|Wounded Duc makes the show at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, Ohio – August 4-6, 2006 – Unlike the Barber AMA round in April, I left Mid-Ohio with a
smile on my face for the short drive home. Qualifying 28th out of 35, dropping my personal best lap
time by nearly 1.5 seconds, and finishing 23rd in the Formula Extreme final was infinitely more
satisfying than my Barber experience of missing qualifying by three-tenths of a second.
Mid-Ohio is my favorite track, and is conveniently located less than an hour from my house. I
suppose I’d consider it my “home” track, but since the track doesn’t host any club racing events, I
really don’t have any more track time on it than any other competitor. I guess I like the technical
nature of the track, with its elevation changes, blind turns, and variety. With the current trend of
packing the track into as few acres as possible – even for $50 million-plus facilities like Barber – it’s
a layout that may not be duplicated again.
Thursday was promoter practice. I spent the morning sessions getting up to speed on the same
pair of DOTs I used in the previous weekend’s AHRMA races. Even on old tires, I knocked six-
tenths off my best AHRMA time. Just being around faster competition causes you to up your
game. At lunchtime, I spooned on a set of Bridgestone slicks and thought I’d continue dropping my
times. With the new tires, however, I picked up a front-end chatter that I couldn’t seem to dial out. I
ended up running the same lap times as I had in the morning on worn-out DOTs -- 1:35.5. I was
hoping for a couple more sessions to try to work on the issues. Unfortunately, the skies opened up
and the rest of the afternoon sessions were run in the rain. I passed on mounting up rain tires and
basically hung out the rest of the afternoon.
Friday morning was the first official AMA practice session. For the 50-minute session, I went out on
the same set of slicks I’d used on Thursday. The chatter hadn’t gone away, and I just never felt
comfortable on the green racetrack. My best lap was 1:37.3, well off my Thursday practice times.
With the repave of Mid-Ohio, it was a bit of a question as to what the pole position time would be,
and it would take a lap time within 110% of the pole time to qualify. My best guess was it would take
a mid-to-low 1:35 to make the show. I was feeling good on Thursday, but Friday’s practice times left
me scratching my head.
I didn’t have a lot of time to scratch, as qualifying was up after lunch. I mounted up a new set of
Bridgestone slicks, and went with an ultrasoft front, rather than the soft I’d been running in
practice. From my first outlap, the bike felt immediately better. The chatter was gone, and the front
was finishing the turns much better. I kept working on my riding, trying to improve in areas where I
was weak, and my times kept dropping. I pulled in a couple of times to tweak the suspension and
get a sip of water. With about 10 minutes to go in the session, I’d dropped my times into the low 1:
35s, but felt like I could do better. I headed back out finish off the session, and when I pulled into
the pit after the checkered flag, Colin Graham, my pit crew for the weekend, was holding up four
fingers, signifying I’d dropped into the 1:34s. AMA scoring had me at a 1:34.7, and I was pretty
stoked. I ended up beating the 110% cutoff by almost two seconds, and qualified 28 out of 35 (three
riders failed to qualify.)
For the Saturday morning practice session, I left my qualifying tires on and just used the session as
a warm-up. The tires were pretty roached, and I wasn’t too interested in pushing hard and crashing,
so I ended the session with a best time of 1:35.6
The Formula Extreme final is the last race on Saturday’s schedule, and – due to a red-flag in the
Superbike race – we weren’t flagged off for our sighting lap until about 5:45 pm. The bike felt good
on the warm-up lap, and I was hoping to get a good start and put in a hard first lap. I got a good
jump off the line from my row seven starting position, passing a few riders before turn one.
However, I got chopped in turn one and lost my drive, letting several riders back past me. I passed
a couple riders back under braking for turn six, and finished the first lap in 23rd position. Things
settled down a bit, I swapped positions a couple of times, and basically just tried to put in
consistent laps. Most of my lap times were in the low 1:35s, a few tenths slower than my qualifying
Lap nine was provided some excitement when James Kerker, running a couple of spots ahead of
me, blew an engine big-time on the back straight. It’s always a bit disconcerting braking from 150 to
60 mph, then trail-braking hard into a turn without knowing whether the track is covered with oil.
Thankfully, it wasn’t, but that was my second-slowest lap of the race.
On lap 13, I saw the blue flag come out at the start/finish line and knew the leaders were coming. I
stayed wide in T1, looked over my shoulder and waived leader Eric Bostrom and who I though was
Josh Hayes on a single-digit silver bike by. Unfortunately, the silver bike belonged instead to Eric
Huago, who been behind me for the past nine laps. He took the opportunity to surf past me in
Bostrom’s wake. Not that it much matters if I finish 22nd or 23rd, but it’s a bit disappointing that he
chose to pass that way. There’s something of an unwritten rule that lappers won’t pass each other
under a blue flag, as the idea is for those being lapped to stop racing and get out of the way of the
leaders. Apparently Huago hadn’t heard of that gentlemen’s agreement. Oh well. That lap was my
slowest lap of the race.
The last few laps of the race were fairly uneventful. I kept trying to close the gap back on Huago,
but couldn’t seem to make much of a dent, despite turning my fastest lap of the race on lap 14. That
surprised me, as with the heat and humidity I was feeling pretty tired the last few laps and felt like I
was riding pretty poorly. I was happy to see the checkered flag at the end of lap 15.
Overall, I was pleased with my performance. I qualified for the race, I dropped my best lap time by
1.5 seconds, and I had a good race and finished higher than where I started. Most importantly, I
didn’t crash and had fun. Not bad for a 44-year-old club racer.