Short Version: - Vertical rain is unpleasant. Horizontal rain moreso. - Corner workers in Turn 5 have heavy workloads - Turn 4 is a great place to look at lines ---- When you crash your bike, use the following procedure ---- Determine if you are alive ---- Look for corner worker; do as they tell you ---- Assume your bike is toast; leave it - Thank God for the Airfence; but it makes you very yucky when you disassemble it. - Burgers and fries from the concession stand make you fart big time. Long Version * Note * In most respects I cannot distinguish between a terran excavation and my own posterior exit. This weekend I was asked to use something called "common sense". I leave the conclusion to the reader. DAMN it was cold. I wore every “outdoors” item of clothing I owned and I was still doing pushups and jumping jacks to keep warm! Necessity being the mother of invention, I was designing a propane-based coffee machine in my head as the wind-driven rain and hail hit me in the face. Saturday saw me as part of the T5 crew scoping out people’s lines entering T5, setting up in T6 and rocketing up T7. Fantastic place. Truly picturesque. Seeing the hail approach as a curtain and then experiencing “white-out” was also interesting but it got old quickly. Our first customer of the day showed up in the Vintage practice. The guy had a beautiful line into T5. I remember thinking that he was getting better lean in that turn than the other racers when the bike dropped underneath him and went sparking. Turns out, he told us it was so cold he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore, lost fine control and went splat. No worries – he was okay and the bike didn’t appear damaged, so he rode it back to the pits when the practice was over. Our second customer caused us grave concern. This racer went skittering off of T6 and, after a brief personal and evaluation, chose to sit down next to their machine DIRECTLY IN THE IMPACT ZONE. Bikes were flying past us and our crew and those of T7 were screaming at this person to move higher and out of the zone. We couldn’t reach him/her without putting ourselves in danger and he/she didn’t appear to be paying any attention to us. After what was probably only a minute but felt like Eternity, the racer got the message and began to move. Not 20 seconds after that, a 2nd bike low-sided in 6 and skittered directly INTO WHERE THE PREVIOUS RIDER HAD BEEN SITTING. We were fit to be tied at that point. However, the real fun was to come later in the day. We had a couple of more relaxing practice sessions to calm our nerves. I remember rooting Revhard as he came through and looked forward to him leading the pack. We watched as Tokin and Dawtips made it look easy coming through our gauntlet. We didn’t have any way to clock them but we did make note that they stayed in roughly the same position in the pack. We also noticed that Mr. Chrome Wheels wasn’t doing too badly. We assumed someone had taken him under their wing. Oh, The Novice Race. Previous to the Novice race, the green crash truck showed up at T5 and unloaded a few people. Apparently, our earlier activity was an ill omen and WMRRA was taking precautions. The race began innocently enough, from T5’s standpoint. The warm-up lap looked fine and we were chuckling to ourselves when we heard that nobody wanted to grid up at the front. We heard very little about the incident at T1 other than there was one. As each of the crew of T5 had friends in the race, we hung on every terse phrase on the radio. And then our number came up… We had been talking about what kind of energy and approach would be necessary to actually launch a bike at the corner stand. Overall, we were all pretty comfortable of our safety. Then that racer approached Checkpoint Jerome and proceeded to execute what I’ll call “The Tokin Maneuver”. The racer tucked the front end and dumped the bike just at the entry of T5. He must have been moving pretty good as the bike hit the edge of the sod and launched itself at us. I’m not joking when I say I watched a bike sail at 5-6 feet in the air directly at us. Luckily for us, the bike hit the ground, rebounded and slid back onto the track directly at the exit of T5. The rider followed suit and proceeded to stand up in the middle of the track. The corner station at T5 exploded in people. The yellow flag came out like lightning as people raced out to grab the rider, grab the bike or to desperately try to stop the other riders. Oh, my heart sank as I looked toward the hill and saw the oncoming horde. I vaguely remember somebody screaming “Red Flag” as the din of the engines melded into a single sonic barrage. It was one hell of a mess. The race finally got stopped and the riders sent back to the pits when the red truck appeared and what looked to be the rest of WMRRA decend on the turn with brooms and blowers. Inside of 5 minutes the track was returned to operating condition and both trucks disappeared. Wow. I remember talking with Bones about watching a rider and thinking that he’s operating outside of his area of control. It was simply a question of “that doesn’t look right”. I figure it’s the exercise of this technique that is part of Bones’Ninja Photographer mystical power that enables him to get the pics he does. Well, I won’t say I’m immersed in it, but my normally dormant Jedi powers picked it up for a bit. I watched a rider come down the hill after T4 and start to set up for T5. I remember looking at him and thinking “that doesn’t look right” but not being able to pick out specific feature out of place. He made it through T5 but wiped out in T6. I wonder if this is the same sense that my wife and daughter use when they pick out my clothes? The final incident of the day happened just before the entry into T5. A rider came down the hill obviously experiencing some mechanical difficulty. His decision to pull off the track directly in “Checkpoint Jerome” caused team T5 slight consternation. His decision to sit in the impact zone and monkey with his shift lever was ill-conceived, to say the least. Wil and I ran out to him and attempted a microsecond conversation when he tried to tell us why he thought his bike wouldn’t shift into second from third. As I recall, our portion of the conversation went something like, “GET the @#$@#$^ off the bike!”. He paid no attention to us, so we grabbed him and bike and forcibly hauled them both out of harms way. He was still arguing with us when we finally got him behind the corner stand. For some reason, the idea of 20+ 400lb missiles controlled by novice riders didn’t cause him any particular concern. Sunday dawned less impressive than did Saturday. After I cleaned the snow of my truck, I was seriously wondering if they’d even have a race today. Even then, assuming they did, would anybody show up for it? Obviously, I underestimated the level of insanity. The T4 crew consisted of myself, Brad and Jarod and, in comparison to Saturday, we had a light workload. I ran into Revhard, Tokin and Dawtips and they decided to live dangerously and work T5. Based on previous stories and pics, I imagine any incident at T5 would see Revhard relaying information from the radio, Tokin pointing out that he crashed at that corner with much more flair and Dawtips touching himself. Hey, I could be wrong, I wasn’t even there. Here’s where I feel compelled to make an observation in the interest of fairness. I don’t know Mr. Chrome Wheels; never met him. I’ve read the story of the 2-Fast incident and I’ve heard the tale. Regardless, I’ll point out that Mr. Chrome Wheels was one of only 4 bikes out on the track for the Novice practice at 9am on Sunday. And he wasn’t looking particularly bad. Things went pretty slow for Crew T4. The only real action we saw came in the Vintage class when a rider hit the outside of the turn, lost traction in the gravel and somersaulted. He wasn’t hurt and we pushed his bike to safely. Shortly thereafter I watched him pick nuts, bolts and other small parts off his bike and stash them in a pocket. I guess it really pays to keep all bits from bikes for which you typically must fabricate spare parts in your machine shop, rather than easily order them. He smiled, waved at us at the end of the practice session, walked his bike into a start and drove off. The Novice Race had no incidents. Never have I been more grateful. I now understand why WMRRA requires you to assemble or disassemble the Airfence. It’s truly an educational experience. The fact that you end up completely covered in <yech> notwithstanding – “Hey, you’re the short guy! Get in there and disconnect it from the tires!” – it’s a worthwhile experience. And I hope that I never, ever see it up that close again.