Qualifying with a Flat Tire at the 2019 MotoAmerica Championship of Sonoma
Imagine turning a cereal bowl upside down and trying to go around the outside of it as fast as you can.
-- Micky Dymond "Legends of the Road"
That's Sonoma Raceway. The last time I visited this track was 9 years ago with the AFM during the California State Championship on a raging bull of a machine that didn't turn - a 2008 Ducati 1098R. The facility had been previously rebranded to Infineon Raceway from Sears Point and now was appropriately called Sonoma Raceway showcasing the many vineyards known in the Napa Valley. Now I had a more precise tool to work with on a track where agility is more important than power. During the track walk, I regained my appreciation of Sonoma’s steep & blind uphills, off-camber apexes and gut wrenching downhills. The track surface had deteriorated a lot since 2010. Huge cracks and patches were distributed along the racing line especially in hard braking zones. Even the curbing was evil - saw toothed and slippery especially in the mornings. I would learn just how slippery they were during first practice when I nearly high-sided after exiting T5 wide. Mathew Scholtz was not so lucky – Westby Racing had to rebuild his bike a second time after this crash happened...
We found a good setup for Q2 and were eager to try Dunlop's softest rear tire in Q2. However, 7 laps in during our pit stop, we discovered the rear tire was losing air with no gain in psi! We quickly pumped the tire 3 psi high hoping to compensate but riding a tire continually losing air while trying to qualify has its challenges - each lap the grip got worse until it became too dangerous to continue. I was the only rider among 22 who went SLOWER in Q2 which put me on the last row. Not good - especially for Sonoma, known as the most physically demanding track on the calendar. We later learned that the wheel was cracked from jumping the curb at the exit of T1 (see video clip here) which is what everyone was doing to get a good drive up the hill!
Local track knowledge helped me improve from P20 to P14 during the first few laps but all I saw on my pit board was "+0" throughout the race. With 4 laps to go, I started to notice some fatigue, especially in the fast transition. on the Penultimate lap Shelina Moreda snuck up the inside of me when I went wide after the T9 chicane - I simply could not turn the bike fast enough! Luckily I made it back past her in T7 on the last lap to regain 17th.
Full results here
Keeping Up with the Jones
We were back in Utah to cap off our 2019 season riding our favorite configuration called 'Outer' which includes the best parts of the east and west courses. We had not been on this track since MotoAmerica Championship of Utah in 2018 and our goal was to simply improve throughout the weekend and hopefully get back to the times we saw when we finished 14th in our AMA race debut.
We started the weekend being slow everywhere losing time on the brakes into the corner as well as on the throttle out of the corner relative to our benchmark (see left GPS trace above, red line is 2018). We gained confidence braking deeper into the corner, got it slowed & pointed better in order to fire it out of the corner with more time at full throttle (see middle brake & throttle traces above). This was achieved by steadily fine-tuning our bike setup which had improving all year and also experimenting with softer tire compounds we brought over from Sonoma. The Utah track has a lot more grip so we were very curious to see if the tires from Sonoma would last. We started the weekend on the medium rear like everybody else but were searching for grip as the temperatures increased from 50s in the morning to 80s in the afternoon. For KOM (King of the Mountain) qualifying, we threw on Dunlop's exSoft rear (3 steps softer than the medium). It worked quite well with no signs of wear so we used that tire for the rest of the weekend. In total it lasted 42 laps including 16 laps from Sonoma, 10 laps in qualifying, 9 laps in KOM and 7 laps in F40!
KOM - Gridded 12th, got a good start for 7th, got passed by both "Jones" (father and son racers who had out-qualified us) on lap 2, gained back 1 position on the younger Jones on lap 3 and passed father Jones on the last lap while setting a personal best for the weekend. We were able to finish 5th with some race attrition.
F40 - Gridded 6th, made it up to 4th by lap 1 and finished the race setting my fastest lap on the last lap to move into 3rd.
Pretty good weekend for sure!
2018 Late Season - Hard Lessons
After MotoAmerica, it was out with the stock parts and in with the new. We also had lots of Dunlop take-offs in the latest 200/60 profile which suited our bike. First practice at The Ridge Raceway with WMRRA was cold & overcast made interesting with recent grease sweep in a few corners. However, we immediately got up to our previous race best pace and was confident to drop more time as the conditions improved. Everything went upside down just 6 corners into FP2. The front folded with little warning because my cautious pace did not put enough load into the tire and there she goes!
We chose to install our HSBK RACING blueprinted V4 engine for the local Oregon round because of PIR's reputation as a horsepower track with a few corners in a 181 mph front straight and 156 mph back straight (GPS data). Unfortunately, we had a three separate issues which together wrote our DNS on the wall:
1) a sticking throttle from dirt in the cables courtesy of our previous crash
2) a mysterious oil leak from the alternator cover spraying Motul onto boot (and possibly tire) at high rpm and speeds
3) oil on the race track from last night's drag races conveniently located at the most important corner leading onto the front straight!
The only good news was that I was able to turn a competitive lap time even though the throttle did not open past 86%!
The Wasatch mountains was a welcome site as we approached UMC. The track surface was recently dusted by last weekend's Nytro World Games Rallycross (an event put on by Travis Pastrana) and the weather had turned angry with gusty high winds threatening to blow down our canopy to blowing away anything not secured in our pits. But all is good with friends! We had cleaned out pebbles & rocks from our throttle housing and put in the correct o-ring stolen from our spare engine hoping that would fix the leak...IT DID NOT. After each of the 6 practice sessions qualifying we tried something else (a Home Depot plumber's o-ring, RTV, zip-tied towel) and finally called it quits 3 races, not wanting to test our nine lives. We limped home with a best result of only third place with some work to do over the winter...
2018 Mid Season - Back for the 2018 MotoAmerica Championship of Utah!
Our premier event of the year would be AMA Pro Racing's Round 6 at our home track, Utah Motorsports Campus. We were surprised to be mentioned in UMC's press release announcing Utah's locals competing in the MotoAmerica Superbike weekend to the public having moved to Oregon which underscored the arousing support we've always received from UMC staff and the USBA racing community. We arrived in the beginning of the week to hot, dry, windy and unpredictable mountain conditions. Dunlop's newest 200/60 Superbike rear tire was on the list to test along with all the original stock parts which were required for the Superstock 1000 class. In addition, we would be getting some personal coaching from Ken Hill at a Rickdiculous Racing Day the Tuesday before the event. The bigger tire actually improved the geometry for our bike and most of the day was spent adapting back to OEM brakes required for the Stock 1000 class. We would only get one short 25-minute practice session on Saturday before Qualifying. Thanks to tremendous help from the entire Rick crew of Shane Turpin, Dale Kieffer and Robert Ward, we were able to get progressively get quicker each session starting with P12 in FP1 and ending in P14 after everyone got up to speed. We launched from the middle of the 5th row to arrive five spots up into P9 by turn one! However over the next few laps we got up as high as P12 but eventually got shuffled back to 15th position with +0.0 secs on our pit board the entire race! We were gifted a position when our friend Justin Delong lowsided in Windup in his Pro debut (but was otherwise unhurt). We finished in 14th where we started and earned a valuable 2 AMA championship points!
Full results here
2018 Early Season - Racing in the Pacific Northwest
We decided to race locally to support a new sponsor, Aprilia Moto Guzzi Portland who would be providing us track support for 2018. We built our calendar around MotoAmerica Utah in July with bookends in Utah with the Utah Sport Bike Association (USBA). In between, we would be racing with the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association (WMRRA) at both Portland International Raceway in Oregon and The Ridge Motorsports Park in Washington. WMRRA Round 1 was canceled due to insurance issues so our first race weekend with this new club would be Round 2 at The Ridge. We started to gel with "Aprilia" Matt from Aprilia Portland and enjoyed the relaxed paddock. WMRRA Round 3 transformed into a test session as the rains came rolling in. We needed to shakedown our electronics after an ABS sensor failed during a trackday resulting in no electronic aids - no traction control or wheelie control but we were able to ride around the issue. We opted out of racing because the following week we were back in Utah for USBA Round 2. We would face ferocious 25 - 50 mph winds but our experience at Ironman Hawaii where cyclists have been blown onto the lava fields from the famed winds proved to be useful and helped our confidence. We finished the weekend with a flag to flag win in our final race of the weekend bringing positive vibes toward MotoAmerica...
2017 USBA 6 - Season Finale
We arrived at Utah Motorsports Campus to typical fall conditions - windy, possible thunderstorms and a mix of sun and clouds. We started off the day 10th in free practice and steadily dropped time as conditions improved. Unfortunately racing would be postponed until Sunday and due to an oil spill and we had the rest of the day to relax. Sunday arrived with damp & slick conditions. We were the only one on track in first practice as we tried to get a feel for the sub-par grip. Open Superstock was a rather conservative performance for us in 7th place but we gathered some good data for the races to come. The King of the Mountain big bike 14-lap race saw consistent lap times from beginning to end with a deviation of only 1.0 sec before we dropped it down another second for the last 3 laps. We finished the day with a 5th in Open Superbike and a 3rd in F40. Dedication and commitment towards one goal is what wins championships. Congratulations to all the champions! Thanks to our sponsors we had an enjoyable and problem-free season!
2017 USBA 5 - Into the Lead!
With the biking running well and us healthy & relaxed, we were optimistic for USBA Round 5 on the west configuration. We started off right away during first practice just 2 seconds shy of our previous best and started slowly chipping away tenth by tenth, corner by corner. Open Superstock got off to a good start with our RF taking the lead and holding on until the 3rd lap while recording a new personal best! Reviewing the data gave us some new ideas to try for Sunday. Cooler morning temperatures combined with our newfound speed caused our rear tire to start tearing so we adjusted the pressure and went out for the King of the Mountain (KOM) premier class race. We got a strong start but got shuffled back to 5th by the aggressive field. Unfortunately, championship points leader Jerry Hicks had a major highside onto the front straight starting lap 2 and the race was red flagged. On the restart, we got another great launch from the 3rd row and was almost to 3rd before being swallowed up by the field. We were able to settle into a consistent pace within half a second of our qualifying time for the shortened 10-lap race. Formula 40 was our last race of the weekend. We got an excellent launch from the second row, lead for a lap and a half but finished a disappointing 4th.
2017 USBA 4 - We Fixed It!
After skipping a round, we were back to race on our favorite circuit - the perimeter (AMA) course at Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park). With a stroke of lucky insight and some ingenuity, we tried a new fix for our acceleration issues which have plagued us since we took delivery of the bike. The results were nothing short of transformational - the engine now pulled stronger & smoother without any hiccups while shifting through the gears. Nevertheless, our newfound confidence overflowed into over-confidence as we pushed our braking a tad too deep into T5 resulting in a minor lowside during practice 1. Quick repairs saw us back on track for practice 3 before KOM qualifying. Getting used to the newfound power characteristics took some time but we progressed throughout the weekend to finish with a 2nd place in Formula 40 rekindling motivation for the rest of the season...
2017 USBA 2 - #69 & Red Flags
This weekend 's racing was overshadowed by the news of Nicky Hayden's bicycling accident in Italy. Steve Rybarik (USBA's president) gave us some stickers to run and everyone had #69 in their thoughts. Early spring in the Wasatch mountains had slowly shifted into late spring and temperatures were now in the 50s - 60s but we still had some trouble firing up the bike in the cold mornings. We were now on the East track and were able to use softer tire compounds. A flagging error in Open Superstock meant half of the competitors (including yours truly) came off the track early but lesson learned - race until you see the checkers FOR SURE! Two red flags restarts in KOM GTO meant lots of attrition and we capitalized by placing 4th in the biggest race of the weekend. As the speeds came up, we soon realized that a geometry change was definitely needed...stay tuned.
2017 USBA Round 1 - New Parts & New Sponsors
For 2017, we signed with Hustle Hard Racing who has been helping us at the end of last season. Mark and Brandon are great guys who live and breathe racing. They've recently expanded into California and are rapidly spreading via word of mouth. Look for them at your next trackday or race and check out their new website which will be live soon! Mark let us race the Hustle Hard Racing Yamaha R1 during the last round at Utah and we loved the feel of his Galespeed front brake master so much that we installed one onto the TeamJaSracing RSV4 RF. The brakes were so good that they were slowing down our lap times on the West track! We put a stop to that once it was clear from the data that we could brake deeper and trail lighter - confirmed in the next session. A straight-rate rear shock linkage from Houston Superbikes meant that we had more grip with less spinning. We even had a new engine after our valve failure from 2016. But something was awry with the geometry...
Motorsports can turn fear into excitement
or bring you back to earth in the blink of an eye...
A small crash the weekend before the 2019 MotoAmerica Championship of Utah was not good...
We had a brand new team for Utah in 2019. Fellow AFM Ducati racer Simon WIlliams and high school buddy Ed Parsons joined Jami & I on Team JaS. We met for the first time on Friday during move-in but gelled quickly. Utah Motorsports Campus had applied some patches with 12 crashes the weekend prior (including us) in turn 1 alone! I played it safe and changed my line to avoid the patch entirely. We decided to try the 0129 extra soft Dunlop front for Q2 in search of speed. Unfortunately, it was inconsistent and started to chatter. I also had a scare going into T4 when I clipped the inside curbing but recovered it on my knee! Once I backed off and started to relax I put in my fastest lap but we ran out of time and had to settle for 18th on the grid. We decided to switch back to the 2662 soft front for the race. I got a mediocre start and was only able to make up 2 spots into P16 due to the super short front straight. We sat right behind veteran racer Roi Holster and started to settle in when Manuel Segura passed us both! There were a few areas where I was faster but the gap was very tight so I decided to wait for a mistake from Roi. Well, it never happened but I was happy to bring it home in 16th. With a few changes to the bike we are looking to be competitive at Sonoma!
Full results here
2019 MotoAmerica Championship of Utah
Back at our favorite circuit
Team JaS Racing
15 Years of Moto
20 Years of Triathlon
enjoy the ride
2019 MotoAmerica Championship of Sonoma
A cracked wheel from jumping curbs didn't stop us
2018 MotoAmerica Championship of Utah
Utah, the state of sport!
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