Dawn hits as we roll down 288 – rays of sun being to pierce through the dense morning fog covering the flat Houston terrain. We arrive at MSRH, the track is silent — air thick and damp — a cool 55° morning. Looks to be perfect for a day at the track.
Just ahead of us arrived our new friend and student of the KK47 Racing School, Erica. Erica is a local Houstonian and CMRA racer on her Yamaha R3. I love meeting new people that ride and it’s always more fun at the track with more friends! 🙂
We unload our bikes under a row of giant black sun shades that would normally cover the likes of a Ferrari, Porsche or BMW. Our lineup of 250s, Erica’s R3, Anna’s CBR600RR and my ZX10R barely put a dent the space provided – making paddock setup a snap. I wish other tracks would offer such an awesome setup (looking at you Road Atlanta)!
During signup, we were informed the track configuration would be run in counterclockwise direction. Not that it meant much to Anna or I, but we understand it is opposite normal race direction in CMRA. My understanding is that the final turn on to the front straight turns right into a concrete wall with no run off and is not safe for bikes… Kinda like the old turn 12 at Road A (only slower)…however, I still see the wall being a problem on the final right-hander… but maybe I’m wrong?
With the the hot Texas sun burning off the morning mist, Kris lead the way onto hot pits aboard his Ruckus with Anna and I in tow on the RedBull Grom for our first sighting lap. Kris stops periodically to survey the track’s surface and points out some key tips about the surface and the lines on the track. He mentions how if you get out side the line, the track gets very rough – but thankfully in the counter clockwise direction, the bumps are mostly off line.
Scooting around turn three and down the straight into Diamond’s Edge, Anna and I looked at each other and jokingly said, “Damn this is one messed up track!” Not since Mid-Ohio before some of their resurfacing had I seen a track this rough. Regardless of our dislike of the bumps, we knew MSRH was a racer’s track — and from what we could tell — it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun!
9:00am we fire up the old Brawp Donkeys and gear up for our first laps. Kris instructs us to follow him for 3 laps, and went over a few hand signals to communicate on track:
- Hand out/leg out: Pit in
- Peace sign: Peace out and ride solo
- Tail Tap: Drop behind and follow
- Back wave: Go wider or Tighten your line
Session after session, turn by turn, we pickup the pace. Damn these 250s are A BLAST! I honestly didn’t think the 250 had any grunt (relatively speaking) to move like it did. Yet, with a proper suspension under me and a power commander, I was moving a long comfortably all the while with a stupid grin on my face.
Under Kris’ guidance and training, I was able to pickup the line around the track and learned more in 2 hours than I ever could on my ZX10. On a personal note, I would highly recommend small CC bike training for any rider or racer as it takes so many variables out of learning to become faster. Smooth is fast, and these little bikes require you to be smooth to keep the corner speed up.
For the 3rd session of the day I thought I’d give the 10R a run. Pulling out of the pits, I immediately felt the added 70lbs of weight and longer wheelbase sitting under me. Bouncing and sliding through the first few laps as I get the tires up to temp, I was glad to have traction control correcting my sloppy input.
Just a few days before we left for our trip, I added Rifleman’s 1/5 throttle insert, giving me full access to the 190+HP at just a crack of the wrist. Previously I found the throttle input to be somewhat tame and an extremely long pull to wide-open. This new feeling took some getting use to – especially exiting the corners.
Pulling into hot pits at the end of the session, I stop alongside Kris and Anna for a quick Q&A and debrief. We chat about track conditions and where we felt good and where we are struggling on the track. Overall I know I can pickup time in the back section – working on smoother lines and getting on the gas sooner – but also getting use to the change in bike. My strongest section was Carousel (turns 2-3) and I told Kris I thought it felt like I could get an elbow down given the long nature of the sweeper.
For some reason I’ve always preferred long sweepers. If you’ve ever been to the Cherohalla Skyway between Telco Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC – in the counter clockwise direction – Carousel feels very similar to many of those mountain turns.
A few laps into the next session, I swing into turn two and hold a steady throttle as the bike settles in over the bumps. Further into the turn, I lightly roll on the gas and tightening my line towards the slight decreasing exit. I relax my shoulder — push my chest down to the tank — close, but no contact. I ignore all other turns as I make my way around back to turn 3 – my only focus at the moment… I want to get this…
Again, my chest drops to the tank, shoulder loosens, I pull my elbow out slightly and through my earplugs I hear the faint sound of something other than my knee slider hitting the asphalt along with a little pressure at the tip of my elbow — touchdown!
Shocked and utterly joyed – I lost all focus as my heart and mind raced. I flap my arms like a chicken and laugh in my helmet as I miss my first my brake maker, I shift up instead of down (the 250 was standard shift where the Kawi is GP) and I blow the next corner. I didn’t care – but I knew I had to get of track before I did something stupid haha!
On a track I barely had 3 hours of seat time and most of which was spent on a 250 — I was able to achieve something I previously could only dream about. It’s hard to describe the feeling other than pure joy and yet I know it’s something that will pass with time… however it’s something I don’t want to forget. For me, this is a bucket list item checked off — and I hope for more to come this season.
Next stop: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, TX for Round 1 MotoAmerica and Round 3 MotoGP.