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11 06 2004 off to the races

Having done the 4am drive once too many times, I decided on an early departure for Shannonville. My plan was to be on the road by 4pm Friday, but in reality it was more like 7pm by the time I was on the highway. The drive to Shannonville was uneventful and I arrived shortly after 9:30pm.

Yves was still awake to great me, and that was very nice he had a very long day. Yves made the drive early on Friday morning for Friday practice at Shannonville Motorsports Park. As an added bonus he had everything set up. Thanks Yves! We had almost 30 feet of prime pit frontage! After about 10 minutes of discussion we both decided to get some sleep.

12 06 2004 Time to register

I woke to the hypnotic hum of the 401, for those that do not know the FABI track at Shannonville is located at the back of the Shannonville Motorsports Park, and it is only about 100 metres from the 401, sources say that is close! Oh yah, and I have no idea what it stands for but it aint short for Fabulous. I made the morning pilgrimage to the Yamaha registration building, and this is when the racing started. As I rounded the corner out of the SMP, I see the black Pontiac Sunbird turning off Hwy #2. It is Pat, and we are now both racing to the registration building. Who will be first in line? Let me tell you here and now, Pat won the race, into the building. I am convinced that in his effort to win he just put the car in neutral and slammed on the parking brake! The car was still sliding, when Pat was running past truck and into the registration building. He may have won the race into the building, but he did not have a pen! Having brought my own pen and I was able to get all required forms filled out. So as Pat looked on while I registered. Know what races to win, I always say!

What races to enter? With Pat doing Heavyweight Sportsman, Middleweight Sportsman, and AM 600, I chose to do the Suzuki SV 650 Cup and the Middleweight Sportsman. This gave me an opportunity to enter against all the other SV’s and also have a race with Pat. This turned out to be a good decision as the Heavyweight Sportsman class and the SV Cup had combined practices.

Having registered, it was off to tech inspection, of course Pat was there prior to me, he was still determined to win the little races. His patients were worn thin as Chuck the tech inspector was not present. With the schedule indicating that tech was to open at 7:30 and it was now 7:44 Pat decided to pull himself out of line. I promptly took his spot #4 in the queue. The fourth bike in line belonged to Frank Trombino, but he had two bikes to get through tech, so he let me jump ahead. 3 rd in the queue. Woo Hoo! As we waited the line continued to grow, and Pat was nowhere to be seen. At about 7:50 Chuck finally arrived and started to set up. He spent what seemed like far too much time to get his lawn chair out of the car. This was followed by placing his chair in a specific spot, four orange cones strategically place at the perimeter of the tech area, re-adjust the position of the lawn chair, changing the location his car to a more desirable position. It did not seem to bother Chuck that while this was happening the line continues to grow longer, and longer.

8:05 and tech is open for business, just 35 minutes late. The delay was acceptable when we saw that Chuck was moving bikes through at a feverous pace. I guess he had to bust the queue somehow. While Chuck was looking over my bike he explained that when he showed up in the morning there was a bus parked in the spot reserved for his car, so he left the track to go get a coffee.

I felt really special at the riders meeting, as Chris Chapelle seems to check attendance more thoroughly and with more regularity than my high school home room teacher. Having never raced on the FABI track before I was eager to listen and figure out how things operated at this track. All I will say is that the method of merging onto the FABI track was quite different. The big news for the day, no shifter carts!

First up, Middleweight Sportsman, and Pat and I are on the track. This is when Pat and I started a trend that would be carried through out the weekend. We were late, our group was out on the track and Pat and I were still putting on our helmets. This did not bother me too much as it let the field spread out. First practice of the day and I was just trying to get comfortable back on the bike. For some reason it did not feel as good as two weeks prior at Mosport. I am not sure if it was the concern about the old tire, the thoughts about the suspension changes I should have made, but didn’t or the fact that I hated turn 3. It could have been a combination of them all, but I was slow and tentative.

With the session over I was in for ten minutes and back out for the morning SV practice. Things started to get a little better, the sun was out and the track was a little warmer. I still did not like turn 3, and I put the suspension changes out of my mind. I was able to get about 6 or 7 good laps in before the session ended. With the morning sessions over it was time to walk the pits and socialize. I dropped by to see Pascal Anctil; I had to ask what he was doing way off in the woods, at turn 6. He explained how he was doing some stunt riding and sitting on the tank while riding the track. This stunt riding caused him ride off the track and take a closer look at the new foliage surrounding the track. My next stop was at the friendly neighbourhood Michelin man. Robert McGongal was getting some new tires installed. I took this opportunity to inquire about tire pressures, and tire life on an SV 650. Rick explained these are tough questions to answer, but I am trying to learn.

Time for more practice session, this is where I really scared myself. I was in the middle of turn 5 and thought that I may be able to run gain a little time if I could set up for 6 a little sooner. This is when I got schooled in motorcycling 101. For those that do not know turn 5 of FABI is a left turn and turn 6 is a right turn. With the bike leaned over to the left for turn 5, you should not shift your weight to the right so that you will not have to do it later! Maybe some people can, but when you are carrying the mass that I do you can not. This little experiment along with my sub optimal line through 5 caused the front tire to slide off the concrete patch in the center of the track. It did not hook up again until it was completely off the concrete. I survived and made turn 6 and file that into the old memory bank. For the next few laps, I kept saying to myself “do not weight the outside of the bike in the middle of the turn”.

So with this session over, I have even more trepidation: tires again, turn 3, suspension, and now we get to toss ability and skill in to the mix also.

Now the heart races! I had the middleweight and SV races back to back and let me tell you that I am out of shape! Two 4 lap heat races back to back were just about all I could do. The goal for these races: finish, stay on two wheels I am happy to say that I was able to do this. I did not finish last in either of the two races, so that is a bonus. I was able to secure a second to last spot in the middleweight class. But hey I finished and there were some that did not do that. With this race over it was into the pits, to get some water before the SV race started. Have you ever tried to drink with a full face helmet on? I almost drowned when the water went up my nose. I figured it would be better die of dehydration than drowning so I tossed the water aside. The first thing that went through my mind was that it would be a CSI episode; racer dies of drowning while at a dry race.

I got a much better start in the SV race; I think I made up 3 or 4 spots on the start. We will have to consult Pat’s video replay, but this is what I think happened and that is all that matters in this report. Any spots gained on the start were returned just as quickly. But again I was successful in my original goals, I finished, and I stayed on two wheels. Again not everyone was able to do this. The day is now done.

Time for fresh rubber! I pulled the wheels off and grabbed my new tires to make the trek back over to the Michelin man. I got the new rubber installed and, took possession of another new set of tires. When I purchased my tires Rick asked if I wanted the stander tires or the soft tires. I was unsure why I would want one over the other. I knew that a softer tire would stick more, but Rick explained I would gain ½ a second but lose about 50% of tire life, and they cost about $75 more.

I told Rick I needed a tire to get me 30 – 40 seconds, and based on cost we could talk about the tire that would get me 60 - 90 seconds. I think he realized I would be going for the standard hard tire! With new tires installed and new tires purchased, that meant 6 tires to haul back to the Team Shouldercheck pits, and two tires were mounted on wheels. Conveniently, Pat Boyd showed up and I was able to enlist some help from him, I tried to give him two wheels and two tires, I but settled on him taking four tires. This was what I wanted him to do all along so it all worked out. With my new tires mounted and the wheels installed, I was done for the day.

Just some minor pit clean up and then time for a shower. This is when the Shannonville staff came by and told us that we did not have to move our bikes out of pit lane, but that it was highly recommended. The track was rented out for the evening to some crazy car drivers, and they have hit the pit wall before so it is not a far stretch to think it could happen again.

With this said, we moved the bikes.

Having already decided that I would be sleeping in my truck again, I asked Pat where he set up his tent. He pointed to a berm about 50m closer to the 401; I walked over to get a closer look. As I crested the hill I saw, just past Pat’s tent behind the berm was a mound of old used tires. I guess this is where all the tires that get left behind at the race track get tossed. When I saw this mini Hagersville, I said “holy shit that is a big pile of tires” it was too late, Pat was already down the hill looking salvageable tires. He was upset to see that some of the tires had holes drilled in them or the sidewall slashed. After about 10 minutes of searching he was able to secure three tires that only required minor washing to be candidates for the trip back to Orleans.

Having exhausted his search for useable tires, Pat and I made the drive to Bellville for dinner. Upon our return it was surreal, the trailer was open, and everything was left out, but Yves and Michelle were no where to be found. Quick deduction told me that sleep was more important than finding them, and I could find out about things in the morning. I just jumped into the truck and went to sleep.

13 06 2004, Sunday is Race Day!

Morning came and it was again time for the riders meeting, and again Chris called my name. I was beginning to think that he had the same list as the day before. Someone should tell him that it is not a truly random attendance check if he used the same list every week.

I was first up in the morning and the goal for the morning was not to find extra speed, or a faster way through corners 3, 4, 5, and 6. Rather the goal was to just scuff my newly installed tires; all that ran through my mind was Rick’s comments from the afternoon prior. “What do you mean you don’t have tire warmer, you had better be careful in the morning!” So again I was slow, I was running 1:30’s just trying to scuff the entire tire. 6 laps and the session was over. I did the same thing in the middleweight sportsman practice, 5 laps nice and easy. However this time I decided to add extra drama. Somewhere around corner 5 I saw that my nice blue high beam light was on. Being the idiot that I am I decided to look for the high beam switch on the bike. Even at the slow pace of 1:30’s turn 6 comes up pretty fast. So having not prepared for the corner I went really wide. How wide you ask? Off the track wide!

With my practice sessions over it was time to prepare for an early departure. Team Shouldercheck vintage racer John Dunlop dropped by to lend his moral support. John was not racing this weekend but decided to make get on his bike and ride down to Shannonville to cheer Pat and me on. Thanks John.

Just after lunch, I had my SV 650 race, I was pretty nervous about it. I was so nervous that I really did not want to eat lunch. When the time came I suited up and headed for the pre-grid. I had to play what seemed like a game of chicken with some guy on a R1. I really don’t know what this guy was doing; maybe laps of the paddock but he was in shorts and his fat bastard friend on the back bike. Regardless they were in the way!

We get the signal for 1 warm up lap; I again used this time to warm the tires. I had to push a little harder than I had all morning as I did not want to be the guy who missed the start. [We saw this happen more than once in the 125GP class. It did not look like fun being in turn 7 when the green flag dropped.] I got a reasonably good start but I could not keep the front end down. My first though was to just shift into second gear. This did not solve my problem, the front wheel came up again just at a faster pace! I eased off the throttle when I got to turn 1 as we all tried to funnel through in a reasonable manner. This is when I saw the turn 1 accident. I am not sure what happened and I am not sure who was where, but someone’s bike was sliding off the track at turn 1 and someone else was riding over the bike. I tried not to look at it too closely as I too had to get through turn 1. By the time I got to turn 5 the red flags had come out and the entire pack slowed to return to pit lane. As we were exiting the track for pit lane I stared to see rain drops on my visor. I stopped at the Team Shouldercheck pits to speak to Pat and John, they both gave me some advice but I forgot what they said by the time the visor was closed. I road down to the end of pit lane where everyone else was parked, unfortunately this was where the accident happened and the medical staff was on hand to treat the fallen riders. Dr. Steve Walker was out with his leathers still on to lend a hand. As they continued to work on the riders the rain continued to fall. I knew there was no way I would get rain tires installed and I did not want race in the wet on DOT tire.

Chris Chapel told us we could return to our pits and we had 10 minutes to return to the pre-grid. I was ready to call it a day, as the rain continued. After speaking with Gilles Biron #6, the rain stopped and I decided that I would take the warm up lap. If after doing the warm up lap I was not comfortable or it was too wet, I would just pull into the pits. So I donned my helmet and gloves and I was off to the pre-grid. On my way back to the pre-grid I again meet R1 guy and his fat bastard friend. Now I started to think what the hell is he doing? Why would you want a dude on the back of your bike? Why would I guy want to be on the back? The action is on the track not in the paddock, so why just ride around?

With everyone at the pre-grid I look around and everyone was on DOT tires except for 1 rider. This rider had full wet tires mounted. As we sat waiting for the medical staff to get ready the sun came out and the track dried quickly. The rider on wet tires pulled out of the pre-grid and we just waited in the sun for what seemed like another 10 minutes. Just as I got my helmet off Chuck gave us the fire them up signal and two laps. The track was completely dry and in what I thought was fine condition. I pushed a little harder in these warm laps; I wanted to get as much heat in the tires as possible. During this time I found out that the concrete patches are very slippery when damp!

 

I settle in my spot on the back row, for start number two. I again got a reasonably good start but the pack pulled away from me and two other riders. We were in a small three bike race, and this was fun. This was the first time that I actually got a chance to race with other people. I stayed with this pack for two laps, or so but I screwed up hated turn 3 and they just pulled away from me. On lap 4 someone went off the track in front of me, at turn 7. He was able to get back on the track and caught up to me after I blew my braking mark into turn 1. I am not sure why this happened, it could have been that I only down shifted 1 gear, it could have been that I only used two fingers on the brake leaver, or maybe it was brake fade. Regardless I took to the drag strip and had to rejoin the track. With this massive screw up, I was caught by the rider in last place. He did not stay in front of me for long, he ran off the track again but this time at turn 5. Sometime around lap 6 or 7 my bar end flew off, this could have been really bad had someone gotten hit with a chunk of aluminium at high velocity. Suffice it to say, I made it through the race and continued my streak of last place.

I elected to skip my Sportsman Middleweight Race; I was just too tired and hungry from missing lunch. The weather was unpredictable, so my day was done, and I started to pack up for the trip home. When the racing started I was out on the wall cheering on Pat, he did well in the race but after watching his Sportsman Heavyweight race it was anti climatic. The Heavyweight race came down to a drag race with Dr. Steve Walker from the hairpin to the finish line. It was a great finish, I spoke to Chris Chapel later in the day and he told me that 48 took the checker first. Congratulations Pat!

With my bike loaded and my gear packed John Dunlop dropped by to let us know that he was on his way home. This is when he told me the story that made my day. “I was walking over here to say goodbye and stepped in front of some guy on a R1 with a fat bastard friend on the back. When the rider saw me he grabbed a handful of front brake and dumped the bike”

There is justice in the world!

 

   

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