Wow. What a disappointing weekend. I’ve attempted to stay positive and focus on the things we’ve learned with the intent that it will pay off as the season progresses – and I’m sure it will. But man, right now .. what a bad weekend we had. There’s no other way to slice it and I’m incredibly glad it’s over. There were several times I wanted to throw in the towel, but I didn’t, as that’s not the mentality I want to have. Throughout it all, my dad worked his tail off non-stop for three days. It was incredible – with a bum knee and all. He put so much into the bike this weekend just by himself trying to help me – and I just couldn’t make it happen. The weekend was certainly a learning experience and while I’m not sure what exactly we’ve learned yet, I’m going to keep saying that until we figure it out.
Friday practice was one big test session and it wasn’t long enough to sort through things. The big changes we were trying for the weekend were relating to spring rates. We completely changed everything – front and rear springs. We would try four different rear springs by the time the weekend was over, along with a couple changes to the front springs. The reason for these changes; right or wrong, was based primarily on info we had from last year at Grattan and discussions on how to try something different to bridge the gap and take the next step from where I was last year to go faster. Ultimately the decision to try this was mine and while I can confidently say that these trials didn’t exactly work with absolute success, if we hadn’t tried them, I would have wanted to eventually try them at some point. So I suppose it’s good we had gotten them out of the way early.
Other than swapping parts, Friday was great. Tom, Aaron, Doug, Marion and Eric arrived in the afternoon and we had a full crew with us. Friday night was spent at the Grattan Bar for dinner – a group of about ten of us including Wes and Jan (Swain), Jim (Cottrell), along with Jake and Brian from Sportbike Track Gear. Good times all around.
I was optimistic Saturday morning for improvements and it did indeed start off well. It was fairly cool out and with new tires, the second session of practice was pretty much the highlight of the weekend. I did a 1:21.5 in the morning which was very solid, but it was the fastest I would go all weekend. A far cry from the 1:20’s I had done at the Grattan National the year before. We had seemingly fixed some of the issues I was experiencing on Friday, which was a positive. We would now go into the 20-lap solo race on these tires and with the weather warming up and sun coming out.
The Solo 20 race was rough. I had a good start and I think led for a lap or so. This was short-lived however as I just struggled on the bike. It was hard to describe, but I couldn’t hold lines and I didn’t feel comfortable or smooth at all. The softer springs weren’t working for me. Jeff, Dave (Grey) and Eric (Spector) passed and pulled away. It would have been tempting to pull off, but I wanted to ride around, try different lines, different positioning on the bike, anything to try and figure out what was going on. We finished the race in 4th with a best lap time in the 1:22’s. Going slower in the race compared to practice definitely isn’t a good thing. We had some weird tire wear issues and the warmer weather seemed to make the suspension handle differently – that, or I was riding differently in the race which was throwing things off. Jeff did great and won the race, riding absolutely superb. He looked fantastic out there and it was great to see him win against the strong competition of Dave and Eric who have turned tons of laps around Grattan.
Saturday night we had about 15-17 people all head to Applebees in Greenville for dinner. It was again a good time and then that I realized how big our little “group” had gotten. All familiar faces, but it had grown more than I had even imagined – and there wasn’t enough time to even talk to everyone throughout dinner. Jeff and I sat with Tom and gave him a hard time for most of the meal. Jeff always has a way of making Tom smile no matter what kind of mood he’s in. It’s cool to see.
Similar to Saturday, I had a positive outlook for Sunday and didn’t want to get bogged down with negativity. I went out with the intent to put in hard, fast laps, but they just weren’t coming. We made changes in every practice session and the bike just wasn’t feeling better. We changed damping, preload, ride height, you name it. My dad was trying everything he could. I was trying to give feedback, but I don’t think I was doing an exceptional job of it, making his job even more difficult. It was frustrating – for both of us. Adding to injury, one of the WERA officials had pulled me aside after practice and mentioned that he saw my bike smoking a bit during the session.
As practice wound down, we headed into lunch and put on some new tires. My mom and aunt had just arrived to the track, as well as Gina, her dad, my brother-in-law and three-year old nephew who loved seeing the bikes. My brother Matt and newly engaged fiancee Becky (Reba!) had been at the track since Saturday which was great. We had quite an audience just as the madness of everyone mounting new tires for the races began. Also during lunch, we saw that Jeff's shock was suddenly leaking oil, blown out after the little off track excursion from Saturday that bent his rear wheel. In a quick rush, we grabbed the shock off the spare bike and threw it on his bike. Nothing like a little extra drama during lunch.
First race of the day was 600 Superstock. After my dad and I looked at the notes, we tried another change before the race. We typically don’t do this, but this was now a learning weekend and we needed to find something that might work. He threw some changes in and we’d see what happened.
WERA had again inaccurately done the grids, so we were starting with no points and back in the pack. I tried to talk to WERA to see if they could fix the mistake (as I did have points from Nelson), but they weren’t able to do anything. The issues came back from problems at WERA HQ apparently. As a result of my frustration, I had a great launch from the third row and managed to get the hole shot into T1. I couldn’t do anything with it though, as I struggled to turn the bike and find stability in the handling. Jim (Cottrell), Eric (Spector) and a couple others later commented on the bike looking out of shape in a few areas. In the end I had to settle for a 4th place finish. Jeff had a great race and finished 2nd to Dave. Times were mid-22’s.
Next up was 750 Superstock. My dad and I decided to go back to the original, stiffer front springs we had always been using. A quick swap inside the Ohlins 25mm kit and we were ready to go. I was third into T1 and the bike was a little bit better. We finished third place and got into the high 21’s. Jeff was rolling and finished 2nd. I still was not at my race pace and it was becoming frustrating. The spring change was a small victory however.
We had back-to-back races and with a quick splash of fuel and another set of changes to the suspension, went back out for 600 Superbike. The changes were worse and I went backwards in this race. Times were back in the 22’s and I finished in 4th, chasing Rob (Hancock) and dicing it up a bit with Kevin (Callaway). Jeff ran up front again and grabbed another second place finish. Ah how nice it looked up in front.
At some point after the race I looked at my dad and said with a weak smile, “this is not good.” We nodded in agreement. As we headed into the last race, it was just about putting in laps and making it through the weekend, trying to gain some kind of information on what we could use in the future. I suggested to my dad that it might be good to try going back to the original spring/shock combination we’ve always run on the bike, but with Doug tied up helping Jeff, we didn’t have enough time so we’d have to live with what we had. 750 Superbike was the last race of the day and we ended with another 3rd place finish. It was a decent rebound after the last race, but it wasn’t where we needed to be.
I sincerely and whole-heartedly want to thank my dad. He put an absolutely huge amount of time working on the bike this weekend. Without him, I would have been in a world of trouble. It was a tough and extremely frustrating weekend for both of us – and while it didn’t pan out this weekend, hopefully it will show some results further down the road. After his knee surgery he had on Thursday, he did so much for me when he really shouldn’t have. Our pits were extremely busy and full this weekend, but he stuck with me and we’re definitely going to bounce back from this little bump in the road.
I like BeaveRun and that’s as good a place as any to get back on track. I’ll likely get back to Grattan again before then as well with our original setup and see where we’re at. I’m certain it will be better and then we can make some other changes from that setup – with a little more knowledge on what to go after, given all the things that didn’t work this weekend. I’d like to say I could have rode better with the setup we had, but I’m not sure I could. I ran out of talent. I was ready to throw the bike down the road trying to make it work, but it was just all over the place (see the Flickr photos for how the rear tire looked in the sweeper).
In regard to the motor, Jeff also saw my bike smoking throughout the day on Sunday, so I’m going to pull the motor this week. We’ll get to the bottom of it and be ready to go. They can’t all be great weekends and like the song, momma said there’d be days like this.
Onto the next round. Thanks for reading. And thanks to Jeff Kovack for the great photography all weekend. My brother Matt as well for photos you also see here.
eddieWednesday, May 19th, 2010 | POSTED AT: 5:15 AM
FILED UNDER: Race Reports
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- You're currently reading "WERA ‘10, Round 2: Grattan Raceway (Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This)," an entry on Witchkraft Racing.
- Published: 05.19.10 / 5am
- Category: Race Reports