|Date:||February 6-7, 2010|
|Track:||Talladega Gran Prix Raceway|
|Bike:||2001 Suzuki SV650|
|Weather:||Cloudy and cold. Highs around 40|
|The Talladega Gran Prix Raceway is designed to be run either clockwise or counterclockwise. This weekend's events were conducted in a counterclockwise direction. The redesigned track has been run in clockwise direction once since the repaving, owing to safety concerns.|
The 2010 racing season began with a radical change for me. For the first time ever I was going to the
Sponsored by LearnToRide.Org
WERA changed the arrangements a little this year. It is no longer possible to get four practice sessions for a single race entry. I used to take advantage of this little loophole in the scheduling arrangements, but that gravy train has left the station. Instead I signed up for the LightWeight Solo 20 on Saturday and the LightWeight Twins Superstock event on Sunday so I could get the benefit of both day's practice at the least possible cost to myself.
As the race weekend approached I found myself procrastinating on several details that needed attention. One of them
Logan in the pit
on a cold, cold weekend.
So we had a deal. Logan took care of painting the plastic. Meanwhile I needed to do something about the horrible suspension on the stock SV650. I had talked to Rob Turner last year about my plans to race the SV (in endurance). He offered to help me get the suspension ready, an offer I gladly accepted. As it turned out though he was very busy as the deadline approached and I was unable to hook up with him to work together on the project. He ended up doing it all by himself, but managed to put a good rear spring/shock together for me and fit some stiffer springs and cartridge emulators into the forks. The result was a well balanced and much more robust suspension suitable for racing.
Finally I had to take care of all the details of safety wiring and other miscellaneous race prep necessary to get the bike on the track. I safety wired the exhaust hangers and all the exhaust spring connectors. I also bought some thermal exhaust wrap and used it on the pipes to help with the problem I had already observed with the exhaust heat damaging my race plastic. I drilled safety wire holes for all the banjo bolts and brake caliper bolts, the oil fill, the coolant drain plug and other necessary places. I spent several hours each day finishing up these issues, but by two days before the event it was all coming together. Logan had finished my plastics, Rob had finished my suspension and I reassembled everything. The "Peace Beast Lite" roared to life ready for action.
Logan and I hooked up as early as we could on Friday and headed down to the track.
Dewayne and I on the 90's
During Saturday's Solo 20
I had gotten some number decals from Stickboy and put them on the bike Friday evening after we got everything unloaded. I also applied some other decals on the bike and it began looking much more like a race bike.
There really wasn't that much for me to do Saturday morning. I had pre-registered, so a quick trip to the
By myself on the 90's
registration tower followed by a quick trip to 'Tech' was all that was necessary for me to be ready to put the lower back on and start donning the leathers. Unfortunately there had been heavy rain all day on Friday and a light drizzle all night long. The track was wet and cold, not very inviting.
In spite of my preparedness I still only managed to make the last few laps of my first practice session. I was still struggling with my leathers when they made final call. I had not bothered to put the tire warmers on either. I figured I'd just go out and take a few easy laps and push only a little each time before pitting back in.
When I got back into the pit I did put the tire warmers on. The tires themselves were three year old takeoffs that Dewayne had given me from a pile of takeoffs in his basement. I knew they couldn't be in the best of shape but I figured they would be enough to get me through the weekend. As it turned out I was quite right about that.
It was very cold and wet, with occasional drizzle. I tiptoed around the track, barely able to see because my visor was trying to fog up badly even with the gap made by a zip tie. It was horrible conditions in which to ride and I wouldn't have been riding at all if it weren't for the fact that I needed saddle time to test and begin solving the new bike.
The second session didn't go much better. I did make it onto the track with the first folks out, and I managed to work on some slightly better laptimes, but in spite of all that I was still running in the high 1:26's and higher. Very slow laptimes compared to what I knew I could do on a dry track.
I had signed up for the Solo 20 that afternoon. Dewayne was also signed up for it. This would be the first time both of us were on equal equipment and racing directly against each other. Our last race where we were competing directly against heach other was at Nashville a couple of years ago. That time I had used the massive horsepower advantage of the RC51 to open up a major gap on Dewayne and beat him handily.
This time we were going to be on equal equipment, but Dewayne was going to be using rain tires on a drying track while I was going to be using old takeoff DOT tires. Also, he had the advantage of several years racing experience on the Talladega track under a variety of conditions while this would be my first ever laps on that track on that bike with the surface developing a dry line. I hadn't had an opportunity to work on any braking reference points for the slower top-end speeds of the SV650, or on pushing the bike at all for that matter.
I was gridded on the front row and Dewayne was gridded two rows behind me. I managed to launch quickly enough
On the Farmhouse Turn
The gap continued to increase as I fatigued, so I just accepted the fact that Dewayne had me for the time being. I worked on my own lines and tried to develop some better sense of reference points as I continued to circulate on the track. Suddenly, to my surprise, I began to see Dewayne coming back to me. My internal clock was telling me that if it kept up at this rate I would be back with him in about three laps.
So I started pushing a little harder, hoping to maybe make a contest of it in the last lap or two. Unfortunately
Dewayne tries in vain to chase
me down during the sprint.
We were hoping that Sunday was going to be much nicer. The forecast was for sunshine and a high around 50. That would be wonderful whenever it showed up. The actuality was that it only got up to about 40 and was cloudy all day. What a miserable weekend weather-wise for a track event.
Dewayne and I both opted to skip the first practice on Sunday morning. It was just so cold it wasn't really going
Watching a cold awards presentation
Photo Courtesy of Kendrick Kirk of MotoHD.net
Logan ran into some trouble during his second practice. A slower rider took a bad line through the double nineties and (inadvertently) pushed him to the edge of the track where he had to go off into the grass. That wouldn't have been so bad but he ended up falling over on the wet grass trying to re-enter the track. He went back through tech and was fully prepared to race in his only race event of the weekend, C Superstock Novice. It was race 4.
I took Logan's camera out to the carousel position to take video, while Karl Lemmer took mine up to the ninties to take pictures from there. I took video of Logan and the group coming around for their warm-up lap. Then when the group came around for their first race lap I didn't see him. I waited another lap to see if he ever came through the group, then went back to the pit to get the news. I just hoped he hadn't crashed.
He hadn't crashed, but the news wasn't much better. As he pulled up to his grid position steam started coming from his bike. Worse yet, the steam smelled strongly of antifreeze and the water collecting in his pan was of a geenish enough tint that the grid marshals decided to fine him for running antifreeze during a race event. Adding insult to injury, he had been gridded right on the front row in a two wave race event. He had a chance to pick up some great points. Instead he got a DQ, a fine, and next time he grids up he's going to be in back of everyone who has points.
But even that isn't as rough as the weekend John McDonald had. John had been hanging around with our group and Logan in particular since he started racing back last year. He'd had a rough introduction to racing with a hard crash at Barber last year followed by a really bad crash at Nashville in the last event of the year. That was the one that left him spending the night at our place with splints and slings on both arms. He had broken his left collarbone and ended up with a metal plate there. He spent the winter healing up and repairing his bike so he could make this round at Talladega. But during his second practice, three corners after Logan fell in the double 90's he went down at the farmhouse turn. His crash was pretty hard on the bike but at least he didn't get injured as badly. His right knee was pretty gimpy, but otherwise he looked okay. But he ruined the Jardine exhaust on his bike, bending and breaking the subframe in the process. Poor John, if it weren't for bad luck...
We tried to talk John into maybe getting out of "meatgrinder" class and getting an SV650. He's either going to need to do that or he's probably going to get hurt real bad one day.
Getting back to the saga of the old slow farts, Dewayne was scheduled to run three events Sunday afternoon. I was only going to run one, LightWeight Twins SuperStock. Our race was going to be the 13th event of the day, so I had awhile to wait before going out. When our turn finally came up we both tried to heat our gloves and helmets on my Kerosene heater (which I had been smart enough to bring) and we got our bikes warmed up. This time Dewayne and I were gridded side by side, him on the left and me on the center of the front row of the grid. To my right was Bryan Gripp.
The green flag flew and I got passed by nearly everyone within fourty feet of me on the grid. However, by the time we got to turn 2 I was right back with Dewayne and managed to outbrake him into the bowl. I don't think I picked up any more positions, but I believe I managed to keep everyone else behind me who was in my class. When the race concluded I had actually pulled a pretty good gap on Dewayne and scored a 1:10 on the lap chart. Another one second improvement. In fairness, Dewayne's rear tire was pretty much rashed up, so he backed off and circulated as well as he could with the traction he had left.
So Dewayne beat me once and I beat him once. I'm hoping this year brings us many great heated battles with which to push each other and have some great times!
Most important lesson learned during this race weekend: The SV650 really is a fun bike on the track.