Re: Younger Oil Racing 2003
June 21: STAR School, Mid-America Motorplex
What’s that saying about “the best-laid plans”? I was very excited about the prospect of taking STAR school for two days at MAM. There were several RC51 guys and gals there including my VIR co-conspirators Rick and Dave (affectionately known as Sprinkles), as well as Steve and Lorraine all the way from the Left Coast. Even the infamous LDH (Mike) was there. We were all looking forward to learning and having fun with Jason Pridmore and the STAR gang.
The first few sessions are usually taken pretty slowly, getting acquainted with the track and working on technique. The first session was spent taking turns riding behind an instructor at a very sedate pace. We were all very surprised when Mike lowsided. He’s a very good and experienced rider and no one could really come up with an explanation why he went down. Luckily he wasn’t injured (though I think his ankle swelled later) and the rest of us went into the next classroom session.
The second session was a little more free, but we were still keeping speeds down. Jason challenged us to stay below 80 mph on the straights, which I did. On probably the second or third lap, I went into turn 7 at a decent pace, leaned down into the turn. All of the sudden, the front tire tucked under and I was instantly on the ground. The bike just slid across the track and into the grass; I had a more spectacular journey across the pavement. Basically, I was barrel rolling. I finally came to a stop when I got to the grass. I spit out a clump of dirt and started to take an assessment. I could feel a cut just below my left eye and I couldn’t lift my right arm. The eye was not a huge concern; the arm was. It’s pretty scary when you try to move something and it doesn’t cooperate. Two of the STAR instructors stopped to help. One rode my bike back to the pits while I got a ride on the back of another’s bike. I was dropped off at the ambulance for them to check me out. My first thought was that I’d broken my collarbone, which is a very common motorcycle injury. The EMT’s couldn’t find anything wrong with the collarbone and gave me an ice pack for my eye, which was now starting to swell and turn purple (I had a nice shiner for about a week and a half). I wasn’t really in much pain if my arm was at my side, but trying to lift it was impossible. I went back to the trailer to see if it would improve if I just gave it a minute. I could move the arm without pain if I lifted it with my left hand, but just couldn’t make it go on its own. I put in the call to my parents who picked me up and took me to the emergency room. Thanks to Dave and Rick for loading up everything at the end of the day.
I imagine that I didn’t look like most motorcycle accident patients in the emergency room. With a black eye and a hurt shoulder, I probably looked more like I was in a fistfight. The doctor thought that I’d most likely done some ligament or tendon damage, possibly rotator cuff. We were very concerned if it turned out to be rotator cuff since that seems like a difficult injury to heal. They took some x-rays just for fun and that’s when we found out what really happened: broken scapula (shoulder blade). The technician asked me “How did you do this again?” Apparently, that was only the second broken shoulder blade they had seen at that hospital. The other case was a man who fell off a 40-foot ladder…
I had a follow up appointment in Columbia with an orthopedic doctor who just confirmed what the other hospital found. They told me I could ditch the sling and start to regain motion in the shoulder. It was very sore for a few weeks, but got better and is now 100% normal again. I really felt embarrassed for crashing at school since STAR runs a very safety-conscious program. Of course, they can’t control riders’ mistakes. The problem is that I, like Mike who crashed before me, don’t know exactly WHY I crashed. The interesting thing is that we both had a blue powdery residue on our tires. Hmm…
August 9: Heartland Park, Topeka KS (CCS)
A new upper fairing and windscreen had the bike ready to go again. The Arai I’d been wearing earlier in the year was damaged in the crash, so it was replaced with a new Jimmy Moore replica Shoei. My new leathers held up great during the crash, so Mom just cleaned them up a bit. They were sure thrown into the fray quickly: I got them one day before the crash!
Both of my races were on Saturday, so my father and I drove to Lawrence KS on Friday night and the rest of the way Saturday morning. It was HOT at the track and I was very glad to have the new perforated leathers. Unfortunately the same problem that plagued me at Gateway surfaced again during morning practice; the bike died in turn one after the long straight. Since the bike ran fine at MAM during STAR school, I had hoped that the problem was solved. Guess not. I spoke with the Dynojet technician, with Jeff Wood’s mechanic Leif, and even called Dan Kyle at the shop out in California. All that anyone could guess was venting of the tank or the tipover sensor. I had just met a claims adjuster, Jack, who works for the same company as I do. We had e-mailed several times when we discovered that we both had the motorcycle bug. Handily for me and unfortunately for him, Jack and his father had come to the track to watch the racing. He was roped into racebike diagnostics. Since I had always intended to change the bike back to street form, I had built a new tray for the battery, electronics, etc. in the tail of the bike. The tipover sensor is mounted solidly to the front of this tray rather than cut up the stock plastic one. Jack had the idea that maybe it was mounted too solidly and that the harsh bumps at Heartland Park were enough to jar it into killing the bike. We rigged up a piece of rubber to mount between the sensor and the tray in hopes that it would isolate it enough.
The first race was Heavyweight Supersport. Luckily since I had registered at the track, I was gridded on the last row. I had planned to start from the back anyway in case I had problems. The last thing I want to do is cause a potential problem for other racers (I’ve seen it recently referred to as becoming a “rolling chicane”). Apparently I hadn’t paid enough attention when writing down my grid position. While I was indeed on the last row, I’d failed to remember that I was in a row of my own. At the grid, I actually lined up in the last row of bikes. I had only passed one racer when I saw my number and the meatball flag. The first thing that went through my mind was that something was wrong with my bike, but then I was relieved to realize what I’d done. I served my stop-and-go and got back to racing. The rust from not being on the track for a month and a half showed, as did my lack of laps at Heartland Park. I finished the race 10th Amateur (out of 10). One thing good to come from the HWSS race was that the bike seemed to be fixed. Or so I thought…
My first race was race number 6 on the day. Supertwins was race number 15, the last race of the day. I spent the meantime trying to move as little as possible and avoid heatstroke. I was optimistic for the race since the bike seemed to be running well again. I gridded in the correct spot this time (last row) and we were away. At the beginning of the race, I kept a few other bikes in sight and planned to go after them once I felt comfortable. I didn’t really get the chance, as the bike died again in turn one after a couple of laps. I got it off the track, restarted the bike, and then pulled back into the pits. If it’s not fixed, I’d best not be racing.
I now believe that the tipover switch being at a different angle from stock has caused the problems. It’s kind of moot now since it looks like I’m going to be done for this season. I don’t want to make a modification that will prevent the bike from going back to street form and I was thinking about getting a smaller bike that I can run in more classes anyway. One that doesn’t like to eat tires so frequently (“Michelins: Mmmm Mmmm Good!”). I definitely learned a lot this year and hope to start next season with a little more confidence and experience. I’m planning to take at least one school, probably “Super Dave” Rosno’s Visionsports school. Dave is at most of the regional races and I don’t think he has such a thing as a “former” student since he makes himself available for continuous learning. Hopefully at this time next year I’ll be contemplating a case for all of those future trophies. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people. Racers are definitely a different breed and I can now proudly count myself among them.
Special thanks to my parents, without whom I wouldn’t be able to do this, and to my grandfather for all the decal work. Also to my “Crew Chief” Eric who has spent a lot of time helping me prep the bike and track down gremlins. Thanks to all the Columbia racers (even Cabbage) and our hangers-on who helped tremendously in the pits at Gateway. Aaron and PJ at Lockhart have been great when I need anything from them. I would also like to thank the members of Fireblades.org, ROGUE, and the CCS forums where I have asked a lot of questions and received a lot of good help. To anyone else who has helped along the way, you are appreciated!
Is a paradigm worth 20 cents?