This was my first time actually competing on the full course at HPR. The last time I rode it at all was almost a year and a half ago at my race school.
Friday practice was very useful for [re]learning the track, and I made steady progress with my laptimes all the way through to Sunday. My previous lap record was 2:13.055; I had gotten that down to ~2:05 by Friday evening, 2:02.862 by Novice GTU on Saturday morning, and I broke 2 minutes with a 1:59.922 in Amateur GTU on Sunday morning. I broke my record again with a 1:58.601 in Amateur GTO later that day.
Overall, I'm very happy with my riding this weekend. Although I did not finish any races on the podium, I feel I made fantastic progress with my riding and racecraft in general: I was braking much later, trail braking much deeper, accelerating sooner in the corners, and worked out gear selection for corners 6-11 which greatly improved my drive and laptimes.
I can't wait to race here again!
Saturday, Novice GTU
I had a decent start for my first race of the weekend, moving from the outside of row 3 to 3rd/4th place in turn 1. #808 Dan Spurlock passed me on the outside in turn 2, pushing me down to 5th place to the end of the back straight. From there, I maintained 6th place for another lap, but dropped to 7th until the race was red-flagged in lap 4.
For the re-start, we were gridded in running order (with me on the inside of row 3 this time). I had a good start, pushing up to 3rd by turn 1, but dropped to 6th after making the mistake of shifting into 3rd WAY too early, losing my drive out of turn 1. For the rest of the race, I struggled with picking good lines on the relatively unfamiliar track, dropping to and finishing in 8th place, 11 seconds behind #587 Tyler Hollman and #807 Philip Takahashi.
I'm not happy with how many positions I dropped in my most competitive class, but considering I had only ~20 laps of practice on this track configuration before the race, it's understandable. On the upside, I did get my laptimes down to 2:02 by the second-to-last lap.
Saturday, Novice GTO
I am much happier with my performance in NovO; it was one of the more exciting of my races over the weekend. As I accumulated seat time, I began to learn the track and started figuring out where I could cut time.
Starting from row 2 of the second wave (about 15 seconds after wave 1 left), I easily got the holeshot into turn 1. In turn 2, #807 Philip Takahashi passed me on the inside, but I got a better drive out of turn 3 and passed him on the back straight. I was then passed by #203 Chris Brown on the inside of turn 4 (he later pushed sub-2:00 laps, finishing in 2nd). Over the next half-lap, the three of us managed to catch up to the first wave, but I got caught up in the traffic while working through the pack and lost sight of the two of them. I eventually pushed halfway though the first wave up to 13th place. After a rider crashed in front of me in turn 13, I maintained 12th place until #178 Nate Pike passed me in turn 13 on the last lap. I finished 13th, just 0.3 seconds behind Nate.
Sun, Amateur GTU
My first race on Sunday, mixed expert/novice class. Started from mid-grid, inside of row 4. Had a decent start, took turn 1 in 6th place. I found myself in 8th place by the time the pack sorted itself out in turn 3. I kept right on the tail of #601 Matt Kirizakis until the end of the first lap, dropping to 9th just before the chicane. On the back straight, I got a good draft on Matt and passed him before turn 4. I kept a lead on him until passing #807 Philip Takahashi's crashed bike in the middle of the track between turns 6 and 7. The race was red-flagged shortly after.
We restarted in our original grid positions for a 4-lap race. This time I had a much better start. I pushed through the first three rows to get right up on #48 Jared Dear's tail, settling into 7th place at turn 3. I got a really good drive out of 3 and onto the straight, and I caught up right behind #88 Rob McNiel. I dropped to 8th place by turn 7, maintaining that position for another 2 laps putting down my best time yet, 1:59.922. My pace slowed slightly (to 2:00) for the next two laps, dropping to and finishing in 11th.
Sunday, Amateur GTO
I was gridded on the inside of the 3rd row, right behind #15 John McKown and #48 Jared Dear. I had a fantastic start, pushing up into 2nd place, just ahead of Jared and behind John, for turn 1. However, Jared snuck around me on the outside and took second place before turn 2. While McKown and Dear took off and easily secured 1st and 2nd place, respectively, I managed to hold 3rd place for almost 2 laps against much more experienced racers (some of whom are on bigger bikes).
By the end of the next lap I had dropped to 6th place after being passed by #242 Randy Throckmorton, #110 Nick Kaplan, and #152 Mark Hellvig. After another lap, #746 Jon Renk took a good inside pass on turn 11 catching up to the pack ahead of us by the end of the race. I finished 7th, 10 seconds behind Jon but with a solid 13 second lead on the next racer.
Over the whole race I maintained a VERY consistent lap time (within 0.5s on either side of 2:00), and posted a new personal best on my last lap (1:58.601). I had greatly improved my technique, lines, and braking since showing up on Friday.