4/27/10

Philip Doran's race debut

WERA Pirelli Sportsman Series - Nashville Superspeedway April 24-25
So the weekend started out great with an uneventful drive to Nashville on Friday. I arrived early at the track and waited in a long line to get into the facility. Once in I took up residence in NASCAR garage 10. My brother Ken loaned me his right hand man in Tom Lowe, he came out and handled the pits for me and was in general a huge comfort as a friendly face during my innaugral race weeekend.

  Saturday morning, with nerves running tense, I registered for the riders school and purchased my WERA license. The morning consisted of first a classroom session to inform all provisional(first time) novices of start and race procedures as well as identify all flags that may be used on track. Shortly after that we went out and practiced as group 6. Our instructor led us one lap and then waved us by to check us out. Myself and 2 other riders on newish 600 class machines got to speed quick as we had a fair amount of track experience. There were 9 provisional novices, including a 13 yr. old girl on a CRF100 Mini. Passing her at speed was hairy, for her more than me I think.

Next up was another classroom session, and a second practice. The bottom fell out of the sky for the second practice, so I had installed my rain tires. After that practice we took a quick test and were informed we would have a mock race at the end of the scheduled races. The purpose of the mock race is to teach you the starting procedure and familiarize you with a real race. That did not stop me from getting a killer start and holeshotting the field of 9. I led the first 2 laps and then a Triumph 675 came by. I stayed with him and had 2 areas of the track that I could gain and possibly pass him in. I thought the better of it as it was a "no points" race and I could have taken us both out. Risk versus reward ratio was not right to make the move. Tomorrow I won't pull that punch! I got a lot of ribbing from people around the pits as they said it was clear I could pass him, but I stand by my decision as it is the single, and only, specific proof I can provide that I may be growing up the slighest amount.
Sunday: Race day
I was in the Lightweight Practice group, #1. I registered for 3 races and rented a transponder at 8am, then hustled to tech to try and make 3rd call for my practice at 8:30am. I made it out and rode as hard as I could to try and find the speed I have previously had at this track. I got another practice at 10am or so. During lunch Tom and I pulled my wheels and I had Derek Bennett of Stickboy Racing mount me up a new Bridgestone BT003 V-profile front tire and a new Bridgestone slick out back.

There were 16 scheduled sprint races, I was running races 7, 11 and 14. I took a fast warmup lap and then gridded on row 13 for the Lightweight Twin Superbike race. The Experts were gridded on rows 1-4 then us novices were back quite a ways. I again got a great start and never saw a novice after leaving the line. I set to catching a couple of the slower experts and finished 6th overall ahead of 2 Experts. I also won the first road race I ever entered!!! I was pretty chuffed and had some fun wheelying around on the cool down lap.

I spent the time between races thinking about how I needed to stay on the gas longer into turn one and carry more speed into there as well. I had done it right last year, but with Saturday's heavy rains and the coolish temps the track was green. I also think I was trying very hard not to be "that guy" who crashes his first weekend. The idea for provisional novices like me is to finish 2 weekends crash free. Then you shed the orange jersey telling the world you're a newb.

Race 2 for me was Formula 2. I was on row 5 in the center, behind another race class as this race had multiple classes running together. I was up against another provisional novice from my riders school on a Triumph 675. I was outgunned but thought I had something for him based on the previous day's mock race. I again killed the start and got through a number of riders in front of me by turn one. I led my competition the first 3 of 10 laps, then he came by on the main straight. I put my head down and swore I wouldn't let him walk away, I started pushing deeper into 130mph turn one and ultimately ran off in turn 1. I stood it up and ran up the NASCAR banking to the wall, but managed to stay upright and rejoin the race losing about 2 seconds to my rival. I kept him in sight, but the 4 remaining laps just weren't enough to catch him. I settled for a second and was happy not to crash after that semi-hairy off course jaunt.

Race 3 was Heavyweight Twins Superbike, gridded row 7 Center. This was also an expert and novice combined race, so I was happy to get my 3rd awesome start. I led my novice class to the half way flags and then another SV came by with yellow plates, he was in my class. He flat out rode me, and the few times I tried to step up to his level I had some sketchy moments. I backed it down and took a respectable second place in novice while picking off a couple of the experts.

All in all, I had a stellar weekend. I fulfilled a life long dream and didn't pull a bone head move and crash out. I could easily become addicted to racing, just as I am to my track days. I was most surprised by how well I started, I felt I was always in it at the start and I passed quite a lot of people on the way to turn 1. In retrospect I was being pretty soft into turn one off the NASCAR home straight. It is a gut check and I just didn't go in there as hard as I know I can, in short my skirt got in the way. Same story on the back straight, I was too early off the gas and on the brakes. I was beating myself up a bit until some other veterans said everyone was a few seconds off their normal pace with the wind and green track.

This will likely be my only race installment. My wife is decidedly against my pursuing a racing career. I agreed not to start a racing career. It's that simple, she means more to me. I wanted to do it once, and going 3 for 3 on podiums will make the memories sweeter. Trackdays give a lot more "bang for the bick", and I have great friends to do it with. It's just as much about who you are with as what you are doing.
Thanks PJ! Keep us up to date on your summer of fun..We have feeling your going to change your mind. Your wife will understand. Cheers to you.