Flat Track Racing
Mikey Martin, Calistoga Race Report: This past weekend was a Pro Singles national race in Calistoga California. It was about 2 hours away from my house, so it was considered a home track for me, but I haven’t ridden it before.
We got to the track pretty early, unloaded and then started working on the bike, changing gearing and suspension after looking at the track and talking with my dad and my teammate Mike LaBelle. They changed the practice around a little, the twins went out first, so I was the fourth practice group.
My first practice I was getting used to the track and feeling the bike, seeing if we need to make adjustments. The first practice felt good. We only made a few changes to the bike. I liked the track because blue groves are my favorite type of track. We went out for the second practice, and I put in some fast laps but I just couldn’t get it in the top 5.
I knew I had one more qualifying practice left so my dad made some changes to the bike to see if it would help. When I went out for the last qualifying practice, I made a few mistakes and I couldn’t get a fast lap in. I qualified seventh. It wasn’t the best, but it was on the front row for my heat. There was a long intermission after practice, and it was open paddock, so all the spectators can came to meet us and we can sign autographs.
It felt like hours before I heard the horn for the first heat race. It was the first heat race; we all walked our bikes up to the line and got ready. We were sitting on the line and the light went green. We all take off. I am in fifth and stay in there for three laps but I was being passed in the straightaway.
I fell back a place coming out of turn 4 on the last lap. I ended up with sixth, and I was happy to go straight to the main. I started second row on the outside in the main. That’s a good place to start because a rider can get a great start and go around other riders on the outside. We changed the gearing so it would be faster on the straights and I felt that I was ready for the main.
We walked up to the line as the announcer was introducing the riders. We got ready, light went green; I came off the line in about 11th. I started moving my way up. I was really fast into turn one. I made a few passes, and about the sixth lap someone went down and there was a red flag. We restarted a staggered start. We get ready and we were off. I held it wide open around the outside. I found myself in 4th coming out of turn 2, and I got passed down the straight away.
I was in fifth and then the red light came out so there was another restart. We did another staggered restart. I came off the line in about sixth. I just couldn’t gain anything because I would lose time on the straights. I got passed coming out of 4 the next to last lap. I was pushing so hard, but I ended up seventh. I was happy for doing so well on the “C” bike and moving up to the top five in overall points. The A” and B” bikes were on the way to Hagerstown, Md., for the next round, please stop by the pits and say hi.
I would like to thank all the fans for coming to the pits to talk and introduce themselves.
Michael LaBelle, Calistoga Race Report
After having a full week off with no racing, I headed out to the west coast to Calistoga, Calif. I was excited to go because I have never been farther than Illinois in the United States.
I linked up with Dave Waters and the Project K/Waters Auto Body Racing Team to try and cut down on travel costs. Enjoying this long trip with me was Matt and Guy Weidman, Chad Cose, Jack and Jeremy Higgins. We left Albion, N.Y., on Tuesday, July 27, at about noon, and it seemed like the drive would never end.
We drove that hauler for everything it had and finally arrived in Santa Rosa, Calif., at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night. Early Friday morning we drove the hauler down to the track on the winding roads of Calistoga and spent the day just kicking back and relaxing while the AMA crew got the track ready for the event the next day.
After we had enough of doing nothing, we went back to the hotel later on in the day and tried to get some sleep for some good ol’ fashion flat track racin’.
We arrived at the track early Saturday morning and jumped in the already long line of riders and mechanics that were all waiting to get into the pits. The plan was to unload our stuff out of the haulers and then exit the pits, parking them outside the track.
After waiting in line for an hour, we squeaked in and found an awesome spot along the front straight where we quickly pulled everything we could out of the hauler. The only thing that was missing was my bike, which was supposed to have arrived with another rider.
I made a couple of phone calls to see where my bike ended up and I was pleased to find out that they had just pulled into the track. Now that I wasn’t worried about not having a bike to ride, I had time to check out the track and the facility. The racetrack was a nice clean-cut stock car track. It had a long front straight, wide and long corner, and a curved back straight, which gave the track a “D” shape. It was that nice dark clay with looked like it was going to help everyone hook up, all day!
At the riders meeting, we were told that the AMA crew was going to do things a little differently. Instead of the Pro singles hitting the track first, the expert Twins had first dibbs on the track. I was told later that the idea behind this was that the AMA crew wanted the grove to form higher up the banking of the corner, and if the Singles hit the track first it was more likely to form a groove on the bottom.
This was a nice change because I now had a chance to watch somebody else hit the track before me. I carefully watched the expert twins’ sessions and then got myself up to staging for my first session. Looking at the track, it looked like the entry into corner 1 was going to be a tight. Even the twins looked like they didn’t want to run it into the corner as hard.
We grabbed our four laps and exited off the corner. This part of my day was the one I didn’t like because usually I go back to the pits and I have Dick Weirbach (who was a home preparing bikes for Hagerstown) and my dad standing there ready to make adjustments, but this time I was on my own with some help from my team-mates dad. We made a couple of changes to the Weirbach Racing Honda and almost immediately rode up for qualifying. After both session I found myself right where I wanted to be, which was on the front row of my heat race with a fourth overall.
The heats came up pretty quickly after the fans left the pits. Both my teammate and I were on the front row of the first heat, and after the opening ceremonies the green light lit up. We hit the first corner wide open. I found myself in fourth for the entire heat race. I would get right up alongside the third-place rider going into the corner but coming out I couldn’t get a good enough run to get by him.
I wasn’t exactly frustrated with the fourth place finish but it did make things a little harder for the main event. So trying to make things easier for myself my teammates Dad and I made some more changes to the bike and I was ready for the main.
We wheeled our bikes out and were lined up for the main. I knew that if I got a decent start I would have something for the leaders. However things didn’t go as I had wanted them to because I didn’t get off the line as well as I hoped and I found myself having to fight my way up the field, again.
For about three laps I was battling with my teammate, Mikey Martin, but after I got by I started to pull away from him and closer to the pack of riders ahead of me. Just as I poked a front wheel into ninth place, the red flag and lights came on for a rider down.
Approximately 30 minutes later, we restarting the race in a staggered formation, but once again I struggled off the line and went backwards. I was pushing hard to get to the front, and on the next lap I held the gas on the longest I had all day, but this time I found two riders down and I missed them by inches.
The crash looked pretty bad, and, like I had expected, the AMA crew red flagged the race. All the riders knew it was bad when a helicopter landed outside the track, but we were told the rider was going to live. I was extremely frustrated with my inability to get myself off the starting line, and I had one more shot to redeem myself.
The green lit up but the rider directly ahead of me cut across my line and I had to shut off or there probably would have been another red flag. Going into one I held the throttle wide open and dove for the outside.
I was watching my teammate who was up more in the pack and my goal was to catch him and see if we could get up and far as possible. At the checkered flag I found myself at the rear wheel of my teammate, which landed me an eight-place finish.
Coming into the race I had high expectations for myself to win, and throughout the day I felt pretty good on the bike, but with the way I was getting off the line it just wasn’t my day! I’ll take the top-10 finish and move up to sixth overall in points. I’ll use that to keep me going into the next round in Hagerstown, Maryland!