I had unfinished business at Roebling.
This motorcycle race recap focuses on that unfinished business.
If you’ve been following this season’s motorcycle race recaps, you’ll remember that my last race at Roebling was an unmitigated disaster. I crashed in practice and blew an engine on the start line, among other things.
I went into the weekend with one goal – finish a race and come away with points.
I accomplished that goal. In that way, it was a successful weekend.
On the other hand, I came in dead last for the first time this season. I just couldn’t overcome that ten horsepower handicap.
The big question the entire weekend was weather. The forecast kept shifting, but it looked like there was going to be a storm sometime in the early afternoon. I was in race #11, which meant I was going to be near the end of the day. If the storm came relatively early, I still might have dry track by that time.
A note on weather – dry track is best, of course, but consistent wet track is okay, too. Unless it’s an absolute monsoon, rain tires will give you nearly the traction of your normal race tire. What you don’t want is mixed conditions. A wet track that is drying out will destroy a set of rain tires quickly, and they’ll not react predictably, but if you go out on normal race tires on a drying track, you run a high risk of crashing.
Practice seemed positive
First practice in the morning was dry and even a little cool. We got out there and it seemed to me that folks were being awfully aggressive for practice, so I decided to play it cool. I tried to lay down some fast laps, but what passes I made were very careful, and I sat behind some slower riders. I was definitely surprised that I had laid down a personal best lap when I got back in, with a 1:34.264!
Second practice was the same conditions, and I decided to amp it up a little on the aggression and figure out where I could make good passes during the race. I came out hard and passed three or four other riders in the tight corners where I tend to be quick. We’d come out of the last corner before the straight and I’d get blown out in the straights. Notably, I dropped another two seconds from my best time with a 1:32.236. I was feeling pretty good for the race!
Then the weather starts
Around 1:30PM it started raining. I looked at the radar and couldn’t figure out if we were going to get more of it, or if it was just going to pass through. We were on the northern edge of a pretty big system that was crossing Florida.
I sat under my tent and watched it a while. The announcer said it looked like it was going to stick around, so they re-started the race that had been interrupted by the rain. (If it starts raining mid-race, they’ll stop the race for safety reasons.) That was race #5. As that race was gridding up, the rain was letting off. By the end of that race, the rain had stopped, and the pavement in the paddock was drying fast.
I walked up to the trackside wall to check things out. It was still pretty wet, but there were already dry patches. A few of us were up there talking about it. It was a mixed bag of decisions. Some of the guys in race #6 went out on slicks, some on rains. My friend Tommy, who was in that race, reported that it was just a shitshow, with everyone essentially tiptoeing around the track making sure that they finished. Surprisingly, nobody crashed.
By race #8, the announcer was saying that if you were trying to decide on tires to go with your normal race tires, as the track was entirely dry.
The motorcycle race recap
As race #11 approached, the clouds started rolling back in, and I was getting a little nervous that we were going to get rained on again. Last call came, and it was still dry. I headed out for the track, did my warm-up lap, and gridded up.
The green flag goes down, and we’re off. I got taken on the start by two people behind me going into turn 1, but I pass both of them in turn 3. As we get to turn 7, I notice that the track isn’t entirely dry. Right in the center of the track in turn 7 are four small puddles. This sucks, because I love passing on the outside in turn 7, and they are right in my favored line.
Then we get to turn 9 and onto the front straight. We hit the front straight and everyone who was behind me passes. I get one of them back in turn 3, and I keep them behind me until the front straight, where they pass me again. We do this a couple more times.
I see the white flag for last lap, and I’m pretty close behind the 2nd to last rider. I’m gaining on them in every turn. Someone passes me in turn 4 and gets between us, which slows me down. Three riders pass me and then them in turn 6, which slows them down a little. I’m still gaining ground and decide to try an outside pass in turn 7, knowing I’m going to have to wider than normal to avoid the puddles.
That was my big mistake. I misjudged how wide that was going to put me off line. I didn’t make the pass, and it killed my drive into turn 8. I kept hard on it through turn 8 and 9, but my race was over, and I was dead last.
In one final weird upside, I dropped almost another full second from my best practice time, a 1:31.538.