George McConnel's Motorcycle Racing Blog

Dates:August 20-22, 2010
Track:Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
Bikes:2001 Suzuki SV650, 2002 Honda RC51
Weather:Sunny and hot. Lows around 75, highs around 100. Mid-day thunderstorms Friday and Saturday.
Conducted By:WERA

Track Diagram

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.

After the long

Randy's first time ever on a track
Ed Bargy's instructors are wearing the green shirts.
break between the Road Atlanta round in June and the Talladega round near the end of August, Logan and I were really jonesing for some time on the track. Fortunately we got a taste last weekend with the "Nashville under the Lights" STT trackday, but it just

Ready to hit the track. Look at all those bikes!
didn't have that "race weekend" feel to me. Part of it I suppose is that many of the familiar faces I enjoy seeing at the WERA events just weren't at the trackday. It's the whole package that makes the race weekends special, and in spite of last weekend's track experience I was still really looking forward to this weekend. I wasn't disappointed.

For the first time ever, Randy Woodward would accompany us to the track. He was going to do the Rider's School, get his race license and join us in the madness. He managed to get all this done successfully over the course of the weekend.

I managed to make arrangements to take Friday off work and go down early for practice. Thursday afternoon we lit out of Nashville and got to the track in plenty of time before the gate was going to close. Randy had left about an hour and a half before us, and he kindly let me load my SV650 on his trailer so I could transport both my RC51 and Logan's Gixxer on my trailer. Joe rode with me and Logan in my pickup truck.

We ended up sitting up a little too late on

Randy prepares to head back out for more...
Thursday evening, and

Joe took this picture of me on the 90's.
when the courtesy wake-up "bleeps" on the PA system broke the morning quiet I found it difficult to roust. I had pre-registered for the Bargy track-day and registered both my bikes for tech so I could split my time between them. I also helped Randy get his details tended to so he could be ready for his racing school. Interestingly, Randy ended up being the only student taking the school that day. Although someone else had registered for the school that weekend the other student had had a medical situation to arise and was unable to attend. Needless to say Randy had plenty of attention from all the coaches and Ed Bargy himself.

Being the physically fit type, Randy had gotten up around 6:00 in the morning and ran three laps around the track, which helped him learn the track and see its characteristics at slow speed before riding it. He actually did his three laps around the track each morning while most of us were still sleeping.

We got all the bikes through tech and I went to the rider's meeting while Randy went out onto the track for his first time. Ed Bargy took him around the track to stop at each corner and talk about different characteristics of that portion of the track. They then went to the classroom for awhile and the rest of us got started with the trackday practice.

The only choices I had were "Fast" and "Not so fast". I chose "not so fast" since I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be endangering any track records. This worked out pretty well for me although there were some riders who were going considerably slower than me at times. In retrospect I probably could have just put the RC51 in the fast group and the SV in ths slow one, but then I'd have to cross groups at times. Of course I could theoretically double my track time that way if I had the stamina to do it. I didn't.

They put a lap timer beacon out after about the

The gang in the tent.
Joe and Randy in foreground,
James is on his bike ready to go, Jan and Stephen in the background.
2nd or 3rd session, which gave me a chance

Randy and his instructors after the mock race.
to discover that I was now capable of running solid 5's on my RC51. This is very cool, as it's roughly a second faster than I used to be when I was riding it regularly. With more time, some setup adjustments and a little more weight loss I could easily be into the 4's I think.

Unfortunately, during the 4th session of the morning my RC51 started having issues with the motor cutting off again. I still think it's electrical in some way, but still haven't been able to completely solve it. I parked the RC51 and switched to the SV650 for the afternoon sessions. The silver lining in all this is that the RC51 ran fine for Logan when he took it out Sunday morning for practice and a race. It did hiccup one time during the race, but it was only once.

The lap timer beacon went away during the afternoon sessions so I wasn't able to get any laptimes, although I "felt" quicker. That feeling has been known to be misplaced though, so I've learned not to take much stock in it. I have a feeling in retrospect that I probably ran a bunch of 9's with maybe an 8 tossed in every once in awhile.

The trackday ended without incident. In fact not a single person crashed during the trackday, which is a very uncommon occurrence indeed.

Friday evening we went out to eat with Todd Clark and Terese (aka Massage Lady) at a Mexican restaraunt

Karl and Stephen do a little maintenance...
Oh, just an engine swap...
in Oxford.

My new decorative "Outhouse and Toilet Paper" pit lights
We got back and stayed up way too late again on Friday night. I had plugged in my new party lights on the canopy. Sherry had gotten them for me last Summer in Montana. They looked like alternating outhouses and toilet paper rolls.

After not getting enough sleep again I drug my tired butt out of the "hotel Silverado" around 6:30 in the morning and set about the business of helping Randy get registered and teched for his first ever race weekend, and (of course) getting my own affairs in order for the remainder of the weekend.

There's always a big flurry of activity during that part of the day but eventually everything settled down with plenty of time to spare. I actually had plenty of time as my practice group was group 4 this particular weekend.

As usual, my practice session was like a video game, swerving to avoid the slow-moving EX250's littered all about the track along with the occasional 80cc Motard and other odd bike. I barely managed to get some 9's with all the traffic during either practice session.

Logan didn't get to practice Saturday because he had

Sunday morning practice.
only signed up for a Sunday sprint (C Superbike).

Randy during Sunday morning practice.
However, he did later go back and add HWT SB to his race entries for Sunday, so on Sunday he was able to get 4 practice sessions plus his two races. Worked out to almost the same amount of track time he'd have had if he'd ridden a Solo on Saturday.

Randy rode in Mediumweight Solo 20 on Saturday, which was race 2 of the day. He got lapped at least 4 times during the race, so he only had to do about 16 laps. This was his first ever race experience, so we made sure we got pictures.

I rode in Lightweight Solo, race 5 of the day. I was gridded front row center, and as usual by turn 1 I was in the back of my group. However I did manage to stay with my group for awhile before they started getting away from me.

Saturday afternoon Randy and I went to Jack's and grabbed some burgers to bring back to the pit for us to have for supper. We stayed up pretty late again, but I did manage to get to bed around 10:00 this time, which was better. Logan, however was unable to sleep at all that night. He says he really struggles to sleep the night before a race.

Terese had to go home early because of a medical emergency situation with her husband. She had gotten us our new shirts for next Endurance race, and I wore mine all day on Sunday but she wasn't there to see it. I also now have some "Cloud 9 Sport Massage" stickers on my SV650.

Sunday morning was mostly laid back although Logan had to get the RC51 through tech. It felt like I passed a gazillion people during both practice sessions, but when it came race time I wasn't such a hero. Finishing in my usual spot, I've pretty much come to accept that I can't compete with the rest of the Expert LWT field this year. Maybe next year some of those guys will go somewhere else to play. Or maybe I'll do some work on my bike to make it a bit more competitive.

Randy ran V7MW (Race 2) and V7HW (Race 14). He won a 3rd place in both classes, so he ended up taking trophies home on his very first race weekend. That was pretty cool.

Logan also took home a 3rd place in HWT SB, which surprisingly is the first time he's ever won a trophy in any WERA class apart from me letting him keep the endurance trophy we got back in April.

Most important lesson learned during this race weekend: Not much learning this time. Sorry.

Back to my Motorcycle Racing Pages