Real talk: I almost didn’t go to this race.
That’s right, this motorcycle race recap almost didn’t happen. Carolina Motorsports Park is a four and a half hour drive from my home, and there was only one race. I’ve sustained some injuries from the crash at Road Atlanta, so I woke up Saturday hurting pretty hard. If I didn’t show up, WERA would credit me the race fee. I was going to have to drive back Sunday night so I could work Monday. As I was packing my bag and getting ready to load up, it was starting to seem like it wasn’t worth the trip.
Then I realized that if I stayed home, I’d spend the entire time thinking I should be racing. My injuries didn’t hurt THAT bad, and I’d already registered, so I loaded up and hit the road.
I got to the track Saturday afternoon, set up my pit and campsite, made dinner, hung out with some friends, and went to bed.
Sunday morning dawned foggy. Nothing crazy, but I was concerned we were either going to be delayed or it was going to rain. Weather forecast was clear, but man, those skies looked threatening.
After breakfast and tech inspection, I broke camp as much as I could before first practice. Ran first practice, and realized that it had been a long year since I’d seen this racetrack. Only place I knew I was fast was on the front straight. My best lap was a 2:07 – painfully slow.
Right after first practice, I took some time with another rider to go over the track map and figure out some lines. I went out on 2nd practice to try some new things and see if I could dial in a fast lap. I realized that I was taking too wide of a line getting through turns 5 through 7, and I could definitely get through there faster. I felt a lot better, and my lap times showed it – I had a best lap of 2:02 – five full seconds faster.
After practice, I went to the riders meeting, got my grid position, had lunch, and finished breaking camp. I was race 11 for the day, so I had quite a bit of time to kill. I went to go watch the mini class.
The mini race shows a lot of why I love this community.
On my way to pit wall on the front straight, I stopped in the pit of a couple who both race the class. I don’t like to use people’s names without permission, so let’s call them Jim and Darla. I jokingly asked which of them I should put my money on. Jim pulled me aside and told me that it was the anniversary of Darla’s son’s death, and that Darla was going to win the race. I didn’t fully comprehend what he meant by that, but I nodded and headed trackside to watch the race.
Motorcycle race recap – mini race
Five riders gridded up for this class, which was run on the west course, which is the curviest bit of track, and is about 1/3 the total track length. It also has the advantage that you can see the whole thing from the trackside wall. Three of them had decided to race wearing khakis and Hawaiian shirts over their leathers. (This isn’t exactly the most serious race class. I’ve seen it run with everyone in tutus.) The flag drops and everyone takes off. The three guys in khakis are clowning around quite a bit, coming down the front straight laying on the bike like Rollie Free at Bonneville. Notably, Darla is running last by a considerable distance. They all cross the line and the white flag drops for the last lap.
About halfway through the lap, Jim and the other three guys all slow down. They continue to get slower and slower, almost to a stop, as Darla catches up with them. She passes all of them on the short straight before the last corner. As she passes each of them, they fall in behind her.
They all come down the front straight together, with Darla in the lead. They cross the finish line with Darla in the lead and the other four crossing together.
They handed her the race, recognizing what this day was about for her, and what the race win would mean to her.
I watched a couple more races, and as they made the first call for race 9, I geared up and got ready. Race 11 call went up and I went out for my warm-up lap. The bike was running well and I felt pretty good.
Motorcycle race recap – race 7
I got a good start, ahead of the guy next to me, but he caught me on power by the first corner, as did one of the riders behind me. I tried to keep them in sight, but they passed another rider and disappeared.
This rider became my immediate focus. I passed him entering turn 5, but he got me back almost immediately on the straight between turns 7 and 8.
A quick note about the section of track between turns 8 and 11. While there’s technically two corners in there, you can take them at wide open throttle on the smaller bikes. Turn 10, lovingly known as the kink, is particularly scary when you do this, but if you want to be fast, you can’t let off through there.
Back to this rider. He passes me on the straight between turns 7 and 8. I fall right in behind him and am drafting him down the straight and through turn 9. As we approach the kink, I realize that I’m gaining on him pretty quickly. He’s coming off throttle to get through the kink! I decide to follow him through the kink and pass him on the exit. We hit the apex of the kink and I just slide on through.
He passes me again on the front straight, but now I’ve got his number. I keep right on him the entire lap, and as we approach the kink, he backs off again, and I pass him again. This time I decide he’s not going to get past me again, so I really put the hammer down. I can hear his bike behind me through turn 1, 2, and 3. It starts to fade as we enter turn 4. I’m laying down everything I’ve got on this lap. As we exit turn 7, I’m worried a little because he got me there before. I drop in for turn 8. There’s no sign of him.
I keep him behind me for three more laps, and come across the finish in front of him.
Later I found out that he was in Expert class – one class above me. I managed to bring it to one of the experts. His race time was the same as my first session practice time – a 2:07.
Sixth place never felt so good, y’all.