I am faced with the challenge of telling the tale of the most epic race weekend of my career. I am compelled to make it artistic, as it flowed like it had been scripted for TV. I am torn between starting the telling in the middle like the movie Memento, or from the beginning like something off the History channel. Such decisions!
Meh, it's not dramatic enough to start in the middle; lets flip it all around and start with the 'thank yous' and shout-outs!
First and foremost for the weekend: Gabe Smith of Podium Tire. You are such an amazing tireman and friend. Thank you for the constant encouragement throughout this enTIRE season (kill me later for the pun). After the two close encounters with the pavement this season, you have done nothing but build me back up and keep me looking to my lap time goals. Thank you for rewarding my PR of 2:04 in qualifying and challenging me with the 2:03s, which I achieved in BOTH Femmewalla races. I only wish I could have reached that stretch goal of the 2:02, but I ran out of gas in Femmewalla on Sunday after a hot lap at 2:03.675, my current career best at Chuckwalla; I owe it to you...and Michelin, but more you. Speaking of... I am running the PowerCups on my Formula SV650; 120 V-profile Front on the GSX-R front rim and a 180 rear pinched on the Honda F3 5" rear rim... I am VERY happy with this configuration. A lot of people have advised against it, but with a few geometry changes, it works perfectly well and is confidence inspiring. My last set of tires lasted well over 70 laps on the rear and upwards of 130 laps on the front; and the front still has life!
BigHeadz Racing: I swear we have the best pit in the paddock. I know that everyone thinks their pit is the best, but here we are, 8 racers competing in 12 classes (if I counted correctly) and can not only keep things civil, but be there to support each other for our respective races. Doug, I am sorry your bike failed you this weekend, but I really appreciate the bomb chorizo and eggs you made for Sunday breakfast! Special thanks, also, to Mike Weiss, Levar Taylor and Richard Reynolds who came out to support us even though they weren't competing. And to the Easter Bunnies that left us treats on our bikes; you know who you are. Thank you!
GirlClutch Racing: I cannot begin to express my appreciation for the epic battles with Jen (#70), Christin (#61) and Issey (#150) throughout this series; but Jen, this weekend was particularly exciting. Sunday's Femmewalla was spectacular. Swapping places while doing 2:05s is fantastic and I had a blast! I am so excited to be racing with you girls!
Andy Palmer, Stephan Ludwig, Al Garcia, and the rest of the APMotorArts Pit, thank you for the encouragement! Pittman, it's okay that I got around you in Formula2 on Saturday, I got around John on Sunday also, so don't feel too bad that you "got beat by a girl"...you are in really good company! Both were great races and I am really excited to have my first Expert Podium (3rd) in a non-sportsman class! Special thanks to Stephen Ludwig (#22) for your antics on Sunday, if you asked me, your plan worked perfectly!! I am also really excited to be able to compete with a close competitor from my amateur days---David Martin (#60)!
Mamma & Pappa Walla, Rene, Skyler, Lilly and the rest of the CVMA Staff: thank you for putting on a smooth weekend! My bike worked perfectly (while it was fueled) thanks to Torco, OCSuperBike, MoPower, Woodcraft, Bazzaz, MotionPro and Robert Glaze of CaliPhotography took some bangin' pictures!
Finally, SRA Sidecar...Leon: thank you SO much for lending Matt and me your ZX10 based 800lb Gorilla sidecar racer called "The Woodie". Holy crap, what an experience. The whole SRA Grid was supportive and generous with their time and instruction! We had so much fun racing and I am sad that we didn't get to finish per the mechanical that we experienced in Turn 4, but what a ride! That's something that Matt and I will never forget! We hope to see you at future events and we will definitely operate it again, if you need a driver/monkey team!
In every race I botched my starts... but I didn't loop them like last round. I know what caused my moon-shot in Round 5, and it was not the clutch or the throttle but rather my body position. I analyzed the video and discovered that I incorrectly positioned myself in an attempt to shift my weight bias over the front. I actually unweighted the rear and the leverage I was putting on the front was at a mechanical disadvantage compared to the leverage of the bike. That said, I am still overcompensating with the clutch out of...respect.
Femmewalla was my first race both days...and my fastest races as well! Both days I put down 2:03s in Femmewalla after breaking away from Jen (#70) late in each race. Chasing Jen was a special pleasure for me, as she has the most perfect start. She has gotten the hole shot in nearly every race where I have girded with her. Her form is immaculate and I am envious of how far through each turn she looks! My only saving grace is that I am later and harder on the brakes and it helped me get past her in turns 9, 14 and 16 but she would get me on the exit of 10! Sunday's race ended early for me when I ran out of gas. I was "that guy". I took the bike out into the runoff, parallel to the back straight, laughing like a hyena for the error.
In Formula2, I surprised a few people. Teammate John Reynold (#619) and Pittman Wallace (#40) both fell prey to circumstance, as it were. I managed to get around Nick Furst (#284) nearly in the dirt on the back straight and Pittman in turn 3, but Sunday, I was still running well with consistent 2:04s, and with some rather fortunate head wind at the exit of Turn 10, I was able to draft and pass John going into turn 11.
SRA SideCar was a hoot. We actually went faster in practice before the motor started to misbehave. We ran practice 2 and the race on 2 of 4 cylinders and on the 4th lap, after stalling it on the start, I lost all power and parked it in the dirt at the exit of Turn 4. The SRA pit is full of great racers and some of those men and women are crazy fast! I managed to loft my boyfriend Matt Cavarlez (#312) while "flying the chair" in turn 9 and broke the rear loose in Turns 6 and 16. This opportunity is something I will definitely be telling stories about for the rest of my life! Special thanks again to Leon, for letting us have a throw with "the Woodie!"
On the way home I told Matt "Weekends like this definitely justify the risk of Hospitalization"...and that's a FACT. As James Dean once said, "Dream like you will live forever. Live as if you will die today." See you at the races!
#327 Consolidated March Session Report 17 Mar 2013
After my tragically spectacular performance at CVMA Round 5, I have
made a concerted effort to get my head in the game. I spoke with
several of my racer teammates and friends about everything, from how
to start to just getting comfortable on the bike. I had a lot of good
takeaways and I am sure this is another one of those hard lessons from
the school of hard knocks which I'll never forget and will be a better
racer for it. I know that these lessons won't make me faster, per se,
but better starts should help my standings.
I have done two different track events this month in preparation for
CVMA Round 6… our second to last of the first annual Winter Series of
CVMA. My regular attendance at SoCal Track Days is always a place for
me to lick my wounds and group. The SoCal Staff is my extended family
and BigHeadz Racing is a huge part of SoCal's operation. Being a part
of the well oiled machine that is SoCal Track Days brings me great
comfort and we always have a good time. We started the weekend,
keeping warm with a few sips of Fireball Whiskey around the fire pit
on Friday night where we rehashed my 12 o'clock knack-knack down the
front straight and detailed the "Corner Worker Strike" taking place at
Pahrump's Spring Mountain race facility. BigHeadz will be traveling
there for a change of scenery and indulge in some extracurricular and
vehicular activities. Good times will be had by---well---me at least!
I was able to put down some consistent 2:07s and the occasional 2:06
lap times Saturday morning, and identify problem areas where I wanted
to focus my attention. I am always concerned with my entry into the
bowl, as that is where I crashed in round 3. This round will be going
Clockwise, which is my preferred direction since the entry to the bowl
flows better. I also like the exit of 10 into the back straight where
I can typically set up a good drive out. I had hoped to work on turn 3
also, but the bike started to give me feedback which caused me to
nearly throw in the towel Sunday afternoon. I worked with Randy of
InHouse Suspension and was able to tune out some of the rear sliding I
was feeling but picked up some front end chatter. I did manage to hook
up with friend and fellow Femmewalla racer Lea Cutshall, and we got to
put down some laps together which was great fun.
This Friday passed I was also able to squeeze in the Southbay Trackday
at Chuckwalla. As a paying customer with no responsibilities besides
attending the riders meeting, I was able to actually commune with my
bike. It was nice being the fastest in A group for a change…at least
for the first few sessions before the Nittos could break from their
Control Rider responsibilities and Brian Short started to practice. I
started in the 2:07 range before my PowerCup rear, which has probably
80 laps on them, started to loosen their hold on the gritty asphalt of
Chuckwalla. I was still putting down 2:12s and keeping up with my
friends Ryan and Alan while working on technique and lines, but called
it early because I was losing confidence as the tires loosened up with
the higher afternoon temps.
At the end of the day, I feel like I have an idea where I need to be
for CVMA but the suspension still isn't there yet, despite Randy's
efforts. I just needed more time and rubber. In May/June, the bike
will be going to Racetech for the Shock and Geometry benchmark. I am
looking forward to having some Racetech Gold Valves installed too.
SoCal Trackdays 2013-02
SoCal Trackdays February 2013 was a chance for me to ride Counter-ClockWise (CCW) at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway (CVR) for the first time in over 4 months. The last time I ran this direction was when I tore my MCL; and I have never ridden it this direction with 'Kara,' my 2007 Formula SV650.
Mechanically, the only change I needed to make was to take out 3 more clicks of rebound from my shock because I was seeing 'wings' on the leading edges of the sipes of my Michelin PowerCups from PodiumTire. In Round 4 of CVMA, Gabe at PodiumTire had recommended that I take out some more rebound but I didn't want to change anything between races. I didn't really 'feel' the need to change the shock as it already felt worlds better than it did with the initial rebound settings from last year. After this change I felt more 'confident' in the rear, but I really can't quantify why, exactly. This is my greatest frustration right now because I know I could be a better rider if I understood why the bike reduced my confidence when it did things I didn't feel were compliant with my input.
Psychologically, there were a lot more barriers. Being that this was my first time CCW at CVR since my crash in Round 1's Sunday Femme Walla where I tore my MCL, I definitely was 'checking-up' entering the bowl. I felt like every time I entered that I was 'charging' it… as I had done when I crashed. Additionally, I had a cold tire Saturday afternoon and was so unsettled by it that I thought I had blown my motor and had oil on my tire. I actually put the bike in the dirt (intentionally) to inspect it. Overcoming this inherent distrust in the bike's ability to track is purely an artifact of my 2003 SV650 which I had named Marla Singer (after Helena Bonham Carter's character in Fight Club).
Saturday, I spent a lot of time getting railed past by some Fast Folks. It was a little AMA Practice session with Benito Solis #35 on his Honda and Taylor Knapp on the #44 KTM, who showed me what it's like to get passed at the AMA level. It was pretty impressive to watch, as a fellow racer but as a corner worker for a trackday organization, it struck me as maybe little aggressive at times. That said, we had some fun as SoCal is a haven for twix-racing practice. I was battling fatigue from a few consecutive late nights and took two naps amidst my practices and was struggling to have fun, and not push too hard.
I recovered some of that needed rest after a fantastic dinner with the Staff, including Robert Glaze of CaliPhotography, and some good laughs and an early turn in. I was able to share some of the footage from the last race with Leah Cutshall, who was unfortunately not in attendance but will be for Round 5! It rained Saturday night, and I want to thank my Teammate John "RedBean" Reynolds and Randy of InHouse Suspension for getting my laptop to someplace dry.
Sunday, I actually got my groove back on a little. I came within a few seconds of my personal best from before the crash in this direction and managed to have a lot of fun. The suspension changes are working for me and I am looking forward to my date with Racetech which had to be pushed back to May after the 2012 CVMA Winter Series wraps. I will be starting a new workout routine this week to combat some of the fatigue that I experienced this weekend, which included my knee giving out on the exit of turn 11 entering the back straight. In 3 weeks we will be racing again and, I can't wait. In the meantime I will be changing the oil in the bike with some fresh Torco T4SR and potentially installing a new MotionPro Clutch Cable.
Race Report CVMA WS Round 4 2013 2013-01
January's CVMA Winter Series Round 4 was my first time back to racing after I crashed out of Round 1 back in September of last year. In that crash I tore the MCL in my left knee and have spent the last 3 months recovering. I was able to get back on the bike in December but knew my pace was way off. I spent a good deal of time with Andy Palmer of AP MotorArts working through relaxation techniques and Body Style which would help unload the weight I was trying to put on my still-not-perfect knee. At the end of December's SoCalTrackdays weekend I still wasn't confident about my ability to race, but my dear friend and BigHeadz teammate Joanna Bitters (CVMA #10) talked me into at least registering for the Femmewalla Formula Open class; just for fun. I am glad she did.
The weekend started off, on Friday, with me working remotely from my very forgiving day job while the love of my life and teammate, Matt Cavarlez (CVMA #312) got back on his bike for the first time in 9 months due to a broken tibia and fibula back in April's round of CVMA 2012. After working hours, I touched base with all my friends who tried to again talk me into racing the Twins classes, but my apprehension stayed my signing up for more. I got the bike tech inspected and asked to be put in the D-Group for morning practice. Friday night we had a BigHeadz Team dinner in our paddock. Bill McCoy (#20), Jav Ramirez (#677), John Reynolds (#619) and family were all in attendance for a delicious BBQ Dinner where we all reinforced each other's need to have fun and not over analyze. I think this was done mostly for Matt and me as we are both returning from injuries.
Saturday Morning marked the "things just got real" moment for me. Rolling out for practice I repeated reminded myself to keep singing. One of Andy's pieces of wisdom was to lead the bike as though we were dancing together. The song I would keep in my head was "The Things I've Done" by the Killers. It was the same song I sang to myself when I was in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation class where I learned to ride in 2008. Practice was faster each lap and I got to dice with a few of the faster 250 riders. I even latched onto Josh Fogle (#666) who is the current lap record holder on a 250.
Qualifying went well and I hit my goal for the weekend of a sub-2:10 lap. My Qualifying Time of 2:09.44 gridded me 4th of the seven woman starting grid between my GirlClutch Racing friends Jen Dunstan (#70)in 3rd and Christin Voros (#161) in 5th. My Teammate Joanna (#10) took Pole and Issey W. (#150) in 2nd. Joanna would take first, uncontested, both days.
Saturday's race started well enough. I kept 4th place for the first lap. Christin got around me in the straight between turns 3 and 4. She is consistently better on the brakes than me going into the Turn 1&2 combination. She led me through the race and would pull on me in the straights, leveraging her 30HP advantage, but I could consistently take it back in the corners. I was able to get up alongside her in the 10 degree banking of Turn 13, known as the bowl, on multiple occasions, but it was on the second to last lap that I was able to get around her before Turn 14 and shoehorn myself in-front of her. Crossing the checkers, under the white flag, I had to make sure I didn't let her get me on the brakes again, going into the Turn 1&2 combo and keep my lead through 4. I believed that I she was all over me through the remainder of the race.
After taking 4th I was able to give her a fist-bump in appreciation on our cooldown lap. We chatted in Hot-pit and it was said that that was the most fun that we have both had since we started racing together back in 2010. It would turn out that we both came close to our career bests that race. I had a 2:06.201 whilst on-the-run to keep 4th from her, and Christin had a 2:07.954.
Sunday, I skipped practice 1 as I was tight on fuel and wanted to remain light hearted. I only managed a 2:14 in Practice 2, but it was still very cold in the early desert morning. I was very pleased with my start in Sunday's Femmewalla. I was able to get around Joanna, when she managed a wheelie, but she took it back right quick going into Turn 2. I exited Turn 3 in 4th place. I was able to work my way into 3rd place getting up under Jen Dunstan's CBR600rr, going into Turn 6, which I normally have a lot of problems over braking into. At this time I find Issey's Daytona 675 (#150) in my sights. She a bat-out-of-hell on it and it takes me 2 laps to finally catch up to her in Turn 5 and I do to Issey, what I did to Jen; again on the brakes going into Turn 6. I hold 2nd for a lap before Issey can take 2nd place back on the back straight, before Turn 11. I manage to get her again 2 laps later on the entry of Turn 6. For being what I thought to be my worst corner, I made a lot of passes in Turn 6. Issey would again motor me down the back straight, and take a well-earned 2nd and leave me happy with 3rd.
This weekend definitely reminded me why I love racing. While trackdays are usually a lot of fun, they definitely lack the competitive nature that draws me to racing. I had become so bogged down with the need to be the best at everything I do, that Racing became about lap times and not about dicing it up! I definitely enjoyed battling with Christin, Jen and Issey and I am so excited for the rest of the 2013 race year. First order of business though, I need to do a quick oil change with some Fresh Torco T4SR before SoCalTrackdays in 2 weeks!
I also want to take this time to thank all those who supported me both mechanically and emotionally. Gabe Smith with PodiumTire for, not only sells me my favorite tire, the PowerCup with that deliciously tall V front… but he also helped me diagnose a rebound issue I was having. We stiffened up my shock to give me more feel and help settle the rear.
Andy Palmer for reminding me to have Fun! Aimee Grana and Matt Cavarlez for smacking me around when I start obsessing over lap times! Thank you, Paula Kaltmaier, for being there in the stands and for catching me in the pits. BigHeadz Racing as a whole and John Reynolds, Joanna Bitter, Bill McCoy and Jav Ramirez for sharing the pit with Matt and I. Niccole Cox (#725) of Cycle Mall for sharing your toy hauler with us! To my dear GirlClutch friends, Jen Dunstan, Christin Voros and Issey W, thank you for the epic game of cat and mouse!
Torco Advanced Lubricants has been with me through my injury and I want to take a moment to thank both Ernie Soliz and Peter Lysakowski for being patient with me. I can't begin to express what it means to me to run your colors both because I stand by your product but because you get what racing is about. I very much appreciate that you contributed to the Femmewalla All-Girl Trackday in December and the Unforgettables Foundation to which Femmewalla donated its proceeds.
Shout out to Dave Sanders of OCSuperbike and Nick & Kendra at Woodcraft for the getting me the parts I needed for this weekend. I feel safer with my brake and toe guards and I am grateful to hear that Woodcraft is working on a new GP Shift mechanism for the SV Rearsets!
Andy Chung of ACT Leathers, I want to thank for helping me minimize the repair costs on my suit and the replacement gloves from my off in September. Thanks also go to Audrey Faijo of Snug Harbor for repairing my stylish Puma boots! Bell Powersports; I am very grateful for you Star line of helmets. Having thrashed 3 already, I trust my head in your gear. Thank you.
SoCal Trackdays 2013-01-05/06
I got to hit the track this weekend. It was nice to get out there and ride with intent to go fast, although it was cold and I didn't go as fast as I wanted, but I also kept it out of the dirt and went fast than I did last month!
The bike handles 100% better now that I got the geometry back to OEM spec. I worked on my BP and comfort on the bike, which has been an issue. I have a tradition of carrying a lot of tension in my shoulders which limits my ability to control the bike. The geometry issue was the root cause of a lot of that tension (constantly fighting the bike developed a bad habit) and so now I am trying to unlearn that negative tendency.
I will be working with Racetech later this month, or potentially next month, to make positive changes from the OEM Spec, including raising the bike by installing a G3-S shock on the rear, allowing me to raise the bike 8-10mm and regain the adjust-ability of High & Low speed compression which I lost when I replaced the short GSXR Shock that I had on there with the low-end Ohlins shock which I had from my 2011 season. The Racetech work will have to wait until I replenish the funds from all the work that I have done so far!
I have registered for the January Round of CVMA. I will be racing Femmewalla only, due to finances, but I will get my Green-Flag fix for the month! I am hoping to make a top 5 finish for the 2013 Championship, which will be difficult since I missed 2 rounds due to my injuries last year.
In the mean time I will be attending a women's motorcycle maintenance clinic where I will be bringing samples and promotional material for Torco and field questions about oil changes and PL-50 Penetrating Lube… which has come in handy for myself doing a lot of my own work.
Round 4 and/or Round 1! Oct 1, 2012
CVMA Round 4 of 2012 was also the first round of the 2012 CVMA Winter Series. While I did what I set out to do, which was have a fantastic time, I did not finish all my races.
The weekend started Friday when we setup the Pit. It was a combination of GirlClutch and BigHeadz Members. I shared it with Jen Dunstan (70), John Reynolds (619), Bill McCoy (2) and Joanna Bitter (88). I am grateful to have had the support of my boyfriend, Matt Cavarlez (405) who is still recovering from injuries suffered from CVMA Round 2.
Saturday's Practice was an opportunity to shake the cobwebs off. While I was not able to get my lap times back to my pre-summer break times, I was able to find myself comfortably lapping at times which used to be Personal Records (PRs). I qualified with a 2:08, while 4 seconds off my PR, I was consistently hit this pace.
I believe that, in part, my inability to approach my PR was that the bike was not far from ideally configured. During the off season, I have been building Kara; a 2007 SV650 which I am building up to be my new "A-Bike" which will have considerable improvements over my current race setup. The problem is that I am half way between target configurations. As my lap times came down I began to notice a geometry issue with my bike. I replaced my well configured setup on this bike with my backup forks and shock. The dialed-in setup is installed on Kara, which was not finished in time for this round. The forks in this configuration are 10mm shorter and I didn't replace the rear linkage with a matching height. This caused the bike to be pitched forward resulting in it pushing wide on exits and made me weary to push the bike in practice.
I had two races on Saturday and they were back to back. I raced Formula Twins followed immediately by Femmewalla. The heat was extreme; 111 was the high. Formula Twins was a delightful challenge, but ultimately I didn't place well. I attribute this to both the heat and the suspension. I backed off when I would have rather gone deeper and leaned harder. I pitted in where I met Matt and he gave me some water then I rolled right back out to face the Ladies of the Women's Open. This was a blast; I put down my fastest lap during this race, a 2:08.2 and placed 4th. Despite my comfort with the speed, I definitely noticed a tendency for the bike to push wide on the exit of the bowl (T13) as soon as I got on the gas. It wasn't an issue as I was mostly alone during this race. I was chasing down a 1000cc and two 600cc bikes with my 70hp SV with an untested suspension.
Sunday was a longer day. Lightweight Shootout was Race 2. These folks were Fast; I was alone again. While I didn't have "a Carrot" to chase, as I did in Formula Twins or Femmewalla from Saturday, I did get a chance to work my lines and still managed to do 2:08s. I was back to back again for Femmewalla and Formula Twins… but Did Not Finish Femmewalla. I went into the first turn behind 3 600s, a 675 and a 1000. I was able to overtake Issey Wiriyahyuttamar (150) on her 675 within 3 turns, but I charged the bowl (T13) trying to put some distance between me and her, where I faced the challenge of my suspension. As I started to push wide, I dropped my elbow and looked to my exit, but when that didn't tighten my line I attempted to steer with the throttle by rolling off…. as soon as I did, the front folded and I exited the 10degree banked turn at over 85mph.
The bike launched into the air and came down on my left leg. I rolled off, then under, the bike. In the process I twisted my knee but was able to walk away. The crash truck raced out to fetch me and we were able to get loaded and out of the way without causing the race to be red flagged. I want to thank the Staff of Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association for their professionalism and efficiency. Regarding my injuries, I am still pending an MRI, but my orthopedic surgeon, whom I have given much business, is optimistic that I will not need surgery.
Looking ahead, I will not be able to attend October's round because I will be attending to family matters in Pennsylvania and I would like to get some extra track time in a school or two so that I can better represent my sponsors. I want to thank them now for their support. OCSuperbike has been instrumental in providing me the means to build up Kara to replace my current bike. Torco has been amazing with their lubricants and shade (they supplied me with an exceptional easyup). Woodcraft, Bazzaz, LiveWire, Wrechage Clothing and RiderSurance also have been very helpful! Thank you all!
I was blindsided by Motorcycling. I am not the type of racer that knew at a young age that they were destined for a life on two wheels… which is tragic for I Love this sport and don't remember a life before I found it in 2009.
I have only been racing since September of 2011 and have already taken the Amateur SuperSport Twins Championship and graduated to Expert Plates with only half of a race season under my belt. I could have continued in 2012 as an amateur but knew that the challenge I needed was racing against experts. This year will be challenging for me since I will be competing against racers that were outperforming me by 10 seconds, on average, at the beginning of the season, but the strides I am making in my lap-times should have me being competitive with the back of the fast pack by summer.
I have faced many challenges including 20 broken bones, 2 concussions and a collapsed lung, but this price was in exchange for 16% improvement in my lap times; a price I would again pay. I am within striking distance to Podium as an expert this year.
It's aggressive and presumptuous to have such lofty goals, but I am more than up to the challenge. If my career thus far is any indicator, I am not going to give up and I am ready to face any challenge… Face it with me and we will show the world what we can do!
Series Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association
Motorcycle Formula Suzuki SV650S
Goals Show those boys What a Girl can do; Podium as much as possible, Lap-times under 2:00 and Represent my Sponsors with Style, Charm and Talent