June 1-3, 2018
WERA’s annual “Cycle Jam” at Road Atlanta did not start off too well but boy did it finish well. Blake and Mike got to the track Thursday night. That meant Blake would have all day Friday to practice on his motorcycle. Well, that wasn’t exactly how it went down.
Friday’s Motorcycle Practice
As Blake was getting ready to go out for his first practice session, Mike was going over Blake’s 2016 Yamaha R3 (“A” bike) motorcycle and saw that the exhaust was split. So, he quickly went to Blake’s “B bike” (2015 Yamaha R3) and was going to pull the exhaust off of it to use on his “A bike” when he saw that, it too, was split. Ugh, these are M4 Exhausts; the best of the best. What happened?
The good thing was Mike had noticed a race shop just outside the track. So, he and Blake went over there hoping they would be able to weld it and they did. Even though their shop was for cars and Mike and Blake wanted help with their motorcycle exhaust, they were quick and kind. Blake was able to get back in time for his last two practice sessions.
Stickboy Racing is the Bridgestone tire dealer at the WERA events. “Stick”, the owner, helps Mike and Blake figure out which tires would be best at what pressure under various circumstances. Based on where Blake finishes in races he receives contingency money that Stick accepts, reducing tire costs. Stick suggested Blake try a new tire for the weekend’s races, Blake agreed. And based on the two practice sessions he had he thought the new Bridgestone’s were fine.
Saturday’s Motorcycle Races
As always, Blake looks forward to motorcycle race weekends and this one was no different. The decision to keep Blake on mostly stock motors is for multiple reasons two of which are reliability and skill. Mike is Blake’s motorcycle mechanic and main financier so keeping things more affordable and reliable is a huge benefit. Secondly, Blake is having to push himself and the motorcycle to their limit; using skill and strategy. Having to depend on skill and strategy more than the power of the motor, will hopefully make Blake a better and faster racer in the long term. With all that said, Blake starts each motorcycle race weekend strategizing how to get in front of his competitors, many of whom, have more horsepower than him.
E-SuperStock Motorcycle Race
This was the case in Blake’s first motorcycle race, E-SuperStock Expert. Blake was out front off the start and for the first few laps. Then, Damian Jigalov drafted by Blake on the back straight putting Blake in the second place position. Later going into turn 10 Blake drafted by him. After that they were constantly drafting each other back and forth on the back straight.
Turn one is a fast turn and squeezing under someone there can be risky. Jigalov and Blake were coming up onto a lapped rider as they were about to enter turn one. Jigalov decided to take the risk and pass under that rider which would have left a significant gap between he and Blake. However, Blake didn’t back off. As Jigalov went under the rider, Blake squeezed in under Jigalov. They were three wide going into turn one! The crowd was going crazy. This also gave Blake enough drive to get around another lapped rider that Jigalov couldn’t, increasing the gap. With the gap being too large Jigalov was unable to use the draft on the back stretch to pass, and Blake took the checkered flag.
Blake usually doesn’t show emotion on the track. But, when he crossed the line after that race he did some fist pumping. He went into the pits excited asking Mike if he saw the turn one pass where they were three wide. Of course, Mike did and Blake was proud. He told Mike, he really liked those new Bridgestone tires! With how that pass turned out, I guess so!
D-SuperStock Motorcycle Race
The D-SuperStock race was his next motorcycle race. Fortunately, Blake got another good start taking the lead from the beginning. His lap times weren’t as fast as the first race but he was still able to manage a gap in front of MotoAmerica’s Junior Cup Rider, Tyler Freeman and Jigalov. Blake finished first with them in second and third.
Clubman Motorcycle Race
His last motorcycle race of the day was the Clubman class and it was a repeat of the D-SuperStock race. The gap he pulled right off the start was enough to race alone and take the checkered flag for the third time Saturday.
Sunday’s 300 SuperStock Motorcycle Race
Sunday Blake was able to watch a lot of racing. He only had one practice session before lunch and didn’t race until well after lunch.
It was finally time for Blake to race. Jigalov got him off the start and pulled ahead. Blake was hoping to draft him on the back straight but was too far behind. However, Blake really seemed to have mastered turn 12, the final turn before the front straight. With the momentum he had coming out of 12 along with drafting down the straight Blake went into turn one really deep getting him out in front. From that point, Jigalov would draft and pass Blake on the back stretch and Blake would do the same to Jigalov on the front.
Knowing that finish line is so close to the last turn Blake knew whoever came out of the last turn first, on the final lap, would be the winner. He decided after seeing the white flag, not to draft by Jigalov on the front straight instead he would wait to overtake him on the back so he could come out of the last turn first. But, Jigalov wanted that same advantage. When Jigalov saw Blake wasn’t passing him he rolled off the throttle. Still, Blake wouldn’t pass. Before turn 6 Jigalov braked really early another attempt at getting Blake to pass. Instead, Blake recognized that as his opportunity. He gave it all he had, passing Jigalov and running the next section so aggressively he pulled enough of a gap that he couldn’t be drafted on the back stretch. He made it to the line first and took the win! Wow, what a race! It was funny that last lap of the race Blake and Jigalov ran two seconds slower than the rest of the race.
Wrapping Up the Weekend
Man, a weekend that didn’t start off well finished incredibly well. Four races and four wins; can’t beat that. Road Atlanta is a fast track with some long straights. Those straights used up all Blake’s Yamaha R3 motorcycle had. Drafting in those long sections and riding hard through the technical sections is where Blake had to add skill to be successful. Blake gained some great experience.
By the way, M4 Exhausts are still the best of the best. Mike called them to let them know what happened, they apologized for the flaw, and made things right. Is that great customer service or what?
This coming weekend Blake will be doing some training. Then, on June 16th and 17th Blake will be racing at Pittsburgh International Raceway. WERA and N2 Track Days will be cohosting the first endurance race of the season. Blake and his friend Owen Fairbairn will be competing in the Ultralightweight 2-hour race. WERA will also hold their fourth round of the National Challenge Series where we hope Blake will continue to kill it! Follow all of Blake’s adventures on his social media pages and hopefully we will see you at the race track.