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How low can you go? 6/20/2007

Casey Stoner on his way to winning the Catalunya MotoGP, 2007.
Picture courtesy of Ducati Corse Press.

2 more inches and he’ll need an elbow slider. And if anyone is wondering, yes, it is entirely possible to slide your elbow through certain corners.

Pretty in pink. 11/25/2006

In a certain racetrack, somewhere in the world, there is a particular corner which is very difficult. This corner, in the words of the many club racers who race there, is “a bastard.” It has claimed many racers, who, upon entering the said corner, suddenly find themselves running very quickly out of road, and mouthing the words, “oh shit!”, just before being catapaulted into the sky.

I have, in the course of my time racing motorcycles, made my acquitance with this corner. Rather more than that actually. Suffice it to say that I entered the corner upright, and left with my machine being ferried out in the back of a pick-up. I managed to get driven home by the then girlfriend. It was a rather tense and tight lipped journey home. She came out to the track to fetch, after getting a call from me saying that I had crashed, and the track medic had recommended that I don’t drive back. Not that I could drive back, since I had ridden the bike to the track, taken off the lights and slapped some numbers on it, and the said bike was now looking much the worse for wear after eating the kitty litter.

The guys at the track had made arrangements for the wreckage to be shipped back to me, and the remains were now sitting in the garage. All that I really wanted to do was to start work on the bike, to get her back into race worthy condition. I had spent a lot of time on the engine, and felt that it would be a shame to let all those man-hours and begging for machine shop time go to waste. She, on the other hand, had different ideas.

When she got to the track, she didn’t see me immediately. I was off in the back of the pits somewhere having a smoke. What she did see was the very scuffed and scraped piece of fibreglass that was my racing helmet. And since she was a Princess of the highest order, she never really got into the whole motorcycle racing thing. Especially not the fact that she would see me and my friends banged up from crashing one weekend, and then dropping the crutches or taking off the arm sling to go racing the next.

After a few tense days in the house, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to go work on the bike. My vision had cleared to the extent where I wasn’t really seeing double anymore. At least, not much, and the ringing in my ears had stopped. I walked into the garage, and started work. Much to my relief, I found that the damage was mainly cosmetic. Some of the fairing brackets needed straightening, which was quickly and efficiently done with judicious application of a B.F.H. I had spare levers, which I quickly bolted on.

Which left the bodywork. The left side fairing was scuffed all to hell, but still in one (reasonably big) piece. I set to work with pieces of aluminium plate, and a rivet gun, and soon had the fairing looking fit. I filled in the worst of the scrapes with body filler, and everything was ready to be painted up. It was now close to midnight. I needed to get the bike ready for race qualifying tomorrow morning. I stood there in garage, looking at the bike with a critical eye.

She was mechanically sound, and ready to race. The only thing was she looked a lot like a mangy dog, with large patches of body filler, and scraped decals and stickers. I thought that giving her a coat of paint might be the way to go. She wouldn’t look pretty, but she would at least look presentable. I looked around the garage, and found a boxful of spray paint cans. I picked them up one after the other, and most of them were empty. Except for one. I grabbed it, turned to the bike, and started spraying her up. And groaned.

The fairing was now a brilliant shade of shocking pink.

Sheer madness. 10/18/2006

Roy sent me a series of pictures in the mail today. Another motorcycle. Although not as weird as Mega Kwak, still weird enough.

This is a jet turbine powered motorcycle. It has a Rolls Royce Viper Mk. 202 turbojet installed. Pumping out some 5000 horsepower.

The engine resides in a frame built by MAD Engineering. Hand built, naturally. Please note proper use of the comma in the previous sentence. This is, of course, in case Rkaru misses the comma again, and happens to think this is an environmentally friendly vehicle. Which it isn’t, in any way, shape or form.

The frame is suspended using Yamaha FJ 1200 components, front and rear, with a 3.4 meter wheelbase. Yes, you read that right. This bike is longer than a matchbox on wheels.

The engine is rated for 2,450 lbs thrust, or about 3,800 horsepower, with a further 1,200 ponies on tap when the afterburner kicks in. It gulps down 32,000 cubic feet per minute of air when it’s running, and let’s not talk about the fuel consumption. Even if it does burn JP-4.

You can find more pictures and stuff about the bike, and the guy who built it, here. Work is currently stopped by the owner, due to other commitments. But most of all, I would really want a bike like this, if only for what I can do to tailgaters…

All pictures from www.madv8bike.com.

The Game - Part One. 9/20/2006

Forfeit the game
Before somebody else
Takes you out of the frame
And puts your name in shame
Cover up your face
You cant run a race
The pace is too fast
It just wont last

- Linkin Park, Points of Authority, Hybrid Theory

I stood outside the pits, smoking a roll-up. The rain was drizzling slightly, making the track wet, but not wet enough to think about crashing, or pulling out. My crew mate in the team came up to me, looked up at the sky and asked if I wanted to go out for the practice. I nodded, butterflies in my stomach making feel a little queasy. Or maybe it was the tacos and chili the team had had for dinner the night before. When the team dog doesn’t want a second helping of chili, you know there’s something wrong with it.

I walked back into the pit, just in time to hear one of the mechanics screaming. He had somehow managed to crimp his fingers in between the chain and the rear sprocket as he was mounting the rear wheel. I cursed. This wasn’t shaping up to be a good day at the races. We weren’t in the running, or out in front, or anything. Just a bunch of guys out having fun. Racing motorcycles. And somewhere along the way, what started out a friends spending a weekend together having a lark became a semi serious effort, which was attracting the attention of some of the manufacturers.

Racing on a shoe string, as we were, meant that parts and consumables were always in short supply. We had even considered renaming the team to something like “American Express Racing” because all of us, to one degree or another, were in debt to the card, because of the constant financial demands of running a race team. And some of the other better funded teams tended to look down on us. It didn’t matter none to any of us. We had all decided early on that we would quit and fold the team up when it stopped being fun.

And it was now, in my feeling, approaching that point.

One of the other competitor’s came over, and wished me a good morning. He looked at the chaos that was going on around the bike, and the blood stains on the floor, and gave me a wry grin.

“Could be worse,” he said, “the wheel could have gone on, with his fingers still in there.”

I gave him a wry grin myself. The one thing I have experienced, racing with Americans, is the mental strength inherent in her sportsmen. And all motorcycle racers have ample helpings of mental focus, and ego. Hence a game we all played in the pits, trying to psyche each other out. Some succumbed to the pressure. Others rose to the occassion, going on to be at the top of their sport. You know their names. I played the game along with them. I like to think that some of the lessons I learned in those halcyon days have stayed with me.

Things like dropping your wheel into the inside of your opponent when both of you are heading into a corner, threatening to take him out if you low side. Rubbing his rear wheel with your front wheel when approaching from behind. Banging fairings and knees and elbows. None of this gentleman racer bullshit for these guys. Hard as nails, and twice as sharp. If you dropped your guard for just a moment, you were either being left behind, or eating kitty litter. As was oft quoted in those days when a certain Tom Cruise film was all the rage, “there are no points for second place.”

My crew mate gave me a thumbs up, and rolled the bike off the stand, getting her ready to be started. I sighed, and walked over to where I had left my gear. This was not fun anymore was a message my brain was trying to tell me. My girlfriend saw the look on my face, and walked over. She walked alongside me, grabbing my hand, and holding it. I looked at her, blonde hair blowing in the wind, which smelled of rain and ozone, threatening an even heavier downpour. And she smiled at me, blue eyes flashing.

I tried to smile back, I really did. But something inside me was not working. The adrenaline pumps in my body, which should have been gearing up right about now, were out for an extended coffee break, it seemed like. She stopped me, and held my shoulders. I gave her a hang dog look. She put a finger under my chin and raised my head. She wasn’t smiling anymore. Then she spoke.

“Baby, I don’t like losers.”

Hammer and tongs. 9/12/2006

This MotoGP post is a day late. I’m sorry, but work keeps getting in the way. Sometimes deadlines mean exactly what they say, if you cross the line, you’re dead. Don’t matter if the report you’re writing is going to be circular filed, unread.

Anyway, coming back to the content of this post. I didn’t get to hit the track on the weekend, in spite of having press, pit and grid passes up the wazoo. It’s the first time I haven’t been to the track for a home MotoGP since god only knows when. Did I miss it? Yes. The atmosphere, the heat, the noise, the smells, the machines. Nothing beats actually being there. But personal is not the same as important.

So I had to settle for watching the race one step removed, on the idiot box. My first problem was actually getting the box to work. The various remotes in my place have had a hard life, variously used as book marks, levers, hammers, and a tool to vent my frustration. I think I must get through about 5 remotes a year for the box, because every time I hear something stupid on BBC or CNN, I promptly fling the remote at the TV, cursing out stuff like rising oil prices, or the half baked idiocy that passes for government policy around the world. Especially when soldiers get killed.

The race started. I watched. I know the track well. Intimately even. Her curves are more familiar to me than any woman I know. Every twist and turn, radius and apex. And watching the masters perform their magic on her was revealing. I once had the chance to get onto the track a day after the MotoGP boys finished their winter testing, and I saw all their lines. As in, the dark lines of rubber they left behind in the corners, blasting their way through.

The thing was, watching the race on the box, listening to the commentary, drove me to boredom. I fell asleep on the sofa. Not because the race was boring, but because I couldn’t connect. These guys were there at my home track, and I wasn’t watching them do it in real life. I watched the start. I caught the first few laps. And then blissful sleep. Helped along by generous amounts of Tiger consumed during the 125 and 250 sessions. Until about 10 minutes from the end, when someone decided that I was missing the race, and promptly woke me up by bouncing a fire engine off my head.

I sat up, and saw that Loris was in the lead. Followed very closely behind by Rossi.

I watched the last 5 laps with intense interest. I was now connecting with the race. No doubt Capirossi had only a slim chance of getting back into the running for the championship, while Rossi needed the points to firm his grasp on it. I saw them go for it, hammer and tongs. The Desmosedici fishtailing through the tight, fast corners that are a trademark of this track. They exchanged leads faster than the commentators could keep up.

It came down to the last laps, and I was on tenterhooks. And in the back of my mind, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Rossi was going to pull off his favourite trick. Getting the lead in the last corner. The Ducati, on the day, was the faster bike. And Capirossi likes Sepang, having won here last year. I’ve spent time discussing the track with the guys from the Corse team. But Valentino Rossi is rider a cut above the rest.

3 corners from the end, on a downhill left hander, Rossi made his move. And took the lead. At this point, I screamed, and threw my beer can at the screen. Followed immediately after by a throw cushion, a can of Pringles and a partridge in a pear tree.

I didn’t begrudge Rossi the win. But I really felt for Loris, because he had done a good job of keeping the hounds at bay. This was motorcycle racing at its best. You would never see this in Formula One. Exciting, close in racing, banging fairings and fishtailing.

All pictures courtesy of Ducati Corse Press

Red streak. 9/9/2006

With a 2:01.711, Loris Capirossi takes provisional pole for this weekend’s MotoGP at Sepang. Was I there to see it? Unfortunately not. As Captain Carrot says, “personal is not the same as important.” But chances are good that Loris will give a good showing at Sepang.

I had to give this year’s rider’s dinner a miss as well, in spite of my position in the Ducati Club. So no nice freebies and autographs for me this year. But there’s always next year. I’m not too sure if I’ll be able to catch the MotoGP tomorrow. It’ll the the first one I’ve missed in a long time.

In a press release from Ducati Corse Press, Loris has said that the team are working well together, in spite of a problem halfway through the afternoon session. He also said that conditions at Sepang were cooler this year than last year, which enabled him to put more effort into making the Desmosedici go faster round the track.

Desmosedici GP07 Testing. 8/23/2006

The Desmosedici GP07 made its appearance after Ducati’s successful weekend at Brno.  The GP07, which displaces 800 c.c. in a V-4 configuration, is an extension of the GP06, and intended to address some details in the chassis, in order to improve handling.

During testing, Loris Capirossi had good things to say about the GP07.

Also notable in the new 2007 Desmosedici is the almost 999′esque tail, with lots of cut-outs and vents.  The heat trail from that exhaust must make that a hot seat in warm weather racing.

It will be interesting to see this machine next year in Sepang, especially with 50 degree track temperatures.

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