Doomed. I hadn’t planned to buy a new bike – in fact, I had planned not to. When the deal appeared, I failed — and then I decided to try racing it.
Hello, 2002 RC51.
Bought on Friday, suspension setup Friday night (HI BRANDON!), track day Saturday, first ever race day Sunday. Good plan, right?
Actually, I got 3 races – the mock race (which, having done enough corner-working, I knew was to be red-flagged at some point just to make sure we knew what would happen) and two ‘heats’ for the SuperStreet class which I had to complete to get my race license (for next year; this was the very last race day of the year here). First things first was getting a new rear tyre on the thing; the one was fairly shot, but luckily track side support (Speedin’ Motorsports) had ONE left (thanks Brian!!), and it was ‘appropriate’ for the RC51. That’ll teach me to buy on Friday, track on Saturday! Mismatched Dunlop front and Michelin rear, and a 200 instead of a 190 – but I was riding. 🙂
The transitions are bumpy, especially in the driveway sections between the regular track and our ‘optional’ version — transitioning onto and off the banking in odd places does that. Plus Sandia Speedway doesn’t have the best surface; the track walk was actually terrifying, seeing how big some of the cracks are. Sad to say, but it’s the best we’ve got locally so gonna run it, right? The track record in both configs is held by a 600 — the straight just isn’t long enough for a superbike to really shine, and the corner speed just counts.
The first mock race taught me an important lesson (or two). One, that I don’t know how to do a decent race start — especially not on SMRI’s ‘new’ config, which is a pretty tight course with a super-short run to the first corner, and two — that even what I don’t know works better when the bike isn’t in neutral. The first mock start was ‘why is it revving ohbloodyhellneutral clonk GO’. The second was better, though others still got a better start than me. Apparently, my competitie spirit came out, because everyone was saying ‘we expected you to just sort of putter, since it was just a mock — but you had blood in your eye and started passing’. Fun. 🙂
We had a lot of red-flag and ambulance action in the morning while I waited between practice and my races (7 and 10 on the schedule), so we were down to sprint races. 6 laps of what is already a pretty short course (1.2 miles in this, the longer, tighter and more technical configuration). So lots of sitting around, watching, waiting. Yeah — that was good for my nerves, for sure. Superstreet was (for us) a large class, with 10 bikes plus another class on the track. It’s a run what you brung class, so there was everything from 690 supermotos to my litre twin and most things in between out there, and from race-prepped bikes to just taped up street bikes.
The two actual races I was lined up on the third row, up against the dirt facing the inside of Turn 1. This means that everyone is going to cut across you going into that turn, so it’s an exciting place to be — especially when you haven’t got the practice to be a good starter. The advice one of the local expert racers gave me about the start being the most crucial part of the race came back to haunt me as I hopped a baby wheelie and got dead-last off the grid — behind even the vintage bikes sharing the grid with us, though those were ridden by the Experts. Ugh.
This meant I got pinched into Turn 1, and pushed even further back as I made my abortive passes. By about halfway round the track, I was suddenly reminded that I had gears, and that even up 5 in the rear and down 1 in the front doesn’t mean you should run around the whole time in 1st. WOW! Plus, I was so focused on actually racing and breathing and and and and that every thought of actually knowing how to ride was out of my head. Stiff, no body position, eyes on the riders ahead not on the track where I wanted to go. Amazing what adrenalin does — I’m crazy polite as a track day rider and anyone who wants to pass me can, because I win track day by staying upright.
Heading into the south hairpin I actually shifted UP into second, rather than down. I’ve got into the habit of running 2nd through there on the RC8 and lugging it out despite the turn; may need to change that. H was working that corner, so definitely not where i wanted something to go wrong — though I wasn’t really thinking about that in the race. It’s one of my favourite passing places, since there’s a wider, faster line around it that you can really stuff someone if they take — so I started passing there, and picked off the slower half of the pack.
The rest were running 7s+ faster than my best ever lap time before, so — particularly with the passing — after 4 laps, I was clear of the traffic, but a HUGE chunk behind the rest of the pack. Took home my best laptime ever (according to the timing sheet) by a massive jump, a HUGE adrendalin rush, and a 5th place finish. Plus a desire to do it again, and to learn to start.
The second race started … differently. I think the RC51 has a bad FPR, because it started to get balky on that race (it was also stupid low on petrol, and I was WAY too excited to even think about that). Stalled it getting out of my pit, stalled in the hot pits, stalled it on the grid; it wouldn’t hold an idle, and it started to buck and kick a little too. Really exciting given the bumpy course and the infamous ‘digital throttle’ that several of the guys who had very successfully run these bikes at our track. Despite that, I got a slightly better start and a couple of passes (including apparently scaring one of the other novice racers when I appears alongside and inside her on the way into a turn — how she didn’t hear the Jardine’s rumbling, I don’t know) and then my track day instincts got the better of me and I let an R6 past me on the way into the north hairpin. Tried to chase him down, but couldn’t do it and so had a similar feeling to the first; after a couple of laps of passing the guys with more talent than me got away at the front, and I had a slightly lonely ride to 4th.
Still — I stayed upright, had an absolute blast, and massively improved the laptimes that I had tracked with Harry’s Lap Timer in the past. A success!