Memorial Day weekend was WMRRA’s Sprint and Endurance races, which has been consistently iffy where weather has been concerned and if it was anything, it was consistent. Greg Canright (number 888) has been asking me for years to join the endurance races telling me how fun they are, but in my mind just seemed like too much work so I never signed up. Well, I have to say after doing it I’m sorry I hadn’t done it before, the teamwork and camaraderie was amazing and throwing together a team with sheer ignorance was a blessing. Chris Johnson, owner of WMST, came to me saying he wanted to do an endurance team and got Phil Melnyk of Pirelli and Premium Rush to donate the tires, would Troy and I join the team? I offered up my bike for the race and we had originally signed Matt Staples (lovingly known as the Ginger Avenger), but he got injured Sunday during the race and had to pull out. So there was our team Chris, Phil, Troy and myself with Phil as the only person who had any experience or idea what this race would entail. We assigned roles and responsibilities, items that were necessary for that day and Troy got busy making the bike ready for the 6 hours of riding my R6 was going to endure.
Fast forward after the sprint races, most everyone had been there since Friday (track day) and feeling pretty beat, yet there was an incredible excitement and energy in the pits on Monday when the paddock started stirring with people. Everyone had staked out their claim for real estate along the wall the night before, literally sitting on the concrete barriers before trailers were even out to make sure they got a prime spot. The weather never did give, it was misty to misty and dry most of the day and cold, not optimal conditions for the race. The canopies went up and teams started their setups, bikes were fueled and prepped, riders were getting geared and discussing order and time of each rider, signals for emergencies or wanting to come in next lap. The rules of the race requires an expert to start and end the race for the first and last 30 minutes, then the order can be determined by the team and the length of time each rider wants to be on the bike.
Each tank can take about an hour of riding and holds close to 4.5 gallons so we could ride till the light came on or just come in when we got tired. Only one bike can be used, but a team can have multiple bikes with multiple riders in case one crashes out. Troy had a great start and I came on deck next, followed by Phil when we encountered our first little setback. He had only been out 2 laps and we heard over the radio he was pitting out, so we knew something was wrong…one of the rearsets was dangling, the bolt had backed out. No one had thought about that so we did a mad dash to the trailer for parts, which hurt us for time, but since we had agreed we were doing it only for fun we wouldn’t stress. After what seemed like forever we got a bolt (from another Vortex rearset), loctited everything and sent him on his way. Phil was followed next by Chris and I got hydrated and fueled up myself to be on deck for my turn. When Chris came in we checked out the tires and they still looked decent so I went out again, but at this point the tires were getting worn and the team knowing this they had prepped another rear for the remainder of the race. In I came after my turn and the bike was placed on its stand as the tire was changed as quickly as Troy could get it done, then with a tap of the back off Phil went. While picking up Troy realized he forgot the spacer in the wheel and we had to ask control to black flag our rider to pit in. Phil had only completed 2 laps and came in wondering what happened, but a quick redo of the tire swap and safety wire and off Phil went. Phil loves riding and he was so focused all of our attempts to get his attention down the front straight went unnoticed, the rule required an expert to complete the race so we had to get him back in, we finally asked control to black flag him. Troy finished the race for us, no one crashed, we had a few snafus and poor Phil got black flagged twice (although he wasn’t in trouble we just needed to get his attention), we didn’t have a program down for issues and we didn’t have a quick fuel can, but we ended up 7th out of 15. Not bad for a group of riders who threw together a team at the last minute completely unaware of what they were getting into.
If you’ve never done an endurance race, you should! Get a team together, 4-5 is perfect and no one gets too tired. Have spouses join in for moral support and help, it was more fun than I ever thought it would be. We had a team next to us that was just a blast and while everyone is competitive, it’s really just about the love of the sport and sharing that with others who have the same affinity. The season is upon us and track days are rampant, find one and signup to really understand why we love this sport so much. If it is your first time on track, sign up for a school, if it’s been a while get a refresher. Riding is a dangerous sport, but we can take the element of surprise out of it by arming ourselves with knowledge and skills. See you out there on track or on the street!