George McConnel's Racing BLOG

Date:May 11-13, 2012
Track:Barber Motorsports Park
Bike:2001 Suzuki SV650
Weather:Partly sunny, highs around 85. Rain showers all day on Sunday.
Conducted By:WERA

Track Diagram

Barber Motorsports Park is a beautiful, purpose built motorcycle racing. track built by George W. Barber, an avid automobile enthusiast who made his fortune in the dairy industry. It features 15 numbered turns, several of which are complexes. It also has many elevation changes. It can also be run as a "short track" wherein turn 5 empties out immediately into the back straight, bypassing nearly 50% of the track.

On the same campus as the track is the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which began as Mr. Barber's private collection of vintage automobiles and motorcycles but now is a fully functional public museum.

I hadn't been

Peace Beast Racing is open for business.
at Barber since

Proudly sponsored by and Cloud 9 Sport Massages
the endurance round in September, 2010. That means it had been over 1 1/2 years since my last laps there. Logan needed to get his bike which was in Atlanta, so he took my trailer (and his dad's truck) and drove it to Atlanta to pick his bike up a day early. I worked my normal day at the office on Friday before hitching a ride with Randy and Susan to go to Barber. They had just bought themselves a new Hobby toyhauler / camper and were using it for the first time at this event. Needless to say, they had a most excellent place to stay and great sleeping arrangements while I made do with what I had.

We ended up paying for power so we wouldn't need the generator. We got in rather late, set up the tent and unpacked enough so that we could have a place to sleep, then after visiting for awhile we all hit the sack. I didn't actually get to sleep until around midnight, so when my alarm went off at 6:30 I was not really all that excited about jumping right up. Still, I got up, got the blood pumping a bit and went through the normal morning routine of getting prepared for a race weekend.

Registration was pretty easy although there were more pre-registered entrants than I was used to seeing. In fact the pre-registration line was actually pretty long, and the post-registration line was non-existent. This was odd, but it didn't take long for the post-registration line to fill up. Needless to say the pre-registration line moved pretty quickly anyway, as all they had to do was look up your paperwork and hand it to you (for the most part).

I got through tech without a hitch, re-attached my lowers and was pretty much ready to go. I was in the 4th practice group, which is always nice since it means I got to have a very leisurely morning.

What I was not

Several of us lounge around the pit.
prepared for (mentally)

More pit lounging...
was how exhausted I was after the first practice session. I think it was a combination of several factors, but it doesn't help any that I had gained a few pounds since the last time I put those leathers on. On top of that the leathers were a bit stiffer / tighter from having not been used in several months, and Barber really is a fairly demanding track, physically. At any rate I was really sucking air when I got back to the pit.

I felt a bit better after the 2nd practice, but not much. I didn't end up with any decent laptimes in the process. Pretty much high mid-to-high 50's throughout the practice sessions.

It's not like I hadn't been exercising. I'd been doing rigorous workouts on the elliptical every day in for ... well, months. I'd been putting a race on each morning and exercising throughout the race to make sure I had the stamina to handle race distance (especially for the shorter races WERA does). There just wasn't much of a good reason for me to be so worn out after a couple of practice sessions. I'm still a bit mystified.

Anyway, after lunch was over my Solo race came up later that afternoon. The Solos at Barber are 16 lap races because the track is so much longer than Talladega. It ends up being about the same overal time/distance as the 20 lap races at Tally. So I came down on 3rd call, took my warmup lap and gridded up on the 2nd row right. John McDonald was finally racing head-to-head with me on an SV. He was gridded on the first row, center.

The green flag

Telling Sherry about an exciting moment on the track...
came out and my launch was about what you'd usually expect from me. At least two or three people from behind me out-launched me into turn 1. On a positive note I wasn't that far behind John, but he managed to ease away from me a bit during the next series of corners. Then, when I started down the museum hill the first time I felt something bang against the heel of my right boot. At the bottom of the hill I tipped it into the right hander turn and felt like I ran over something and the bike scooted to the left a bit. I was concerned that there was a mechanical problem with my bike (for obvious reasons) so I checked up and rode around to pit-in with a hand up.

I pulled into the pits

Okay, now you're just bragging...
and rode around to the pit-out where I would ordinarily re-tech. Logan saw me pull in and ran over to help. I explained to John and Logan what I had felt and they looked over the rear of the bike and weren't able to see anything wrong with it. Not satisfied mentally, I dismounted and had Logan hold the bike up while I looked at it myself. There just didn't appear to be anything wrong with the bike. I decided to take it back out and circulate on the track.

When I re-entered I took it a bit slow the first lap or so. Entering from pit lane I let a group of riders pass who appeared to be dicing for position in the novice ranks. There were about 4 of them, one of which was Karl Lemmer. After tiptoeing around the track for a lap or so I decided to begin pushing. I still had no idea what had happened, so I wasn't willing to push very hard at all.

Once I got into a rhythm I saw that I was catching the Novice group. I could tell after a bit that the first one I was likely to catch was Karl. It took several laps, but I finally managed to set up a nice inside braking maneuver / block pass going into Charlotte's web. I passed a couple of the other from that group before running out of laps trying to get around a guy wearing an orange shirt riding a motard-style bike.

Small victories that they were, I ended up enjoying the race after all but still had a lot of questions about the mystery of whatever it was that fell off my bike.

We went out to eat at an Italian place that night -- Caperetti's in Moody. It was great, and we'll probably go back. Next morning I got up to the sound of rain and announcements on the P.A. One such announcement was that if anyone was missing the voltage regulator for an SV650 they had one they'd picked up off the track. Turns out that was the piece I had lost from my bike!

After retrieving the voltage regulator and fastening it (using zip-ties just under the passenger seat latch) I decided not to bother with practice. The track was fully wet and running around on a wet Barber track was not my idea of fun.

As Sunday progressed

Several of us head down the front straight together.
The rain showers kept coming and going. For awhile it would be raining hard, then minutes later the sun would be out drying things back up. I decided I was just going to play it by ear. My race was going to be Race 14. I wouldn't decide for sure until about race 12.

Randy had about the worst time I'd ever seen with tire choice. At one point he pulled the rains off, put the slicks on and had just finished safety wiring everything when the bottom fell out. Very frustrated we started pulling the wheels back off to re-fit with rain tires. By the time he went out on the rains for that race it was already drying. We were concerned that his tires wouldn't last the distance but somehow they did.

I, on the other hand,

The proud team is ready to celebrate...
stayed with my decision to leave the DOT's mounted on my bike.  If I were going to go out on the track I was going to do it on a (mostly) dry track or not at all.

Once race 12 started the bottom fell out again.  It was raining possibly harder than it had all day.  I resigned myself that I was just going to skip the sprint race that afternoon and started packing.

While I was packing everything back up the sun came back out.  Race 11 was already on the track by this time but we hadn't heard any calls for race 12 yet.  Everyone was just milling about casually with their leathers half on.  I gave it a bit more thought and finally decided that since they hadn't even made first call yet I had time to don my leathers.  Out they came and I started pulling them on.  Right about that time the P.A. clicked on.  I heard "Check ... check ... once again we are on 3rd call... 3rd call for Race Number 12..."

I couldn't believe it.  The P.A. had been out the whole time.  Frantically everyone started zipping stuff up, firing up machines, pulling tire warmers, etc.  I just pulled my leathers back up and started packing again.

Then, wouldn't you know it, they had a red-flag.  They sent all the riders back to the pits and said it would take them awhile to get the track cleaned up and they'd go through a full set of calls.  All the remaining races would be 4 laps each.  I decided what the heck.  Out came my leathers again. I put the leathers back on and this time had plenty of time to make the grid.

I was gridded front row, center. John McDonald was gridded behind me. I got a decent launch, got passed by a couple of riders, but managed to keep John behind me. I didn't know during the 4 lap race how close John was to me, but it turned out that I was gapping him pretty good throughout the race.

The race got red-flagged just as I was crossing the finish line under the checker flag. A rider had gone down in the museum turn and the bike was sitting out in the middle of the track. The engine was still running as the back tire was spinning. The rider seemed to be okay. He was sitting up on the grass nearby.

So that was pretty much it. Not much of any spectacular significance for this weekend's races, but they can't all be that memorable.

Most important lesson learned during this race weekend: Parts can come off your bike from anywhere! Check the bike over occasionally and look for stuff!

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