A Tale of Two Rookies
(Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust My Tires)
Ed—MMM again follows a pair rookie riders during their first season of roadracing with the CRA. In our second installment we find our hero coming to grips with reality.
by Bryan “Ace” Bandage
The week before the races, Poon came over and helped re-gear the bike for BIR (Brainerd International Raceway) and drink beer. (Well, mostly to drink beer. “Man, race talk is thirsty work.” Apparently, adopting a newbie also means drinking a ton of free beer. So we slapped a bigger sprocket on the rear, then safety wired EVERYTHING. At redline for nearly a mile, bikes have a tendency to start jettisoning parts into the stratosphere.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from BIR, but it was scary. Scaryfast. Where at MAM, you can pretty much see the whole track from the grandstand, BIR is so big that you can only see a couple turns at once. This is the bigtime.
The big bikes get up to 170 mph or so for Turn 1 (the fastest turn in North America), whereas my little crapbasket can maybe pull 115. Then Turn 2 comes shortly thereafter, and the fast guys drop it down to 155 or so, but Poon tells me to keep it pinned and keep my knee over the grass, all the way on the inside, all the way through 1 and 2. Okay…can my skinny tires even do that?
Imagine being leaned all the way over to your knee at 115 mph, wind trying to tear you off the bike, and faster riders on SVs blowing by you on the outside at 140! I felt like a target out there. Then comes Turn 3, a tighter-than-90-degree right hander that requires you to brake down to about 40 mph. Bikes behind me sling by like arrows in a cowboy movie as they brake later and harder than I do, then disappear around the corner.
Even so, I’m feeling pretty fast and put the bike away for the night, and it’s heaving like a frat boy halfway through his first bachelor party. I started the day pulling 2:18 laps, and ended it pulling about 2:15s—this on a three-mile track. I saw Jinnie “Jinx” Gannon out there a few times. Man, that girl has nice form.
We woke up Saturday to rain. The problem with BIR is that it’s also a drag racing hotspot, and the VHT surface they lay down for traction on the straight is VERY slippery when it’s wet. They called it for the day—no racing, everything moved to Sunday. So, what do you do when you have a whole day on your hands and nothing to do? Yep, you guessed it, we started drinking beer and hobnobbing with other racers, workers, and spectators. Not surprisingly, my cooler of Miller High Life was a real hit with Poon and his buddies.
Towards evening, a band of hooligans, ne’er-do-wells, and miscreants that call themselves the “MNSBR crowd” put on a demonstration of athletic prowess and creative rulemaking in their second annual “Turn 10 Wiffleball Tournament.” A beverage must always be in-hand and the bases run backwards. Taunting of the opposing team was encouraged. Some cat named “Dern” got his face washed with lite beer and base runners stealing base quite often took the base with them. Poon grabbed me later and took me out with a bunch of other racers to some of the local watering holes. I saw Jinx at one of the stops, and I thought she noticed me, but she was with some folks, so I didn’t pursue it.
Sunday dawned clear and clean. I had three races to run: ultralight supersport, superbike, and grand prix. After my awesome finish (1st place!) at MAM in the new rider’s race, I was anticipating kicking some CRA ultralight ass. This was sure to be a good day to be Bryan “Ace” Bandage.
My first race was ultralight supersport. I was in the last row, looking down the straightaway, planning how to weave through the grid before turn one. I gun the throttle, the flag drops, and get a smoking good start—huh? The entire pack of bikes took off like a swarm of angry bees and absolutely left me in the dust. They were all way, way ahead of me by the time I hit Turn 1. I was dumbfounded and scrambling.
The nearest rider was Jinx. Every lap I’d gain on her, but then somehow she’d disappear into Turn 3 while I was still braking. I’d chase her through the infield and start pulling on her in the straight. Finally, I caught her napping in Turn 9 on the next-to-last lap, and shot inside her and under the bridge to Turn 10. I tucked in and wrung that turd bike up to 9,000 rpm, not daring to look behind me. On the last lap, as I came into Turn 3, rear tire feeling like it was airborne on the brakes, Jinx the Minx shot past me on the outside, took my line, and ripped through Turn 3 like Valentino Rossi. My bike started gagging, “Ace, what the hell???” I chased Jinx’s tailsection for ten turns, sticking to her like a tomcat, but she had distance on me at the finish line—last place, behind a GIRL.
I asked Poon what just happened, because I did great at MAM. He laughed and said the new rider’s race was an exhibition race. Turns out nobody actually “races,” everybody just tries to finish without crashing. “But what about the experts that I beat?” “See, it was their job to make it seem like a real race, but let a newbie finish first,” he said. My heart sank. I’m suddenly not as fast as I thought I was.
So for the ultralight superbike race, I was determined to show these dudes (and girls) who was boss—until I got a look at the competition. I’d seen him around, this big, muscled dude with a hopped up Ducati named Reggie Maul (Reg). I thought he was in a different class than me, but it turns out he’s also running ultralight. Oh, man. This guy is fearsome—he could break me in half if he wanted to, and I’d seen him ride—he was fast. My stomach started to churn. The GS trembled like a wet dog.
I tried to put muscleman out of my mind and concentrate on good start. I ran the little rattlebomb up to 9,000 rpm, then dumped the clutch. Again, same thing—the whole field roars off like a freakin’ bomber squadron, and I’m standing still—because I stalled my damn bike at the start. RATS! I thumbed the starter and took off, but they were already a quarter mile away. I resigned to being a backmarker…and got passed by a few experts in the process. All of the sudden, that Reg dude came slinging past me in the last lap, two turns away from the finish line. I think I need some riding lessons. And Jinx beat me—again. That girl’s got sauce.
Okay, I’ve got one more chance in ultralight grand prix. I’m gridded between Reg and Jinx, and feeling like I don’t want to be here anymore. I run the bike up to redline, flop the clutch, and WHOA! The front wheel yanks into the air. I heard my little sh!tbox yell “Yeeeehaaa!” but I wasn’t ready. I grabbed the clutch and the bike came down hard, smashing what Poon calls my “junk” into the gas tank. YOWZAA! My vision went white, and the boyz yelped in pain, so I let go of the clutch and the bike wheelies AGAIN. Up goes the front end, squeeze goes the clutch, then SLAM! Another crunch of the aforementioned junk against the tank. I felt like throwing up—the second time is always worse. Catching my breath, finally, I was off to chase Reg and Jinx.
I was out of my mind. My balls were swelling up in my leathers like water balloons. I was tired of getting dusted. I ripped that GS up as fast as it could go and started making time on Jinx. Reg was gone, long gone. (Turns out his Duc is more than a little “hopped up,” which is why I didn’t see him in supersport.)
Eventually, about halfway through the race, I caught up with Jinx in Turn 9 and shadowed her all the way through 10. I drafted her on the straight and finally passed in Turn 1 at what felt like 205 mph! Pinning the throttle all the way through 1 and 2, I decided to hold out for three more laps. But braking for Turn 3, here came Jinx blasting past me on the inside on the brakes. Aw, for Pete’s sake! I was breathing down her tailpipe all the way through the infield, then passed her again in Turn 1…only to get smoked on the brakes again into 3. Same thing on the last lap. I tried like hell, but that little minx was too fast for me. Wow, what a rider. Now, even more, I want to learn that girl’s secrets.
Even losing all three races I had a total blast at BIR. But it seems that your friend Ace and his little crapbasket of a GS have some work to do if they’re going to earn any points this season! Testicular trauma notwithstanding, come on out to BIR and watch the fun––we’ll be racing, August 25-27, and September 15-17. Stop by for a free bee. Everyone else does. You’ll be glad you did.