This was the first track day of the year for me (car or motorcycle), and the first ride of the R1 since September (and I've only ridden any bike twice since then). In the meantime, it's just been sleeping indoors... I somehow managed to start it twice indoors during that time, with no trouble, but when I got myself ready for the track day today and wheeled the R1 outside, it wouldn't start. After rolling it down the hill to get it going (and stalling it at the bottom of the hill, in traffic, and having to do it again) I was underway. This bike definitely feels quite a bit different than the Triumph... a "smoother" machine. I met my friend Ken at his place, then off to the track. After taping everything up, we were set to go. The R1 always looks mean in battle trim.
This was Ken's first time at PIR, but there were no slots left in any run group but A by the time we signed up, so we were both in A. The plan was for Ken to follow me around the first few laps, but when a few bikes got gridded in between us, that idea was lost. My first few laps around felt fairly good, and I had a knee down on the second lap, which was nice. Overall pace was certainly down this first session, but it seemed that was the case for everyone. Towards the end of the first lap I caught up to Ken, and there was smoke billowing from the whole right side of his bike, and it smelled fairly bad. I stayed behind him for about half the lap, then got by. Once we arrived in the pits I saw oil all down the right hand side of his bike, and all over him. I thought he was just burning a bunch of oil, but something else was wrong. Apparently the cap on the oil filler had fallen off out on the track, and oil was just coming out the top, and all over the bike! Well, better than than some internals, I suppose. Oil was also all over the right hand side of his rear tire... he's damn lucky that this probably happened near the end of the session, or he'd surely have been down in a right hand turn. I also noticed that I had his oil splattered all over my bike as well, due to me being behind him for half a lap. I guess I'm lucky to have not taken a dive as well. After looking around the paddoc for a spare oil cap (yeah right), we realized that my cap would probably fit his bike. After a test fit, indeed it did. Ken switched to the B group, and the plan was after I came in from A, we'd remove the oil cap from my bike and install it on his, for his B group session, and vice versa. Worked out okay for the whole day, and he only wound up missing one session. But this is certainly a reminder to really check everything on your bike... and also realize what a blessing it was that both wheels remained on the ground the whole time.
In my second session I had the biggest non-crashing event of my career. It was the second lap of the session and I was already riding pretty hard as I was exiting turn 4, the left hander. I guess a combination of still cold tires and just rolling on the throttle a bit too much caused the back end to take a fairly huge step out while I was still in full lean. I'd say the back end came out about 35° from the front... The resulting step out also brought the bike closer to the pavement. I started replaying my event at THill in my head... But after the screwup, I'd say I handled this one just about as well as I could have. Right as it kicked out I slowly rolled off the throttle, and even countersteered with the front a bit, and after bouncing around a bit on the bike, got back upright again, though headed straight for the grass at 70mph. Fine by me! I hit the grass at speed, and tried to begin slowing, again (as always) forgetting to not use the front brake, and almost bit it again as the front started sliding. On to the rear brake, hoping to slow in time to re-enter the track. I was able to do so, and after waiting for a good spot, came back on just at the entry of the rear straight, and into the pits. When I rolled up to point, the guy was giving me two big thumbs up and a huge smile. He says, "The turn workers said you did a great job keeping it up and recovering from that!" Well that's good... wish I could have seen it myself! I explained how I just rolled on the throttle too much with the cold tires and he said, "alright, be safe!" and put me back out on track. Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant in turn 4 for the rest of the day. I really was very close to going down... minor events happen, but this one was fairly major and it's always good to look hard at WHY it happened to hopefully reduce the risk of doing it again.
The middle sessions of the day I just wasn't feeling very comfortable on the bike. But the second to last one I really started getting into a rythem, and feeling very good. I was killing everyone in turns 7, 8, and 9, where you can't pass... but I was bringing back huge time on everyone. I watched as I dialed the speed up in turn 7 throughout the day, first noticing it around 79, then 81, then 85, and peaking at 89mph during the last session. I love that turn, and getting a knee down there can't be beat. Front straight speeds usually hovered around 170-175mph before I chickened out and had to begin to coast. I was flooring it all down the front straight each time now... it's interesting how light the front end gets even at 100+mph. I really have to stay at the front of the machine to keep the front wheel down. Ken timed me from the stands during the last two sessions, the first time around I was running consistant 1:21, and the last session I was running consistant 1:19's, even in a bit of traffic. So this is now my fastest laps around PIR by a full two seconds. Very cool. In that last session, aside from being blown away by a Ducati 1098, I was not passed once, and did quite a bit of passing in the A group. It was an awesome session and a great way to end the day. Overall I had 135 miles on the track today, and am quite sore as a result. It'a amazing what 175mph wind does to your neck muscles, trying to keep your head from flying back. But the day ended with a nice "life is good," feeling.