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Waiting for godot


Ottawa Safety Counsil
Shannonville Regional July 26th - 27th 2003
Saturday Morning
A new member for TEAM SHOULDER CHECK joined the crew this weekend and I wanted to show Rich Peillard how much fun racing was and introduce him to the formalities of the 4:30am departures from Ottawa, registration, tech inspection and not qualifying.
Rich was nice enough to offer to tow my racebike behind his new SUV so we met at his place in Kanata in the wee hours.  This was where my lessons for Rich started.  First, I set my alarm clock for 3:20pm instead of 3:20am.  Oops.  One hour late showing up at Rich's.  I was also hungry on the drive down from not having had breakfast but I was too embarrassed to ask for a meal stop so I asked for an ATM stop.  I also forgot my gas can at home so I had to use Rich's which also had Rich's gas in it.  I would've offered to pay but I had no money unless Rich was going to find me an ATM.  But the first ATM wouldn't do since it wasn't a Royal Bank ATM and I wasn't paying a $4 service charge.
Then, at the track I burned my forehead on my own exhaust pipe checking my rear tire pressure, which I had forgotten to do before my first session.  I did, however, manage to escort Rich through all the morning practice sessions. 
Having felt my duties were done and this new racer was on his way, Rich was set loose on the last practice before lunch.  Rich had his helmet on before me so he entered the track first but I had the opportunity to catch up to him by the third corner of the first lap just in time to see him landing on his shoulder and his bike flipping through the air.  Ouch!
Rich's next lesson: the Gator Ride of Shame.

Saturday Afternoon

With Rich nursing a swollen knee and moping over his broken bike, I saw Mr. Dan Henri off to his first heat race.  Dan's riding was great but he got cut off on the back straight while riding in fifth position.  Bummed out about the heat race, I left Dan and Rich to console each other in the pits (hereinafter referred to as the Pits of Despair) as I ran out to do my heat race.
Talk about close calls.  A decent start had me in the first third of the pack but problems surfaced on the back straight.  I don't quite remember all the details but the image is sharp seeing two riders in front of me contact each other before the curbing and then crash at about 130 km/hr which spooked everyone else and forced Dale Leslie (#150) over the curbing nearly into the melee.  I clearly remember fearing for Dale as he crossed the curbing and struggled to keep control on the rough grass as just to his left the two riders were tossed aside and their bikes collided again about two feet off the ground, one being completely upside down.  Dale narrowly escaped the tangle himself and caught up to us at the red flag in Allen's Corner.  Phew.

Pits of Despair

Returning to the Pits of Despair after a day of racing was less than pleasant.  Rich was cranky after I cooked a veggie burger for him (normally his favourite) and it was starting to rain.  Dan started to rant about "what the hell am I doing here" while nursing a bruised knee he received in the AM Formula heat race by another rider trying to stuff him in Allen's Corner forcing him off the track.
The vintage slums were off limits as Rich and I were already over to visit our disjointed teammate John Dunlop who was cranky as hell after going through both his A and B bike due to mechanical problems.
Our pit neighbours Yves and Michelle were a lot more pleasant. They even loaned me a gas can and drove me into town for gas because, of course, I had no car or gas can for my bike.  The evening was spent watching World Superbike racing on my portable TV/VCR huddled under the canopies in a light rain.

Sunday Rainy Sunday: Team Orders

The morning was dreary and nobody from the Pit of Despair went out for practise.  Rich woke up a little more cheerful than yesterday and helped Dan and I change dry tires for rain tires.
The rain was so on and off that the track started drying so I left my bike with no tires on at all.  Our Pit of Despair neighbours, Yves and Michelle, had no spare rims.  They entertained us with with their manual efforts as they peeled off the dry race tires and spooned on some rain tires but then it got dry so they took the rain tires off the bike, peeled them off the rims and laboriously installed the dry tires again.  After mounting them back on the bike, it started to rain again.  What entertainment!  I was waiting for snow to see if they'd install the snow tires.
An impromptu schedule change (I will call it a shortchange since it resulted in less riding time for us amateurs) had the shifter carts on the track first session after lunch.  It was no longer raining at this time but to hell with it, Dan and I were too tired watching Yves and Michelle change tires that we kept our rain tires on.  The track was actually still wet.  After the warm-up lap Yves decided his wife wasn't quick enough to change his tires for him on time so he pitted and sat out the race.
Rain is a great equalizer and I knew a rain race was an opportunity for me to score in the top fifteen rather than in my usual 25th place.  A newer, more powerful bike is not the best thing in the rain and the old 1991 F2 would be just perfect for the task. 
The start went very well for me and Dan.  I actually passed about five riders in the first few turns and, to my surprise, passed two more at the end of the back straight on brakes.  Everyone was being cautious but my new rain tires were working admirably.  No slipping at all in the wet conditions.  I caught up to Dan who was being dogged by a slower red bike.  Pulling alongside Dan in a few curves, I waved to him and gave him the thumbs up.  I knew Dan was on old rain tires and was probably just being cautious.  Finally Dan passed the slower rider and I followed. 
Team Orders came through on the communicator: "Don't pass Dan.  Just stay behind him."  That was Dave using the Pit of Despair radios to call me.  These radios worked great.  It's too bad we spent $25,000 on a communication system and a trip to Assen racetrack to learn how to use them but nothing on ourselves to upgrade our goddamn bikes.  Well, another team management decision gone bad.
I followed Dan for the next lap and a half, all too happy to be just riding with him.  Little did I know he was in seventh and I was in eighth place.  This was finally going to be a 600 race that I not only qualified for this year, but also placed top ten!
Just then exiting the backstraight hairpin more Team Orders came over the radio: "Do a highside and a front flip over the handlebars landing on your back."  Hmm, I didn't like that very much but orders are orders.  What I thought was a smooth acceleration out of the hairpin ended up not being so and I instantly got flipped over the handlebars on the bike.  Perfect forward flip but the landing was not as instructed.  I landed on my ass and also felt the nice cushion of the hump in my leathers.  Ahh, slide along the asphalt and then get up and run for cover.
Dan looked back and radioed in: "Orders executed."  "Roger that.  Pat to sit out remainder of the race."  Ah, Dave is a genius so I never doubt him but why does it have to hurt so much?
I avoided the Gator Ride of Shame by nursing my own bike back to the pits after the race ended.  The bike suffered one broken left footpeg and a large amount of road rash across my beautifully painted bodywork.  My leathers were fine but I needed a bandaid on my elbow from friction burns inside the suit and my ass was killing me.
I got back to the pits and asked Rich if he wanted to stay to watch Dan race.  "Hey, I had a hard enough time mimicking Dave's voice on the radio to get you to crash so we could leave early.  Do you think I want to watch Dan race too?"
As we headed out on the highway back to Ottawa, the skies opened up and it rained on the way home.
I asked Rich if he enjoyed his first race weekend.  "Is racing always this much fun?" he asked. 
I didn't have the heart to tell him his veggie burger fell on the ground first.
Pat Boyd

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