After a rough start, the MotoAmerica Superstock 600 competitor got her season back on track at Road America
Four years ago, Caroline Olsen was involved in a horrific accident at Road America. Eight riders hit the deck and six, Olsen included, were transported to a local hospital.
Give the severity of the damage to her shoulder, you might think the former Norwegian national champion would have found another outlet for her energies.
Well, you would be wrong. In fact, this weekend, Olsen finished 10th and fifth, respectively, in the two MotoAmerica Superstock 600 races at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, track.
"I really like the group of guys I'm with now," Olsen said, referring to Meen Motorsports, the team she joined earlier this year after spending the previous season with M4 Suzuki.
“M4 had five other riders, and I like all of them. Nothing against any of them, but I was ready to try a little bit smaller team.”
Whereas M4 operates out of Alabama, Meen is based in Southern California, nearer the room she rents in the house owned by her riding coach, former champion racer Jason Pridmore.
"I have a practice bike, so I can train with Jason between races," Olsen said. "He put me on a bike so much during the off-season. I've been doing almost all of the CVMA rounds.
That's not all that's changed. Olsen is now riding a Yamaha. After starting this season on a proven 2016 YZF-R6, she is now aboard the updated '17 model.
“The Suzuki has a great chassis,” she said. “It is easy to handle. It’s easy to find gearing. It’s very forgiving. I also like how you sit more inside the bike.
“Where the Yamaha has an advantage is in the power. Last year, I always felt like I was a little down. The bike I have this year is faster. I also feel like it has more potential.”
The seating position on the new bike is more like that of the Suzuki. “I have a hard time getting into a tuck,” Olsen said. “Putting me more in the seat helps me tremendously.
“A lot of the fast guys in Superstock 600 are on the new bike, so I’m very excited to have the same equipment. I think once we get it dialed in, it’s going to be a really good bike.”
Olsen’s year leading up to the fourth round of the series has been challenging. “The season started pretty good at Circuit of the Americas,” she said. “We managed to get a decent result.
“I was only 1.9 seconds off Nick McFadden’s fastest lap time, which I thought was very encouraging at such a long track. But after that, we had a couple of rough races.”
At Road Atlanta, Olsen crashed during qualifying. That led to an electronic issue in the first race. “The second race was horrible,” Olsen admitted. “I wasn’t in attack mode.
“When I was so far off, time wise, from where I pictured myself, I started thinking more about lap times than getting a good feel on the bike, which is so crucial for me to go fast.”
Three weeks ago at Virginia International Raceway, Olsen was plagued by illness. “I had bronchitis,” she explained. “Physically, I was worn out. I was coughing in my helmet.
“The last seven laps of the race on Saturday were really a struggle to keep my focus. I was making a ton of mistakes. On the last lap, I got into Turn 1 way too hot and crashed.”
After attempting to ride on Sunday, Olsen opted to skip the second race. “I went out Sunday morning feeling horrible,” she said. “I couldn’t focus.”
Because Olsen has scored points in only one of four rounds, she was forced at Road America to practice with the slower of the two middleweight groups.
“That’s not an advantage when it comes to drafting, which isn’t my strong suite,” she said. “I’m too polite; I give them too much room. I need to claim my space a little bit more.”
Olsen said she just wanted to have fun riding this weekend. “No pressure. I’m not sick anymore. I have a new bike. I just need to have two solid races.
“I have a little bit of work to do mentally, just to believe I can do it and not second-guess myself so much. I think it can only get better from here.”
In fact, Olsen is looking forward to the next two rounds of the MotoAmerica Series at Utah Motorsports Campus and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We still have good races to come,” she said. “I did well at Miller last year. Laguna was my best race ever; I qualified fifth. But I learned a hard lesson that weekend.
“When you are pushing for time, you need to push in the right places. I tend to push where I feel comfortable but those are the spots where I’m already going fast enough.”
Going into this year, Olsen pictured herself as a consistent top-10 rider and fighting for top-five finishes. "We had a rough start, but there is still a lot to look forward to," she said.
“Fifth place this weekend proves we’re on the right track. There’s still a lot we can do to improve the bike. I think we’ll get better every time we put the bike on the racetrack.”