Pre-race: This time I was prepped. No brake and oil shenanigans. No busted bolts meant no late night in the garage. I picked up my race fuel early, buttoned up the bike and had it on the trailer by 10:30pm Friday. The only thing bothering me was the weather forecast. It seems Matt Zafino and the Channel 8 weather mafia were putting a squeeze on the Rose City with a stifling high pressure system that had the temperatures climbing near the 90?s, meaning trackside temps would be considerably higher.
Saturday Practice: Did I mention it was going to be hot? Saturday was my day to start working a bit more diligently on setup. There was no sense in just burning gas and tires. Barry, of KFG, wanted to put a measure on my front fork. I said, ?Sure, I got a zip tie?? Barry could barely conceal his ?this is the dumbest thing a racer has said to me today and it?s not even 9am? look on his face. Barry summoned Gary of EDR to discuss what needed to be done with someone with more than a shred of a brain. Gary nodded and went over to my bike. I thought, ?There goes a half day of practice.? Not quite. Gary ripped off the fork, put on the band and reinstalled the left fork tube while my ginormous piehole was fully agape. Astounding. That job would?ve taken me at least an hour and there?s a reasonable chance I?d have leftover bolts and still have a clutch lever in my hand.
I went out for session 1, and played with this race weekend?s nemesis, Tony Porter (#89) for a bit. He knew I was gunning for him and it was time to size each other up. I showed him my brakes and he showed me his. A battle was brewing. I pulled in, needing to work on setup. Dr. Barry snapped on his rubber glove (oh $hit), looked over my setup and made a few adjustments. I went back out in session 2 and WOW! What a difference. Under hard braking: stable. Mid-corner: stable. We?ve got something here. I skipped session 3 because Barry thought it would be a good idea to change a few things in the rear. Again, another great call. Since I was tired from control riding TOR, I just ran one session in the afternoon to see how the rear was sorted. The bike was spot-on.
Sunday Practice: EDR had some work to do on my bike and I thought I?d miss first practice. Nope. Didn't happen. Jay and Chris made fast work of it, double-teaming my bike with the precision of neurosurgeons. It was both amazing and strangely erotic to watch. I made first practice by a country mile.
Open Supersport: For the first time since my return to racing, I wasn?t nervous. I was ready. The track temps were climbing past 115. I lined up on the second row in the second spot and readied for the green. Revs up. The flag drops, I bog off the line but like a middle-aged, squishy, pasty version of Jesse Ventura in Predator, I thought, ?I ain?t got time to bleed.? I ham-fisted the big stick and put the numbers to the heavens. Holy Jeebus! I?ve never held a wheelie this long. I tipped into Turn 1 behind Porter (#89), Chancy (#136) and Verderico (#455). I was able to pick off #455 on the first lap and give chase to Porter and Chancy. By the mid-point of the race, I was able to put a move on Porter into the braking zone of Turn 7. Chancy was just ahead. I got a good drive out of turn 9 and was able to go around Chancy?s 750 on the front straight. I kept my head down for one lap but had to back off a bit by lap 9. I had to back off because I botched an entry into turn 3. It seems I was stuck to my seat moving from right to left. I?m guessing with the increasing heat, either my legs were tired or my black leathers had melted my scrotum to the black seat. Mmmm..melted cheese. In the finishing laps, I hit lappers at the perfect time, making it more difficult to be challenged. I finished 6th and put the bike in the 9?s for the first time.
Formula Ultra: I was psyched for this race. The Open Supersport race had turned out well and some of the pressure was off me. I was cool headed but the heat was starting to take it?s toll. Track temps were reaching 140+ degrees. It was hotter than a pair of half-fu*$ed rabbits in a wool sock! My energy was starting to wane. When I geared up, I needed some relief. I saw Bluth helping cool off Dan Wilson with some water down the back of his neck. That seemed like a good idea and I asked for a little myself. Then, I hesitated. I thought, ?Was that a bottle DPW had just sipped from? Hmm, I should get my own. But wait, if he had, there could be some patentable DPW magically go-fast backwash in there!? I shouted, ?Yo Bluth! Throw somma dat down the back of my leathers, would ya bro-sephus!?!? Oh yes my friends, it was stimulating and transformational. I felt fast. My vision and focus narrowed. My blood ran cold. When a trickle of water slithered to the darkest reaches of my leathers, it was invigorating. Oh yes, it tingled. Now, it was go-time!
I took my grid position on the inside of the third row (C1). I surveyed the competition and knew where I needed to be when the flagged dropped. I put my foot firmly in position under the shift lever and built the revs. The starter held the flag up and the field of bikes started screaming. The flag dropped and I excitedly let out the clutch. BERP!!! N-O-T-H-I-N-G. EPIC GRID FAIL!!! There I was, dead in an orgy of testosterone and race-fueled mayhem. A rush of panic went over my body. I looked down and saw the green ?N? light laughing at me, ?Ha! Ha! Ha! You big dummy!? I must?ve lodged that boot a little too firmly under the lever and clicked up into neutral while watching the starter. Bikes from the rows behind me started to rush past. I tucked in my elbows, pulled in my legs and braced for impact. ?Save me baby Jesus!? Visions of the Philip Island WSBK incident where a stalled riders? boot got launched into orbit raced through my mind. I quickly snapped into gear and got off the line. It?s a testament to the talent of the riders around me that I didn?t have to explain to an emergency room proctologist why I had a still-mounted OMRRA race bike lodged in my a$$. ?It?s the darndest thing, Doc.? I later learned Steve Suitor (#62) had to take evasive action to narrowly avoid me (I owe you a cold one Steve). My mind was panicked and en fuego. I rushed to turn 1. I think I outran a couple bikes to T1 but who the hell knows. I was suddenly frenetic (calm and cool went right out the window). I slotted in around 13th into the first turn. My race was done. No way to catch Tony Porter (#89) now.
By Turn 2, I made up the space to Cuthbert (#276) and put a solid move on him into Turn 3. One down, too many to go. Turn 4 had attracted a gaggle of riders. I decided to square up and drive hard to the back straight. Then, I had a calming moment. In a rush, I nearly lost my head. I considered a pass on the outside of turn 5. Not a good idea if you get squeezed to the wall entering the back straight. I snapped it back to drive around the outside of the back straight. That Yosh exhaust was screaming like a prison stoolie getting raped and shived at the same time. YYYAAAAAAHHH!!! I passed The Cap?n (#147) and another rider before turn 7. Driving out of 9, I would get another and chase #313 down the straight. I assumed my usual front straight fetal position, wailing "Mama! Why didn't you love me!?! Why!?!" as I charged down the front straight after #313. I pulled out of the slipstream at the Festival curves and with the brakes and suspension lined up, I was able to outbrake #313 into turn 1. All I had left between me and Tony Porter was #455, Sam Verderico. Verderico is formidable to get around in the infield but thanks again to setup, I was able to thunder-shift (it works) and use my cc and hp advantage on the back straight. Up ahead was Tony. Thankfully, I hadn?t lost that much time in traffic to him. I had about a two and a half second gap to make up. I put my head down but so did Tony.
Tony had pulled the pin and he was on a flyer. For two laps, I thought I was catching him but he must?ve smelt the hot stink I was cooking and wanted none of it. I was not catching him. He started to eek out a few more tenths. I had a decision to make: Go for it or turn my camel-toe into a full blown moose knuckle. I had come to give Tony a race not manage position. It was time to tuck in the skirt. For the second half of the lap, I released the hounds and turned my first 1:09.xx of the race. I had a fantastic drive out of Turn 9 and braked so deep and hard into turn 1, my flaming red crimson undertail went skyward like a baboon?s a$$ in heat. Whoa! Just a wee too heavy on the brakes. I gave a bit back on the brakes, trailed out smoothly and the bike settled effortlessly into turn 1. The suspension was banging! By the time I was coming out of turn 3, I could see I had made up some time. Then it happened. Tony low-sided in Turn 4. I saw him pop up and he seemed ok. All at once, I was bummed and thankful. I was bummed he went down and we wouldn?t continue what would?ve been an epic battle to the finish but thankful I didn?t have to work that hard for the spot in the boiling heat. When I came around turn 9, I looked behind and no one was close. I shut it down the rest of the race, finishing 6th.
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