As we ascended the hill into Turn 2, I picked off the single and then Eric and Wagner on their EXs. I came flying over the blind rise, looking for my little patch of rumble strip that would let me know I was about to enter the chicane. I find it, but also a bright red motorcycle with a rider in white leathers. It's Kurt, points leader and aspiring nemesis to my championship dreams. I am carrying a considerable amount more speed than he is in this section and for a split second I consider taking to the dirt to pass him (see the photo sequence in the blog from 9/29 if you want to see how close I was). The rules state that gaining an advantage by taking to the dirt here is grounds for penalty, and I can't afford it. I will have to wait.
I shadow all the way through the Esses and up the hill into Turn 5 and the short straight before 6. Getting on the gas earlier I gain ground and plan to make the outside pass as we crest the hill. Kurt's bike finally comes on the power and I can't make it on the straight, so I decide to do it on the brakes into 6. As if sensing my plan, Kurt drifts all the way to the edge of the track, nearly pushing me into the grass. I don't know if he knew I was there, but I don't think anyone sets up that wide for 6! This forces me to brake early and allows Mark Morrow to zoom by on the inside of both me and Kurt into the turn (see the video posted on the blog from 9/17).
That really pisses me off and I decide I am done playing footsies with Kurt. I make the pass coming into 7 and try to keep Mark in my sights, knowing he can pull me up to the front runners, Bowie and Fullerton. Making my way out of 7 onto the interminably long back straight, I expect Kurt to come wailing by with his 600 FZ, knowing full well he has the top speed advantage on my EX. He never does and I assume he is stalking me, following. This is how he got by me on the last lap at the Grand National Finals last year. Not this time.
I bury my head under the windscreen and look for the draft off Morrow. I find it a few bike lengths behind and this begins a several lap two bike draft and pass train that pulls us away from Kurt and within two seconds of the leaders. With two laps left to go I decide that Mark is holding me up and make the pass for good. I work hard, desperately needing those two extra points that second place will get me. I work up to within a second of that smoke belching Seca, trying to get the drive out of the final corner as the checkered flag flies. I come up short and have to take third place, or Loser #2. Still, I finished ahead of Kurt and kept him from adding more points to his tally, and that is something.
|Using Mark for the tow up to the leaders.|