The Race Diaries, Part 9

(Read Part 8 here)


“And they’re off”. ‘arris (5th) gets the holeshot on Ian … err … who looks like he has yet to go.

Everything slowed down for a moment, as the sounds of revving motors all around me lost their bark. I took one big deep breath and let the clutch go in unison with the flag drop.

“Waaaahhhhhhhhh”. We were off.

By the time I reached corner 2, the three Buells and JP were already gone, as well as two SVs that had managed to holeshot me. I slid controllably round 2 and 3 and then settled back and tried not to crash. After all, Ian hadn’t passed me yet, so maybe Mr. Seck was right.

Hey, this isn’t too bad. I mean, everybody else is in the same boat when it comes to traction, and a bit of slide around the corners ain’t so bad after a lap or two. I believe that it was lap three that I foolishly decided to try corner 2 with a little more reckless abandon.

If you’ve ever been kicked in the shin, you’ve probably got an idea of just how much that hurt (woe is me).

I could almost instantly feel the back end slide out, but with more vigour and intent than previously. This was followed almost immediately with a a vicious tank slapper. Instinctively, I put both feet down on the ground to try and hold it up, only to have the wildly thrashing S slam its right cylinder hard into my shin. Without delay it bucked back to the left and gave a hard whack to my other shin with the other cylinder.

“Holy .. Ouch .. Shit .. Ouch”, this has never happened to me before.

Once again I was tensing up for the inevitable dumping, only to once again be given a calm second in which to grab hold of the bars and wobble painfully through corner 3. Two SVs swooped by, but I didn’t care anymore.

I can remember looking up and seeing an RDS camera on me. “That’ll look impressive” I thought as I made an exaggerated shake of my head, as if to emphasise to the viewer at home that this wasn’t really a race but more a test of raw nerve, expensive tires and, well, luck.

‘Arris out-brakes a non-ABS equipped lightweight. Suckerrrrrr.
Photo: Touseef Mirza

After a couple more laps of much more conservative riding, it dawned on me that I might have an advantage with the S’s ABS brakes. After all, everybody was braking early at the end of each straight in the fear of that momentary front wheel lock up and the resultant up close and personal feeling with the track.

ABS was designed with this pretty well in mind (okay on a wet road rather than a track, but it still seemed to be a plausible translation of the original intent). And so it was, that I gleefully sped past some of the cockier bikes that had already passed me, and with hero-like late braking in dire conditions, shaved off my excess speed and trundled through the next corner. This time I found myself doing a smug nod at the RDS camera as if to say, “Hey kids, this is bloody dangerous, but I’m obviously fooking brilliant. Don’t try this at home.”Good old ABS – you gotta love it.

I’d hazard a guess that non of these guys are breathing right now – The three Buells get the holeshot on JP at the race’s start.

I can remember from the ASM race school that we had taken the previous weekend, JP saying (yes, the same JP also instructs at the school) that we should not forget to breathe. For all of you still breathing, this seems like a relatively obvious statement, but there are times when you get so scared/tense, that you just stop doing it. This happens mostly in corners, and I often found myself sprinting back up the straight, gulping for air. Much like a fish does when it suddenly finds itself on the bottom of a boat – although I’m not a fish and I was on a motorcycle and not a boat, but you get the idea.

I was now about half way through the ‘race’ when I realised that Ian had yet to pass me. Maybe Mr. Seck was actually right. Or, maybe I really am just fooking brilliant. Coming out of the double apex and onto the back straight, I glanced across to my left and noticed a veritable party going on in the infield. There were 3 or 4 riders standing in a circle, with various damaged motorcycles propped up around them. And there in the middle of them was Ian. Hmmhh, maybe the new tires didn’t do what he was hoping for.

And down he goes! Ian McQueen surrenders to the evil forces of a slick corner 2.
Photo: Touseef Mirza

With no Buell or JP in sight ahead, and now no-one in my class behind, I figured that all I had to do was finish the race and I’d come in fifth, albeit by default. Hey, that gets me a plaque and a whopping $25.00 cheque. All of a sudden life was looking good.

The track was starting to dry out and a dry racing line making its presence. Although this allowed me to pick up the speed a little (as friction had noticeable increased), it also raised the stakes when it came to making an error. You see, normally if you screw up that line, you end up losing a bit of time and give racers behind you a golden opportunity to pass. Now the line allowed for greater speed, but veering off it by mistake meant that you suddenly found yourself sans traction and avec speed. You can guess the result.

You might not have guessed that I actually managed to keep on that line and it was with extreme relief that I finally passed the finish line, securing fifth place and my enormous cheque. It’s interesting to note, that I might be the only amateur racer in all of racing history to make money in the sport, as the usual associated costs ended up either being covered by loaners or sponsors.

JP looks just stunned as the reality of the situation sinks in. 2001 Championship holder, Don Paquette, and Wolf BMW’s Ian ‘Crasher’ McQueen sympathise.

After the ‘cool-down’ lap, I was waived into an area to the left of the front straight where the three Buell riders and an anxious looking JP were waiting.

“Did you get it? Did you get the championship?” I gasped to JP. He said he wasn’t sure, but I think he knew the worst. At that point an ASM official came over, said something in French and the three Buell guys gave out a cheer and started high-fiving. JP had come in forth, and his main rival, Don Paquette, won the race after race leader Darren James slowed down to let him take the flag.

Well done guys, it was an impressive victory and good team work to ensure that Buell once again took the championship. They’d done good and all ridden superbly under heinous conditions. However, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for JP who had battled against all odds without factory support, only to see the championship slip from his hands, and under conditions that took emphasis away from the rider and placed it heavily on the tires. But then that’s racing, with all its twists and turns. Like it or not.

Back at the pits, we rounded up the BMW crew and popped the cheap bubbly a top the BMW truck tower, spraying away our fears and disappointments but relieved to be still standing (although at least one member had the help of crutches to do so).

Mr Seck, unable to escape, gets the ceremonial dousing over the head routine.
Photo: Touseef Mirza
‘Arris comes in last but gets a cheque and plaque non the less. Oh, and he’s well chuffed with it all. JP and Don (2nd and 1st in the championship respectively) savour their moment of glory and camaraderie.

Since this was the end of the racing season for all the ASM classes, awards were handed out to the victors of each class from within the main St. Eustache Autodrome building – each to a rapturous roar from the crowd of racers. It was a cool ending to a well fought racing season. I was privileged to be part of it and came away with great respect for anyone who has the guts and determination to give this a go.


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