The Race Diaries, Part 8

(Read Part 7 here)


Morning photo shoot. Me, Jocelyne and Richard (B & B owners) avec the Goldwing while it still had power.

Ah, race day. I wanted to leave nothing to chance today so got up early and made sure that I had my mind around everything.

Mr. Seck, although in a lot of pain, was still being the trooper, except when he had to go for a leak in the middle of the night (he’d wince and cry his way across the floor of our B&B room).

“Hey, crash boy, keep it down. I have a race tomorrow”. Okay, I only thought it, hoping that I wouldn’t be joining him after the big race.

Before breakfast, Mr. Seck thought it would be a good idea to utilise the morning light and take some photos of the Goldwing that we had brought along to test.

I think he might be enjoying being the mangled one, as he was totally unable to help move the bike around. He just stood there, supported by a crutch, camera in hand, telling me exactly how the 370 Kg bike needs to be positioned.

“To the right … just a bit. Bit more. Pull the rear out. Now forward slightly. There’s a twig on the floor that I don’t like. Could you move it? And the hose? That’s good. Hmmmmhhhh, you know what, that isn’t working. Let’s try it over there ..”

And so it went on until breakfast, a half hour later.

The Gold Wing expresses its disgust at having the ignition left on.

Breakfast was duly followed by a mild panic attack when I couldn’t find the Wing’s key. “Don’t get stressed”, I muttered to myself, “you probably just left it in the ignition”.

And indeed I had. Trouble being that I also left the ignition on, and the master LCD screen that used to say “Hello Editor ‘arris … welcome to Goldwing world”, now said “You bastard. You left me on and now I’m dead”.

Actually, since it was dead, it couldn’t say anything, but I knew it was what it was thinking … or at least thought, as the last few electrons dribbled out of its moribund battery.

Not one to ask for help when I could make matters worse all on my own, I heaved the carcass of a once proud motorcycle to the end of the driveway, jumped on and merrily rolled down a large hill. Everything was going well until I juddered to the bottom in second gear without even a backfire emanating from the Honda behemoth.

Shit, shit, shit, shit. Why me? Why today?

A humbling walk back up the hill to the B&B saw Richard (the owner, not the bossy photographer), come down in his van with some jumper cables. Within 5 minutes I was ‘go’ once more and tearing at a high rate of knots through the Quebec countryside, in a desperate attempt to make St. Eustache and the compulsory 9 am rider’s meeting.

JP not looking very comfortable on a wet track.
Photo: Touseef Mirza

At 9:15 I was asking J.P. what the guy had just said in French that seemed so important. Bugger, I had just demolished my karma for the day, having rushed to get to a meeting after which I was non-the-wiser anyway. I like to think of this as a skill, in much the same way as I can damage anything that I’m testing, break any computer just by pressing a random key, and always find myself on the edge of disaster, no matter how much I plan ahead.

Actually, talking of JP for a moment, here’s a guy that had real reason to be nervous (although he was seemingly his usual jolly self). He was the only BMW rider in this class that was trying to do the whole series – and all on his own (the Buell guys managed to get some factory support), he only needed to place third (out of six) to clinch the championship. Today was truly a day of reckoning for this guy and it put my petty panics in perspective.

Well, for a few minutes anyway, and then I had to rush off to the bog (toilet) and make, what I figured, may well be my last voluntary bowel movement. Significantly lighter, I donned my trusty leathers, slid aboard my shiny steed and headed out for the first practice session of the day.


Ian (top left) retrieves the wheels & tires from Richard’s S.

All seemed well as I pretty well started from where I’d left off the day before. The bike seemed to be behaving itself. I got JP to help set up the suspension (no damping at the front and full preload at the back, with the rear damping screw on full, minus half a turn). This had done wonders to a once bucking bike. The front could now go with the bumps, instead of feeling almost solid and the whole bike felt a lot more solid and sure in the corners.

In fact, I must have been doing something right because on returning to the pits, a recently arrived Mr. Seck announced that in his learned opinion, I could maybe take Ian McQueen (Wolf BMW), thereby doing CMG proud by coming in second from last instead of last.

I should be honest here and state that Ian was riding a loaner S from BMW that had last been out for the Mosport race, and still had the same (and now fried) tires. He wasn’t a happy man and decided to actually swap wheels with Richard’s ‘retired’ S. Its tires had seen two fewer days of track time (although they had also seen a line of hay-bails and a flailing Mr. Seck as a result).

As far as our S went, although there was some slipping going on, it was predictable enough, and I was happy enough with our Metzeler MEZ’s. For now.

Shanti-shanti in the back of the BMW makeshift temple.

After the two morning practices I continued the tradition of a light lunch, two coffees and four cigarettes. The afternoon was crunch time – consisting of all the races for each class, with the Amateur LWT/SV Cup/BuellBMW scheduled number seven of eleven.

Since it would be some time before our number was up, I decided to put something into practice that I had been flirting with for the past two years – yoga. I know what you’re thinking, that I like to wrap myself up into a pretzel while eating a large bowl of muesli and soy milk. It’s not true. I lead as unhealthy a lifestyle as the next slob, yoga is more about the mind and an ability to still lean over, sans pain, when you’re forty. For me at least.

Hiding in the back of the BMW truck, I adopted the lotus position and hummed away for the next half hour as the 600 supersport classes buzzed by my temporary temple of shanti-shanti.

By the time I emerged, calm and well inside my happy place, the sky had turned an alarming shade of grey. Oh dear.

And the rain came down … Contemplating wet track racing on the mini-grid.
Photo: Touseef Mirza

By the start of race 6, it had started to rain. Subsequently, the race was delayed for 15 minutes, giving it enough time to stop and pretty well dry off the already warm track. Race number 6 started and I went back into the BMW temple and slid into my leathers.

As I drew up to the mini-grid, the Gods of Denmark betrayed my tadpoleon sacrifices and decided to open up the skies once more. I looked across to Ian on my right and started to laugh. That almost-about-to-cry kind of laugh that is reserved for the stunned and the mad.

After a moments pause to decide whether to go or not, the official stepped aside and waived us out onto the track. There was no turning back, no way out. But then how bad could it be? Just knock it down a couple of notches. People race in the wet all the time. Hey, this is going to be fun.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that everybody around me were riding like chickens (with yellow bellies and lily-livers to boot). I think that it was when I came around corner 6 – sideways – that I understood the full meaning of my colleagues riding style. Hell, I wasn’t even going fast. This was going to require some serious recalculations.

Editor ‘arris pulls down his visor and adopts the racing position.
Photo: Touseef Mirza

From there on, each corner had to be taken with as little lean as possible. Even a minor lean would have the rear end drifting – anything more and you’d be eating asphalt. I could have run around the corners faster. It all seemed so sad – a whole summer of preparation and I have to ride the big race without leaning. To add insult to (potential) injury, RDS (the French version of TSN) were there to shoot the race.

As we pulled into the main grid positioning, the ASM officials decided to put cones down either side of the straight, thereby fencing off the two drag strips. I guess they become ultra slick in these conditions. As a result, the width was severely reduced and the grid had to be stretched in order to fit on the straight.

As the officials retreated to their starting positions, it suddenly dawned on me that we were now ahead of the starting lights. I think everybody else realised this about the same time, depicted by a mass of waiving arms and general looking around. French was spoken, arms gradually subdued and racers once more adopted their starting poses.

Once more, I found myself wondering how the race was actually going to start, erring on the idea of a flag start, since I could no longer see the lights and some official-looking guy was now standing to the side and about to drop a big flag.

Oooh, the big race starts, but only in part 9!

(Read Part 9 here)


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