Three nights in an RV and three days of racing in the good ol' Georgia sunshine - what else can you ask for in a weekend besides a few umbrella girls and trophies? Cycle Jam, a three-day event at beautiful Road Atlanta was sure to be a rockin' weekend from the start.
Backed by Eberhart Creative, Friday kicked off with a free ride on a Ninja 250. While I haven't been on a 250 since the 2015 Ninja 250 Endurance race back in November, I still felt confident I'd be able to get back up to speed in no time but boy was I wrong. The first (and only) practice session on this bike went very well, but my speed went right out the window when it was time for the V5 race. It took everything in my power to keep the pack in sight throughout the race as I tried to remember how to go fast on a small bike. After the longest race of my life, I was able to "round out the field" and bring the bike back to 'celebrate' my finish which was dead last.
After the V5 race I hopped on my SV650 for one final round of practice for the day just to get used to being at a faster speed at Road Atlanta. It was quite an experience hopping on a 60+ horsepower bike, transitioning from the little Ninja that could (a 30 horsepower bike for comparison's sake). Suddenly, brake markers were arriving twice as quickly and the back stretch was a blur - you don't realize how slow a 250 is until you hop on a bigger bike! Practice went well and the SV was riding great so afterwards it was time to head to bed and focus on Saturday's regional races. Of course, I was sure to fit in plenty of Mario Karting at the Goon Squad/Amsoil pits with racers and spectators alike before hand.
Set to begin the day with two rounds of practice, followed by three regional races, my focus for 2016 remains on a National championship. Racing the regional rounds are still important; they provide valuable seat time at different race tracks and in a fast paced environment, the best way to get faster is to tuck in behind a more experienced rider and follow their lead. Practices went fairly well and I was able to figure out "the line" around this fast track. While the lap-times showed I wasn't setting the world on fire in Lightweight Twins Superstock, Lightweight Twins Superbike and F2 I managed to bring home an 11th, 12th, and 15th finish respectively. Towards the end of my three races I began to notice terrible brake fade and it was extremely noticeable as the usual braking points began to change. After the day of racing my teammate Ed Eberhart helped to bleed the brakes instead of participating in the post-race celebrations with the other racers.
Amsoil was kind enough to provide a spaghetti dinner to both racers and fans Saturday evening, and it was a huge hit! I cannot thank these folks enough for the support this season, both on and off the track.
Sunday began with a relatively decent brake system which quickly degraded in my first and only practice session. Attempting to bleed the brakes during the lunch break/quiet hour proved to be futile as the system refused to build the proper pressure. The first race in Lightweight Twin Superstock was exciting as I attempted to ride around the issue. To this date this was my most frustrating race. After missing a shift into turn twelve I was forced to use the "old pit road" section to get back on the racing track, putting me valuable seconds back.
On the next lap I braked at the wrong time going into turn 10A, and had to straighten up the motorcycle and aim for the gravel trap to avoid crashing. For context, the section before 10A has our motorcycles hitting 130mph or faster before slowing down to 50mph or so. Furiously, I went down hot pit to avoid crossing a hot race track to get back into the race. Fortunately there were no more incidents in the race and I finished in 9th.
The second National race was in F2 Expert. While I was off the pace, I was very consistent and stayed on the asphalt for the entirety of the race. Unfortunately the race was called early due to a red flag incident when racer Kris Turner took a face first soil sample into the gravel trap at turn 12. As the race was called early I was forced to settle for an 11th place finish.
While these were not the results I was aiming for I was still able to salvage points despite the poor brakes. After this weekend I am sitting in third place points for Lightweight Twin Superstock, and fourth place points in F2.
I think the best part about this weekend was something unrelated to my racing. Between seeing friends and fans from all sorts of different places (Florida to Colorado), hanging out with my awesome sponsors, and race friends I had a very cool opportunity. My friend, who was born with a disability resulting in poor range of motion in both of his legs and poor balance was able to go on his first two wheeled ride of his life. It was pretty freakin' amazing being able to give the gift of riding to a good friend of mine.
As always, a huge thank you to all my friends, family, fans, and sponsors for the continued support. Without the people in my corner cheering me on there is no possible way I'd be able to push so hard on every race weekend.
Thank you Atlanta, you guys rock.
WERA Season Opener - Little Talladega 2/21/2015
February 22, 2015
Brad Kline's CAMMRA Video - November 30th/December 1st