|Date:||December 26-28, 2009|
|Bike:||2002 Honda RVT1000 (RC51) / 2002 Suzuki SV650|
|Weather:||Cool with mixed cloudiness and sunshine, highs in the upper '50's.|
|Conducted By:||Finish Line Racing|
The Jennings GP track is very flat with little or no elevation changes. Although it is a two mile track
there really aren't any long straight sections, so speeds rarely get as high as they will on a track like
Road Atlanta. Like Talladega, this track was designed by Ed Bargy, so it offers a good learning experience
with a variety of different types of turns. Unlike Talladega, it is designed to run only in one direction
(counter clockwise), but it makes up for that limitation by being better balanced with enough right hand
turns (including the high speed turn 13-14 complex to burn up both sides of a rear tire equally.|
Turns 3-5 seem to spook most people, but ironically turn 10 is actually the slowest speed turn on the track. You can really set up some good passes on the outside of turn 12 by getting a good line and drive out of turns 10 and 11. The braking zone for turn 13 also delivers a lot of excellent opportunities for passing.
The facilities at Jennings are really great. Nashville's only advantage is that it has a covered garage. Jennings features a paved paddock with pit areas just the right size to cover with a 10x10 pop-up tent. Jennings provides electricity for each pit so you don't have to listen to noisy generators, and there are excellent shower and camping facilities.
My two track bikes, side by side and ready for action.
The weekend started out with a trip to my mother's house to visit with her and what remains of my family of origin during the christmas holiday. We had a nice visit and I left from her house for the four hour drive to Jennings, getting there around 8:00 PM on Friday evening. A few other early arrivers had already unloaded. I selected a pit right across from the Knoxville contingent (Boone, Brandi, Ryan and others) and got myself unloaded. We sat around awhile talking and socializing, but all of us knew that Saturday morning was going to be a busy day, so most of us went on to bed without staying up very late.
I had remembered
Moni and Boone wait for their next track session
Donnie Wright had originally been scheduled to work with the Novice group as an instructor / coach. Unfortunately he had developed a cold a day or so before the event was to begin and would be unavailable. Charles called me to ask if I could fill in for him, which I was glad to. Having already had the opportunity to do something like that for the Minnie Pearl trackday back in October I was actually still prepared with some leftover handouts.
So Saturday morning was fairly busy for me. I was expected to do 'tech' on the bikes (really not that much, just glancing over them to make sure they didn't look like they would cause an undue safety hazard on the track). Along with Boone and Justin I walked up and down pit row to give appropriately colored stickers to each bike. It was cold and there was a blustery wind that chilled my hands so badly they were hurting. I went back to my truck and started the engine to run the heater and warm my hands up just so I could continue. I was wishing I had some good cold weather gloves to wear.
After things settled down a bit they called the riders' meeting. Don (the race control director for Jennings) puts on a pretty good show during his riders' meetings. After it was over he introduced Charles who introduced me to the novices. I took the novices into the classroom where I went over the basics of riding on the track with them. I was careful to be quick about it and make sure they had plenty of time to gear up for their first session. As in Nashville I told them we'd ride the entire first session in parade style with no passing. I also told them that during the first lap we'd do a single sighting lap and wave at each corner worker station (where they would be holding their yellow flags stationary so that we could identify the location of each station). Don also suggested that we do a pit-in / stop-and-go so they could see how that worked. We did that, then I took them back out on the track and gradually increased the pace through the rest of the session.
Using the SV650 I ran another session or two with the novices, letting them pretty much begin passing at will during the second
Brad Duncan can't wait until he gets that halo off.
After lunch I decided to just let the novices play and I fired up the RC51. The tires on it were somewhat questionable, but I figured I could run them for a couple of sessions just to get the feel of the big bike again.
It's really amazing
Nick Dunn poses on his Ninja.
I rode during every session on Saturday, leaving the novices to fend for themselves during the afternoon.
Saturday evening there was a planned cookout, and I had volunteered to bring a Karaoke rig down. After the final session of the day was over I drove my car over to the area where I was to set up the Karaoke stuff and began getting everything organized. I put out my 800 watt light so there would be lighting, then rigged up my laptop, two microphones, a mixer and a home theater stereo speaker with subwoofer. It actually sounded pretty good, even in the open environment.
Unfortunately for me it looked like the Karaoke might end up being a bust. Nobody seemed much interested in coming over to play with it. I did a couple of songs by myself, then Moni came over and did one of the songs she had requested. Catherine came over and performed, then Laird, but it seemed like there was never going to be anyone there except me and maybe one other person.
Finally the Knoxville contingent came over and did their couple of dirty ditties (Dick In A Box and On A Boat). Laird hung around awhile and he and I did a few more numbers and I was about to just wrap it up when Catherine came back over and a few others showed up. As it turned out we ended up doing a lot more songs before finally packing it in around 11:30 or so. Overall it was a fun evening.
Sunday morning I didn't want to wake up at all. I was completely exhausted. I finally forced myself
Ryan Jordan and others in the pit.
I rode control on the SV650 with the novice group for the first three sessions. A new guy named Justin (with his wife Leslie) had moved in and pitted right next to me. He asked if I could maybe lead him around so he could get used to "the line" on the track, so I obliged. He indicated that it helped him out. Later in the morning Charles came by his pit and mentioned to him that he had passed someone underneath on turn 2, a very risky maneuver. Charles even suggested that he should go find the rider in question and apologize to him,
My newly repaired leathers
have my name on back!
I had taken the wheels off my RC51 on Saturday afternoon before setting up for Karaoke, so the bike was still sitting there with no wheels. Boone and the guys hadn't set up their Nomar Tire Changer yet, so I suggested that maybe it was time we got started with that. They set it up only to discover that they had forgotten to bring the big bar that actually removed / reinstalled the tires.
One of them was over there disassembling the unit when I came over and suggested that since I had a set of tire spoons we might as well use their changing station and my spoons to change tires. As it turned out that was an excellent idea. Not quite as fast as using the full Nomar system, but very quick, especially with two or three guys working together to do it. We got my tires changed pretty quickly and a couple of theirs and I left my spoons and rim savers over there in case anyone else needed to use them. They used them for several other tire changes but eventually someone probably wasn't using proper technique when attempting to change a tire (keeping the bead down into the wheel well) and they broke my longer spoon. One of them brought the spoons and rim savers back over and apologetically offered to buy me a new one, but I told him it was entirely unnecessary. The savings in just not having to pay someone else to change my tire was well worth more than the $10 or so it will cost me to replace the spoon.
While I was preparing to putt the wheels back on my RC51 Carlton Hodges and his son and his son's girlfriend came by. They had driven down from Waycross, Georgia. I told them I was going to go to the store and pick up some stuff for lunch but they evidently had already eaten so they weren't interested in getting any for themselves. Instead they wanted to go watch the motorcycle action on the track. They said they'd come back to my pit after awhile, but strangely I never saw them after that. I tried calling a time or two but still have no clue what happened to them.
Meanwhile I got the wheels back on the RC51 and after lunch was
Coming up on traffic into turn 1...
I can't remember if I ran just one or two more sessions Sunday afternoon before calling it a day, but I just didn't have the inclination to keep pushing that afternoon. I was ready to call it a day a little early and relax for awhile.
Sunday afternoon they had planned a group dinner at a mexican restaraunt in Lake Park, Georgia. So I hopped in the truck
Busting a move inside on turn 10.
Monday morning it was really cold outside but the sun had come out for what seemed like the first time all weekend. I didn't want to wake up, and I lay there for awhile just wanting to keep sleeping, but finally I got up. Again I didn't knwo what the game plan was for the novice riders but I helped by control riding with some of the novices. However I did all my riding on the RC51 on Monday. The first lap I took kind of slow, then did a slightly hotter lap. As I entered the front straight for the 2nd time I waved the riders who were close enough on around me. A third rider was within eyeshot but he just wasn't close enough to get around me before turn 1 so I dove in and slotted behind the two riders who had passed me. One of them was on a red GSXR-1000 and the other was on a Yellow bike. I couldn't tell for sure what it was, but I believe it was a Kawasaki.
Almost full tilt through turn 11 this time.
When I got there a guy from an adjacent pit came over and asked me if I would show him "the racing line" during the next session. His name was Ken. I told him I'd be glad to, he could just exit the pit in front of me and I'd follow him for a lap or two to get an idea what his pace was, then attempt to ride the race line at his pace. He didn't mention it, but his wife (Beth) was also there and she wanted to do the same thing. He was riding a red CBR600RR and she was on a purple/pinkish GSXR-600. So when I got to pit out they were already at the head of the line. I had to chase them down, but by the time I did he had already gotten ahead of her with some traffic between them. I went ahead and passed her and chased Ken down. Surprisingly that didn't take long at all. I believe I passed her braking into turn 13 and I caught him before turn 1.
So once I caught up with him I followed him for a lap or two, then like I had promised I pointed at my tail section to indicate "follow me" and attempted to show him the line. I sandbagged a little approaching turn 3 so he'd be able to get close before we got into the tight section. Then I rode the racing line at a slower-than-normal-pace. In fact I did it so slowly I essentially didn't make any speed adjustments, just rode the whole thing with a steady throttle. But when I looked behind me as I got onto the back straight he was nowhere to be seen. He was unable to keep up with that pace, so I slowed it down a bit more on the second try. I guess after about two or three laps of that he had pretty much kept pace with me so I waved him by on the front straight so I could watch him for a few laps. After the session was over I talked with him about the things I'd noticed that might help him make better time in some sections of the track, and it looked like he really appreciated it.
I may have done the same thing with another person or two that morning before the lunch break, but after lunch it
Turn 10 - a tight lefthander.
I kicked back and lit a cigar to celebrate the end of a great weekend. Moni came over and sat in my "guest" chair and we talked for awhile as did Brad Johnson. While Brad and I were talking I noticed the crash truck going out. We saw as the session ended that the crash truck came back with Charles on it. Fortunately he hadn't actually crashed, but his bike had caught fire while he was riding.
Charles came over and we had a beer together as we talked about the weekend. It was a great weekend and
Check out some video from an onboard
camera taken by Donny Wright!
But all good things have to come to an end, so I began packing all the stuff up. With a little help from Boone and Brad I was able to get the bikes loaded with no sweat, and I strapped everything down securely for the long ride home. Zero was a trooper throughout all this, and he travels very well.
I got back home at about 12:30 in the middle of the night. I really didn't want to get up the next morning as I was thoroughly exhausted. What a great weekend.
Most important lesson learned during this track day: Being a control rider isn't really that much fun.