Season Opener NJMP Thunder Bolt
Light rain / 45-60’s deg
March 28/29 2009
I had been waiting two months for this track day and I finally signed up for it at the beginning of March. I was excited to get the bike back to the track after the winter break and try the 05 GSXR-600 front I had put on it. Unfortunately I wouldn’t get the chance to really test it fully.
Prep started normally with the gathering of all my boxes of parts, tools and fluids which I keep on a couple shelves in the garage. I also gave the bike the full pre-track maintenance which included fluid changes, cable and chain lube and adjustments and a recheck of critical bolts, sag and safety wire. These last steps are a mandatory event and I will not ride until I have gone thru my check list. The one time I didn’t check my bike fully ended with me losing my rear axle bolt half way through a race in AZ. LOL, I thought I was sliding when in fact it was the rear wheel turning left and right under me in the turns. I’m so LUCKILY I decided to pit early to check it out. Anyway…..
Note: If you’re pulling a trailer, plan on paying double the single auto charge.
Around 7:30, close to 3 hours after we left the traffic started getting bad and we started worrying about being able to making it to the park before the gate closed at 10. At 8 o’clock we were 70 miles away. At 9 o’clock we were 60 miles away. Nope, it’s not a typo. The traffic was backed up for miles due to construction on the 295/95 merge on to the NJ Turnpike. After a couple detours and some sweet talking by my wife to get truckers to let us in front of them in bumper to bumper traffic, we finally arrived at the Sports Park and a closed gate around 11PM. OUCH, what a horrible drive. At least we where not the only ones who missed the 10 o’clock deadline and were waiting for the gate to open. It was late and we where tired so we just jumped in the Hauler and where lulled to sleep by the steady beating of rain drops on the roof.
Note: If you’re planning on running anything large better bring an adapter and the right cords for a 50 amp receptacle (RV) because you will blow the 20 CB.
We started unloading and setting up which took about a half an hour in the drizzle and from the looks of the sky it was not going to let up any time soon and it did not disappoint.
Track Overview. NJMP Thunderbolt is a very nice track with a nice mix of sweepers, straights and technical turns that will keep any rider challenged and smiling. The front half of the track is a series of sweeping turns off of short straights with several elevation changes. The second half of the track tightens up into a couple of fun and technical turns that spit you out via a chicane onto the long front straight.
My first session was slow; I had the killer combination of it being my first time at this track, a new GSXR front, my first time in the rain and the first track day of the year and I did not want to ruin the weekend by crashing on the first couple laps. I spent the whole session at 50-60% following the coaches around as they demonstrated the race lines to those who where willing to ask. Buy the third session I was starting to experiment with traction and lean angle to see what I could do in the rain without crashing. Now this is a very slow process as I took my time going progressively faster and faster until I started to feel the bike move in away I didn’t like. I would back it down a little in that spot and continue with the other areas of the track. Buy the afternoon I was having a great time in the rain with one of my favorite spots being turn two which is a blind rising right hander. Most of the day I found myself coming out of it way shallow, meaning I could carry a lot more speed through it even in the rain. I also enjoyed the technical section and had a lot of fun practicing passing on the outside there. Tons of room. I finished the day without incident and could not wait to get my track on the next morning.
Note to self. Get another set of rims and mount the rains. It will save a lot of time and money in the long run.
The track started drying and the crashes started pilling up mostly in turns one and two. As long as the rider was not hurt and moved to the rail off the track they kept the session going with just a yellow before the turn. LOL, you’d come around a corner and there would be a guy covered head to toe up on the fence waiting for the session to end so some one could come get him. In most cases it was a quick hit with the water hose and a reteched and they where out again in the next session. I actually saw a guy on a GSXR go down in front of me in turn one. He hit the mud and flipped and flipped and flipped. It was slow motion. I was like” Holy Crap, that did not just happen.” Felt like I was looking at the crash page in Road Racing Mag.
The day finished up for me around 430. We packed up the hauler and had a nice relaxing short 3 hour drive home. I didn’t get a chance to really push the front and start playing around with the setup because of the water and unfamiliarity with the track. Still it turned in great, held its line and rode well I spent to much time feeling out the track and not paying much attention to the new feel of the bike. All and all we still had a great time with TPM, as always and plan to make 5 or six of their dates in and around my CCS races this year. For anyone riding on the East coast and want to get involved with an experienced organization which provides rider training, coaches and lots of track options I would highly recommend them.
Thanks to those of you who made it to the end of the tome and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed remembering it as I put finger to keyboard.