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RACE REPORT 'Daytona 200' 2018

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  • RACE REPORT 'Daytona 200' 2018

    Hello Race Fans!


    Last year's 'Daytona 200' left our entire race team feeling unfulfilled...especially me.
    Gasoline leaking onto the rear tire on lap 11, followed by the loss of rear braking and nearly crashing into the wall outside the chicane on lap 15 put us out of the race.... and frustrated.
    Most of our issues were due to the late arrival of the bike which kept us from the needed testing opportunities.
    Even with the poor showing last March 2017, we did survive.
    Soon thereafter we set our sights upon October 2017's Team Challenge at Daytona. This is a semi-pro event on the same high speed 3.51 mile Daytona course that includes the famed high banks and twisting infield pavement.
    Even though the TC is intended as an endurance race for 2 or 3 rider teams, I chose to ride it alone to expose issues before the 2018 Daytona 200.
    And expose issues it did (I am always amazed at how small issues can have huge impact on the big picture).
    End result of the TC was a 13th place for me in the 600cc class, 21st overall. Not too bad, nor too good...but we did finish and learn a lot along the way.

    What did we learn?
    First, my physical and mental stamina was very good until lap 40 (a 57 lap race) when leg fatigue caused me to alter technique, distract my concentration, and make me long for the event to end. I pressed on, but it was not good.

    As far as the bike goes, once my hands and gloves got sweat-soaked, the throttle could not be held wide open without continually grabbing more and more throttle. My wet glove would not keep the hard and fairly smooth hard rubber grip from slipping backwards in my hand...also not good.
    A minor oil leak put a nice shine on my left boot, leaking at an external gasket joint. Easy enough to address.
    I was losing time braking from the 2 highest speed spots on the track as the front brake feel became vague after a few laps of heat and abuse. Going from 175mph to 70mph 2 times per lap requires front brakes that offer strength, consistency, and good road feel as the front tire squalls in protest of its abuse.

    All issues were addressed; Larger/stickier hand grips, a new starter housing gasket, upgrade to an expensive Italian racing front master cylinder, new front brake rotors, and better race-specific brake pads.
    And a heightened workout regimen for my lower body. This included some unusual exercises for the obscure long and thin tissue that runs along the outside of our legs from thigh to calf. The modified training made a difference, no doubt.

    March 2018, finally arrives. Due to the emergence of the Daytona TT on Thursday night, the road racing schedule is crushed together so tight that there is only one session for practice. Suspension tuning must be done during qualifying, tough to do....practice at 9am, qualifying begins at 10:50am. More qualifying Friday afternoon and racing Saturday...whew!

    My Suzuki GSXR600's engine is running great, but the chassis objects emphatically to the hard braking into turn 1 and again into the chicane at the end of the back straight. shudder/chop/chatter...yuck.
    We check tires, brakes, and chassis. Adjusting compression and rebound damping rates in the front forks helps to settle it down somewhat, but more track time is needed to get to the bottom of things and really fix it. Too bad, such time is unavailable.
    Also, the bike gets overly upset in the high speed infield dogleg. A left-hand sweeping turn whose pavement has been badly rippled by countless laps of the heavier race cars. I have searched for a line through this sweeper that allows me to roll fast, stay on the throttle, and not get pitched off the bike...it's not there. The bike just needs more work to satisfactorily handle that important part of the track.
    I come up with a time honored solution to these challenges.
    Drawing on my years of experience racing inherently flawed older motorcycles, I chose to leave the bike as it is and ride around the shortcomings...just get over it!

    As usual, my qualifying times are spectacularly (only) ok. Not all entrants to the race qualify. To do so requires turning a fast lap within 115% of the pole sitter's fastest lap. My times were good enough to qualify, but so modest that near the end of the second wave I go.

    The 1pm race is preceded by 2 hours of fanfare, dignitaries, invocations, a parade lap, and finally the sighting lap that leads up to the 2 wave race start.

    Steady as she goes, wave one gets the green flag and roars into turn one, and the race is on...10 seconds later the second wave gets its green flag and we roar off as well.
    I get a pretty good start which puts me in the thick of the field as we bang into each other fighting for the prime groove near the inside of the corners. No one relents, everyone survives and the field starts to stretch out as we climb out of the infield up onto the wall of the NASCAR banking. The pack of bikes and riders riding high on the wall, down the flat back straight toward the chicane...and jockeying for the best chance to get into and out of the chicane fast and clean.
    In the heat of battle it is easy to forget how much faster we are going as a pack than if alone, due to the draft and still air. I choose to cut throttle a bit early to avoid running past the turn-in point and missing the chicane altogether...as a few riders did. In lap one of a 200 mile race it is important to move up as much as possible to roll with faster traffic...but it is also important to survive the chaos.

    I get hooked up with some faster riders and turn my best lap times of the week. The target was to get my times under 2 minutes, a 1:59.99999 would have been good but a 2:01 was the fastest I would turn.
    I lose count of number of laps as 3 other riders and I take turns swapping positions in our spirited race-within-a-race. After just a few laps, suddenly a red flag flies and we all must ride fast to our pit road stalls along the front straight. A re-start now looms as the track officials prepare new grid sheets for the upcoming re-start.

    Now all riders start in one wave, and I have moved up several positions on track. 2 rows closer to the front.
    Another good start and the chaos in turn 1, survive turns 2 and 3 with the mob of aggressive riders fighting for the same space. I break free and move across the track to the extreme right down the infield straight. This sets me up for a wide sweeping line on the outside of the dogleg and a chance to hammer the throttle hard toward the west horseshoe...and best of all, inside several riders who have bunched up in the sweeper's tight line. Hard on the front brake, then throw the bike hard right into the horseshoe... resulting in a well executed 'block-pass'.

    Out of the infield, up onto the wall, full throttle and pounding gears...down the back straight toward the chicane, first the 3 marker- then at 2 1/2 marker cut the throttle, hard brakes..squeeze harder, turn hard left at the 1 marker and pounce on the sportscar rumble strips at the left of the chicane's entrance.
    BAM, someone has tried to beat me to this spot, but underestimated my roll speed. He smacks me pretty hard, then bounces off the right side of my bike and off into the grass at 100 mph. While keeping most of my concentration on where I am going, I monitor the 'off-roader' in anticipation of trouble...he is out of control at this point.
    Momentum carries him across the grass and back onto the center of the chicane, right into the rider in front of me...down they both go, bikes sliding /sparks flying, riders sliding...I avoid all of it, throw my Suzuki hard right and exit the chicane with a wheelie onto NASCAR 3.
    I am glad that doesn't happen every lap.

    A few 'normal' laps later, another red flag flies... a big crash in the dogleg among the leaders, causes a brief break in the action. Back to pit road, fill the fuel tank and take a short breather.

    The next start, which was to be the last re-start, was a single wave. I have once again moved up another row, with a natural crease through the grid of riders directly in front of me.

    Green flag!
    This time I hit it just right and shoot through the crease into the heart of the front pack. The riders up front have lap times a bit faster than mine, challenging me to step up my pace. I roll with them for a few laps until they gradually get by me and pull away....Good news is that I now have pulled away from some of my former pack.
    Cranking out lap after lap, the fuel light comes on and time for pit stop. Down the back straight, through the chicane, up onto NASCAR 3's banking, hand in the air and drifting low on the wall to slow for pit road...gotta love the pit road speed limit. There is none!
    As I drop off the wall and onto pit lane, a glance at the speedometer...138mph. Still racing. My crew dutifully and predictably holds out the glow orange pit sign to guide me to our stall where a full service stop is ready. Squeeze the front brake lever hard and lift the rear wheel off the ground as I stop exactly at the toes of
    Alex, our crew's fireman.
    Crew chief Bill pats me on the back indicating that the bike is on its stand and my air vest tether has been disconnected. I get off the bike, go over the wall and
    Wanda helps slip the water tube under my helmet's chin for some quick gulps. A glance back at Pete, Bill, and Brian's efficient handling of the refueling and rear tire replacement. It is a sight to behold...they were great!
    Back onto the bike, fire it up, wait a few seconds for Alex to wave me back into traffic, and blast out onto the track.
    Entire stop, 1 minute 6 seconds :)

    With all the effort, speed, action. and challenges, I have no idea how deeply we are into this 57 lap race. Since I have seen no halfway flags yet, its time to take the opportunity to glance up from my racing crouch and read the Speedway's huge lighted leader board...lap 44!
    Wow, almost there!
    A few more fast and consistent laps bring us near the end. Lap 50 of 57...it's nearing time for another fuel stop, but this is no time to stop. I decide to short shift the bike and sacrifice 2 seconds per lap for the final few hoping that I can avoid the minute a fuel stop would cost. No fuel light yet...keep checking that dashboard as we continue to race side by side at 175mph.

    White flag is out, last lap!...2 riders a couple of dozen bike lengths ahead, looks like they are tiring. I gather my last bit of gumption and press to pass them, hoping to improve my finish a place or 2. Closing a bit through the infield, turn 6 is the important drive onto the banking and long back straight...I draft pass them both just before the chicane and dive hard left.in.out.hard throttle.up the wall on the long run to the checkered flag. Here I expected the 2 riders just dispatched to draft past me to the stripe, so I stay low on the track and tuck in extra tight...15,500 rpms as the Suzuki shrieks across the finish line with no one coming by...nice.

    Waving to all the fans lining the infield fence, filling the infield stands, and on top of the RVs trackside...I smile to myself.
    We just won 34th place in the Daytona 200!
    That is right in the middle of the field, ahead of 1/2 and behind 1/2...could be better, but pretty good for such a prestigious event.

    Boy, am I thirsty!

  • #2
    Arthur- Fantastico! Thanks so much for taking the time to write up this excellent report- it got my pulse pounding reading it! Congratulations on a great race. I hate it when people run into me at 100 MPH, good job to stay cool and dance through all that carnage.

    Now you just need to ride out for 2 West in June so you can recap the whole story for us in-person.

    Greg
    "The Price of Speed is Eternal Vigilance" 2015 ZX14R 30th, Four Kids

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    • #3
      That is so cool. Thanks for taking us along, virtually. I was able to watch the first half. The only time I caught you on screen was in the pits during the red flag stops.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds like a whole lot of fun and personally challenging.

        Nice write up.
        Our ability to distribute interesting information is out pacing our ability to create it.

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        • #5
          Wow, that was a great read. Made my week, Arthur!

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          • #6
            Thanks for taking us on the ride along Arthur. That was a great write up. Good on you for mixing it up out there. Keep up the good work and “stay forever young!”


            "I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it!"

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            • #7
              Arthur, simply a badass play by play from your prospective. That's just too cool. Great read. Thanks.
              "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

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              • #8
                Showing the rest of us how it's done


                While I am master of my sword, I shall never think any man greater than myself.
                ~Eumenes of Cardia

                I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth. ~Steve McQueen

                I work over by worlds of fun. ~JimmyMac

                My photo album - http://zzrbikes.com/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=146333

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                • #9
                  I got goose bumps reading your account of the race. Huge tip of the cap for making your dream come true. Gives me energy and courage.

                  Tomorrow at this time I will be recovering from my second hare scramble. There is no doubt that I have absorbed some of your enthusiasm to race a motorcycle beyond the age of 60( me, not the bike).

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by gregness View Post
                    I hate it when people run into me at 100 MPH, good job to stay cool and dance through all that carnage.
                    AMEN!

                    Thanks for the insiders report Arthur. You remain an inspiration!
                    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”...Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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                    • #11
                      Incredible Arthur. Every morning when I get up aching and stiff I wonder how in the hell you do it.

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