Saturday – Race #2 GTL Race #13 ULSB
Sunday – Race #4 ASRA Team Challenge
The annual ASRA Team Challenge at Summit Point is one of my favorite events of the year. Summit Point raceway provides a fantastic rustic venue where we ‘camp’ in the woods of WV while still having the track that started it all for me over a decade ago. Add in 100 laps of a tight grid of team challenge competitors and it’s easy to see why I look forward to it so much.
Leading up to the weekend, I decided to heed the advice of some of the LWT teammates and reassess my bike geometry. I have been making minor changes weekend after weekend and seeing improvements, but the theme of people that got to ride my bike was that I still had a long way to go. I decided that after the many changes over the past year [spring rates, fork fluid, etc] I should change the front and rear ride heights back to the standard SV setup. This equated to a 5mm ‘drop’ in the front end of the bike. By measurement that comes across as a small change, but when it comes to motorcycle race geometry it was a drastic and risky maneuver. Changes are normally done by 2mm increments. Needless to say, it was on my mind all week wondering if I was going to regret such a change.
After setting up camp and having a great night relaxing at the track with friends the team woke up bright and early to tackle the morning practice. This weekend ASRA would be running an additional group of team challenge practice which would enable me to get some extra work in on the setup. From the first session out, I knew I had made the right choice. The bike handled much better and gave me a lot more confidence mid corner. It would take the rest of the morning to get the bike dialed in better, but by the time the last practice session was over I was turning 1:25s in traffic while still just waiting for things to warm up. My average race pace around Summit is in the 1:24s. That was a good sign of things to come.
The first test of the day would be the GTLight 25 min endurance race. In that race would be Todd Alberico [LWT #171], Mark Evry [#9], Will “Chad” Finnerty [LWT #61], and Dangerous [LWT #215] which at varying levels were all planned to be my carrots for the weekend. My hope was to be able to keep them in sight for the duration of the race. In the race I found myself playing with Mark Evry as Todd and Chad kept a few bike lengths ahead of me just like the previous GTL at NJMP. Mark is strong on the brakes going into turn 1 and we kept going back and forth around the track. By lap 4 we were getting deep into the lap traffic and with a little bit of luck I was able to pull enough of a gap on Mark to break the slip stream and set my sights on Todd and Chad. When I got up to them, there was no quarter to be had. We would spend the next 15 min going three wide into turn 1, slide up the inside of each other in turn 3, and play chicken going into turn 10. It was one of the greater races of my life. After getting between Chad and Todd, I put my head down and tried to get around Chad for the lead position of the group as we wound down to the last few laps. After seeing the white flag, I pushed as hard as I could to catch Chad, but ended up getting edged away by a bike length. In the heat of the battle with them I was turning personal bests in the high 21s low 22s with that last lap push against Chad having me turn a 1:20.778.
After running around the pits in excitement we headed back out for the Ultralight Superbike race. Chad was unable to join this one as he was healing up from a front end tuck on his Triumph a few races before and Mark Evry would be racing his FZR400 in a separate group starting after us in the second wave. That would leave it to just be a heads up race between Todd and I. After a quick red flag, the race was shortened to a 5 lap sprint. Without getting deep into the details – it was a great race back and forth with Todd where I was able to muscle my way past him on the white flag lap and beat him to the line for the place. It’s hard to say I was ‘off’ that race compared to the GTL as I was only turning 1:22s, but before this weekend I had only seen one or two of those in my career.
One of the issues with Team Challenge is that, although the greatest racing known to man it casts quite a shadow over the entire weekend. Diet, hydration, stretching, bike prep – any minor stumble in preparedness can cost the entire race. The team started literally heading to bed as early as 8:30. I was proud of myself that I made it to 10:00pm. We had a big long day ahead of us. 6:00am I bounded out of bed excited to start setting up the pit for Team Challenge.
This weekend we were sporting 3 LWT teams. #61 with Sam Wiest and Will Finnerty, #171 with Todd Alberico and myself, and #76 with Chai, John Dodson, Doug Stufflebeam, and Joey Mink. We spent some more effort getting ready on time to prevent the mad dash that plagued us at NJMP.
Todd headed out for his 30+ laps, and I headed to the wall. We got to utilize our new team pit board which proved to be a hit. Todd turned a solid 33 laps averaging in the low 23s before handing the bike off to me with a ‘full to the brim’ tank.I set out to turn 41 laps and averaged 1:24.0. Compared to my 1:24.3 over 35 laps from last year, I was happy with my reliable performance.
Todd took the final 18 laps and when the checkered flag dropped we were in a solid third place with LWT #61 taking first and LWT #76 taking 5th.
The race, though hard to give a synopsis of – was fantastic. I had some great laps in there with LWT #61 and also take a little credit for dicing up with the #914 bike of Hanig possibly slowing him down enough to enable LWT #61 to get a few seconds advantage.
This weekend was, as expected perhaps one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s never possible without the immediate family [my wife] and the LWT family providing their non-stop support. Even in a two man Team Challenge race there was no less than 6 people helping us from pit stops to rider signals. We didn’t even have time to get all of them up on the podium to celebrate because some had to head back to keep preparing for the next races. And as always the Speedwerks SV 650 performed fantastic and I can’t thank Steve and company enough for their support on the mechanical side of things.