Dan Sewell
2008 AFM Formula IV Champion
2008 AFM Top Points Earnings
2009 AFM Forumula IV Champion
2011 AFM 650 Production Champion
2011 AFM Forumula 40 Champion
2011 AFM Forumula IV Champion
2012 AFM Forumula 40 Champion

Race Reports

# 6 Plate AFM 2009 
#10 Plate AFM 2010
# 8 Plate AFM 2012  

AMA 2013 Laguna Seca

Vance&Hines XR1200 Series Final Round - 16th place


AFM 2013

450 Superbike - Thunderhill Season Championship - 1st place

450 Superbike - AFM Championship - 2nd place

AFM Rounds 2-7 Most of the 2013 Season

        After round #1, our teammate Jon moved to Holland for work... leaving his Kawasaki ZRX400R safely in the hands of the team. With no reason to let it sit around, I decided to race it at Round #2 (Sonoma Raceway). I had a lot to get used to with the smaller chassis and high reving motor, but it was a blast to ride and handled exceptionally well. My knees were still healing, but it still made for a good (tight) fit. I managed to pull off a WIN on my first weekend with a huge smile on my face (and a slipping clutch).
       The next rounds I still struggled a bit, not knowing the bike as well as I did my SV. I ended up 2nd place at round #3 getting drafted to the line. Determined not to have that happen again, I charged for the win at round #4 (Back at Thunderhill) and dropped my laptime to a 1:57 for a decisive win. Unable to repeat the laptimes at round #5, I still came home with a win. Rounds #6 and #7 were exciting battles with only a small margin of victory for the TWF Racing Kawi 400. Missing the first round, it was a major up-hill battle to go for the AFM championship (finished 2nd overall), but taking the Thunderhill Series Championship was our primary goal.

        It was a very fun season running a new class. I also still showed up on the grid for several of the SV classes as well as finishing the season running an 08 GSXR600 just for the added experience.

HUGE Thanks to Jon Forman for offering up his Kawasaki to make my season exciting and memorable.

AFM 2012 Overall Season Championship Results

Formula 40 - 1st place

AFM Round #7 - Thunderhill Raceway October 6, 2012

        Arriving at the track close to 5PM on Friday, I still did not know if I would be able to ride on Saturday or not. From my earlier race report you might of read that I had knee injuries. I had the surgery to replace my right ACL and clean out the damaged meniscus on Sept. 5th. One month almost to the day, I am pulling into the paddock or the last round of the 2012 AFM race series in hopes of holding on to one championship. At the same time, feeling a bit silly (and almost stupid) for feeling that saving this championship is worth the risk to my knee. BUT.... we are racers and that's how we think, like it or not.
        I unloaded and set up my pit area, then immediately began to socialize. I was not going to ride the morning practice sessions so I could relax, sleep in and just focus on my afternoon. With the morning pressure removed, it was nice to visit with friends.

        I was signed up for only a 1/2 day practice so my morning was spent talking, socializing and watching practice. It was a wonderfully relaxing morning. During lunch I began to do some of my Physical Therapy exercises to get my knee loosened up and then worked my way into my leathers. I felt OK going out for practice and my first lap wasn't too bad. I could not turn right, but I could ride. I went around for a full practice session focusing only on the 3 right had turns to figure out my best body position given my limitations. By the end I felt OK with my results and came back to the paddock to ice down my knee and wait for the race.

A quick comparison of my form that day turning left and right. Notice the inside foot turning right, I couldn't get onto my toes so I had to keep it from dragging the ground like a rutter.
Formula 40 Lightweight - 1st Place
        I decided I was not going to settle for the 'math' game of the points, and to just race instead. My warm-up lap felt a little better than morning practice so I was encouraged as I grided up or the start. I was on pole for the start and focused on the learnings earlier in the season about starts... focused... kept it simple.... let the clutch pressure build until it was ready to explode... and the GREEN FLAG DROPPED!!!!!!
I launched, shifted, kept my head down and kept seeing open track in front of me... I GOT THE HOLE SHOT!!! Finally! Knowing I was not up to full pace, it still felt good to lead. I held on to the lead for most of the first lap. As Jay passed me I felt a tingle of anticipation that I could make it a race.

        He made it very clear in the next 4 turns that I was delusional as he walked away never to been seen by me again until later in the paddock. "Well, OK. I can't touch him, but I'm still in 2nd", this thought was followed by a little giggle then a grunt and a wince as I entered the right handed entry into turn 3. I felt alone, but at two critical spots on the track the low setting sun would cast long shadows. These two spots were critical because they cast the shadows of my pursuers ahead of me as a polite warning. By this point in the race my knee had warmed up and relaxed so I spent 3 laps battling the helmeted shadows that lurked behind me feeling hopeful for my 2nd place finish.
Lap 5 was busy. The shadow turned to noise, the noise turned into pass on the exit of turn 2. "Seriously, you're going to pass me in 3, my weakest turn. I hope you feel proud" I taunted James within my head. "No, nope... no, I won't let you."
        I got my knee out, held the outside line, made up about 1/2 a bike length and then realized the turn was running out of room and my knee was not in agreement with my decision. As we exited turn 4 I was now in 3rd watching James gap me on the exit of 4.. Then quickly on the exit of 5 I was in 4th. "Shut up, I know. I didn't ask because you would of said NO! So I figured in the heat of racing you would forgive me" .... I was arguing with my knee about my decisions as we completed the lap. I felt I was making progress in the argument so I mounted a 'white flag lap' attack to get back into 2nd. My knee just quietly sat there surely giggling at me as it pounced at the exit of turn 2 to prevent any thoughts I had of a fast lap. "OUCH!" I said... then I shut up and listened. At this point I still had my championship, but I wanted more.
       As I exited turn 8, I was 20 bike lengths back from James and Michael wondering what I could do with only 7 turns left. I barely had the thought out in my head when Michael had the door closed on him on a pass into 9 and ran off track. I watched intently as I crested the blind hill of 9 to see Michael upright in the dirt about the re-enter the track. Knowing he was upright and OK allowed me to giggle... and giggle I did :D (Sorry Michael) for now I had my 3rd place finish. One position better than my original plan. I tried a few celebration wheelies but without the prior approval of my knee they looked like a frog leaping into a wall. I didn't care, I had a championship. After a season with a blown motor, fried clutch, crash and two broken knees... I still had a championship. That thought made me very happy.

As always, I have to thank Zoran and my TWF Racing team members for all thier support. 4TheRiders for making me look good in every picture. Zooni Leathers for keeping me safe and Pirelli tires for keeping me upright. A special thanks to Galfer brakes for thier at-the-track support and for the performance and feedback the 1300 series pads gave me to prevent a crash in turn 6. Additonal thanks to Sidi, WoodCraft, Suomy, MotionPro, Driven, AmourBodies, RaceImage.net and my Z2TrackDays family.

AFM Round #6 - Sanoma Raceway September 2, 2012

       Arriving at the track in the late afternoon on Friday allowed me time to socialize more than usual. It was a nice afternoon/evening of slowly unloading the hauler and talking with friends. Then, later that night the Catching's arrived and the real socializing began! Friends are as much a reason a lot of us race as the racing itself, and the AFM paddock is overflowing with them.

       My main focus for Saturday practice was to get comfortable on the bike, get my knees loosened up and figure out the changes in turn 9. Turn 9 is a tight chicane (Quick right / left combination) that was recently modified for the cars that race at Sanoma. The change was not significant, but it opened the turn more allowing for a faster entry and a slightly different exit. It took me most of the day and into Sunday to figure out how to effectively maneuver the changes.

The bike felt great, my legs felt really good and I was ready for the Formula 40 Lightweight race.

Formula 40 - Lightweight - 1st Place
       What a race! I went back to my old tricks of crummy starts. I was on pole for this race and went into Turn 2 in 7th place followed immediately by two mis-shifts. I was off to a great start. UGGGGGGGG!!!
       I was able to get a few positions back on the first lap then a couple more on lap 2 putting me in 3rd place. I had full lap of open track and was able to close the gap and join the battle up front..... then we entered traffic from the middleweight class. On lap 4, I was setting up my entry to the fast carousel (Turn 6). A bike from the middleweight class (600cc) entered mid-track so I took the inside line and charged down the hill. To my surprise, the middleweight bike I was passing decided to close up all the way to the inside of the track hitting me and forcing me to choose between the dirt or standing it up and hitting his rear tire. The ladder was my choice, but I was able to get on the brakes hard/fast enough to amazingly skim past his rear wheel and keep my bike up-right. " What the %*$@#, WHOOO HOOOOO!!!!! I'm still in this race!!!!!!". That's how quickly it takes place, I barely had time to finish a sentence in my head. I re-establish my charge down the carousel and closed back in on my prey.

       With 3 laps to go, you could throw a small blanket over 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We were tire-to-tire. This would be fun regardless of the outcome. I tried to set up a pass on the brakes into turn 1 but got scared.... twice. I'd have to find somewhere else to try. I went for the pass in turn 7 and in 9 on the brakes, but James and Jay have improved a TON on their brakes so I was left staring at both of their butts on the exits. "OK, Fine.... if not on brakes, I'll try another approach". I passed James on the brakes into Turn 11 and immediately thought "That's the same approach that hasn't been working" as he passed me back on the exit. "yup... see dummy, try something else" I tell myself again.

       The next 2 laps were about the same. I would try to set up a pass and either a back-marker would thwart my efforts or James and/or Jay would out-ride my efforts. We crossed the white flag (last lap) still in a tight clump and I was quickly running out of time. I was looking at every corner for an opportunity but nothing presented itself.... until turn 6. There was a slower back-marker exiting turn 5 middle track. James and Jay looked to the outside for their pass giving them a sweeping entry to the downhill carousel of turn 6. I looked to the inside and held the throttle wide open. Cresting the blind hill into Turn 6 I put my trust in the Galfer brake pads to get the bike to slow down and to initiate (and hold) a tight entry. The front end pushed but the Pirelli held strong and I was able to hold a perfect line to the exit and a great drive down the back straight into turn 7. I took slightly protective lines for the last few turns and took the checkered flag for the win.

Sunday Races:
650 Twins - 3rd Place
       Another poor start.... I just can't seem to get away from them. This race was not as eventful as the previous day's F40 race, but still fun and exciting. I was in 7th again in turn 2, but I was able to recover quicker. I was in 4th within a few laps and had the highlight of the race catching and eventually passing Rory for 3rd. I thought it was going to be a pass on the brakes into turn 9, but Rory held me off, so I set up the exit for a pass in turn 10. It was an outside pass and Joe at 4TheRiders.com got the picture (above). I was giggling the whole time, Rory is great to race with!!!!!

       By the time I moved into 3rd there was too big of a gap to 2nd so I crossed the checkered in 3rd.

Formula 4 - 2nd
        We had the last race of the day. I was lined up on the outside of the first row for the start which gives the most advantage for the start. I still had a typical 'Dan' start, but not the worst. I was 4th at the start and moved into 2nd by the second lap. The big challenge of this race was that Jason Catching ran his fastest times of the day on his production bike ( 2 seconds faster than our superbike times) so he decided to run the proddy bike in this race. so.... I COULD NOT loose to a production bike, I would never hear the end of that.

At the 1/2 way mark, I see a flash of red going into Turn 9 and Jason passed me. WHAT!!!!!!!>?!>!>! I followed him for the next few laps as he absolutely rode the wheels off of that bike. with two laps to go, he ran wide in turn 6 which helped me set up a pass to move back into 2nd. He kept the pressure on but I was able to fend off the production bike and finish the race in 2nd.        

As always, I have to thank Zoran and my TWF Racing team members for all thier support. Zooni Leathers for keeping me safe and Pirelli tires for keeping me upright. A special thanks to Galfer brakes for thier at-the-track support and for the performance and feedback the 1300 series pads gave me to prevent a crash in turn 6. Additonal thanks to Sidi, WoodCraft, Suomy, MotionPro, Driven, AmourBodies, RaceImage.net and my Z2TrackDays family.

AFM Round #5 - Thunderhill Raceway August 5, 2012

Pre-Race Vacation:
for two weeks leading up to this event, we were in Croatia with several members of the TWF Racing team. A side trip of that vacation was to Mostar Bosnia. In Mostar, there is a famous bridge that locals jump off of for money. It's just over an 80 foot drop into a very chilly river below. When I found out I could also jump off this bridge, I felt compelled! I didn't make any money (in fact I paid to be a 'Member' of the Mostar Divers Club for the jump.

My prior jumps have only been at about 50 feet, so I mistimed my landing and did not have my legs fully underneath me when I made contact with the water. At ~55mph, my legs were forced back and then hyper-extended out sideways in clear mockery of how the human knee was intended to work. Needless to say, I left with a limp and was reduced to a painful stagger within a day.

The little red circle in the picture is me,
Half way down my journey from the Mostar Bridge.

(Click the image for full Res)

Back in the USA, X-Rays show damaged to the MCL's on both legs, but the MRI to look at the inner meniscus was not scheduled until the Tuesday AFTER the race weekend. So.... I drive off toward Thunderhill with stiff, sore knees and very limited range of motion in the right leg.

Saturday Practice:
I didn't have much hope for Saturday's practice sessions. My knees were feeling better with the humidity in CA, but I still have limited range of motion. My first attempt out on track ended quickly when I discovered I had to stand up on the pegs to reposition my feet between corners..... That wouldn't do.

Back in the paddock, I tried to gently force my right knee to a full bend, but it was not having any part of it. I ate lunch and prepared for my second try. On my next session out, I had two horrible laps trying to find a way to ride. I forced myself to stay out for the full session determined to either find a way, or feel confident in my decision not to race. on lap 4 I started warming up more and by lap 6 I had it. If I kept my right foot on the ball of my foot and never moved it, I could ride pretty well. I just had to change my riding style and keep my foot planted on one position for the full race. I would slip and scream about one time per lap in practice, so I hoped that ratio would go down during the race.

My practice sessions were not too enjoyable, So I kept it limited to the two sessions and called that good for the race. The next step was to see how I held up for Formula 40 on Saturday Afternoon.

Formula 40 - Lightweight
With my foot firmly planted in the position I intended to keep it throughout the race, I was lined up on the pole position.... feeling pretty good. I had a 'slightly-better-than-normal' start and went into turn 2 in 3rd place. Trying to settle into my riding style, I stayed in 3rd for the first two laps. We had also quickly caught up to the back of the middleweight class so the back-markers gave me a few challenges. I knew where I could gain on the leaders so I started to focus on my plan and less on my knees.

on lap 3, I made up the distance and made my passes for the lead. My legs had stopped hurting, but I was already feeling tired from the extra strain. I mentioned that it was lap 3.... but exited turn 15 onto the front straight expecting to see the white flag... the sign for the last lap. CROSSED FLAGS!!!!! that means we are only 1/2 way. **Sigh** "Thinking away the pain" was taking more of my energy than I thought. I still had 3 full laps to go.

I was actually having a lot of fun so I settled in for 3 more laps. I was able to make good work of the back-markers and then on lap 4 I was able to use two more at the end of the front straight to put a solid gap between me and second place. The next two laps, I kept my focus on the track, on having fun and trying not to be too exuberant about being in the lead when I had only hoped for a 3rd place at best! It was hard to not giggle and lose focus. I took the long awaited white flag with my giggling securely tucked away for another lap.... crossing the line at the checkered in First Place!

I had to do a cool-down-lap wheelie for Joe at 4TheRiders. With all my excitement and exhaustion I lofted it nicely, crossed up to get a good look at Joe (who was taking photographs from directly in front of me) and quickly hoisted it higher and higher until both he and I matched panic looks :D. As he finally started to flinch, I managed to get the front end back down and ride out the turn on the top of the curbing. The nice part is, the pictures only captured the cool part :giggle:

Sunday Races:
As several friends predicted on Saturday, I was certainly going to race Sunday after such a good ending to Saturday. I was much stiffer again for the morning practice, but since we were race #1, I had to get out on track. I took it slow and just let my legs warm up. they felt better than Saturday morning, but not as good as Saturday afternoon. Practice went OK, and after a short rider's meeting to start the day, we were headed out for our warm-up lap.

650 Twins - DNF
My warm-up lap went well, and my knees quickly found there place. I was excited that the pain was not as much as I expected and I let myself get excited for a good race. The Green Flag dropped and had an absolutely horrible, crappy, 'what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-me' kind of start. A small tear formed in my eye from sadness as I shifted into 2nd with the RPM's bouncing off the rev-limiter. 5 more bikes passed me as I continued to bounce off the rev-limiter.... HUH? I grab third gear as riders from 7 rows back pass me before turn 1. Through Turn 1 and into turn 2 I continue to shift, quickly find the rev-limiter and get passed. "OK... I know what's going on here" I tell myself. I grab a hand full of throttle without shifting and feel the motor slip through the RPM's without any acceleration. "WOW, good thing this didn't go out yesterday during F40" was my next thought along with another slight giggle.

I put my arm up, let traffic get around me cleanly (I hope they felt I did an OK job) and pulled off into the infield access round out of Turn 5 and watched the race from there. It was actually a pretty good seat for spectating.

Back to the pits after the race, Zoran made quick work of the clutch change and we had the bike ready with a new rear tire and warmers in place with time to spare before my next race. Special thanks to Billy and Jason from Catching Competition. I had a spare set of frictions, but they supplied me with the much needed steels. THANK YOU !!!!!!

Formula 4 - 2nd
I was gridded on the second row and determined to make up for the race start in 650T. I launched the bike well and mainted my postion going into turn 2 in 5th place. I wanted to keep on the rear wheel of the leaders and I was doing OK for the first lap. On lap two, Neil and Kirk started to pull a gap on 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. We had a tight group and it was going to be a fun race. On lap 3, the 3rd place bike had a violent high-side crash out of turn 13 onto the back straight. We were all able to avoid him but it seperated us a little. Now it was me and Jason Catching (Pit-mate and good friend) It's always fun to race with friends. He was riding well, but this day.... my "wheels were swift" (Beier, 2012). I had a great drive out of turn 15 onto the front straight and made my pass. I knew Jason would stay VERY close and take advantage of any mistake I made, so I only made one, entering the back straight. Damn, I meant to make NONE!!!!! I saw his wheel under braking into turn 14 but I was able to close the door and maintain position.

On lap 5, exiting the cylcone onto the fast outer section, The second place rider crashed out in turn 7... a very fast corner. It didn't look good and I started looking for the Red flag. by the time we crossed Start/Finish for the final lap, the red flag came out. We were stopped by turn 5 and the race was over.

As always, I have to thank Zoran and my TWF Racing team members for all thier support. Zooni Leathers for keeping me safe and Pirelli tires for keeping me upright. Additonal thanks to Galfer, Sidi, WoodCraft, Suomy, MotionPro, Driven, AmourBodies, RaceImage.net and my Z2TrackDays family.

AFM Round #4 - Sonoma Raceway (Formerly Infineon) July 1, 2012

Saturday Practice:
Saturday’s practice sessions didn’t go so well. It wasn’t terrible, but I was not able to get a full session in most of the day. The exhaust springs we used all became brittle at the same time. The first popped off in early morning session. I was 3 laps into it when I heard the lower ‘Y’ pipe pop open. I pulled off track and rode it back in after the checkered flag. The second one broke two sessions later on the first lap. I rode to the outside of turn 2 and watched. Once back in the paddock, I changed out the rest of the springs knowing another was going to break on me at a more critical moment. The last session went OK and I was ready for Formula 40.

Formula 40 - 1st Place

I had a great start and lead the race into turn 1. I had a bad entry into turn 3 and saw Jay’s front wheel challenging for the lead, but I was able to maintain the lead down the hill into turn 4. I had open track for about a lap, then we started catching the back-markers from the middle-weight class. I was able to make efficient use of the ‘traffic’ and opened up my lead and crossing the checkered flag in first place. I was excited for the win, but my times were still 2 seconds off pace for Sunday.

Formula 4 - 4th Place
I had a poor start going into turn 2 in about 10th place. I was not willing to make the aggressive passes so I was stuck in 10th until things settled down by the end of the first lap. On lap 2 I started making passes. I was able to move up into 4th place by the end of the 3rd lap, but the leaders had opened up a large gap by then. I crossed the finish line in 4th, still 2 seconds off the pace (and 2 seconds off my last season times). Frustrated I asked Zoran to look at my suspension. I don’t like blaming the bike, but I had spent enough time blaming me that I needed a diversion.

Turns out my suspension settings were all changed. I don’t believe it to have been malicious, but sometime during the early season my suspension settings had all been changed (for the worse). We set the bike back up and I was prepared for my final race.

650 Twins - 4th Place
I had a better start and was sitting in 3rd by the end of the first lap. The leaders were pulling a little bit on me, but nothing significant. On lap 3 Jason made a pass pushing me to 4th. I used that as my motivation to not let the leaders get away. Also, Jason had run much better than me in the first race so I sang “show me the way” in my helmet and let my bike do what it does best. I was not able to set up a pass for the next few laps but it was a great race. The leaders didn’t pull too much of a gap and I felt like I actually raced ‘MY’ race and felt good. I ended up with the same result as before… 4th, but this one was a well ridden 4th matching my best times at Sonoma Raceway.

My season has been less than outstanding so far, but I am keeping my focus on the ‘fun’ and on my primary goal of improving my personal best lap times at every track I race. I did not reach that goal this round, but I have one more opportunity at this track to reach my season goal.

I want to thank Zoran for his support, TWFRacing for a great group of racers to be a part of, Zooni Leathers for saving my butt when I fall (and making me look good while doing it), Pirelli tires for the best traction possible!, Galfer Brakes for their trackside support and superior brake pads, MotionPro for the ‘just right tools’ like my new brake bleeder, Go-Go for always having kind and inspirational words, Driven Sprockets, RaceImage.net, Suomy helmets, WoodCraft, Armour Bodies, and Z2 Trackdays for letting me be a part of their family :D.

AFM Round #3 - Thunderhill Raceway Park June 3, 2012

My bike was rebuilt and ready, but my mental state was not. I was questioning myself, allowing distractions on course and simply could not find my 'happy place' to ride to my potential. I had a very hard faught win in Formula 40 on Saturday, but Sunday.... I could not clear my head to focus properly. I've always known the impact a physical injury has on a race program, but this season is a lesson in how much your mental state and ability (or inability) to focus really impacts results.

Formual 40 Lightweight - 1st Place

650 Twins - 4th Place
I had an 'OK' start but was not riding smooth and had a few issues the first lap that kept me from moving forward. On lap 3, trying to make up to much ground in the wrong places I went too deep into turn 10 and had to make the choice of a tough save vs. running a little wide off-track to regain control. I opted for door #2 and ran wide into the dirt just enough to get the bike back underneath me. I lost two places, but kept it upright. I was able to regain those spots, but nothing more... finishing in 4th place.

650 Production - DNF
I borrowed Tom's bike to have some fun in the production class. His bike felt good and the Pirelli tires from the last round were still in excellent shape. I had a good start and made my way into 2nd place behind Jason Catching by the 3rd lap. While trying to make up a few bike lengths on Jason, I had a great battle going with Robin from Uniform Racing. on the last lap we were making passes on a few of the Ninjas 250's from the first wave. I looked to make an outside pass, but the bike in front of me ran wide into turn 3 opening up the inside. I went in at about 99% brake pressure holding the front end and making up time on Jason when the Ninja decided to move back to the inside. I ran out of track. In an effort to not hit the rear wheel, I knew I had to put the front brakes over their limits. Hoping for the best, I found the expected results and hit the pavement hard. After quite a few tumbles and a several sore spots, I found myself laying in the dirt face down outside of 3. I was able to get up and move, but sore. All that was left was the walk of 'shame' back to the paddock dirty and bike-less... but happy to be able to walk back on my own.

Formula 4 - 5th
Still quite sore from 650 Production, I had another poor start. Exiting 2 I felt a bike hit my left leg, then another clip my right handle bar... then yet another hit my rear wheel. Not wanting to fall down on my already sore spots, I held a consistent line and let the pack settle around me. I was able to run a strong race, but only managed a 5th place by the checkered.

AFM Round #2 - Thunderhill Raceway Park May 13, 2012

Overall the weekend was not a good start to the season.

Formual 40 Lightweight - 2nd Place

650 Twins - DNF
The bike was not feeling right, and by the 2nd lap I was falling further back. On lap 3, the feeling turned to misfires at high RPM which quickly turned to a broken crank exiting turn 7. I was able to safely get off track, but watching the race from the outside of turn 8 was not part of my season's plans

Formula 4 - 11th
I borrowed Jason Catching's Production SV for this race. The bike was out powered by the superbikes, but more of an impact was that fact it took me 4 laps to get comfortable on the bike, by then.... I had 2 laps and I was too far back. the goal was to save some points, and for that I was successful.

AFM Round #1 - Buttonwillow Raceway March 18, 2012

The entire Event was rained out

Michelle, Megan and I were already in Disney Land when the announcement came out. I was eager to race the season opener, but standing in line for Buzz Light Year made the new more bearable :D

2012 Pre-Season Race : WERA Las Vegas Motor Speedway February 11/12

     To get myself and the bike sorted out early, Zoran (of TWF Racing) and I looked South from Reno and headed to Las Vegas to race round #2 of the WERA West series. The bike had been sitting in the shop for a few months, and I had robbed a few parts from it for my street-bike build… So it was time to go knock the dust off of the bike and rider and have some fun.

     Coming off a great 2011 season, I have shifted my goals a bit for 2012. All of my life, I have been focused on the WIN. Walking race tracks and talking through techniques all with the single purpose of winning my race. This season, I am focusing on improving me. My single goal for 2012 is to improve on my personal best lap-time at every track I race in 2012. Success at this goal should translate to good finishes, but those finishes will be the result of my personal goal, not the focus.

     I have raced at The Las Vegas Motor Speedway Classic Course previously so I had already learned the track…. Or so I had thought. On the first day of the race weekend, I found myself fighting against what I thought I already knew as I looked at the track through my new filter. We had arrived at 1:00 AM Friday night after 8 hours of driving, so Saturday morning came quickly. Getting unloaded, organized, registered and tech while still wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I ended up missing my first practice session. I made my second session which turned out to be the last for the day. After lunch started the 20 Lap GTO/GTU solo races. I had signed up for the Lightweight class figuring 20 laps at ‘sprint’ pace would be the best practice I hope for. It proved to be a little frustrating, a bit exhausting and a ton of fun.

Lightweight Solo 20: 2nd Place
     While hoping for a win, I was keeping my focusing on my laps. Smooth laps, consistent laps, corner entry, apex, exits….. every turn for every lap. With filter of my new goal, the track looked and felt different than I was used to from previous visits. I had a good start and was quickly battling for the lead with a younger rider on a smaller 250. While the bike had less power than mine, Joe (the rider) had incredible skills and was much lighter making the bike/rider combination pretty equal. I did have an effective power advantage which I used to make a pass on the fast sweeper and move into the lead.
Now was time to hold true to my goal and just work on me…. the bike… the track. I found myself fighting my instinct in every turn. I was not able to put the bike where I wanted and I was not able to commit to the entry speed I would need to keep the 250 behind me. Sure enough, he passed me back a lap or two later powering out of the sweeper. I was able to find my way around the track a little better every few laps and by the ½ flag I was back in the lead.
Joe once again, passed me on the exit of the sweeper with relative ease as he carried at least 15mph more speed than me through the apex. From that point on I slowly lost sight of him as I kept fighting myself, the bike and the track.

     My times during the race had bounced between 1:24’s and 1:23’s with my best time being a 1:23.7…… a new personal best! I was very happy with that result, but also very sore. It turns out I was working against the bike more than I thought… all the more reason for me to be in Vegas for a pre-season rider tune-up. Thinking through the race in retrospect, I was able to figure out where I was working the hardest (which translates into area I needed to change for Sunday). I ended the day feeling very happy having improved on my previous best time.

     Sunday morning practice was a bit chilly and included some very light rain. I was able to get 2 good fast laps in, then as the rain picked up just slightly (and many riders pulling back into the paddock) I slowed to about 85% and focused on the smooth line around the track. I was able to make some quick adjustments to my entries and exits, finding several very smooth laps in a row. Encouraged, I exited the track, put a fresh Pirelli rear tire on and laced up the tire warmers to wait for my first race.

Lightweight Twins Superbike – Second Place
     With a 4th row grid position and a decent start, I exited turn 1 in about 4th place. The leader had a great start and by the back sweeper had already pulled a small gap. I made my way up into second by the end of the first lap, but I knew I had to get closer to Dustin immediately if I were to have him pull me around the track faster. I was too anxious on my exit of turn 2 on the second lap and missed a shift which was just enough to kill my only chance of closing the gap.
      I spent the next 4 laps watching Dustin Ohare pull a little wider lead each lap. I tried to apply my smooth lines from the morning session, but I was not able to connect all of the turns for a good lap. Trying too hard to force the bike to where I thought I wanted it to go…. I ran 1:24’s the whole race, crossing the line in Second Place. I was not upset at my finish, but I was a little upset at my inability to apply my recent experience into another improvement.

Heavyweight Twins Superbike – Second Place
     Knowing I was very under powered against the big 1000 twins, I had Zoran talk me through a few of my trouble areas again and regained my focus. I had a good start and exited turn 1 in 3rd place behind a Ducati 1000 and a KTM RC8. I was quickly able to plant the bike on entry, find my line and get a great drive out of every turn pulling up on their rear wheels for a few seconds…. Just to be met with a bigger gap once we were fully on power. At the end of the second lap, I knew where I needed to make up my time and I also knew how.
      For two more laps, I pushed harder into turns, found the right lines and made smooth exits and closed the gap on second, making a pas under brakes exiting the sweeper. ( previously a weak point in Saturday’s race). With two laps to go I put my sights on the RC8. On the white flag lap, I was close to striking distance, but I need another lap to fully set up a pass. The Checkered flag did not afford me that lap as I crossed the line in second…. A very inspiring and happy Second Place.
      I never looked at my times for the Heavyweight class, but I knew I had found my ‘groove’ and focused on getting me and the bike ready for my last race of the day. A rematch with Joe from Saturday and Dustin from the first race of Sunday.

Formula 2 – First Place
     I had another good start and was in 3rd on the exit of turn 1. Knowing I could not let Dustin get away, I made a pass on Kalvin on the exit of 3 entering 4 to set up a strong drive for the sweeper. The lap felt good, I closed the gap on Dustin in the lead and made a smooth exit onto the front straight to set up a pass into turn 1. I entered turn 2 in the lead and said (out loud as I often talk to myself during races) “OK, now…. It’s all about my lap times”. We did not hit any traffic for most of the race and I was able to click off several more laps with only minor mistakes.
      I had a better drive in a few areas, but Dustin had a better entry in the most critical spot on the sweeper (and fasted spot) and was able to regain whatever ground I earned elsewhere. At the end of the 5th lap I saw his wheel pop in on my right as we entered the right hander onto the front straight, but I had enough drive to maintain my line and get a better exit. Hoping to capitalize on that, I took two deep breaths down the front straight, relaxed and took the white flag for the last lap. Again, any lead I had pulled was reeled back in as Dustin powered through the sweeper to pull right up on my rear wheel again. Knowing I would see him again headed onto the straight, I made sure to hit the next few turns perfect. As expected, I saw the wheel and a flash of red bodywork but it was again, not enough as I held my line, shifting gears toward the checkered to take the win.

     The biggest goal of the weekend also came in that last race with a 1:23.2 lap time. A full ½ second faster than my previous personal best acquired just a few hours earlier.

     I have to thank Zoran for taking the trip with me. filling my ears with advice patiently listening as I repeated myself about 27 times about what I was thinking and doing wrong out on track. I also want to thank Corey at CTRacing / Pirelli for all the tire support. I actually ran the same front that was on the bike at the last round of 2011 for the full weekend, but the new rear and the tire choice advice worked out perfect for Sunday. My Zooni leathers felt as comfortable as always and luckily went untested for another weekend. The Galfer brakes, Driven sprockets, WoodCraft bits… all worked as perfectly as usual. I was also excited to try out my new Suomy for this event. I always forget how comfortable and plush a new helmet feel, and this season’s helmet is even lighter than before.

     The first round for the AFM season is March 17/18 down at Buttonwillow. I already have sections of the track that I am thinking about differently, but I’ll first spend a few days with my wife and daughter and Mickey down in Disneyland before heading to the track.