Leading up into this past weekend, things were fairly questionable before Grattan. My dad left Friday for the track, while I stayed back at home waiting for the motor to be finished by Jamie Hanshaw. Upon hearing the good news Saturday morning that it was ready, I picked it up on the way to Grattan and arrived around 1:30pm to meet Doug, Marion and Aaron, along with my dad. After Billy had spoiled us with a garage at the last Grattan event, we had to get one again – if for no other reason that rain was in the forecast Saturday and we didn't want to be swapping motors under an EZ-Up canopy. Turned out that was a good call, as we had monsoon-like rain late in the late afternoon and into the evening.
Racing had gone on earlier in the dry, with my dad winning his 20-lap race in convincing fashion, along with Aaron finishing 2nd. I watched the Middleweight Solo race and hoped between that and Friday's practice, the other guys didn't get too much of an advantage on us with the added track time. Jeff Wrobel (fellow expert, R6 rider) blew his motor on the last lap of the Middleweight race. He was pitted in the garage next to us, so the irony of the evening became our installation of a motor while he and his buddies were removing his motor and getting ready for a replacement motor coming from Aaron Hardiman. We also got in trouble with Sam for heat cycling the motor after 6:00. Apparently the locals don't like that. My dad then proceeded to give Sam a bunch of shite for giving us a faulty garage with holes in it with rain coming in. It was entertaining. It ended in everyone drinking beers with all forgiven. Good times.
With my dad, Doug, Aaron and myself all working on the bike, we had it back together and fired up in no-time and were off to the Grattan bar for dinner, all while escaping before the karaoke started. Off to bed and it was a good feeling to be more relaxed about Sunday's races than I had been in awhile. No real expectations. I just wanted to break in the motor, make sure everything worked, along with testing out the new fork spring we added and see how that faired.
Sunday morning we arrived to a cool, foggy and semi-damp track. It was a bit odd to register for the day's races and tech the bike on Sunday morning, as I'm accustomed to being at the track Friday, if not Thursday. Once that was sorted, we went about checking our sag numbers and seeing where we were at with the suspension. Between the new fork springs, along with our previous Mid-Ohio setup, we weren't initially sure where we wanted to start. We tossed around some ideas and went with a conservative approach, deciding to go with a softer setup since we had now stiffened up the bike with the spring change. Educated guess or shot in the dark – we used that as our starting point.
First practice was nice and easy. Damp track and new motor. I coasted around and re-acclimated myself to the track, as it had been over a year since I had ridden in counter-clockwise. After the session, we took a look at the bike and everything appeared to be good. The next session was still a bit damp, but I went out and immediately felt comfortable on the bike. The front end was much more solid than it had been all year and I was happy to be doing 1:25's early on.
The third session continued to improve. The motor felt great and down into the 1:24's I went, which was 2nd fastest in the session, behind Brian Gibson (long-time local Grattan fast guy) on his Suzuki GSXR-750. We made a small change for the fourth and final practice and did a 1:24.0, which was the fastest time in the group. Things were clicking pretty well – which was admittedly a bit surprising since I'm generally used to Friday and Saturday's riding to get up to speed – not just hopping on the bike Sunday morning. During lunch, we mounted up some new Pirelli rubber and were ready to go. During the rider's meeting Gina arrived with her dad and Maggie – all of whom came to watch and hang out.
600 Supersport led things off. As I lined up to the grid, I realized I had never launched this motor and clutch yet. Making sure I launched it smoothly (but not too smoothly), I had a good start and was 3rd heading into the first turn. I was following Woody Heiman and this other guy on a white R6. I sat behind them for the first couple laps and could see Woody was trying to get by, but this other guy was pretty erratic, nearly crashing a couple times right in front of us. On around lap three, Woody was on the outside of him going into T3 when this guy again missed the apex, running wide and standing both of them up, which allowed me to get by Woody. I followed the white bike through one turn and got him between T2 and T1; tossing the bike inside of him and heading down the straight. Whoa – I'm in the lead. It's been awhile since I've been here.
I dropped down to a 1:23.5 in the next couple of laps before catching a lapper heading into turn 10B, where I figured it would throw a wrench in the pack chasing me. I settled down a little too much though, as I peeked behind coming onto the straight before the white flag and saw a quick glimpse of blue, which was Woody. I raced across the line with one lap left and put together a much better lap, distancing myself a bit from him. As I came onto the straight, I saw a red flag waiving as someone had crashed, leaving their bike on the edge of the track. I threw my leg out and looked back, seeing Woody further in the distance this time. I crossed the line with a much better result than I had expected. It had been awhile since we had won a race. April 26th to be exact. The bike was strong and the suspension was definitely much improved.
750 Superstock was the next race and it was an exciting one. I didn't have as great of a start, but I was 4th or 5th after the first lap. I could see Brian Gibson up in the lead. By the time I was in 2nd he had a pretty good gap, but I was able to make my way towards him over the course of the next three laps. Coming through T1 I was getting a really good drive, where upon catching the white flag I was as close to him as I had been all race.
As we went down the hill through 10B and 10A, I out braked him and went up the inside heading into the bus stop (T9). I was hard on the brakes and couldn't trail them anymore, so I had to run wide, which let Brian back by through into the sweeper. I chased him through the bowl and the esses and up over the jump, almost getting back by into T4. He stayed ahead and I tried to square off T3 and get a good drive up into T2 as I knew I was running out of places to pass. I did get a good drive and passed him on the inside, again having to run it a touch wide. This again let Brian by, but I immediately countered and dove on the inside into T1, holding my line and taking the lead once more. I managed carry good speed onto the straight and I tucked in as tight as I could, as I knew he was coming. I made it about half-way down the straight before he did come by, beating me to the line by a tenth of a second.
Great race. That had been the most fun I've had all year and most importantly, I felt I had gotten back some of that confidence with the bike I’ve been lacking all this time. The bike wasn't perfect, but it was good enough and feeling the best it's felt since taking it out of the crate at Honda East back in January. The front end feel of the bike reminded me of last year, when I was riding faster much more comfortably. Looking back, if I could have made either of those earlier passes stick, I think I would have been able to stay ahead and get the win. Either way, I was extremely happy with that race.
The third race of the day was 600 Superbike. This was a back-to-back race, so there wasn't much time to bench race about what just happened. I rode up onto hot pit lane where Doug, my dad and Aaron momentarily threw on the tire warmers and added some fuel. Gina tossed me a bottle of water that I quickly slammed and I was back on the bike and heading out for the warm-up lap.
This race didn't go quite as well. Jeff Wrobel got the holeshot and Woody, Mike Books, James Dilinger and I were all stuck behind that guy on the white R6 again. I was sitting in 5th and initially a bit winded, just trying to eek out another solid finish. The four of us were all packed in together, while Jeff was comfortably cruising just ahead of the "white bike". Books was behind him for most of the race, but just couldn't get by. I was trying to get by Mike, but at the same time – we were all going slower and there was nowhere to go. In going slower, Woody and James would pass, and I'd pass back, but it wasn't getting us anywhere. At one point, I almost lost the front end going into the bowl, but by a stroke of good fortune, was able to catch it with my knee. This then allowed everyone by and I was back to fighting to stay with the lead pack.
By now I was back in 6th and just waiting for something to happen. Nothing was. I was able draft Woody and James on one lap and get back into 4th place. I passed Mike a couple times, but I could never get anything consistent going, as he'd get back by. Wrobel was riding smooth and quick, but he was right there, three bikes ahead of me! The lines between the white bike and Woody were all over the place, as Woody was trying to get by but not having any luck doing it. As we took the white flag, I wanted to make sure I didn't let anyone else by, and plan to make a move on the guys ahead. I wanted to latch onto Mike through T2-T1 so I could draft pass him to the line and maybe catch the white bike by the checkered. The previous lap I had an awful drive, but this time I made sure I got a good one and motored by Mike without an issue. The white bike was too far up ahead though and I wasn't catching him nearly as quick as I did Mike. I crossed the finish line just behind him in 3rd.
Not a bad result, but not the kind of race that's much fun to be in. The highlight was that we did set the fastest lap of the race (and the overall weekend) at a 1:23.0. If I could have pushed through and gotten behind Wrobel, we would have had a fun race. Jeff has been riding so well lately and is such a good guy, that it would have been fun racing with him. Congrats to him though, as that was his first expert win on a 600.
750 Superbike was next. I was taxed in this one. Doug had earlier mentioned that he had been seeing the rear end of the bike hopping around and looking a little unsettled during the course of the day in a couple places. I hadn't really noticed it up until this last race, but I could definitely tell now. I finished the race in 5th, with no real fireworks. I was a bit tired and now going at a slower pace, I could feel what Doug had been talking about. I seemed to be riding through it previously and now I could really feel what was happening. All day the front end felt great, but it took some of the bumps with a harsh feel to it. That was okay, but now I was also feeling the bike kicking up at me through the seat. It would have been interesting to see if adding some rebound to the shock and slowing that "kick" down would have helped and transitioned into faster lap times in the earlier races.
Overall though the weekend was a success from my standpoint. The new motor ran great and the fork spring change was huge, which was something which has caused us to be chasing our tail nearly all of the season. We should have had this spring rate from the get-go, but it's all a learning process. I'm real happy that we now have a great baseline setup I'm comfortable running faster into the corners. As an added bonus, we won one race and nearly a second one – something I wasn't even planned on.
Thanks again to my dad, Doug and Aaron for all their help. It was huge and definitely a turning point in the season, even though the season only has a couple rounds left. BeaveRun is coming up this weekend. It's a combined WERA North Central, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic event, with Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha contingency money up for grabs. It will no doubt have big grids and fast guys there. Hopefully getting some solid points this past weekend will at least move us up into the middle of the pack on the starts. BeaveRun can be a tricky place to get through traffic, so I'm hoping the added confidence with the bike will aid in that area and we'll be able to drop some serious time.
Thanks for reading.
[Photos courtesy of Jeff Kovack - http://www.viphotography.ca/]
Related Articles:Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 | POSTED AT: 6:22 AM
FILED UNDER: Race Reports
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- You're currently reading "WERA Round 8: Grattan CCW Recap (The Season Starts Now)," an entry on Witchkraft Racing.
- Published: 08.26.08 / 6am
- Category: Race Reports