Let me begin this motorcycle race recap with a fact – I’ve not really enjoyed Road Atlanta on the small bike. It’s a big track with a long back straight, which isn’t conducive to excitement on the smaller motorcycles.
This weekend was completely different. It was an absolute blast.
Road Atlanta is only about an hour from my house, and I had a later practice session, so I decided to leave early Saturday morning rather than camping Friday night. My alarm didn’t go off Saturday morning, and I woke up about 40 minutes later than planned, so it was all a little hectic. But I got there, got the bike tech’ed, and went out for practice.
I knew I wasn’t going to be fast, as I had replaced my front brake rotor and pads, and needed to bed them in and get some confidence in them. I was right. I ran a best time of 2:08.6.
Second practice felt better. I realized I could brake later pretty much everywhere. I picked up just under three seconds a lap from first practice, and was pretty sure I had more to gain. I usually pick up at least 2 seconds from practice to race.
Between practice and race time I finished setting up the camping part of my paddock and watched a few races. As we go closer to my race time, I geared up, checked my tires, and got ready to head out. When I looked at the grid, I had one guy to beat – my friend Kevin.
Saturday motorcycle race recap
When they made second call, I pulled my tire warmers. My rear tire seemed cooler than it should be. My generator had run out of fuel, and I hadn’t heard it shut off! The tires weren’t cold, but they weren’t as hot as they should be. Nothing to be done, it was time to go. There were six laps in front of me.
My start was pretty average. Kevin got a better start, but he wasn’t far in front of me going into turn 1. As we climbed the turn 1 hill up to the chicane, I got pushed really far to the inside by traffic and had a terrible entry. Going down the hill into turn 4, there were four or five bikes between us.
Over the next lap, I passed a couple of those bikes and got where there were two bikes between us as we entered turn 1. I carry a lot of speed there, and I managed to get by both of those bikes and Kevin, which meant I was leading my class. Knowing he wasn’t going to just hand it over to me, I put my head down and tried to run as fast as I could.
That’s harder than it sounds. I find it easier to go fast if I’ve got someone to chase. It adds that additional motivation that I need to find extra time.
I didn’t see Kevin in laps three or four. I started to think I might have this one in the bag when he comes up the inside of me on turn 6. I drop in behind him through turn 7 and down the back straight. I’m gaining on him as we enter turn 10A. We go through turn 12 onto the front straight and I’m on him, thinking I’m going to get a pass again in turn 1. I show him a wheel in turn 1, but I can’t quite finish the job as we go up the hill into the chicane. I’m right on his rear wheel through the chicane and through turn 5. We go into turn 6 and I’m gaining, thinking I might get an inside pass in turn 7, but I’m not quite close enough. We go into 7 and I’m inches from his rear tire. His R3 has more horsepower than my Ninja, so I figure my only chance is on the brakes into turn 10A.
Apparently, I was wrong. I got a better drive out of turn 7 and I’m in his slipstream, reeling him in. I pass him before the braking zone into 10A, pull in front of him, and we go into turn 10A with me in front. All I have to do is keep him back there for two more corners and half the front straight. We cross the finish line and I win by a mere 0.466 seconds – maybe a bike length.
I pull back into my pit just exhausted. I go visit with Kevin and we bench race a little. I look at my lap times and realize I’ve set a personal best – a 2:01.3!
The rest of the evening is basic stuff – dinner, hang out with some friends, bed. There’s only one practice on Sunday morning, so I don’t even set an alarm. I’m not going to bother with the morning practice, especially since there’s about four hours between the practice and the race.
Morning and early afternoon are breaking camp, lunch, riders meeting, watching some races, and hanging out. In the back of my mind, however, I know that I’ve got a job on my hands for the afternoon. Kevin didn’t hand me the first race, and I know he’s going to bring it even harder.
Sunday motorcycle race recap
Race time comes, and we grid up. I must be a little in my own head, because I missed my grid marker and had to go counter-race direction and go back to it. Kevin pulls up next to me and just points at me like “watch out.”
The green flag drops. Kevin gets a slight drop on me, but we’re on top of each other entering turn 1. I take a wide line and get by him far more easily than I expected. There are a few bikes in front of me, and I pass two of them hoping to put traffic between us. They pass me back on the back straight. I try to get a draft off of them, but they’re on bigger bikes from a different class and slowly pull away.
I keep my head down and try to turn fast laps again. Once again, lap five, Kevin passes me on the inside of turn 6! It was like déjà vu, including what happened next. I got in his slipstream and passed him before we hit turn 10A. I knew I had to keep him back there for one more lap, but I felt pretty confident that I could do it.
That confidence was misplaced.
Kevin passed me on the inside of turn 6 again in the last lap! As we exited turn 7, I was further back than I’d been before – probably two bike lengths. I thought he was going to pull away as I wasn’t going to get as much slipstream, but apparently I got a better drive out of 7 again, and I started to slowly gain on him.
We approached the braking zone for turn 10 side by side. It was going to come down to who decided to brake later entering turn 10A.
The 300 foot marker passes.
The 200 foot marker passes.
We’re still at full throttle.
About halfway to the 100 foot marker, Kevin brakes, and I slip past. I grab a handful of brake and go into turn 10A ahead of him, but not on the best line. We come up the hill, under the bridge, and down the hill to turn 12, the last turn before the front straight. I know he’s not far behind, so I keep the hammer down. I get through turn 12 and miss a shift, hitting the rev limiter. I shift and hit the rev limiter again, but I cross the finish line in front of Kevin!
What I didn’t know at that moment was how close I was in front of him – 0.075 seconds. After the race, he told me that his front wheel was about at my footpeg when we crossed.
But I pulled it out, and I set another personal best – a 2:01.01!
Two wins for the weekend, and some unbelievable racing against a good friend! Can’t ask for a whole lot more from a race weekend!