Mako and I showed up the day before so I could do a couple sessions to get to know the track. I joined the slow class of people (slower than around 43 seconds) and put out a pace of around 46 seconds.... stupid slow. I at least got to see the lay of the land and had lots of fun. Riding with the mini bikes is hard due to their high cornering speed and my advantage on power, but it was still a good experience.
The next morning we woke up nice and early, registered, and learned about the rules at the riders meeting. It was your standard "yellow flag" "red flag" talk, but it was a little hard to keep up with the Japanese.
My friends Key and Keme decided they would be my pitcrew, manager, mechanic, adviser, race queen, etc and I'm not sure how I would have managed without them! Keme is still a racer and Key used to race in the late 1990's early 2000's and I think I have become their new prodigy. They have been the best support I could dream of, on and off the track.
Mako also came to cheer me on, support me, and worry for my safety on my behalf :-D She says she'll make it to all my races, and doesn't want to eat convenience store food so has taken it upon herself to be the team chef from now on~!
In the morning we have an 8 minute practice session. My times improved by about 1 second from the day before to around mid 44 seconds. Still slow, but improvement is improvement.
Keme brought his sign board to show me my times. It's in the left side of this picture and if you look closely, it says "UP UP", meaning "take your hand and jam it on the throttle as soon as you can because you're going slow!". This is mostly because I still wasn't using full throttle, because it's just not something I was used to yet. By the end of the day however I got more comfortable with that.
I bought my bike from a shop called Sakurai Honda and they were one of the sponsors for this race. Seki here has given me great support when I visit their store, but right now he's my rival in the race~
Back from the practice with a somber face... thinking about how slow I was.... the fastest guy out there is behind me and was in the pit next to mine.
Keme is giving me some last minute pointers before the qualifiers and telling me to practice my race start when going on. There is still so much I need to improve, so he walked me through a couple of the more important things to look for. Properly get on full throttle, practice the race start, try to get behind the fast guy for at least a lap and see what he's doing, etc, etc.
Mako was testing the camera settings to try and perfect them for the race, so the brightness is still a little off here. Still one of the best pictures I have of myself so far. This is turn 1, and as the qualifiers continued this was one turn I really got better at. I finally got to the point where I properly hit the apex over the white curb, which really aided in bettering my time.
The CBR may be just a plain old commuter bike, but you have to admit, it looks pretty damn dope in this picture :-D.
The race is about to start here, and I'm not feeling nervous yet. Trying to get amped up by watching the mini bikes race, seeing how they overtake each other and trying to imagine what I would do in those situations.
On the grid 3/4.....
....and here we go!... well actually the first place guy did a flying start and we had to start the race over.... but still... here we go!
Turn 1, looking good....
Home straight, with Mt Fuji looming over....
This first race was all I dreamed of and more. It may have only been 5 racers, and on a small beat up go-kart track but I couldn't image a better way to be introduced into racing. It felt safe, but was still very challenging. I had people around me who were at a similar level, who I could compete with, and I put out my best time to date during the race.
Really looking forward to the rest of the season.