George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Date:August 21-23, 2009
Track:Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
Bike:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51)
Weather:Hot (mid 90's) Friday, Sunny Saturday and Sunday with highs in the mid 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.

For this race

The view down tent city Friday morning
weekend I arranged to have Friday off from work so I could go down early and do the trackday. Now that I'm actually in a championship hunt I wanted to try to work on some better laptimes. As usual lately I was also carrying Logan's bike. This resulted in delaying my start out of Nashville until a lot later than I wanted to go because Logan was trying to get his bike fixed up from a crash he'd had at Nashville during a trackday a few weeks ago.

But it's all good and I ended up rolling in just a little after 9:00 PM. It was raining when I got there, so I went over to where everyone was hanging around under the clubhouse (and out of the rain) and socialized. The usual gang was there, including Vicki, Guy, Maggie, Rick, Dewayne, Catt, Karl and others. After awhile the rain let up and I went back to unload the bikes, get the tent setup and try to get situated for the evening. Dewayne and Catt had (as usual) saved me some pit space but I ended up using an opening a little further down pit row so I could get closer to one of the electrical service outlets. Tally had recently installed those and it was a welcome change from before, when generators ruled the nights. I need to get a longer extension cord now.

I finally got

Race 2, HWT SB. Brad's gonna get me again!
to "bed" in the "Hotel Kia" and got to sleep. It was a lot later than I'd hoped for, but by the time I got everything situated it was after midnight. Of course it took awhile to wind down and actually dose off, but I finally got some sleep. Next morning I was up early. I ended up not getting nearly enough sleep for the heavy duty day I'd planned doing that trackday.

Friday morning started off really nice. There was the threat of rain all morning but none ever appeared, and the dark clouds kept the sun off. Working the track in those conditions wasn't particularly exhausting, and by the second session I managed to put a 1:05.98 on the lap timer. Just into the fives again. I was looking forward to bigger and better things this weekend. But right after I did that "hot" lap, I was pushing just a little harder into turn 1 and I felt the rear step out a little. It wasn't much, but it was enough to get inside my head. For the remainder of the day I taking more than usual off before entering turn 1 and my laptimes remained in the sixes.

As each session closed I'd take a look at my rear tire and wonder how much further I could push it. It was definitely looking the worse for the wear by this time. They were working us hard during this trackday, running only two groups most of the time with 20 minute sessions for each group. I was generally coming in early, but just about every time I'd pit in early they'd be throwing the checkered flag the next lap. I wasn't missing much. Occasionally they'd bring the Rider's School group out which would give us a longer than usual break, but even with skipping a session or two I was getting more than I needed of track time.

I decided to put new tires on during the lunch break. After a visit with Stickboy I reassembled my bike with

John and Nicole Daniels. What micheifous kids!
fresh rubber and skipped the first "after lunch" session to try to cool back down. The clouds had disappeared and it had gotten hot and very humid. On top of that my muscles were stiffening up and I believe I had managed to get dehydrated.

I took the bike out during the second session and rode nearly the whole session, but I was really getting fatigued towards the end. The lap timer showed slower times even with the new tires. I was backing off into the high sixes and even sevens.

Skipping another session to re-hydrate I gave it another go.

Slowing waaaaaaay down for the carousel in the rain
After about three laps my left hand and both legs started having muscle cramps and spasms. I pitted in immediately and tried to rehydrate some more. I ate a banana and even tried some of Catt's Propel Fitness Water. After an hour I was starting to feel better and was thinking maybe I'd try one more session before the end of the day. But as soon as I tried to pull on my leathers my hand started cramping again. That was all the warning I needed. Off came the leathers and I grabbed a much needed shower.

I'd pitted right next to Martyn Allison, a pleasant older racer from Britian. It was good to finally get to know him a little. I shared my table with him so he could put his gas stove on it as you can see in the first picture above. Martyn rides a 600 in the novice class, so he was usually on the track when Logan was out there. He is a little faster than Logan.

On Saturday morning I went out for my two practice sessions feeling much better than the day before. Having preregistered I was able to take things easy for the most part. Logan hadn't preregistered so he was pressed for time by the time they were making calls for his first practice session. I helped out with various details so he could get on the track. Additionally, Logan's good buddy John Daniels, along with John's wife Nicole, had gotten into a little mischief the previous evening. Logan didn't want to see some of the folks he'd possibly have to see at tech, so he asked me if I'd take his bike over there for him. I obliged. The people he was trying to avoid seeing weren't at tech anyway, but you never know. Let's just say he'd got a little bit of "the Captain" in him.

During my Saturday morning sessions I was circulating on the track thinking I would be putting up some better numbers than those I'd managed during the Friday practice. But upon returning to the pit each time I was disappointed to discover that I had only succeeded in managing some "sixes". I pulled off the leathers and got ready to spend the rest of the day enjoying watching some great racing action.

Stephen Greene was pitted right next to me. His girlfriend Jan was helping him out in his pit. While he was

Logan takes turn 1 at high speed.
gone to registration she had decorated his pit with birthday decorations, as Stephen's 40th birthday was coming up this week. Unfortunately she was helping him with a problem with his rear stand when the bike fell over on top of her. Somehow it managed to cut her left hand badly and blood went everywhere. They went to the ambulance. The EMS people bandaged it up and told her she'd have to have stitches. She and Stephen disappeared for the rest of the morning to go visit the doctor at the hospital. They got back later in the afternoon. Her hand was bandaged all the way down to the elbow. The stitches will need to remain for a couple of weeks. That was a real bummer to what could have been a great weekend for both of them.

And if that weren't enough, Stephen crashed during practice on Sunday morning, breaking his left rearset. They worked the rest of the morning trying to get a substitute for that rearset. They finally managed to get it taken care of, but the substitute rearset required them to switch him to GP shift, which of course he never had a chance to practice with before race time. Needless to say the GP shift was messing him up throughout the race.

Sunday morning practice was basically a carbon copy of Saturday's for me, minus the hassle of getting Logan on the track. I ran sixes again. I felt comfortable and really thought I would have been going a little faster, but was getting the same result each time out. The only thing different was that Ray Hickman, a Vintage 7 racer with an older (but well built) GSXR750, diced with me a bit during each practice. His bike is considerably faster than mine, with a peak of 150 horsepower. There's no way mine does better than 120, and I'm doubtful it's anywhere near that. And I outweigh Ray by probably 80 pounds. Anyway, he was only able to pass me because of his straightline speed. When he did manage to get around me and effect a block pass I was able to reel him back in for a corner or two. In fact I re-passed him a couple of times in subsequent corners, making it difficult for him to make the pass stick. In times past he'd just motor around me and go on. During the 2nd practice session he block passed me into the farmhouse turn and I took the inside line onto the rumble strips riding alonside him out of it. Of course he still motored on by before the front straight, but it was fun dicing it with him that way. We put on a show for the corner workers in that corner, for sure.

Later, Ray came up and introduced himself to me. I told him I already knew who he was from my conversations with Bobby Qualls over the years, but that it was an honor and pleasure to be able to get to the point where I could dice with him in some corners that way. Good times!

I was scheduled to run in races 2 and 9. Logan was in race 4. Race 2 was the HWT SuperBike race. I was gridded against two competitors, Bradley Duncan and a new guy I didn't recognize named Price. Both of them were on Ducati 848s, and they both outlaunched me. I've gotten really terrible at launches, which used to be my strongest point. I think there's something wrong with my clutch though and I just haven't taken the time to check it out.

So both guys outlaunched me, leaving me to try to catch them from behind. I'd already noticed that Duncan had been running 1:01's during practice so I knew there was no chance that I'd be able to keep up with him at that pace. But I didn't know what times Price was capable of running. It appeared that he wasn't as quick as me though, as I was able to reel him back in and pass him during the second lap. In fairness to him he missed a shift coming out of the carousel that pretty much handed the pass to me, but I was reeling him in before that happened, so I was determined to pass him sooner or later.

I didn't get passed again and managed to score a 2nd place finish in a race where I had to beat a competitive rider with expert plates. That felt like a new accomplishment. However, to piss on my parade, Price did not finish the race. I don't think he crashed out, but he probably suffered a mechanical issue.

I pulled the leathers back off since it would be a couple of hours before my next race. Logan was in race 4, so I grabbed my camera and went to take pictures. He wanted me to video his launch, so I did that first before moving over to turn 1 to try to get some high speed shots of him. I got some shots but none of them are really that great. He got a bad launch and several people passed him before he got up to speed. He started from 10th position on the grid, right next to Ryan Jordan who had crashed hard in Atlanta. He ended up passing a couple of riders during the race and one or two ahead of him went down. In all he ended up I think taking 9th place in the race.

My next race was the 9th event of the day - Heavyweight Twins SuperStock. I was only gridded against one other guy. He outlaunched me, as did John ("J") Moore from the novice pack. But I managed to reel John back in this time and pass him, as I did at Barber that time. That was pretty cool in itself. I was running some fives finally, and felt good. I ended the weekend on a high note, turning a 1:05.5, my fastest ever time on Tally. Woohoo!

For some reason the problem with brake drag on my front brakes is getting worse. I've done some Internet searches about this issue and it seems that a common cause of this is the procedure you use when reassembling after removing the front wheel. The concensus is that you need to get the brake rotors open, spin the wheel freely without torquing the pinch bolts, then close the brakes onto the disks, which helps center everything. I'm going to see if that helps. Otherwise I need to rebuild my front brake calipers with fresh pot seals.

Championship Standings So Far

As near as I can figure I increased my advantage in Heavyweight Twins SuperBike from 13 to 17 points. Duncan was in 3rd place and he would have leapfrogged Tim Joyce into 2nd place with his win, giving him 53 points. My 2nd place finish would net me 17 points, increasing my points total in SuperBike to 70, and making my points advantage 17 as well.

In the SuperStock category I can't remember who I was on the grid with, but I'm pretty sure it was not Cutchen, Salmonson or Padgitt. It could have been James Butler, but I just don't remember. As of this writing they still haven't updated the points standings on the WERA board. At any rate, if it was Butler I would have lost three points advantage in SuperStock. Unless my memory is really bad and it was Cutchen I would have lost two points advantage. Otherwise I've increased my championship advantage over the other guys by 17 points in SuperStock, to a total advantage of 33. Regardless my points total in that class is now 81.

So with two rounds to go I'm in control of two championship races, with a good chance of winning them both now.

Most important lesson learned during this race weekend: I've arrived on the scene! Let's get that bike happy!

Back to my RC51 Page