Brian's Race Report from Firebird East

06/05/05 Chandler, AZ

 

This event was originally scheduled to be on the Main track at Firebird, but I'm glad they changed it to the East track. Main is more dangerous because of walls, plus I just don't enjoy riding Main very much. I'm getting to the point where I enjoy East. Plus, I like to track my progress as a rider using lap times and it's easier to compare times for one track. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. More on that later. Also, this weekend was a Suzuki, Kawasaki AND Yamaha paying weekend, which meant the big boys would be coming. It was definitely a crowded weekend.

 

I still haven't fixed my bike's shifting problem. The guys at MMI (thanks Rian!) think I should check out some component of the transmission / shifting mechanism before I start tearing the engine down to look at the shift forks. When I get around to it, I will do that. For now, I was going to have to make due with shifting problems for another race weekend.

 

On Friday I loaded up all my gear into my truck so I could take it myself on Saturday. Saturday morning I headed to the track and got there a little late. On my way I called Pat to see if the guys had bought ice and water already. He decided to play a joke on me, and pulled Mike into it, by telling me they were still asleep. I offered to help get them on the road and everything, but they said they'd be ok. When I get to the track, they are already there and had been for a LONG time! No love from those guys...punks ;-)

 

I really didn't feel very motivated this weekend, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was my sick baby, or maybe it was the fact that I had a big test early the following week (for getting into grad school), or maybe it was the fact that I just didn't feel well. I don't know. In either case, I was content just taking my time Saturday getting ready. I missed the first session getting tech'd etc. In the first practice session I went out, the bike felt WEIRD! It felt like someone had raised the front end by about 3 inches. Also, I was on VERY shagged tires that had done a day of racing at Vegas + a whole day at Barber. I decided it was just my head not in the game and kept pushing. By the 2nd practice session I felt better.

 

Before lunch on Saturday, CCS made a request over the intercom for someone who could help them with computer issues they were having. I decided to offer my assistance. The problem was with the transponders...they weren't picking up any hits. After a couple hours of helping the ladies work on this, we got it working within the booth. Because of a bad red flag (more on this later), there were no riders on track so I left assuming it was going to be working and everyone would get lap times for the weekend. After riding resumed, they discovered another problem that we could not fix. Basically, the hardware going out to the track side was failing, and CCS had only provided one of that piece to our region despite providing backups of practically everything else. That meant there was nothing we could do and no-one would get lap times for the weekend. Also, all races would be recorded by hand and there would be no GP qualifying. This was a major bummer, but it wasn't the ladies in the office at fault. They tried everything....twice.

 

Back to the red flag. My friend Eric Pelley had a bad crash and ended up being life flighted to the hospital. I'm VERY glad to say that he's doing much better than it could have been. He ended up with only a broken upper arm and a fractured C7 vertebrae. Trackside it appeared much worse, so that's good news (if you can call it that). I hope you get well soon Eric. Buy Jen something nice when you can...she was put through the emotional ringer!

 

Despite only getting 3 practice sessions, I ended this day with lap times around 1.00:5 for the day. Right on pace with my best from last season, so I was pleased and expecting to break the 1 minute mark for Sunday. That would be my goal for the weekend.

 

Because I'm broke, I could not pre-register for this weekend. Luckily, I had some race entry vouchers and was able to register for 5 races with only $20 out of pocket!! I was going to enter all of the unlimited sprint races and all of the heavyweight sprint races.

 

On Sunday, I moved my gear over to pit with Mike. Because it was a packed weekend, Mike was unable to get space for his RV near Pat and Tom, so I decided to pit with Mike on Sunday so he wasn't alone. Mike is riding VERY well, and I have fun messing with him about who's going to finish in front of who even though we're not really racing each other (Mike's not moved up to expert ---yet).

 

My first race was Unlimited Superbike. I started this race well, and was keeping up with Tom for the first 1/2 of the race (granted, he went out without a warm up lap). After that, I just got VERY tired. I am not in good riding shape it seems, because I just could not maintain my early pace the entire race. I slowed a couple seconds and ended up loosing a position before the end. I finished in 4th place, with a best lap time of 58.84 on fresh tires! The rest of my times averaged low 1:00 before the last couple. You can really tell Tom's been racing every weekend, because he's in great riding shape. After the race, I felt like I was going to pass out in the 100 degree weather. Luckily I had a few races to rest before my next one.

 

My second race was Heavyweight Superbike. I got a good start and kept Bryan Land in sight for the first couple laps (he's way faster than me and most other experts). He later told me he was on shagged tires, but it still felt good to keep with him. After 3/4 of the race, I again tired, but this time I was able to maintain my pace a little better. Maybe I was finally warming up. I finished 2nd in this race, with a best lap time of 59.53. I had one other 59 and almost all the rest were 1:00's.

 

My third race was the Unlimited GP. This race normally is gridded by qualifying times, but without transponders we were unable to do that, so everyone was gridded by order of entry. That meant I was at the back. A bad start and I went into the first corner in last place with the field already spreading out. Without a miracle, there was no way I would catch the front runners (like Tom). That proves the importance of pre-entry right there. Still, I was racing. A few laps into the race, I was 3rd from last and dicing with a couple guys. Going into the left hander right after the short pit straight, I felt someone run into my rear tire kicking my bike sideways. I still made the corner and the following 2 rights. Unfortunately, the guy who hit me was sent off course and was headed straight for where I was headed (the track circles back around, so he was going to t-bone me). I gassed it extra hard, and I saw him try and turn and aim to go behind me while in the dirt. That turn by him sent his bike into a frenzy and he ended up crashing (I thanked him later for not t-boning me!!). The entire next lap I was just out of it mentally, thinking about my 2 near incidents. I made a few mental mistakes that could have been crashes and decided it was safest (for everyone) if I pulled in. I didn't finish the race, but I still finished 8th and won $75.

 

My fourth race was Heavyweight SuperSport, a Suzuki paying race. I expected all of the manufacturer paying races to be full grids, but I was very disappointed to see only 5 guys signed up for this race. That meant only the top 2 would get manufacturer money. When the race started, only 3 showed up, meaning no-one would get paid Suzuki money. That sucked. Kane Lasky, myself and #13 Jason Parker were the only guys who showed. I knew Kane was much faster than everyone else in the race (and maybe everyone this weekend). I also knew Jason and I were close in speeds. He's the guy who crashed in my last race after hitting my rear tire (I was glad he was able to make it back out). I was not wrong. This was the funnest race I've raced in, in a while. Jason and I were within 1-2 bike lengths of each other the entire race until the last lap. I led most of it, but when I was behind, I actually did something I've been trying to do all season...stay close to someone after they pass me. I have a bad habit of giving them 2-3 bike lengths after I get passed, but not this time. For example, going by the pit wall area, a couple times I had no idea where the track went because all I could see was his bike (couldn't see any apexes). I know I could have won this mini-battle if I had not missed a shift (back to my bike's shifting issues) on the long straight with a little over 1 lap to go. That lost me 4-5 bike lengths and I could not make that up afterwards. Still, that was a fun race and I was proud of my riding for the most part. I finished in 3rd, with a best lap time of 59.71 and 3 or 4 other laps in the 59s.

 

After the 4th race, my bike was overheating pretty bad. The entire belly pan was full of water that had overflowed. In addition, I was exhausted after racing all day in 100 degree weather and my tires were completely shagged. I decided to trust my gut and skip the last race. I didn't have a good feeling about it. Maybe I was right, as they red flagged it so they could clean up an oil spill that was out there.

 

All in all, a good weekend. One thing that was bad was related to the transponder issue. Because there were no transponders working, lap timers were our only way of gauging our speeds/progress. On Sunday, someone decided to put out 2 beacons on the straight without setting one for split times (I don't think they knew there were 2 out there). Without getting into the long explanation, that meant that some of the lap times everyone saw were off. Also, there were inconsistencies, so it was challenging to tell if your times were valid. That sucked. The times I listed above all are based on this knowledge and my honest attempt to figure out the valid times by either adding the actual time between beacons (if I had it) or throwing out obviously bogus times (e.g. I had some 55s and some 56s!). I actually think the 58 in my first race is a valid time, but it was the only 58 I did (I need to work on consistency). I'm sure I'll hear flack about my times.

 

I had a good time and want to thank my teammates for all their support, both on and off the track. I also want to thank our many sponsors. Lastly, I want to thank my racing friends who make this whole thing fun, which really is the most important thing to me.

 

Get well soon Eric.


Brian Kirkland #34

 

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