State of the Garage - August 2017

Multiple rounds of racing plus far too much time turning wrenches in this report.

LRRS Round 4

I had high hopes for this round. After the gas tank disasters in the Classic I threw my wallet and experts at the situation, sent my OEM steel tank to California and got it professionally cleaned and lined. The crew at Gas Tank Lining got my tank in and back just in time for Round 4 thanks to 2nd day shipping each way and their work is pure craftsmanship. There would be no leak worries, or rust worries, or any others with this tank, giving me time to send the carbon one out for replication over the winter. Easy sailing from here, right?

Well, the tank did it's job. Sadly, A-ko was not in a good mood for practice. Hard to start, not wanting to idle but mostly ok once the revs were up and the throttle cable stretched. I had been noticing this problem slowly creeping up but had convinced myself it was partially due to gas tank issues allowing crud into the carbs gumming them up. With all the starting troubles the batt ended up getting drawn down below the point that my trickle charger could recover it between practices resulting in a new LiFePO 4 batt being purchased by my parents of infinite patience to try and keep the program rolling. That plus stubbornness got me on track for the GTL but it was obvious mid race that something wasn't quite right. I finished 11th with OK lap times, but we couldn't get the bike fired for ULSB later in the day.

Final diagnosis was badly torn carb boots. Once that was determined I called it for the weekend. My parents put in overtime with me in the garage that night doing a bench cleaning on my worn out FCR rack, elbow deep in methyl-ethyl-bad-for-you and up WAY past their normal bed time to try and get me out on Sunday but if just wasn't to be. For those that got to witness my mini-meltdown that evening, I apologize, everyone who tried to offer suggestions or encouragement, thank you. I am my own worst enemy at times.

Final tally, 11th in GTL, DNS for ULSB and ULGP. This locks me out of 1st and 2nd in ULGP unless Jake or Larry decides to take a long vacation. One weekend between this round and the next to get things sorted, and parts that may or may not be available any more, fun.

I ordered two sets of carb boots online on Saturday night, knowing one vendor listed them as backordered so they'd be delayed but I'd end up with spares. The other vendor had them listed as in stock on their site, and my order confirmation email confirmed this which should have meant I'd have them on Tuesday with 2nd day shipping. Well, I never got a shipping confirmation, and on Monday my order status showed as backordered?! A polite but firm phone call later I had my shipping upped to next day and the vendor was advised to be better about noting what is and is not in stock and to alert the customer immediately when they get it wrong. Fortunately this vendor is pretty quick at getting Yamaha OEM bits back in inventory and I had them on hand on Thursday, leaving me the weekend to wrench.

Cherry Valley with SMEC and NEMM

8 hours away in NY, but I needed the weekend to wrench, so this got skipped. Next year. That weekend went to good use as the new carb boots got A-ko back up and running. Those along with a carb clean in the ultrasonic tank had her purring like a kitten at idle and screaming to life on demand, no drama.

In the mean time I had pretty much given up on the R6 project. Every diag I could throw at it came back healthy but it refused to behave on the stands. Being a race bike I couldn't just toss it down the road to see how it behaved under load leaving me scratching my head while looking at a couple very expensive part swap tests as a last resort. A few people have suggested to just run it and see what happens so for sheer humor value I loaded it in the trailer and took an extra day off so I could arrive on track Thursday instead of Friday. This would give me the option of trying the R6 in light traffic Thursday, and get some real practice in Friday, or at the very least take my time arriving on site and setting up Thursday if I wasn't feeling super productive.

NEMM Rounds 5 & 6

Scheduled the same time as LRRS Round 5?! Shenanigans. I still have a shot at 3rd overall in ULGP so LRRS it is.

LRRS Round 5 - Thursday / Friday

I played the lazy card on Thursday, arriving at NHMS and taking my time to be sociable, see if I could find some take offs for the R6 and as I felt like it set up my garage and camper for the weekend with no stress. Ultimately I opted to just buy a new set of tires deciding that I wasn't going to go out on an unknown bike in unknown running condition on unknown status tires, one less thing to worry about. Thursday is also when my new suit from Heroic arrived. Yes, I absolutely tossed it on immediately and pranced around the garages seeing how it felt. Yes I got someone to play camera man for me (Thank you Kurtz!) so I could show off online. The full review of it will be posted separately, but the short short version is it's stunning, fits perfect and feels damn near transparent and armored at the same time. Hard to describe in one line, hence it getting it's own report.

On Friday I signed up for practice, with the intention of running both bikes. I wanted to start with the R6 and when it proved screwed up I'd feel better about putting it in the corner and paying an expert to sort it. It breezed through tech, and went back to the garage to get some time on warmers before the first practice session. This is when the first bout of nerves hit, I have no idea how it is going to run, I'm going out with guys running WAY above my normal pace on a bike that is faster than anything I've tried to race on track. The suspension is a total unknown, not sure who it's sprung for, guarantee it isn't valved for NHMS... What had I gotten myself into?!

Well, I putted to hot pit, and onto the track, and came back from that session hot, tired and grinning like an idiot. The R6 just really needed to be hammered, once under load and up to temp the odd 6k RPM hole just disappeared. Getting it 'up to temp' on the stands just doesn't do the trick to get it into operating mode.

The bike is the polar opposite of the FZR in almost every way. You sit perched on top of the bike almost falling forward compared to down and in the cockpit, part of the machine. It's heavy, requiring planning and effort to turn. And TIME! You have to be so precise with it on track, if you are late starting the turn there is no real correcting it, you just have to scrub some speed and get back on line by the next turn or two. It has much more top end than the FZR, I saw 135mph indicated on the front straight. At the same time when you gun the FZR it's frantic, you feel an urgency as the motor literally claws the bike up to speed, the strain being felt in the bars, seat and pegs. The R6 on the other hand is sedate and smooth but at the same time you're lulled to Warp Factor 9 in a way that is disturbing due to the lack of effort to get there. Because the FZR is built as a full superbike I can get away with things on it that the R6 will not tolerate, like abusive downshifts for example. On the FZR you can go from 6th to 1st at full crank and just dump the clutch (if you even bother with it) and nothing happens thanks to the slipper clutch, you just coast with slight engine braking until you decide it's time to re-engage the angry monster under the tank. On the R6, a single downshift at speed requires controlled clutch release unless you enjoy the back end dragging anchor and sliding side to side. Two at once with my current technique is a no no mistake I only made a couple times. Clutchless upshifts on the FZR are fun, on the R6 they result in a paddle to ass if you get them wrong.

Ultimately, I never got the FZR on track Friday, and didn't feel I needed to given how it behaved in my shop the week prior. I spent the day trying to wrap my head around the R6 instead. I had so much fun I added Unlimited SuperSport to my entries for the weekend, committing to race the R6 on Sunday.

Saturday

I gassed up the FZR prior to practice, went in my trailer to check the weather and came back to a gas puddle on the ground. It wasn't the tank, instead the carb bowls on #1 and #2 were leaking, as was the accelerator pump body. It had happily held fuel for three days at home, but now was acting up?! Bah. Tank off, rack off, bowls off and some brake and parts cleaner to swell the rubber plus precise placement of RTV on the accelerator pump got them sealed back up. Bah. Fortunately this problem did not re-occur for the rest of the weekend, but I did miss first practice, and didn't bother running the R6 at all to minimize stress.

My family plus friends arrived in time for the GTL, it was a good race, the FZR did exactly as I asked of it, I managed a 12th pulling 1:21s so on pace. My tires were showing their age and starting to move on track though, so I made the decision that they would be replaced Saturday night after ULSB.

ULSB was fun, on the first start I got off the line well and kinda hung in the pack into 1, dicing with a couple supermotos but the race got red flagged before the lap was complete. For the second start I put my head down and really tried to get into 1 good for a change and succeeded. 10th in the race, low 1:21s again so on pace and getting more comfortable. I was able to start pushing my throttle off point into 1 a bit after getting used to coming in hotter on the R6 in practice, and T1 started to feel like it did prior to my crash a couple years ago, a definite improvement.

Sunday

We only get one practice round on Sundays to try and get the day done earlier, but because I have two different classes of bikes, I got to go out twice. This was my first practice on the R6 with experts under race conditions and it was obvious that I'm off pace but at least not a danger to others. This was also my first chance to see times on the R6, 24s which is pretty bad but considering it's my first middleweight experience an OK start I think. On thing I did notice is that while I'm early off the gas and on the brakes into 1, my roll speed through it especially to the apex is in some instances faster than those running quicker times than me. Benefit of lightweight bike time and not playing the point and shoot game yet?

In ULGP I had a mission, running bike, fresh tires, there is no reason I can't win my own damn race class. When the lights went out I put my head down and went for it. I'm told I had a rocket start, and I finally won my own class leading from start to finish. I could hear the drone of a single or twin behind me into 3 and 12 so I knew either Jake or Larry was threatening but the motor on A-ko wasn't about to let anyone by on this one. 8 laps, including a 1:20.608, a single thousandth off my prior personal best, and the win. Finally, Kurlon has won the Kurlon class! To add to the firsts, this was also my first ever win as an Expert.

The day wasn't over yet though, I still had to make my debut on the R6. The race I picked had me packing a potato for a gun fight, and I didn't even know how to peel it yet. My old 600 vs Eric Wood and others on full 1000cc monsters. Unlike many of the middleweight classes though the grid was light at eight bikes in our wave and observation said the racing was slightly more polite. Eric has a LOT of time on the track so I knew as long as I stayed on line when he was going to lap me he'd have no problem doing so cleanly. Plus, by running this race I'd be on track with my garage mates Ashwin and Roy... well, Ashwin if he had been able to make this round. Next event though, it'll be the Center 15 showdown!

This is when the second wave of nerves hit, practice is one thing, this was going to be green flag, points on the line, real racing. And I'm still trying to figure this bike out. Grid up, warm up lap, it's go time and I'm about ready to panic on the line. I had done a couple practice starts and thought I had an OK method adapted from the FZR. Well, no plan survives contact with the enemy as the lights went out I pulled a bit of a wheelie but managed to not panic, rode it out and went last into T1. At this point I no longer had time to think about being nervous, all attention was focused on riding the damn ballistic missile I had strapped myself aboard. The lead pack was slowly walking away over the course of the laps, and a few of the expert SuperTwins guys the wave behind eventually made clean moves by me midway through the race. Ultimately Eric never did lap me. I ended the race last in my wave, but on the lead lap turning 1:22s, two seconds off what I can do on the FZR and four seconds off the next slowest guy in our wave. I'll take it, mission accomplished.

I'm now fried, quite likely sunburned, and dead tired but after this successful of a weekend it feels good.

G+