Every time I go to another round of racing I learn something. Last weekend I went down to Eagles Canyon Raceway near Denton, Texas to cornerwork and watch the CMRA road races there. I saw some very good racing. The regular stars, Ty Howard, Danny Kelsey and company were awesome as usual and they put on a hell of a show.
As I watched the races it was evident it was going to be a tough day for the riders as the track was weeping water from places and unfortunately it was doing it in the worst places possible… the corners. Especially around the # 9 and #10 turns which make up a double left hander. The Sunday morning practice rounds gave the riders a chance to find those spots and adjust their lines accordingly. I learned that even after the Saturday endurance races the riders treated the track like they were running a new one. So much different was the track from one day to the next that it cemented in my mind not to take anything for granted.
During the actual Sunday sprint races a number of riders went down in those turn mentioned earlier. Some of the crashes were serious. The fast riders were able to find a line to negotiate the turns at speed and others seemed to struggle every lap. I think(but not sure) that those fast riders were using the clear, dry stretches to their advantage by really pouring it on, knowing they would have to take it a hair easier through the issue areas. I won’t know until I am actually racing to find out if this is the case but I imagine the trailing riders were trying to stay within sight of the leaders by taking the chance that they could stick through the wet corners.
No matter if that is truly the case I did learn that a early lead cures a lot of issues. It gives you a cushion if the track is not perfect. But this information is only useful if you have the skill and the machine to put yourself in that position. Those crashes showed me that even very good riders go down and I need to be focused and alert for conditions as they arise. Racing is dangerous and you will go down. A rider will need to take some risk if they are to become a winner but you also need to pick and chose those risks. When and where can only be learned on the track and watching from the corner won’t teach me that.
Two separate incidents that weekend gave me cause to ponder on my personal traits and how I react to stressful events. I have always thought I was capable of being calm while under fire. My time working in law enforcement gave me opportunities to hone my ability to think critically in times of action. But Saturday one young man crashed very hard into the wall on exiting the corner I was working. He ended up a good distance away and I did not actually witness the initial impact , only the resultant debris field with him in the middle of the track. My reaction was one of hesitation. I was uncertain if I should run the long distance or wait for instruction. I did not “freeze” but later my hesitation bothered me as I wished I could have done more. As it turned out the the final spot where he was in was closer to others and they attended to him and I was instructed by the control booth to fetch a push broom and drive to the scene and help clean up the mess.
As luck would have it near the corner I was working another rider ran off the track, into the gravel and crashed near the wall again. This time I sprang into action calling in the incident to control while preparing to cross the track and help the rider out. But I did not cross. The track was extremely hot as this session had a very large grid and riders were coming through continually. I made the choice to not cross and put myself at risk and possibly causing another wreck. Thankfully there were officials and others on that portion and side that were able to assist the rider and pull the bike clear of the impact zone. Afterward I talked to an official and he agreed that was the right call to make.
Later in evening I was thinking about the events and how different I reacted. How could one instance cause me to be hesitant and unsure where in the other very similar incident I was able to make a quick assessment and decision. Was the distance between myself and the riders the cause? The first being a good distance while the other fairly close. Or was it because I had that weekend only light activity in the corner making me less focused early on? Or is there some other psychological reasoning that created a momentary block for one but not the other? I don’t know.
Looking back at the early crashes in the water slicked corners I thought about them compared to the other two incidents and wondered what my reactions will be on track as a rider. Years of street riding and the limited trackday event I have participated in give me great confidence that I can be successful in race events. But the two are worlds apart. Race day and other motorcycle riding really race no comparison. Years ago when I did flat track I learned early that track conditions change quickly and you had to adapt. But is that style of that racing, the ability to use the loose rear to your advantage, so similar to my northern New York Ice racing days, is it adaptable to road racing? I don’t know for sure. I’m guessing it is to some degree. But street vs. road track? Miles apart. But as to my reactions to other racers, track conditions and the ever changing unknowns …. I can only hope that when the time comes I can make the right choices, be fast and win some races! I guess the number one thing I learned last week is…. I got a lot more to learn!