Grattan Raceway (clockwise) has been my nemesis for some time. From the "sealer" incident in 2010 to the "parking" incident in 2012, I hadn't done an actual sprint race there since 2009. I have a bunch of laps at Grattan, but of all the tracks we visit, this is the track I struggle at most. Our goal was to try and correct that.
Dad and I arrived Thursday night and dropped off the trailer. Aaron would be arriving Saturday morning, as well as bunch of family and friends including Gina, Connor, my brother and mom. Doug was on the mend with his back, but would show up Sunday morning to help us as best he could (we told him to stay home, but he wouldn't listen). Friday was an STT practice day, which would be a good opportunity to turn a few laps since I hadn't turned any yet this year in this direction.
We slept in a bit Friday, deciding to sit out the first couple sessions. It turned out to be a good idea since the track had received quite a bit of rain over the past week and the oh-so-lovely sealer was quite slippery without any rubber laid down on it. I went out just before lunch to get things going. Dad did the same and the track became progressively better.
It was nice getting some clean laps in the afternoon. Dad was railing. He got down to a personal best, just in practice. He's really bonded with his SV650 this year. People kept coming up to me and saying how well he was riding. He was passing 600's and 1000's in the back part of the track like it was no big deal. He was consistently in the low 1:26 range, which was awesome.
I felt off early-on, but dad stuck on me to not make changes before getting up to speed – something I was in full agreement with after the Mid-Ohio debacle (even though I at least wanted to make a gearing change). Working on just riding, I managed to get down to low 1:23's, with the splits showing optimals of 1:22's. Decent. I of course wanted to be faster, but it wasn't terrible, all things considered.
Friday evening was spent at the Grattan Bar. Wes and Jan (who my dad started racing with), Stymie and Jillian, Nick, Mandy, Swahn, Gary Kole and his mom and sister – I think that was everyone. The Grattan Bar had changed up their cheesy potatoes which was the popular topic of conversation and disappointment.
Being a double-header weekend, Saturday would be a busy day of races. Morning practice went well, down into the low 1:22's. We had been running the same Pirelli tires since Mid-Ohio, so it seemed necessary to put new tires on, even if the ones on the bike still felt good. Takeoff tires for Nick, they would end up being (who would later set his personal best lap on them – not bad for 80 lap tires). With Aaron now out and practicing as well, he and dad were feeling good by the time lunch rolled around.
600 Superstock was our first race of the day. All the familiar faces in the region were here, plus some new additions. Good grid sizes overall actually. I was able to get the holeshot and lead into T1. I led for about half the race before Dave (Grey) passed and ended up taking the win by just under a second. Grattan is in Dave's backyard and he rides extremely well here, so he'd be a great measuring stick for how we were progressing.
The best lap of the race was a 1:21.3, which wasn't bad. My overall best lap was a 1:20.8 back in 2009, before they repaved the track. Rick (Lind) crashed unfortunately, as did Bill (Sweeney) in this race. I think it was 12 or so seconds back to third place. Aaron set a new personal best with a 1:23.1, finishing 6th which was great. He was finding time – he just had a bad start and got stuck making up positions early on.
750 Superstock was next. Similar as the first race, we'd get a lead for a few laps, I'd make a small mistake and Dave would take over the lead and we'd finish 2nd. Another 1:21.3 according to the timer, but the bike didn't feel great. I felt like I was pressing and over riding the bike. We had nine seconds back to third place.
With back to back races, 600 Superbike was next up. Back out right away, we ended up 2nd in this one as well. I don't remember much to be honest, as the two back-to-back's happened pretty quickly. A 1:21.5 was the best lap. At post tech, the bike wouldn't start back up, which was weird. It would start to turn over, but never get going. I got some help bump starting the bike from one of the WERA tech officials (thanks!) and headed back up to the garage.
With a bit of a break, 750 Superbike was the last race. Being gridded on the outside hurt me a bit in this one. With a poor launch, Eric (Swahn) got the holeshot into T1. Dave and JB (Mattison) were in this race also and weren't far behind. I followed Eric for the first lap and passed him up out of 10B onto the straight, as he had gotten a bad drive or missed a shift I think. I thought I had cleared him, but he came by, fairly late on the brakes into T3. I tucked in behind him and passed him back into the bus stop, T9. I didn't have the drive on exit and he was able to get back by going up the hill. I had to roll out of the throttle and Dave came alongside entering 10A. Ugh. Onto the straight, I tucked behind both of them, hoping to do something into T1. That was short-lived however as JB came roaring by on his 750, going from 4th to 1st all in the span of about five seconds. Not good for me, but it was fun to watch.
Through T1, Eric nearly highsided himself off the bike, but managed to keep it on two wheels. He was pushing pretty hard and wasn't as smooth as he was back when we were racing earlier in the year. I followed him for a lap, wanting to find a clean place to get by rather quickly, not wanting JB and Dave to get away. As Eric and I went through T4, I was inside of him approaching the jump. I thought I had the speed to pass him there, but he carried way more speed than he had the previous lap. He launched over the jump, both wheels off the ground. Immediately I knew he was going to be in a tough spot to make the corner. By the time he landed and the bike settled, he was way past a typical turn-in point. In what looked like a panic, he hit the brakes while starting to turn and immediately went down, tumbling off-track and into the grass. He ended up being okay, just bruised up a bit with a pretty banged up bike. I was glad he was alright. The bike can always be put back together.
Over the next couple laps, I caught back up to JB and Dave, where Dave was trying to find a way by JB. This was actually a pretty fun race, as the three of us all know each other and have been racing for awhile. JB is good on the brakes, which made things tough – plus he's on a 750, which made it a little bit tougher. With Dave trying to find a way past and the three of us moving at a pretty good clip, I was somewhat waiting for Dave to either get by, or one of them to make a mistake where I could sneak in there. Turns out, I was a little too patient. With three laps to go, the race got red-flagged due to amateur Gabe Miller crashing on the front straight. He was alright, but apparently it was a pretty nasty-looking crash. With more than half of the race completed, the race results from the previous lap would be final. JB, Dave and myself would round out the top three. We had the fast lap of the race at a 1:21.7, but it wasn't the right direction of progress I was hoping for. Riding the bike was wearing me out, as I'd later tell dad.
Aaron nagged a 3rd place in his second race, Senior Superbike, putting it on the podium with a great result – even though he had to battle against the mighty 1000's in it. Dad did great as well, winning both of his races in Formula 2 and Lightweight Superbike. He ran in the 1:26's both races, against the 419 Racing guys much of the day. Wes Swain was also in this race, going really well since switching over to Pirelli tires. They were working well for him which was good to see. In the battle of the lap times between Stymie and I, I had a slight edge at this point, but it was a few tenths of a second, so it would be anyone's game by the time Sunday rolled around. :)
After the day of racing wrapped up, dad and I sat down and talked about the bike. It felt like it was moving/pogo'ing around too much. He had a valid counter-point that the track is bumpier and everyone is feeling it, which was confirmed by talking to just about everyone in the paddock. Still, there had to be a way to make things better. Dad would make a couple small changes, but I came to the conclusion that the bulk of it was on me. I needed to ride more relaxed. I found myself trying too hard and when I do that, I go slower.
The whole family of mom, dad, Matt, Gina, Connor and myself, along with my aunt Kathy, uncle Greg and my cousin Ryan made the trek to dinner that night. They all appeared to be enjoying the action on track, which is always good.
Sunday morning started off with a track walk. Aaron and I did it with Matt and Ryan before practice started. They both shot some awesome photos while Aaron and I tried to formulate a plan to go faster. Doug arrived shortly thereafter and went out and watched dad, Aaron and myself during the morning practice sessions. He always has such good feedback to provide. Both before and after practice, we huddled in the garage and listened to his insight. There were definitely some things I wanted to work on, in regard to my bp (body position). Doug had some good tips and by the time practice ended, I had actually changed some stuff up to help make riding the bike easier. And it showed in the lap times, by doing a 1:20.8 in practice, which was better. Although then I started pushing and I went slower. Crap.
First race up was again 600 Superstock. I led into T1 and could hear Dave behind me. I felt that the pace was faster and easier this race and that was showing in the lap times. Apparently this was an exciting race to watch, as Dave and I were wheel to wheel the entire time. I didn't actually see him, but did hear him on his Triumph 675. My BP felt much improved in several sections of the track, which made the bike easier to ride and overall had it feeling better than it did on Saturday (along with the minor bike changes we made). As Dave and I ripped around on the last lap, I avoided any drastic mistakes and as we crossed the line, I'd end up winning by a scant .029 seconds! Crazy.
Dave and I congratulated each other on the cool down lap, on a great race. People were coming up saying how much fun it was to watch and I was like, "but there wasn't any passing going on?" Haha. I guess it was still exciting in that if I had made any type of mistake, Dave would have been there to capitalize. It was a clean, hard race and that's when it's the absolute most exciting.
Dad's first race was Formula 2 and he stalled the bike on the grid. Oops. A flood of bikes went by him, as he got the bike started up and chased after them. We all watched from the guardrail and figured this would make for an interesting race. By lap two, he was in second place overall. He was on a mission. On lap three, he took the overall lead and did his fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:25.5. He had the race in the bag, until he tucked the front in the bus stop, lowsiding out to the grass. Oops.
He was up and fine. He came roaring into the pits, stopped and had Doug look over the bike. Doug went, "do you want to re-tech?" and the only words he heard were, "Yep." He ripped off down to the end of pit road, where Jim Sublet officially re-tech'd him and sent him back out. He tore off and back on track. What impressed me most was how calm and cool he was. He didn't panic and at the same time, didn't give up and just park the bike. He was so driven and determined to finish the race, it was awesome. He still finished on the lead lap and managed to set the fastest lap of the race. Even with the positive spin we tried to put on things, he still replied, "Yeah, but I crashed while in the lead!" Oh yeah. Oops.
After dad's spill, Aaron decided to follow suit and crash in the bus stop himself. His wasn't as pretty though. He had a moment with the rear stepping out through the sweeper, which bucked him out of the seat, along with getting into a tank-slapper. When he went to reach for the brakes into the bus stop, there weren't any. He pumped the brakes once, then again and when he did – the brakes came back 100%, tossing him over the bars in a nasty-looking crash. Aaron got up, but he was pretty banged up in the ribs and shoulder.
Needless to say, we were pretty busy in the garage tending to bikes and riders, so in getting ready for the 750 Superstock race, the bike wouldn't turn over again – and we didn't have time to diagnose the problem. It sounded like the battery was dead, but that couldn't be the case. With a push from Matt, I bump started the bike and headed out.
Once on the grid for 750 Superstock, I didn't have the best of launches. I probably wasn't 100% focused, but Cale (Jones) and Rick got ahead of me. I had such a poor launch, I had time to move over/duck under Cale and try to make something happen going into T1. Cale still had the edge and it would have been sketchy for me to throw it in there, so I tucked into T1 behind he and Rick. My issues escalated though, as Dave came around the outside of T1 and put me back to 4th. I'd have some work to do.
On the next lap, I was able to out-drive Cale through 10B onto the straight and move into third going into T1. Dave had worked his way past Rick for the lead, but Rick was right there with him. I worked up to Rick and was able to pass him a couple laps later into the bus stop. Dave had a bit of a gap by that point and I tried to close it down a bit, doing my fastest laps all weekend, with several 1:20.x's and followed him for the next few laps. This was now sort of a role reversal of the previous race. We were riding hard, but with Dave not making any mistakes, I wasn't sure if I'd have a chance to try a pass.
As we flew by the white flag, I knew I had to at least be good in the esses to have a chance. Dave was gapping me there and I needed to be better. Up through T1, T2 and T3, I was right there. Over the jump and into the esses, I didn't lose too much ground, as we were nose-to-tail heading into the bowl. As we exited the bowl into the sweeper, I was right there and as he setup for T9, I ducked underneath and made the pass for the lead.
Out of the bus stop with a tight line, I didn't get a great drive on exit. Up the hill through 10A, I flicked the bike to the right and then up and over for the left, 10B. On the gas, I knew it wasn't a good drive and it was confirmed as Dave came alongside on the left, as we leaned over onto the straight together, bar to bar! He pulled alongside, with both of our throttles to the stop, pinned – we crossed the line together. I didn't know who won!
Phew, what a race. We congratulated each other again on a great race. Wow, what a riot. That race was easily my most fun race of the day, probably the season. The official results would show that Dave did win and the gap at the line was .001! How is that even calculated? Between our first two races, the total gap was .030. Talk about close racing. As an a bonus, my best lap was a 1:20.6 in that race, a new personal best.
Without much time to relive that race, we were back up on hot pit getting ready for the second race of the back-to-back. The problem was however, that before going out – the bike wouldn't start, again. Another push from Matt and off I went. On the warm up lap though, something wasn't right. The bike didn't sound good. It wasn't pulling strong and felt ragged. I hoped it would clear itself up.
Off the line into T1, the bike wasn't clearing up. It felt like the mapping and everything were acting up, throwing me off line, not used to the power delivery. I ended up moving over and out of the way, finishing 10th or something like that. The race was red flagged early, just past halfway.
Looking at the bike back in the garage, we weren't sure what the problem was. Dad was checking things, but we didn't have a lot of time to work with. It appeared the start button was causing the battery to lose voltage, so we'd try another bump start to avoid using the start button altogether and hope for the best. We confirmed the battery was charged and that was about all we could do before third and final call.
750 Superbike wasn't nearly as much fun as Saturday's race. The bike was still having issues, so Dave and JB were up ahead racing and I was back cruising around, finishing in 4th place. It was disappointing, as I had really wanted to push into faster times after progressing in the first two races.
Dad ended up winning three of his four races while setting a new personal best lap time as well. Aaron also set a new personal best, although got banged up a bit in the process. He's had minor knee surgery planned for a month or so now, so I think he figured he might as well fall off the bike and get as much fixed at once, as possible.
Overall, the racing during the past weekend was some of the closest I've had since the Sammy days. I didn't get down to the lap times I wanted, but we made progress. I finally had a solid weekend at Grattan in this direction, which has eluded me for awhile. I had an epiphany with BP during Sunday's races as well – I felt smoother and the times felt easier to do. If I can continue to apply that and have it come more naturally – I think it'll be even more beneficial as the season progresses. I'm looking forward to coming back here and seeing what more improvements we can find.
Thanks to my dad, mom, Matt, Aaron, Doug and Gina for their help all weekend. A special thanks to Doug for coming out while barely able to walk and providing some great insight that was helpful to all of us. Special thanks to Matt for all his great photos you see here and his working of the GoPro's all weekend. Also thanks to Greg, Kathy and Ryan for coming out and watching this weekend – and Ryan for taking a bunch of photos as well. Thanks to Knox Armour for donating a pair of Handroids that WERA gave away during Sunday's riders meeting as well.
As for the battle of lap times with Stymie, I won this round after getting whooped on at Mid-O. He did a 1:21.001, so a 1:20.6 takes this round. It's 2-1 so far in my favor, so we'll see what happens at the upcoming Nelson and PIRC rounds. If Gene (Burcham) doesn't show up at the next couple rounds to push Stymie, that'll certainly make things easier. Although the point of all this was to push each other into faster times, so it might end up causing our whole plan to implode. :)
Thanks for reading.Thursday, August 15th, 2013 | POSTED AT: 5:01 AM
FILED UNDER: Race Reports
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About This Entry
- You're currently reading "WERA ’13, Round 4 & 5 – Grattan Raceway (My Nemesis & The BP Epiphany)," an entry on Witchkraft Racing.
- Published: 08.15.13 / 5am
- Category: Race Reports