Well, before I could race I needed to know the rules and get a license, so my rookie weekend started Friday morning with the Penguin Race School's Basic course.
Friday, August 21st
Since the course doesn't assume any track experience, quite a bit of the classroom session was a repeat of stuff I had already learned at track days. Of course, there is stuff that is not learned at track days, such as flags and how to grid, etc. For a first timer, there is a lot of information to absorb quickly, for track day guys, its a review with a small amount of new info mixed in. The class had about 20 students with less then half having track experience.
For the follow the leader (FTL) session, I ended up alone with an instructor. We rode around at a mellow pace, and since I didn't really need to be learning the line, I took the opportunity to find more reference points and to think more about my body position and braking and turning techniques while practicing them in slow motion.
The first session that we were let loose on our own was, hmm, entertaining. A lot of riders still had just a vague idea where the line was, so I had to be careful getting around them. I did get opertunities to pass groups of 5-6 at a time, which made it quite easy to get ahead of them and find some clear track.
The next open session, I ended up behind someone still learning the line. I followed him for half a lap before finding a safe place to pass him (inside exiting 2). Finally enjoying a clear track again, I pick up as much speed as I can on my little 125, get on the brakes as late as my comfort level allows me aproaching 3, and as I get ready to turn into 3, I percieve someone appearing way too hot on the inside. I abort my turn-in and slow down while giving him plenty of room to recover, hopeing he doesn't go down. By the time I'm pretty sure that disaster was averted, I'm way too deep to comfortably complete the turn, so I ride through the 3-10 shortcut. That ended up being an efficient way of putting lots of distance between me and someone I didn't want to ride next to anymore.
Later, rain drops started falling and the debris flags started pointing at the sky. Most of the field treated that as a red flag and they all lined up to pit in, some taking the 3-10 shortcut to get out of the rain before they melted or something. I enjoyed a few laps on a clear and still-dry track and only came in when my face shield started fogging up.
As the rain got worse, I started putting my rain tires on. I had a few issues with that, so didn't go out again that day.
Overall, it was a fun day. I got to experience the track in a different way than the usual track day sessions as an intermediate rider with a group of riders with similar skill levels. I took advantage of the FTL to treat it as a fast track walk or slow motion version of my regular pace. The open sessions with riders with differing track experience allowed me to really think about what others are doing and might be doing, and find a way around them.
Saturday, August 22nd
A rookie's first race day is busy, as I was warned by many. I got up early to go stand in line first to get my license, and then to register for the novice 125GP race. Once I got that done, my race number (#763) was assigned, I was off to see Miles at Street and Comp to buy the numbers and a transponder bracket. By then, practice had already begun, but the track wasn't busy with rain falling. I put the new numbers on the bike and took it over to tech. I still had time to make it for the second practice session, but I had to switch to rains first. My rain wheels are different than the ones with slicks, so I need a different spacer when installing it. I was able to get that part from Rising Sun, but by the time I finally got the rains on, my second practice session was ending. The rest of the time before the rookie race rider's meeting was spent studying the radar images trying to guess what tires I would need for the rookie race. At 11:00 is the rookie rider's meeting followed by the rider's meeting out on hot pit. By the end of that meeting at 11:30, it is clear that the track is dry and that it is unlikely that rain will be back by the 12:00 Rookie Race. I run back to the garage, swap the wheels again, run to my trailer to get suited out and make it just in time to the grid.
Ok, the goal of this race is to complete it so I can get my license. No need to be fast or beat anyone, so I'll just take it easy. We get divided up in two waves, so we can experience starting after another wave. I'm in the lightweight wave with 4 other riders. I'm used to track days or practice where we pit out and don't need to get a quick start from a dead stop, but getting an RS125 going in 1st gear is like getting a street bike going in 3rd or 4th gear. It's doable, but not easy! When my wave gets the green, I get going very slowly as I watch the rest of the group get away from me.
Now, all the crap I mentioned about taking it easy goes out the door! I'm not finishing this race in last place, so I start working on catching up to the group. I get closer to a couple of riders between 2 and 3, take a peek on the inside getting ready for 3, but don't get to the turn in point early enough to cleanly get by them, so take 3 slow as I fall in behind them and loose the drive I need up 4. I finally get my RPM's in the power band again, and start accelerating towards 6. I come in a bit faster and brake a bit later than I usually do in 6 and scare myself a little. Remind myself I NEED to finish this race. I don't remember where I got by the 2 guys I was following, but I got by both of them meybe inside of 6 or outside of 8.
By time a get the white flag signaling the last lap, I got by another guy and can see the first place guy ahead of me. I gain some ground by time we get to one, and get closer again in 2. Suddenly the red flag comes out ending the race. Someone went down in 12, blocking the turn so it was best to bring us in.
I didn't win my wave of the rookie race, but I sure had fun trying!
Race #8 Novice 125GP
The biggest part of getting ready for this race was figuring out what the weather was going to do. I studied the evolving radar maps, and seeked advice from experienced gurus such as Degsy and Graham. When the time came for first call, I still hadn't seen evidence that I would need rains to start my race, but I wasn't sure if that would still be the case by the end of the race as people heard reports that rain was indeed on the way.
Their was only 1 other racer (#512) signed up in my class so Degsy gave me good advice on strategies to use if the other guy shows up on rains and strategies to use if rain starts falling during the race. I get suited up and the sun is steal beating down on us as I make my way to pre-grid. I finally meet #512 as he pre grids besides me. We greet each other with a fist bump as I peek at his tires, he went for slicks as well. We have never ridden together before, so all I know about him is his lap times from past races, which are about what some of my best lap times are. As we pit out for the warm up lap, I follow him around and try to get an idea what I'm up against.
I still haven't figured out how to get going quickly on the 125, so #512 is almost at T1 by time I cross the start/finish line! Once I get going, I seem to keep the gap constant for the first lap. I'm not sure I'm getting closer to him, but I don't think I'm falling further behind. My plan is to ride hard, but not too much. I'm hoping to be able to close the gap a bit at a time and get into a position to pounce at the end of the race.
As I get around 9, I notice #512 going around 10 with his hand up. I quickly scan for flags, see none, then notice his muffler dragging! Holy crap, I just won the race! Well, I didn't win it yet, but it's now mine to loose. By this time, rain drops are falling and rain flags are rising, so I take it back a notch and ride in survival mode. I ride the rest of the race at a comfortable pace, trying to stay in tune with how much the rain drops are affecting the track. A couple of bikes are in front of me from other classes, one is a motard. I follow them around, thinking of maybe trying a pass, but only if I can do it cleanly and without pushing myself much. Finishing the race at this point is at a much higher priority than passing someone that doesn't matter!
The rest of the race goes smoothly and I take the checkered, not believing I won my first race!
I did learn after the race that #512 just stopped briefly in the pit, pulled the muffler out and came right back out. I'm sure glad I didn't take it too easy once I though I had it in the bag!
I was glowing the rest of the day as I packed up, collected my wood and enjoyed good food at the T2 cookout. I then headed home, very satisfied with my first day of racing.
Rookie race correction: Finally checked the official results of the rookie race and I was chasing the 2nd place guy on the last lap, not the 1st place guy, which was vary fast and out of sight!
Last edited by rolker; 08-25-09 at 12:24 PM. Reason: Fact check!
My personal best of 1:32.823 was done at the Aug 3rd TTD. The best I did this weekend was 1:36.971.
Here are Saturday's lap times, according to my gps:
First two laps are the rookie race (3rd lap wasn't complete due to a red flag).
I improved from lap to lap at the beginning of race #8, but slowed the pace down as rain drops fell and I wanted to make sure I didn't risk getting myself in trouble and not finishing the race.
Way to go Roland. Congrats on your first win.
Congrats Roland! How did the bike run??
Congrats on putting together a good first race weekend.
SWEET! Congrats big guy!
Thats a lot of 1st's in one weekend!
Congrats man. Welcome to the addiction! I saw you around, didn't make the association with the board.
Great job Strategizing. How did you like the inside in other places?
Congrats Roland! That sounds like a great Rookie weekend.
Thanks for stopping by for the BBQ.
Roland, Time to seriously test the radiator. Any shop can do it. If it's good, swap out the cylinder/head.
Good idea Paul. Now that I have a bit more time until my next track event, I'll take a closer look at the rad as well as the cylinder/head.
Roland, if you can't find someone closer let me know and i can give you a hand pressure testing the system. Did you check the transmission fluid to see if there is any water in there?
Nice avatar. I didnt know S&C was selling numbers that look like that. Exactly what font is it?
This thread makes me happy. I'd love to try a 125GP bike, very well be my next race bike if I get bored with the EX. I'd love a 600 but can't afford to race one, so if I switch from the EX it'll be to an SV or a 125GP. That said, what is the trick to starting one of those things? Can you slip the clutch to keep it in powerband like you're riding a 125 dirt bike?
Anyway, Roland, if you're unable to find any pointers on starts on that bike by next weekend and/or you want to chat with some guys that have been racing them for a bit, swing by my garage next race weekend. I've got a couple buddies 2 garages over, REALLY nice guys, who race those things. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to chat with you on the tricks involved in launching one of those things.
Roland, Your clutch is like a lightswitch. Zero feel between all or nothing. That usually means warped steels or a notchy basket. I'd try putting 3 new steels in, the 3 inside ones. The only trick I ever learned to launch a 125 GP bike was to keep the clutch really fresh. 3 new steels after 4 starts. Swap the old inside steels to the outside, and put the fresh ones toward the inside. Files the notches off the basket. Fresh oil every race weekend 400ml.
Dan, the answer to you question is NO it's nothing like a dirtbike, unless you tried to launch it in 5th gear. Even then you'd have shorter gearing than a GP bike.
I went from EX to 125. It's a great path to take. Both require momentum above all and similar lines. The 125 is expensive to run for the reasons you mentioned, minus the crashing part. It's by FAR the best crashing bike out there. At 160 lbs, it rarely sustains any damage in a lowside, and can even come out of a tumbling run pretty clean. The gastank can't really get damaged. The exhaust usually just scrapes the can. A guard is helpful. I didn't even run sliders on my bike.
It eats brake pads for breakfast lunch and dinner. tires last a good long while though, and they are cheap(er)
I definitely recommend it, though the field has gotten small and slow...(good and bad)