Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mr. Second Place

There are a dozen bikes on the grid for the V5 race, four of which are EX500s like mine. Two of these machines have 540cc big bore displacement kits. My bike does not have a big CC kit, which technically puts me at a disadvantage, however I do have a trick or two up my sleeve technically speaking. This will be quite the test of my work on the bike over the winter. With the long back straight at Road Atlanta these EXs will be wrung out for all they are worth, maybe 125 mph with the right gearing. My primary goal is to win the race, my secondary goal is to make sure none of these other goddamn EXs beat me.

I drop the hammer the second the flagman twitches. Second into Turn 1 and feeling good, I chase a Yamaha 550 four cylinder machine up the hill. I am very close to him the first lap, but he starts turning some wicked fast laps and heads off in the distance. This leaves me with the one EX540 I cannot seem to shake, he finally passes me. The rider is young and taking some really crazy chances, over-riding the bike in nearly every corner, but getting away with it. He has just a tiny bit of motor on me when we hit the back straight. I tuck into his draft and wait. As we approach turn 10A I outbrake him and make an inside pass. He does not want to give up the position and I believe he would crash us both in a stupid attempt to keep it. I don't trust him. He makes another aggressive move and gets back in front of me. I am getting pissed.

I decide to follow him and see where he is weak. He knows I am there and is literally sliding through every corner with the bike out of shape. He obviously has something to prove, and he has probably never been seriously hurt on a bike, because anyone watching can tell you won't get away with pushing that hard all the time without getting bitten. There are two laps remaining. On the penultimate lap I make the same move in 10A and get ahead of him. The son of a bitch won't give up the spot and makes a really shitty move leaving neither of us anywhere to go. This forces me to slam on the brakes in order to keep from taking us both out. Now I am really mad. Obviously nothing illegal about his move, just very dangerous and the mark of an inexperienced racer riding way over his head. I don't want to get taken out by some over-hormonal twenty something, so I ride right on his ass and wait for the inevitable.

For the last lap, every corner I show him a wheel with no intention of passing. I am so close to his tail on the back straight I can see the little hairs on the back of his neck. It requires every ounce of restraint I have to not stuff him into 10A and this time force him way off line, but I don't want to take the chance hurting either of us. He very clearly does not have the same concerns. He is still so out of control I know if I can push him just a little bit harder he will make a mistake.

We race down the hill towards the last corner with the checkered flag flying. I run up on the inside of him and he finally screws up, pushing too hard and running wide onto the rumble strips. He loses his drive for a split second and I pounce, winding the throttle to the stops, head down screaming into my helmet knowing this little bastard is coming hard with a few more horsepower and nothing to fucking lose.

The start/finish line is close to the exit of the final turn which works out in my favor. Unable to stretch the legs on his larger displacement machine he cannot catch me and I cross the line in a very hard earned second place. I am happy enough, but also displeased that he was anywhere near to me in the first place. It is one thing to race hard and close with guys you know and trust, but everything I saw from this youngster tells me he is in for some crashes in his future (I would find out a few weeks later he went down at his next race).

After all that work the V6 race is almost anti-climactic. I get the holeshot at the start and my heart flutters as I wonder if I can win this race. Heading into turn two some ratty looking green bike comes by me. The bike looks like it was pulled from a dumpster and I assume I will beat the machine handily. I am wrong. We hit the back straight and that thing is gone. I mean like 15 mph faster gone. I do not see him for the rest of the race. Nor do I see any other racers. I finish second, still wondering what the hell that greasy looking machine was that just stomped my ass.

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