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RoadRace Factory Race Report from Miller Motorsports Park, Take One: Supersport – Set the Oven to “Utah” and Race for Two Hours

| 1 July 2015 12:52 pm

MotoAmerica
Round 6: Miller Motorsports Park

Courtesy of RoadRace Factory
Photos by GeoCrash Photography
TOOLE, UT, JUNE 26-28, 2015

Before we get too far into this one, let’s just say that we like Miller Motorsports Park. We really, really do. It’s just that Miller doesn’t love us back. Historically speaking, Miller Motorsports Park has always been that one circuit that just doesn’t jibe with the vibes we lay down. Call it an energy vortex, call it a disruption in the Force – whatever you want to call it, the RoadRace Factory and Miller Motorsports Park just don’t get along.

Welcome to Miller Motorsports Park in June…

Welcome to Miller Motorsports Park in June…

This year’s trip to the world-class facility was no exception. What the heat didn’t drain from our bodies, the track took from our wallets. There was one bright and shiny point in this weekend’s racing for us, and that was the continued progress of rookie Cameron Petersen.

Like ripping off a Band-Aid quickly, let’s just get into this weekend, shall we?

Friday’s first practice session was where it all started. The trio of riders had all gone out together. Tomas “Tomy” Puerta was immediately fast and was running pretty consistent lap times, despite struggling with some setup issues. Ben Young was getting quicker as the session went on, and Petersen was going pretty quick for a rider who had never turned a lap around the 3.08-mile track.

It was about three-quarters of the way through session one when Cameron had his mistake. Nothing big – he clipped the curb coming through the Attitudes, and off into the desert he went. The desert is what mechanics have nightmares about. Running off track at MMP is akin to dumping a few buckets of rocks and talcum powder over your motorcycle and pouring some into the airbox for good measure. His crew had some work to do before session two.

Session two was later in the afternoon, and it would be a qualifying session. It was time to start laying down quick times, because they now matter.

Tomy was doing well, and Cam’s crew had clearly gotten everything sorted out, as he was flying around the track. Benny was also getting faster and faster. At the midpoint of the session, he had just competed his fastest lap and was entering turn three at over a hundred miles per hour when the back end of his R6 stepped out and regained traction. Now, in the motorcycle-racing world, this is called a “highside.” In this case, it should’ve been called a “moon landing”: Benny was violently removed from his motorcycle, and that separation occurred at such a velocity as to completely destroy his R6 as it bounced and tumbled through the high desert of Utah. Benny landed on his feet on the curbing, and the force of that impact literally ripped the soles off his boots. He suffered a concussion and was sent to a local hospital for evaluation. He would be released hours later, and under the new MotoAmerica concussion policy, he is not allowed to race for seven to 14 days. Day one in the books, and already one rider was out and one machine totaled.

Ben Young, rider number 86, was eighty-sixed from the program after a high-speed get-off left him with a concussion.

Ben Young, rider number 86, was eighty-sixed from the program after a high-speed get-off left him with a concussion.

Would Saturday bring a turnabout of fortunes? Would the team finally shake the monkey from their backs? Would Batman finally defeat the Joker? (Sorry, getting carried away….)

Saturday morning would be the final qualifying session and the trio – sorry, now duo – of riders, Tomy and Cam, would be seeking to place their machines on the best possible grid positions. Grid position means so much at MMP. The first corner is “two states away” and “a few feet back” translates to miles behind by turn one, so qualifying was everything to these two.

Cam continued to just be on the gas. His crew had found something that was working for him, and that allowed him to just run wild and pursue his highest qualifying position in the United States.

The fates had other ideas for Tomy. They twisted his strings and finally cut them early in the session. He made a minor mistake and lowsided at the bottom of the Attitudes. See earlier rock/talc reference. He remounted and limped the bike back to the pits without a clip-on on the throttle side. It would take his crew most of the session to make the repairs, and by the time he got back onto the track, he could only make one lap. He would have to rely on his previous times to grid.

The races would begin with Cam sitting a few positions ahead of Tomy, and Ben up in the commentators’ booth.

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Race one was held under the blistering high-desert sun. Heat waves were rising from the tarmac, riders were being soaked with ice-cold towels, fuel tanks were being shrouded by reflective covers as all awaited the sound of the horns that would clear the track and allow the racing to begin.

The track was cleared quickly, and the riders took off for their sighting lap. Riders lined up, revs climbed, and the heat from the starting grid was intense.

Lights out!

The riders began their interplanetary trek toward turn one. It was a pretty close grouping for the first few laps. Cam didn’t get the start he had hoped for, while Tomy flew off the line and was heading up the chasing group.

Tomas Puerta (12) shot off the line in the first race.

Tomas Puerta (12) shot off the line in the first race.

By the midpoint of the race, the leaders were clearing away and the chase group had begun to string out. Cam made some brave passes and caught David Anthony. Tomy was struggling with setup again and was unable to join his teammate in the fight.

Petersen was able to pass Anthony in the corners, but he lacked the speed in the straights. He was setting up to make his move into the final corner on the final lap, but he was unable to pull it off. He crossed the line in sixth, while Tomy rode alone into seventh. It would seem that things were looking up, and maybe Sunday would bring about solutions that would have the guys fighting closer to the front.

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Desert mornings are deceptive. They are usually cool and pleasant. Sunday morning was exactly that. Leaving the hotel and heading to the track, the crew and riders were optimistic that the weather would be cooler and maybe even “nice.”

No such luck. By 8 a.m., it was getting hot, and by race time it was surface-of-Mercury hot. Not an opinion; it’s science.

The morning warm-up session served to shake down the bikes, as they had been overhauled over the course of the night. Again, Tomy and his crew tried a different setup, and while it was better, it still wasn’t ideal. Cam and the “CamP45 Crew” were pleased and ready for race two.

Race two’s time was a little later in the afternoon that it had been on Saturday. That time baked the track surface a little bit more, and when the riders took to their positions, the heat was full on.

This time, Cam got a good start, and, as always, Tomy made one of his almost perfect starts and passed a few riders to get within one bike of Cam. They then set out to chase down the lead group.

Tomas Puerta (12) ended up dealing with setup gremlins again in race two.

Tomas Puerta (12) ended up dealing with setup gremlins again in race two.

Up front, Yamaha’s J.D. Beach put on a riding clinic and checked out of the race, leaving Garrett Gerloff, Bobby Fong and Josh Herrin to duke it out for the rest of the podium spots.

Cam’s nemesis, David Anthony, was already behind him by the midpoint of the race. It would be a lonely ride for Cam as he chased the lead group. Tomy, struggling with continuing setup issues, was again riding around the track a few tenths of a second off the pace. The cumulative effect was a solitary seventh for Puerta, while Cam scored his U.S. best – fifth.

While the rest of the RoadRace Factory team struggled, Cameron Petersen (45) scored his best U.S. finish.

While the rest of the RoadRace Factory team struggled, Cameron Petersen (45) scored his best U.S. finish.

In the end, Miller once again took its toll on the team. Tomy left searching for an ideal setup and Benny had to sit this one out. The bright spots were Cam’s performance and the fact Benny wasn’t more seriously injured. Now, with a little break until Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the team will use the time to recuperate and heal. Riders and machines have been pushed nonstop since the season began, and now, with a little time off, it’s time to refocus and come out swinging for round seven.

Tomy Puerta is fifth in the series points standings.

Tomy Puerta is fifth in the series points standings.

“[It was a] really hard weekend for all the RoadRace Factory Team and wasn’t different for Evan Logan and me…” Puerta reported. “Had a really bad front chatter all weekend and in both races and a little problem with the gear box in race two. Didn’t get the results I wanted for that weekend, but now we are looking forward to Laguna!

“Thanks a lot to all the RoadRace Factory crew,” he added. “After long nights working at the track, everyone was smiling and giving us the best they could for the races! We will get there!”

Ben Young is seventh in the series points chase.

Ben Young is seventh in the series points chase.

“The weekend started well with a nice, short drive from the race house,” Young said. “Then a great first practice. Hopes were high for first qualifying.

“I went out stuck in a group, then managed to split and make my way away,” he continued. “Just after a few laps, there was a red flag. Came back, chilled out, then got going again. I only had about five laps that session and we tried a hard rear, and with the heat, it was no good, zero grip since the word ‘go’ and I wanted to try it to maybe see if it would work in a race simulation – but nothing, and unfortunately it sent me to the sky.

“After waking up in the ambulance and then again in the med center, it was clear then that my weekend was over, but I tried to stay positive. But it came down to the doctors saying, ‘No.’

“I woke up Saturday battered and bruised. [The second qualifying session] came around, and I was there to cheer Tomy and Cam, but after wishing my luck to Cam, I had to leave [the team’s] pit, as it brought tears to my eyes watching everyone head out and me sitting there. About 10 minutes to go, I thought I better head back to be there to cheer the guys on, so I did. It wasn’t easy, but they did a wicked job!

“Thankfully,” he concluded, “I was up in the commentary booth for races one and two to keep me away from the emotions! It was a difficult weekend, but I’m thankful to hobble away in one piece and be ready to for Laguna!”

Cameron Petersen is sits in eighth.

Cameron Petersen sits in eighth.

“So far, this has been my best weekend of the season,” Petersen said. “We started off a bit slow, with a crash and some bike issues, but Sean and D.J. put in some hard work to make sure my bike was working perfect.

“Race one, I got off to a horrible start and had to push hard to get through the field and had a good race with Dave Anthony and ended up [fifth].

“We made a lot of changes for race two, and the bike was working awesome! I put my head down and was able to get away from the guys behind me and did my best lap time of the weekend and ended up in a season-best [fourth].

“I’m having so much fun riding my bike and working with the team, and we’re going to build off this momentum for Laguna,” Petersen summed up. “I just want to thank everyone behind me: Trek Bicycles, Bell Helmets, RS Taichi, Racer Gloves, Danny and Mick and my dad and the rest of the RoadRace Factory team.”

Team manager Danny Walker.

Team manager Danny Walker.

“This was a really tough weekend for us as a whole,” said team manager Danny Walker. “I don’t have a great deal of things to say other than we survived and I am thankful that Ben is relatively okay. We all know that racing is a dangerous sport, and when you see a wreck like that, with a rider who is unbroken and able to walk away, you just thank the powers up above. It’s a testament to the safety standards of the sport. Bell Helmets makes an incredible product, and if it weren’t for that, Ben would’ve been in much worse shape. His bike is broken in places I’ve never seen a bike break, and the fact that he was sitting in the pits and later in the commentators’ booth is just amazing. He’s headed home to rest and repair his body, and this break is exactly what he needs.

“As far as Tomy and his efforts this weekend, I don’t know,” Walker continued. “It’s hard to say what the issue really was. I know he and his crew worked hard to find the right setup, but it just escaped them this weekend. It happens, and now his crew have their work to do before Laguna, where Tomy goes well, and I expect the results will be there.

“Cam had a great weekend – a minor get-off early on, but no real harm to either him or the bike. He showed that he’s clicking with our program, and I think if we get the bikes even more sorted, he’ll be up front, fighting for podiums.

“We’ll take this weekend as our learning experience, count our blessings and focus on Laguna,” Walker concluded. “We go well there, and I’m looking forward to putting on a show for the World Superbike audience.”

[For more from the SuperStock portion of this event, stay tuned for “RoadRace Factory Race Report from Miller Motorsports Park, Take Two: SuperStock – Hard Times in the High Desert” to be posted soon on Today’s Cycle Coverage… Editor]

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