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Hitting the bottle on the track

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAMANTHA DYE

It’s always a treat when you can have a real battle among racers: when the outcome is not predictable, when every corner is an opportunity to make up lost ground, where every mistake is exploited by your opponent, whether it’s for the first or last place or in this particular story, sixth place.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on small-displacement bikes making 30 to 40 hp. Straight lines are painfully long and slow as you try and make yourself smaller than you are. Corners are where you win and lose positions, where the battle rages.

Being able to race Mike Raniowski through this R.A.C.E. season has been great fun, always gentlemanly and safe. I have a Honda CBR250R with a 300 engine, and Mike has a stock Kawasaki Ninja 300. In our last race of 2017 at Shannonville last month, we were both riding hard and I kept showing him a wheel here and there. We had just completed the third lap of the Lightweight Sportsman race; I was 0.3 seconds behind Mike at the start/finish, drafting him into Corner 1. My intention was to get a better drive and perhaps out brake him into Corner 2.

Needless to say, I was too close and fate had it that Mike low-sided his bike at the entry of Corner 1. This is a fast corner at Shannonville: sixth gear flat out on the little bikes, entry speed around 150 km/h, no braking, no lifting of the throttle. There was little time and few options and I tried my best to avoid hitting Mike’s body. Instead, I promptly launched my bike off him, cracking his ribs and leaving a tire mark on his helmet!

On a straight line at great speed with air under both wheels I hit the ground on my right side and cartwheeled towards the barriers. My bike barely slowed down and spun itself over the bottle bags, the tire wall and the fence into the dirt track on the other side – testament to the speed we were carrying.

Tough to see what’s going on behind the dust, but safe to say everybody’s holding their breath.

The fact I’m writing this now is thanks to the existence and presence of the Canadian Rider Safety Fund (CRSF) bottle bags. I have a very sore bum and ankle and a mild concussion from hitting the ground before the bag, but without them to safely slow me down, I would have certainly suffered much greater injuries. Both riders walked away from the incident thanks to those bottle bags.

Like most motorcycle racers and track-day enthusiasts, I’ve been collecting my empty plastic water bottles for the last few years, leaving the cap on and filling these bottle bags trackside. I knew of their usefulness and witnessed several riders walking away from crashes after hitting these bags.

Squint through the dust and you can just about see the riders thunking into the bottle bags below their names.

It’s been seven years since the CRSF started the program. The brainchild of Frank Wood, our favourite CSBK announcer, the bags were developed to survive the elements and the demands put on them. The CRSF champions the concept and serves as a facilitator between race organisations and bag suppliers. Measuring four feet high, wide and deep with a smaller opening on the top, they each contain more than 2,000 empty plastic containers of various sizes with their caps on. They are the cheapest and most effective safety barrier out there, safer even than air fences as they can take more than one hit. Easy to move, easy to replace, easy to forget they are there!

When JP told us he hit the bottle on the weekend, we didn’t think it looked like this. Mike’s up and walking, but JP is still in a bit of a daze.

They are cheap, too, at less than $50 a bag. Compare that to $1,000 for a six-foot foam block or $7,000 for a 25-feet section of air fence.

Hitting one myself made me realise firsthand how effective they are. Just look at the picture where I’m leaning against the bag with plastic containers strewn around me. Again, my lack of serious injuries is greatly due to the safe landing on the CRSF bottle bags.

Happy times for JP earlier in the race. The bike was totalled in the crash, but he’s already bought another used CBR250R that he’ll be prepping this winter.

You can bet I’ll be volunteering next season to help the staff move these lovely bags around. We weekend racers are very lucky to have this technology.

I’ve also ordered one of those air vests to wear over my leathers next year, but I kinda hope I am not asked to write a piece about how they work in a crash!

Want to see JP’s sore bum? Click onto the next page, but don’t say you weren’t warned — it’s high resolution… – Ed.

11 thoughts on “Hitting the bottle on the track”

          1. larry is where I got that info. I’d message the foundation but Faceblight seems to be their only online presence, and I’m not on it.

  1. I was standing in 14 when this happened and it happened so fast that I didn’t even see JP’s involvement. Heard the crash, swung around to look at corner 1, and only saw Mike and his bike through the viewfinder.

  2. I saw that crash – it was spectacular with J. P. “s bike flying at least 20 feet in the air. I don’t think anyone thought they would walk away. Oh, and I had a similar bruise from high siding on the last turn at Shannonville in 1984, long before there were air or bottle fences and flew into the unprotected guardrail at high speed. It was one of those moments where everything went into slow motion and I had time to think about what a great life I had had. I was lucky to walk away from that one.

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