Tale of Two Rookies
Ed.–Last year MMM followed two racers through their rookie season in the Central Roadracing Association. Jason has moved on to his dream job of as a regional rep for Boss Hoss. Tony, ever the family man, has scared himself into sitting out the season. We pick up the story this year with Hot Karl Rehpohl, proud new owner of the evil SV650 that last season, won some races before ravaging Jason Bishop’s hand in a crash (Issue #60) that set the stage for a season of anguish and unfulfilled dreams.
by Karl Rehpohl–CRA #80
Break the curse and win some races. Those are my goals for the season. I’m racing in the CRA’s Lightweight Novice class and I don’t want to win just some races, but the whole class championship. Who doesn’t? Don’t get me wrong, its all for fun but when you compete a winning result is always preferred. Then there’s that line between those that have crashed and those that will crash and striving to win won’t help my odds of avoiding it. I’m not superstitious but I do appreciate all my fingers.
The first race weekend at BIR is always cold. Predicted temps in the 40s are bad for traction and traction is key because it’s all you’ve got to keep you off your head. Tires need heat to gain traction. You’ve got to take it easy and reach optimal temperature on the first few laps or try and handle the sliding unless you’ve got tire warmers. Wrap these cuddly, fuzzy blankets of electrical coils around your tires and let the baking begin. I had never used them before and figured this weekend would be a great time to start. Use tire warmers and you come out swinging on lap one.
The more you can get done at home and before the track the better. Unfortunately I can never find the time to fulfill that desire. Several projects had to be completed on the bike before I could hit the track and scare myself silly. I had to change oil, brake pads, race numbers, chain, and sprocket. Of course I then realized that I didn’t have a rivet master link for my chain and had to settle for the C-clamp variety. This was all made a little easier by renting a garage this year. Jenspeed was kind enough to share Garage C with TeamPoop and it rocks! I pass tech inspection with flying colors and its time to circle BIR for the first time this year.
Like any sport you want to weigh the competition. The winners from last year were just barely breaking 2 minutes per lap and I know I can do that.
Practice goes off without a hitch. I put my knee down in turn 2 for the first time at 130mph. That’s scary. The patch on the inside of turn 10 is slippery. According to my lap timer I’m turning constant 2:02 laps.
Saturday I wake with butterflies and spend some quality time on the toilet reading motorcycle magazines. I arrive at the track, mount up some brand new rubber, and practice. I sit out the second practice session to collect my thoughts and get mentally ready to rip it up.
I’m the fifth race of the day and it helps to see friends and other racers whizzing by without problems. You never know what might go wrong and its no joke, you can get very hurt over the simplest of mistakes.
Just before my first race I uphold one of Jason’s most sacred rituals by trotting off to the bathroom for a pre-race poop. Minutes later I head out for my race and am gridded on the front row in my class of 12 novices, looking to get a good launch. The green flag drops, my right hand turns, and my left hand releases. The front tire comes flying off the ground into a wheelie. I panic, chop the throttle off, and the bike pounds back to Earth veering to the left. My balls are slammed into the tank and it doesn’t feel good. I hammer the throttle back open and the front goes air born again. Once again I chop throttle and once again the boys get hammered this time veering me to the right. Most of the grid has taken off down the straight and I’m gradually rolling ahead speaking like I just inhaled a helium filled balloon and convinced I’m going to crash before I even start my season. The damn bike is cursed!
Out of the twelve entries I’m in about 8th place coming into turn 3 and pass several riders on the brakes into this decreasing radius turn. I know I have a lot of ground to make up if I’m going to catch the leaders. I’m passing through the field pretty easily and by lap 5 I see the two leaders riding right together. Down the straight and I draft behind them both hoping I can swing around them in the fast corners, 1 or 2. It doesn’t happen but I’m able to outbrake them into turn 3. I lead for the rest of the race and cross the line with the checkered flag. First race, first win. I’ve got to work on those starts.
#93 took second, #929 took third. My best time was a 1:58.3. Of course Jason is quick to point out that he won his first race last year and lost his finger in the next. Thanks dude.
The 17 lap Trophy Dash is up next. I’m pumped up after my win, but also nervous about the length of this race and the curse. The added laps wear you out and when you’re tired you make dumb mistakes.
I start this race very apprehensively. Gently roll on the gas and off I go. Better, but still not a great start. I’m in the lead by the end of the first lap. #929 passes me around lap 11 and takes the lead for a lap or two. I then pass him back and finish with another win. According to the times and my friends watching #929 was right on my ass the whole race with #93 coming in third. Sweet, I won the race and found my competition. Better still I did it with all my fingers attached!
Sunday has three races in store for me, Supertwins, Superbike, and GP. Supertwins is any twin cylinder motorcycle which includes full liter twins but is mostly filled with SV650. A new rider in his orange pumpkin shirt takes first on a RC-51 and my rival #929 takes second by upping his game. I take third only because the Aprilia Mille in front of me does some landscaping in turn 6 before returning to the track and though I edge him out by a bike length at the finish line, it was close.
I decide some more horsepower is in order and strap on the flat-side carburetors because I can legally run them during Sundays races. They’ll add a couple horsepower, but I’m warned that they aren’t as easy to ride because of the abrupt throttle response.
The Superbike race is scary. It feels fine until the halfway mark when, coming through turn 2, my front end feels like its sliding while leaned over in the turn at 135mph. My tire shouldn’t be bald? Maybe it’s my body position? Maybe just the cold ground or my line is different than before? Whatever the reason I start rolling off hard through the turn and my lap times suffer. Third place again.
I check my tire and there’s plenty of tread left. Check my tire pressure and it seems low so I add some air hoping it will fix the sliding. Jason mentions that maybe the added power of the flat-slides is bringing me into the corner faster than before?
The GP race is the exact same as the Superbike. Turn 2 scares me with the sliding tire and to make matters worse my bike will barely accelerate through 5th gear and limps once shifted into 6th. It feels like I’m crawling down the main straight by lap 5 while in 3rd place and I know others will soon be passing me in this wounded state. Something is up with the carbs or the fuel delivery. Last lap a pumpkin passes me and I manage to stay with him through the infield. Last corner I take him on the brakes and have him beat out of the corner. The bike bogs again and I can’t get any drive forward. He beats me across the timing lights and 4th place is my destiny.
Not bad for the first weekend. Could have been better, could have been much worse. Tune in next month to see if the curse can be beaten at MAM in May and if I can notch some more wins in my swingarm?
Ride fast, ride safe, race.