|Date:||February 8-10, 2008|
|Track:||Talladega Gran Prix Raceway|
|Bike:||2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)|
|Weather:||Sunny and mild, highs around 60-65, lows near freezing.|
|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.|
This was an incredibly great weekend for track riding. It would be difficult to pick better weather except that in the mornings it was a bit too cold each day.
After crashing at Barber back in September the bike was in need of serious attention over the winter break. The left exhaust can had a big hole in on one end (actually it was there all season, but was worse now). The gas tank had two big dents in it, the worse one being on the right side and resulting from the Barber crash. The plastics were all ruined (except the front fender). On the positive side, the radiators both survived the crash(es) without springing leaks. RC51's are notorious for their vulnerable radiators.
I managed to snag a great deal on a barely used Jardine full 2 into 1 exhaust system on Ebay. So over the winter the bike got a new exhaust system. That also resulted in my being able to adjust the OSF rearsets to their lowest positions, as the exhaust pipes no longer interfered with their position - an added bonus.
Although I managed to get a great deal on a fairly unblemished gas tank, the tank I got has a tiny leak. I knew this when I bought it. I ordered some Caswell plating to seal the tank with, but it didn't arrive in time, so I had to continue to use the old, ugly tank.
Around the middle of the season last year my right front fork developed a small leak. I went ahead and finished the season before trying to tackle that issue as well. It's always remotely possible that the oil leak was what put me on the ground at Barber. You never know.
But what made the week immediately prior to this first race weekend interesting was the fact that (apart from the exhaust issue) I had to deal with all these other issues inside the final week. I had put off working on most of that stuff until it was getting closer to the beginning of the race season, but I didn't count on getting a major cold (or possibly flu) the week before. I spent the entire week barely able to do anything, much less work on my bike. I wasn't feeling particularly good even by Sunday before race day, but it was really getting to be almost too late to get anything done.
I had ordered replacement fork seals from an online Ebay store, which in itself was a mistake. The seals turned out to be the wrong size and I was afraid nobody in Nashville would have any in stock. Fortunately I was able to get a replacement seal at Sloan's in Murfreesboro.
So between Monday evening and Thursday evening I managed to paint all the plastics, reassemble the fork with a new seal and dust wiper, reassemble the bike, adjust the rearsets, safety wire the new exhaust system (and everything else I'd had to disassemble during all the other goings-on), put the old gas tank back on the bike (yes, I had been bold enough to take the old tank off and give the new one a try just to see how bad the leak was), and of course load everything up so I could head out Friday morning. It was a busy, busy week. I'm still not sure I'd ever have gotten it done without the help of Dean Young and Rich Simmons, who both helped a lot with the fork.
Saturday afternoon after my practice sessions were over I pulled off my rear wheel and took it over to the Michelin tent to have a new rear tire mounted. I had some Michelin contingency money left over from the 2007 season, so I used it for part of the cost of the new tire. It's the only time I've ever bought a race tire at the track. I'm planning on switching to Bridgestone this year and letting "Stickboy" change my tires for me though.
It was considerably colder Sunday morning than Saturday morning. When I went out for my first practice (which again was the first practice group of the morning), it was very cold and somewhat foggy. Chuck Edwards (the guy who flags the start/finish line) mimed a "freezing" pose to me as I headed out pit out. With the new rear tire and the cold I again put some slow laps together although I did manage to pass one or two people.
It was a great weekend.
Most important lesson learned during this race day: Don't wait until the last minute to do work on your race bike!