesday, December 26th
Merry Christmas from WKR!
Monday, December 24th
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