INTRO – Editor ‘arris
Daytona International Speedway.
Photo courtesy of DIS
If you’ve ever had a bike serviced at Bavarian Motosports in Woodbridge, Ontario, then chances are that technician, Ronn Moffatt, had his grubbies on it at one time or another. We got to know Ronn through our BMW R1100S racing experiences and took an immediate liking to the guy (he laughed at our jokes at the right moments).
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.
Words: Ronn Moffatt
|Daytona Race Circuit.
Photo courtesy of DIS
Have you ever been fortunate enough to win the lottery? Or maybe you’ve been the lucky draw winner at a fundraiser, or just even found the toy motorcycle at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks?
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!
|“We’re going racing, officer”.|
The plan was to take a race prepped Honda Hawk 650 and enter it in the GT Lights class, which is part of the Formula USA, Team Challenge 200 mile Endurance Race. A relatively soft introduction into racing, although I’d be sharing the grid with Formula USA Superbikes and the current crop of 600s too.
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.
|The wettest Daytona since Christ rode a bike.|
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.
|The famed banking.
Photo courtesy of DIS
We arrived at the track with just enough time for me to suit up, and head out onto a recently formed lake that was once the Daytona Speedway. The heavens had opened during the night, and made a nice little water park right on top of the track. I was hoping that the Race-Gods had departed, but no such luck for this lowly plebe. As I rode onto the hot pit lane, the rain poured down once more.
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
|All was good till he got on the track.|
I think it was lap six, when my worst fears were realized. I was on the west banking, full throttle, trying to follow my limited sight line through the downpour, when I suddenly found myself unable to hold the line.
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.
|Ronn re-enacts his expression after the tire incident.|
No improvement. The bike was still uncooperative. I resolved to pull in the clutch and thereby take the motor out of the equation, and then just try to hang on until the gnarly beast slowed to a halt. At this point I didn’t know what else to do.
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.
|Checking for extraneous tie-downs …|
Although I felt somewhat better knowing what the offending issue was, I was genuinely freaked and had to serve a five-minute penalty in the lawn chair, for soiling my shorts. That was WAY too close! Now I had only eight racing lives left.
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.
|Team-mate Pat Doyle seems happy with the Hawk (although it somehow appears to have changed numbers in this shot?).|
Finding a new river in the exit of the chicane was entertaining, especially with the brief front slide that it produced unless I was going at anything other than walking pace. Again I found myself to be one of the few riders to endure the downpour, but I needed the practice.
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
|Waiting for the flag to drop.|
Time seemed to dissolve, as I had hardly gathered myself, and the time of reckoning had already arrived. Gerald had made the executive decision to have me on the grid, and start the 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.
|One minute you’re doing well in the rain, and the next …|
Confidence was further bolstered as I approached the chicane on lap three and noticed that the rider ahead of me had a difference of opinion as to entrance speed. I grabbed a mitt-full of brake, pulled in behind, and followed him through all cosy-like. Then, to my surprise, I was able to pass him on the banking! Talk about confidence inspiring.
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.
|… Oh Dear.|
My last clear visual image was the edge of the race track creeping WAY TOO CLOSE, then …
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.
|Gerald (l) and Pat (r) are blissfully ignorant of the events unfolding on the track.|
Looking at me as though I was an idiot, the Chief Attendant calmly replied, “we don’t cut leathers here”. Obviously, I was in the hands of experienced professionals.
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
|Click for what’s making Ronn cringe!
|X-rays of ankle fix-it.|
Soon after returning home to snowy Toronto, it was time to start follow-up treatment for my broken bones. It was a tad shocking to see the nasty looking incisions held together with staples (click on image to left). It was even more shocking to experience all forty of them being pulled out, but I’ll survive.
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).