When I arrived Friday night, the forecast for Saturday was calling for rain in the morning, and clearing with the chance of showers in the afternoon, which had everyone thinking about tires. Keep reading this motorcycle race recap to find out what they were thinking!
Thinking about rubber donuts
Do you run rain tires, or keep your dry tires on? This was especially an important question if, like me, you don’t have a second set of wheels, because you’re dependent on a tire vendor to swap from your dry tires to your rains.
Every weather app showed a slightly different outcome for Saturday. After looking at all the different apps and local forecasts, I decided to leave my dry tires on the bike and skip morning practice, since I know this track really well. I was scheduled for race 12. If the track wasn’t dry by race 9, I’d have Stickboy mount my rains.
Next morning dawned pouring rain. It had rained most of the night, too. Talladega GP is pretty flat, so standing water is everywhere in the infield and paddock. I went to registration and then brought the bike to tech inspection. By that time, the sun was out and the clouds had moved on. It looked like my decision was going to be the right one.
After bumping around my pit setting stuff up, I realized I had nothing to do until around 3PM. I spent the day watching the weather, practice, some of the racing, and hanging out with my friends. We had the usual riders’ meeting around 11AM, and then lunch, and the racing went off.
The actual motorcycle race recap
About 3:30PM, it was first call for my race. I geared up, fired up the motorcycle, took off the warmers, and headed out. I did my warm up lap and gridded up to start.
The flag drops. I got a better start than usual, probably because it was something I knew I needed to improve, but I still came into turn one in 5th place. Guess I need to improve starts a little more. I’m a bit gun-shy about building revs on this bike when it’s not moving because of the past engine problems, but if I’m going to get decent starts, I’m just going to have to get over it.
There were three of us in a pack. Sarah Crowell and Kyle Wagner were in front of me on their Yamaha R3s. I was on Kyle’s rear wheel and pretty sure I was going to get by him about 3 laps into the race when we caught up to a lapped rider. I lost time getting past the slow guy, and dropped right back in behind Kyle. Over the next couple laps, Kyle was catching Sarah. I was closing on Kyle. He’d gap me in the straights and I’d pick him back up in the corners, but I couldn’t quite get him. We passed the slower rider again. I lost more time getting past him, but I was closing on Kyle when the white flag went out for the last lap. I thought I might be able to get him before the checkered.
I spent the last lap on Kyle’s rear wheel. I tried everything to get by him. I was beside him a couple different times, but he always kept me behind him. He managed to pip Sarah on the final corner, too, and I got caught behind her, coming in 6th.
What did I learn? I need a faster bike.
There’s probably not a racer on earth who wouldn’t say that. However, I’m running at a deficit. The race class I’m running, F Superstock, allows “200-350cc 4-stroke air or water-cooled twins.” There are two common motorcycles in this class, the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the Yamaha R3. Of the seven bikes that entered my class yesterday, three of them were Ninja 300s, three of them were R3s, and my lone Ninja 250. Here’s a chart of the horsepower of these three bikes:
Race horsepower estimates for the Ninja 300 and the R3 assume they should be able to get roughly the same percentage increase in horsepower from race modifications as I did for the 250.
What does that mean? I’m down about 12 ponies on the fastest bikes, which in this class is a huge difference – about 44%. Notably, both the riders I spent the race chasing were both on R3s.
I’m taking this one as a bit of a moral victory. I kept up. I didn’t crash. The engine held together. Definitely an improvement over the last round.
Anyone wanna buy me an R3 before my next motorcycle race recap?