The First Time

Well, the weekend of April 4th 1997 marked the debut of the team Eyeore GSXR(#817) on the track and my first try at Roadracing. The weekend consisted of three days at the track: Day One dp School, Day 2 was AFM new rider license school, Day three was practice round and the race.

The weekend started out on Friday morning at about 5:00 when Matt, Tom and, Charlie all showed up to load the bikes and other stuff. We hit the road to Sears Point Raceway at about 5:30, right on schedule to miss that wonderful Bay Area rush-hour traffic. The dp school is a great class run by an ex-racer Dennis Peglow and his roster of racer instructors. The school started out with all the necessities supplied (Read: coffee/donuts/fruit). We unloaded the bikes from the mega-hauler dirt bike trailer which amazingly enough had made the trip without breaking in half. My bike had made the trip along with the Ducati of "The only racer to arrive in an ambulance", Tom Terry. Tom is a pretty fast rider and we won't be seeing much of him on the track today.

The school consists of a lot of Track time and a lot of time in the "classroom". Classroom cirriculum includes track theory, styles, and etiquete. Riding time is in 20 minute sessions the first few of which are led by the instructors. The C (slow or first time) group is lead around slowly the first session, lead around quicker the second, does a lead follow session the third time out and after that you really are on your own. A braking exercise is the last of the group activities where a stoppie (done correctly) represents the ultimate in weight transfer. The rest of the day consisted of chasing your selected instructor and being passed at warp nine by the others. It can be a humbling experience for someone who was sure they were the fastest or had the best bike.

The second day, Saturday, consisted of a LOT of classroom theory. This is the day where I need to get my license to compte in the next day's race. They told us there were a few ways to fail: 1) Fail the really easy written test, 2) Crash in the track segment, 3) Piss off the instructors or workers. Basically from 8 in the AM until 12:30 we sat and listened to veteran racers spew forth knowledge and wisdom. There were even a few rules given us. The second part of the day was a track walk where everyone in the calss broke into groups and followed a few racers around the track on foot. They walked their respective lines and commented about the surface, braking points, drift out areas, and all kinds of other good stuff. They were really helpful in providing insight on a few questions that had arisen from yesterdays riding. The third and final part of the day was the actual riding. While the track walk was going on, tech inspectors were hard at work passing the GSXR with but a few suggestion for additional safety wire to be added before tomorrows race. The first few laps started like the dp school where we followed the instructor for a few really, no I mean REALLY slow laps. Then things started to warm up. A few faster laps and a lead follow session lead in to open practice. At the end of the day the PA announced that if you had not yet been notified of your failure, consider yourself passed. All I could say was that I hadn't heard anything so.... Oh god, they are gonna let me race.

Sunday started off pretty much the same as the previous two days, damn early! Unfortunately, there were a few trivial problems that prevented us getting out on time and I lost my pit spot. Oh well. The tech in the morning went well with just a few suggestions nothing that would prevent my passing. I even got a Tootsie pop (I really have to figure out who that girl was.). The first and only practice session went well. For the first time the whole weekend I felt pretty comfortable.

Things were going so well that I decided to replace the now thrashed slicks before the race. All seemed good with life. Race time came after a lot of my friends had showed up to view the historic event or the carnage as it may be. The warm up lap came and the new tires were still a bit slick but felt good and so did I amazingly enough. I lined up on the grid (49th), the #1 card came up, went sideways, and the green flag was up.

I took off hard and as my front wheel was coming back down, I noticed three bikes to my left sliding across the track in front of me. For some insane reason, the other racers to my right were goint to try to go around to the right. They didnt make it and, the three bike pileup became five. I survived but, the black flags were flying. We got around to turn #7 where the red flag was up and all the bikes were stopped. Tom, you remember Tom from the beginning of this epic? He was already stopped and waving for me to come over. At first I figured that he wanted to talk then he started pointing to the brake fluid dripping from my rear caliper. Crap, I pulled off the track and viewed the damage. My fateful decision to change the tires resulted in my not re-installing the rear caliper correctly. This then resulted in the caliper spinning around with the wheel when I jabbed the rear brake for the wreck. When the caliper moved, the brake line tried to go with it right up to the point where it was ripped from the banjo fitting. Oops!

Needless to say, I watched the race rather than competing in it. I did get a few good Ideas on how to take turn seven though. Oh well, the next race is a Thunder Hill and I'll be there if I ever stop writing this and work on the bike.

Later, jl

Last Edited: April 3, 1998