First Race of the Season!
The Back Story
Last year was Blake’s first year in WERA’s expert class, and he really focused on racing his Honda RS125. We never intended on him racing his dad’s motorcycle, a Yamaha R3. Blake, being a 76 pound 10 year old, wanted to race the too-big-for-him motorcycle. Mike, knowing that Blake was a safe rider and knew Blake realizes his limits, figured the more seat time the better. Even though Blake did great on the Honda RS125, even winning a National Championship, he did not do so great on the Yamaha R3. At least as far as where he finished, which was usually towards the back of the pack. Throughout the entire season he kept improving all the way up to the Grand National Finals where he put on quite a show battling with his competitors.
This year, Blake received a sponsorship from Track Day Winner for the 2018 season and will be focusing on the Yamaha R3. I’m thinking a lot of that decision came from Mike being so stressed from wrenching on the Honda RS 125 all the time (apparently 2 strokes are a little finicky and take a lot of finesse). Mike, with the help of Fast Bike Industries, Triangle Cycles, and Lucas Oil worked through the off season to get the new Yamaha R3 ready for racing.
Last weekend, WERA hosted their inaugural race of the 2018 season held at the Talladega Gran Prix Raceway in Alabama. Blake rode the motorcycle one weekend before this race, but by the second practice on Saturday he was down to his fastest lap time last year. We were excited, anticipating how the races would go.
Blake gridded up for the E-SuperStock race and had a great start! Which, if you followed him last year, you know, his starts weren’t always the greatest. There was a wreck off the start somewhere behind Blake, and the race was red-flagged. Blake came in and, sadly, the racer was fatally inured delaying the re-start for quite a while. Of course, we weren’t sure how Blake was going to handle the situation and how he would do for the re-start. But, he gridded back up in the middle of the front row and got another good start. Two racers were able to get around him and Hunter Dunham was right behind him, pushing Blake to go faster. Dunham showed his front tire to Blake a few times but never got around him. Blake got down to a 1:09 and took third place.
Mike’s strategy for helping Blake to become a good racer is to make Blake learn how he, as the pilot of the motorcycle, can get the most out of the motorcycle he is on. Racing up into faster classes will help achieve this. Blake will be racing up this season in the D-SuperStock class and the Clubman class.
Blake and Dunham were each other’s competition all weekend. In the D-SuperStock race Dunham was able to get by Blake, but Blake made it back around him and pulled a gap, finishing fourth.
Then, in the Clubman race, Dunham started in front of Blake. By the second lap, Blake took a chance and passed Dunham, it wasn’t smooth though, Blake ran wide and Dunham got by him. They came up on lapped traffic and Blake lost a lot of time behind Dunham. He kept trying to catch him driving his lap time down to 1:08:6 but not soon enough, he came in fourth place.
Thinking it was going to rain at the race track all weekend, I didn’t go with Mike and Blake for this motorcycle race. So, I called and talked to Blake Sunday morning to wish him luck, and I asked him what his goal was for the day’s motorcycle races. Besides “winning” he also said to get his lap time down to 1:07.
He went out on his motorcycle for two practices it was cold and damp,
he rode by himself a lot and was at a steady 1:09 lap time. So, he was going to have to push a lot harder in the races. His races were in the same order as Saturday’s.
He got another good start in the E-SuperStock race but let himself get pushed back on an outside line allowing a lot of racers to get by him. He passed a few and could see Dunham up ahead and wanted to catch him, so much so he laid down a 1:07:8! However, Blake got caught up in lapped traffic and with a few laps left the rain started. Fourth place is where he finished.
Mike brought the Yamaha R3 motorcycle that Blake rode last year to use as a back-up motorcycle in case Blake wrecks or blows an engine he will have another motorcycle to race. Instead of chancing a crash in the first race of the year on his Track Day Winner motorcycle, that has all the nicer parts on it, Mike wanted Blake to get on the back-up motorcycle for the last two races.
With only one race in between the E- and D-SuperStock race, Mike had to get busy getting rain tires put on the motorcycle and get it to tech inspection. So, in moto-family style, Tony Paul jumped in and made sure Blake was ready and got him up to meet Mike at the start. I don’t know if it was the rain or being on a different motorcycle or the combination of both, but that race didn’t go so well. Not looking too smooth, Blake finished fifth.
After the race Blake told Mike some things the motorcycle was doing, they made some adjustments, and Blake looked better in the Clubman race. It was still raining, everybody was soaked, there had been crashes everywhere all day, and a lot of red flags. There were puddles all over the track, and Blake found one that wasn’t too kind. He was trying to catch the racer in front of him by out-braking him into the farmhouse turn, Blake started slipping and sliding a little too much, had to back off and didn’t make it around the guy, finishing in fourth place.
Track Day Winner Track Day Weekend
March 24-25, 2018
This weekend Blake was back at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway for a track day being hosted by Track Day Winner. He had a blast. He was deemed “Coach” so he could help his friend Owen, whom he rides with at the Herrin Compound, which also allowed him to get extra track time.
Saturday’s Track Day
Blake told me about how Opie Caylor has been the “fast guy” for a long time and that Saturday he got to ride with him and how fun it was. This weekend was Fairbairn’s first track day on a sport bike. Blake worked with him trying to help him learn the track and give him some pointers. Here is the moto-family at work again; one racer riding with another passing on his knowledge and then the “apprentice” passing his knowledge on to the next one. Blake has had many people help foster his love of motorcycle racing. Boy, the motorcycle community is awesome!
Sunday’s Track Day
Sunday brought rain, lots of it, just like the Sunday before at the races. However, this time Blake had a rain suit to go over his leathers. A R.S. Taichi rain suit to go over his R.S. Taichi leathers! Owen Fairbairn and his family gave it to Blake; how nice are they? The rain suit fit like a glove; there was no drag while on the motorcycle and Blake rode with dry leathers that weren’t weighted down by the rain.
Mike was watching Blake on the track and noticed he was going really deep into turn two. That could be a problem by possibly allowing a competitor to pass. But, when Blake came out of the turn he got on the gas a lot faster. When he came into the pits, Blake told Mike he was trying some new lines trying to get faster in the rain. Well, it worked. Blake got his lap times down to the fastest they had been in the rain that day; a 1:13:4. So, Blake will have to strategize for his rain races when that sort of line and braking will be beneficial and when it would be more detrimental.
Track Day Winner put on a great event; it was a good weekend. Track days are great for all types of motorcycle racers. They help new motorcycle riders to get more comfortable on their motorcycle in a controlled, safe environment. Track days help new motorcycle racers to gain more confidence in testing not only their motorcycles limits but their limits as a rider as well. For Blake, track days are a place for all of that and working to realize his dreams of a professional motorcycle racing career. He certainly has fun but he also is focused and determined and works very hard at his track days to become a better racer.
Blake’s next race will be March 18 at Roebling Road outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The following weekend he will be at the Herrin Compound racing SuperMoto. I am excited to watch him get better and better like he did last year. The sky is the limit! Or, rather, MotoGP is the limit!