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WERA at Grattan, July 15th and 16th 2023

Discussion in 'Race Reports' started by IL8APEX, Jul 17, 2023.

  1. IL8APEX

    IL8APEX Well-Known Member

    Welcome to Western Michigan. If you don't like the weather, hang around 15 minutes... It will change.

    The 3 day weekend schedule started with a track day on Friday, Racing on Saturday and Sunday. The weather forecast was good but uncertain. I consider Grattan a "Home Track," even though it is almost 2 1/2 hours away. It is my first track, my favorite track, and likely the track where I have ridden and coached the most in over 9 years with SportBikeTrackTime. But I had never raced here.

    Friday the track was Grattan as per usual: Rain drops started and stopped during the morning rider's meeting, unreasonably slippery in the first session, improving in the second and third sessions. After lunch the Sun began to load the track with temperature and grip improved in every subsequent session.

    There was lots of room on track. Lots of room in the paddock, too. As I always do at Grattan I began the day on street tires. Can't keep temperature in the tires when turtle hunting on a slippery track. I got a little optimistic in the 2nd session of the day at 70% pace and lost the front at the apex of turn 4. Oops, sorry for the flag! Once traffic stopped it took me several minutes to get all the wet sod out of my brake levers. Gotta love Grattan!

    After lunch I switched to the tires I raced with at Nelson last month. The front was getting worn but the rear had only seen 2 practice sessions and 2 races. Good to go. I made some ergonomic adjustments and worked with friends to find a pace. 1:35, 1:34, 1:33... As the afternoon went on I hit a plateau at high 1:32s. The advice was straightforward: "Just throw it in there, the front will stick." 1:30. Whaddaya know, it stuck.

    Friday night came in peace, but overnight storms and rain (lots of it!) washed the track completely clean.

    (Feel free to make something up here about Saturday, as I was not in attendance. Or you can send me your own race report and I'll paste it in here!)

    I returned to the paddock Saturday Evening to find even fewer attendees than when I had left the evening before. Half of the upper paddock was empty, and only a few outliers dotted the lower paddock. Race Results were posted: A total of 4 (!) races had been run due to the lack of participation. Saturday night was calm, and without Friday's rains, but the moisture remained in the ground and a low fog enveloped the paddock by morning.

    Sunday morning came and the racers began to return, attracted by a drier forecast and easy points on offer no doubt. The registration line was strong and the WERA staff handled it with aplomb as always, because Evelyn. I fired down some coffee from [shameless sponsor plug] Ron's Beans and got my gear ready.

    My practices began in the second session. I started Sunday slowly and just tried to replicate times from Friday. 1:34, 1:33. All to plan. Good job. A couple fewer clicks of rear compression and a splash of fuel for the third session, just start slow. Feeling comfortable. 1:31, 1:30.5... Hmmm, that felt nice.

    I pulled in knowing that my track day tires were nearing their end and the track would get better. Back in the pits I remembered that while I had been hydrating I hadn't eaten anything yet. Grab my sandwich and go talk to my pit neighbor before heading to racer's meeting. Turns out he had crashed in the 2nd practice session (bummer) and although he was unhurt his very damaged bike was yet to arrive. I offered some sandwich, told him I would help him load up during lunch, and trotted off to racer's meeting.

    8 races were posted for the day, with some races dropped and many combined. I'd be in race 2 (4 and 8), 4 (6 and 12), and 8. But given family commitments I was probably going to have to leave before Race 8. So I got my pit neighbor all loaded up, made sure I had enough fuel in me and the bike, and committed to giving it my all for 2 races.

    Race 2 (4 and 8 combined) started under clear skies. I was gridded on the outside of Row 3 all alone. Row 1 was full of my competition, left to right it was Ian Fraley on his Honda 250, John Trautmann on his newly acquired Aprilia 250, and Paul Wilke astride his SV. Row 2 was empty. Over my right shoulder in Row 5 on his Yamaha was Evan Moriarty.

    I might never have another start so good in my racing career. I flew past Ian, John, and Paul before piling on the brakes and tipping into 1. I left some room on the inside in case Paul's plan was the inside, but no one came. I think I was at the exit of 3 before I realized: "I'm leading the race! OK, play it cool, act like you've been here before..." I focused on executing my plan rather than the noises behind. I could hear them in the bowl, but then I stopped thinking about it. I simply executed the plan. 1:30.5, 1:30.2., 1:30.2...

    After a few laps I could hear someone behind me again. I held a tighter entry into 3 trusting my front tire to stick. It did. In the middle of 3 I spotted the photographer camped out at the apex of 4. "I know this is probably the only time I'll ever have Ian Fraley behind behind me in a race, I WANT THIS PHOTO!" I put on my best body position and aimed for the apex.

    I managed to play it cool, kept executing my plan, and he dove under me 3 corners later into the Bowl. "Give him room, and learn something." At Nelson Ian was 6 seconds a lap faster than I was. But we are at Gratttan, and the difference was much smaller. I knew he had race tires and 150 fewer pounds so his roll speed was greater, but I hung on as best I could and opened throttle in the corners earlier than I ever had. 129.25! I'll take it. Despite the fact that he was pulling away I could also feel the gap to third growing. I settled in and continued to execute. A big slide on the front in turn 3 the next lap told me to back off a bit.

    Half Distance. Relax. Execute. A bit longer and more noise from behind. At turn 7 again I left room and found out who it was. Evan was riding the wheels off his little Yamaha, and a bobble in the middle of 7 cost me a few tenths. As I chased him through the bus stop and up the hill I was doing the math. He had been gaining enough time through the curves that I needed a good drive onto the straight to beat him into T1 or I wouldn't have another opportunity. Past the stationary white flag I held it wide open, I positioned my bike next to him on the straight, and I didn't pull the lever until I saw him do the same. New Skill: Block Pass unlocked.

    It wasn't for points. We weren't in the same class. But it's still fun to be out there practicing racecraft. I executed my plan until T7, where I altered my line enough to show I wasn't going leave the door open again. Evan had a look but I tipped in ahead and finished the lap on the gas. Big thumbs up on the cool down made it clear that he had almost as much fun as I had. Ian had beaten us to the line by 3.5 seconds, the gap between Evan and I at 0.5s. I had accomplished another low 1:29 lap on the last lap as well, proving I could do it with clear track ahead.

    Race 4 (6 and 12 combined) started under cloud cover, and with the corner workers pointing at the sky. A few drops on my visor in the sweeper weren't enough to cool the track, so at the start it was full go. I had the outside of Row 1 for this race (obviously a clerical error!) next to Paul Wilke with Ian on the inside. Row 5 was Craig Breckon and John Trautmann, with Evan back on Row 7. I rolled up and prepared for a short start. Clutch, throttle, WHEELIE, clutch, WHEELIE and all of the sudden I watching the rest of the 1st row enter T1 ahead of me. I’m tentative through the first turn and John and Evan also roll past. I gather my patience and remind myself that I still have almost enough laps to dig myself out. Follow the leader until the straight, then get to work.

    “Work” included a bit of luck as well, as I think it was lap 2 when Evan was setting up the pass around the outside of Paul between 2 and 3. I chose the inside, and dove in late getting a “2 for 1” result. That was definitely the most eventful lap, after that I was back to execution. Trying some different lines into T1 and the Bus Stop meant my lap chart was a little bit of a yo-yo, but the wet stuff held off and two more 1:29.4s in that race meant that I could back up my previous pace.

    The checkers came with the relief that no one had challenged my position for the remainder of the race. I could go home knowing I left everything on the track. I stopped at Evan’s pit to thank him for the good clean racing. I high-fived anyone who I passed on the way back to my pit. And I drove home to my family thankful for another safe track adventure.

    Thanks to my sponsors: Ron's Beans Coffee, Red Tap Draught Solutions, SportBike Track Time, and Magic Racing.

    A special mention here: I know that safety at the track is something that a lot of us take for granted. The way these days / weekends / seasons are put together and the emphasis on safety is something that is part of the WERA culture. I would like to take this opportunity to thank EVERYONE in the organization, from the part time flagger all the way up to those of you who live and breathe the Org., for maintaining that priority so that the rest of us can enjoy these events. Thank you!
  2. R/T Performance

    R/T Performance Well-Known Member

    great write up! see you soon Tom
  3. Gino230

    Gino230 Well-Known Member

    Love reading these. Staying mentally strong in mixed conditions is very tough- especially when it starts raining. There's a period of time when the grip is unchanged, and then suddenly, it's changed. Usually that's when the first guy goes flying! Just try not to be that first guy!
    IL8APEX likes this.
  4. IL8APEX

    IL8APEX Well-Known Member

    ^^^ Exactly. I played that card on Friday, glad Sunday conditions never got dicey and Mother Nature let us race!
  5. kanatuna

    kanatuna You can't polish a turd..

    Hell of a write up

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