A Tale of Two Rookies
All good seasons must come to an end.

Ed.; This is the final installment of the story of our sophomore racer Hot Karl Rehpohl. This issue finds Karl looking to up his standings as the season winds to a close. “Ride fast, take chances” is his mantra as he battles for Lightweight Supersport Championship.


by Karl Rehpohl
CRA #80

Have you heard of this thing they call “crashing”? Anyone familiar with it?

The September race weekend up at BIR is the last one of the season with the CRA. I came into the weekend looking pretty good in the season point standings. I’m first place in the Lightweight Supersport class, second in three others, and 7th overall amongst the CRA Novices. I need to win one race this weekend to be a champion, the Lightweight Supersport race. The problem is that racer #929 has been kicking my ass regularly and if he wins the Supersport race he’ll gain first and push me to second.

This consumes my thoughts for the month prior to the race. I’ve run fast all season, but always within my limits and haven’t crashed. The riders that beat me crash and crash often. Should I extend myself beyond my safety limits to win a race? Can I settle for second place knowing I didn’t give it my all with all the work I’ve done this season? Is a trophy worth the risk of injury? I’m not talking about money or even fame, it’s not like anyone can name who the CRA champs are from previous seasons. It’s only a matter of pride. What’s pride worth to you?

I’ve also decided to borrow a friend’s Suzuki GS500 to run in the Ultralight class this weekend in addition to my Suzuki SV650 in Lightweight. It will provide a buffer in my quest for overall points. Between the two bikes I’m running a total of eight, five lap sprint races on Saturday.

My first race is Middleweight Supersport. I will be waaaaaaay in back for I’m racing against 600s with 100-115 horsepower. My bike packs a whopping 75. This race helps me get warmed up and maybe be able to grab a couple of points. I get a good start and come into the first couple of corners mid pack. Since it’s only a five lap race I have a better chance of keeping my position because there will be less trips down the main straight where the other riders can exploit their power advantage. An event free race where I cross the finish line 17 out of 24. I’m able to dip into the 1:56 range for lap times. I’ll need to be faster to beat #929 later this afternoon.

Second race is Ultralight Supersport. I hate the idea of once again climbing on and racing a rickety old GS500. It’s a 1989 motorcycle that was never intended to be a race bike and cruising through turns at 100+ mph is not confidence-inspiring. After racing an SV650 the GS500 feels as reliable as calculating your year-end taxes on your fingers and toes. This race I’m at a disadvantage as well. The other riders have been racing their bikes all season. They’ve been able to adapt to their bikes and how it responds around BIR. I’ve done two practice sessions aboard this GS and it’s not feeling great. Someone’s removed the counter balancer so the handlebars shake like I have a vibrator in each hand and the foot pegs vibrate to the point where my feet are bouncing off. The brakes are wooden. The engine has a 500 rpm powerband and the front and rear wheels don’t feel like they’re tracking straight through the corners. Maybe it’s just the frame bending? Yet I pay to do this. How stupid am I? Right…pride.

Green flag waves and I launch well, leading for the first lap. Second lap and two riders come past me as I lose ground through turn two where the little GS wiggles it’s ass off. It’s like Salsa dancing with a 350 pound, one legged dance partner. Each time I enter I’m waiting for it to spit me off into the trees. Lap three and another rider has managed to catch up and pass. I finish 4 out of 11. Not bad, but I’m pretty sure I can ride faster aboard the little beast.

Third race is the main event, Lightweight Supersport. My nerves are on edge because I’ve talked myself into winning this race. If the season means anything to me, it’s this race.

I pull the bike into my starting position. Both feet on the ground, weight on my toes. My hands are loose on the bars, but continue to tighten. I’m already sweating. “RELAX KARL”, I tell myself. Set my body weight up and over the front to help balance if a wheelie should present itself. Release the clutch enough to feel it engage. Blip the throttle to make sure the engine stays alert. Then wait. The one minute board is shown. Once it turns sideways the green flag could come at anytime. Board goes sideways. The flagman’s arm twitches and I’m off like a shot. I don’t even remember seeing the flag. This is what a bull feels like if Santa Claus were taunting him.

I keep the lead for the first lap. As I approach the end of the main straight I see a tire invade my peripheral vision to the right. 929 has drafted up along side of me and claimed the inside line of turn one as we bank into the corner at 140mph. I return the favor by immediately getting behind him so his bike can pull me along in its wake. It works. I’m able to gain enough momentum to sling around him and get to the entrance of turn two first. With the help of the draft, I’m advancing on turn three with increased speed. The brakes are applied. The front end dives and the back end gets light as each downshift produces wiggles at the rear tire. Turn it in. Knee connects with the pavement. Exit the corner, hard on the gas. Upshift to fourth gear. Throttle to the locks. Hit the brakes. Downshift to third gear. Throw it into turn four. Back on the throttle soon as possible. The back tire protests and slides to alert me that it isn’t happy with my current demands. But I need to keep pushing hard. I need to keep feeling out that traction limit if I’m going to stay in front and win this damn race!

Lap three and I’m still leading. Like an identical twin to lap two, 929 drafts me before turn one and I strike back before turn two. My back tire slides again leaving turn four, turn six, and turn ten. Not wanting to be left out, my front tire starts chattering on the brakes into turns nine and ten. I am riding harder than I ever have. I am breaking limits I believed were out of my grasp. I am scared shitless!

Lap four 929 either isn’t close enough to draft by or has adopted a different strategy to get around me and keep the lead. Fine by me! The less I see of him the better.

I brake for turn four and set my entry speed. The bike bounces and then settles from the dip at the entrance. I feel I’m taking the corner perfect, same as usual. I know he’s back there, I know he’s close. As my knee puck glides along the pavement I gently roll on the throttle to stabilize the suspension. The corner exit is approaching. I give more gas, more gas, and more gas. The front tire slides a little. “That’s new”, I think to myself. The back tire once again starts to slide. I’m done.

It goes in slow motion. I can rememberevery millisecond like it’s happening right now. The back tire spins and keeps sliding. I know the bike is sideways, perpendicular to the direction it’s now traveling. I know I’m still heavy on the gas. I know I’m going to high-side. “SHIT!” A “high-side” is the worst crash you can have as a lone motorcyclist. It’s like being launched from a catapult when the catapult is already traveling at 80mph. As the bike is sliding sideways, still upright, I try to lean down towards the ground to keep from being launched when the tires regain traction and will send me up and over. The tires eventually take hold and the next thing I know my right elbow and back of my head pound into the pavement hard. I feel heat on my elbow and rotate my body to get it off the ground. It feels like I’m sliding forever and then suddenly, I stop. I’m lying on my back. I’m still on the track and my bike lies dead at my feet. A bike shoots by on my left and then another. I wiggle everything from my fingers to my toes, trying to determine if I am injured. I want to get up and run but fear I may be too badly hurt to accomplish that feat. I know; I’ll crawl! I start crawling off the outside of the track. Once I feel grass under my hands and knees I lie down and thank whoever’s upstairs that I’m alive. Then I start swearing profusely.

I stand up and see bikes roaring by on the track. My bike is lying on the track but off the race line. I see the Cornerworkers across the track waiting for a clearing in the bikes to come get me. It sure feels good when people are coming to rescue you.

I bruised my ribs, left hip, and leg real good and created some road rash the size of a quarter on my right elbow. My helmet has a circular dent about 6 inches in diameter on the back of it. My leathers, gloves, boots, and helmet all have scrapes, chunks, and pieces missing from grinding along on the pavement. Gear works people, wear it!!

With a mangled bike and a bruised body I entered my remaining five races that afternoon and didn’t do so well. For some reason I didn’t feel like pushing very hard. (Hmmm, wonder why?)

My SV650 decided to lock itself in fourth gear Sunday morning, making it so my team couldn’t race in the endurance race. Sorry guys.

I’m not a champion. I finished second in my classes and was able to maintain my 7th place overall for the season. Was it worth it? Every last bit of it.

Pride isn’t overrated, but you don’t have to win to keep it.

I’d like to thank the CRA, TeamPoop.org, Jenspeed.com, and MMM for the opportunity to share my story. I hope you enjoyed it. A special thanks to all the cornerworkers, medics, racers, and other individuals that make roadracing the fastest fun on two wheels.

Rider   #

Points

929

95

80

76

555

70

93

57

713

49

 

M.M.M.

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