Ed.–This is the second in a four part series bringing readers the story of two Lightweight Novice riders as they go through a season in the Central Roadracing Association. This month finds the pair in their first outing at the ultrafast Brainerd International Raceway where…

by #95 Jason Bishop

It’s May and we just finished the second race weekend of the season at BIR. It was a less than ideal weekend from the beginning with temps in the 50’s and a strong headwind coming into turn 1. It still beats work.

Weather aside, this weekend was going to rock. I absolutely love BIR. It’s definitely a track that separates the men from the boys. To give you some background, BIR is a 3 mile course with a front straight just under a mile long which leads to some pretty high speeds. Turn one is a huge, banked sweeper that on an SV can be taken full throttle in 6th gear no problem. Turn 2 on the other hand is a little tighter but if you’ve got big, furry stones you can scream through it pinned in 6th dragging a knee. On a race prepped SV650 with proper gearing that translates to about 140 mph.

Colder Products had sprung for a new set of flat slide carburetors and I got a chance to really feel them out during Friday’s practice. feature60They made about 5 more horse on the top end and pulled much harder than stock carbs coming out of the corners. We wouldn’t be able to use them in Saturday’s Supersport race but we’d have a clear advantage in Sunday’s Superbike and GP classes that allowed the carbs. None of my buddies could touch me heading down the straight, not even in the draft. Man I love going faster than everyone else.

Saturday morning rolled around and it was still colder than a witch’s titty. Why did I buy fully perforated leathers again? I did one practice session to make sure that I didn’t mess anything up when I swapped back to the stock carbs and to scuff in some new race rubber. The bike was still feeling great and if I could keep myself from freezing to death it might be a good race. The final call to grid sounds and I’m rolling down pit lane thinking “Man I gotta shit”. I’m on the front row again with the pole position and I’m hoping that the practice starts I did this morning help me get off the line a little faster. The one minute board goes sideways, waiting… waiting… finally the green flag drops and we’re off.

My start was less than spectacular but still better than what I was doing last month at MAM. I found myself in 5th or 6th place heading for turn one and tucked in for the draft. By the time we hit turn 3 I was in 3rd place and by the end of the 2nd lap I was in the lead. The race was pretty straight forward. All my passes were text book with no close calls and once I got out in front I broke a pretty comfortable gap. I crossed the finish line a full 10 seconds ahead of second place! Now this is what racing is all about!

Sunday morning I wake up and the clouds look even worse than the day before. A quick check of the radar reveals a nice storm system heading our way. We were going to be racing in the rain before the day was over. I headed to the track, got the flat slides re-installed and then went over to see Tom Mason of Mason Racing Tires to see about rains. After a short discussion I dropped $375 on a set of Michelin rain tires and walked away knowing I’d be eating cheap bologna and ramen noodles for the next two weeks. They were mounted on a friend’s spare rims and ready to go just in case.

Second race of the weekend, you know the drill. I’m on the front row and I gotta poop. The rain seems to be holding off so it looks like I’ll get at least one dry race today. The one minute board goes sideways and they drop the green flag. Dammit! I let off the clutch too slow and am in 6th or 7th place heading for turn one again! I tuck in for the draft and pass two bikes no problem, stay in the draft for turn 2 and coming out I slingshot past two more bikes. We’re heading for turn 3 and I think I can take the rest of them on the brakes. I’ve got em’…I’ve got em’… nope, not all of them. I tried to come up on the inside and going for the lead was just too much. The bike in first cut a pretty aggressive line and I came damn close to nailing the poor bastard. Hard on the brakes, he cuts across my front end so close my friends sitting in the stands thought I hit him. Fortunately my failed passing attempt didn’t take anyone else out and I managed to stay in 2nd place. Ok, that was a little too close for comfort. I tuck in behind the leader and wait for my chance.

I didn’t have to wait long. Coming into one of the final turns on the course I out brake him and take the lead. Coming onto the straight I’m in front and it’s time to put those new carbs to work and break a comfy gap. Through the gears heading for turn one and, hey… where the hell did he come from? The bike I’d just worked so hard to get past is taking me on the outside coming into 1. Something is not right here. Sonuvabitch, I’m still in 5th gear! What a dumb ass! I pop it up into 6th gear and as fast as I lost the lead I take it back.

Exiting every corner I look back and every time the gap is getting bigger. On the fourth lap, coming out of turn 5, I take a quick look behind me. One of the faster experts has caught up and is hot on my tail. I’m not actually racing this guy and I also don’t want to hold him up so heading for turn 6, doing about 80 mph I set myself up wide to give him room to pass. Then I’m on my head. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a finger.

For some odd reason I’m sitting in the dirt outside turn 6 and it takes me a few seconds to realize that the people running at me are corner workers. My first crash in a race and it all happened so fast I couldn’t even enjoy it! They get me on my feet and start to walk me away from the impact zone.

“Are you ok?” one of them asks. “I think my hand is hurt” I reply and as I look at it I feel my face go white. The ring finger and middle finger of my glove were both torn wide open and the finger tips were quickly filling with blood. My ring finger didn’t look too bad, the tip was ripped open and it looked like it might have just torn away the finger nail. The middle finger looked the worst by far. It was bent at a 90 degree angle at the big knuckle and ripped open pretty badly.

The EMT at the scene agreed that it looked pretty bad so we hopped in the ambulance. A shot of morphine and $1150 later we arrived at the hospital. They took some x-rays and the only thing they’d tell me is that a specialist was on the way. That’s not what I wanted to hear. A couple more shots of morphine and the pain had died down but the sense of pending doom hadn’t. The specialist arrived and took a look at everything. Turns out that the one I was least worried about, the tip of my ring finger, was the worst. The crash had some how peeled the flesh back and some of the bone from the tip was still lying outside turn 6 waiting to be digested by they local wild life. They were going to have to amputate it from the small knuckle. I was going to have a stump.

The rest of my hand wasn’t exactly in good shape either. It looked like the left handlebar had landed on my fingers and drug it for a while. The pavement had worn through my middle finger right through the tendon and into the bone. It was also broken in two spots right below the big knuckle. And just to make sure my hand was completely useless I also had three breaks in the tip of my thumb.

Another shot of morphine (man, I love that stuff), a visit from the anesthesiologist and an hour of surgery later I was left with something that would have looked more at home in a Frankenstein flick. My ring fingertip was gone and what was left was sewn together in such a way that it looked like a little pillow of flesh. The middle finger had taken the most work. They had to slice one of the tendons long ways and flip it up to attach it to what was left on the tip of my finger. They then set all the bones in my thumb by peeling back my finger nail. At least it was still all there.

It took me a few weeks to put all the pieces together but I’m pretty sure I know what happened. I looked back and saw that expert coming and purposely went wide to give him room to get by. There’s a tar snake (a crack sealed with tar) that runs the direction of the track coming into turn 6. I’m pretty sure I was right on top of that bastard when I hit the brakes and my front wheel locked up instantly. When the corner workers got to the bike it was still in 4th gear which means it all happened so fast I didn’t even have time to downshift to third for the turn.

I’ve got 7 weeks until the next race weekend and the surgeon tells me the hand should be good in about 6 weeks. Am I racing again? You’re damn right I’m racing! This accident made me take a serious look at why I’m racing. This is a make or break kind of deal and for me I think it made me harder. I want to be out there, I want to be winning races, and I’m not going to let this get in my way. I’m sure I can still easily come up with four and a half good reasons to keep racing. Hopefully that doesn’t get whittled down to just four anytime soon.                   

by #808 Tony Marx

I spent the week before the races prepping the SV for BIR. Gearing was changed to deal with the big straight and turn 1, and the Ohlins shock that had been backordered for 7 weeks finally showed up albeit with the wrong spring installed. I guess that’s what I get for ordering on the internet. They’ll promise anything to get you to recite your 16 digit number and then laugh as they hang up the phone. Thank you cyclemall.net, thank you very much. Ok, rant over. At least I’d have some much needed damping and ride height in the rear.

I kept my head low during practice and just
concentrated going faster & faster through turns 1 & 2. As my speeds increased I began getting some headshake in 1 so I stopped by the Traxxion rep for a baseline suspension setup. He dialed in the damping and jacked up the rear quite a bit which resulted in a lot less headshake and no more fighting to hold a line.

By Saturday morning the ratty Pirellis that were on the bike when I bought it last winter were completely shot so I had Tom Mason put on some Michelins and spent the last practice session scrubbing them in for the 8 lap sprint and the 17 lap trophy dash I’d signed up for that day. Now on any given day I usually do something stupid and it’s at this point I began making up for not doing anything stupid the prior two days. I was still experiencing a little headshake coming through turn 1 even though I wasn’t taking it at full speed yet and asked Jason what he set his steering damper at. He tells me “All the way up. Full damping.” Seeing that Jason is cutting good lap times I decide that mine must be set to full damping also.

We grid up for the sprint and as usual Jason blows his start and is right in front of me heading into turn 1. I’m on the inside and we’re carrying decent speed through the corner when I hit the slightest bump and get and get worse headshake than I’ve seen the last 2 days. By the time we come around to turn 1 again I’m in 11th place and there’s no one in sight. The headshake persists and as a result I’m letting of the gas for a good 2 count before entering turn 1. The rest of the race was uneventful and I never saw anyone else except the expert leaders who lapped me. I ended up 11th out of 16 in my class, 21 of 27 overall, and did a best lap of 2:11.

After the race I checked tire pressure and the damper and found that I’d turned it all the way down instead of all the way up so I cranked the thing all the way around and headed out for the 17 lap trophy dash. In seeking Jason’s advice I failed to consider that his steering damper has 7 clicks of adjustment and was purchased new a few months ago while mine has 14 clicks of adjustment and had been sitting in a box in my friend’s garage for the last 7 years. Later I would discover that when my old school damper is dialed all the way up it has way more damping than any bike, past or present, could ever possibly need and basically locks the steering head in position. How I got through the pits without noticing this is a testament to what a hack I really am.

I grid up in the 1st wave with 17 other lightweight bikes and a pack of hungry GS500s and 2 stroke 125s in the wave behind me. Coming out of turn 1 after the start I get so much headshake the bike starts to weave up the banked corner before fading. I get off the racing line and am in dead last place thinking something must’ve broke or come loose. The bike felt acceptable in the infield and I spent the rest of the lap wondering if I should pull in. Next lap gets the same results in turns 1 & 2 but I decide to stick it out and find a comfortable speed to pooch through the fast corners and work on not upsetting the bike. Halfway through the race two RS125s split me in turn 1 and the buffeting sent me into a wild weave again and freshened up the bacon strips in my shorts. A few laps later a pink GS500 with white pigs painted on it came around me in turn 4 and I had fun chasing him for a few laps until he put enough real estate between us that even my extra 30 hp and the long front straight wasn’t enough to keep him in sight.

I ended the race 7th out of 8 in my class, 21 of 36 overall, and had a disappointing 2:12 for my best lap. I was pondering the possibilities of what could be causing the crappy headshake as I exited the track and, not yet realizing my ill adjusted damper was the culprit I went to flick the bike around the corner of the fence near our canopy and found myself on my ass in the middle of the track exit. My damper was so stiff my quick countersteering jab just resulted in me throwing the bike over on it side and across the pavement. Big thanks to Wes Good who muscled his way through the mob of laughing people to help me pick up the bike and get it up on the stand. Thanks to frame sliders I only ended up with a broken brake lever and some scraped paint. They won’t help when your bike when it tumbles through the grass at 80 mph, but it’s nice to know they’ll protect it from bonehead maneuvers like this one.

In the next month I’ll be reading up on tire stability, wobble & weave, and steering dampers in an effort to drop 10 seconds next time out at BIR. I’d like to thank my sponsors Mimic Industries, Lockhart Phillips & Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly for their support. Good times…

Central Roadracing Association Lightweight Novice points as of 5/03

Place Bike # Points
1 521 114
2 699 82
3 95 69 (Jason Bishop)
17 808 12 (Tony Marx)

 

Can Jason get back up to speed or will his stump reduce him to battling Tony for 10th place? Check back next month to find out.

M.M.M.

 

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