Words: Andrew Boss Photos: Richard Seck/Sheila Tang
My name is Andrew. I have never raced before.
With that AA-style confession off my chest, I’ll also admit that knowing Team CMG’s storied racing legacy of wrecked bikes, multiple fractures and last place finishes left me a little, uh … wary. To make matters worse, race organizers and promoters—Supermoto Canada—had rescheduled the Fort Erie round from mid June—when I had originally planned to do it—to mid August, leaving me an extra two months to stew.
CMG entered our long term Yamaha WR450F test bike in the Novice Lightweight Supermoto class. This class allows a virtually unmodified bike to compete—minimizing costs greatly—although wheel sizes and suspension must remain stock. Brake rotors, pads and lines can be upgraded. Tire choices can be anything excluding knobbies.
|Whatever works. In this case a mineral water bottle and lots of duct tape!|
We took advantage of Pirelli’s advice and installed a pair of MT90 Scorpions Judging by a quick pit inspection several other racers made the same choice in tires. We also lowered the front suspension in the triple clamps for quicker steering, which is allowable by the rules. Some Water Wetter replaced the glycol-based coolant, and we mounted a homemade catch-can, fashioned from a mineral water bottle. This is required for racing to keep the slippery stuff off the track, housing the fuel overflows and crankcase breather. And that’s all we needed to go motarding!
Rider wise, I already had gloves, boots and a helmet, but leathers came courtesy of CMG staffer Ronn Moffatt, who took one for the team. He handed them over with a solemn look and the unspoken ‘you soil ‘em, you bought ‘em. Fair enough.
Ok, got the bike, got the gear, seems the rest is up to … me. Oy vey!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
|Andrew’s off-road experience paid off in the dirt sections.|
Photo: Sheila Tang
My attempts to get comfortable off-road with the Pirelli dual-sport rubber turned into a 2km disaster when the WR sheered a woodruff key on the crank, making it a push-only machine. This appears to be an emerging problem with the WR, Yamaha having already released a bulletin on how to replace the key. We’ll cover that in more detail in our WR wrap-up article at the end of the season.
With woodruff key replaced I found a discreet parking lot to learn to ride on pavement and the real discomfort set in. The WR made the parking lot seem very small in a hurry. I’d get up to speed and then hammer the brakes and stumble through an imaginary corner, rocketing back out with the WR’s front wheel pointing in the air. Repeat, repeat, and repeat.
Pooped, anxious, and feeling like I didn’t know how to ride, I consulted the cornering tips that I had printed from the Supermoto web site. I regrouped, tried to think and breathe simultaneously, and tried once again.
So, hot into the imaginary corner, lots of front brake, downshift into what you think is the gear you’ll exit with, let the clutch out and try to do a controlled corner slide. Okay, so I didn’t look like the pictures of the Supermoto riders, but it was definitely smoother.
I also learned first hand that most motarded dirt bikes will roast their rotors quickly. Off-road brakes are simply not designed for this kind of duty. Not wanting to expend any cash on replacements, I let the brakes cool between sessions and as a result they remained warp free, albeit bluer.
With base principles covered, all that remained was to get to Fort Erie and ‘givver’. Although I couldn’t help but feel that the standard CMG public humiliation awaited me.
|‘arris and Costa discuss the opposite sex while Mr. Boss just gets on with it.|
The morning greeted us hot, muggy and threatening rain. Perfect.
We registered, and then commandeered, ex-CMGer Costa to create some natty blue duct tape sevens on the number-plates. The reason I chose seven was two-fold; 1) It was easy for Costa to make, and 2) when I cart wheeled off the track it would look like an ‘L’ for loser when upside down.
After finishing the bike ‘prep’, Mr. Seck and I walked the track to observe lines and track conditions for the race. This was followed by the tech inspection, after which the riders meeting covered flags and their various uses.
I immediately forgot everything.
|Trying to prevent the WR from stalling out in the pre-grid.|
My day would consist of one 10-minute practice session, two heats and then the final. The start grid would initially be determined by where you stood in the points (i.e. me last) and then get adjusted by your heat placing.
With all preliminaries done—and duly forgotten—I was ready for the practice session. I nervously queue up with the other lightweights with the choke fully on, constantly blipping the throttle to ensure not stalling the WR.
Minutes seemed to pass.
Choke off, still blipping, and we were finally given the clearance to go. Silence.
|He almost looked like he knew what he was doing …|
The WR immediately stalls into the No-Mans land of neither hot nor cold. My arm goes up and the riders behind me get safely past. I squeeze the starter button, using several combinations of choke, throttle opening and prayer … and then start frantically kicking. I’m now sweating like a farm animal, but it finally barks to life. So in my first ever practice I’m already last by one half lap. Great. So much for following the experienced guy’s lines.
The asphalt portion proves to be rough but very grippy. The dirt section on the other hand is a combination of packed wet mud and some pea gravel that spits me to the ground on my second attempt through.
My first experience with motarding, well, racing, was not going to plan.
THE HEAT IS ON
|Chaos ensues in corner one as Mr. Boss goes for the inside line.|
There was only one thing to, get some advice, and quick. Dave Grummett, proprietor of Parker Bros in Toronto and an all-round good guy, is also riding and on a WR450F no less. I quiz him about tire pressure. He was using 20PSI as opposed to my 26PSI when I crashed, giving me a handy excuse for getting a face full of dirt.
The first heat found me gridded about twelfth of fourteen. Being in rows of four, with a short blitz to the first left-hander, there would be little room to move. Doing my best to ignore the Hooters start-flag gal, I manage to get through the first corner unscathed.
Things were looking up as it only took one lap for some serendipity to come my way. The competitors ahead started crashing in the dirt sections, or stalling while trying to navigate through the bedlam. Coming in from the rear I was able to mosey around the fallen bikes and gain some positions.
|The WR seemed to like it … so did Mr. Boss.|
As I picked up the pace I decided to go for it and managed to out-brake another rider in a legitimate racing pass. I even got comfortable enough to throw in a third gear power-wheelie on the main straight. Wait, would they black-flag me or would this be considered all part of the show? Shoulda paid more attention to that flag talk at the riders meeting…
After ten laps, I hit the finish line jump in a blazing fifth and returned to the pits to the bewildered looks of the CMG staffers assembled. Maybe the CMG curse would be broken.
While approaching the grid for the second heat-race, the WR started running like crap. Oh no, don’t let me down now! Oh wait, the petcock was shut off. In order to try and estimate a minimum amount of gas for the next race—wanting to keep excess weight to a minimum—I had drained some out via the petcock and left it turned off. Stoop!
|Closing in on Dave Grummett (#10).|
That sorted, I found myself now gridded in the second row. Ignoring the Hooter’s girl—and humming the Simpson’s theme song—we lit out again.
Confident after a successful last race, midway I was able to out-brake Dave Grummett as he took a road race line in corner one. He tried to take it back on the next turn, but I’d have none of that! Now, about that store discount Dave?
The rest of the race involved maintaining my position and wondering who the hell was closing in on me at the end of the long straight with the howling brakes! A quick glance after several nervous laps made realize it was, uh … me.
I finished Heat#2 in fourth.
So far, so good.
THE END OF THE CMG CURSE?
|The guy on the vintage Elsinore shows ‘em what he’s got. Are those drum brakes?|
The final taught me a little more about racing, and the fact that some guys are pretty serious, or simply have less to lose.
Starting from the inside of Row 2, the rider besides me pulls a Michael Schumacher start. i.e. squeezing me out from my line by riding into me. I brake for him and tiptoe through corner #1. This lost me precious spots but as I entered the right-hander that followed it seemed that everyone had an inside line but me … so I went outside.
I remember actually wondering why no one was going out there. There was room, and as a result I gained a spot or two back.
|Annie Boss finds a good way to filter out the paddock BS.|
On the following left hander, another ‘serious’ rider almost T-bones me. I braked for him too! Geez, we haven’t even gone one third of a lap!
From there on, it was single file racing for me. I stayed in sight of the three leaders, had a reasonable gap behind me and just focused on remembering to breathe and not crash. Hitting the finish line jump in fourth place was cause for a celebratory cross-up.
Back at the pits, I relaxed and started to enjoy getting 5th, 4th and 4th out of 14 in my first ever racing venture. Public humiliation will just have to wait another day.
|Them’s the Pirelli Scorpions.|
Racing was a dream realized and I had truly expected my heart to blow on the start grid but it didn’t. In fact, it was just the opposite. I maintained an emotional detachment that I blame for not putting up more of a challenge in defending my space at the start of the final. Dr. Phil? Next time.
Motard can be addictive and sliding on pavement is a ton of fun. Watching premier riders like Steve Beattie, Dave Arnold and Guy Giroux tear it up with contrasting styles and machinery is breathtaking. It’s also racing that can be done on a budget and competitively. Proof is the guy on the modded vintage Honda Elsinore who was in the top three in the Novice class.
The only major change we made to the WR450F was adding the Pirelli Scorpions and, judging by their wear, they would likely last me most—if not all—of the six-race series. Competitive, budget conscious and above all, fun racing. That’s an idea whose time is now.
KEEPING UP APPEARENCES
|Mr. Seck does CMG proud by getting lost in a dust cloud of his own making.|
Photo: Sheila Tang
If you must know, the media race on the KTM Supercup bikes brought CMG back to form. Editor ‘arris locked up the rear and spun-out while riding slowly to the start grid and then duly finished last. Mr. Seck managed to keep it upright and gained a less CMG-like third to last place. Both were spanked by a thirteen year old, several members of the snowmobile community and Costa. The shame is back.
Pirelli for the tires (www.ca.pirelli.com)
Supermoto Canada (www.supermotocanada.com) for their co-operation and help making this happen. The final (round 6) is on Saturday, September 6th at Shannonville Motorsports Park, Ontario. Get out there and see some premium racing!