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Old 02-08-2021, 03:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by budman View Post
AFM will survive.

I doubt any demise.

And to those that say it it unsafe now I laugh at you, I still feel you.

It was always was a casket course and is way safer now.

Turn 9 at a buck thirty with a wall 15’ off the track?
A fucking ditch on the exit of 3A and a wall just outside 4??

Same with 7 and at 110 mph T10.

Nascrap 11 was pretty safe back then compared to most of the track.

Great road course for learning cornering and race craft back in the day. Hope they live on for many decades to come.
We used the old turn 11 and there wasn't a chicane before turn one. Woo-Hoo!
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Old 02-09-2021, 04:55 PM   #17
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That blows donkey balls. Having a two track race series is kinda "meh" and just asking to be a major factor in the demise of the club...
What's up Dan! Most of the people here hit the right elements: too expensive, track surface is poor (poor enough that even car guys complain regularly), and our attendance has fallen enough to make all events there unprofitable. In 2019, Sonoma clawed back our 1 date (after having the other clawed back two years previous) and we didn't ask for the date the next season. Sonoma is a triple digit cost number; 40% more than Thill and 115% more than Buttonwillow. But, it's a great facility with a poor surface. We've been told for years, "we're gonna repave" and it never happens. It wasn't management's fault; corporate wouldn't allow it. In 2020, SMI in North Carolina fired the entire management staff and anyone we knew and had relationships with @ Sonoma. It was, to say the least, tragic. Those people were so good to us and the club. True rock stars. Now, they have a few on site errand takers, but the track is managed from 2500 miles away. I seriously doubt a repave is in the future now too given the cost of oil future escalating quickly causing asphalt prices to spike. I also have suspicions the reason for not repaving was always due to the questionable survivability of Sonoma Raceway in today's world (in CA) and their proximate location. I believe management may be reticent to invest several 7-figures of capital that may not have a quantifiable ROI. I have greater than not expectations that Sonoma is being put out to pasture by its owners. That land has a much higher value into developed build sites at this point.

BTW< Buttonwillow has a new tracking coming on line AND a new development just happened yesterday on my call with Barb: we have our Sonoma airfence available for use other places. We talked about moving it to Thill which may open up the door for running Thill backwards...no promises, but I think it's very possible with the use of our airfence.

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Originally Posted by budman View Post
AFM will survive.

I doubt any demise.

And to those that say it it unsafe now I laugh at you, I still feel you.

It was always was a casket course and is way safer now.

Turn 9 at a buck thirty with a wall 15’ off the track?
A fucking ditch on the exit of 3A and a wall just outside 4??
You guys were REAL men. So much so that being into aerobics AND Moto racing meant you were the ultimate in confidence and risk!

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Originally Posted by hitman5532 View Post
I liked the bus stop a lot more before they changed it years back for the cars (world sport touring cup or something)
They changed the course from the old T9 due to he crash of Jim Groshong in (I think) 04' or 05'. I was three bikes back from Jim when he hit the wall in T9 during our 1st or 2nd lap in one of the morning practices. T9 was pretty gnarly back then. If you got spit off or into the grass, it was deadly.

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Originally Posted by chuckwarren View Post
We used the old turn 11 and there wasn't a chicane before turn one. Woo-Hoo!
T1 without the chicane was balls fun...up against the concrete with your left shoulder/ knee hoping you could get the drive on the guy ahead into T2. I lost the front at the apex of T1 during practice with those Michelins of the day on my Arclight Suzuki (wonder who built that bike...), Pete Doyle close behind me on his Arclight 1000 he bought from Stanton watched my bars turn left, smoke billowing off the tire while I was ham fisting things having no idea how bad it was until I hit the ground.

That bike was D-stroyed...but we rebuilt her with her builders help with some parts (Arclight again) and went on to some podiums-n-stuff. I think Siggy even borrowed it for the GNX. The Arclight guy...he built some great bikes. Excellent bikes, if I don't say so myself.
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Last edited by Holeshot; 02-09-2021 at 04:57 PM..
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Old 02-09-2021, 05:08 PM   #18
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They also opened up T9 I want to say ~5 years ago for Indy I think it was?
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Old 02-09-2021, 06:00 PM   #19
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Our T9 or the old one? Indy was using the T9 chicane last I knew, IIRC.
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Old 02-09-2021, 06:07 PM   #20
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Old 02-11-2021, 06:12 PM   #21
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They also opened up T9 I want to say ~5 years ago for Indy I think it was?
That is correct and the various patches never really installed confidence for many after that.

But being from Budman's era, the old track surface was in my opinion worse with only aarmco and tires for runoff if it wasn't just a dirt wall with tires in front of it. You could go fast, but you definitely had to respect your fellow rider and more so the track.
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Old 02-11-2021, 08:04 PM   #22
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Wow. I feel fortunate to have ridden, driven, so many laps there. Back in the day.
It has been a good run.
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Old 02-22-2021, 02:01 PM   #23
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FYI, regarding the track conditions at Sonoma, at the PTT Season Opener this past weekend I was happy to see that they have made some repairs to the track surface at Sonoma.

They have patched the seam on the outside of 6, the bumps just inside the curb at the exit of 7, the outside seam in the braking zone on the entrance to 9, and a few other little things. Are there a few other spots that could use some repairs? Yes, I'd like to see some further attention to the curbing and patching inside of 9a, the cracks in 11, the bumps and cracks in the Turn 7 braking zone and entry apex, and a few other spots.

Would it be nice to have a complete repave? For sure! Given everything Holeshot said, plus the covid situation and NASCAR having to cancel the big moneymaker races, is it likely to happen soon, or ever? I dunno.

But as others have said, I've seen it a hell of lot worse. Just to put things in perspective, let's jump in the wayback machine. It's 1985 and a state of the art bike is a 600 Ninja, 750 Interceptor, Ninja 900 or FJ1200 with 16" front wheels, plus a few grey market GSX-R750s smuggled in from Canada. A very popular bike is an RZ350. You probably have fatter tires, better forks, and a stiffer frame on your mountain bike than those things had! Grids were huge and there was serious contingency money on the line leading to fierce battles.

The track surface is maybe the same, if not much worse than it is today.

There was no bus stop, you came out of the esses and went WFO through 9 into 10 just like NASCAR, with no run off to speak of. No airfence, no haybales, you'd be lucky to hit an old tire wall that had been baking in the sun for years and was just as hard as the concrete wall behind it.

(BTW, when Scott Gray said Hey we need to put some haybales around the track for safety, he had to fight like hell to get AFM to agree to it. There were a bunch of reasons it couldn't be done. Cost, effort, even liability. "Our lawyer says if we put haybales up now, we'll get sued by everybody that has ever gotten hurt before we had them". No shit. Scott said I'll buy the bales, I'll rent the trucks to get them here, I'll hire the crew to put then up and take them down and sweep up the hay when they get exploded. AFM said no no no. Just like 20 years later when John Ulrich, sick of seeing his friends and team riders get hurt and killed hitting unprotected guardrails and hillsides all across the country said we need to get some of this new airfence and AMA Pro Racing said no no no. Luckily they both prevailed, but the energy spent fighting about it could have been put to better use.)

If you made it through Turn 10, you pinned it all the way down to old Turn 11 by the gas pumps, heading right at the wall, no runoff, no escape. Make the turn or eat concrete.

Skimming the bare concrete wall on the exit of 11, you went wide open right across the fucking drag strip which was the same as the front straight, through 1 all the way up the hill to 2, with zero run off. Two time AMA Superbike champion Wes Cooley crashed in 1 at the 85 AMA Superbike race, hit the bridge abutment and nearly died. Ended his career. The same weekend a sidecar crashed there and the driver Michael Parkinson was killed. Luckily his passenger, Frank Mazur who was an AFM overall champion survived.

Before we had the current Turn 1 chicane to slow things down, we had a haybale chicane on the front straight that worked OK until somebody inevitably clipped one and knocked it onto the track, blocking the gap. Big pileups with lots of hay flying were the predictable result.

Imagine going down into 4 with a big dirt bank right in front of you, zero runoff, hope you don't miss your braking marker. Jeff Hagan launched his bike up and over that bank, it went right up over the fence and landed behind the spectators. Turn 5, same, big dirt wall out there right at the edge of the track, zero runoff. Etc Etc. More recently, before the last big repave, there were places where water came up through the cracks all summer, especially at high tide! Sometimes they put cones out in the middle of turn 11 where the water was seeping up and you had to go around them. Massive drainage improvements were made, track was repaved, massive earth was moved, bridge replaced, bridge abutments moved, runoff increased nearly everywhere possible. Overall the track is so much safer for us than it used to be. Most or all of those big improvements were made with the big NASCAR money by the big nasty NASCAR people.

You do need to take track conditions into account any time you get on a bike, anywhere you go. I haven't been to THill for awhile, but last time I was there that place had all kinds of patches, seams, cracks, tar snakes, dips, bumps and shit you had to watch out for. I haven't been to ButtonWillow since they repaved, but the one time I was there before that, it was quite a mess. Willow Springs? Went there for a WERA race in 2017, it looked exactly the same as it looked in the 90s. As a race mechanic I've been to every track on the AMA and Formula USA circuit through the 2000s. Loudon, Mosport, Daytona, Fontana, Road America, Road Atlanta, Mid Ohio, all had major track surface and/or safety issues. When VIR reopened it was beautiful, all new and shiny, but the curbs were all wrong for bikes and riders were injured and just about ripped off their bikes just dragging a knee. MotoGP was still running at COTA pre-covid, despite the riders complaints that the pavement there was like a motocross track.

Right now I'm looking at 8 more Sonoma track days on the 2021 calendar and I plan to hit every one of them, and I will really miss racing there for the second year in a row . For this old timer, and with all due respect, AFM without Sears Point just ain't right! Now you damn kids man the fuck up, and get off my lawn!!!
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Old 02-22-2021, 09:01 PM   #24
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What he said!

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Originally Posted by peterhively View Post
...let's jump in the wayback machine...no bus stop...WFO through 9 into 10...no run off...no airfence, no haybales...an old tire wall that had been baking in the sun for years and was just as hard as the concrete wall behind it...pin it all the way down to old Turn 11 by the gas pumps...right at the wall, no runoff, no escape...turn or eat concrete...wide open right across the fucking drag strip which was the same as the front straight, through 1 all the way up the hill to 2, with zero run off...a haybale chicane...pileups with lots of hay flying...down into 4 with a big dirt bank right in front of you...zero runoff...Turn 5, same, big dirt wall out there right at the edge of the track, zero runoff...places where water came up through the cracks all summer...cones out in the middle of turn 11 where the water was seeping up...Overall the track is so much safer for us than it used to be.

...For this old timer, and with all due respect, AFM without Sears Point just ain't right! Now you damn kids man the fuck up, and get off my lawn!!!
That brought back some fond memories, Peter. I'm with you! Who needs billiard table smooth tracks or E-lectronic rider aids? HTFU.

It ain't gonna happen but if the AFM ever brought back multiple race weekends at SEARS POINT then even I could be coaxed out of retirement to show the kids (OK, my kids) how it's done.

Phew. I need a nap. And where's my sweater?
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Old 02-22-2021, 09:40 PM   #25
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Damn, what a bummer. I loved that track. It was one of my happy places.
Better than Disneyland that’s for sure.
Thunder hill backwards is fun as hell though.
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Old 02-23-2021, 05:52 AM   #26
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For this old timer, and with all due respect, AFM without Sears Point just ain't right! Now you damn kids man the fuck up, and get off my lawn!!!
Pretty much!

I never had any issues with the track surface at Sears. There were definately things to look out for in a couple areas, one being the crack in the carousal. A couple years ago there with Motoamerica we showed up and they had a couple hundred sheep shitting all over the track. We went out for practice and everybody was pulling off track or coming in thinking they left rear axle loose or something, including me. Put 2 and 2 together after that. Not sure if thats a regular thing there or not.

Just like all the complaints about the bump before going into riverside at Buttonwillow. Yeah theres a bump there, everybody has to go through it or go around it, adapt and overcome and figure out a way to go through there so its less unsettling.
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Old 02-23-2021, 11:38 AM   #27
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Pretty much!

I never had any issues with the track surface at Sears. There were definately things to look out for in a couple areas, one being the crack in the carousal..
Back in 90's there was patch on outside of 7 with crack/gap between it and asphalt. I crashed when my front wheel got in that crack
Dragging engine in turn 1 was fun as well
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Old 02-23-2021, 02:10 PM   #28
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Patches just add to the problem of having multiple surfaces and multiple levels of grip throughout the whole track. Tar snakes, concrete, patches, cracks, potholes, etc etc. And it'll be a diff problem when the patches settle and you get new bumps. The majority of the surface is garbage and offers minimal grip in all but perfect conditions. No one likes destroying tires, especially to go slow.

I hate the mentality of "who cares about how bad it is now. remember when it was so much worse". Whatever happened to American exceptionalism where we actually strived to have the best. Now some try to sell us the worst product for the highest price and consumers are brainwashed that they like it.
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Old 02-23-2021, 02:32 PM   #29
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Whatever happened to American exceptionalism where we actually strived to have the best.
We never had best when it comes to the tracks, not even close
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Old 02-23-2021, 04:58 PM   #30
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For this old timer, and with all due respect, AFM without Sears Point just ain't right! Now you damn kids man the fuck up, and get off my lawn!!!
I don't think there's one board member (past or present) who would disagree. Sonoma is the AFM's home, but things have changed so much in 15 years on the board. Mainly, the impediment to the club returning to Sonoma is the cost to run an event there matched with lower participation in motorcycle racing (nationwide).

I wil add this into your sleepy dreams though: imagine Sonoma with a new track surface all the way around. HEAVEN.
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