by Mark Jundersfeld
As I write this standing up, I marvel at the engineering behind motorcycles. I know some manufacturers design for function but after all we are human beings not robocyclists. We have feelings and the ones in my rear end hurt! After returning from my first trip to Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI for the AMA doubleheader I realize that sportbikes – even gentlemen’s sportbikes like my VFR are not cross country conveyances. More on this later….
Road America is to Brainerd Int’l what New York City is to Minneapolis. Both nice places but not in the same league. Tucked away in eastern Wisconsin this 50-year-old racetrack is the most picturesque racing factory I’ve ever seen. Better than Loudon, better than Daytona. Never been to Laguna Seca but I doubt it has the nice smoked cheddar flavor of Elkhart Lake. Beneath that friendly midwestern exterior there is a real professional operating system at Road America.
As I walked up to the Sheboygan C-store counter a young man in an Erion Racing shirt was paying for his junk food/pop combo and I wondered if the kid was a wannabe, a race groupie or what. So I said, “How’s it going?” being a nice guy. As I walked back to the pumps my riding partner said, “Do you know who that was?” It was Josh Hayes, the young up and comer who backs up Kurtis Roberts in the Formula Extreme class. That’s one of the cool things about the AMA Race scene, you get to see all the guys that are on Speedvision – in person.
You know that hopeless dyslexics feeling you get when you are turned around and can’t get your bearings? That’s me trying to navigate the infield/outfield of Road America. They have everything well laid out with signs and maps but there are so many bridges crossing the track that I got confused. I was much better after the first day. If you imagine a little city with little roads and little bridges and a lot of hills and a lot of trees, that is Road America. You ride up and down on these perfectly paved miniroads going from corner to corner to paddock to concessions. It’s cool. You would think it would be dangerous with all the pedestrians, bikes, golf carts and cars but it’s not for some reason.
Concessions don’t quite describe the food at Road America. Take it from a guy whose wife leaves Overeaters Anonymous literature lying around in conspicuous spots. This is the best race food around. Here’s a tip-off. There is a sign near Elkhart announcing the exit for Johnsonville. Yes that Johnsonville. I started with an egg/Canadian bacon/cheese sandwich Saturday morning expecting the McNoTaste special. This thing was on a home made bun with a real fried egg, gooey cheese that would make a Chihuahua proud and hot. Needless to say throughout the weekend I tore through brats, more egg and everything sandwiches, chocolate sundaes, a few beers and a lot of bottled water – it was really hot on Saturday.
Oh yeah the races! Memorable moments include Kurtis Roberts backing it in to turn five. Mladin nearly dragging his elbow at the Carousel. And DuHamel limping around the pits looking like an old man and then wiping the young guys butts with a last lap double draft pass to win the 600 Supersport race. Scott Russell on the factory Harley seems resigned to having a good time if not contending. He was wheelying downhill out of turn seven then slamming it down on the faring around turn eight probably in about fifteenth place. He gave the obligatory company speech about being a little down on power but making progress. Nicky Hayden won both rounds of the Superbike race on the factory Honda V-twin in its first year of production. Why doesn’t someone suggest to the Harley race team that they take one of these apart and see what makes it tick so fast?
So there I was at the rest stop just after you cross over from Hudson changing my sunglasses for clear lenses and wondering, “Why does a sportbike have such a bad seat.” It had been six hours and 341 miles but in this day of man on the moon technology why can’t I be comfortable? Truth is it doesn’t matter. After running hogged out hot tub jets on my cheeks for fifteen minutes, a good nights sleep and a serious craving for more race scene, I’m ready to go again. Thank God my ass has a bad memory.