This entry was written in two parts, so if you’ve ready this and seen the first race, scan down to the GP350 race report where I picked up and continued…
Roebling on Saturday followed by Road Atlanta on Thursday, back in June, took it’s toll. Glad I decided to skip the long distance run to Black-hawk Farm (Wisconsin/Illinois border) two days after Road Atlanta.
Acquiring a few more projects after selling the BMW R100T left me short on time. That, followed by the heat wave of the decade, left me with little wrenching time at productive temperatures.
So, more than a month later with about a month to go till Tally (Friday racing), I thought I should get caught up on the events that occurred back in the comfortable month of June.
We had a strong turn out of seven racers in both the GP350 and GP500 classes. Some new, some old, and some not so young…
Roebling was the debut of Keith’s newly acquired V1/V2/350 Sportsman race bike from Mr. Dean Middleton. This is a bike that has won every WERA race it ever entered, when Dean owned it. And, knowing Keith, if I was ever going to be able to beat him to the finish line, the first race was my best chance.
There was a nice breeze at Roebling and my race track hero, Mr. Royce Eaton was there, with his lovely wife, for his first run at a track this year. Just last year, Royce stated that he was retiring from racing. So, this made it a visit from the dugout for our still competitive retired racer.
Facing three race sets over the next 9 days, I was trying to pace myself. Doing as little as possible, while doing all that was necessary, was all I had on my mind. Hydration, relaxation, shade, and checklists. All were in place and ready to be taken advantage of.
Practice was nothing more than the once a year orientation of the track that had almost 100% visibility with no blind spots. Reacquainting myself, with the marker spots on the track and the shift points in my transmission, was all I had going on.
Keith, on the other hand, had his hands full. He was dealing with both the power and the front disc braking that were totally different from his CB350 stocker bike. Actually being thrust out of a turn from twisting the throttle as well as rapidly slowing when hitting that nicely tuned front disc brake were experiences that took some getting use to. On the two practice sessions, Keith did not approach my practice times. But, as Keith will have you know… “There are no points for practice!”.
I wrote down all the grid positions for both the GP350 and GP500 race sets forgetting that Keith is now in the V1/V2 race grids. Keith did write down his own positions. We both marked the tape on our tanks with our starting positions, topped off the fuel in our tanks, and suited up as we were in the first race of the day.
There was a bit of anxiety in the air for all the right reasons. Mike Hutchison was making his debut as a racer rather than a race school student. Wendy was there as a seasoned racer. Doug was there for the GP350 race. John came in as the closest resident (living in the Warner Robins area) and seasoned racer. Chris and Greg Adams (The Adams Family) made it all the way from Rome, Georgia. This didn’t represent all the racers on the track with us, just the ones in our race classes.
Third and final call: We headed to the pit out pavement and took a smooth warm up lap to our grid positions. The Adams Family had a bit of confusion as to where they were supposed to grid. Seems they each landed in the other’s position. As such, the start of the race had Chris looking backwards while pushing back into his grid position. This was not an issue as each was in the back of the pack for their first race of the year.
Keith was rows in front of us, but in the back of the V2 pack as a first time entrant into the class. He was with the likes of Charles Gault (Yamaha RD400) Drew Ciriot (Yamaha RD250) and Russell Bagget (Todd Henning – Honda CB350). Keith had his eyes on Russell. But then again, we should all have high expectations to shoot for…
As the green flag flew through the air, the V2 class pulled away from us. Starting in the front row and outside part of the track, I was right where I wanted to be to set up for turn one. I got a good start and the front tire came slightly off the track. Nobody was in my peripheral vision, so I concentrated on the back of the V2 pack. I hugged the left side of the track and claimed if for me and only me. This way, it was understood that towards the apex was the only way I had to go.
I leaned into the inside of the track and began to wonder where James Walker was. He only started one row behind me and should have passed me already. Just after that mental inquiry, Chris Adams flew past me on the outside and leaned in, dragging a knee, to take the inside path. Smooth and quick, he pulled hard on Charles Gault, passed him in turn two while James Walker was beginning to pass me approaching 2. Chris was really performing above and beyond all expectations. He was running quite aggressively squeezing all he could out of that little motor.
Chris then passed Keith Bennett as he was entering turn 4 (first of two left turns that pointed us toward the back half of the track). As Keith entered the turn, he was slammed into by Charles Gault, but only in the back of his bike with the front of Charles’ bike. Since Keith had the stationary portion of his bike and mass smacked, it was Charles’ bike that had to give. Keith, the “immovable object” as he has since been nicknamed, was steered to the outer part of the track, but did not falter. Charles went down in a quick flip. Unfortunately, James Walker had just gained position to be right behind Charles as he went from the left to the right side of the track. With Charles’ bike down on the track, James only possible chance was to “jump” Charles’ bike. No such luck. They both went down.
The crash caused the race to be red flagged!
We had three cameras on the track at the time. John Cook was running his newly acquired GoPro SD non-wide camera and Greg Adams had one I planted on his front fender. He kept the mount from previous uses and it was ready to go. To see the benefit of having three cameras, properly staggered to catch three different stages of the crash, see this link: James Walker Gaulted
When the dust settled and the ambulance brought James back to our pits, he walked off of his own accord. But neither he, nor Charles Gault would be racing anymore, that day.
The restart had two less racers than the previous run. The event started the day off with a crash in the first race. Not a good omen to follow, let alone be a part of.
Back on the track after our second warm up lap, we settled into our positions, minus two racers. With the first glimpse of the green flag, we were off and heading toward turn one… Either my start was not as good as the last, or John’s was much better. And, with his nicely freshened motor and light load, he not only squeaked ahead of me, but he pulled along side me strong on the straight to turn one. I caught up and stayed on the throttle just long enough to take him before turn one. I caught up to Keith and eased in behind him.
Following Keith through turn one, we leveled up and got into our “team sync”. I played the loyal “wing man” for my partner and followed him through to the start/finish line where we had shed John and Greg who started out drafting us at the beginning of the lap. They had their battle and I was stalking Keith with stealth and apprehension. It was a scary proposition to try and push Keith during his learning curve, but who else was going to do it?
At this point, I’ll let the video describe what it was like to trail Keith till I just couldn’t trail behind him no more… Roebling Road Raceway GP500 June 2012
GP350 Race Report
After making my daredevil surge at the end of the GP500 race, Keith told me he had slowed down when he got to the end of the race. After looking at his times, I’d say that not passing him would have been my embarrassment. Until then, I was a legend in my own mind. Powerade, here we come…
We were scheduled for the first and the fourth races, and which happens more times than not (in this economy) the second and third races were combined due to lack of participants. This left us only about 25 minutes from the time we rolled off the track to the time we roared back on. Refueling (for both the bike and the rider) were the primary operations. Any loose items would be taped on quickly, and perhaps new batteries in camcorders where necessary.
James was getting around fairly well, but the crash had taken its toll on him. An ice pack slung over his shoulder showed that he was going to be feeling it the next morning. I’m sure the real pain was paying for racing you’d never get to run. For me, the non-spectator, the worse part would have been watching other race, knowing I should be out on the track.
Mike was still in his “newbie” orange race school shirt as we headed back out to the asphalt grid. Somebody on the track must have been chanting to themselves “don’t crash on the warm up lap”, “don’t crash on the warm up lap”, “don’t crash on the warm up lap”…
The weather was still just out and out comfortable for a sunny June summer day at Roebling Road Raceway (Savannah, GA), so overheating was not a problem for bikes or riders. As such, Greg didn’t really have an excuse why he decided to tour the grid. Perhaps he wanted to be the camera man for both classes on the track? Perhaps he wanted everybody to know he was there (a warrior’s scare tactic?), who knows. But the beginning of he video was the result of Greg’s tour. Check out Royce’s blue leathers, Wendy’s pink leathers, Mike’s orange shirt, Chris’ gold bike and powerful take off…
Since there was some simultaneous surges in the pack at different locations, I did take the editor’s liberty of time shifting in order to get all of the exciting footage. John got a good start and maintained his power all the way into turn one. I was playing his wing man with the rest of the GP500 class behind us. As I was beginning to feel like it was time to lean in for the turn, John continued in the middle of the track. So I leaned and rolled off the throttle for a second and rolled back on as I headed toward the apex.
As I was passing John on the inside, Chris went flying by on the outside. This tended to cause John to tighten his turn and head toward me. I held on the throttle and went to the infield of the track. Luckily, there were rumple strips right where I dodged the oncoming John. And, because I stayed on the throttle, on the inside, was able to get far enough along side him that he could see my front tire. This caused John to either bob or weave (I lost track) back toward the outside of the track and in seconds we were a track width apart.
Doug took advantage of this gap and came flying by John, who lost some speed in the back and forth motion, and must have had a great view of the near collision. Perhaps even had a flashback of James’ toss and tumble? Seconds later, Doug overtook me and moved right into the optimum camera position. It’s amazing how he has that knack…
By the time I trailed Doug through the turn where James was Gaulted, the real race was forming up. Greg, who was becoming very comfortable as a camera rider, was in the perfect position to show Mike trying to keep up with John. This would prove to be the toughest battle within this race.
Mike and Greg were trading places, I caught up to Keith and almost became part of his bike, and my mere presence had him turning up his game. John Cook really turned up his game. He got quite comfortable leaning off the edge of his bike. It was obvious that he, like me, is more comfortable leaning to the left. The more comfortable he got, the further ahead of Greg’s camera he got. Then, as if they had radio contact, John and Keith just pulled away from me and Greg, respectively. You gotta check it out!
Greg proved to be more comfortable maintaining his speed through the big sweeper curves at Roebling than Mike was. Mike proved his bike was better tuned than Greg’s who was having some ignition difficulties due to a discharged battery earlier in the day…
At the time that Greg’s camera batteries gave up, I was still on Keith’s tail. John had left Greg and Mike to battle it out. That left him between Keith leading me and Mike leading Greg. You didn’t see much of John’s camera in the first race and won’t see his camera until the lap we get lapped. Another simultaneous event occurred when John and I were on different ends of the front straight when we were both being lapped. The reason you didn’t see much of John’s camera was because it was not pointed in the right direction for road racing. It was adjusted perfectly for areal acrobatics.
At the point where we were lapped, I set my footage to work as the “sky cover” for John’s footage and left our cameras that way till the end of the race. Hope you enjoy…