CMG GOES FOR DAYTONA GLORY!
INTRO - Editor 'arris
Ronn's a committed motorcyclist, well known in the long-distance riding circles and a qualified BMW service technician, we intend to get him more involved in the pages of CMG in the future.
For now here's Ronn's story about his recent trip down to Daytona on a CMG supported quest for racing glory–or not, as the case always proves to be.
What I’m getting at is the feeling that is brought about by random occurrences of good fortune. It’s that extraordinary feeling of euphoria, that unmistakable elation that fills your soul.
It was this jubilation that I personally experienced back in November of last year.
While drinking with a couple of friends, the offer came up to become a member of their race team. However, this team was not going to race at some small out of the way track in the backwoods ... no sir. The offer promised to have me searching frantically for every ounce of courage in my soul, to motivate me around that majestic monument to motorcycling—the tantalizing tri-oval of speed we all know as Daytona!
Time passed quickly for me, and my mind had become a perpetual motion device of sorts. The sound of plastic sliders and pricey metal bits being ground down on smooth black asphalt resounded in my head, as the smell of high-octane exhaust filled my sinuses.
Before I knew it I was bound for sunny Florida, and my inaugural sampling of international road racing. During the flight I ran a self-diagnostic, a test of sorts. I had been studying Keith Code’s second instalment of the Twist of the Wrist books. I made point form notes on a napkin, and then cross-referenced them with key points in the book. I then wrote a bold statement across the bottom of my "exam" napkin, which read: “Go to work next week.” After all, I’m not being paid to do this, and the money had to come from somewhere.
Our first day was one of preparation and set-up, but no track time. Things happen quickly at the Daytona Speedway. In a few short hours, what had basically been an empty parking lot, had transformed into one huge performance shop, complete with vendors, services, and an even better than average snack bar.
Tension was high, with everyone making last minute changes to their bikes before rushing over to the tech garage for the required last minute inspection. It was an intoxicating atmosphere.
The day quickly passed and the announcement to vacate the track came all too soon. I hadn’t had time to absorb enough of the pre-race thrill yet! It was time to go though, and thanks to a day in the hot Florida sun, sleep was no problem that night.
I must admit, the first time up onto the famed 31 degree Daytona banking was a religious experience. Especially when fellow racers, on much faster hardware, were blasting past with thirty-foot rooster tails coming off the rear tire. I required at least three or four laps before I was even remotely comfortable with the concept of full throttle in top gear on that banking. The experience proved somewhat surreal as the rain pounded banking seemed more waterfall than racetrack. What the hell was I doing here?
THAT SINKING FEELING
Something was dreadfully wrong with the bike, and at the worst possible time.
The bike slew out sideways, then sideways the other way. I had never considered this scenario, even in my worst nightmares. I prepared myself to die.
Reluctant to give up on life without a fight, and with a respectable theory that the rear must have lost traction in the waterfall of the embankment, I held the throttle wide open in a desperate attempt to ride it through.
No change. The bike was still fishtailing back and forth with no pattern or regularity.
So I tried the opposite—gently backing-off the throttle in effort to calm the machine until we were off the banking and back onto the straight. At least there I could try something slightly more radical to calm the wily Honda … if I made it that far.
Fishtailing onto the back straight, I immediately pulled in the clutch, geared down, and let it out s-l-o-w-l-y.
The racing fairy must have been on my side, as the bike finally came to stop—still upright, with me on the saddle. Unbelievable!
The closest track marshal ran over and exclaimed, “I saw you on the banking, are you okay?” I looked at him wide eyed, then at the rear of the bike and a guilty flat tire.
“The tire...” I muttered and pointed, unable to say anything more.
After a short truck ride back to the pit area, my teammates quickly discovered the cause of the problem. A tie-down had somehow been left on the tail of the bike, and then missed at Tech! We figured that once at speed, the tie-down made its way into the inner wheel area, where it made contact with the wheel and pulled the valve stem free from the rim.
With the valve stem replaced, it was once again time for me to go out for the next practice session. The rains had been intermittent since my first sojourn of terror on the track, but were in a holding pattern for the time being.
My initial lap revealed a fairly dry track, which created a much needed internal calm for me. This was quickly followed by a further twist of the throttle, and a return to the customary quest for velocity. As I leaned into the International Horseshoe, I found my line, planted the right knee firmly on the deck, and cracked the throttle fully open.
All was well in Ronn’s world. It was bliss…right up until the heavens opened once more and released a deluge that had me thinking about Noah’s big boat.
Both the second and third practice sessions were nowhere near as spectacular as the first, and I gave much praise to the Gods, the Demons, and the hardy Honda Hawk for bringing me back without further incident. It was obvious that I was the young upstart on the team, as the only comment from Pat after a particularly wet session of his own was, "Ah, it’s fine.”
Then there was our team Captain, Gerald, who didn’t even bother going out for practice! Maybe some day, I too would be a grizzled veteran?
TIME TO RACE
It was humbling being queued behind so many fast guys on that huge pit lane. Being on the last row, I was able to see every rider and every machine. Although after the warm up lap I realized that the next time I was going to see the leading riders was when they lapped me at warp speed.
It seemed like an eternity waiting for the flag to drop. Than all of a sudden it was a very crowded turn #1. It didn’t even take a full lap for the field of riders to spread out, and find their pace. I did my best to relax, and focus on the job at hand. The bike was working great, the tires were warming up, and I was happy with my lines.
The next couple of laps were smooth, so I decided to pick up the pace and discovered that the infield section was where I could make time.
I’m not certain as to which lap it was exactly, when I was setting up for my entrance into the west horseshoe and decided that a little extra heat going in would be a good plan. The extra entrance speed was okay…unless done in combination with an early roll-on.
About two thirds around the corner I was starting to slide the front, and was quickly running out of road. I could feel the cold sweat of fear building but told myself that there was simply no way I was gonna crash here. Dammit! I leaned off the bike as far as I could, shifted my weight onto my knee, and opened the throttle as wide as I could.
I felt as though I was bouncing, at terminal velocity, down a long mine shaft. I was upside down, flying backwards, but could still see the high-siding Hawk catching up to me. The resounding “crack” just before I hit the hay bales confirmed that the bike did in fact catch up to me, leaving me with a badly broken ankle.
Before I had finished my rant of obscenities, the ambulance crew had me inside the medical facility. The staff was eager to x-ray my ballooning ankle, but I was still in full race gear. Fearing the worst, I expounded in a loud, pain filled voice, “You’re not cutting these leathers!” I simply couldn’t bear the thought of going home to tell the nice people at Carrera Canada, that the exquisite custom suit they had provided was destroyed after only one day of use.
The x-rays revealed multiple fractures on both sides of the ankle. I was transferred by ambulance to Halifax Medical Centre in Daytona Beach, where the Orthopaedic Surgeon was quick to examine the x-rays, and determine that surgery was necessary to repair the damaged joint. From that point until my release, two days later, it was all about the morphine. Ahh, blessed morphine.
Following that, it was a supremely comfortable stay with Gerald and his wonderful family. This also gave me opportunity to examine the poor Hawk GT, which was once a beautifully developed race machine, which in one day, I had reduced to a battered rolling chassis and motor.
PAYING THE PIPER
Now that I’m at home, and my head has cleared of the Percocets, it’s time to thank my team-mates Pat Doyle, and Gerald Young for allowing me this life-affirming experience.
Well sportsfans...what’s the moral of this little tale?
Go to work next week, as somebody’s got to pay for it.
Carrera Canada for the use of the custom racing suit.
Lance Matthews of iWalk-Free for the use of Ronn's temporary faux leg (product test coming soon).