Packed up and ready to go, dad and I hit the road Thursday around 7pm. Andrew (Burry) from STG and Melinda (Burry's girlfriend) tagged along with us for the trip. Burry hadn't been to Blackhawk before, so this would be his first trip there learning a new track. Nick (and wife Mandy) were again going, but they couldn't leave until Friday night. We headed west, through Chicago and near the Illinois/Wisconsin border – and arrived to the track around 1am local time, dropped off the trailer and headed to the hotel for a little sleep before Friday's practice. Going into the weekend my wrist was feeling alright, although both arms/shoulders were still sore from the incident with Kerr at Grattan last round. I was pretty optimistic this wouldn't be too much of an issue once I hopped on the bike.
In Friday practice, I was back at a decent pace but not quite where we had left off last time we were here. We had different springs in the front, new gearing and went back to Pirelli's SC2 front tire, which I personally liked better compared to the SC1. The weather was great. Hot and sunny all day. Almost too hot, but it was something we couldn't really complain about. I was still struggling to get comfortable on the bike and turn fast times. Dad was working on changes with the bike, trying to make it better but I just couldn't get comfortable pushing hard on it. The gearing didn't work, so we tried something different, which was better. The front of the bike felt good with the new springs, but the rear wasn't balanced so we made a number of changes there as well, all with minimal progress.
After practice concluded, we went out to eat that night with the Temme's. Jason and his dad Jim Temme are long-time racers as Jason raced with my dad back when he started racing. Blackhawk was the Temme's home track, so it was for a good place for Jason's comeback to racing and a good chance for us to all catch up. We hadn't seen them in a long time and it was great to see them. We had dinner at this way-cool little restaurant called The Butterfly Club with about eight of us, which was a good time.
Saturday's practice was a struggle. I couldn't put faster laps together. The bike felt harsh and it wasn't inspiring confidence in getting on the throttle coming off the corner. We tried some things, none of which seemed to help much. We put on a new rear tire for the upcoming Middleweight Solo 20 race and hoped that would help, as we were out of time for chasing setup.
Gridding up for the Solo, there a couple fast guys that I knew of. Jason (Temme) and Dan Ortega, who is the 600 lap record holder around Blackhawk. There were a number of other Blackhawk regulars, but I didn't yet know who everyone was yet. As we lined up, I was a little more nervous than usual just because I knew I wasn't fully comfortable on the bike. As the green flag flew, I had a good launch and led into T1. I started putting down laps and kept the lead early on ..
By lap 5, I had been getting the signal that someone was right on me. I figured it had to be Jason or Dan. Heading out of T5 and into T6, it was Dan who passed me on the inside. I followed him around for a couple laps and the harder I pushed, the further away he pulled. I calmed down a little bit and gap leveled out, but I certainly wasn't reeling him in. I stayed in 2nd for the next handful of laps until the race was red-flagged just after halfway. I'm not sure who went down, but I believe they were okay.
I came in and was pretty down on how I was riding. I was fighting the bike and couldn't make it work at all like I wanted. Dad and I sat during the red flag and without any money or points to be awarded on the finish of the race, decided to sit out the restart. I wanted to regroup and figure out what was going on with the bike. My times were a second off the (already slow) pace we had the last time here and it didn't make sense. On the restart of the race, Dan ended up winning and Jason finished 2nd in a 10-lap sprint to wrap things up.
The rest of Saturday was spent going over notes and trying to figure out a plan of attack. We went back to the basics – even checking sag and seeing if we were somehow way out in left-field. My dad called up Thermosman to bounce some ideas off him and T-Man confirmed some changes we were thinking about and gave us some new ideas to try as well. It was frustrating to be struggling like this, but we kept plugging away at it, knowing sooner or later we would have to figure something out.
Sunday morning was a new day and I was ready early to get out in the first practice and make sure I wasn't forgetting the basic techniques of riding. Body position, lines and all that good stuff. After just a lap, I could tell things were working better. The bike got into the corner better and I could finish with the throttle as well, without the rear tire feeling as harsh as it had been feeling all weekend. I gave dad a thumbs up as I crossed by the line, knowing we were going in the right direction. The only problem was that someone had oiled T7 – an important corner leading onto the front straight away at the end of Saturday, so there was oil dry on the exit of the turn. I found this out definitively in practice as I got onto it and had the rear end step out and get sideways, enough that dad saw it from the start/finish line. Yikes. I think everyone would be taking it a little slower through that corner for the rest of the weekend.
Dad plugged in a couple more changes throughout practice and we were able to go faster than we had in the race on Saturday. We were still off the pace I had wanted to be at by now, but it was progress. I told him after the last practice that while I wasn't fully comfortable pushing the bike yet like normal, I was starting to get a touch of that feel back that we had been missing, where I can be aggressive with the bike.
Racing always fires up the nerves, as it's a normal part of racing. Burry and Nick were nervous before their races and I was as well. What made me more nervous than normal was knowing that I wasn't on the pace. It's more relaxing to know we can run the pace and just work on the race itself, as opposed to going into a race knowing I have to find time in order to be competitive. We we on par with the top local guys in the morning, but I knew the guys we were running with had gone faster and could find the time quickly, where I wasn't quite as sure of that – given that we were still trying to dial in the setup of the bike and not just working on pushing harder and going faster.
Our first race was 600 Superstock. It had been hot already this morning and now temperatures were around 90 degrees, so as soon as I gridded up, the temperature of the bike jumped up and was around 111 degrees celcius. We sat there for way too long and I was half-tempted to shut the bike off until the 2 board came up while waiting, but thought I might have trouble restarting it in a pinch. Finally things got underway and I had a good launch off the line. Coming from the outside, I drifted over to the inside and came out of T1 in the lead.
We led for the next few laps, knowing there was someone right behind us. At or around halfway through the race, I ran a little wide through T3 and it was enough space where I saw a front wheel at my right knee. I wasn't sure who it was, but they were creeping in and had the line on the exit. They snuck in and I picked up my knee just slightly and it was enough to let Ortega in as well, which I wasn't expecting. Damn. Dropping to 3rd, I tucked in behind and tried to learn something. The problem was, the harder I pushed, the further away they pulled – again. As I was beginning to find out, there are some tricks to going fast at Blackhawk that I hadn't really figured out. As I crossed the checkered, we finished 3rd, with a gap back to 4th place. Not a bad finish, but not ideal given the start we had. This was a Yamaha contingency-paying race, so we earned a couple bucks, but were still stuck in the 1:13's for lap times. Winning times were in the 12's I think.
One of the 750 races was up next, I forget which one. It was the first of a back-to-back series of races and dad and I were talking about some changes we wanted to try. There weren't many riders in this race, so we figured we'd give it a shot. With the bike getting so hot, we waited until the 5 board came out before pulling warmers and getting out for the warmup lap. It worked out well as I was the last one to the grid and didn't have to wait for the start. In fact, the starter went with the one board before I even came to a complete stop! I didn't have a great launch, but I was 2nd into T1 behind Matt Spannan, who's riding an ex-Vesrah 750 GSXR 750. He knew the track and seemed to have it dialed in and was riding well. I didn't have the pace to match him. Our change to the back of the bike were worse, which didn't help matters. Once I saw we had a gap back to 3rd, I slowed down in the final laps to make sure I wasn't too worn out for the next race coming up. We finished 2nd and were still stuck in the 1:13's.
I came down pit lane and Joe was there with some water and the suspension tools. We talked briefly and he undid the latest changes, as I hopped off the bike to grab a quick drink. Burry was in back-to-back races too, so Melinda was there giving him water. We both caught our breath for a second and as the 5-board came up for 600 Superbike race, got back on the steeds and headed out. I was again worried about the temperature of the bike, being in back-to-back races and even in getting to the line late, the bike was still up around 116 degrees celcius now.
On the wave of the flag, I had a good launch and led into T1. I was a little deep on the brakes and ran a little wide, but kept it together and led out of T1. Coming around on lap 1, dad was showing that I had a little bit of a lead to work with. Not much, but it was something. I pushed and kept plugging at it for the next few laps, but I'd make a mistake here and there which was costing me time. T1 and T7 have some added, dark sealer patches throughout them that were a bit sketchy. Our previous changes were helping the bike get into the corners, but they were hurting stability on the brakes. I was braking later into the corners, but a couple times I ran wide and running over this sketchy asphalt meant I had to pick up the bike and baby the throttle out to make sure I didn't tuck the front, or highside coming out – which had happened to several people already during the weekend. When you're on the race line, it's not an issue, but running wide of it throws everything off and I was missing my marks. Again, the harder I pushed, the slower I seemed to go. I was beginning to sense a pattern here.
After the halfway flag, we were still leading with someone right on our tail. And through T3, the same two guys passed me just like they did in the first race. First Garrick (not sure his last name) and then Dan both snuck up the inside, as I ran a little wide on entry and couldn't get back in the gas soon enough. Ugh. They gapped us a bit and we took the checkered flag in 3rd, with a few seconds back to fourth place. There was a good group of bikes in this race, but I just wasn't fast enough. Fast time in the race was a 1:13.1, the same time I did during the CCS event here a few weeks earlier. Talk about being stuck in a rut. See the below photo sequence to see how I wasn't hitting T3 correctly in both 600 races. Hover over each one to see descriptions:
The last race of the day for us was the other B/750cc race. I was in the 2nd row and hoping to get the holeshot and lead into T1, making it hard for Matt to have a clear track in front of him. That didn't work, as I pretty much jumped the start and then hesitated to correct as the flag flew, getting a terrible launch. I was 3rd or 4th coming out of T1 and worked into 2nd by T3. By then, Matt had a pulled a gap. I kept making mistake after mistake and wasn't riding well at all.
This was further proven when I was passed by someone I hadn't seen all weekend, going into T6. Following behind, he kept looking behind at me for the next couple laps which I thought was interesting. He had a good gap leading to the white flag, where I then got a little help. Going into T6, Burry was up ahead (as he had run off track earlier in the race) and we were about to catch him. Through T6A, he looked back, saw us, and went to move out of the way to the outside, which was where this guy (Rob was his name) was looking to go. Rob was forced to check up and I closed the gap on him onto the back straight. He still had about 10 bikes going into T7, but I knew this was my chance to take advantage and broke late into T7 and really got on the gas coming onto the front straight. I had been slow through this corner all day because of the oil dry, as I wasn't going to take chances on the oil dry hanging me out to dry. I blocked that out of my mind and got a great drive and latched onto him. I didn't know if I had enough track to beat him to the line, but I stuck in his draft and kept reeling him in – just moving over and passing him as we crossed the checkered flag, by a tenth of a second for second place. I actually felt a little guilty, as that was a gift. I had not ridden well at all throughout that entire race, going a full second slower than in the previous races. Better lucky than good sometimes.
Dad and everyone watching were excited at the dramatic finish to the line. It did end the weekend on a somewhat positive note. And overall it wasn't a bad weekend, but it wasn't great either. We again struggled trying to learn this track and I just couldn't piece it together. I had gotten some good advice later in the day from Ortega and Jason which was helpful – little points of reference that being a new guy, I hadn't known. When comparing times, I'm fairly certain 12's would have been in the cards if not for the oil/oil dry in T7 all day, as a 13.1 was the best time of the weekend. I still wasn't happy with it, but we managed to lead some races and get some decent results if nothing else. Blackhawk is a tricky place to go fast. The track is slower than you think, so I was often guilty of charging corners and not being patient, which would end up in a loss of time on the exit of a few places.
A big thanks to my dad for all his work over the weekend. It's incredibly tough when we're struggling, but equally rewarding when things go well – with the highs come the lows. The silver lining is this is still a new track for us, where we simply don't have the laps and track/bike knowledge like we do at other places. If I can put a couple sections together better, I know there is significant time to be found. On a positive note, the gift of the draft-pass to the line in the last race for 2nd put my dad and everyone in good spirits. Even if it was a poor race by my account, it helped put a positive spin on things to wrap up the weekend.
Thanks to Dustin (Boyd) at the Pirelli truck who took great care of us all weekend with tires. Also thanks also to Burry, Melinda, Nick and Mandy for their help and camaraderie over the weekend. Pitting together was a great time and I think we all had a good time racing. Of course we're all frustrated with things we could have done better, but that's racing. It's early in the season and I'm looking forward to us putting things together and pushing to win some races as the season moves on. Lastly, thanks to Andy at Gron4.com photography for taking all the photos you see here.
Thanks for reading.Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 | POSTED AT: 6:09 AM
FILED UNDER: Race Reports
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- You're currently reading "WERA ’12, Round 2 – Blackhawk Farms (The Line)," an entry on Witchkraft Racing.
- Published: 06.13.12 / 6am
- Category: Race Reports