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ENCORE PERFORMANCE & FABRICATION: A licensed Hyosung Dealer
2929 North Highway 89
Prescott, AZ 86301
Phone: 928 778 7910 Orders: 888 373 6686 e-mail*
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 to 5:30 MST
Cup Series - Round 4
Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Classic Course
Encore Performance Racing - May 26 - 28
RACE (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
PICTURES (1) (2)
Another long, race free month was coming to an end and it was time to get the bike ready for the Vegas round. The list of changes for this round were pretty small. We dumped the race gas in favor of 91 pump gas, saving some valuable coin in the process. Although the new brakes were excellent, we swapped out the stock pads in favor of a softer race pad in the form of Vesrah RJL's. These suckers had better work at $60 a pair. For those mathematically challenged, that's 120 bucks for new front end pads!!! The other change to the brakes was swapping the Goodridge stainless line setup in favor of the HEL Performance lines we had specially made for the GT 650 S/R. The Goodridge lines were a universal setup with screw in banjos and had developed a small seep. New Michelin Pilot Race tires were ordered in a Medium front and a Medium rear. We were going to run the same tires from the last round as long as possible, and I wanted to have new ones on hand. I would really like to support the on track Michelin vendor, they are really nice guys and are always willing to help, but we get them cheaper through the dealership. Sorry guys! On to the racing.....
I had never been to the Vegas track (I haven't been to any tracks, what am I talking about), so I was definitely apprehensive. Luckily, Roadrace SW (CCS) offers a practice day all day Friday to help get acquainted with this particular piece of asphalt. I had been debating about the practice day all month (its not free) but in the end decided to at least make it for a half day of practice. I knew I was going to need it. Tim and Annette (Encore Performance Racing's dedicated pit crew) said they would also make it up for the half day practice session. All right! A little help setting up and getting the bike sorted out is very much appreciated. The trusty steed that hauls me and the bike around the desert is a 1978 Ford F250 with a 460 c.i.d. motor. Not so good on gas, but it gets the job done....usually. We had noticed a coolant leak a while before and waited until the day before to check it out. Will pressurized the system and determined the leak was coming from the top seam in the radiator, so out came the radiator. To make a long story short, we had to get a new radiator, cap, and thermostat. Will got the job done in record time, and with a quarter of the swearing and wrench throwing it would have taken me to do the job. No time to really test it. I guess we'll find out if it works cruising through the Mojave desert. The trip to Vegas was fairly uneventful, although the temp gauge in the truck did creep towards the hot side on one occasion. I pulled over for a few minutes to let it cool down, and never had a problem afterwards. Tim and Annette had just gotten to the track when I arrived. Of course they were nice and refreshed from an air conditioned ride in their new GTI!
I had studied the layout of the track online but it didn't really help once out on the track. The track is flat as a pancake, which made it difficult to see the next turn. First couple of sessions I was just trying to memorize the track, figure out the line, and stay out of the way. By the end of the day I was getting more comfortable and trying to figure out where I could go faster. I had been told before hand that Turn 6 was the fastest turn we see in the SW series. "Wide open in 6th" they said, "take it as fast as you want"..... I don't think so! Friday practice I found myself rolling off the throttle before the turn and occasionally tapping the brake to scrub off a little more speed. I was taking the turn about 90 mph, while everyone else seemed to be going Mach 2! Friday practice times saw me running all over the 1:40's.
After a steak and shrimp dinner with Tim and Anette, I headed back to the track to catch some sleep in the truck. I fell asleep to the sound of Stock cars running around the oval at the track. Music to my ears!
I was up early on Saturday, a combination of excitement and cramped sleeping quarters. By now all of the morning race activities were becoming pretty routine; set up the pit, get to tech, check registration, attend the riders meeting, get dressed for the first practice. The bike was running well but was still cutting out at the very top end on the back straightaway. The spare parts bin is now fully stocked with an assortment of jets from 125 - 150. Tim and I swapped out the 140's for 135's. We had done this so many times now, we got it done before the next group was off the track. The last practice session went well and I was ready for the race. My lap times had come down into the 1:36's, not bad, but well off the pace.
I got a good start and found myself in 4th going into turn one, but it didn't last long, as usual. I was still having problems with turns 3 and 4. It's a small right (barely even a turn) followed immediately by a 180 left. I was slowing down before the quick right which was really hurting my corner speed and drive out of 4. It was difficult to get the bike to turn quickly. The bike is steady as a rock but, not the most nimble handling, I was really having to muscle it over. Aaron Weiss got by me quickly and I could feel Kevin "Doc" Lynch breathing down my neck. Doc passed me in Turn 6. I was getting through there faster but still not at full speed. The bikes stability is evident in the fast sweeper so it's not the bikes fault. I just didn't have the cojones yet to keep the throttle pinned. I stayed in 6th place the remainder of the race and put in laps. Best lap of the race was a 1:33.954 and finished 6 of 7.
After last months great race with Joel Dennis in Thunderbike I was really looking forward to this race. As it turns out Joel was a little off my pace this weekend, but I did have a good race with Doc. I held him off for the first 4 laps. I knew he was right there he just couldn't get around, until lap 5, when he made is pass exiting turn 2 and made it stick for the rest of the race.The wind had really picked up by now and must have been blowin at 20 mph with 40 mph gusts. The clouds were out in full force and it was actually a little cold. The wind was something I hadn't experienced on the track. The worst of it was coming out of Turn 6 and Turn 7. The wind was trying to blow me wide at the end of Turn 6 and then the opposite direction after Turn 7. It was something I had to pay attention to throughout the whole day. A little laps in concentration and you would get blown off the track. Best lap of the race was a 1:33.699 and I finished in 4 of 5.
Last race of the day and I was really starting to enjoy the track. I was getting through turn 6 over 100mph and the Turn 3/4 combo was getting better. I kept trying a different line all day. The best line seemed to be to keep it way to the left side of the track before hitting the quick right, then cutting all the way to the otherside of the track before entering the left hand Turn 4. Although I ended up in last place I had a good battle with Doc, as we swapped positions the whole race. Best lap of the race was a132.317, finished 9 of 9. After the race Doc was wondering what I had done to the bike to make it faster, since he was pulling away from me easily at the last race. I told him we hadn't done a thing to the motor, but had finally gotten the jetting figured out. He didn't believe me and swore up and down that I had tweaked the motor.
The plan for practice was to use up the tires I had on the bike and then swap them out for the races. Morning practice was good, I was finding a good rhythm, and started putting down consistent 1:32's. I was getting through Turn 6 quicker which was making a huge difference. I still wasn't full speed.....but close. The sun was back and the wind was gone. It was a perfect day for racing.
I was having so much fun on the track I decided to sign up for another race on Sunday. This was the first time I had run Lightweight GP, but it's pretty much the same guys with the addition of Dale Whelan running out front on his TZ 250. Since I was the last one to register for the race, I started from the back of the grid, but I got my usual good start and was 3rd going into Turn 1, which lasted until Turn 2. I was sitting 6th with Ed Jones on my tail. It took him most of the lap to find a way around, but instead of going off in the distance, I was able to hang with him the whole race. Doc was nowhere to be seen. It seems the combination of getting more familiar with the track and the new tires and I had stepped it up a notch. It was a good feeling to not be in last place. I could get used to this. Best lap of 1:32.621, finished 7 of 10.
I was feeling good and looking for a better finish in the Superbike race on Sunday. I didn't get the best start though, and I popped the clutch too hard and pulled a big wheelie off the line. I sat in 6th behind Ed going into Turn 1. I thought that would be where I would finish but I was wrong. Ed and I were running about the same pace. I was on the brakes a little deeper into Turn 5 and was able to pass there, but he would get the drive out of Turn 2 and pass me on the short straight. He was leading on the last lap and I knew I had to get a good drive out of 5 to get past him. I waited till I couldn't wait any longer and got on the brakes hard and took the inside line. I was able to hold the line out of 5 and kept Ed behind till the checkered flag. This was by far the best race of the season so far. I was first amateur and even beat a white plate holder. After the race Ed and I were talking and he said I was still too slow in Turn 6 . He was right I was still letting off the gas about midway through the turn. I told myself I would hold it open the next time out. Best lap of 131:245, finished 5 of 9 (compared to 9 of 9 on Saturday!)
The Thunderbike race was pretty uneventful, I got past Doc early and tried to keep up with Guy Lachlan on his Ducati 748, but he slowly pulled away. I kept my promise and held it WFO in Turn 6 and managed to keep the bike upright and got through the turn about 125mph.... I didn't really want to look at the speedo while I was draggin my knee at that speed! I just tried to put down some consistent laps. I knew I wasn't going to catch Guy unless he made a big mistake, and I knew Doc wasn't going to catch me, unless I made a mistake. I stayed consistent, running 131's the with a best lap of 1:30.866, finished 3 of 5. My first podium!!! Even though we don't have a podium.
The Supersport race came right on the heels of the Thunderbike race so there wasn't much of a break in between. A quick drink of water and then back to the track. The grid was down to 5 on Sunday. I got a good start and tried to stay with the top 3 guys as long as I could. I kept them in my sights for three laps before they really started to pull away. Doc was well behind me so I just ran around the track trying to stay consistent. I finished in 4th overall and top amateur so I had to stop at Tech after the race (since this is a pretty stock class). Tech came over, looked at the bike and said "I don't know what's stock and what's not", so on I went. After picking up my first plaque (3rd place Thunderbike!), Doc stopped me and was pretty upset. "I know you did something to that bike" he said "are those brake calipers stock." I said "No, I told you that before, the stock brakes were unsafe for the track." "Well" he said "Supersport doesn't allow for brake caliper modifications, I'm gonna protest your fourth place in that race" I put up a little argument, but gave in pretty quickly. He probably knew the rules better than me. I know he was just pissed that in four race weekends, I had come from finishing last, with him giving me advice on how to be faster, to me handing his ass to him this Sunday.
As it turns out, caliper modifications aren't allowed in the Supersport class, so I will have to bow out of that Class. I guess I'll just have to start racing in GT Lights!!