Ed.–This is the third 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. The pain and suffering continue into round 3 & 4 as Jason brings his mangled hand back to the track and Tony just hides in the back of the pack.
by #95 Jason Bishop
It’s Friday practice for the third of six race weekends with the CRA and, 7 weeks after my crash, I’m about to find out if my left hand is race ready or not. For those of you that didn’t tune in last month I had a pretty nasty crash here at BIR in May leaving my left hand with five breaks, tendon damage and a ring finger that’s an inch shorter than OEM.
It’s healing up slower than expected and my biggest problem is strength, or more accurately the lack of strength. I’ve only got one good finger at this point so being able to pull the clutch in, especially for multiple downshifts, is an issue.
In my first practice session I feel like absolute hell. I’m so uncomfortable I end up pulling in after about seven laps. The problems are even worse than I had thought. Turns out they’re all in my head. The bike’s fine and the track is the same as last time. It’s me that has changed and I need to shake it off or it’s going to eat me alive. The only way to beat the demon is getting back on the bike so that’s what I do.
By the end of the day I’m feeling right as rain again. A friend had taken a few lap times for me and I’m right back where I had been before the crash. The only major problems were coming into turns Three & Nine. Both require multiple down shifts and my hand actually slowed me down enough that I had to brake earlier to have enough time to bang down through the gears. I’d just have to be faster everywhere else on the track.
Saturday morning practice and things go pretty well. My comfort level is continuing to increase and although the middle finger on my left hand is a little swollen it doesn’t seem to be holding me back too much. I decided to take it easy in the first sprint race and just enjoy myself. I didn’t want to take a chance at making my hand any worse than it already was and I knew if I went out there with the mindset of winning that’s exactly what I’d do.
First call to grid sounds over the loud speakers and that funny feeling starts to come on again. But this time it’s worse. The combination of my hand and the uncertainty of whether it’d hold up at race pace had my stomach in knots. By the time I roll up to the gate I feel like I could paint the back of the bowl with some serious force. No time for that now, final grid has already sounded and I’ve waited seven weeks for this.
The green flag drops and it’s go time! My starts suck to begin with and my bum hand definitely isn’t making them any better. I’m in the usual 5th or 6th place off the line and I have to remind myself that I’m just out here to have fun. Heading into turn Three on the first lap I actually manage to pass a couple guys on the brakes. Before the first lap is even over I was thinking “The hell with fun. Let’s win this thing!” The start of lap two I’m in 3rd pulling a double draft and heading for BIR’s high-speed turn One. My bike has pretty much been the fastest one on the grid this year and I really need the help. Coming into One, I shoot past the competition and take the lead for the first time since my crash. Man did it feel good!
The three of us in the lead are riding hard and passing all over the place. I can make up ground in a few places but anything that required more than one downshift means I have to brake early and they catch right back up or pass me. The race takes forever and it all comes down to the last lap. I’m in 2nd place and if I stay right up this guy’s ass I know I can pass him coming out of turn Ten. Unfortunately a few lapped riders make sure that didn’t happen. I have to hand it to the guy in the lead, he made a few aggressive passes and I just couldn’t stay with him. I ended up finishing a full 2 seconds behind. It wasn’t a win, but it was a hell of a fun race and considering my hand I was pretty damn happy with my results. I’d get the bastards tomorrow for sure.
Sunday morning rolls around and I have a problem. Due to an incident the night before (Tony you suck) my middle finger is swollen up and sore as hell. I go out for practice and am paying so much attention to my bad hand that it’s affecting my riding in a bad way.
I suit up for the first race anyway, determined to finish the weekend but it wasn’t meant to be. The warm up lap feels all wrong and as I reach for the clutch coming into turn six I jam my already swollen finger into the lever. SONOFABITCH!!! I call it a day and pull off before the race even starts. It takes me a few minutes to get the glove off and when I do my finger looked like a purple butt plug. My weekend was over.
Back at BIR for Round Four. Friday practice goes very well. My hand is feeling much better and has enough strength that pulling the clutch was almost easy again. I bought a cheap lap timer to track my progress and by the end of the day my lap times are even better than when I had a whole hand.
Saturday’s first race comes up fast and I’m pumped and ready to go. I know my times were good and my hand isn’t hurting enough to be an issue. At this point I’ve only completed a third of the sprints for the year and it’s really starting to get to my head. I need a win and I need to finish the damn weekend. I’m so out of it for points now that I don’t even care about that, but man it would be nice to finish the year on a high note.
First call to grid sounds and I’m in the bathroom pinching a loaf. Man, I hate being rushed when I’m doing my duty but racing calls. I jump into my leathers and I manage to make it to the gate with plenty of time to spare. My game is on this weekend. I’m feeling better than I have since May and I have a smile on my face through the entire warm up lap. The green flag drops and we’re off! Well, most of us. Turns out three or four of the top riders on the grid get horrible starts, me being one of them. I made the mistake of gridding right on top of the rubber from the drag cars and it results in my spinning the back tire almost all the way to the start/finish line and heading towards turn One somewhere around 10th place. I’m almost starting to enjoy my crappy starts.
The first two turns of the race were hairy to say the least. For some reason a lot of riders don’t like to push it too hard on that first lap and it makes for some interesting passes. I’m dodging bikes left and right and by the time we get out of turn Three I’m in 3rd place. The leader must have gotten a great start as he already has a gap on 2nd place and as I struggle to get past 2nd the gap gets even bigger. I haven’t worked this hard to catch the leader since my first race this year and it takes me a solid four laps to catch him and make a pass.
Man, I love being up front. Time to put my head down and make sure it stays that way. The guys in 2nd and 3rd are showing me a wheel often enough to remind me I can’t get too comfortable. I’m able to hold them off while running a comfortable pace though and I know I just need to keep it together to take the win. On the last lap we we’re heading for turn Three and I feel good. I’m still not braking quite as late as I was before the accident, but I’m pretty confident these guys aren’t getting past me. I set myself up for the turn, nail the front brakes and toss the bike in. Knee on the ground, relaxed, looking through the turn when suddenly, what the hell? I look over in time to see a bike finishing out a lowside and coming straight for me. There’s nothing I can do about it.
It’s amazing how much time you have to think. “His bike’s going to roll over me. I can’t believe he just hit me. What the hell was he thinking? The bike is going to roll over me again when we hit the dirt. Man this sucks ass. Damn it, did I just feel a sharp pain in my left hand? I better not have a scratch on my helmet when we’re done sliding.” We came to a stop and I was sitting upright with another rider lying across my feet. I was pissed, man was I pissed. I got up and walked away. I didn’t want to see my bike and I damn sure didn’t want to talk to anyone. As soon as the corner captain cleared us I walked away and headed for the pits.
It took me a few days but I finally got in touch with the rider that hit me and got the rest of the story. He was in 3rd coming into the turn and was coming off a big double draft through turn Two. He knew he wasn’t going to make it and got on the brakes with the intention of running off the track. Unfortunately the guy in 2nd kept him from doing it and he had no choice but to stay on the brakes heading for the inside of the turn and hope for the best. The best didn’t happen and ultimately it resulted in all three of us going down. That’s racing folks.
I walked away relatively unscathed. I’ve got a nice bruise in the middle of my back where his rear tire hit me and my right hip and knee are a little sore, probably from hitting the ground. I was very lucky. Everything on the right side of the bike is trashed. To add insult to injury the oil filler cap popped out and the open hole scooped up dirt as it slid to a stop. I really enjoyed building this bike the first time, but this is getting old really fast. Time to beg, borrow and steal, hopefully I’ll be able to at least finish the season.
Huge thanks to my main sponsor Colder Products Company. (www.colder.com) Without their help this year my season might have been over in May. Also, a big, furry thanks to Joe Birchhill of Ignition Motorsports (www.ignitionmoto.com) for literally clothing me the last few months. Thanks to Michelin, Lockhart Phillips and EBC as well.
by #808 Tony Marx
After my misguided attempts to rid my bike of its high speed headshake last month I spent a few late nights in the garage working on the bike again. The steering damper from hell was turned back to its original setting and gearing ratio was bumped up. I wasn’t coming near redline at the end of the front straight and figured I’d get better drive down it. I also source the correct windscreen for my bodywork and would now have decent wind protection through the 130+ sections. Last but not least I broke out the black spray paint and gave my wheels a good coat of gloss black with a silver pimp stripe on the side for good measure.
The first few practice sessions went well but as my speed increased the headshake started coming back, though not nearly as bad as last month. I was beginning to think that this was normal for an SV and that I was being a wuss until I took Jason’s bike out for a few laps and found it to be rock solid. I pulled in and promptly nosed the bike down by raising the forks another 10mm. Problem solved. I started in the back third of nineteen bikes for the supersport sprint and got a good enough start to take four bikes before the first turn. People seem to react one of two ways in turns One & Two after the start. Some, like me, get a little wigged out going through full bore with a dozen other bikes in close proximity and take it a little easy. Everyone moves gently, no one does anything stupid and by turn Four we’re all sorted out.
Others take full advantage of our weakness and blast through the pack like a raped ape and end up coming into turn Three in a very nice position. Someday I will try this approach. I was very near the back of the pack but picked up two spots before turn Three. The frontrunners were long gone and I had three riders in the 50 yards ahead of me. I easily got by the first on the straight since his SV had no bodywork to help him. I was slowly reeling in #124 and my buddy Mike on #663 on the straight but they would make most of it back in turn Two. By the time I caught up, the #124 (Edwin) bike had gotten by Mike a started checking out. I got by Mike on the brakes coming into Ten and slowed him up enough through turns One & Two to make it stick. I ended up 12th of 19 in my class and 23 of 33 overall. The best part was that I actually got to race someone this time instead of riding around alone like last month.
The 17-lap Trophy Dash was much the same with Edwin following me and Mike about 6 seconds ahead of us. Edwin got by me on lap 3 and checked out again and I was keeping Mike in sight but not making any time on him until his Bridgestones started squirming around on lap 8 and his times dropped until I was able to sneak by on lap 11 ending the race 7th of 12 in class and 21 of 35 overall. My lap times had dropped by 3 seconds but were still around 10 seconds slower than the novice leaders. Looks like I’ve got some work to do.
This time around I wasn’t able to race Saturday so I signed up for three sprints on Sunday, second of which was the Supertwins class. This would be run at the same time as the unlimited superbikes which meant I’d not only be competing with open-class twins but running the track with open-class fours as well. First race was Lightweight Superbike where I was holding next-to-last place when on lap two, my fairing bracket broke and my bodywork started dragging in turn One. My first DNF!
A few cable ties had me back on the grid for the Supertwin race where I quickly took last place and held it to the end. The unlimited leaders blew my paint off on lap 7 but all passes were clean and quick. Last in class, last overall but lap times dropped into the 2:05s so there was improvement.
Last up was Lightweight GP. Gridded with 12 bikes I came through turn One in 8th and stayed there until lap 3 when some dude riding the beans out of an FZR400 came by followed by Edwin again. I wasn’t going to let him get away like I had last month and stuck with them watching Edwin throw sparks through the left hand turns Four and Six until on lap six I saw him sliding on his back and his bike disappeared into a cloud of dust putting me in 9th where I stayed until the end. Edwin dude, that was one hell of a show. I hope you came out OK.
Central Roadracing Association Lightweight Novice points as of 7/03
|7||95||91 (Jason Bishop)|
|17||808||23 (Tony Marx)|
How much more drama can Jason provide? Can Tony be any duller? Check back next month as the CRA heads to the tight Mid-America Motorplex and then back to Brainerd for the season finale 5 hour endurance race!