George McConnel's RC51 BLOG

Dates:October 10-11, 2009
Track:Nashville SuperSpeedway
Bikes:2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51) / 2002 SV650
Weather:Cool and cloudy Saturday, Partly Sunny and warmer Sunday. Highs in the mid 60's.
Conducted By:Sarah Cannon Cancer Foundation

Track Diagram

The Nashville SuperSpeedway is a combination track. NASCAR racers use the outer oval, basically just a large concrete track with a back straight, two ends and a tri-oval front "straight".

The road course drops off the tri-oval into the infield, winds through turns 1-6, then exits briefly onto part of the back straight before dipping back into the infield for turns 7-10. Turn 10 is a long non-banked sweeper that exits back onto the front straight. There are transitional seams at each of the four places where the infield road course joins the NASCAR oval. At these points you have to be careful to choose a line that avoids too sudden a transition or you end up getting jarred really hard.

Much like Daytona, races are started from pit lane because the start/finish line is on a steep bank.

A few weeks ago I was at David Bloodworth's BMW

Thursday night - a lonely garage.
shop talking with David about the Minnie Challenge. He mentioned to me that he was not going to be able to attend the event this year and that he was having trouble finding control riders. I immediately offered my services and mentioned that Dewayne would probably enjoy helping out as well. Next thing you know we were both getting lined up to work as control riders for the first time ever.

I spent the next couple of weeks trying to get the SV650 ready to be on the track.

A pair of beasts, ready for action.
My intention was to get all the street plastic and instrumentation off and pretty much track prep the bike so I could ride it and the RC51 over the weekend. The details of converting that bike are here. I managed to get the bike ready for the weekend with a day to spare. Friday evening I loaded both bikes and the gear I wanted with me at the track and drove out there. The only two other people in the garage were Karl Lemmer and the other Karl from Atlanta. They helped me unload and we waited until Dewayne and Catt arrived, helping them unload as well.

The "Minnie Challenge", sponsored by the Sarah Cannon Cancer Foundation, is the event at which I first got on the track in 2005. This event always includes track time for automobiles and motorcycles. With the small number of riders we had we ended up with only two groups of motorcycles again this year, Novice and Expert. Dewayne and I were going to work with the Novices in both the classroom and on the track.

I got up very early on Saturday morning and was at the track at 6:00 AM. Nobody else was there except Faith Holley and a couple of other people. We went on in and started setting up. Billy Odom and Dewayne didn't get there until 7:00, but I had talked with Phil Wick before that and gotten at least some idea what was expected. I would be working "Tech", which didn't amount to much for sure, just making sure everyone got their lights and mirrors taped up and checking brake levers for telltale signs of needing attention. Well, in fairness I checked chains, tires, etc., and looked for any signs the bike might be leaking slippery fluids onto the track.

Everyone went to the classroom in the media center at first for an introduction to the general game plan by Phil Wick.

Heavyweight riding a Lightweight
After he was through with the general introductory material he let the motorcyclists move into the adjacent room for classroom, which we did briefly. We went ahead and sent the Expert riders out, keeping the novices in the classroom to get a chance to give them some ground rules for the first session or two.

I had prepared some material to hand out, including pictures of the various flags they were likely to see and some general principles of track riding. Each point was a single line on the paper and I had planned to elaborate as necessary in the classroom. Actually it was all pretty much self-explanatory, but we wanted to be there to answer questions as appropriate.

Their first session was going to be slow parade laps. I let them know we expected no passing at all during the first session, just everyone learning the track and following each other around parade style. There would be plenty of time for more spirited riding later in the day.

So I took them out for their first session, leading the group

Things are looking much busier now!
while Dewayne followed everyone on his SV650.

I rode very slow the first lap, not even accelerating to probably more than 70 MPH on the front straight. I had told the students that we'd wave at each corner station the first time around so they could all identify the positions of the people with the flags. With each successive lap I rode just a little faster, never really opening it up wide at all. We brought them in at the end of the session, making sure to signal well before pit-in. They were flagging the checker flag at the bus stop chicane, which is probably good as it didn't give people an entire pair of infield sections to forget that they'd seen the checker flag at the end of the front straight.

We brought the group back to the classroom

Special guest stars, Tom and Janell Lees!
and Deayne talked with them about the track, including the characteristics of various turns, sealer strips, track markings, rumble strips and lines. We then told them they were permitted to pass each other during the next session. I took them back out and rode a little faster this time, slowing down whenever it looked like we were spreading out too much. Everyone came back in talking about how much more fun that was, even though they were already grinning pretty well after their first session.

We reassembled in the classroom,

Cornering low on the turn two hairpin
Check out the new helmet!
where I talked with them about some of the basics of track riding: Reference markers, riding smooth, being careful about using the rear brake, foot and body position when cornering, avoiding running over riders if they crash in front of you, and what do do if you crash.

So out we went for our next session. Before we had gotten through the first infield section one of the riders went down behind me. I didn't see it happen, and the guys had been waving yellow flags during our first lap, so I didn't know there was any problem until I looked in my rear view mirrors and didn't see anyone behind me on the sweeper heading towards the front straight. I slowed down, crawling around the tri-oval portion of the front straight and let the group reassemble behind me. By the time we got back around to the infield section they had Karl (the Atlanta rider who had fallen) back on his bike, ready to continue. He joined our group and we continued our next lap. I went ahead and entered the back straight a little slow and high to give the two guys behind me a chance to stretch it out a little. The first one, riding a late model CBR600RR, took off and started gapping the 2nd one quickly. I settled in behind the 2nd rider (Steve), who was riding a very nice Ducati 1099. He had mentioned how eager he was to open it up on the straight and enjoy all that horsepower, so I had promised him he'd get his chance. I had also warned him to exercise caution, as it's easy to get up to speed and sometimes a little scary slowing it back down, especially before you've had a chance to really work on your reference points.

Unfortunately he pressed a little too hard on the

Tom Lees makes a guest appearance
on Dewayne's Ninjette
back straight and tucked the front trying to slow it down for the "bus stop" chicane. Down he went, hard. I was very much right behind him when it happened, and had plenty of time to swerve around him and slow to a snail's pace to see if he looked like he was okay before continuing. I figured I'd see the red flags out pretty quickly, and they did, indeed, come out by the time I had cleared the front straight.

Everything shut down for probably 20 minutes while the workers pushed his bike out behind the wall. He finally got his ambulance ride back to the paddock, where we met him to see how he was doing. He had broken his collar bone and had a big bulge in the middle of his shoulder where it was sticking up in an awkward manner. He was going to have to go to a hospital to have it set properly. Meanwhile he was wearing a sling. We told him we'd make sure his bike got stored correctly and help him with getting it on the trailer. I didn't see him again after that. His bike stayed there most of the rest of the weekend but eventually I noticed that it and his trailer were gone. I never saw him come get it.

Fortunately, that was the worst event of the weekend injury-wise. We had another rider go down on Sunday, but apart from being knocked out for a few moments he appeared to be in fine condition. His bike sustained little damage in that fall.

After the lunch break we just settled into open riding for the novices. The only rule we had was that passing had to be done courteously

Karl Lemmer takes a spin on the
Beast Racing SV650!
and all passes must be completed well before any upcoming curve. That sensible rule worked just fine for the rest of the day as everyone enjoyed themselves without incident. However, as the end of the day approached some of the expert riders were concerned that they wouldn't get enough track time and wanted to go out with the Novices. They did, but some of them may have done some close passing, which elicited a complaint or two from some of the newer riders. We corrected that the next morning with a reminder to all the experts that if they did go out with a novice group for additional track time they needed to be extra careful about not making any tight passes. They did and the rest of the event went well.

As for me, I really enjoyed having an opportunity to ride the track on my SV650. By the 3rd Novice session I was getting a knee down in several of the corners, and even felt some rear wheel slide on one occasion when I was pushing just a little harder than the bike could handle.

The advice I had received from various people regarding the suspension on the SV650 was spot on. Those things have a very soft suspension

Finally, Dewayne and I ride together on SV650s!
from the factory and there is no provision for adjusting the dampening at all. The forks need stronger springs and the rear shock also needs help. My riding style probably complements the bike as much as possible, as I'm fairly smooth on the controls and tend to put most of my body weight towards the front of the bike in a corner, helping avoid the rear from stepping out under acceleration. Still yet I understand the need for some work on the suspension before next season.

Dewayne and I traded rides for one session, so I got to check out the differences between my bike and his. His bike feels very squatty with the short seat, and I had difficulty tucking my feet high enough to reach the pegs. Once I got the hang of his bike though I was getting a knee down in the usual spots. His engine felt about like mine for acceleration, so that was good to know.

Sunday morning I finally got around to putting the RC51 back on the track. At first it looked like maybe the issue I had with the bike

Didn't I fall down here recently? Not quite as quick there as before.
cutting out under acceleration from my last outing might well have been because of the moisture. But eventually it started doing it again, which let me know we had other problems. One time it cut out while I was in a full lean under acceleration from the high speed sweeper onto the front straight. When this happened the bike snapped wildly and I could have lost control easily. I was very lucky that that didn't cause a crash.

After pitting in I unplugged the Power Commander and removed it from the equation. The next time I took the RC out I didn't encounter that problem. This gave me to believe that the problem was somehow related to the Power Commander. Some have suggested that I need to put the ground wire for the Power Commander directly on the negative terminal of the battery rather than use a bolt on the engine frame. I'll probably try that to see if it fixes the problem, but I won't know for awhile since it's going to be some time before I get another track session. Probably my next track session will be at Jennings for the FLR Trackday.

Either way, it was nice to put together a weekend of clean riding with no get-offs to get back in rhythm and "back on the horse" after falling off.

Another great thing about Sunday was that Tom and Janell Lees were there. This was the first time I'd shared the track with Tom in a long time, and it was really good to see him on the track.

Most important lesson learned during this track day: It's twoo! It's twoo! Less power (SV650) really still can be fun!

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