Nick’s Status – as of October 29th 2012

November 15th, 2013 munroemotors Comments off

Status update – October 29th, 2012

Well I should start by offering an eternal apology for not posting more. As they say: “no news is good news” and in this case the good news is I am recovering – my body and brain are working …mostly ;) .
I can still remember most things – for example where all my race bike bits and supplies are (BTW if you owe me money, please let me know).

I noticed that my July 19th 2012 posting on munroemotors.com used a technical word “cholecystectomy” – which is complicated way of saying “gall bladder removal”. I am glad I got that taken care of while I was still in the hospital frame-of-mind. The idea of deliberately going back in later for a full-General-Anaesthetic surgery is unappealing, and I’m glad I did it before I had a chance to think about it. My gall bladder was swollen when they removed it – in fact they had trouble getting it out and the senior gastro surgeon had to take over from the resident on duty who was struggling with the surgery. Meaning: it was good to get the diseased bugger out when I did.

Now for some more interesting news… I have decided to give up racing. I went back for a trackday at Thunderhill on Monday September 24th (2012) to see how it felt – being on track was fun and interesting albeit not completely comfortable. So I decided to enter the last AFM race of the year at Thunderhill on October 6th/7th. Saturday 6th was mostly a practice day, and I chose a middle-paced group 3 of 5 (I was usually in fast group 5). The day was pretty good – nice to see all my friends at the AFM.

Later on Saturday, the AFM holds some special races – like Formula 50, the Ladies race AFemme, Vintage and Formula 40. I had entered F50 and F40 as relatively mellow re-immersion races to start with. F50 was race 1 and I was gridded in P8 of about 12 entrants. We had a clean race start, and I rode smoothly through turn 1 and 2. I entered turn 3 in about 6th place, with no-one next to me, and suddenly the next thing I’m aware of was flying sideways through the air. My buddy Roi Holster who was standing in the pits, about 2-300 yards away said he saw my body 15 feet in the air, with my feet above my head. Yikes!

The very next thing I remember is regaining consciousness in the ambulance. My brand-new leather race suit had been cut off my body and my boots, gloves and helmet had also been removed. This means I’d been unconscious for maybe 10 minutes – enough time for the ambulance to drive out to turn 3 and load me in, and undress me. I was informed they were going to med-evac me by helicopter to Chico trauma hospital – which was fine by me, because I was alive and despite a sore butt, I knew I was OK.

I wound up being at Chico hospital for about 5 hours, and once they’d scanned and x-rayed me, the doc came in to review their findings with me. He read off a long list of damage and ended up by saying “but none of it’s new”, and discharged me with nothing worse than a thoroughly bruised butt/pelvis.

Given that this was my first race back after being crashed out of the May 6th, 2012 AMA Supersport race, and I didn’t even get to complete one single lap, I found it very easy to decide to quit racing. The only error I had made was to be on the race track – and in both cases, someone else’s mistake put me in hospital. In neither case has the other rider made any attempt at apology – which shows how rude and unpleasant racers can be. So: to hell with them.

The good news is: I wasn’t hurt badly, this time. Problem is: this was the second serious concussion I’ve received in the summer of 2012, which means I have to avoid any possible repeat this year… so, no more track days, motocross or stunt-riding. Or boxing! Until 2013.

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Nick Needs Your Help – May 2012

May 12th, 2012 Alan Comments off

Written by Alan Rowell – webmaster and graphix guru: As a long time friend of Nick’s, I was quite upset to receive the news that he was involved in an accident at the track at Sonoma on Sunday, May 6th, 2012. The only details that I know are that he was forced off the track into a tire wall at 70 mph. Since I’m no longer in the Bay Area, I can’t tell you which track, what hospital or anything else other than what is being posted on Munroe Motors’ website by his brother

http://www.munroemotors.com/service

There you will find the latest updates along with an email address to send messages and a link to a fund raising account to help with his medical expenses.

There is also a post on Facebook about an event tomorrow (Sun, May 13, 2012) for everyone to fire up their bike and rev it to help wake Nick up. The time is 10AM Pacific / 1PM Eastern.

“Rev Around The World” on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3453053159810&set=oa.360548444005577&type=1&theater

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Thanks for a great 2011

December 10th, 2011 munroemotors Comments off

Gotta give a shout-out to the people and companies that helped make my 2011 season so entertaining…

Nick Hayman AMA Poster 2011

Many heartfelt thanks to: TC & gang at GE Capital, Jeff the Mad Red-Haired Chinaman at Simon’s Auto Werks, Christian from Speedymoto, Doug & crew at Ohlins USA, James from SuperPlush Suspension, Dimitri & everyone at Ducati North America, and the peerless crew of Munroe Motors San Francisco.

Thanks also to: LeoVince USA, Slingshot Racing, Hotbodies, Zero Gravity, Ducshop, Desmoto Sport, FMF Racing, Optimal Racing, Arlen Ness Leathers, Froggie for HJC Helmets, all AMA and AFM staff and workers.

The team: Todd, Tanit and Linda – Graphics by Alan Rowell – Photog. Brian J Nelson

BTW in keeping with my true talent, at some point during the weekend I managed to crash at every AMA Supersport West Division round I entered this year:- Daytona, Infineon, Miller, Road America and Laguna Seca. Now that takes skill!

BUT… I had the most fun year since I started racing (again) in 2007!!

(I’d rather forget my first racing career, 1986-1991, on cheap bikes and shagged tires)

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to everyone for 2012 – see you at Daytona in March!!


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Nick’s Race Blog Update – West Coast Moto Jam, Infineon AMA – May 15th & 16th, 2011

June 15th, 2011 munroemotors Comments off

Nick’s Race Blog Update – West Coast Moto Jam, Infineon AMA – May 15th & 16th, 2011

Is a blog a blog if it’s posted 4 weeks late? Guess that depends on how “now” you are, brown cow. I don’t tweet, I believe a good story is a good story, and if Yelp is for yelpers, what does that make Twitter?

But honestly, I’m not sure my efforts at the Infineon AMA national this year make a good story, so I’m going to be brief:

I got there, I raced twice, and fell off once. The end.

Team Photo - Todd, Nick and Linda - By Brian J Nelson

Team Photo - Todd, Nick and Linda - By Brian J Nelson

My two compadres in our AMA roadracing endeavor, Jose Flores and Roi Holster, had slightly different weekends…

Jose Did Not Finish Saturday’s race 1, thanks to a slipping clutch. His crew chief and master mechanic Jeff Lee fixed it up, only for Jose to crash in Race 2 on Sunday in the Carousel turn 6. Tough break, except Speed showed his crash on t.v., and Jose is now a household name – check out my subsequent report from Miller Motorsports Park, two weeks hence.

On the other hand, Roi – who is single, by the way, ladies – had two good races and finished ahead of me both times, the swine.

As the great Rossi would say, Roi and I had “a great battle” in race 1 on Saturday, and we were neck-and-neck through the very last corner when my front tire gave up its intimate connection with terra firma, and we gracelessly slid out. I quickly remounted and crossed the finish line, only losing one position to get 16th, Roi claiming 14th.

Nick leads Roi for a change - pic by Brian J Nelson

Nick leads Roi for a change - pic by Brian J Nelson

But in Race 2 on Sunday, I was lacking confidence in my front end owing to – uh – crashing, and pretty much cruised around feeling lame. Oddly enough I finished three places better than Saturday, mainly through attrition in the damp conditions. To wit, Roi and I had to go dirt riding on lap 3 to avoid a fellow racer who highsided himself to the moon directly in front of us – ah, the folly of youth.

Roi left me in his dust and got 11th on Sunday, good job mate.

The end. Again.

Top of Turn 2 - pic by Brian J Nelson

Top of Turn 2 - pic by Brian J Nelson

With profound thanks to: Munroe Motors of San Francisco, Ohlins USA, SpeedyMoto, GE Capital, Ducati North America, Super Plush Suspension, LeoVince USA, Slingshot Racing, HotBodies Racing, Zero Gravity, DucShop, Desmoto Sport, Jeff Lee of Simon’s Auto Werks, and my team: Todd Chamberlin, Tanit Heng and Linda Jung.

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Daytona 2011 – my first ride on the famous high banks!!

April 20th, 2011 munroemotors Comments off

AMA Pro SuperSport – March 10th-12th, 2011

Like most card-carrying speed junkies, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to ride the high banked turns at America’s colosseum of speed: the Daytona International Speedway.

I’ve been to the Daytona races a few times, working as a mechanic for various racer friends and teams – but standing at the hot pit wall watching the bikes streak across that Start/Finish line is a world apart from actually doing it myself.

I started club racing, again, with the AFM here in NorCal in the summer of 2007. I had an earlier career, riding malevolent, clapped-out British and Italian machinery in the eighties when I was an junior dealership mechanic. This time around has been different: I started with a 2003 Ducati 749S, which handled a lightyear better than anything I rode back when, and after I gave it a 999S engine heart-transplant in 2009, my laptimes got fast enough to qualify for the local AMA rounds at Infineon and Laguna Seca in the “Top Gun” SuperSport class.

So after a couple of track days to get acquainted with the 2008 Ducati 848 that I borrowed from my friend Pat Blackburn, I entered the May 2010 West Coast Moto Jam at Infineon and scored gratifying 10th & 11th place finishes, and two months later got 12th at the AMA/MotoGP weekend at Laguna Seca.

Along with my two AFM race brothers, Roi Holster and Jose Flores who had competed at those same AMA Supersport rounds, we decided that we should go race at Daytona in 2011.

On the Banking - photo by Brian J Nelson

On the Banking - photo by Brian J Nelson

The first thing I needed was my own Ducati 848, and when a crashed ‘08 model came through the doors at Munroe Motors in late October 2010, we bought the wreck and got started. Crew chief Todd Chamberlin and fellow Munroe Motors’ tech Tanit Heng set to stripping the carcass, and bolting on some race-spec bits and pieces we’d bought when we raced Pat’s 848. We went to a couple of track days mid-November to check her out: the engine ran smooth and strong, the chassis tracked true, and we felt we’d gotten lucky.

So, like most racers, we did absolutely nothing to the bike until early January when we finally remembered we ought to strip the engine to check the main and rod bearings. You can’t take a motorcycle to Daytona with a unproven engine – the concrete apron below the banking is figuratively littered with blown engine detritus of under-prepared teams. So while the crank was out getting checked and balanced by Ben Fox, we ordered new bearings, gaskets and everything else we needed … Speedymoto frame & axle sliders and beefy clutch cover, Zero Gravity windscreens, HotBodies bodywork, Slingshot footpegs, Microtech race ecu, LeoVince exhaust system, Ducati Performance slipper clutch, Ohlins NIX fork inserts, TTX shock and steering damper, Yoyodyne QC rear carrier & sprockets – plus brake pads, chains, stomp pads, quickshifter – the list goes on for a while more.

Todd, Tanit and I finally got the bike back together and running on Sunday February 13th, just in time to miss the February 12th and 13th weekend we’d planned to test down at California Speedway. Roi went down there with his new-to-him 2008 Yamaha R6 he’d bought from fellow AFM’er Joy Higa, and had two perfect days testing on the banked Fontana track. Good for him, but I was in a panic to test my bike because my back-up track day on Monday Feb 14th at Infineon was rained out, and I didn’t want to take an untested bike across country to Daytona, the toughest race on the AMA calendar.

Finally I found a LetsRideTrackDays.com date the following Monday 21st at bumpy Buttonwillow, and we ran a few tentative sessions on the 848 to prove the engine, slipper clutch and gearbox all worked OK.

The next panic I got into was that the mapping in the Microtech programmable ecu I’d bought from the Ducshop produced a strong midrange but had a bit of a flat spot at the top of the power curve – exactly what you don’t want at a high-speed track like Daytona. So on Monday Feb 28th, the day before our trailer of gear was due to leave for Daytona, Todd drove half-way across California at 7am to buy a 5-gallon ”pail” of AMA-spec Sunoco 260 GTX race gas, and Scott Jenkins and Lucy at Desmoto Sport then fine-tuned the mapping on their Superflow dyno.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the 7,000 mile round-trip, Jose’s crew chief, the mad Chinaman with the red mohawk Jeff Lee, had fitted new wheel bearings and tires to our borrowed 16ft Wells Cargo trailer at his workshop, Simon’s Auto Werks in Pacifica, CA. So that afternoon, Roi, Jose and I packed the trailer with our bikes and gear – Jose sporting a new 2011 Ducati 848 Evo race-prepped by Desmoto Sport – and delivered it to Marin County’s Topshelf Motorcycles in San Rafael, where Tommy Turbo, Morgan Murphy and Ted Cabral were frantically race-prepping two new 2011 Ducati 848 Evo’s for brothers Dave Jr. and Matt Sadowski to race in Daytona SportBike. Matt, Davey and cousin Josh were driving the TopShelf boxvan across to Florida with our trailer in tow, splitting the not-inconsiderable transport costs across the five racers, planning to arrive at the track early on Wednesday March 9th.

After a week of catching up on sleep and clearing our desks of long-neglected work, Todd, Roi, Jeff, Jose and I flew into Orlando and drove our rented mini-van up to the Holiday Inn Express on Speedway Boulevard, a mile from the track. During bike week, all the hotels are expensive – our Holiday Inn was over $200 per night – so we were sleeping 3 in our room: Todd on a rollaway, with Roi and I getting dibs on the beds. It’s important to stay near the track, because the BikeWeek traffic is so thick it takes ages to get anywhere, and you don’t want to sit in traffic for 45 minutes after a long day at the races, dying for a shower and an adult beverage.

Morning of Wednesday March 9th, the Sadowski boys arrived safely at the track with our trailer in tow, and we started setting up our pit in one of the open sided garage spaces. We pulled out our spare rims – lent to me by Craig Mclean, famous for almost winning the 1998 Isle of Man Singles TT on his Ducati Supermono (that I worked on) – and dropped them off at the Dunlop garage to get the Daytona-only, U.K.-made, D211 GP spec tires mounted up. We rolled the bike over for Tech inspection at 3pm, bought some spec Sunoco gas, and spent the afternoon checking over details and getting ready for the first practice session at noon on Thursday.

We left the track, took a quick shower and met up with the Topshelf crew for a memorable dinner at Gene’s steak house, a few miles out to the west of town.

Thursday morning dawned rainy and overcast – just as my iphone had predicted. We arrived in time to attend the 9am AMA-mandated rider and crew chief meeting, held each AMA race weekend, where everyone gets updated with news and detail changes. I was mentally prepared to go out in the rain, but was relieved to hear that the AMA doesn’t ride in the rain at Daytona. If it rains when we get to Road America in June I guess I’ll get my chance. Noon came and went, and finally it stopped raining and the track dried, leaving enough time for a 40 minute combined Practice/Qualifying 1 session for each class, ours at about 4pm. We put our bikes on the tire warmers under our e-z-ups on the hot pit lane, and I rolled out onto the track at 4pm, feeling a strong sense of anticipation to see what the fuss was all about…

Jose and Nick stand ready in the hot pit...

Jose and Nick stand ready in the hot pit...

Turns 1 thru 6 are normal corners in the infield inside the banked tri-oval Nascar racetrack, but as you roll out of 6 on the left side of the tire you go up onto the West Banking and your world view changes… What you see is a wall-of-death of asphalt in front of you, curving up and over your head at 11 o’clock, framed on the right by a wall topped with a chainlink fence, and on the left by the concrete apron that, from your point of view leaned over on 31degree banking is angled sharply upward to your left. The G-force flattens your shoulders to your gas tank and your neck strains to hold your head up so you can look forward not downward. You go round that bank for a while, and then the track slowly flattens off and you’re shooting down a normal straightaway at 160mph trying to spot obscure braking markers high up on the chainlink fence to your right. At or around marker “2” you shift down two gears, and carefully pitch the bike left into the “bus stop” chicane, roll her onto her right side, pick up the throttle, wheelie over the yellow-chevron’d corner at the exit and drive back up onto the banking with your throttle WFO – and you know what the F stands for. Again you roll around the banking for a while, come down onto another flat straight, and as you come into the 15degree banked Start/Finish corner at your absolute top speed, you push the left bar down to get the bike turned and shot safely across the start-finish line. And then you sit up and brake hard into turn 1.

It’s simply said – but difficult to see anything clearly through the windscreen with your head shaking and wobbling from the windblast, and finding good braking markers to get the bike slowed down to 45 mph at the right moment was a continual challenge.

Halfway through the session, I came in to decompress, having completed 9 laps. One thing was going well for me: the guesses we’d made at the geometry and suspension settings for my 848 were working nicely, and I could concentrate on learning the track. I went back out after a splash of gas, but within a few laps I found my neck had gotten sore, I was getting doublevision and fishbowl-vision, and realising I wasn’t going any faster, I came back in.
Unfortunately the time sheets showed I ran a best lap of 2:12, with Jose at 2:08 and Roi at 2:07. We figured out that with the fastest SuperSport rider turning a 1:54, the +10% qualifying cut-off meant we all had to get a lap in at 2:05 or better in our second and final qualifying session, due the following morning at 8am.

I lay awake thinking much of that night… I hate trying to go fast at 8am because the track surface is still cold and it’s easy to crash. But I reasoned that I’d come a long way and spent a ton of money to get here, and that if I failed to qualify, I’d spend the weekend watching regretfully from the sidelines. So I decided that I had to raise my risk tolerance to have any hope of shaving 7 seconds off my lap time, and that I’d sooner crash trying, than not try hard enough and go home with a perfect bike. So I visualized each corner of the track in turn, imagining where I could get on the gas harder or brake later. And when negative thoughts surfaced, I practiced the Jorge Lorenzo trick of focusing on my breathing in order to release the negative thought and let its positive counterpart in.

Up Friday morning at 6am, we grabbed coffee and snacks at the lavish Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar, and entered the fabled amphitheater of speed through the West Banking tunnel. We quickly set the bike up on the tire warmers at the hot pit, and, at 8am on the dot, rolled out onto the track in the early morning sunshine.

Right from the start, I was going for it – pushing the bike, getting on the gas, believing there was traction. I went out in front of the group so I could focus on what I had to do myself rather than worry about anyone else around me. I got my head down on the banking and pulled the throttle to the stop. Todd said he knew I was riding harder than before because I was visibly faster across Start/Finish. After a few laps, I caught up to a guy going round the West Banking, and as we came down onto the flat straight before the chicane, I dove up his inside on the brakes, let off and turned her in. Now my angle of attack was a little off as I flipped the bike over onto the right side through the center of the chicane, so I touched the brake with my index finger to slow a hair, and my front wheel immediately tucked, and I was down off the bike, sliding in a limp foetal position through the wet morning grass at the side of the track. I came safely to a stop a few feet from the tire wall, jumped up, and a corner worker helped me wheel my bike over to the wall where another SuperSport racer was standing where he’d just crashed. Few minutes later, teammate Jose comes sliding on his side into the grass just behind us, due to what he later decided was a slippery paint line on the track surface delineating the edges of the corners of the chicane. Riding in the crash truck on the way back to the pits, I was thinking that at least I’d been going for it, even though I was annoyed at myself for missing the rest of the session and the chance of qualifying. The crash truck dropped me off at AMA tech, and back at the hot pit Todd was jumping up and down, yelling “you turned a 2:04!”, and I suddenly realised that my dream had come true: I’d put in the one good lap I needed, right before I crashed! Jose and Roi had also upped their game, and the three amigos from San Francisco had qualified together at the back of the grid. We found out later that eight entrants had failed to meet the 2:05.6 cut-off laptime and were relegated to spectator status.

Invigorated with our good fortune – because qualifying for the show is always the first main goal of an AMA race weekend – Todd and I spent the few hours before the 2:15pm start in a whirl of tools, replacing bent parts with the spares we’d brought along. The frame tabs that the right footrest mounts to were bent and cracked, and our friend Inspector Frank Drebben, I mean Brian Drebber, rustled up a local welder for us to take care of that problem. At about 1:10pm, with some fresh Hotbodies bodywork gleaming in the sun, we rolled the bike back to the pit wall and onto the warmers.

Nick (L) and Jose poised to launch

Nick (L) and Jose poised to launch

The start of the Supersport Race One, Friday at 2:15pm, was like being in the ‘Saving Private Ryan’ D-Day beach landing… The start lights went out, I got a great launch and passed through the row in front of me. As we trail-braked into turn 1, there were bikes, bodies and parts skittering off to my right, so I looked left, found an opening and slipped past a couple guys distracted by the melee. Out of turn 2, I saw more bikes and riders scattering to my right, so I jinked past them, braked and pitched right into the Horseshoe turn 3. As I accelerated off the exit, riders in front of me parted as a dude spun across the track on his back, so I dodged around him to the left (turns out he’d been hit by a riderless bike that ran across the grass from the turn 2 crash). Then hard on the throttle through the kink turn 4 and… no one crashed! On the way out of turn 5, a racer highsided in front of me and his bike took out the guy next to him – my personal nightmare in a 30-rider grid of wanna-be Rossi’s. But I dodged to the right and was clean past them along the short chute to turn 6, thinking I might be in the top 20. Unfortunately the red flag came out because of the multiple carnage, so we cruised around the banking and gridded up again for a full restart.

I got another ripping launch, the kids kept their cool this time, and by the end of the first lap I was ahead of 6 or 8 guys. But, I massively overcooked my braking into turn 1, nearly losing the front end, ran wide and about five riders shot past. Cursing my lack of talent and track knowledge, I tried to catch up, chasing them round the banking, and promptly did the same thing in turn 1 again. Now I was dead last, right behind Jose, and watching Roi in the distance in front of us, having a good battle with two other racers. I tried to set Jose up for a last lap draft pass, but came up about 3 feet short at the checkered flag, mainly because I was afraid of drafting too close and running into him. Still, we all finished in one piece, I was 25th, Jose 24th and Roi got 21st out of 32 starters, and we had another chance to do better in race two the following day.

Fresh new bodywork! Photo by Brian J Nelson

Fresh new bodywork! Photo by Brian J Nelson

Saturday morning dawned clear once more, and we set the bike up ready for a short 8:50am practice with the race scheduled for 10am. Roi sat out the warm-up session, while Jose and I turned in a few laps to kickstart the old brainbox. Race 2 started without incident and I got another good launch, this time making no mistake braking in turn 1. Over the next few laps, the racers I’d passed on the start, including Roi, slowly got by me one by one, but I was starting to get the groove of the place, actually enjoying blasting down the banking at 165mph, asphalt, wall and chainlink fence blurrily visible through my windscreen. I was aware that Jose was still behind me somewhere, but I got to the checkered flag without seeing him, pleased with my improved, not-last finishing position. In fact Roi finished 18th, I was 19th and Jose 20th, the last three points paying positions in the class (the AMA used to award points down to 15th place, now it’s down to 20th). I also found I’d dropped 2 seconds a lap and improved my overall race time by 20 seconds, proving that when you relax and start having fun is when you go fast.

On Sunday we relaxed at the beach drinking cocktails, agreeing that it had been a fantastic weekend because we met all our goals – we got there, we qualified, we finished both races in one piece, and we even got a top-20 finish with points.

Some thoughts I brought away from Daytona… (i) surprisingly the banking is quite easy, its racing through the infield on bowlingball tires is what’s difficult – it’s like you’re trying to corner on polished concrete, and (ii) I’m really glad we came this year because the repaved surface is obviously way smoother and nicer, and finally (iii) our team of Daytona neophytes turned up at an unfamiliar and notoriously challenging race track, and qualified for an AMA National in only our second on-track session – and that makes me proud.

My story made possible with the help of:
Munroe Motors of San Francisco,
Ohlins USA,
SpeedyMoto,
GE Capital,
Ducati North America,
Super Plush Suspension,
LeoVince USA,
Slingshot Racing,
HotBodies Racing,
Zero Gravity,
DucShop,
Desmoto Sport,
Simon’s Auto Werks
my team Todd Chamberlin, Tanit Heng and Linda Jung,
and Daytona teammates Roi Holster, Dave McCandless, Jose Flores and Jeff Lee.

Nick Jose Roi by RH

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Laguna Seca – Altar Secrets from the High Temple of Velocity

August 19th, 2010 munroemotors Comments off

nick3

Ol’ #30 going thru “The Corkscrew” – Photo Credit: Chuck Lantz chucklantz.com

SIDEBAR:

Laguna Seca Track Tips.

Laguna is one of the high temples of Velocity – beautiful, but intimidating to the neophyte. I learned a few of her altar secrets on my journey to the heart of speedness:

Turn 1 – you gotta go over that hill flat-freakin-out. Do not roll off. As you go over the top, your back wheel will kick you in the butt as it comes off the ground and spins… if you did it right.

Turn 2 – don’t crash trail-braking at the entrance, ask Bobby Fong. But you can get on the gas hard at the exit thanks to positive camber.

Turn 3 – “toughest corner in motorcycling” according to the King, Tom Montano. He’s raced many tracks around the world, and won an AMA National here. It’s dead flat and loads the front end – Scott Russell found that out to his cost in 1998.

Turns 4 – trickier than you expect. It loads the front a lot but you lose a little camber at the exit so be careful. Slow down a hair going in, and gas hard coming out.

Turn 5 – lots of people crash in 5 – ask Lorenzo, Pedrosa etc etc. It’s heavily banked so your mid-corner speed can be very high, but it flattens off at the exit right when you’re hard on the gas and you can highside. Late entry and tight apex is the best line I found.

Turn 6 – don’t look at the vicious dip at the apex – turn the bike hard, set a positive throttle and go thru on power, looking across to the far kerb where you want to exit. Then full throttle up the hill as hard as you can.

Corkscrew – this corner is the nearest thing to an orgasm in full leathers – it’s wonderful. And less challenging then I expected. Take any entry line you like, launch downhill, but open the gas hard as you flick to the right.

Turn 9 – they didn’t name this Rainey Corner for nothing… it separates the men from the boys, and the World Champions from the men. The fast-bike line is straight to the apex, but I liked the Roi Holster-patented wide entrance: although it’s longer, you miss the bumps going in and you can drive the exit harder.

Turn 10 – always challenging you to go faster. I remember a mad, tilted, trajectory going through there in the race faster than made sense – a reality more video game than emergency room, hopefully ;)

Turn 11 – like turn 3: tricky and easy to crash. Super-important to exit AFAP (as fast as possible) onto the straight.

Front straight – max throttle, everyone’s watching, feel the glory!

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AMA Pro Supersport at Laguna Seca: Saturday, July 24

August 19th, 2010 munroemotors Comments off

Saturday’s early morning qualifying session for Supersport was held – you guessed it – in the fog. I set out with confidence from having the Challenge experience, but I got stuck behind some slower riders for a few laps and then there was a red flag, not surprisingly. Finally restarted, I got a few clear laps and put in a 1:34something to qualify P15 out of 32, not too bad for a mid-season pick-up team with a borrowed motorcycle.

Our schedule later that afternoon was another time crunch, as the e-Power qualifying session was directly before the Supersport race at 5:15pm. Our highly trained crew set-up both bikes ready on the hot pit, and at 4:45pm I went out on Alex’s creation.

Now Alex built his electric bike as a commuter, and it’s a little heavy and a little underpowered. I quickly figured out I could hold full throttle everywhere except 2, corkscrew and 11, and I followed the inside line where possible to shorten the track distance. I pulled in after 6 or 7 laps as there was nothing left to gain, and despite all efforts, our fastest time was a 2:24 …and we failed to qualify as the cut-off was 2:08 – shame!

Again I jumped off one bike and onto the 848, but luckily there was a short delay that gave us a few moments to breathe and relax. We went round for the warm-up lap, gridded up… and the lights went out. Once again I was struck by starting-line blues, and a gaggle of competitors went past me accelerating over the hill. This time I shot up their inside into turn 2 and passed most of them back. Of course one of the kids highsided in front of me exiting turn 3, a quick dodge to the inside saw me safely past. The race settled down for a few laps, until the inevitable red flags came out as I crested the hill to the corkscrew, and saw a crashed bike laying in the middle of the track at the exit.

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Start of Supersport race – top of Corkscrew – #16 Cameron Baubier, #30 Nick, #528 Jose Flores, and #91 Joy Higa

Photo Credit: Chuck Lantz chucklantz.com

My restart was no better or worse than the first time, and I came out of turn 2 in around 12-14th spot. I spent the whole of the race, part deux, in a heated battle, trying to get past fellow San Franciscan Jose Flores. I twice cut to his inside at the entry of the corkscrew but he slammed the door on me, cutting across my nose, making contact the first time. I also tried an inside pass into turn 2, and again he cut my nose off, bumping elbows in full view of my home crowd. After a few laps of this, Jose scraped past Sam Nash for P11, and a lap later I stuffed myself past Nash in the corkscrew using my half-baked inside line. In the last few laps, Jose and I caught up to Michael Corbino in P10, and despite a last lap push, Jose came up a little short at the line to finish P11, I eased off as I was a little pooped and took an safe 12th.

My pit bro’ Roi Holster took a strong 14th place behind Sam Nash, and AFM fast-gal Joy Higa took an unfortunate slide into the weeds outside turn 9, let down by a too-hard front tire choice.

On the cool-down lap, I cruised back around the fabled curves of Laguna Seca one last time, waving to the fans and taking mental snapshots of the glorious views.

With thanks to… the crew at Munroe Motors of San Francisco, Pat Blackburn of Trackside Moto, Ducati North America, Catalyst Reaction Suspension, Arlen Ness Leathers, Kyle USA, HJC Helmets, TCX Boots, Super Plush Suspension, Leo Vince USA, Yoyodyne, Sport Tire Services/Dunlop, and my impeccable team: Todd Chamberlin, Bill Brown and Linda Jung.

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Top of the corkscrew – Sam Nash leads while Jose Flores and Nick Hayman swap paint

Photo Credit: Chuck Lantz chucklantz.com

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AMA Pro Supersport at Laguna Seca: Friday, July 23

August 19th, 2010 munroemotors Comments off

The Friday morning schedule for the Challenge was, well, challenging. First we got 20 minutes of practice at 8:15am in the fog… my faceshield steamed up on the inside so I had to ride with it cracked open. Then we had 20 minutes of qualifying at 10:20am, I managed to post a decent 1:33.7 to qualify P8. Finally we raced at 11:50am …and I got the worst start of my life – front wheel up and down like a yoyo – a slew of folk going past me over the turn 1 hill. Furious with myself, I put my head down and pushed as hard as I could to get back past some of my competition. On lap 7, I nearly highsided my rearend to the moon accelerating out of turn 5 after passing Neil Atterbury… but I stayed onboard through superior luck. I wound up in 12th place at the end of the ten lap race – not good after starting in 8th position, but my best lap was a 1:32.5 which made me a little happier with myself.

I parked the 999 and walked down the hot pit to my world-class crew, who were ready with the 848 to start the 12:30pm Supersport practice session. At least I was warmed up and ready for bear. I put in a bunch of laps during the 50 minute session, partly to ensure our tire choice was going to last the 18 lap race, but mainly because the 848 felt surprisingly alien after the 999 and I needed the seat time to readjust my mental paradigm. As usual for Supersport, there were the plenty of kids in the dirt as they chased the glory of winning practice.

After our jam-packed morning we had the afternoon free, so we mounted a new set of the Dunlop AMA spec’ tires on the 848 ready for Saturday morning qualifying. We also spent some time race-prepping an electric bike, home-built by our new friend Alex Prilutsky, who works in battery R&D for Tesla motorcars. Earlier that morning, Alex had been looking for an AMA or FIM licensed racer to ride his bike in the FIM e-Power race, I was pitted nearby, and a coupla friendly AMA tech officials hooked us up. I was thrilled by the idea of getting to ride an electric bike in Sunday’s e-race.

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