A Tale of Two Rookies
(Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Bite the Bullet)
Ed—MMM again follows a pair rookie riders during their first season of roadracing with the CRA. In our third installment we find our hero coming to grips with reality.
by Bryan “Ace” Bandage
July was a freakin’ blast. Even in the intense, 100+ degree heat. I ran three races, ran off the track once, and ran someone else out of beer for a change.
Plus I think Jinx Gannon noticed me. Finally.
After getting severely stomped during June, I resolved to quit being such a wusscake and just ride that thing. My month leading up to the race, I practiced my race starts on my CBR 600 at every stoplight I could find. July’s ultralight supersport was a real learning experience in what seems to be a long line of learning experiences. I was gridded in the last row, baking under the sun in the sweltering heat. Predictably, I got another terrible start and entered Turn 1 in dead last. But now that I was going more balls out, I started braking later and right away found myself in the position to pass someone on the second lap coming into Turn 3.
This race was a little different from previous races though—both I and my bike felt “in the zone.” Usually, the bike kind of rattles and complains like a wheezing donkey on a treadmill, but somehow today it seemed to be egging me on. All I could hear (and picture in my mind) was Beavis (Beavis and Butthead) pounding his fists and going, “Pass him! Pass him! Pass him!” I got him on the inside coming out of 3.
A lap later, I caught up with Jinx on her Ducati. Man, she climbs around on that bike like a spider. Whatta babe. I drafted her on the straight and outbroke her in Turn 3, and left her behind. Now it’s her turn to watch me. I had another rider in sight. Three laps to go.
The very next lap, after reeling in the next rider and thinking about how to pass him, I was entering Turn 4. As I looked into the turn, I decided to notice an orange bike leaned up against the outside fence. “Hmmm, what’s that?” Meanwhile, in the back of my mind Beavis is still going “PASS HIM! PASS HIM! PASS HIM!” The orange bike appeared to be smoking, you know like maybe it’s on fire? I gave it about a half second of my attention—a half second too long. Whether it’s smoking or has dancing monkeys pushing it around in a freaking wheelbarrow, WHO CARES!?! KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE TRACK!!! I was suddenly off my line and way hot—and deep—into the corner now.
Time slowed down. I remember thinking to myself, “Super. This should be fun…dumbass.” Then, of course, “I wonder if Jinx is watching this?” I looked at the lay of the land. I had a whole lot of dry, slippery prairie grass between me and this huge earthen berm that looked like it was put there by a bulldozer. Yeowch. Don’t want to go there. I decided to try to make the bike stick the corner, so I threw it over harder. Immediately I touched my left toe down in the attempt, so I went with Option 2 and decided to ride off. Easy enough…had I not been going as fast as I was. Trying to make the corner I hadn’t scrubbed off as much speed as I would have liked. So now I stand the bike up and run off in the grass going WAY too fast, and try to slow the bike down with the rear brake…still trying…still trying…. Beavis squealed like a scared little girl and I realized that I was going to hit the berm.
I still had lots of time to think. It was day one of a two day race weekend, plus I had two more races to go—I’M NOT DONE RIDING YET!!! So I took another look at the berm and decided it was jumpable. I scrubbed off as much speed as I could, which wasn’t much in the dry grass, got on the balls of my feet, ass off the seat, and just as I reached the berm goosed the throttle. Beavis squealed in terror as I hit it at an angle. Yeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaah! I got both wheels airborne, landed the jump in a cloud of dust, stuck my fist in the air “WOOHOO!!!” got the bike turned and made my way through the grass to Turn 5 corner station. (There were about 50 people there clapping and cheering for me, thank you all for that.)
Then I got to watch as the riders I’d just passed raced by on the asphalt. (Note to self: stay on the asphalt next time.) I got back on track and almost managed to catch that backmarker before the race ended, but didn’t have time. Might as well start calling me “last place Ace.”
I finished ULSB and ULGP pretty much the same, last place, only without the off-road landscaping adventures. My starts are getting better, and I’m getting faster (2:13s), but so is everyone else. Oh well. The heat was really getting to me, I was in agony.
But enough about me. The highlight of the CRA season is the endurance race. It’s usually a five-hour race in September. This year, they made it a series: a two-hour in April, a two-hour in July, and a five-hour in September. Riders work as teams and try to turn as many laps as they can, switching riders every 30-40 minutes or so. I worked in the pits for Poon’s team and his buddy, “VespaDaddy” for July’s two-hour.
I was glad to take an afternoon off from riding in that heat. It was 102 degrees; the track temp was closer to 140. After we set up the jumbo “difficult-up” canopy and got the bike ready, we tried to stay cool with ice water in the shade. The plan was three pit stops and out, each rider running two half-hour shifts. We got to see the whole race (25 teams!) from the straightaway, watched the other teams come and go from the pits, and generally had ourselves a good time. And we all had a job to do.
A half hour into the race, Poon’s girlfriend at the straightaway wall radioed in that he was coming in for the first pit stop. She ran back to the pit wall and held up a big flag that said “Hey Tony!” Poon comes screeching into the pit and stopped the bike with the front tire right between her knees, covered in sweat and grinning from ear to ear. She threw down the flag and held the bike from the front, reached over and turned the engine off, and used the key to pop the gas cap. Poon got off the bike, almost falling down (his legs were Jell-O). Me and this other dude Dave topped off the gas tank, me pouring the gas and Dave holding the nozzle and watching the level. “GOOD!” he yells, so I stopped pouring and stepped backwards. VespaDaddy was right there, all geared up, jumped on the bike and fired it up. This other chick Maddie, who was in charge of the fire extinquisher, took a look back down the pit lane to make sure it was clear, then slapped VD on the butt and he was gone, ripping down the hot pit lane and back out onto the track at light speed. The whole thing took less than a minute.
We did this twice more that afternoon, each time Poon and VD looking a little hotter and a little more wobbly when they stepped off the bike. At one point during the race, Jinx wandered over in a halter top (she was working for another team two pits down) and asked if that was me that went over the berm in Turn 4. She was impressed. She said she thought for sure I was going to crash, and complimented me on an awesome save. She even told me she almost ran off the track behind me, watching me offroading it! Cool. I told her all about how it happened, and mentioned that I enjoy chasing her down the track and that she’d see me tomorrow—after I passed her again in Turn 3. She laughed. Ahh, progress! (I never did manage to pass her, though.)
With the quick pit stops, Poon’s team wound up finishing third in class, not bad for two guys in that heat. That night, as promised, Poon had beer for everyone on the team. Man, it was nice to drink someone else’s beer for a change! It was iced down so cold it hurt your teeth.
August is next. Then on September 17 comes the granddaddy, the five-hour endurance race. Poon’s going to be there. Jinx is going to be there. And I’m going to be there. Come on out and cheer us on and watch some great race action. I’ll have a cold beer for ya afterwards.