George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Date:June 3, 2007
Track:Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
Bike:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)
Weather:Partly to mostly cloudy, high near 90.
Sponsor:Just me
Conducted By:Ed Bargy Racing School

Track Diagram

The Talladega Gran Prix Raceway is designed to be run either clockwise or counterclockwise. This weekend's event was conducted in a counterclockwise direction. The redesigned track has been run in clockwise direction once since the repaving, owing to safety concerns.

This track day came available a few weeks ago, so I went ahead and signed up for it. I had pressed my current set of Michelin Pilot Race tires into service at Talladega, Nashville and Barber. The Talladega weekend even included a Solo 20 and half a practice day (3 sessions), so the tires were ready to be discarded. I had considered pitching them after the Barber event but cheapness won out and I left them on for this track day.

Hoping for pictures...
This is the first time I've ever done an event like this all by myself. Although I've gotten to know many of the people who do track days with the WERA crowd, just about the only really familiar face there was Dave Arkle. I drove down, stayed in the Econo Lodge that night, then arrived at the track at about 7:15 or so. I set up my pop-up tent, unloaded the bike, registered, grabbed the tech inspection card, got the bike through tech and was pretty much ready to go. In tech I opted for the "intermediate" group rather than the "advanced" group. I elected not to put my tire warmers on before the first session, but instead just to take it easy the first couple of laps and then start riding 'em hard. That worked out pretty well, and after a lap or two I was out there giving it whatever I had.

I think I can.. I think I can..
Interestingly enough, I honestly believe I was riding the track considerably faster this time than I ever had before. I think that just relaxing and knowing that it was only a practice day helped me not worry too much about close passes. This, in turn, left me free to give attention to braking, setup and lines.

Feels different getting hung up behind slower riders
Riding in the intermediate group gave me a chance to ride with people who (for the most part) were slightly slower than me, rather than the opposite. It was excellent experience for a couple of reasons. First of all it was mentally good for me to get the positive mental feedback that I was not the slowest rider out there. I really had been taking a mental beating ever since crashing because everyone was passing me. Secondly, it afforded me an opportunity to practice passing people, an art that requires practice. I didn't have motor on anyone out there (except for one guy on a motard) because of my weight. I did get passed by the guy on the motard once but managed to get past him on the next straight.

So for the most part I was just out there on this occasion working on one thing: Carrying more speed into the corners. Because of this I was "better on the brakes" than most of the guys I was riding with, which is where I did most of my overtaking maneuvers. I passed quite a few people on the double 90's, which prompted a couple of them to come over to my pit and ask for pointers. That was really cool. I tried to act like someone who'd given pointers before and conceal my excitement that someone actually gave a rip about my opinion.

Unfortunately the battery in my lap timer was dead and I didn't have a spare, so I don't really know what kind of times I was running, but I do know that the guys in the next pit were slightly slower than me and one of them was riding in the 1:10's. That means I'm still improving, as the best times I had done on (the revised) Tally before this session were in the high 1:12's.

Each practice session went 15 minutes from "flag to flag". There were 3 groups (Novice, Intermediate and Advanced), and the track clear/track crossings between each session would take a few minutes each time, so we ended up running basically 3 sessions each hour, giving me a chance to be on the track once each hour. Our third practice session, which was the last one before lunch (at 11:00) got RED FLAGGED because of a rider who highsided coming out of the Double 90's. He ended up landing on the inside of the turn. At first they brought out the caution flags, which almost turned into a fiasco because some of the riders evidently didn't know the difference between yellow and red. I was just exiting the bowl when there was suddenly a wall of riders in front of me riding slow with their hands in the air. A yellow flag was waving at the end of the "straight", which of course meant a rider was down just around the next turn. It didn't mean "stop in the middle of the track". It's a wonder there wasn't a major series of crashes because of that.

But moments later the red flag came out anyway, which settled the issue. We'd only gotten about 4 laps in before the red flag, so they were going to continue our session as soon as the ambulance was back off the track. As it turned out I opted not to go back out for that session and just call it "lunch time". I was hungry anyway.

During the lunch break I took a long look at what was left of my rear tire and decided it was just about gone. Actually, I was thinking it was already gone and just didn't know it yet. I solicited the opinion of a wizened looking veteran rider in the next pit over and he said he'd go ahead and run it until it started feeling "funny". I joked that at my level of experience a tire feeling "funny" usually wasn't obvious until I was tumbling off the bike. I decided that no matter what I was going to call it a day after two more sessions.

So I went out for the first session after lunch and rode about 12 minutes before deciding to come in. I think I probably only paid one lap for that decision as I was just getting the bike onto the stands when the rest of my group came rolling in.

During my last session I only rode about 6 laps before I felt the rear tire slide a little in the bowl. I rode hard through the Double 90's since I knew the right side of the tire was still in pretty good shape, then wheeled on in and called it a day.

Most important lesson learned during this track day: Just keep it up ... I'm getting there!

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