By John Knowles
Round 3 of CVMA started off on the right foot. I was actually prepared for once, unlike the first two CVMA rounds. I had hoped to get a little bit of practice in on Friday, but the A group was so full that they didn’t have space for lil ol’ me. It was actually a record turnout for CVMA with 180 rider entries including quite a few MotoAmerica pro racers. CVMA is one of the only road racing series that goes on through the winter, so pro riders from all over the country came out to get some practice during their off season. Normally there’s an hour long racers only open session at the end of the day on Friday, but with daylight savings now in effect there wasn’t enough time before sunset. Oh well. There are still two short practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday morning.
I made sure to be out on pre grid early for all three sessions so that I would get the maximum amount of track time out of them. My first practice session felt horribly slow and I was worried that I wasn’t going to have enough time to get up to speed and get my setup dialed in. The bike felt terrible but all of the settings were where I had left them at the end of the previous round at Chuckwalla. So in theory it should be close and I knew better than to make changes before I was up to speed.
The second session felt better, but I still wasn’t stringing laps together. I wasn’t using enough of my suspension travel in the front, so I softened the preload just a bit before qualifying. Qualifying was the first session where I was able to string laps together and feel kind of fast. I still made mistakes, but I was at a mid 1:54 which is about two seconds faster than I had gone the last time I rode Chuck’ in this direction. Progress.
In Supersport Middleweight I got a great start from the third row. I was fourth or fifth after turn 1 and 2. In turn 6 on the first lap I tangled with another rider and almost crashed and then almost had to run off the track. I managed to barely stay on the pavement but I had to slow down so much to do so that I lost a lot of positions. The contact with the other rider actually bent my clutch lever out, which was annoying but it didn’t slow me down. I fought hard but was only able to make 3 positions back which ended me up in 11th.
I had a long time to wait before my next race which gave me plenty of time to change out my bent clutch lever. There had been a handful of crashes and red flags early in the day so they actually had to shorten the races and combine some of them in order to finish before sunset. My race was shortened to a 4 lap sprint. I got an okay start and was close to the front. If the race were a couple laps longer I think I could have passed the rider in front of me, but we were in a tight pack and I had someone right behind me as well. The sun was low and the shadows were long so I could see everywhere he was closing in on me. It’s harder to set up a pass when you have to attack and defend at the same time. You have to set up your pass in a way that doesn’t expose you to the rider behind you. Racing can be like a chess game.
Sunday morning I went out for my warm up session with a fresh Dunlop 180 slick, which, by the way, is a pretty great tire. I tried it for the first time this weekend and I was pretty happy with it. The soft compound wears quickly, then again everything wears quickly at Chuckwalla, but it holds its shape well over its wear life. It also behaves very consistently when you spin it which gave me a lot of confidence on corner exits. I was in race 1 on Sunday which ended up being my best performance of the weekend. I got down to a low 1:53, about a second and a half faster than I had gone in qualifying and over three seconds faster than I went the previous time I raced here. More progress.
My next race was the next to last so I had all day to wait. Most of my friends left early on Sunday so I actually resorted to doing school work to pass the time. Supersport Middleweight on Sunday was my best finish and the most fun I had all weekend. After a race long battle with Ryan Harper I ended up 5th. I was a bit too impatient and showed my cards too early in the race. I wanted to get past Harper early so that I could chase the riders that would soon be getting away. But I showed him a wheel a couple of times and he realized he needed to pick up the pace. After that I still stayed on him but I couldn’t find a place to pass before the checkered flag.
That concludes the last race of 2017 for me, even though there are still four races left in the CVMA season. Thanks to RiderzLaw for making this weekend possible for me.