Hi Ho Race Fans!!
Yeah, you read it right, Team Ika was on the podium at Spokane Raceway Park this weekend!! Now you have to read the whole damn e-mail, don't you? ;-P
Up from Portland to Tacoma on Friday to pick up the little race bike, then over to Spokane sitting three hours on Snoqualmie Pass in a mountain traffic jam. Nice. Got into Spokane around 1 AM on Saturday morning. Pitched the tent under a starry night and passed out. Nothing like a solid four hours of sleep before a track day.
Saturday dawned early, sunny and hot. Dry Track!! So let's get after it. Some of you may recall the good luck Team Ika has had a Spokane. Some others of you, namely the Gold Dust Twins, will recall something else but they should have gotten over that by now.
The setting: Long, long front straight that is every so slightly uphill until the last several hundred yards where it slopes down, giving you a hard push into #1, a slight right hander which sets you up for #2, a wicked cool hard left, downhill and then uphill decreasing radius which exits uphill on a blind rise. Yeah!! Overcook this one and you will soil yourself. Oh yeah, no run out whatsoever! More about this one later.
The backside is a series of up and down rises with a few little kink turns until #4, a 90 degree right hand with a nasty camber and then a quick left into #5 which sets you up for the first hairpins, #6, a left hander, full on boot sander, puck slider, part grinder and then a short spurt to #7, a slightly faster right hand hairpin, quick drive through #8 left and then a short fast straight to #9, a short left at speed across the apex of #10 to a very, very fast #11 carousel which exits onto the front straight if you survive. #11 is spooky, baby! Runout is a rocky hillside.
Now you have the picture. First practice was hot and dry. I was out on the track remembering and testing lines, working on turn 2 and 4. Everything was feeling pretty good, the new fork brace seemed to be reducing chatter and the new K&N filters seem to breathing well. The little bike was happy, waiting to be wrung out. I needed to get on with the wringing. Best time in Session one was a 2:22.153.
Second session was out with new Team Ika Rider Don Marr #940. Don was sorting out his bike which was having some top end sputtering issues. We worked on lines for a few laps and then I headed off for some fast times. Best time this session was a 2:22.772.
Session three was a pivotal event. I was able to get behind Michael Bateman, the fastest 160 rider. MB dominates our class, has been racing for years and is a great guy. He towed me down the straight and then we got to play. First, I saw how much more speed I could carry through #2. As the bike labours up the straight, #1 looks like it will never get there. RPMs are maxed out and the little bike is done. Suddenly, you top the rise and you are approaching things at a much faster rate. The kink of #1 flies past and there you are a full wrap and no more track. Bang on down and catch the entrance just inside of the camber, following Mike with the knee down, just skimming as the momentum builds and builds and the front starts to chatter. At the bottom of the hill it looks like the turn is over but don't believe it or your going to talk with John Lennon. Keep the lean constant and tight and you are hurtling uphill at the sky with great drive. Lesson learned. At turn #4 I had been going in early and having trouble with the camber later in the turn. I followed MB deeper into the turn than I had ever gone, with a long swoop to a late apex and there you are, on the inside of the camber getting thrown through and pitched out just right for a quick #5. Turns #6, #7 and the rest is really comfortable with me, except trying to remember just how fast I really can hit #9. Good session. Best time was 2:20.486.
Cigars and frivolity followed, and then the obligatory Spokane wind storm and rain which blew canopies to hell and cast a pall over the chances for a dry track on race day. Evening time was passed watching a guy use a bike cover as a sail and wearing those sneakers with the wheels in the soles to sail down the pit road. Mini-bike races in the wet grass topped off the evening. I passed out to the sound of steady rain on the tent.
Race day was heavy with the threat of rain, but remained dry through morning practice. First novice practice, someone ran right through #1, coming at the #2 corner workers from behind. Very broken bike and very broken novice. Our quick morning practice was slow, with lots of traffic. I warmed up the bike and left it at that.
Heat One: Gridded, feeling very jittery. I tried some breathing exercises and told myself to do my best. Everything fell away with the start flag. I got a pretty good start, up the straight with the Penton 125 ahead of me, Bateman and two other 160's. I got a great drive through #2 and up the back side, biding time and staying sharp. Up the front straight again I was somewhere in fourth. A great drive through #2 brought me up tight on the next group of leaders. I was passed by Aaron at the entrance to #9 and that got the blood up. No Way! Down the front I got a good draft and then a great drive through #1 and #2. Passed Aaron and another bike before #2. Knee down, skimming and looking through the turn, calm, really planted. Never saw those boys again. I was zoned at this point. I don't remember the back side until I saw Rick Richter ahead of me. Bateman had walked away with first and Rick was in second on a Honda 175. He looked back on the straight, saw me coming, and then held until I closed with him. Yee Haw!! I was in third place on a dry track. Richter's 175 is faster where he can use it but on the back side and the hairpins it is about equal. Rick and I were inches apart through #4 and I got inside but he closed at #6 where I couldn't shake him. We went through the hairpin less than two feet apart and again at #7. Rick used his engine to open a gap to #9 but I railed through 11, drafted him and then got the pass at the end of the straight to drop through #2. Second Place!! Not to last though. Rick got me on the back side with his displacement and then again, side by side through the turns. I never looked back to see if anyone else was there. My passing sense weren't jangling and we took the white flag (last lap) with me 20 feet behind. Rick burned through the last lap and we traded passes once more but displacement and skill level put Rick out of #11 and to the checkered in Second with Team Ika at a Podium Third. First time ever on a dry track I was screaming and yelling so hard inside my helmet the corner workers heard it all the way back to #4 and the track exit. Best lap time was 2:18:.99.
A bit of cigar, a few cookies and several rain showers later, the buzz has still not worn off. Don Marr had survived his first race and did not finish last!! Great first race for a novice. Team Ika was having a fine day.
The rain broke and with a good breeze the track started to dry. Heat #2 was coming up. Scoring is based on the combined scores of Heat #1 and #2 with #2 deciding any ties for overall. A 2nd-1st finish beats a 1st-2nd finish. So, the pressure was on for another good finish for Team Ika #146. The start was good, but not great. Five bikes were slightly ahead of me but I was ahead of the two leaders. I got great drive and in my new passing point, picked up two bikes right away at #2. Down the back side, Bateman passed me. The Penton 125, with Dave Hussey, was still ahead. Dave is slower through the turns, but the little Sachs engine develops more power on exits, making dicing with Dave a lot of fun. Between #6 and #7 Dave did a little motocrossing but stayed upright so I slipped by in #7. I was feeling like third was in the bag again, with Bateman out front and Rick ahead of me. Up the back side I was suddenly passed by John on the right and Cogs on the left, both on 160's. Battle lines were drawn. I had to get off my ass.
The next three laps were the most intense racing I have ever done. Up the straight I stole Johns draft from Cogs. I slipped past him by inches on the left and then got John's draft. At the entrance to #2 I went outside and passed but not before realizing I was way, way out on the camber and inventing a new line. John Lennon whispered to me. Up the back side They pulled past but I stuffed them both with an inside pass at #4. Down the front I was leading but I knew they were close. Then I saw John sweep in far from the left. He had stayed outside so I re-draft him as he went by. We banged into #2 together. I was carrying more speed then him, but he was in the line. I came by outside again, further this time and then brought it in across him at the uphill, leaving him behind. I led the back, in control and racing with my head. I could take them at #4. I could take them at #7. I could rail them through #11. Think, plan, execute. Then there was Richter and I knew I was in third. I passed him at #9, using him a blocker for anyone behind me. We took the white with Team Ika in Second. Down the straight I knew Richter was drafting me but I didn't know who else.
I really don't remember the last lap except to say that I rode it zoned. Time compressed and each turn had a prescribed place for me to be. I knew they were close behind me, but I didn't waste any time looking. I found out afterwards that Cogs went down hard in seven and John bobbled in six and it was over. Richter passed me at #4, or there abouts and I followed him in, grinding and scraping. I know it is a cliché to say I came through 11 on a rail, but there you have it. Solid down knee, looking at the finish line and WFO in third and then the checkered was there and Team Ika was in for Third again!!!!!!!!
Lots of jumping around and fist pumping and general unbridled happiness. Team Ika got on the Podium. Don Marr survived his second race and actually got points! #146 is now in third overall for the season in points, a huge change from the depressing opening season.
Thanks for your support and kind words. Team Ika greatly appreciates them. Again, special thanks to Don Kemp and Darryl Richman who ponied up most of the entrance fees for #146, yours truly.
Next Team Ika appearance is Pacific Raceways in Seattle on June 21st (practice) and June 22nd (race), See you then and remember, Race Hard, Race Often and GO TEAM IKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!