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On The Podium Wera Gnf National Endurance Series


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Well, We got on the podium, Team Orthopedics. Third place 600cc class Grand National Finals National Endurance Series....The year started out pretty crappy but looks like there was a happy ending. We finished tenth overall so not to shabby. What fun that was! I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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Concrats Fossil! Well done. You will have to post up a few pix from the event if you have any.

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I was thinking about how to write this but let me start by saying that it was all done in fun. The reason we started this was for the experience, try something new, one more thing to say we did. One day we are sitting in the shop changing oil talking about this and that, about racing and then all of a sudden you are asking each other, why not? What would it take? Ok, let's do it!

The core group we started with changed over time. The demands, disappointment, stress, and schedules were to much for some and also the realization that we weren't looking like winners. Some people start out with expectations that are just to far out of reach. Sometimes the ego's of certain ridiers are just to much to keep the team together, doomed in a quagmire of arguing over set up, tire choices and rider order. Who starts and who takes the checker. Really? Yes, really!

Some teams have nicknames for there "special riders". The set up has to be just right for that one rider and usually they are the "A" rider. more later....

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Building any team is definitely fraught with challenge. I've managed teams for years and always wished I had that silver bullet for making people work together. I still haven't found it, but I saw Patrick Lencioni speak on "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", a condensed version of the book he wrote of the same name. I was impressed enough to read the book and recommend it to anyone wanting to build or contribute to a team.

 

One thing about building a team though, if you survive the trial and tribulations, it can be really satisfying. Individual glory is great but it's so much more rewarding to be able to share it with someone. At least it is for me.

 

Congrats on that aspect as well Fossil!

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Thanks my friend, I will definitely take a look at the book.

To continue the saga.....We arrived at Road Atlanta on Thursday afternoon around lunch. One of our team riders had not seen Road Atlanta since 1996 and his friend, who was a young an exhuberant track day novice, were both in awe of the track. Road Atlanta is one of those tracks that has access every where for viewing. So, once you get there and see bikes circulating you want to watch.

We had all these plans for using another riders sprint bike's suspension and another had a spare wheel, I brought a spare 520 chain and another had sprockets. Of course, I'm the only type A maniac that was wondering why we weren't getting the bike ready and everyone else was just loving being there. The race was to start at 11:30 the next day. I had been through the drilling and safety wiring under rope lighting at Barber and had driven 6 hours. I was not going to work till the wee hours of the morning putting a bike together. Really, I wasn't.

Our team mates back up bike became the primary bike for him since he lost the top end. We had hoped to use his suspension for Road A but that plan was quickly becoming a fantasy.

The chain was put on and sprockets were changed to suit the track. Take off tires were donated for the race, Dunlop N-Tec dot's, 6680 compound. All was mounted and everyone took a turn on the bike during race practice to check the loading on the front forks. We decided to change the preload in the front and make a few adjustments to the rebound in the back.

There were plenty of familiar faces. When you race with the same organization for a while, it begins to feel like family. You see the same friendly faces, the same kids that race one day and are on skate boards the next or they are sending remote controlled cars under your canopy knocking something over and running off apologizing, the invitations to knock a beer back and the tv less nights where conversation and music fill the hours. more later,,,

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THe night before race day we all went out to eat and discussed the weather forecast for the following day, a 70% chance of rain. Have you ever found anyone who just loves riding in the rain? I didn't think so. The troubling part of this was that we weren't technically "real" racers. We didn't have everything for all contingencies. A rider across from us asked if we had rain gear or extra leathers, rain tires, etc. We had rain tires but I dreaded the thought of getting up Saturday morning with temperatures in the high 40's getting ready for race practice and having to put on wet leathers. I went through every contingency in my head from buying blow dryers to mighty vacs and how I would duct tape them in various places to dry my suit. Just so you know, it didn't rain.

We all took a spin on the bike during a thirty minute practice session and blessed it as rideable. A few tweaks here and there for shifter position and preload and we were ready. We started out the race with our "A" rider. A friends daughter came out and counted laps for us. We calculated fuel consumption per lap and had good signaling for pit stops.

Our "A" rider came in and we switched thinking that we were doing pretty well. One things for sure, in an endurance race it doesn't take much to bite you in the butt. Our second rider came in after one lap. He said fuel droplets were hitting his face shield. We looked all over the bike and couldn't find anything. Wow we just lost all the time we had made and then some just by that one lap pit stop. We discovered what had happened. THe gas tank on the R6 had a key operated tank and one of our "pit crew" had taken a Vortex gas fill cap and installed it on the tank but forgot to put the gasket on. Gas would slosh out of the tank and into the over fill hole. Luckily, it wasn't enough to catch the bike on fire.

My ride was eventful. I started out on this R6 which had about 40 less horsepower than mine. It is very important to be consistent shifting and I was having problems in the first few laps. There is also a chicane that WERA and the AMA use to slow riders down a bit before we go through the esses and into turn five. I was having a hard time hitting that every time. I was into my 17th lap when I noticed a bike in front of me trailing smoke down the back straight, I noticed as he went through the kink more and more smoke. As I reached the kink, I saw his engine let go as he went down the hill into turn 10A. I immediately got as for out of the race line as I could throwing my arm in the air, "Red Flag"!

My ride was over, 18 laps worth. We cycled through the other riders and the checker came out before I could ride again. THe time it takes during a red flag is part of the race, the time keeps ticking off so the riding time is reduced. Another point to make is that if your team gains a time advantage and it is about a laps distance, this is erased on the restart. Everyone is lined back up on the grid so unless you have several minutes in the bank, you start over.

We did well and I am proud of everyone on our team. We had a blast and the experience and friendships made it worth while. We have started looking at some sponsors for next year and hope we have a bike that stays together and luck is on our side. Oh, and no rain. Cheers!

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