Saturday, April 13, 2013

Only 1 Track Day in April...

...but what a day it was!

Well, that's 5 track days down so far and that was just by the first weekend in April.  There was a track day this weekend but I cannot make it due a scheduling conflict.  Then there was supposed to be a track day on 4/28, but the provider had to cancel it due to some conflict.  So that leaves my next available date as May 5.

But back to the one April track day.  We were back at MSRH with my favorite track day provider, Fastline MCS. The other local providers have their strengths, but I really like the family atmosphere of Fastline.  But I digress (I always wanted to use that phrase. Hopefully I used it correctly).  As I've started doing this year, I arrived at the track the night before the event and camped in the paddock area, thereby avoiding the super-early wake-up and morning drive to the track to get a good spot.  It was just, "wake up and I'm there."

For this track day I decided to step up to the Advanced level to get out of the traffic jam and erratic driving that is the Intermediate level.  Additionally I signed up for the Advanced Racing school for some personal instruction with Brandon Cleland, assisted by Tony Nguyen.  To start the morning the track was dry, temps were around 70 and there was a lot of traction from the start.  Brandon had us to go out in the first session to get warmed up and check out the track conditions while he and Tony did the same and shot some video of Brandon demonstrating the racing line around the track.  After that session we came into the classroom for review and instruction.  We then repeated that pattern throughout the day.  Ride and classroom, ride and classroom.  In class we talked about different items like lines, body position, braking, etc, aided by a track diagram and video of the previous session.  The close instruction and one on one mentoring allowed each student to pick out their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve.  For me, my main area of improvement was braking.  They said my body position was good but just get off the seat a little more, and getting on the throttle wasn't a problem because when riding the SV650 you can almost treat the throttle like an on/off switch!

So the day was pretty busy.  We'd ride the track, come back and put our warmers back on and whatever else needed to be done, then hustle off to the classroom.  Then with about 5 minutes left before the next on-track session would start, we would quickly go back to the bikes, get ready and head out on the track.  The pace was pretty hectic at times, but it was totally worth it.  Working with the instructors I was able to knock almost 3 seconds off my previous best lap time and I was still dropping 1 or 2 tenths a seconds a lap each session.  When the day ended I was still improving despite being pretty exhausted.

Overall it was an exciting day and we were disappointed when it had to end.  Three days later we were still talking about the fun we had and the new friends we had made.  It's a shame I won't be going back for almost a month but then again, having a weekend that isn't go go go will be nice.

Here's a video from a few laps around the middle of the day having fun with a guy on a CBR600.

And this video is one of my fastest laps of the day.  After watching it again, I can see LOTS of places for improvements.  I hope I can drop a few more seconds next time and maybe even run a sub-1:50 lap one day.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

March was a busy month

First there was the RideSmart track day on May 9 at MSR Houston. It was actually a 2-day event on the 9th and 10th but I was lucky that I only did the 9th because it rained quite a bit on the 10th.  I talked about that one last time.

Seven days later it was time to go back to MSRH, this time with Fastline MCS.  And to throw a twist into the day, we ran the track backwards from the normal direction.  So looking at the track and the outside section, we ran that counter-clockwise.  For the most part, running the opposite direction isn't a LOT different from the regular direction.  If  you were familiar with the track, then you already knew the layout.  You just had to prepare for a lot of corners being slow-in, fast-out instead of the other way around.  My lap times running that direction have typically been withing 1-3 seconds of the times going the regular direction.  After the super-structured weekend with Ridesmart, it was great to just go out and have some fun.

The next weekend I wasn't riding, but the CMRA was up at Texas World Speedway in College Station so I went up with my oldest son on the 24th  to watch some racing and hang out with friends.  It was chilly and super windy, but we still had a great time watching all the fast riders and helping friends get ready for their races.

Finally, for the last weekend of the month  I decided to go up to a Track Tactics event at Eagles Canyon Raceway (ECR).  We had quite a bit planned already as it was Easter weekend, but Friday night and most of Saturday was free so off I went and 2 buddies met me up there.

This was my first time going to ECR.  It's quite an eye-opener compared to the almost completely flat tracks around Houston.  ECR has about 70 feet of elevation changes.  I was ready to step up to the Advanced level class at MSRH, but since I'd never seen ECR before, I stayed in Intermediate for this one.  That was a good idea for several reasons.  First of course was the new track, and secondly, it rained for several hours Friday night, dropping over an inch of rain in parts of the area.  So all day we had to deal with a far from ideal track surface and changing conditions.  At least the rain itself had moved on during the night, leaving us with breezy, partly cloudy conditions. The track in perfect conditions would be a challenge, so throw in spots of the track weeping water, water running across the track at one point and just overall low traction and we were slipping and sliding all over the place.  We still had a good time, even after I had a low-side in turn 6 with about 10 minutes left to go in the day.  It was a spot that a lot of people had trouble with and I trail braked just a tiny bit too much and lost the front end.  Come to think of it, trail braking at all that day was probably a bad idea!  Anyway, it was all fun and damage was mainly limited to some bent rearset parts and a few scuffs on the plastics.

Here's a couple of laps around the middle of the day

And this is the low-side at the end of the day.  .

I rode the bike back to the pits and had it ready to go for the next track day just 7 days away on April 7.  I'll continue that in the next post. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Too busy riding, no time for posting

Wow, it's been a month since my last post.  Quick summary with a full writeup later.   Done a couple more track days.  Rode a new track, and set a personal best time at a track I've ridden a lot.  Had one minor lowside with mainly rearset damage at one track day but was ready to go and rode again 6 days later. Next track day will be in May.

More to follow.