Heading into the the WERA round at Grattan, it had been a month since I had hopped on the R6. I was a little worried about being rusty, as I rarely go this long without riding. I had been riding the XR100 out back on our track, but that wasn't the same as wrestling a 600 bike around Grattan's technical layout. To add onto the lack of track time, there wouldn't be a Friday practice or Saturday races to prep for Sunday – just practice on Saturday and then right into the races on Sunday.
Dad, Gina, Connor (our little guy) and I arrived to the track Friday night and dropped off the trailer. We headed to the hotel and were up bright and early Saturday morning to start setting up. The weather forecast was hot and called for a chance of rain both days – fortunately there wouldn't be any rain throughout the weekend, but it would be hot.
The first couple sessions going counter-clockwise were a little shaky. It had been a few years since I had ridden the track this direction, so I was out looking for reference points early on to try and put the track together. We had talked to Garry (Hayes, who has helped us a great deal over the years) about gearing and were trying a different setup that I hoped would work. As it turned out over the course of the weekend, this new gearing would work extremely well.
As the first session ended, I was in the 1:30's. Eeek! The bike was really nose heavy and skittish, so we made a planned change dad and I had talked about early on to make the bike more stable, that we thought might be necessary. By the second session, 1:25's. Better. We made several single-change tweaks for the rest of the day and each one made the bike better. By the afternoon, we were into the 1:23's and I was quite happy with that, considering we were on the same tires from the last event at Blackhawk. After struggling at Blackhawk with setup, it was refreshing to make changes that kept pointing us in the right direction every time, as Grattan has always been a track I've struggled to go fast at – especially going counter-clockwise.
After practice, we had new tires mounted up by Sportbike Track Gear, who's the Pirelli vendor at the Grattan events. (Andrew) Burry and Nick were a big help in getting tires mounted and all set to go. They were pretty busy Saturday night and I think Burry was ready to pass out after busting his butt in the heat all day. There were a couple guys switching brands over to Pirelli which was good to see.
Sunday morning's practice got off to a good start. I worked on lines early on and before practice ended, got back into the 23's in the second session of the morning. The wrist was a little more sore than normal – not sure if it was because there were more left-handed corners going CCW or what. Oh well – more Motrin. I was working around it and the bike was handling well.
Race one was 600 Superbike. Gridded on the front row, I had a good launch and let into turn one (T10B technically speaking, as the turn numbers don't change when switching directions). I kept plugging along with Rick Lind (2011 WERA Class Champion) chasing from behind. I was getting signals from dad up top and could see I had a decent lead. We were able to cross the line with the win and drop time a bit, down to a 1:23.0, which was the fast lap of the race.
Our second race was 750 Superbike. Matt (Spannan) was in this race and has been really quick this year on his 750. I was somehow able to get the holeshot on this one and led into T10B. Throughout the first few laps, we were still leading, but I was having trouble staying in the gas through the long, fast left-handed sweeper. The rear of the bike wasn't planted and felt like it was moving around. The front of the bike also felt a little sketchy too, but I didn't have time to really think about what was going on. The rear grip issue was shown when at about halfway or so through the sweeper, I was at neutral throttle and Matt came along on the outside next to me. We were side by side where he then took the lead heading into the bowl. I checked in behind him and started chasing to try and stick with him.
Over the next couple laps, we caught lap traffic and at one point, he caught someone in the "esses" and pulled a bit of a gap as I had to wait until the jump to get by. I was able to reel him back in a little when he caught some other lappers, and heading past the white flag, I was within a second or so behind him. I tried planning a good place to pass on the last lap, but it was tough. I didn't have anything over the jump or into T4 for him, but I tried to setup the exit of T3, into T2 to pass him there. I almost dove in underneath, but there wasn't enough room and I would have had to stand him up pretty aggressively. There isn't a lot of track there and it's really bumpy on the exit – so not a good place to stuff it under someone on. I regrouped and thought I might be able to get him into T1, but he ran a tight line, probably thinking I'd try that. This allowed me to at least get within five bike lengths or so of his back wheel onto the straight. I normally can't gain on his 750, but with the draft and the gearing we were running, I could feel the rev's really climb as I latched onto him. As we fired down towards the checkered flag, I pulled alongside him and as we crossed, I wasn't sure if it was enough to get the win. As it turned out, it wasn't. He won by .052 seconds. Close stuff.
On the cool down, Matt and I gave each other a thumbs up on a good race – and he made a gesture that the back end of my bike was moving all around when he was behind me. That was good I thought, at least confirming what I felt during the race. And once back in the pits, the left-side of both the front and rear tire were showing unusual tire wear, which was weird – as tire wear was great up until this point. Our fast lap was almost a second faster, at a 1:22.3 – so at that pace, different things were now happening with the bike. Matt had gotten into the 1:21's – which is railing. Not many people have been in the 21's going CCW. I think Rob Jensen has the fastest CCW time in the 1:20 range on a 600.
We had a bit of a gap before our next race – 600 Superstock. We made some changes to the bike to try and help the issues we were having, but as I'd find out heading into the race, they weren't going to be better. Off the line, we led into 10B with Bill Sweeney and Rick right behind, getting a good launch as well. Immediately I found that the bike wasn't working as good. It was packing down and not turning like it had been. This was very visibly shown as Bill passed me early on heading into T4 with ease. I felt uncomfortable on the bike and my body position showed it, as I later saw from Rick's onboard camera. I chased Bill for the next couple laps with Rick in third, and was able to pass him on the straight to retake the lead. This gearing combined with the VP race fuel was working extremely well. Too bad I wasn't riding the bike as well as I should have been. Amidst the issues, we were able to win the race. Best lap was a 1:22.7 which I was surprised about, considering it felt like I was doing 1:30's out there.
Once back in the pits, the tires were worse. The front tire was pretty bad. We only had a one-race gap before our last race of the day and I wasn't sure I wanted to go back out on that tire. I talked to Matt, who was in the next race and he had gone through three front tires already on the day and had a new one mounted. I sat there with dad and decided I'd sit the race out. It's one thing to feel the rear tire going and manage that, but pushing a front tire doesn't give the same amount of warning before it goes and the last thing I wanted to do was toss the bike down the road. We decided to sit the race out and ended up spectating from the grass – watching the race as Rick gave Matt a run for his money and nearly beat him to the line for the win. Matt just edged him out.
As the weekend wrapped up and I had more time to think about things, I was disappointed with my decision to pack it in. I quit and that's not like me. Sure, there was arguably a valid reason, but I could have still gone out there and managed the race and been smart about it. Who knows – I could have gotten the holeshot and then rode defensively to keep the lead. I've done that before on shagged tires. And even more so, I should have thought after the second race when the issue started showing, to throw our other tire on a warmer and had it ready. Dad and I had talked about switching the front out before the last race, but there wasn't enough time to get enough heat into it before the race – which would have been worse off than trying to go out and manage the tire that was on the bike. So overall, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn't planned that out better and I was frustrated about just throwing a race away like that.
By all other accounts, it was a good weekend with two wins and a second. There were a couple spots I wasn't too great in and if I could have gotten those sorted out better, we could have been well into the 1:21 range, which is elusive company going counter-clockwise at Grattan. As much as I've struggled at Grattan, I kinda want to go back there now for an STT trackday just to work on those areas, given what we left out on the table. With dad's help, we really got the bike dialed in – probably the best we've ever had it at Grattan. We know what works and also now know what didn't work once we got to a certain pace, and I think we can now figure out what to do to bridge that gap next time we go to Grattan. It was a good weekend overall.
I sincere thanks to my dad who was a huge help all weekend. Among helping me, he rode his SV on Saturday and Sunday, but was fighting electrical issues during throughout the weekend. He was leading his first race when he had to pull off just before the white flag, which was disappointing. He had a win locked up otherwise.
Also a thank you to Pirelli and Sportbike Track Gear for the tire support all weekend – Burry and Nick were a big help in getting us squared away. Of course thank you to Honda East as well, along with Zipfizz Energy, Animal Aid, Oakley, Hanshaw Engines, Pit Bull, Dynojet, Sharkskinz, WWB, NGK, Motul, GP Tech, Chicken Hawk, Samco, Spiegler, Bell Helmets, Motion Pro, Spider Grips, RS Taichi and Knox Armour. Photos courtesy of Bob Bergin.
Cheers.Monday, July 16th, 2012 | POSTED AT: 5:44 AM
FILED UNDER: Race Reports
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- You're currently reading "WERA ’12, Round 3 – Grattan Raceway CCW (A Setup is Found)," an entry on Witchkraft Racing.
- Published: 07.16.12 / 5am
- Category: Race Reports