Motorcycle Race Recap: Races 11-12, where I get stupid

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In this motorcycle race recap, we were back at Talladega GP this past weekend for races 11 and 12. Kinda hard to believe there are only a couple race weekends left!

Got there Friday afternoon and was surprised to find the paddock half-empty. Seems that the weather forecast scared off quite a few riders, as Saturday was about 50-50 for rain, and Sunday looked to be a certain washout. Weather be damned, I was going racing. We race in the rain on motorcycles, unlike the wimps in NASCAR… but I digress.

Saturday morning dawned cloudy, and what seemed to be a steady rain started just as the first practice sessions were going out. I decided to sit out the first practice and see what happened, as I hate changing to rain tires more than once a day. The rain only lasted about 20 minutes steadily, though we’d have periodic droplets every so often. You’d walk out from under your paddock canopy and get hit by 10 drops, and then it would end.

Practice went really well. Track was dry enough with plenty of grip, and I was feeling good, and running within a half second of the folks I tend to be racing against. I passed a couple people, realized I was pretty much trying to race while I was out there, and decided to pit in. Turns out I only missed out on about one lap.

Motorcycle race recap 11

We grid up for the race, and I get off to a pretty crappy start, which sucks because I was on pole position for my class. By turn 1, four riders got in front me. I decided to draft Aric Yount, who was right in front of me, as he had been very fast in practice. We started closing up on people.

By the end of the first lap, we were right on the tail of Sarah Crowell and Kyle Wagner, who were in second and third. I figured if I could keep right in behind Aric, I had a shot at the podium. We followed Sarah and Kyle through turns 1 through 6, and Aric made his move on Kyle on the outside of turn 7. I followed. This was my undoing.

Turn 7 at Talladega is a little weird. That section of the track appears flat, but it’s actually what engineers call “normal crown,” which means there’s a slight peak at the centerline. Inside that centerline has a very slight camber. Outside that centerline is very slightly off-camber. There’s one point in that turn where the off-camber gets a little steeper, so you have to be very careful in that area not to get in too deep or you’ll lose traction.

I passed Kyle on the outside on that off-camber section of the track, and I felt the front of the bike start to break loose. I had two options. I could stand the bike up and ride off into the grass and possibly the neighboring cornfield, or I could try to ride it out and see if I could save it and make the pass. If I stood it up I was guaranteed not to make the save with no guarantee I could keep the bike up on the wet grass or stay out of the cornfield. I chose to attempt the save and the pass.

I didn’t make it. I lost the front and crashed.

I didn’t sustain a lot of damage. I had a knot on my leg where I think it hit my footpeg, and I was a bit sore around the torso, which happens when you tumble at high speed across the earth. With that said, I’m pretty sore today and I’m limping a fair bit, and apparently my left elbow sustained a hit, too, as it’s swollen and sore.

The bike had a bent clipon and my shifter was O-shaped, and some minor bodywork damage. Oh, and the muffler is busted again.

I got back to the paddock, assessed the damage, and decided that since it was relatively minor, I was going to hit the showers and come back and fix it for the Sunday races. I discovered the big knot on my leg in the shower, but I was more pissed off at myself than anything else for letting my ambition get in the way of my knowledge. I know that turn intimately, and knew I shouldn’t have been that far to the outside.

Got back to my pit and started work. I keep a spare clipon in my tool bag, so that was a quick fix with the help of a borrowed drill allowing me to drill a hole for the pin that holds the switchbox in place. I pulled the belly pan off and emptied out the grass and did the same for tail section. One of the mounting points for the tail section busted, so I zip-tied that into place.

The shifter was a bit more of a challenge, as it was bent completely into a circle. A search for a propane torch in the paddock yielded nothing, but a nearby paddock stall had a bench vise. Alternating between bending with a big pair of pliers and beating out high spots with a hammer, and you can barely tell anything happened. I got the bike back to tech and it passed. On to the next day!

Sunday morning dawned damp. It had rained overnight, but cleared by morning. I was initially planning to do the first practice session in the morning, but I forgot that Sundays in Alabama require a compressed schedule, so I was otherwise engaged when they made first call for my practice session. I decided rather than rush out for a few laps, I’d wait and go out a little more prepared and calm.

I went out for practice with only two goals – shakedown the bike and see how I felt. Very quickly it became apparent that the bike was fine. My initial laps were a little tentative, but by the end of the session I was running at my normal practice pace and felt ready to go race.

After the crash I mentioned in the motorcycle race recap, this was how the bike looked four days later.

Motorcycle race recap 12

Race time came and we gridded up. I got an okay start, but Aric passed me shortly after the first corner. I passed Sarah sometime in the 2nd lap, leaving Kyle in front of me in 3rd place. He was about 40 yards ahead of me.

For the rest of the race, I’d gain a little on him, and then he’d take it back, but the distance never changed significantly. When they threw the white flag for the last lap was the closest I’d been to him, but I was still 20 yards back. I decided at that point to take my 4th place and bring myself and the motorcycle home in one piece. I didn’t back off at all, but I also didn’t make any additional effort to try and catch up to him. We finished the race about 20 yards apart, with him in 3rd and me in 4th.

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