George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Date:March 21, 2009
Track:Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
Bike:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)
Weather:Mostly sunny and mild, highs in the low 70's.
Conducted By:Elite Sportbike

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 wasn't actually going to make it to this track day. I thought I was supposed to work an MSF class that weekend. It

Logan and I try to figureout why his bike
keeps stalling when you pop it into gear.
wasn't until Monday that I discovered that my calendar was wrong and the weekend was wide open. Next thing you know Logan and I were loading up for Talladega! He had a lingering problem with his GSXR -- the

Logan and I were READY TO RIDE!...
sidestand switch mechanism had reared its head again and his bike wouldn't run if it was in gear. Eventually I dug out the service manual for the bike and traced the circuitry to discover that there was a place in the turn signal relay that could be jumpered to eliminate the problem altogether. That's what I did and he was ready to go.

So on Thursday evening I my bike and gear all loaded up so that Friday about mid-day I could run over to Logan's place and load his bike. It was my intention to leave as early on Friday afternoon as I could get away with (after work, of course). So just as soon as the workday was over we hit the road. We got to Talladega just before 9:00 PM, unloaded the bikes and set up the pit in the very cold weather, then headed back to the hotel room.

I had a wakeup call scheduled for 6:30, so Logan and I jumped out of bed and headed on out to the track. The girls had their own car and didn't show up until about 9:00 or so, which was just fine. Gave them a chance to sleep in.

The organization of this trackday event wasn't nearly the quality that I've come to expect from those put on by Ed Bargy, WERA, even Minnie Pearl and others. It was about as disorganized as I've ever seen. In spite of that there weren't any serious crashes or injuries to my knowledge. There just wasn't a lot of information available about where to go once we got there. I figured the "clubhouse building" would be the logical place for the registration area, so Logan and I headed over there. Sure enough there was a large line of people in there. So I asked politely if there was a "pre-registration" line. The guys in front of me assured me that this was the only line. I couldn't believe that there was so long a line moving so slow when everyone had preregistered. Add to that the fact that each of us were having to fill out yet another form that had all the exact same information on it that the website had acquired when we registered in the first place and I was just left shaking my head at the ineptitude.

Be that as it may, we got through registration and tech, then went ahead and put on our riding gear. Not only was it quite cold that morning and the gear would feel good to wear, but the Intermediate group would be the first ones on the track after the rider's meeting. So we needed to be dressed before the meeting started.

The rider's meeting was also unimpressive. Key details were left out and the speech rambled with little purpose. A

Getting down on the skidpad.
good notepad with a quick checklist would help the guy hold a rider's meeting that was quick, to the point, and didn't waste a lot of everyone's valuable time at that time of day. As an example, if you're going to have a policy against

Scuffing the ol' knee slider on the rightie ninetie...
wheelies then say that at the rider's meeting rather than spending a signifigant portion of the meeting just drawing attention to your own self. I heard from some of the corner workers that a rider almost got pulled off the track for wheelieing when even the corner workers didn't know that this was not permitted. Not good.

I was also a bit disappointed that this trackday facility required intermediate riders to pass only "on the outside". But that's something I can understand. Although I'm now comfortable passing and being passed closely, I appreciate why new intermediate riders might be intimidated by a close pass.

Since Logan and I were fully prepared before the rider's meeting we did not have to do much of anything between the meeting and our first track session. Unfortunately I hadn't had time to put on the tire warmers or fire up the generator, so both of us went out on cold tires and a cold track for the first session. Several riders had gone out in front of us and I stayed behind Logan during the first few laps. But after about three laps of just crawling around the track I'd had enough. I started working my way through the pack, got some clear track and began

Waiting around for my next turn on the track
pushing a bit to warm my tires. By the end of that session I had lapped nearly everyone, including Logan.

Once we pulled in I checked put on the tire warmers, fired up the generator and checked my tire pressures. The rear tire

Logan has an escort on the right hander
was perfect. The front tire was just a tad over-inflated so I backed it off a couple of pounds and was ready to go.

During the second session my lap timer's battery had died, so I didn't have a chance to see what kind of times I turned. I may have actually put my best ever lap in during that session, but guess I won't know and it really doesn't matter. Sooner or later I'll put in some better times anyway, I'm confident of that. During the rest of the day my tired old front tire was getting into my head and I wasn't really pushing. I put 6's and 7's in on clear laps and slightly higher times when stuck in traffic. Nothing extrordinary about any of that.

I followed Logan around during the third session of the day for several laps. He felt confident that he was making much better time around the track and ventured that he might actually be turning 1:12's now. So we checked it out to see how accurate his sense of timing was.

Sure enough, while following him I saw several consecutive 1:12's pop up on the lap timer. Eventually I decided it was

Here I'm following Logan onto the back straight
time to show him a better line through the "carousel" turn (aka "the skidpad"). He was coming in tight on the turn where if he'd drift out wide he would be able to get a much better drive down the back straight. I went on around him, tapped my tail section to say "Follow me", and led him a couple of laps at roughly the same pace he had been managing. Don't really know if it did any good, but eventually I tired of that pace and started putting some faster laps in.

Needless to say, Logan was really pleased about his progress, possibly getting all the way down into the 1:11's during that session. It was time for lunch though, so everything quietened down as the race engines took a siesta.

After lunch we both just went out and rode for several sessions. Each time I'd come up behind Logan I'd hang behind

A little further onto the back straight
him for awhile and observe. He was definitely getting smoother and had better lines. It was really cool being able to watch his progress out there.

I did four of the five afternoon sessions and decided to call it a day. I was getting pretty tired, but it wasn't the same kind of "tired" that I used to experience before I began my exercise regimen. Now I was discovering that I was tired in my shoulders and upper body. It was way different than the total body exhaustion that I often felt by this point in a track day. It's nice to be in better shape, and hopefully I will be able to continue making progress in this area.

But because my arms were literally getting to the point where they were too tired to hold me effectively under hard braking, I felt it was time to give up on track riding for the day. Logan would go out for his final session of the day and we figured out a way to mount my lap timer on his bike for his final session.

So he went out and had a great ride. I took his camera to the farmhouse turn to take some videos of him rounding that turn and couldn't have been prouder of him had he been my own son. He was coming down that back straight looking and sounding great, braking later than ever into that turn and accelerating quickly out of it. When we got back to the pits he couldn't wait to share with me that he had managed to put a couple of 1:10's on the lap timer.

What a great weekend!

Most important lesson learned during this track day: Upper body strength is important too!

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