Rode the A bike in the first session to check it out. Lindemann re-revalved the suspension a couple of months ago to make it be more like the W. It still doesn't feel like the W, but I didn't go fast on it so who knows. Even the W didn't feel like the W this weekend.
Next I rode the W for a couple of sessions. Did 2:08's in the session right before lunch on it.
Rode the A after lunch to check it out again. Did 2:11's. Still felt worse than the W. Still not sure why, or even whether the effect would remain if I could do any reasonable lap times.
Rode the W next. 2:09's and 2:10's.
Stayed with Jim Davis (#195) and his roommate Pete Friday night. They were engaged in a mad scramble to get a pretty serious hawk ready to ride on the weekend, and they were very gracious about not having my help in preparing it. They had the able assistance of Michael Caravatta until about 1 AM, and then they were on their own until it was time to leave for the track. Thanks to them for the hospitality, and I hope they both managed to get some sleep Saturday night, 'cuz I know they got none on Friday. I think I heard someone say Pete crashed (in the chicane?) either Saturday or Sunday; I hope you're healing well, Pete!
Yucky half-day practice. Cold, slippery, windy. Didn't get times, but I'm sure I didn't go fast by any stretch of the imagination.
At the March Buttonwillow date, Gary Rather got some nice pictures of Brian Bartlow (#29) during our race. One of those pictures of included most of me too, right on his tail. Brian bought that one from Gary and gave it to me, which I thought was really cool of him. It's a neat picture and I enjoy having it.
Sunday: Didn't get times in practice. The tentative schedule originally planned was perfect: 250 superbike and 500 twins before 250 production, with one race in between each time. That way the superbike and twins races would be the perfect warm-ups for the production race.
Unfortunately the schedule got changed quite a bit so we could clear out some wait lists. The changes put 250 production before the other two races I had pre-entered, so there would be no warm-up aside from the windy morning practice on a cold track.
Team Iguana Elder Scott Elledge showed up on his Scooter Wing; as far as I know, he and Darren Slawecki were the only other Iguanas in attendance, and I was the only Iguana racing since Darren's collarbone is still healing from his run-in with a stuck throttle at Buttonwillow.
Before the race, it occurred to me that I still hadn't gone fast (even for me) all weekend, and this seemed like it might be a problem.
So it was no surprise when I went slow in the race. It was a pretty sad waste of my pole position. As usual, I got a mediocre start and went up the hill in third place behind Frank Mazur and Brian Bartlow who were fighting for the lead. In very short order while we were still heading up the hill, Kevin Scott handily motored by me on the inside of turn 1. He was riding the bike on which Tom Dorsey won the class year before last, and the bike still has very serious motor judging by the distance Kevin was able to put on me headed up the hill at full throttle.
On another day, I might have been able to make up for lack of motor with skill, but not this day. I just rode like a wimp. Nothing much happened for the whole race until John Prelock (#357) pulled past me somewhere near turn 5 a couple of laps from the end of the race. At first I thought I might be able to get him back, but he slowly pulled away; he was simply riding better than me. He must have gotten a really bad start to have taken so long to catch and pass me.
So I finished fifth. Respectable, but not what I know I'm capable of. Darren was nice enough to time me in the race; I did 2:10's and 2:11's. Yuck-ola. Results like this didn't inspire me to want to do the 250 superbike or 500 twins race, so I was done for the day.
What went wrong? A number of people asked me this after the race. I don't completely know the answer, of course, but I have some conjectures.
Some people asked whether I might have felt some counter-productive pressure from having won the race at Buttonwillow in March. That's possible, but I've done some soul-searching about it and it just doesn't seem to ring true for me. Although I could be wrong, I believe the problem lay elsewhere.
Mostly I think the problem was that I didn't practice in the way that best builds the right attitude in me. To minimize my chances of being wait-listed for Friday's dP school, and also because the last time I rode in the B group at a dP school I had a very frustrating time with traffic, I had decided to ride in the A group this time. Riding in the A group is nice in that there's essentially no traffic if you're on a Ninja 250 because everyone is a competent rider and they're all on bigger bikes so they pass you and they're gone (except for one Irish rider who seems to like Hondas a lot -- I passed him and I was gone). But it meant I was riding by myself all day. That sort of environment is excellent for working on basic riding skills, but not so good for fostering an aggressive "can-do" attitude about catching and passing people because there's no one to catch or pass. So maybe it would have been better for me to ride in the B group on Friday.
I made poor use of Saturday's practice, too, because I allowed the cold and slippery conditions to keep me in check. I just didn't want to push and risk falling. Not falling is good, but not really practicing isn't so good.
Sunday morning practice had better conditions (still not good), but I still had no one to chase, and even if I had it might have been too little too late.
Next time I need to start the weekend with a better attitude, but I'm not completely sure how to do it. I also need to use the practice time to create the attitude I need, and I think I know something about how to do that.
Someday when I have enough experience, I will hopefully not depend on practicing with other riders to get me in the right frame of mind for racing. For now, though, it seems to be part of what I need.
Finally, I think I'll return my suspension setup to the configuration it was in when I last rode fast-ish. Even though it means dragging shifter, pegs, toes, and sometimes exhaust pipes, it might give me some additional confidence somehow. If I can get up to speed with the old setup, then I can switch back to the new increased ride height and see how that feels once I know I'm riding OK.
Thanks to Scott for coming out and giving his support, thanks to Darren for taking race times for me, thanks to Steve Demopoulos for loaning me a muffler on Saturday when mine had broken in two during the last session on Friday, and thanks to Brian Bartlow for inspiration and the gift of the photo.