Racing in the swamps….

CMRA goes to the Swamp

NOLA#1

 

For most clubs in motorcycle racing it’s not often that races are held on unknown territory.
When a racer goes to compete there is usually a long history behind the track and the facilities. The racer can, even if they never actually raced there, prepare for race day well in advance by poring over the statistics of the track in question. The racer can confer with others who have competed there before and can get all the tips and tricks on running a particular track….what lines to run. where the danger zones are and what to look for or watch out for. The history of the track is out there for all to see and it makes the unknown less of an issue.
Racing on tracks that you know well allows the racer to focus on being fast. You have the luxury of knowing where all the slick spots are, where you can really get it on and where you have to thread the needle of speed and patience. Knowing a track and it’s quirks is a good thing and it how records get broken….
This coming weekend you can throw all that out the window. The CMRA is breaking new ground by holding the 5th round of it’s schedule at the new NOLA Motorsports Park, a track the club has never run at before. There is anticipation throughout the club membership and more than a little apprehension too.
The NOLA facility Which was opened in 2011 has already hosted a number of motorsports events and this year AHRMA, WERA and several motorcycle specific trackdays have held events. That’s a good thing for sure. Those clubs have given racers at least some idea as to what to expect from this new venue. But being the first time for the Texas based clubs’s to roll on the fresh asphalt, CMRA members may well be just like a teenager on a first date. After putting four meets to bed the season is not young for these racers and the track’s new smell may just be fleeting to them but when they get on the tarmac the apprehension might be a little more evident. A lot of questions need to be answered and they won’t be until the green flag drops.
I posed a few riders the question of what they looked forward to most about the trip to NOLA. Some mentioned going to the French Quarter for some fun, and others commented on the chance to run a course different from the tracks they have been on for years the one thing most of the racers told me, the one thing they looked forward to most was the chance to race on smooth undamaged asphalt. The chance to see just what their machines could really do on a track without ripples and chunks of track littering the course, weeping water making fast curves into slow ones and they look forward to pristine pavement where they could really go WFO…corner to corner!
There will be a little bit of schooling in all this. Riders won’t have that plus of history to back up on. There really be a truth the the term “learning curve” when they get on the track. But the CMRA is a pro outfit. They always put on a class meet. Nancy, Walter and all those officials have so much knowledge in how to make rough things smooth for the riders…so all the riders have to do is show up and race! Many of the racers have already spent time at NOLA doing trackdays or even racing the course with WERA or AHRMA so they are probably been answering dozens of questions from others about the special spots and what to look for.
So everyone had a chance to tell me what they are looking forward to.

Now I get my chance.

#1    
Danny & Ty

Ty Howard @ Hallett

Ty Howard @ Hallett

Danny Kelsey @ Hallett

Danny Kelsey @ Hallett

   I have been lucky to watch this tandem battle all season in the Formula 1 series. Last meet in Hallet was amazing and Danny was blazing fast. He broke Ty’s old record there and Marcus McBain has that bike of his smoking! Ty’s no slouch and if it wasn’t because of a few unexpected things he would have had his KTM in front for all the meets. This time around I expect that the two will be engaged in an all out war for dominance and it will be an epic race… There won’t be any room for excuses and the clean track can only help to give the rider who brings his best another win.

 

 

 

Conner Blevins @ HM

Conner Blevins @ Houston

#2
Conner Blevins & his ZX-6R
   This youngster have been a pleasure watch. I watched him at Hallett kick butt and give Danny a run for the money in the Track Tactics- B Superstock Expert.
More recently Conner cracked the top ten in the last AMA meet showing he’s no fleeting flower child. I am excited to see what he can do on this track and how he will fare against others who are probably looking to ratchet up their power to edge him out…. if they can.

 

The Village Idiots

The Village Idiots

#3 Big Bike Endurance

   It’s been a while since the BBE series has been on the track. At the start the current champs, The Village Idiots showed they were no one trick pony. Right out of the gate they punished the competition with bistering time slips and showed what a well oiled team could do in the pits and on the track… the competitors were not johnny come lately… the Idiots were just had some better polish on their program. That was then and this is now. Not only do they have a brand new track to learn they also have that wait between rounds on their backs. The old adage ” sitting bikes rust” really is true! Well so do sitting race teams… will the Idiots be able to shake the cobwebs out and pick up where they left off? Or will one of the other teams come on strong,better prepared and knock the Idiots off the top rung?

Racing overcomes bad times….

I want to speak shortly on the tragic events of the past week.

  As a Oklahoman I, as well as many others have weathered yet another very emotional week.
This past week we suffered a new link in a long chain of disasters that have taxed the the spirit and the soul. The horrific damage and losses left behind are our history… it will be remembered forever along with past like kind events. To be measured against, the tornado’s that swarmed our state this week have again become a new deadly benchmark. But it is not our legacy…

  Oklahoman’s, our neighbors in north Texas who recently suffered as well and those other nearby states that are a part of the alley are very much in tune with our surroundings. The weather is always extreme. We never are really afforded a quiet springtime and the watch for dangerous storms is a continuous part of our lives.
But it seems for Oklahoma it seems we are given special opportunities to have our resolve and faith continually tested. The spirit of Oklahoma has always been one of persistence in the face of dire conditions. Whether they be natural or man made. As a relative newcomer, being a resident of the state for only 30 some odd years I have always been amazed at the grit and determination of this great states citizenry. It seems that the core of American ideology… freedom and independence are forged in steel here. But the hard edges of our existence are tempered by the kindness shown others in times of strife. When things look most bleak it’s a very emotional thing see how close Oklahoman’s will gather up, roll up the sleeves and do the dirty work together of straightening out the mess. When others suffer loss whether it be a loved one or be a home the states beauty shines brightest. It makes me proud to be a Sooner.
Yes, there is no doubting the same things can be said across the country. Time and time again the country has proved itself as a nation of quality when times are at their worst….   But to me it’s Oklahoma that shines brightest when the darkness is overwhelming. The events we witnessed this week are indelibly etched forever in our minds. I will never forget the devastation.. but I won’t let it obscure the beauty of Oklahoma… it’s my home.

Last weekend I was once again given the great chance to go watch and participate in a small way, the motorcycle races held by the CMRA. The races were held at Oklahoma’s very own Hallett Motor Racing Circuit near Jennings, Oklahoma.

 Hallett is the only true road racing specific track in the state. It’s known by many to be a very tough, technical track. But those who race there have come to love the lovely rolling hills and turns nestled in the natural Oklahoma countryside. The track is well taken care of and gives riders the chance to really test themselves and the machines. The weekend of racing was perfect. The weather Saturday was spectacular and the mini endurance trials were quite exciting to watch. Riders in the Saturday mini sprints put on a great show and the CMRA’s newest format, the Team 60 gave a great preview to what was to become a record breaking Sunday sprint race series.
I was really thrilled to see the Jr Motards running at Hallett. Those youngsters really rode their hearts out and and it was so cool to see what is sure to become the future of the club getting a chance to learn the ropes, have some fun and ride the same asphalt as their heroes…
The big bike sprints on Sunday gave a heck of a show and it was of course what everyone came to see. The Formula 1 race did not disappoint and every class competed hard. Some awesome racing!
I was one of the lucky spectators to see the record breaking run of Danny Kelsey. The battle between him, the track and the other competitors was epic! For sure an event to be remembered…..
So today I was going through the many pictures I took that weekend. I have many great shots of the riders and bikes. I have photos of the bikes, the track and riders doing power wheelies off turn five hill…. I took shots of fast and hard competition through the sweeping turn six and the resulting drag race past seven! But one small group of shots I took for no apparent reason that on retrospection really brought it home… it’s just a few shots of a young boy and who I can only guess is his father. They were standing by the fence looking over the grass the man sitting on a bike while the boy stood watching the riders.

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Photo by Scott Finning

 

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Photo by Scott Finning

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Photo by Scott Finning

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Photo by Scott Finning

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Photo by Scott Finning

The pics really put the sport into perspective… why we come, what the club is really about. Those little motards out there running like mini MotoGP champs waiting their turn for the future… This youngster with stars in his eyes and rapt attention to the instructions or explanations the father was offering him. It reminded me of why we do what we do… love of racing. Love for our families…. And that special feeling we get when we can share it with others… 

 For me looking at those pictures melted away all the bad of the week…. They drew me back in time to the track, the racing and spending time with my lovely wife as we corner-worked, watched the racing and snapped some pics…. good times….. in Oklahoma 
So the week is over and we go into the holiday. We’ll watch parades and B-B-cue. we will visit friends and family. Mostly we will heal up. It’s kind of like what Okies are good at…in good times and bad…

Are you a poser or closer ?

So your just getting into racing?

 Well so am I. Bet you thought it was gonna be easy!  So did I.. Bet thought you could do it cheap! So did I! And I bet you thought you could take your cheesy street skills and they would be enough! So did I ! After all this time watching (and hopefully)  learning I think I am kinda ready. But probably not.

  I will say the hare-brain idea that I could throw a bike together on the cheap and then go out and mix it up with 2 year novices is long gone. I probably will have many thousands into this before I turn a lap. Even my old F3 is going to be a expensive little starter bike. And if I did like like most of the other guys do and buy a late model bike and gear it up for racing I would be a lot more in debt than I already am. It ain’t cheap to race and the newer the equipment the more it will cost. I remember what I read the other day on one of the club forums. Some guy said.. “Wanna win a small fortune racing? You got to start with a larger fortune and be ready to spend it all!”  Ain’t it the truth!

 And my skills are minor! I know I have none…. I rode dirt years back but that ain’t gonna be enough to flatten the learning curve. Sure, I have ridden for years on the street. But there’s no comparing the two. Competition driving is so unlike street driving. Everybody I have talked to and everything I have read tells me that. On the street you spend most of your time trying to avoid cagers and cops, trying to watch the road signs and keeping from getting hit. You can’t gain riding skills when your spending all your time worrying. Sure every once in a while you catch some fast sweepers and find yourself on an empty stretch too pour it on. Mostly your on defense…

 But on the track.. and this is assumption talking, not experienceyou are getting the chance to learn your bike capabilities… you own skills and expel the bad street habits while you learn the track and how to master close competition riding. Watching these guys I will say that The tools of the trade are more than a fast bike. Nerves of steel are nice but it helps to have a healthy respect for the tracks. There is so much you have to remember, grid spots… tech rules, the forms and where to put your frigging stickers so your eligible for contingency money. But the one thing  you better keep in mind is to forget the money… if it comes great. But chances are you ain’t gonna be doing a lot of taking. It be more of a giving thing.  

 So why am I going over this crap? It’s not like I haven’t said this all before or that anyone else hasn’t said it before either. Well I have been following a post on another site where some fairly new rider..(not as new as me for sure) was bitching about possibly getting bumped to the expert class next year. The guy was concerned he wasn’t going to be winning class championships or placing on the podium if they forced him to expert. That’s great! Here’s some guy who has skills and instead of dicing it up with like skilled riders he wants to be slamming lesser  riders so he gain a little contingency cash and put a champ number on his bike…. what a chump!

 I don’t know about anyone else but I’m sure I fell in love with racing not cause I thought I was the next Ben Spies and Josh Hayes or I was gonna win a bunch of races but because nowhere else could I get the chance to ride my sportbike like it was meant to be ridden and maybe, just maybe get to mix it up and hone my new skills against some better riders. If I knew I was like a strip steak sitting on menu beating out nothing but meatballs I don’t think I be so proud. I’d want to get across the street to that fancy restaurant and get on the classy side. At least then I might get confused by someone as a t-bone. 

  

Why Road Racing?

I’m a fan of speed…

Sure a lot of guys are. But how did motorcycle road racing become a passion for me? Well to be honest as a older guy this particular passion has come late. For years I played around with a number of forms of racing. I did the usual motocross and dirt thing as a youngster. I always loved drag racing so I followed that across the years but was never very active. Like a lot of folks I watched NASCAR and the roundy-round series and enjoyed it. And open wheeled carried some attraction both the dirt and asphalt versions but it never was a big draw for me.

Growing up in the northern New York countryside during the 70’s there really was not much in the way of motorcycle road racing going on. No one in the family was involved, you never saw any on T.V  and it was not in the news at all. But in the stores there were magazines on the sport and I always looked at them when I had the chance. The images of those exotic bikes seemed so alien but beautiful at the same time. The riders with their knees dragging, the bikes with those swept back fairings seemed to quietly whisper…” I am fast, I’ll bite you if your not careful!” I really loved that…

As the years went by more important thing took over my life and I never followed my heart. I did some dirt racing and filled my need for speed with hot rods and the regular car guy stuff. but the images never left my head and I still always turned my head when a sport bike went by. It wasn’t until just a couple years ago that I went to my first road race… and there was no fooling myself. i was hooked and like a river the passion has poured forth ever since. I live and breath this sport now. I can’t stop thinking about the sport and as I look around the scene I am jealous of the guys who have been a part of it for years.

But I won’t let the past get me down. I will try to make up for the lost time by learning all I can and soon be chasing the rabbit myself. In the meantime I hope I can give the sport some well deserved props and high-lite those who make this passion real. There are so many individuals who are the backbone and reason club road racing is so strong. All over the country are hundreds of racers and the necessary supporting cast member that make race day happen. The community is so much larger than I ever imagined. To be a part of this collection of like minded speed freaks is so satisfying.

So now I have come full circle. The young boy standing in Woolworth’s thumbing through a magazine with starry eyes to a confirmed road racing fan. Sometimes it all just comes together!

So that’s my story… What’s yours?

 

Things I learned…..

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a road racer?

  So a friend and I was talking the other day…. He’s a dirt racer, drives a modified sprint car and does well in his series. The topic of racing comes up and he asks me about the road racing I’m trying to get involved in.
   I told him some clubs only race at one tracks but most have a schedule that takes them to different tracks, some in different states. I explained about the CMRA and how they have about 6 tracks they race at with most around Texas. Then he asked how many races we do and how much money could you win racing sport bikes at the club level. I told him we did about 9 or 10 races a year but there wasn’t a lot of return cash wise at the club level. I talked about contingencies and how some of the classes were sponsored but the prizes were small would never come close to what a racer would spend running a full season… He actually laughed out loud and said that’s crazy.” You go all over the place and don’t get hardly any real cash for winning?” That’s nuts!” I wouldn’t waste my time with that!” He capped that off with a comment about how if he could not have a chance to recoup his investment he wouldn’t be racing….

    I tried to tell him that even in sprint racing that not everyone was bringing in enough winnings to covers their expenses but he replied that at least the possible purses available were large enough to make it worthwhile. We continued on like this for a while longer but seeing no agreement in sight I changed the subject… I’m not the best person to be selling the merits of bike racing. Heck I am only a really rookie “rookie” and still don’t understand myself all the nuances of the club and the sport.

   Later on though I thought about his comments and maybe I guess I could agree with some of his sentiments but I think he misses the point of racing. At least as I feel what racing is about.  

   I as a parent supported my youngest son David in his dreams to become a Olympic gymnast. Though the chances were very slim He was motivated and he had some talent. We went to great lengths to give him every chance and opportunity to fulfill his goals. A lot of money and time was spent over a number of years pursuing his dream and if we had stopped and just broke it down to dollar spent vs. dollar return we would never had gone very far. Not being wealthy we struggled a bit to provide all that was needed in the quest. And we never questioned the validity of the endeavor.
   In the end Dave did not get on the men’s national team but he did get a good education out of it, made contacts and lifelong friends in the process and now is the coach of a successful club. Sometimes dreams don’t always come out the way you anticipate. My son still trains hoping to get a break and has never let go of his dreams. My wife and I as well as the rest of the family have learned a lot about ourselves and what it takes to be a champion through our son’s efforts.
   My friend I fear is very short sighted. I know he is talented and he may become successful in his racing but I don’t think he has what I feel are championship qualities.

  I may be mistaken but after talking to many in the sport of club road racing there seems to be distinct attitude among those in the sport at this level. I see a desire to win races or at least to find where each others highest personal performance lies. Rarely do I hear the riders talk about becoming paid pro’s… sure it’s a subject when there is a really talented youngster is involved. Young men always envision being the next Rossi or Kevin Schwantz! But the ranks of club racing are filled with many more participants who are only here because no where else can they fill the need for that special thrill of rocketing down a straightaway and then carving through some curves than on a racetrack. Mostly the talk in between sessions is about the ride and the racing. The banter on the forums concerning machine upgrades and equipment purchases are hardly ever discussed in a way that is focused on gaining a monetary return but rather on how they are going to gain that extra tenth of a second off their last lap time.
   I find that champions are less concerned on the business side of racing than concentrating on the skills to make them better racers. That being said I wonder if maybe in other forms of Motorsports there is a broad difference from the way motorcycle racers feel and approach the sport. Has the passion and desire to be the fastest and most skilled driver become less important to those four wheel competitors?  Has high profile sponsorship and advertising created a “win for the money” mentality that preempts a quest for finding where the driver’s limits lie?

   I don’t know but for sure but across motorcycling, it seems that individuality and personal competition are hallmarks of the sport and when I talk to many of the racers in club racing I sense companionship in the paddock and a desire to help fellow competitors that I don’t feel as strongly when walking through a local dirt circle track. I have attended many dirt races over the years and I know the drivers are very aggressive in competition but is it a desire to win for winnings sake or is it for the quest for money…or both?
   So the question that comes to my mind when I think of my friends comments is this … are motorcycle road racers a different breed? I really don’t know but I feel it’s so and I know one thing for sure….there’s nowhere else where you are guaranteed to spend all your money, all of your spare time and most likely get nothing in return. But most always end the day with a beer in your hand and a smile of your face…  that’s a pretty good trade off I think!

The unknown army of road racing

  As anyone who ever attended a motorcycle road race can tell you, there is a lot going on to be seen. A walk through the paddock and there is a hustle and bustle of activity every where you look. All around you see the racers and technicians going through their routines getting the bikes ready for the days events.  Race officials mill about checking on all the aspects and details in preparation so the event can be successful. A great many details to attend to… so many people making the scene one of organized chaos.

 For the fan it’s so easy to see the exciting racers and the machines. And it’s obvious that’s why we come to the track. To see the racing and experience the sounds and smells of the track and watch the action unfold before us.

  But as all this happens an army of unknowns are hard at work as well. An entirely different group of fans are involved in the race but from a perspective that few take the time to see. There is an army that is as integral a part of the scene as any racer and without which no heat or round could be. They are there and to many they are invisible.

They are the  corner workers. We always know who the fastest riders on the track are but the truly  speedy are the guys who come running when a rider goes down. Out of the woodwork they show at a moments notice when the need arises. And then their gone again.

 So who is the corner worker? What would make a person want to sit behind a concrete bunker all day and watch motorcycles go by?

  There is much to be said about the opportunity of being in a first row seat for the racing. Nowhere can you get such a close up view to world class and grassroots racing than by being a corner worker. Only team members, officials and the racers themselves get such a wonderful perspective of the sport. Yes many venues offer very good chances for fans to get close to the action. And pit passes are a great way to get next to your favorite racer and the machines. But the corner worker is in the action at all times and always a part of the racing through the radio communication.

 Ask any racer and they will tell you it is the corner worker they rely on and get their much needed information about track conditions and any possible danger ahead. Through flags, hand gestures and eye contact the corner worker is in constant cooperation and communication with the riders as they go by. The race control officials  have a very good tool at their disposal with the corner worker.. They are the race control official and race directors eyes and ears. It is through the corner workers actions that the race officials are capable of creating and maintaining a safe, enjoyable event for all involved. The corner worker input allows the race officials to be able to make the right decisions about how to handle bad situations and also to identify the riders who are dangerous either by their actions or by some mechanical defect… not always can a rider tell if his machine is going south. Sometimes a sharp corner worker can catch a problem early and prevent a dangerous situation from becoming worse.

 Lets be honest about the conditions of cornerworking. It’s not the gravy job you might think it is. You know it can be exciting! When a crash happens and the adrenaline is pumping it can be exciting for sure! But there is a lot to do in a very short time. And you have to make the right decisions about what to do very quickly. Do I cross the track when it’s hot? Do I stay in the bunker and call in? Sure, control is going to be helping and instructing but they are not on site and only the corner worker can make the right initial call. It can be very stressful. 

 Luckily the clubs are very proactive when it comes to training corner workers on track procedure. They do everything they can to give the corner worker all the information and tools needed to make good decisions in those worst times. A well trained and properly motivated corner worker can make all the difference in how a crash turns out for both the rider and the club.

 But the conditions.. yes the conditions. that is where the men are separated from the boys…  The corner worker understands first foremost above all even the racers what a track is like at floor level. The corner worker is subjected to all the elements that Mother Nature can deliver. Club racing is a grassroots endeavor for the most part. So rarely is the corner worker afforded more than cursory protection from the elements. Unlike Nascar or other forms of racing with elevated, closed viewing towers motorcycle racing is primarily a hands on sport for the track workers. The necessity to observe at close proximity and be able to get to a downed rider quickly is paramount and precludes anything more than a concrete crash barrier, a pop up sun tent and a fold up chair. So the prospective corner worker has to understand that he or she will be outside all day long…. sometimes up to 10 hours. Lightning not withstanding, the races go on rain or shine. a torrential downpour won’t be reason to stop a race as that’s what rains tires are for. Sunshine filled days are great unless it’s in the Oklahoma summer when it can get to 120-130 degrees and even you shoe soles become sticky. The Texas wind never ends in the springtime and gusts up to 30-40 mph can ruin even the most tightly spun hair-do and when the rain storms are over it’s always fun to run after and pull crashed bikes out of clay mud in a water soaked field. Your in the field and so are the snakes and flies..the fire ants and the mosquitoes. You can bet it will be freezing in the morning and sweating in the afternoon.

 Such are the conditions a corner worker will face. In between the brief moments of  excitement are hours of nothing to do but watch the bikes go by. But you listen to the chatter on the radio and wait for your time to help out a rider in need with plenty of time for your own thoughts. 

So I ask again who would want to be a corner worker?

 That’s not as complicated to answer as you might think. there basically are three kinds of corner workers. First you have the forced worker. A rider who has no choice and a lot of time no desire to be corner working at all.  In many clubs if you want to race you are required to corner work at least a couple of weekends before you can become a novice or even get a race license. That’s not such a bad idea as it really can help a rider to understand whats going on from the corner working perspective. There is always something you can learn working corners that you might not pick up any other way. Plus many clubs have a tough time filling the spots needed to man the corners. So the requirement can serve to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Give the aspiring racer another opportunity to learn the track and all that is and help fill those needed spots for the club.

 Then you have the thrift minded rider who is glad to have a little help. Road racing is expensive and getting track practice can be hard on wallet for the budget conscious racer. For many though clubs and trackday groups offer track time in exchange for corner working. It’s a win-win proposition. the rider gets track time and the club gets to fill those spots. Plus again the rider gets some valuable exposure to tracks they will be racing on. a great trade off for sure.

 And then you have the pure road racing fan. Many times corner working is a labor of love. This breed of corner worker is the ideal fellow or gal to have on the curve. They come because they love the sport and are willing to sacrifice to get close to the racing. Most of the time they are not racers but just real fans. But they are motivated and offer serious experience as many have been corner working for quite some time. They may already have been through the experience of a crash and would be a cool hand in an already adrenaline fueled situation. I’m sure a racer would absolutely prefer to have a worker with a clear head and a calm professional demeanor help them to get through a scrape versus a fellow who just  signed up to get through the licensing procedure. Of course this not to take away the care anyone involved in such an incident. It’s just common sense to understand that experience is the key to remaining calm while under pressure. Either way it’s these warriors of the corners that come back race after race and are the backbone of any series operations

 So there is a underlying story to the sport we all enjoy. An army of faceless unknowns  who make the race possible. The racers need them and that’s enough. A corner worker worth his salt never lets the field conditions or the politics of racing interfere with the job at hand… protecting and helping the racers… and they do it without a promise of congratulation. It’s just the bonus when it comes because to see great racing first hand is the real reward.

 

 

Watching club racing and waiting patiently…

This weekend I’m going down to the old Texas World Speedway to work and watch some of the very best club racing around.

   While the riders are a varied mix of talent levels and not every bike showing up is backed by a powerhouse racing team sponsor,every heat will still be a showcase of how racing at the grassroots level is done.
I get a front row seat on the track as I will be working corners in case a rider has a bad day just like many other lucky fans. One of the things I am looking for is to see up close how the best riders handle being in fast traffic through the corners. Never an easy sport, road racing is a paradox of ever changing conditions. I am just a raw rookie when it comes to the details of handling a race machine on the track. But even I can see how the track conditions can become different in a matter of minutes. Texas World seems to be a track where the rider needs to be closely aware of the weather… from one end of the track to the other.
Turn one could be dry and sticky concrete but by the time the racer comes through turn seven the bike is looking to slide across the track on asphalt dampened by a spot shower… such is the weather in Texas. How the riders adapt and how they interact with other riders as they enter and exit the turns… that is what I hope to find out. I want to see the lines they take and where the braking points are… where they exit and when they get on the throttle..these too are some of the things as a rookie I want to find out. I need this time to learn if I ever am going to be able to do what the seasoned rider do so casually.
Casually! I say that as if there is any truth to it! But I’m positive that even those racers with years of track time get prickle hair on their necks when things get hairy in a off camber curve. I’m sure that when a liter bike starts to tuck or threatens to high side even the best get kind of goosey… and the face shield fogs a little with a little faster heartbeat and breath.
So I hope to learn a little. I will be looking to the grids and to see how filled they are.. will Formula 3 be hosting a bunch of cool rides? Who will step up in the big bike endurance round to knock off the champs? I can’t wait to see how the Formula 1 session pans out..who will be on the podium this time around? And the mini sprints! I love watching the mini’s!

And now I hear that former Motogp champ Kevin Schwantz and Blake Young will be possibly running in the big bike endurance rounds!!! Wow! That’ll be exciting! and to top it off the perennial 250 class champion of WERA and AFM fame, Brian Bartlow will be bringing his riding skills to Texas to participate in the E superstock and formula 4 classes! It’s like getting a pro race in your backyard!!


It seems that in my short time of being around the scene that it has become even more to me than what I ever thought it was about. A casual observer will see of course the racing,the sights and sounds.. but I now see much more. To me the tracks are very much alive. And the people are more than just a group of racers. I have read so many forum posts and racing stories. The folks in this series seem so animated and full of respect for each other. I swear the vendors I have talked to and read “thank you” postings about seem like that if it was possible they would do what they do… for free…if they could!. I have watched an endless amount of club racing video and all the while I’m thinking “how can anyone NOT want to be a part of this?”
But hey, I’m not a fool wearing rose colored glasses. Sure there’s hard cases that are not always making things easy but they really seem so far and few apart that it’s no big deal from where I stand. People are people and all that jazz. Whatever.
As for me well at the moment I’m looking like a poser. I only talk like I want to race… but if I learned anything in the past few months it’s that it’s just flat out not easy to be a road racer. It’s expensive. It’s a detail obsessed sport that can be unforgiving. You spend a lot hours on the road and there is a whole lot of things you gotta do that ain’t fun just to get to point where you can ride for about 15 minutes! But I think if you ask anyone in the paddock what they like to do they would tell about all the neat hobbies they have and places they have visited on vacation and things like that. But ask them where they would rather spend a weekend…. and you’ll most likely get a “are you stupid?” look as they tell you ….”Right here”.
So I’m going to Texas. And while I pose and watch…while I take some pics and try to fit in…and while I hang out this weekend…. I want all you racers to know something…
You rotten sonavaguns… ya’ll know who I am as you ride by me. I’ll be the pissed off jealous looking dude!!!! Now go and put on good show for me!