George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Date:June 14-15, 2008
Track:Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
Bike:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)
Weather:Mostly sunny and mild, highs in the upper 80's.
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.

I arrived late Thursday evening, setup my pit and began chatting with Vicki and a new friend named

Definitely not an RC51
Mark (can't remember his last name). Vicki kindly offered to let me sleep in her trailer that night so I did. It was great, as I had a bigger bed to sleep on and avoided running my generator.

Friday morning I got up early and found that a friendly (but skinny) dog had taken up residence under my pop-up tent. He hung around while I checked my tire pressures and got the bike ready for practice. It would be my last practice sessions without a full set of Bridgestone tires.

I got out and started working some better laps. My lap timer was working so I was able to keep

This is the first place I began
dragging a knee with authority.
an eye on my times. I started with some 1:15's, but as the day progressed I got faster and faster. By the end of the day Friday I had posted a 1:09. This was the first time I had ever documented a 1:09, and it was a pretty cool feeling.

During one session on Friday, instead of riding my RC51 I finally took a ride on the track on Dewayne's Ninja 250. This was an interesting experience, but something seemed to be missing. Let me think ... how might I describe that thing that was missing from the experience ... Oh, I know the word for it: Throttle. It was enjoyable for what it was worth, but the mushy suspension, chattery front end and almost imperceptible throttle response had me missing the RC. I appreciated the ride but I don't think I'm going to be trying to join the sippy cup contingent anytime soon.

When the riding was done Friday evening I pulled the tired old Michelin tire off the front of my bike and took it over to StickBoy for a new Bridgestone. Now I had my first complete set of Bridgestone tires on the bike.

Saturday morning I got up, eager to see if I could put some even better times up. During first practice I did some 1:12's, but then managed to string together three 1:10's. That was good, but now that I had seen a sub 1:10 I wanted more.

Then it happened. During the second practice I started with a low 1:10.037, then put together

I'm going to be seeing more of this
provisional novice...
several 1:09's, dipping down into the low 1:09's, and when I pulled off the track I saw that I had scored a 1:08! Sweet!

Eager to see if I could maintain and even improve on those laptimes, I got on the track Sunday morning and started in the 1:10's and got into the 1:09's again, but this time I noticed that I was actually starting to drag my left knee slider through the end of the "bowl" turn. As that session progressed I kept feeling the knee slider touching a little harder and earlier in that turn until towards the end of the session I was able to drag the knee all the way around the turn. And not just that one. The carousel turn was also getting a healthy coating of my knee plastic.

Although I was still in the 1:09's and 1:10's, I knew I was getting better. I felt more in

Steven McDonald's SV650 can't beat my RC!
control through the turns now that I could get my knee down and feel just how far over I was. It also gives me a better feel for what the bike is doing.

When race time finally came I was gridded (strangely enough) in pole position. I have no idea why they put me in front of Michael and Rob, but there I was. Morris had installed a rear-facing camera on his RC51 in hopes of getting some video of me riding around. Although I managed to slot in behind Morris for most of the race I was disappointed to find out later that the camera didn't work.

Although there were 5 of us on the grid sheet only four people showed up for the race. All by himself on the second row was a new rider, Steven McDonald, sporting an orange T shirt. He was on an SV650, bumping up to HWT. To my right were my buddies Michael Wischmeyer and Rob Turner. When the green flag flew for wave 2 (our wave) Michael and Rob took off and left me behind. I stayed ahead of Steven and slotted in right behind Morris (who was in the back of the expert group). I stayed on Morris's tail very well until a point at which he checked up unexpectedly before entering the double 90's. When I had to straighten up to avoid running into Morris, Steven managed to slide in between us. This was about mid-race and it was on the next lap that the C Superbike experts were starting to filter in around us. As we entered the double 90's on that lap I was suddenly surrounded by a group of C riders who pried me and Steven apart. When the C guys cleared out there were about 8 bike lengths between me and Steven. I figured I was going to have to settle for last place, but began concentrating on riding my own laps. Two laps later I was right back on Steven's tail. I held up a little on the back straight, leaving a bit of room so that as we went through the esses before the front straight I could carry a little more speed than he seemed to be doing. My maneuver worked perfectly, as I rocketed past him on the front straight to reclaim the last podium spot just as we passed the white flag! I held my lines through the rest of the final lap and felt great as we rounded the corners on the cool-down lap.

I was dragging my knee slider around every left-hander turn on the track during that race, with the exception of the turn 6 kink. That included the turn 1 sweeper, which I was taking at over 90 mph.

And when I dismounted the bike and checked my lap timer I saw another pleasant surprise. My new fastest lap at Talladega ever -- 106.925. Sweet!

June 15, 2008 - This was the date that I finally felt like a real racer - like I belonged on the track with all those other people. It took two years for me to graduate from a "C" racer to a "B" racer. My next goal is to get some really good pictures of me with my knee down in a corner. So far I have none.

Most important lesson learned during this race day: Maybe Dave Arkle had a point about putting those Bridgestone tires on.

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