AFM Round 1 – He Jumped the start

We’re back from a rainy, Round 1 of the AFM 2011 schedule and Anthony and family could not be happier.

We left to the track under heavy rain in the Bay Area. In fact, it rained until we reached the track. Along the way, we were calling friends, who were already at the track, to find out if it was raining. Sure enough the track was dry, and perhaps the myth of “it can rain all around, but the track will stay dry…” was in fact true.

Saturday morning was cold, around 47 degrees and Anthony was on the first session on track (at 8:30am). I stressed to Anthony that because he was a novice rider, he COULD NOT CRASH. If he crashed, his weekend was over. There was nothing anyone could do. The AFM has a pretty strict crashing rule for novice riders, you crash, your weekend is DONE.

We had visited Buttonwillow two weekends before, and we knew what type of pace he could do. I told him to take it easy and don’t push the limits. Just go at an “ok” pace.

In total we had 3 practice sessions before lunch time. During lunch time the AFM decided to run some of the “big-bike” classes on Saturday, as they could see the weather was not getting any better.

This meant the Formula 2 class, 250GP bikes, would be race #3 and this was one of the races with which Anthony was signed up.

Anthony was gridded 10th, or last. The start-procedure rhythm of the AFM is slightly different than WERA’s. Yes, both get the green-flag eventually, but the timing in which they do it is different. This caught Anthony off-guard and he moved his front-wheel past his grid position. He realized this and stopped, he tried to back up, but within a second, the race was off. Based on the rules, if you move past the grid position, you jumped the start; even if you make no gains. Jump-starting means you are penalized one-lap.

As the race got underway, Anthony was P9 into T1, clearly he made no position gains from his “jump-start”. The race was 6 laps and within a couple of laps he was close to the leading group. He made really strong moves on the brakes and with two-laps to go he was in P1. He tried to break away but P2 would not let him go.

Anthony did his best to protect and ultimately he was able to get to the line in first place, taking his first victory on his RS125 against 250cc GP bikes.

Officially he was penalized one-lap and he finished last, but on the track and in our eyes he won the race. He started last and not only climbed to the leading group, but led past the start-finish line. Sure, he made a mistake, but you can rest assured he won’t do that again.

After the race, three AFM board members came over to congratulate Anthony. The Formula 2 riders, all 250GP veterans, had come over to them and told them how well Anthony had ridden. They said “they’ve ridden for many years and have seen many people, but Anthony had ridden as smooth and as in-control, as the best they had ever seen… and they had seen many”. The board members said they were pleased to hear such things from veteran club members and wanted to share that with Anthony.

This was a big deal for us. Just a year ago, they had denied Anthony because the AFM board felt he didn’t have enough experience on the track. I am happy that Anthony proved to them the new crop of mini road racers are safe. I hope this will help young kids get into clubs such as the AFM. Because if clubs don’t let kids ride, then what is the point?

We’re off to Las Vegas in two weeks, wish us luck.