Contemplating Badness

For any of you OMG faithful out there, you will no doubt be well familiar with Piero's fatefull track day at Mosport Park, Ontario, on board a brand new CBR9000 Fireblade. However, for all you CMGers, here's the story of how we almost managed to alienate the big H by 'modifying' our first ever test bike from them. I will say no more, except that Piero has still yet to overcome the "where's the guy who smashed the blade" question.

Mosport Track Day

Dave and I were side by side at 170 km/h on our identical CBR900RRs as we powered out Mosport Park's turn 3 heading towards 4. We both noticed the slower rider on a ZX-7 as we closed in on our turning point. We set a

course around the outside of the lapper with me on the outer line, entering the left hander at 160, just like the previous 20 laps or so. Suddenly the ZX-7 started to run wide and a second later he was right in our path, going at least 20 km/h slower. Oh Shit. There was a slow bike in front of me, Dave on my left, and grass on my right. Forced wide, the CBR touched the grass... EJECT! I was thrown off the bike and hurled down the edge of the track, still at 160 km/h. I remember seeing track, sky, grass, haybale, haybale, guardrail, track, etc. as I cartwheeled onwards. My bike bounced back out on the asphalt, narrowly missing Dave and the lapper as it slid across the track, leaving a streak of gas and oil.

Finally coming to a stop under the Player's bridge, I checked myself for injury, and walked away, amazed that I was completely unhurt. I was very lucky and just glad to be alive. However, up 'til now, Mosport Park and the Fireblade had been the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. How much? Read on...

Rough riding...








Gently leaning out of Moss' corner, I rolled the CBR's throttle wide open, accelerating up the serpentine straightaway that curled its way up the hill. As the tach cleared 8000, the front wheel started to rise, fast, and I shortshifted to second to keep my planned line around corner 6. The surge of acceleration of the bike as it hit 8000 in second effortlessly reeled in the Exxon bridge, the red and blue structure flashing by overtop of me. The front end got twitchy, feeling like the front tire was only skipping along the pavement as the CBR gobbled up gear after gear, ever accelerating. I leaned the Fireblade as smoothly as I could to follow the kinks known as turns 6 and 7 on the long straight, trying to keep the loads on the slightly unstable front end within reasonable limits. As the tach cleared 10500 in sixth, I could feel the bike starting to near its top speed, knowing that at this point the braking zone for turn 8 was coming up quickly. It's here I spotted my friend Dave on his red CBR9 in the distance, just cresting the hill.

Over the last hill and grab the anchors!!! The back end of the bike felt weightless under the heavy braking as we peeled into the right hander. I let off the brakes, and aimed the bike through the sweeper, the CBR only needing a light touch on the bars, the footpeg touching down briefly in mid corner.

I was cautious in turns 9 and 10, but by taking the right lines, I still was passing some other riders.

After accelerating down the start/finish straight, I set up for turn 1, a fast right hander that has the CBR scraping its peg and brake pedal again as I take a tight line to avoid all the sealer stuff in the middle of the corner. The scraping has me wishing I had knee pucks so I could hang off the bike more and give it some extra clearance.

After a short straight following turn 1, a wicked downhill ensues, with a fast left hander that arcs its way up yet another hill.

Post-crash bike

I match Dave's acceleration out of turn 1, taking care not to get too close, move to the right side of the track to set up for corner 2, brake hard, and swoop down the hill.

My faster, wider cornering line takes me right around his outside! I progressively rolled the throttle open as I exited the corner to increase the distance between us, so we'd have a safety margin for the braking in turn 3.

Tugging the anchors briefly, I blipped a downshift, and tipped the bike into 3, the footpeg, brake pedal, and the muffler can all grinding madly as I yet again took a tight line to avoid that sealer crap. Yikes! I need some more preload on that back shock! The rear end of the bike got nervous when the can touched down, and all this noise and action thoroughly suggested not to push the bike any harder in its present set up.

Corner 4 is humbling. A fast, blind, downhill lefthander with guardrail smack on the racetrack's outer edge, as it curls between the trees, down to Moss' corner. The camber and surface here allow you to really carry some serious speed, but the close quarters don't leave much room for error.

The additional g forces of a motorcycle leaning into a corner while making an elevation change feel much like being in an airplane that's banked over while making a course change and descending at the same time.

Mosport Map

Mosport Map
There is what a lap around Mosport Park feels like. Was this a race? No, although it did get quite competitive at times, and rightfully so. It was a track day, a day when anyone with full leathers and gear, a good full face helmet, and a track worthy motorcycle can come to the racetrack, join a group of riders with similar track experience, and ride at their own pace.

Track days are a godsend for any motorcyclist who enjoys riding their bikes hard. It gives a controlled environment in which you can ride at a very fast pace without some of the regular risks and dangers that are involved in fast street riding. The racetrack introduces the street rider to a completely different form of riding; one in which you could, if so inclined, extract the maximum possible performance out of your motorcycle and out of yourself.

The day begins at 9:30 with a meeting in the pits, where the corner workers explain the meaning of the coloured warning flags. Mosport has ten cornerworkers around the track, all who watch the riding closely, and notify the riders of the beginning and end of the riding session, and of dangers on the track ahead, such as spilt oil, loose debris, incidents, etc.

Piero's crash site...

A technical inspection and approval is required for any bike going on the track. If not already removed, all lenses, of any form, must be taped over Replacing engine coolant with water, along with removing all stands, is also a wise idea. Worn out suspension and iffy tires might make it through tech, but you would be endangering yourself and others by riding a bike in that state; these components are obviously critical at even a mild racetrack pace.

Riders are asked to ride in groups of similar experience, the groups being: Novice, Experienced, and Racers. Not having ever ridden Mosport before, I signed up as a novice. Be honest with yourself and join the right group for your ability or intended pace, for as I found out the hard way, speed differential is the cause of most racetrack accidents. Novices are given several "sighting laps" in which a seasoned Mosport rider leads the uninitiated around the track at a conservative pace. Thanks to Steve Bowen on his CBR6 who gave us a starting point for pulling clean laps in the 20 minute riding sessions that were to follow.

Each group takes turns riding on the track, giving the previous group half an hour or so to rest before their next session. On this particular track day, you could ride as much or as little as you wanted, following this routine up to 5:00pm.

Ontario's Mosport and Shannonville race tracks host track days throughout the riding season, which are organised by several people and shops. Brampton Cycle and McBride's both hold track days, but the tracks are available for daily rental to individuals as well. This particular track day was held by Jason Jenkins, who went to the trouble of organising the event when he saw that the interest level was high. Jenkins' event was very reasonably priced at $100. Expect to pay around $150-$200 for most other events.

Most riding levels are catered to. The novice group has many riders who ride a brisk, sport touring pace, enjoying not having any cars or other bothers in the way. There's room for everyone. Just remember this: Respect your limits, respect other people's limits, and never forget the potential cost of error, no matter how unlikely it may seem. Shit can happen!

Thank you to Honda & Brooklin Cycle for the very generous loan of the finest motorcycle I have ridden to date, the CBR900RR. And especially to Warren Milner and Rob Egan respectively for being so understanding of the turn 4 mishap. To quote Mr. Egan, "Shit happens", and it did. Also, thanks to the cornerworkers who cleaned up my mess so quickly, and a big thanks to Dave for lending us his truck to cart the dead Fireblade home.

For info on track days, Jason Jenkins can be contacted at (416) 720-6731, McBride Cycle at (416) 763-5651, and Brampton Cycle at (905) 791-4011.

Piero Zambotti

© 1997 Canadian Motorcycle Guide