April 29-30 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon
Oregon's unpredictable weather always keeps us questioning what we would get for the first round of the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association (OMRRA) at Portland International Raceway (PIR).
The weeks leading up to the race are always nail-biting. Fortunately, we lucked out and were given dry racing conditions and even a few rays of sun now and then.
This weekend was my first time riding my new Yamaha R1 at PIR. It had been well over a year and a half since I raced a 1000cc bike here, and I had some good competition to face off against. Friday's practice day was a learning day on the bike. PIR is extremely different to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway where I raced last February and had great success on the R1. Chuckwalla has a good amount of elevation change, lots of corners and even some banking. PIR on the other hand, is totally level with 2 long straightaways and few turns. Suspension and electronics changes were in order, as well as some seat-time to get comfortable on the new bike at my home track.
Morning practice went great, I got faster and more comfortable than I was on Friday, and I was quickest. I was pretty nervous for my first race back in Formula Ultra since 2015.
Formula Ultra is the overall championship class for OMRRA, it's their premier racing class open to any 600cc or 1000cc bike with unlimited modifications. Everyone I was racing against I have beat many times before, but the difference is they've had the last year to build experience on their 1000cc machines, and I was starting fresh. I didn't know what to expect.
I lined up on the grid for Formula Ultra, and as soon as the green flag waved and the race started, I immediately took the lead and it was game on. All the butterflies in my stomach disappeared. I knew I had some feisty riders behind me, so I did my best to fend them off and try to break away. A couple laps in, I was challenged by Chris Ancien who was also on a Yamaha R1. It took me a couple laps to re-group, and mount a challenge back. I put myself in striking distance, and looked for a weak point to make a move. I found it pretty quick and did a slingshot maneuver around the outside of Ancien on the back straightaway, which is more so a long right hand bend. Its 5th/6th gear pinned, and I was on the gas with the rear tire stepped out the whole time on the way by.
From there on, I held my position in first, but not with ease as moisture began to build up on the face shield of my helmet.
I didn't know where it was coming from until the last lap, when overflow water began bursting out of my radiator at me like a running hose. I honestly thought at any second I may crash if the water were to touch the tires, but I was determined to get the win. Luckily, I kept my cool as my bike overheated, and I won by a few tenths of a second over Ancien.
My second race of the day was Open Supersport.
After getting my bike checked over and re-inspected by OMRRA, I was good to go for the race. I was warned if the bike were to reach temperatures over 220 degrees, I would have to pull off track. Once again I grabbed the holeshot and was in 1st place. Unlike the last race, I was a bit faster than the rest of the field and was able to pull away. I was so caught up at looking at my dashboard every chance I could to monitor the temperature, I wasn't paying attention to my Dad on the front straightaway signaling to me that I had a big lead. Therefore, I was pushing pretty hard the whole race up until lap 7 when I missed a shift (due to rider error) going into turn 4 and ran off into the dirt. I was able to keep it upright and get back onto track and still be in 3rd place. I got back on the gas and started closing back up to 2nd place fairly quick.
A lap later is when I noticed the temperature spike from a steady 186 degrees to 220, right in the danger zone.
Moisture again started to build. I immediately had to back off and slow my pace down in an attempt to keep the bike from getting any hotter. On the white flag lap is where it got worse and water busted again from the radiator overflow, and I rode around the track at half speed. I got passed coming out of the last corner and finished 4th, and salvaged some points. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I shut the bike off and parked it on the side of the track. As soon as we got the bike back into the pits, it was diagnosed to be a blown head-gasket.
A blown head-gasket sucks to deal with because the engine has to come out of the bike, and be torn apart.
Luckily my engine builder Eric Dorn came to the rescue, loaded up my bike and when straight to EDR Performance to fix it with the help of his employees, Nate and Gary. They conquered the job in about 2 1/2 hours with the bike complete and ready to ride, which was quite incredible and extremely outgoing customer service! Without them, I would've had nothing to race for Sunday.
I'm very fortunate to be doing what I'm doing. Someone told me to keep chasing the dream as far as I can, while I can, and to have a blast while doing it. Sometimes I get so caught up in what I'm doing, I don't realize that I am actually living the dream right now. I mean, I'm still living at home with my parents, so maybe it's not exactly "the dream", but these times are definitely things I'll look back on with great pride and thankfulness. I will always keep striving for bigger and better things. That's what keeps me going, as it should.
I went out for a single practice session in the morning to confirm the bike was running as it should, and it was! Thank you EDR Performance.
Formula Ultra race 2 was once again off, and I got my 3rd holeshot of the weekend. Temperatures were cooler than Saturday, so everyone was a little slower including me as we searched for grip. I was able to ride a solid race and get another win, giving me a perfect score of 50 points to start the overall OMRRA championship! I was very pleased with the result.
My last race of the weekend was Open Superbike. I got the holeshot yet again, as my starts were on point. Jeremy Coffey passed me into turn 3 right away though, and the race was on. I followed for a few laps before making a pass on the back straightaway. I was strong all weekend long there, and I wasn't afraid to get on the outside of someone and "flat track" it on by. I kept a steady pace, and took my 3rd win of the weekend to close out round 1 of OMRRA.
Overall, it was a great weekend. It totally could've been a bad one if it weren't for EDR Performance working overtime at the shop on my bike to get me back out on track for Sunday. I think we have a good base setting on the R1 going into the next round. I still have a lot to improve on with my riding, and some tuning to do to make the bike faster and easier to ride. But to get out there and get some wins first weekend out at PIR was very satisfying. Once the bike and I improve some and we get warmer weather, I'm really excited to see what I can do for lap times. I believe there is a lot of potential with the equipment I have this year.
A special thanks to Mike Colbach for coming out to watch me race Saturday and to Eric Dorn.
Thank you to my sponsors:
- EDR Performance
- Oregon Motorcycle Attorney
- See See Motor Coffee Co MotoSport.com
- K-Tech Suspension
- RapidBike USA
- Superlite Sprockets
- ASV Inventions
- Graves Motorsports
- Bell Helmets
- Maxima Racing Oils
- Dunlop Race Tire Service
- Pacific Track Time
- Beaverton Motorcycles
- MWR Air Filters
- Northern Advisory Group
- Bickle Racing
- Kevin Miller Designs
- Joe Signs
- MotoCorsa for the Alpinestars gear