Race Report 3:

05/29 - 05/30 - Blackhawk Farms, Rockton, IL

Lessons learned - Some new, Some old

5/28 - Practice day. I got to the track on Thurs night and got everything set up for a long week of track time with the weekend and then Keith Code's CA Superbike School on 6/2-3.

I spent the morning of Friday installing my new Brembo Radial master cylinder (review pending)from Fred Renz of Yoyodyne. The thing works like a charm. Absolutely incredible amount of braking power available.

I went out into practice with a couple of goals. I wanted to run the track like it was the first time I'd ever been there. Spend some time getting new reference points for braking and turning. Then work on "quick-flick" turning the bike. Quick flick steering of the bike is the proper way to get through a corner, but it requires a bit of mental conditioning in that you have to be fairly hard on the gas immdiately after flicking in, to balance out the weight of the bike and prevent overloading of the front tire.

I went out and did a couple of sessions running no brakes. This is a very interesting exercise as it forces you to take corners at a faster speed, but it gives you more time to process the information since you're not flying into the corner at mach 1. The drill worked well. I ran 20 or so laps this way and was picking up speed each time. Interestingly, my lap times were only a few seconds off my normal race pace.

The last session before lunch, I went out and started adding brakes. My laps were coming together very nice, flicking the bike over quickly, and running really well. I came up on a new rider who was making 3-5 steering changes in each corner, and checking up a lot before and during the corners. I wanted to get around him, and figured I could do so between turns 4&5 which are 2 left handers.

The best way to do this is to drop back a bit and then run through the corner at your normal speed which puts you at a much higher exit speed than the slower rider. To set up the pass, I dropped back and went in deep before flicking it over. The thought was to flick it over hard and come out near the inside of the track so I could pass this guy between the two corners. I went in, flicked it over and dialed on the gas but I wasn't hard enough on the gas(the OLD front tire didn't help here either) and I lost the front end. (updating this from the track prior to being posted!) I learned after a day with Keith Code today what happened. I have a tendency to lean the bike down while keeping myself upright and eating up HUGE amounts of lean angle in the process. This was probably the biggest factor in the crash, and is something I'm pleased to report that I am making significant progress at overcoming!

I hit the track on my left shoulder and was sliding face first off the track. Now, if you haven't crashed a bike, let me tell you about it. Time stands still. Everything happens in slow motion. You have forever to contemplate what is happening and think about the inevitable. Apparently your brain kicks into overdrive and can process a million things at once. For instance... As soon as I went down, I looked up and thought "where's the air fence?" the air fence is a huge air bag that sits in this corner in front of the tire wall to soften the blow of the quick stop since there is little run-off. Well, it wasn't there for practice...
Next thought is "how can I position myself to receive the least amount of human damage". I watch my bike hit the lip of the track and begin flipping end for end. The bike hits the tirewall and looks to be in my slide/glide path. I think "oh my God, I'm gonna hit the bike head first". No sooner do I get that thought out, and everything is black and an explosion goes off in my head. BAMMMM. Like I got hit on the top of the helmet with a bat. The hit was so hard, I was sure I hit the bike, but was later told that I was about 8' from the bike, and hit the tire wall only.

I laid there for a minute, still conscious and raised my hand to let people know I was somewhat okay. After about 2 minutes, I rolled to my back and decided I should try to stand. I stood, but my left thigh wouldn't support weight, so back down I went.

The medics were pretty good, they put a spine collar on me and transported me back to the med shed. My main complaint was my leg, but my right hand was numb in the thumb and forefinger (initially my whole hand was completely numb but I regained some feeling back on the ride to the med shed). I told the medics about it, but they didn't make any connection to the neck as the source (later that night, I would learn that the C4,C5 vertebrae of the neck carry a nerve which runs down into the right hand, and when damaged or affected, numbness in the right thumb is common.). After about 1 hr, they sent me on my way. My left leg turned out to just be a huge bruise from God knows what along the way.

Pics of the crash corner.

  1. Coming into the corner. You should be able to see the small orange dot on the track that marks turn-in
  2. My turn entry point. I made it into the corner before going down
  3. The lip of the track that sent the bike and me flying
  4. 5 days later, this is the metal from my yoyodyne slider
  5. The path of trajectory - head first - but there was no airfence...

Looking at the bike, I had initially thought I'd repair it at the track and still race, but the more I looked, the more I wanted to just go home. This is only the 2nd crash I've ever had where I didn't immediately think "let's get back out there!". The thought was, this isn't fun. I want to leave... I decided to cut my losses and go home to repair the bike and recuperate for the Keith Code school.

Toll on the bike...

Both fork tubes
Lower triple clamps
Right front rotor
Fairing stay
Entire set of bodywork
Right clip-on tube
Throttle assy
Left frame slider (almost snapped it was bent so bad)
Master cylinder reservoir
Shoei RF-1000 helmet

Pics of the bike, and of my leg immediately after, and 5 days post.

Out of all of the crash damage, I had spares for most all of it. I picked up a new reservoir from Lake Country Powersports, and ordered up a new set of sliders from Yoyodyne. Ed Kwaterski from Trackside Engineering was kind enough to spend Memorial day building me a new set of forks.

The bike is back together and ready for 2 days of Keith Code. I'm feeling a bit better. The neck is pretty stiff, and the leg is a bit sore, as are my ribs, but all in all I'm doing well and should be able to ride with no problems.

Lessons re-learned:
Money saved in tires is spent in repairs
Throwing a bike into a corner fast requires an ample amount of throttle

Lessons learned:
The faster you go, the harder you crash
Tire walls aren't soft
Neck injuries are a bit frightening

I don't know... The whole crash thing here freaked me out a bit. I'm glad that I know WHY I crashed since that is most important, but the thought of coming close to breaking my neck just doesn't sit well with a person mentally.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to brush it off and get back to doing what I love, but this will still sit with me for a long time to come.

For now, I'm just happy to have mobility of all extremities and be around to use them... So then... Why do I do this? How can I subject myself to this again? Well, it's what I love. Words can't describe the feeling of nailing a perfect lap. Or the exhilaration experienced when that one board goes sideways and the green flag flies. For me, there is nothing like this sport, and even though the risks can be minimized we all still accept that it can be dangerous.

Next Race - 6/12-13 Grattan, MI.

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