The Downside of Racing

I’ve been in a little bit of a slump recently. This season, I’ve been riding a 2008 cbr1000rr that has been through the hands of two of my friends. The bike is an absolute monster with every bazzaz bolt on possible, as well as a quick shifter and all the suspension mods I’ll ever need. This bike set up to get as much horsepower out of the 1000cc engine as possible, and that leaves no room for error. The following video is a small clip of my last fall at TWS the time before last.

The go down happens right at 14:28 (Video curtesy of Umayr Kaleem, subscribe to his videos)

So lets step through what has happened here.

  1. It’s the third session of the day, my second. It had been a while since I’d ridden this bike and I was already trying to work towards my old pace, instead of remaining calm  and working on my basics throughout the day.
  2. That body position. Why is my body position not like how I usually ride? I narrowed this down to my vision. This season I seem to have taken a step back and have not raised my vision up to where it usually is. Always look as far ahead as you possibly can and work with reference points. If your vision is anywhere near the front of your bike, you tend to go there and your body reacts accordingly, thus modifying your body position. Normally, my shoulders are much lower then where they are here, and that would have helped me keep my line tighter
  3. This line. The horseshoe at TWS is a notoriously slow corner as is, but if you remain on the middle/outside of this part of the track you get caught up in the garbage that flies off of people’s tires as they take the more correct, tighter line. Here, I believe that caught up with me and allowed for my front to slip out from under me.

It’s these three factors that I contribute the most to my fall this day…. But that’s all fine and well. A few weeks later, I fixed the bike (new fairings, clip ons, exhaust, MBC, and throttle), and we were back out there.

 

At this point I took the bike to Harris Hill for it’s initial shakedown since rebuild with my friend Ben Hunter. That day was enjoyable as I made it out slowly picking up my pace, and made it home with my bike intact and a few things adjusted to my own liking.  I think it’s paramount that after adjusting your bike, or not riding it for a while, to really take the time to feel it out, and get back to basics. Any small change on a motorcycle turns out to be a big change on a motorcycle at high speed. Please remember this. As an example, take the movement of clip-ons in or out a few millimeters. From a distance it’s hardly noticeable, but when you actually ride the bike it can be a completely different beast. With this change your leverage become drastically different, your wrist position become drastically different, etc. Take into account these small changes, and learn to work your way into them when finding out your own personal preferences.

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Cool, we got the bike adjusted, time to ride at TWS again! Labor day Monday was spent with my friends Ben, Noble, and Jorge. Here the plan was to still work into the bike, since it still had only been one full track day since I rebuilt it. The day started out well. Two sessions in, and I was riding slower, but was picking up my vision and working on my basics. Then it all stopped…. I came out of turn 10 and noticed a strange knocking noise coming from the left side of the bike. Shift into another gear…. okay the bike sounds fine but I need to get off the race line and limp it into the pit…. Up against the fence at the pit… oil… all over the right side of the bike. What the hell? oil filter? tight, Drain bolt? tight. At this point I pushed the bike back to where we were pitted at, and took a closer look. Quickly I noticed that I had a small hole in the motor underneath my starter….. so that’s it. Rod pushed through block and the motor is toast. I cant tell you how demoralizing this is. Three goes at TWS and 3 times, I take the bike home not running correctly.

I have had literally the worst luck with this bike. I’ve had people mock me and tell me to give up on this bike. I’ve had people tell me about how great my last bike was because it never broke. For me, I’ve thought through it all. Do I give up on this bike? Do I fix it and sell it? Do I just part it out and move on? Not this time. I know this bike is a beast. It may very well be too much bike for me and it may very well be a huge pain in my ass every time it breaks down, but what these people don’t understand is just how much fun this bike is when it’s on point. I feel like a damn fighter pilot out there with my squadron taking down the enemy bogies as we battle through each and every turn. It’s literally a raging bull and holding on to it induces a rush that gives me that quick fix of adrenaline that all racers are chasing. But even more than that it’s the challenge. I’ve given up on a few projects in my life, and have regretted it each and every time. This time I won’t give up. I must persevere and show MYSELF that I can push through these obstacles. It’s all a part of riding motorcycles fast, and anything that’s worth it will take hard work and determination, and that’s what I’m going give.

So is my riding season done? My hopes of racing in a CMRA race this year may be, but riding all together? no. I’ll slap some race tires on my RC51, and ride out a few track days because I can’t stop myself from riding motorcycles. It’s what I love to do. It’s what I look forward to doing on weekends when I’m not hanging out with my better half and our dogs. It’s ingrained in my soul, and I can’t deny myself that passion. In the mean time, I’ll be motor shopping for the CBR and pinching pennies to try and make it happen in order to make it through the less glamorous side of racing motorcycles. Keep your head up, focus, and work towards your goals.

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Track Day: Circuit of the Americas

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If you had an opportunity to race at a world famous race track, would you do it? I sure did. Bucket list checked off. I gained a lot of knowledge from it and was able to really stretch the legs of the M3 in a safe manner. Yeah autocross kinda same (another type of auto racing) but its nothing like racing a legitimate track.COTA -03

This was my first track experience and I was excited. I even counted down the days for the big event, like when you look forward going to vacation. I think any car person would be just as excited as me. The Circuit of the Americas is located in Austin, Tx and host many racing events including Formula One and Le Mans. The track is very technical with 20 turns and late apex. The corners are “rhythmic,” where if you get one corner wrong then you wont be able to properly set for the following corners. It’s a track you cannot master in one track day, but fun to race in.

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The event was hosted by Edge Addicts. The price to race at COTA is well worth the money. I paid $745 for one track day at COTA. This included a garage in the pit lane, 5 track sessions lasting 20mins, and a driving instructor, which a must for novice drivers. I also rented a truck and car trailer too. I didn’t have to do that, since my car is street legal and registered, but I wanted to have space were I can load my spares and tools.

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I was talking to some people who often do track racing and they said this is one of the longest tracks they have been to. The track is very demanding with long high-speed corners to long 140mph plus straight that goes to a sharp 2nd gear corners. Faster cars can reach 200mph plus. It place where you can find the limits of your car and driving skills.

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The two things I noticed that was kind of the weak link of my M3 was first: The OEM seats are nice but it didn’t hold me snugly like a full bucket seat would. I  would have to fight against gravity when going through the long high-speed corners.

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The second weak link was the factory brakes. I did change the pads to Akebono carbon ceramic pads, with SS brake lines and Motul dot 5.1 brake fluid. But even with those changes I was starting to feel the brakes get mushy after 15mins on the track during each session. I would have to tap my brakes a bit on the 140 plus mph straight before a sharp left corner to get my brakes to bite harder. The stock single piston caliper is massive (my VOLK TE37RT barely fits) and is more than adequate on the street but if you plan on going to the track frequently, then would recommend upgrading to the 4-6 piston big brake kits. Other than that the M3 is a great track car that is perfectly balanced. The chassis is so well-balanced that all you need to do is turn the steering wheel into the apex and it will hit the apex. If you haven’t really driven a M3, you are missing out on one of the best driving cars out there. No wonder automotive reviews give this car high praise. The M3, all generations are really great driving machines. You could daily this car and take it to the track on the weekends.

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On my first run I ran without M mode on, just to get a baseline. In my opinion,  the car felt great and capable on the track without M mode. The remainder of the sessions I ran with M mode because it was like icing on the cake. The car felt more planted and responsive on the track. The M3 has MDM mode, which is a more relaxed stability control. But the US MDM mode doesn’t give you much leeway like the Euro MDM mode. I always felt like the traction control kicks in way too early even in MDM mode. I was told the Euro MDM is 80% less intrusive than the US MDM mode. I guess BMW thinks US drivers can’t drive. But you can always fully turn off traction control to exploit the M3 capabilities. Just be careful, because if you get it wrong you don’t have electronics to save you.

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I did end up getting track insurance for a piece of mind, but there are loop holes and not everything is covered. With that in mind, I didn’t push the car too hard. I came to understand the limits of my car in a closed course and learn proper driving techniques. I mainly used 3rd through 6th gear. Some of the corners are 2nd gear corners but I didn’t want to push the motor too hard. Don’t get wrong though, the S65 motor has plenty of power in the power band to get me out the corners using 3rd gear.

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The S65 engine is soo well made from the factory, I didn’t feel the need for more power. The upgrades done to the m3 was minimal and mainly focusing on the handling. So far I did was a wheel stud conversion, VOLK TE37RT, Akebono pads, SS lines and Swift Spec R springs. Oh and you can’t forget about the tires… Nitto NT-05 rears and Michelin Pilot Super Sports in the front. My cold tire pressure was at 32 psi, but after one session the pressure went up to 38-40psi with hot tires. I would say that is the sweet spot for maximum grip, anything higher and the tires would get greasy. After each track session the tires stayed at a constant 38-40 psi. Which told me I had some good brand tires and they where able to take the abuse even in the 100 degree weather. They held up very well, and only had 2,000 miles put on them before my track day. These tires could probably do 3 more track sessions at COTA before I have to replace the tires. Nitto and Michelins have the same grip characteristics but if I had to choose… Then I would get the Nitto NT-05 over the Michelin Pilot Super Sports just because it’s a cheaper tire and a higher grip rating.

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The M3 really exceeded my expectation and no hick ups in the hot Texas heat. I was just having fun. I was catching up to 911 GT3, and Ferraris 458 Itallas. It’s not about horsepower but balance.

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Racing at COTA is really something any car guy should do at least once. This track is addicting and has many great features. If I could do this for a living I would in a heart beat. Racing has always been my passion and I’m thankful I was able to do this at a young age. Till next time…

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For my 11 min video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMcXnDjVE0U