AFM Round Two at Button Willow Raceway, April 14th and 15th, 2018

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AFM Round 2, Button Willow April 14th and 15th

BBJK finished the Superstock engine and we built the bike prior to a track day so I could do the engine break in. The tediousness of that process was lost to me as all engines I have had are broken in on the dyno. Running at 8, 10, 12 and 14,000rpm with as many shifts as possible at partial throttle positions in C group was a very odd experience indeed as the pace was so slow I had to drastically change my suspension and tire settings. The final break in was done by Will Morton at M Works in Suisin City so the bike was ready for this event.

Greg Clouse loaned me his Superbike again (for F40, 450 Superbike and F4) as we are still in the process of building mine and hope to have that ready for Round 3 at Thunderhill. Thank you Greg!

The goals for this weekend were very simple indeed:

  • Improve corner entry speed
  • Improve mid corner speed
  • Improve consistency of lines

New for 2018 with AFM, Formula classes had their own qualifying sessions of 15 minutes on Saturday afternoon! Having been through this process back in the day with AMA, I had to dust off the memories and re-center so after one practice session after lunch, it was time to see what I could do for a lap time in Formula 4 (Formula 1 was also combined with us). It was funny to behold everyone piling up to get to the front of the line and then all leave. I sat back and let everyone leave with the known fastest rider in the group waiting in front of me. I had a choice to get the tow or run my own clean laps using him as a marker. I gave Sam 10 seconds and then left the hot pit with the mind set of warm up lap, 95% lap and then full on for lap 3 to come in on lap 4.

Having Sam as a marker worked great as a visual reference in 2 sections of track that were far apart so I got the best of both worlds – calibration plus quiet time to focus on the goals. I closed in on lap two and then put my head down for lap three. It felt like I did a really good job overall and then Sam dropped by to tell me I beat him for pole by half a second with a 1.55:5 to his 1.56:0. I was very grateful for the knowledge via experience that I could leverage to my advantage!

Saturday, Race #1, Formula 40 lightweight

Given the confidence boost of the pole position acquired in Formula 4 qualifying, I took off for the warm up lap with a big grin and a very different disposition knowing that I had the pace to win the race. Last round I won this race by 16 seconds, but now with back to back weekends, all my fellow competitors were up to pace and all bets were off. Knowing that 3 other waves of races were behind me with reasonable grids also made me smile as traffic can be a wonderful blocker if the dice rolled my way…….

Managing the hole shot from the start, I simply clicked back into my mindset from qualifying but wanted to put in a couple of very fast laps right away to create and manage a gap. By the end of lap two we had traffic to contend with and for once it was reasonably spread out.

Ben Hodges graciously offered to signal on the wall on the front straight and by lap three he was ready to walk away as the gap was that big. I was astounded that this was even remotely possible as everyone in my class was faster than last round. For me at times like this I recall the old story of Ayrton Senna and how changing pace mid race created a crash, so stay at pace, maintain focus and keep lap times within a few tenths.

My best lap time in this race was a 1.55:9 compared to last month of a 1.56.9 so a full second faster and a win with a time gap of 17 seconds to Ian Smith in 2nd place. Objective achieved and that gave me the impetus to push for faster times on Sunday.

Sunday, Race #7, 450 Superbike:

I was very excited for this race knowing that while all my fellow competitors were most certainly faster than last round, I had managed to keep the gap in lap times so while a win was certainly possible, it would require the same focus and discipline while racing to make that happen. We were the second wave with no other classes behind us and 650 twins were in front who are equally as fast, so traffic was not going to be an issue at all.

As the green flag flew and as a result of the holeshot it became the familiar repeat of laps, accuracy and goals but with a deliberate focus on maintaining momentum. As we are around 75bhp, momentum is everything! With no one on the wall to signal for me, I settled into a pace and counted the laps down to the checkered flag. Last round I managed a 1.56:7 in this race compared to this round with a 1.54:5 for an 8.5 second win.

The best part? A new track record for our 450 class!

Sunday , Race #10, Formula 4:

Starting from pole with just one wave, this was going to be an extremely hard race between Sam, Aaron, myself and Brandon who qualified 4th (he dropped 4 seconds in F4 qualifying!!!!!). The leverage I had was a series of good races and a much improved overall race pace to work with the massively increased competition from riders on the front row.

Aaron got the holeshot but I fought back to take the lead by turn 3. Same goals, same plan and go! By lap 4, I was fatigued and losing clinical focus making two errors in the fast sections of the track and due to the level of competition, there was going to be a price to pay.  Aaron came by me in the last corner and took the lead. The gap he created with the block pass was something that I could not close up as he rode superbly over the last two laps.

For the last round in this race I rode Marcus Zarra’s bike and managed a 1.56:9 compared to this round with a 1.55:1, so again a good improvement in lap times.

Sunday, Race 11, 450 Superstock:

This was going to be the first race on my own bike just after break in, so I was riding something that I had no time at all on under race conditions and as such, the goal was to launch well and then adapt to the bike each lap. We also had 3 other waves to work our way through, so traffic might again be favorable or not…….

Everyone was up for this race and Paul Johnson had a new to him R6 to replace his 03 model. Paul is very, very fast on his day and with a new bike, the race could go either way depending on how well he adjusted to his bike and I could settle in on mine. Ian Smith is no slouch either with many class wins so (as with Formula 4), this was going to be a barn burner.

After a poor start I managed to work my way to the front before the end of the first lap and once more settled in. The pace was going to be slightly slower due to fatigue so that I could eliminate any errors on my part and that could allow others to be very close.

Ian Smith came by me on the last turn of lap 4 and then repassed me in Turn 1. He was so fast into Turn 2 and with two other bikes in front of us blocking the path, he had no option to go to the outside in order to stop and make the corner while I slipped up both bikes on the inside and created a gap. Ian would have been incensed so now I had to improve my pace in traffic to make sure I could maintain the gap over the final two laps.

To take the checkered flag was a relief and good riding created a gap of 5 seconds between myself and Ian. In the last round on Marcus’ bike I managed a  1.57:1 compared to a 1.55:8 so yet again an improvement in lap times!

A great weekend, a track record and 3 out of 4 race wins with one 2nd place.

AFM Round 3 is Memorial Day weekend May 26 and 27 at Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California.

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