Thursday, September 20, 2007

MotoGp Poll: A-Style Grand Prix of Japan

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Second place to? After Estoril and the resurgence of Rossi, Pedrosa and Hayden along with their much improved bikes, I don't really know! Today Rossi has openly admitted that the recent victory has improved the his team morale and he is planning to fight until the end of the championship: there are 100 points left with Stoner leading with a 76 points difference over Valentino. Last year Rossi was able to keep the cold mathematic at bay until the last race. The M1 got faster and Michelin tires are equal if not better than Bridgestone, as long as it doesn't rain. The goddess Fortune is always represented with a wheel to remind everybody that luck comes and go and it is about time for the Italian champ to enjoy a bit of luck after going up-hill for almost two years.
Now the statistics are totally against the Fiat Yamaha team with Bridgestone winning the race in the last three seasons. Also we shouldn't forget that last year Capirossi and his Ducati won the Motegi race with a 5 seconds gap on Rossi while the new phenomenon Stoner had crashed out. I am looking at last year classification with Melandri in third and I get even more confused .....
Ok, I made my mind and I pick Pedrosa again behind Rossi but do not ask me the third rider because in my heart I would like the show to go on until the last event

Grande Premio de Portugal: Welcome back MotoGp

Welcome back MotoGp! This is the type of show for which we are paying seasonal subscription with or Tivo. Often we have to get up early in the morning or in the middle of the night to watch our heroes racing. Over the years, even during the Robert, Rainey, Doohan and Rossi kingdoms we have always had good battles for the podiums, something that unfortunately have lacked this year. But last Sunday in Portugal it was show time with four different riders (if we count Hayden who had the pole) leading the race at some point. Once Pedrosa got the fugitive Stoner, the typical “time trial race” of the last few months became a real MotoGp race with everybody fighting on the brakes, holding stubbornly the outside lines when they were stuffed on the inside. Great show offered by Rossi and Pedrosa in the front but even in the back thank to Hayden, Melandri and Elias who did whatever they could to hold their positions against the faster guys. Sunday the commentators didn’t talk for one hour about Bridgestone and Michelin because too focused with the actual race. So many new things happen in Portugal! The Italian red missile has lost power over the summer …or better Honda has opened itself to some doping issues, but who cares because MotoGp is not Tour de France. The M1 too seemed improved but unfortunately my impression is supported only by Rossi and not by his teammate Edwards.
Pedrosa is still very petit but he has improved dramatically his …. determination on the brakes! He was able to fend several Rossi’s attacks without closing the door. He did it so many times that when Rossi overtook him going into that left turn with a couple of laps to go Danny had to pick up twice his left foot on the peg while going to the apex of the corner. At this point Rossi was able to create a little gap that he carried to the end, but still the little Spaniard did a hell of a race.
Stoner race was a bit strange: after the first third of the race everybody thought that his Bridgestone had started to deteriorate. As matter of the fact, after the race Rossi admitted that Sunday Michelin had an edge over the competitors. In reality later one the Australian explained that he had suffered a problem with a slipper clutch eliminating any engine brake. I believe Stoner, but somehow I do not understand it because Rossi and Pedrosa were not much faster than him on the brakes. What was clear it is that he didn’t have the usual extra speed on the straights and at the exit of turns: on the gas, out of the corners, his rear was very nervous, almost too quick in unloading the compression … but again he is Stoner and I am only a motorbike lover. Talking about bike set ups, even Hayden’s Honda seemed too nervous on the quick changes of direction and when he got really aggressive on the brakes it became difficult for him to keep a tight line in the corners.
What happened to the Suzuki? I have not been able to do my reading in the last few days but at this point my mind is already focused on nest Sunday, let’s just hope for another great show!

Picture source

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lombardi School, Lev 2: Pocono Raceway 9/4

As I have posted in the Absolute Cycle Forum:

I believe that last Tuesday the launch of the Lev 2 course was a success. I had 3 riders that at the beginning of the day displayed substantial differences in speed and technical skills, but still they looked compatible as group to me. Unfortunately one of them, Rich, had to leave the track after the second session to follow his friend to the hospital, because he had suffered a slight concussion in a crash. With only two students, Tom and Bob, Steven Lombardi and I had the opportunity to put together an extremely intense course. Both, Tom and Bob are motorbike veterans so it was like to teach " new tricks to old dogs". It's definitely easier to instruct someone totally new to bikes than someone with decades of riding under his or her belt. Regardless, I honestly believe that I was able to discover and correct hidden attitudes and frames of mind that were affecting their overall performance. Also, Tuesday I chose to adopt a teaching style where I was explaining: the concept, why it is supposed to be done in such a way and what we try to achieve from a technical point of view. A very intense approach to learn the art of riding that requires physical and mental concentration all through the day by the instructors as well the students. Both riders, Bob and Tom have improved dramatically their riding. By the last session Bob became much more proactive with his body and detailed in dealing with cornering while Tom almost seemed to be another person:by the end of day he was able to create calmness, smoothness and control in his riding. No more fish tailing on the brakes, no more sudden reactions of his front end during the turns, overall a new Tom, capable of being totally in charge of his riding.
Unfortunately my guys were forced to leave the truck a couple of sessions before the end of the day for different personal issues, right after having ridden their best sessions. They looked tired but extremely happy for their achievements. We were able to cover probably only half of the program that I had prepared for the event, but it was OK. The level two course is tailored exactly to the skills and the real needs of each rider so I take the person from where he or she is to escalate my instructing along with his or her improvements. For every topic I have created drills that could be used to facilitate the assimilations of concepts. Obviously every rider is different so there could be a person that can go from point 1 to point 9 of the program in one day vs another one who can only get to the point #5. Regardless, substantial improvements in lowering the lap time and in the technical skills are always guaranteed.
In our school we have always put a lot of passion and joy in instructing, and last Tuesday, even in the Lev 2 course, I feel that we laid out a new milestone for the Lombardi School. As always, you can find good instructors only with good students, so a big and honest thanks goes to Bob, Rich and Tom: you guys made my day.


"Another great event organized by Absolute Cycle, our boutique-style local road racing club" ..... thanks to Roy, Mark and the rest of their crew

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I decided ... I wanted to go racing

From our friend Tim De Bell:

I decided I wanted to go racing. We’ll get to that, but first a little background.

I never rode a motorcycle until 4 years ago. I convinced my wife Jen that having a dirt bike to ride on the trails near our house would make my life complete. The only stipulation was that I would not get to the dealership and buy a street bike instead. “Why would I want to ride on pavement?” I replied.

Off I went and bought an XR250. It’s a good bike, fairly nimble, plenty of grunt and most importantly, sturdy. I rode that around the woods for a year or so and had the bright idea that I could save money riding the XR the 16 miles to and from work. After all, it wasn’t really a street bike, it was a dirt bike with a baja kit and DOT’s. That rationale proved to be somewhat weak, but ultimately I was commuting on my, now a bit scratched up, XR.

After learning the basic street survival skills, I started to look at street riding in a different light. With a bit more bike I could have some real fun and technically be safer. I had enough sense not to get on the highway with the XR, but, for those who haven’t ridden them, there is no such thing as good DOT knobby. I still rode dirt with it so SM wasn’t an option.

I had a picture of a Ducati Monster on my laptop desktop and managed to convince myself that the sun wouldn’t rise and set with any regularity if I didn’t have one of those in my garage. I picked up a used one, stripped it down even more and made it what I wanted.

I love that bike….it’s got curves like Sophia Loren.

The 2V Desmo is a well balanced motor and I had more than my share of grins, and a few gasps, honing my riding skills on that bike.

I was a fan of WSBK and MotoGP prior to really considering going for a track day. After all, I didn’t have a bike I wanted to chance wadding up and renting a bike takes it well out of the “recreational” budget.

Jen came home one day a said she met a guy at work who is a track instructor and I should meet him. We’ll call him Tod……because that’s his name. Little did I know that he had already been on the case explaining to her that going to the track would make me a better rider and, if you are going to go fast that’s the place to do it.

A couple of months pass and I found myself at Pocono, at the East Course, astride Tod’s SV650. After a couple sessions flailing around the track, I finally got into a little groove with the acceleration followed by heavy braking and dipping the bike much deeper than I ever had on the street. Tod explained that you can really get on the front brakes after the front end settles and that made the afternoon that much more enjoyable. I got some good laps for a first day, some passes, and felt very satisfied with the progression of skills I gained during the day.

Skip to a couple months later and I am trying to figure out a way to get back to the track. I had trouble justifying spending the money on a bike that I would ride for a matter of days per year. After many conversations with Jen and many track days missed, we decided that if I wanted to take up track days as a hobby, I needed to do it on my own bike.

I struggled with the decision of which bike to get but ultimately decided on a 600 I4 as I owned a twin and riding different bikes would round me out more as a rider. Besides, I heard they were really fast.

Alex, one of the instructors at Pocono, was selling a 2000 R6. After staring at the pictures of that bike on this very website for a couple weeks I called and he told me that, yes, the bike was for sale but he had an incident at Summit Main the week before and the right side was rashed up. I was realistic about the likelihood of watching my track bike sliding, or worse, tumbling, across the track with my backside rapidly heating up and bruising in places I didn’t even know I had, so we made the deal.

I picked up the bike at the track and rode it for the day to varying levels of success. Long story short, now the left side matched the right.

I went to a couple more track days and gradually worked on my skills. I wasn’t super fast by any particular means, but improving at a gratifying rate. Moving to the intermediate groups in a couple clubs was key in that the freedom on the track came at a good time in my riding education.

Having some friends who race with LRRS encouraged me to at least ride that track. I decided to attend the basic road racing class and stay up to ride the rookie race. I sincerely feel that earning the license is an accomplishment. In retrospect, it takes dedication, specific knowledge, and a not inconsequential set of stones.

I packed up the truck and headed to the 8/31/07 Penguin school with a good friend of mine. We arrived to nice weather, which proceeded, disappear and was replaced with 40 mph winds and heavy rain. We ate and played some cards while holding down the easy-up tent and retired when the weather finally abated. I was more excited than nervous, but wound tighter than an outhouse door spring.

Waking up early, I headed to the Penguin garage about 10 minutes early. This was a treat because I could drool all over the new Ducati’s in the paddock. The 1098 and Hypermotard are both bikes I would compromise my morals to ride. Maybe not, but I really want to ride them….

The morning class session was the standard intro to the track, pit out, pit in, flags and some discussion about body position. We were out in follow the leader sessions by 10:45 which was a pleasant surprise The follow the leader was good in that it provided plenty of time to find the line and markers along the track.

The layout of the NHIS track is challenging and amazingly fun. The elevation changes add another dimension to the riding I had done in the past. The two blind spots on the track are under full acceleration so the approach line has to be spot on.

The afternoon was open session as the track is open for Saturdays racers. The track was never crowded and you don’t sit in the grid for very long on the way out. I was feeling pretty good gradually working up to speed. I spent a couple laps following the CR’s and that really improved my speed through the middle of the circuit. Coming down off the hill through 10 and 11 looks so short as you come out to it but proved to be a sprint through the infield on the line.

We were called into the classroom a couple of times during the afternoon to discuss what the CR’s were seeing on the track. There were a few incidents at 3 and 10 and Steve N. talked about technique through that section and answered any questions we had. At 4 PM we had a scheduled class session that focused on the more procedural aspects of the race. Racer calls, pre-grid, grid and start procedure were all explained in detail as well as a review of the most common wrong answers in a quiz we had taken earlier. It was really to ensure that you didn’t sleep during the class time.

Everyone who completed the course received a card that allowed them to register for the rookie race anytime in the next year. Steve said that it would get you on the track for other club races as well and I have no reason to doubt it.

At that point folks who weren’t sticking around for the races were excused and the rookie racers stayed to review starting procedure again and some Q&A. It was obvious that they intentionally took the time to be repetitive on certain aspects of the class.

During the time we were in the classroom it started to rain again. The track quieted down but Steve talked a bit about the importance of riding in the rain. After a long day and some quality seat time I was thinking of packing it in for the day but at the end of his instruction, Steve said, “Now go ride in the rain.” and I went. This was the best decision I made all day. I was the only one out there without DOT’s (of the three that actually went) and I was acutely aware of that sitting in line, but the simple fact that I was able to feel the bike move around as a result of a wet track made it well worth it. After that, I was much more aware of the position of the bike relative to my body and more sensitive to the feedback of the bike. I am sure it improved my riding the following day.

Jen had arrived while I was in the afternoon session and the infield began to fill up with campers, trucks and tents for the weekend. As she was walking around checking things out and seeing if I was on the track, she heard someone say “Hey, look, only three numb-nuts went out in the rain!” Laughing, she walked up to the two guy’s vantage point and saw that indeed, one the numb-nuts on the track was her beloved husband.

We had an evening meeting for all riders in the rookie race at 6 pm. Other folks who had come from other clubs and previously taken the course attended and we talked about the grid and starting waves, received the forms for the morning registration and told stories for a while. Steve, having ridden and raced for 35 years, had quite a few as you would imagine.

The evening infield camping was great. The people who participate in this sport are a special breed. The sport that you are all passionate about is the one thing that brought you here, the only thing. Because of that, you already know something about everyone there. They either love motorcycle riding or love someone who does. Folks are more relaxed, gracious, and eager to share their experiences with like minded people.

I woke up at 4 and stayed in my sleeping bag until 5. It hadn’t rained overnight, but everything was still soaking form the morning condensation. I got up and started to coals for coffee, completed my paperwork and got out to registration. It was a touch like going to the DMV. Get in one line, get your number and pay some money, get in another line and pay some money. I was given my tech. form and transducer and ran over to the parts trailer for my numbers and a transducer bracket. When I got back to the truck I was completely taken back. My buddy had replaced my rear axle with the one he had to drill out while I was on the track the day before, Jen had coffee and breakfast for me and everyone was as excited as I was.

This wasn’t the first time over the weekend that I got a feeling of modesty mixed with amazement. These folks took time from home, traveled to an unfamiliar place and took care of my needs because they want to and because they wanted to see me safe and successful. I am truly fortunate to have people like this in my life.

I got to tech too late to make the first practice but I knew that would be the case the night before. There is just not time to go through the registration process and make an 8 am practice. The window doesn’t open until 7am and, as a rookie, you have a couple of extra stops to make.

While waiting for my practice call there was a 4 bike incident at the end of the front straight. Someone had blown their motor and a few folks went down into the tire walls in the south end of the oval, attributed to oil on the track. We could not see what happened from our camp but I had a pretty good idea based on the sounds. One of the riders stayed down for a while, however, we could hear him and everyone was relieved it was apparently not a head injury. We got the word later in the riders meeting that he had sustained an injury to his hip and was transported to the hospital lucid and communicating.

I made the second practice, which was red flagged after two laps. Uh-oh, I don’t have tire warmers and my race doesn’t start for 40 minutes. Well, I would have to get some good heat in them on the warm up lap. When the time came I was out to pre-grid in the 1-A spot. Easy to remember however I still wrote it on a piece of tape on my tank just in case. My adrenaline had been up since 4 am and, with so much going on around me, I didn’t want to be the guy pushing his bike around the grid because I lined up in the wrong spot. At this point, I still didn’t have my license and any bone-headed move could eliminate me. It’s a good policy and mainly there to ensure the maximum factor of safety on the track.

I went through the first race launch 100 times in my mind over the last day, but when I got to the starting line it was like nothing I had imagined. I thought a lot about my inputs to the bike to get a jump and keep it in control. What I didn’t think about was the heat, the noise, the people and the scenery of the speedway. It was surreal. The 3 card came up, spin the bike up, the 2 card came up, oh crap, my visor is up, flip the visor down, spin the bike up again…1 card…green flag!

I slipped the clutch well keeping my weight over the front. I had the jump and was leading the pack. When I went to shift into 2nd I missed it and dropped a few positions. After some creative language in my helmet I grabbed 2nd gear and got on the throttle. I managed to recover up into 5th position before leaning into turn one. As I rounded the apex there was a fall in front of me. I didn’t react to it other than consciously focusing op the track on my line.

As the raced progressed I knew I was near the front. I was passed approaching turn 3 in which I held too tight a line and didn’t carry enough speed through the turn 2. I kept my focus following the rider closely and made another mistake in turn 12. At the end of the straightway I overtook the rider ahead of me on the inside. This was the last lap and didn’t want to give up the position.

Coming out of 6 I went faster to 8 and through 9 than I had all weekend, noticeably faster. My turn through 12 and out to the straight was not great. I lost so much speed I was sure the rider following me would be by quickly. As I approached the finish line I was well on my way to 5th gear and the finish flag waved faster and faster. As I crossed the finish line I let off the gas and was passed quickly…whoahhh. He was right there. Neither if us was sure who finished first but we congratulated each other on a good race.

As I took my cool down lap it occurred to me that I had just earned my license. I buzzed around the track giving the thumbs up to the corner workers and with a smile they could probably see through my tinted visor.

When I got back to the truck friends we had made and my crew congratulated me and we talked about the race while enjoying the beautiful day it had turned out to me. I wasn’t sure what place I had come in but I had accomplished what I had come to do. Relaxation quickly turned into another cycle of race prep as I had entered the middleweight superbike race as well.

In that race I was in the 7-A grid, back of the pack. I got a good launch to the middle of the pack by turn 1. There were a lot of bikes there with me but with everyone holding their line, there was some spread by turn 2. Going up the hill into 5 there was a high-side in front of me and an immediate red flag. Restart.

I ran through the race with a good line but it felt a bit slower. 8 laps is a short race by many people’s standards, but the energy spent focusing is significant. After some passing and being passed I crossed the line at WOT and didn’t let off until the turn 1 early braking point based on my experience in the previous race.

I was done for the day and I was proud of myself. My bike performed exceptionally and the experience was beyond my expectations. Lessons I learned about riding, racing and myself won’t be forgotten.

We took a break form packing up to watch the MW Twins race. One of the new friends we made was running and ended up taking 2nd. Watching the race with Jen was tremendous as we chatted about our friend’s performance, the lines we were seeing people riding and what my next challenge will be.

As we made our way home a friend called to congratulate me on my 4th place finish. He had seen it online. That was the first time I had confirmation of my finishing place and it was an awesome feeling. In the MW Superbike I finished 21st, ahead of only 8 people, but the 3rd rookie and even better, my fastest lap times were within 2/10ths of each other for both races. That excited me more. I made mistakes in both races but pleased with my overall consistency.

Was this experience worth the time, cost and sacrifice? Absolutely!

Did it improve my riding? Without a doubt!

Will I do it again? If you have read this far you already know the answer to that!

Track map source

Our first PMP girl track rider

Hello everyone,

My name is Krys and I am honored to be the first PMP female track rider. One thing a woman will never tell is her age. I believe age is relative to how you “feel”.
However wisdom and experience are two things I embrace with age.
I am the Service Manager at Global Auto Mall for the last thirteen years. I have 5 car lines. I have been with the company for approx 18 years and have had dealership service experience for the last 22 years. (I started young. Wink wink). My father owned a service/gas station for many years. When I was a little girl, I pumped gas for $2.00-$5.00/day. As time went by, I was managing the shifts at the station. Dad was no dummy. At 17 he had me pumping gas in shorts during the afternoon commute. Thank God he had more class than having me on stage and riding a pole. LOL! No Jerry Springer for me. Being around cars my whole life you’d think I’d be into Nascar.
Even then, I never ever wanted to be one of those provincial women with a conservative if not bigoted attitude.

When I was approx 12 years old, my brother came home with a Honda CR 125. I would sit on it in the basement learning shift patterns. This came easy for me because just a few months earlier, I had a dear uncle teach me how to drive a Toyota with a manual transmission. Not too much later, I was sneaking the CR125 out onto the street.
I eventually became friendly with some people who did trail riding at the Meadowlands landfill and invited myself. I started on I YZ80 and gradually up to a CR250.

Unfortunately, I was on my own at a tender age and was forced into taking on a lot of responsibility and not much room for fun. I had to find my place in the world. I don’t want to bore you so……

Jumping ahead, approx 6 years ago, I met Pete. Pete had a CBR 600 F2 and a Suzuki Bandit. Pete and I work at the same dealership. One day he rode to work. We were chatting and he asked if I knew how to ride. I told him of my earlier days. He handed me the keys and said,” here. Go. “ I instantly became so excited. Pete and I started dating and eventually got married and I became addicted to riding and watching AMA, MotoGp and World Superbike races. I took the MSF course and every bit of free time I had, I was on the bike, becoming better and more confident.

My friends went to Pocono for a track day and took the Lombardi School course. They came back from that day somehow different. I liked what I saw. I wanted it too.

In 2004 I had my first track day with the Robert Lombardi School. I didn’t know what to expect and I was very nervous. The instructors were so knowledgeable, kind, patient and perceptive. By the 3rd session I knew I wanted more, more, and more! I also knew I wanted to be around these people. Positive, helpful, and solid people. I instantly bonded with Rob Lombardi and became friends with him. I followed his career and kept in touch. I also adored Alex and Todd from day 1.

Unfortunately, with my crazy hours at work, I could not be aggressive with my track days and because of my job, I lost a whole season. I am now learning to put myself first and will not allow my work to dictate my life.

This season I have dedicated myself to be the best person I could be. Mentally, spiritually, and physically.

I am now traveling to different tracks, I have taken motorcycling vacations, and I am expanding.

I will be great at this!

I have a personal trainer and I do Bodyflow. (Copy write Les Mills… which incorporates Tai Chi, Pilates, and Yoga. I will be writing about this form of exercise for the PMP blog. It’s great for a solid core, balance, strength, and a clear and healthy mind. It balances blood sugar, cholesterol and helps you sleep better.

Whether at the track or just enjoying each other’s company during a meal or a couple of cocktails, the friends I have made from this sport are the best friends I have ever had in my life. I will never jeopardize these friendships. They have helped my riding skills. But more importantly, they are helping me to shape the real person I am. They have helped me grow as a person. Instead of sympathy, empathy or pity, they offer love guidance and solutions to whatever plagues me.

Rob, Alex 555, Todd…….Thank you for all your support, encouragement, guidance and love. I am eternally grateful to you guys: Mike, Naim, Frankie, Uncle Steve, Antonio, Pete, Maurizio, Diana, and a very gracious Bill Jones. Thank you for being so loving and generous. I couldn’t ask for better friends. Diana.. stop work enough to breathe and get on the bike! You’re the best girl!
The list continues. Almos, Mario, Alex, Alex, Dave……I can’t wait to get to know you guys. Thank you in advance.

All good things
Krys aka Gearheadgirl