A pretty good weekend was had by all I was racing my SV650 in the 650 Twins class. Was a bit nervous as I keep falling off my bike, and its been a while since I've had any decent track time. Saturday practise was wet, much to my dismay. My wife woke me up with "you must be racing, its raining" - which seems to be a recurring theme. For a drought-struck country, it sure seems to rain a lot when I'm going to the track... Anyway, there is always a chance of some dry intervals, so it was off to Eastern Creek just after sparrow-fart, and into the pits to get set up. My pit mate Paul had ridden down from the Blue Mountains in the pouring rain and looked a little bedraggled - but coffee and bacon sandwiches saw us through the setup, a few tweaks to the bike, and I was out on the sort-of-dry track for the first D grade session. Objective for the day was to get in some track time, make sure the bike was back together properly after the last crash, and to get some of my own confidence back. So it was slowly does it for the first session, still on quite worn tyres, and it went fine. Didn't go above 80%, and spent a lot of time working on my body position. I felt like it was starting to improve - an dcrtainly a very conscious effort to slow down and think about one aspect of my riding paid off, in that I was much more aware of what I was doing, and could work on improving it. I could feel a whole bunch of problems with my position - sitting far too upright normally, not moving my butt off the seat far enough, leaning out rather than forward and down, and a real reluctance to get off the bike on the right hand side at all, compared to the left. Came in from that session when it started raining - just a gentle mist of rain, but I know from bitter experience that makes the track incredibly slippery in places, so I pulled in to think about what I'd learned. The rain set in for a while, so spent a few hours helping fix another racer's bike after a crash in the rain - got to say I prefer helping other people to fix their bikes, to fixing my own! It cleared up in the afternoon, so got out on the track again - but almost immediately ran into problems. I was picking up the pace a bit, and started noticing the clutch slipping under hard acceleration. It slowly got worse as the session went on, and by the last session I had to pull in - I had a real problem. We were contemplating the rather bleak prospect of stripping down the clutch, something well out of my comfort zone, when another racer pointed out that I had no slack in my clutch lever at all, and in fact probably had a tiny amount of tension on it, causing the clutch to slip as the engine warmed up. I had fitted a cheap aftermarket lever after my last crash, and the shape didn't allow enough travel on the lever, so I'd adjusted it too tight. Silly mistake - I hadn't realised how critical it was to leave a couple of mm of slack in the lever - but at least it was easily fixed, and I hadn't run the bike for a long way with it like that, so no harm done. I called it quits for the day cursing the fact that I had a fool for a mechanic (me) but at least happy that I could still race. Race day - the clouds burned off quickly, and the temperature soared along with the humidity - at least the track would be warm and dry, but we were going to suffer in our leathers for sure. I put a new clutch lever on (a nice carbon look one from Rated R parts) and it worked much better - I had some slack in it, but it still disengaged properly when pulled in. Very little travel though - I'd have to be careful on the start not to stall. Qualifying went fine - I went out with the 600s for their qualifying to scrub in my new slicks, and came in after a few laps, because I'd achieved that mission, and I was just holding them up. Good grief the top supersport riders are fast! Qualifying for our own class came up - I still took it pretty easy, but started feeling a lot better about how I was going on the bike. No sign of clutch slip, so that definitely was the problem. I feel dumb, but relieved. Race 1 was just the biggest blast - the most fun I've had on the bike since I started this lark. The bike felt great, the new tyres stuck well and felt great, and I had my head together - riding sensibly but with a bit of commitment. The lack of travel caused me to roll the bike forward a bit on the grid - but I figured it was before the red light had even come on so they wouldn't ping me for it, and I was still well behind my yellow line. I got a good start, didn't blow it on T1 by tapping off too much, and got well into the mix for the whole race. Someone crashed on T8 on the first lap, so we had a yellow flag there for the race, adn that added a whole strategic dimension to the race which I really enjoyed. My big mission was to beat Linden on his Ducati - I'd dragged him on the start, but he overtook me on the first lap. I ran him down on the main straight, and held him off for a lap, but I could feel him pushing up alongside me on most of the corners. He took me back on T2 a little while later, but I knew my bike had the legs on him - all I had to do was stay with him, try to get on his back wheel on T12, and then draft him down the straight. Last lap board is out, and I'm about 50m behind him through T1. http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a...George R4 2007/sm_20071126_EC_STGR4T2_007.jpg Swapping places with Linden http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a...George R4 2007/sm_20071126_EC_STGR4T3_002.jpg [Mod: 3 pics rule. Refer to T&C's] My plan came unstuck though - he overtook one of the girls on a 600, and I just couldn't get past her - she was holding me up on the corners, and then running away from me on the straights.If I didn't catch her before the yellow flag zone, I'd be stuffed, so I made a huge effort on turn 5, turning in much harder and then picking it up earlier and getting on the gas - in the process realising how much time I'd been wasting there every lap. I overtook her just before the flag, and could see Linden (#6 in the pics) about 75m ahead, but being held up under the yellow flag from overtaking someone on a 125GP bike. Thank you Lord - I absolutely pinned it up Corporate Hill, plucked up the courage not to tap off for the very fast downhill T8, and braked as late as I dared for the truly scary T9 downhill right-hander, and was rewarded by coming out on the back straight maybe 25m behind him. Chin down on the tank, driving hard up through the gears and holding it open through the kink of T10, and then commit again on T11, a corner you can do a LOT faster than you think you can. Stay off the bike and get off even more for the long uphill left hander of T12. Look at the exit, not Linden! Throttle cracked open and all I want to do is pin it, but I can feel the back starting to feel loose. Push the bike away from me to stand it up, and gradually wind it on, and the gap as we hit the main straight is 15m, with 400m to the flag. The Suzi pulls hard, and we suck him in - I get right up on his tail, then nick out to the left and try to get under the paint on my tank. Funny, the bike sounds completely different down here, I'm out of the windstream and can hear the Staintune bellowing behind me. we are absolutely neck and neck but I've got the momentum and I stick my wheel ahead of his as we cross the line - yeeehah, I feel like Casey Stoner! Damn, that was awesome - probably the most fun I've had on a motorbike. Bad news back at the pits - they had given me a 10-sec penalty for my start-line indiscretion - bugger! So instead of beating Linden by 3/100ths of a second, he'd officially beaten me by 9s 97/100ths. Ah well, I couldn't give a stuff - my results for the year were so poor anyway that placings didn't matter - the racing on the track was all that counted, and that was a fabulous race. That was pretty much the highlight of the day for me - things went downhill from there. I melted in the heat, lost a bit of focus, and suddenly I couldn't do anything right. I was pushing too hard, making mistakes, scaring myself again. I tried to pull it together and get back into the groove, but then I was just going too slowly. I did a couple more races, with my times going backwards and enjoying it less and less, and getting hotter and hotter - and decided not to do the last race. No point in blowing a good weekend by pushing too hard, especially when I had nothing really to gain by going out. So I went up on the roof instead to cheer Michael (also racing an SV650) on. He did well all day, cleaning up the class and taking on some much bigger and fasted bikes in the process. Most impressively his times dropped and dropped and he got them down to some very impressive times indeed for a SV650. Nice work mate! So a much better day than I've had for a while. Disappointing it went backwards, I'd really expected and hoped to be able to improve over the day, and not sure why I couldn't hold it together. I'm desperately unfit, and it might just have been that combined with the sauna-like conditions - and the mental side goes quickly once you are strugling physically. Whatever - I had a ball, and it was a much better way to end off the year than the last outing would have been, so I'm very glad I went racing again this weekend. Its looking very likely that I'll be transferring overseas in Feb/March next year - should find out in the next couple of weeks, but its looking like 90% at the moment. So I might well have a very low mileage, nicely set up and ever so slightly scuffed SV650 racer for sale soon - drop me an email or PM if you are interested, could do a nice racing or track day package for someone interested in giving this a try next year. Thanks to all my sponsors - you've been a fantastic help to my racing this year. Rated R Custom Parts for all the bits I kept breaking, Staintune for their great exhausts and Setup Boots, Dragon Tyrewarmers and Battery World for the obvious, Road Rocket for Valtermoto, and AMS Oil for lubes.