Ed.–During the upcoming months MMM will bring readers the story of two Lightweight Novice riders as they go through a season of racing
by #95 Jason Bishop
You watch the races all the time. The riders are insane, dragging their knees, laying down rubber on the exit of the turns, superheroes on two wheels. Maybe you’re one of those guys that sit on the couch and say, “I could do that”. So why don’t you?
I got tired of asking myself that question last year and decided I’d had enough of the lame excuses. My name is Jason Bishop and I’m a superhero, at least that’s how I feel when I’m racing my 2001 Suzuki SV650S. This will be my first full season as a licensed racer with the Central Roadracing Association and I’m after the title of #1 Lightweight Novice. From what I can tell so far it’s going to be a damn good year.
The season opener was April 11th-13th down at Mid-America Motorplex in Pacific Junction, IA, about 6 hours from the Twin Cities. I’d never ridden the bike before but perfect weather and a great track like MAM was going to make the break in a lot of fun.
Thursday and Friday practice did not yield good results for me. The bike felt heavier in the corners than my first girlfriend and I was running pretty damn slow, 1:54s to be exact. I finished the day disappointed and a little concerned about how I’d place in Saturday’s race. I thought this was supposed to be fun.
Saturday morning I stopped and talked to the suspension rep about some of the problems I was having with the bike. It turned out that my rear ride height was completely wrong. He suggested I crank it up at least 5mm and that I’d feel the difference immediately. Man was he right, the bike felt ten times better and railed through the corners with ease. I didn’t get any lap times from practice but I knew I was going faster and was pretty sure that the pressure of an actual race would help me get my lap times down where I wanted them.
Some guys get sweaty before a race, some get really quiet, some run around all hyped up on a pre-race adrenaline rush. Me, I feel like I have to take a dump. About ten minutes before the first call to grid I felt like I hadn’t cleared the pipes in a week, it was going to be a good race.
My main sponsor, Colder Products Company, covered my registration fees and enabled me to pre-register and secure pole position for every sprint race of the year. The bike felt great, I had the pole, and my times were where they needed to be. The only way I could lose is if I really blew something out my tailpipe, but I’m a superhero, I don’t make mistakes.
The green flag drops and it becomes immediately obvious that I forgot something very important. I hadn’t practiced a single start on the new bike. First I popped the front end up, then I almost stalled the bike. By the time I pulled my head out of my ass I was in 11th place and heading into turn 1. I just got demoted from hero to zero and it hurt something fierce. Well, nothing to do now but try to go fast and avoid coming in last.
I started picking off the slower riders and working my way back up to the front. By the halfway point of an eight-lap race I’d worked my way into the top five and was starting to think I had a shot at a win. Fourth place, then third and before I knew it I was a couple seconds behind the leader in second place. I was hot on his heels coming out of the final turn onto the front straight with at least one lap to go. I had him! I tucked in for the draft, started to close in on him and there was the checkered flag. Somehow I’d missed the white flag signaling the final lap of the race and finished 0.4 seconds behind the winner in second place. I was the number one loser.
The two races on Sunday saw similar results. My best lap time from the day before was a 1:47.3, a full second faster than the winner and I figured that if I could at least come into turn one in the top three I’d have a good shot at a win. Well, not only did I get more comfortable, my competition did as well. Race two wasn’t that exciting and you’ve all probably seen one just like it. The leaders break a gap with about 2 seconds between them and it stays that way to the finish line. I ended up in third place at the checkered flag. Even Spider-Man gets a whipping sometimes, I guess I can handle a beating now and then.
My starts were getting better and I was in second place within the first few laps in the third race of the weekend. The leader had a few seconds on me because of my less than perfect start and again I couldn’t seem to close the gap. I did find some motivation when third place passed me. I put my head down, quickly passed him back and finished the race in second place.
Overall it was a great weekend considering that it was my first time riding the bike. I was feeling a lot better by the end of the weekend, knew what I had to work on and I was still excited about the rest of the season.
I of course have to thank Colder Products Company, Lockhart Phillips and Ignition Motorsports because without their help my results wouldn’t have been near as good. Remember, the superhero always prevails. It should only get better from here.
by #808 Tony Marx
After attending a handful trackdays last year and watching many of my friends turn to roadracing I developed an itch that I was able to ignore for the better part of two years. This winter however, in a strange turn of events I found my savings account plump and my wife agreeable to the idea of me buying a small bike for trackdays. Then in another slightly disturbing turn she had me insured for $400,000 and agreed to let me go and race the bike.
If you ever want to make spring arrive in a godawful hurry then try building a racebike over the winter. By February a good friend hooked up with a previously raced SV650 with a tuned, yet questionable motor, stock suspension, and no bodywork. The price was right though and I quickly set my wallet to the task of restoring it to an asskicking racebike. Upper and lower fairing were purchased used but unpainted and a dremmel tool made a stock SV windscreen fit the bodywork, sort of. Mimic Industries (www.mimicindustries.com) gave me a sweet deal on the race tail and fender. At the last minute I splurged and sent the forks out to Traxxion Dynamics (www.traxxion.com) for their works treatment but this meant I’d have to use the stock ’99 shock since the last of my money was spent on a new helmet and back protector.
With less than 48 hour before I was to leave for Iowa I was putting the front end back together, remounting the bodywork that has been sprayed less than 36 hours before (thank you Don), and applying the vinyl number plates. Even though this last task was the single most maddening thing I have ever had to do I somehow I managed to get my crap into a trailer down to Iowa. This mild mannered, 30 year old husband and father was about to become a roadracer.
I went down on Thursday for the Edge Performance trackday to learn the bike and the track and spent the first few sessions constantly getting off the track to tighten all the crap that would rattle loose. A fast guy on an SV can easily do mid 1:40s at Mid-America. I on the other hand started out at 2:17 but by the end of the first day got down into the 2:05s.
Friday had me in the CRA’s new rider course and wearing a very big, very orange shirt meant to warn other racers that I may do something stupid at any moment and to keep their distance. Practice was fun and I was getting used to passing and being passed in very close quarters. There was one anxious moment when I passed another newbie on an R6 on the outside in turn 6. I knew he’d be all over me in the short straight that followed and sure enough just as I was about to tip it into 7 I heard the howl of a locked up rear tire coming in behind me and then up the inside as he crossed my bow and rode off the track.
I kept my head low during the new rider race and settled into the middle of the pack and was able to turn a 1:57. Nothing to brag about but definitely an improvement from the day before and fast enough for the stock shock to start acting up enough so that even a rookie like me would notice it was a piece of crap. It would load up most noticeably in the chicanes and then spring back up with a bounce or two as I stood the bike up.
My only real race was a sprint on Saturday. I started on the 3rd row and got an average start which put me right behind Jason going into turn 1. That dude really knows how to suck up a start although after that he seems pretty competent since by the 2nd lap I never saw him. I found myself alone in 9th place and could see 8th way out in front of me but really wasn’t that intent on catching him until I realized that I was actually making a little time on him each lap. I decided to go for it and actually try and race someone. 2 laps later I was still about 3 seconds behind him when the expert leaders came by me in the chicane just before the front straight. Having not yet seen the white flag I thought if I could catch their draft on the straight I’d be within striking distance of 8th place. Trying to hang with the experts through the final turn illustrated very well why I am not an expert as I ran wide and was off the throttle in a big way. It felt like the front was pushing but the sick squealing noise seemed to be coming from the rear tire and as I pondered this thought the bike stood up, shook it’s head, bounced it’s rear a couple of times and was pointed down the straight. I ended the race 6 seconds behind 8th place but feeling victorious none the less because wadding this bike up is not an option I can afford right now. My best time for the weekend was a 1:54.5 and I’d kept everything in one piece. Good times……..
Ed: Will Jason pull a win out of his superhero tights? Will Tony have the stones to hold it wide open through the fastest turn in North America? Check back next month to see who survives the superfast Brainerd International Raceway.
Central Roadracing Association Lightweight Novice points as of 4/03
|2||95||49 (Jason Bishop)|
|11||808||7 (Tony Marx)|