When it’s raceday we all meet up in the restaurant at the hotel to get a gameplay for the day since it’s still raining and we know that the weather will now be a factor that we weren’t expecting. Once to the track the weather had finally started to break but that didn’t mean that track conditions would improve anytime soon. We made some last minute changes and adjustments to the Yamaha and watched the first couple of teams take off for practice. Our thinking was that the first few teams would blow off the slop and help make conditions better to improve our qualifying times. After we each got our practice laps and fastest times in, we pulled into the pits for a quick clean up and final race prep since we had just over two hours before the starting horn sounded.
Running a fairly stock powered Yamaha YFZ 450R left us down on power from some of the other pros. Many were running built motors or teams that were running big bore KTMs, since this is an open class, meant we wouldn’t be as fast as them but would hopefully keep our reliability up. Our qualifying times put us roughly mid-pack for the Le Mans style start but we were banking on a high attrition rate and good rider endurance to help us work our way up. Off the start, the YFZR fired up almost instantly for Robin and he got a good jump but had to hold back on the first few laps due to the excessive mud that was being sprayed all over the track. The leaders looked sketchy coming off some of the only jumps on the course as they were sliding off the faces. As lines were made, the speeds increased and riders found their grooves and we quickly learned that we didn’t prep the bike for mud quite as well as we had thought.
Even with the precautions we took to prevent mud from clogging our radiator, it didn’t take long before our temp light came leading the first rider to pull into the pits. We blew out the radiator with the pressure washer and quickly regrouped. Since the course was substantially cut down this year, it meant that we’d be in the roost of the faster teams passing us and the slower teams we would be passing more often. We opted to play it more on the conservative side to avoid an engine issue like we did last year causing the race to end in the first of 3 4-hour sessions. At the end of the first session, our machine was running strong and we would be lining up in the 19th position at the start of the night session that kicked off at 8pm.
As the sun dropped over the pine tree mountains and darkness encompassed the valley, the generators in the pits were fired up and the lights were turned on in preparation for the next 4-hour session. The track had good time to dry out and we figured this would be a chance to gain some positions since my teammates are known to do well at night and our Lazer Star Lights were set up perfect to light up the track for us. The horn sounded and our team got off to a decent start and took advantage of the freshly groomed track. The Lazer Star lights were giving us good light, but I’m not going to lie and say that a little more would have been better. This is no fault of the product but just planning on the lights we used. It wasn’t long till the track started showing its true colors where the deep whoops and squared-edges started jumping out of nowhere. We were running consistent lap times and still made the occasional precautionary pit stop to blow out the radiator to ensure that we weren’t going to overheat our engine. As we came in for one rider change, we noticed a major issue. The timing plug on the left side case came out and spewed oil out the left side of the ATV but in a way that the rider at the time didn’t notice it. Usually you would smell something like this, but not this time.
This was an alarming issue for us so we took our time to get make things perfect before releasing another rider on the track. We located an aluminum plug and installed that in place of the stock plastic piece and did a complete oil change. Was this convenient, no but we felt it was a cautious decision. We continued to pound out the laps that night and the engine still ran strong without any hiccups so we were crossing our fingers that we avoided disaster. By the end of the night session we were able to move up the leaderboard by 4 positions and ended up 15th for the night.