Pacific Raceways, Kent, WA
July 10-11, 2021
This was the first round of the year at Pacific and I was hoping to find some new pace. I did that, but am still looking for more.
The weekend started with a 2-Fast track day on Friday. It has been a bit since I rode Pacific Raceways and I wanted the extra seat time. I started the morning off getting familiar with the track again; while the corners don’t move around, but the surface does change a bit. Since the resurface some areas have gotten a bit rough. All said, by the afternoon I was lapping in the 1:32s, which would be better than what I have run in the past at Pacific consistently. I ended the day feeling good about the weekend and ready to go racing.
Pacific Raceways is still a drag strip first, and this means on Saturday we have to be 100% done racing by 4pm. As we usually run another 1-2 hours at other tracks, this is a schedule struggle. The staff does a great job to make it work, but we don’t have a lot of time to spare.
The day didn’t really start the way we needed it to. Due to Drags running Friday night, and a volunteer having a shoulder injury, it took until about 09:30 to get the track 100% ready for racing. Even then, the timing circuit wasn’t functioning, so scoring would be by hand. This was shaping up to be a bit of a ‘throwback’ weekend. Due to these delays the decision was made by race staff to scrap qualifying and to set race grids by season points. While I like qualifying, this is a good compromise. Each practice session was compressed a bit to help make up the time. I was reminded again that this is primarily a drag strip also, as the rear spun up through turn 1 (150+ mph corner) as I went through some leftover oil dry. If I wasn’t awake before then, I sure was after.
The first race of the day was Formula Ultra and that also didn’t go to plan. On the 2nd lap a deer and her fawn ran on to the circuit. One rider split the deer on track and it took a bit of time to scare them off. Due to this they ended up deciding to combine the two F.U. races into a long, 16 lap race on Sunday. So, while this wasn’t ideal, it actually got us back on schedule, as we didn’t run the remaining F.U. laps on Saturday.
I started well in my first race of the weekend, 600SS, putting together much of what I practiced on Friday. I found a race pace in the high 1:31s and was feeling good about it. This is a good improvement for me personally. An area I still need to improve on is first lap intensity. Despite solid starts, I give up a good number of positions in the first few corners. Getting these positions back is hard work, so finding a way to stop that would pay some serious dividends.
I got a great start and tried to hang to the front runners on the first lap. I was able to learn a bit from 600SS. Ryan Doherty ran a wide line through Turn 2 that was phenomenal to watch. I would suggest watching the race video just for this lap.
I spent my race making sure to hold Matthew Wichgers. I managed to pull it off. Matt and I split the two races Saturday and we both spent a few minutes paying each other compliments for the improvements to our race craft.
Even better, when I looked at my data, I found I had been running low 1:30s (best lap 1:30.09)! I was jazzed to come back in the AM and see if I could break in to the 1:29s for F2.
We were told in the morning meeting that Volga Mermut figured out a way to fix the timing circuit. This meant I get to do F2 qualifying! I went out, found some clean track, and set a few 1:31 laps. I figured that was good enough to have an alright grid and came back in.
Memorial for Jim West and Sam Crawford
Our club lost our former Chaplain and Vintage Rider Jim West. I saw Jim every race day and he was a kind and caring individual, taking care of club members in the worst times and celebrating in the best. Jim had retired from our club and moved to Michigan to be near family but we miss him nonetheless.
Sam Crawford lost his life at the last race round. I am still not sure how to explain what happened. What I do know is I, along with many club members, feel for Sam’s family, his brother Rich and wife Carla. The Kim/Crawford clan has been around a long time. I pitted with Rich and Sam when I started racing. Sam was, like Jim, a truly kind person. I think they will keep each other company, bench racing and all, while they wait for the rest of us to join them.
Formula 2 was scheduled for the afternoon and I was ready to go. I thought my launch for this race was not good, but watching the recording it wasn’t bad. That feeling makes me think I am starting to figure out how to launch the new bike, and I am sure I will get it nailed down soon enough. There was some close racing. On the first lap Mallory and I could have high fived on corner entry and mid race I was able to defend my position into the bus stop.
I ran low 1:30s for most of the race, but then halfway through my laptimer came unscrewed from its mount. I can now say, with certainty, it is shockingly hard to focus when a $700+ timer is hanging on by no more than a CAN cable as it wacks your knee as the wind flaps it around the side of your bike.
After spending a lap debating if a club race was worth replacing that laptimer, and making the quite possibly terrible decision of “YES”, I got my head back down and finished the race in the 1:30s. Unfortunately my focus loss allowed a few other riders through. I kept reaching down with my left hand on straights so I could stick the timer between my knee and the chassis to stop it from getting too battered by the wind. I reflected during the race on the weird drills they have you in Yamaha Champions Racing School, but I don’t remember “do the hokey pokey with the left side of your body throughout your lap”.
It would have been a fantastic finish for me before some of the place drops, but sometimes things go a bit awry in racing. You learn though. I already have a new fastening strategy lined up for the next round so this (hopefully) never happens again. I am very pleased with my race craft improvements. I have I couldn’t think a year ago I would be holding Micah off, defending my position. It is amazing to see the gains I am making.
I have never run a 1:30 lap before and I should be thrilled, but I can’t help but think I was on track to get in the 1:29s in F2. Sometimes things go a bit sideways in racing though. Next race weekend at Pacific I’ll find that time.
Thanks to my wife Anna Piechowski for helping in the paddock, along with the rest of Short Fuse Racing. Thank you to Ken Hill for confirming some of the areas I feel I could improve even though you were at Laguna. Thanks to Track Time for allowing me to marshal for the organization to become a better rider. Thanks to Kump Racing Service (KRS) for all of the tire help. Switching to Dunlops has gone great so far. Thanks as well to the WMRRA staff for doing all they can to host a safe and fun filled race round. Last but not least thanks to Louis Stevenson and family. Not only does Louis make us look fast, his wife made a delicious dinner and they brought the paddock ice cream bars. You haven’t lived until you finish a race and are greeted by a choco taco.
Only a week until the round at Portland. Better start getting ready now.