Motorcycle Race Report
Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama is a beautiful track, especially for motorcycle racing. It’s a little over two miles long with elevation changes, slow tight turns, and fast sweeping turns as well. WERA was hosting a regional event there that Blake competed in this weekend.
Honda Grom-Saturday Race
Saturday Blake only had two motorcycle races. One of which was the Honda Grom race and as we have seen on previous weekends this is always a fun race. Blake was second off the line and right off first place had pulled a gap. On the front straight third position drafted past Blake. With a tap of his fender, Blake understood that racers signal and ducked behind him for a draft. Instead of battling against each other this on-track “agreement” meant they were going to use each other to close the gap between them and the first place racer by alternately drafting one another. And, it was working, that is, until Blake’s “partner” all of a sudden fell back into fourth place. (Blake later found out he had technical issues.) Now, on the final lap Blake got behind 1st hoping to pull past them using their draft and 3rd got behind Blake trying to double draft both first place and Blake. However, the maneuver didn’t work for either one of them; Blake stayed in his position and finished second with third right behind him.
Yamaha R3-Lightweight Solo Race
His other motorcycle race of the day was the Lightweight Expert Solo. Blake was going to be racing the Yamaha R3 in this race. The R3 is a big and heavy motorcycle for Blake. In fact, when Mike let him race it for the first time it was just a spur of the moment decision. Blake asked if he could race it, and Mike said, “Sure.” Really Mike thought that Blake would not be able to maneuver it well enough to enjoy it. Well, he was wrong. Although it is difficult, Blake does a pretty good job pushing and pulling on the motorcycle to make it go where he wants. Now, Blake is competing on the motorcycle every WERA race weekend he can.
In practice Saturday, Blake was running the Yamaha R3 motorcycle in the 1:50’s. Now, remember this is a heavy motorcycle for a 75 pound kid to manhandle and this Solo race was a 16 lap race. Mike and Blake insured me that Blake could handle the motorcycle safely for that long and Blake insisted it was going to be a piece of cake. The race started and the SV650’s took off. Blake’s battle turned out being against another Yamaha R3 rider and they were fighting for the 8th position overall. Chasing someone tends to make racers push themselves even harder. Blake did, and won the 8th place overall spot, but had to get his lap time down to 1:47 to do it. He had a lot of fun in that race and was proud he was able to lower his lap time. He finished 7th in his class.
Saturday evening some huge thunderstorms ran through the paddock and destroyed many of the racers canopies, some motorcycles were blown over, and lots of gear and people were soaked. We got soaked and have to repair one of our canopies but all in all withstood the storm pretty well. Sunday morning brought sunny skies and another new racing day!
A funny thing happened to Blake during Sunday’s practice session on his Honda Grom motorcycle. He was coming out of the museum turn and saw a bird pecking at something on the track. He saw that it flew away but then all of a sudden it came back across the track and came up under his clutch lever and hit Blake in the hand. When I asked Blake if it made his stomach jump. He said, “No, but the handlebars jumped around and I thought, ‘How did that just happen?’” I have no idea how he stayed so calm and collected.
Honda Grom Race
The first motorcycle race of the day Sunday was the Honda Grom’s. Off the line Blake was third Kayla Yaakov pulled a pretty big gap. Blake was able to use the second place rider, Hunter Barnett, to draft past him and almost caught Yaakov’s draft. Blake and Yaakov were passing each other back and forth. She would pass Blake on the straights and he would pass her in the turns. On the final lap Blake passed her in turn 10 and the Barnett did so in turn 12. Then on the front straight, Yaakov got the double draft, all three racers were side by side, the spectators were cheering and they crossed the finish line. Blake was celebrating his win, when he looked over at the other two to see both of them celebrating also. Then, they all realized they had no idea who had just won. Mike met Blake in the pits and told him he had won beating Barnett by 0.005 and Yakoov came in third. Shew, what a fantastic race!
Yamaha R3 Races
E SuperStock Expert was next. Blake was on his Yamaha R3 motorcycle. He came in from the race very unhappy with how he performed; his lap times were slower than Saturday and he fiinished 4th. Mike agreed with Blake, he was slightly off his pace from Saturday but it was still performed better than he ever had before. Plus, he hadn’t had practiced on the R3. He only practiced on the RS and the lines you would ride on the RS are different thant that of the R3. So, the two were discussing what needed to be done differently for the D SuperStock race.
After the D SuperStock race was over, I asked Blake if he felt better about how that race went. He shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t exciting. We reminded him he was racing up against bigger motorcycles, he had a good start, his lap times improved (even though he didn’t have anyone to battle with) AND he finished in third place.
Honda RS125 Races
Going into the Formula 3 race Blake knew he was the only one in his class and was gridding in 21st position. Because there were other classes racing at the same time Blake told me his goal was to pass everyone and win the overall. I laughed, then realized he was serious.
The green flag signaled the start of the race, Blake got a great start (for the Honda RS, that is) managing to hang with one other motorcycle. Coming out of turn 3 he had passed four other racers and continued to move up. Blake was having a hard time getting around Chris Evans until going into the museum turn Blake beat him on the brakes and was able to get by him. Blake was pushing hard trying to catch the leader, Josh Jovi, who had gotten on poll. He was running in the 1:40’s and was just catching Jovi as they crossed the finish line. Blake finished 2nd overall almost meeting his goal but of course, got first in his class.
I was in our pit waiting for Blake to get back to congratulate him. I saw him coming towards me on his motorcycle and then drove right past me! When he finally got back and I was able give him a fist bump him, I asked where he went when he got off the track. He said he had to go talk to Jovi about how awesome the race was. I know I’ve said it before but, I love the camaraderie amongst these racers!
His last race of the day was Formula 2. Going out on the Honda RS125 he knew he wasn’t going be out front because there were some fast SV 650’s out there but he wanted to try to hang with the fast guys. He started on the front row but all of the SV’s passed him. But, he came back and passed all the novice’s except one. He did eventually catch them and that’s who he raced the rest of the time. On the straights that racer would pass him and in the turns he would pass back. That racer got Blake on the front straight and Blake finished in 5th place.
We will celebrate the fourth of July with family and remember all that makes the United States of America a great country. Then, we will be having a birthday party for Blake next weekend. It’s a little early but its a weekend with no race and Blake asked to have a party with his school friends this year. Blake will race again with WERA in Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh International Raceway the weekend of July 15th. He is excited to race on their freshly paved track. Until then, as Blake would say, “Have fun. Go fast. Be safe.”