Photos by Heather Bashow and Don Empey
My foot drops through thin air, and with it my stomach.
I’m searching for second gear right as I enter the hairpin of the Shannonville Motorsports Park Long Track.
But the gear lever isn’t there.
I have a morning ritual at the race track, as most racers do. I take my Allen key set and I go over the bike, front to back, to make sure all the bolts are tight. Especially the ones that are subject to lots of vibration, like the peg bolts and the shifter bolts. This particular Sunday, I’d forgotten.
Now, I’m swearing in my helmet as I roll to a halt on the outside of the circuit. It’s a bitter pill to swallow on what was really a breakout weekend.
RACE Super Series rules allow me to remove the CSBK-mandated restrictor plates from my throttle bodies. With all 48 horsepower uncorked, I and the other two Ninja 400s of Connor Campbell and John Taverner had a distinct advantage over the rest of the field on Ninja 300s and R3s. Not only that, but I was riding better than I had, ever. I was off that duo’s pace, but had scored third in three of four qualifying heat races on Saturday. I was on for a good day.
In the first race, I ran third most of the race. Matt Simpson, riding the wheels of his Ninja 300, passed me twice but my power advantage saw me back ahead in short order. Then, on the final lap, a missed shift into the hairpin saw me run wide and lose three spots.
That missed shift should have been my warning to check the bike over. Often, when I have a clumsy shift, something in that area has worked loose. I was too despondent over my goof to think that far ahead, and assumed it was the organic component that had once again cocked up.
In the next race, I got a blinding start from third on the grid, and only narrowly lost the lead into turn one as John Taverner whipped through, forcing his bike into my wheel track before tipping into the corner. I desperately fought to hold second, but Connor Campbell, himself having a breakout weekend, got by in turn three. No drama, I had a plan to stick with that duo this time, follow their lines and let them show me the way to the 1m16s bracket they were running in. That plan lasted one more corner, and then, disaster.
Losing my gear lever is galling. Losing my gear lever in the middle of a genuine podium battle even more so. Connor ran off in his fight with JT during that race, and I would have been there to pick up the spoils. As it was, JT swept the weekend, Connor took home a pair of podiums, and I was left rueing my terrible preparation.
Yet again, my weekend was scuppered by my micro-errors. Inexperience costs big out here. Fortunately, this was only the RACE Super Series Round 4 at Shannonville. The race that really matters is next weekend.
It’s the final round of the 2018 Canadian Superbike Championship at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The double-header weekend will end the championship not only for my little Lightweight Amateur Production class, but for the big guns in Pro Sportbike and Pro Superbike as well.
It will be a monster weekend of racing, and plenty of off-track entertainment too.
I’ll be there, armed with a little more experience, and the biggest tube of lock-tite known to man wedged into my Beckner Trailers 5×10. Come say hi, and feel free to point and laugh at the muppet tightening every screw, nut and bolt about 100 times an hour.
Until then, Keep it Pinned!