Dirt riding is dangerous.
Two days after my birthday, this race weekend got off to a sketchy start and went downhill pretty quickly, so prepare for some bad news. The word complaining may apply to any one or two events, but it seems that almost anything we did went south. Going up I-15, traffic slowed suddenly and I came closer than desired to deploying some airbags. After unloading at the track, we went to dinner with some friends. In Lancaster. They wanted to go to Olive Garden. We got there around 6:30 to find a two and half hour wait! Not!! The convoy then went to Texas Steerburger or someplace like that. So rather than just hit some where easy like the Cantina or our usual Thai-Chinese place, we ended up making life hard on ourselves. Hours later, we checked into the Motel to find world war 3 going on in the room above us, so we moved down to another room. Then the doors to the next room were open, but required staff to lock. Little stuff, no biggie. Saturday morning, though, was a wake up call. WSMC never received our pre-entries, so we had to post enter at the track. And the post entry fee is $10 more per event than pre-entry; cash or check, please. We don’t normally carry cash or checks, so we ended up borrowing a handful of hundreds so we could ride. Countless hours of preparation, countless thousands of dollars on equipment, and we’re let down by a 37 cent stamp.
We get on track and it’s kinda too warm for the “winter” Pirelli green/soft rear tires and too cool for the “summer” Pirelli street/medium rear. We tried both and Zina almost stacked on the street tire in turn 5, so we put her back onto the soft rear and I stayed with the street rear. It felt great, so we finished the day with dinner at our secret Thai/Chinese food place. We drove on down towards the hotel and pulled into a commuter parking lot for the train to walk the dogs. Upon leaving, Zina got the highlight of her entire weekend. We backed out of our stall (the only vehicle in the whole lot) and a sheriff pulls in to the lot and puts on his lights. I put the van in park and turn off my headlights and he lit us up with his spotlight. We both basically started laughing. Unfortunately, this probably is the least suspicious behavior possible and Zina didn’t get to interact with Lancaster’s finest. Turning in to our room, we could hear the kids in the room next to us, but they went to bed about the same time we did, so that went OK. =)
Sunday and we skipped the first warm-up as per our usual winter routine. Even though the weather is massively nice for winter, it’s still pretty chilly at 8 am. We get out on the 2nd warm up and get in a flying lap when someone crashed and brought out the orange crush flag ending the session. Someone else is having a below average weekend, too. =( They had a plug back out from their engine, where the starter formerly lived.
Race 2, Roadracing World 250 Grand Prix, finally came around and the “Willow Breeze” was kickin at an unusually early hour. Probably a steady 20 mph with occasional gusts. Our race ran as a 2nd wave behind the formula twins race. The Formula 3 125cc bikes started behind us as their own race. The attrition was pretty bad. People were running off the track everywhere it seemed. There were yellow flags from turn 2 to 4. At one point, I was dicing with a 125 rider and passed under him in turn 6 when a gust lifted the bike some. The rear tire lit up and the rear wheel stepped out about a foot. As quickly as it went out, the rear wheel just hung there, so I kept the throttle on its stop. The 125 guy drafted me on the straight and kept ahead of me … then a Ducati brought out the orange crush, ending our race early. I think I finished 6th. Not sure. [no, it was 7th] I pulled in and pitted to get ready for our main race, the Aprilia Challenge.
Unfortunately, our favorite race is not the “Pro Italia” Aprilia challenge anymore, as PI hasn’t picked up the class this year. While waiting for our race, someone crashed and ended race 3, so our tires got some extra time on the warmers. Unfortunately, they called our race a little early and we sat on the pre-grid long enough for the tires to cool some. Out on the warm up lap and I’m on the gas through the super long turn 2 to help build heat in the tires. I’m easy through 3 to not be stupid and down the hill through turn 5 and the rear tire loses some grip. Niiiiiiice. So I really blast through 8 and 9 to get as much heat in the tires as possible. Craig did his starter shuffle and I timed my launch well, heading into turn 1 in the lead. I got through turn 2 well, but with deference to the “breeze”, I gingerly went up turn 3 and could hear a bike behind me. I got my head down and just worked on being smooth and hitting my marks consistently. I still haven’t checked my times, but apparently, they weren’t bad. The wind was pretty strong, requiring me to downshift to 4th on the exit of turn 9, while watching the revs simply falling with the throttle on the stop. Turn 1 was pretty hard, too, requiring care to keep your desired line and speed. After the crossed flags, I worked my way around the track and went a little wide in turn 6, so once back onto the front straight, I took a good look around and saw no competitors, so I decided to back down a little. I was leading my second ever race on my Aprilia and didn’t want to screw it up. I kept my wits as I worked around the track twice more and as I entered turn 9 for the last time, I saw a corner worker running to the corner worker’s station. I know it’s to get a flag to stop the race. As I apex 9 still at 90%, I could see the turn 9b worker start waving a red flag. I put up my arm and looked behind me before stopping and came to a halt along the front straight, just a hundred yards short of receiving the checkered flag.
I started looking around and noticed that I couldn’t locate Zina. The crash truck converged to a downed rider between turn 6 and 7. Then an ambulance. Then the OTHER ambulance. Uh-oh. It’s never a good sign when both ambulances come to the party. Then I see Rhonda start walking towards me from the start finish line. That’s when I knew it was Zina that had fallen. My heart sank. I wanted to puke or cry or go help or something. So I moved up to meet her. Rhonda said that Zina was OK and hugged me. We stayed there for a minute or two then I started rolling to get back to the pits. Tears started to well up in my eyes but after getting back to the paddock, time for that had passed. There was going to be work to do. I got my bike on its stand and hauled out on the scooter to meet the crash truck and guide them to our pit. Get Zina’s Aprilia on its stand and friends started gathering. Then the ambulance arrived. It was good to see Zina smile to me and say hi. We got her out and in the van reclining as I sorted out packing up and taking care of other arrangements like dropping her leathers off with Adolf from Z Custom Leathers, getting my trophy (gag… what a way to win a race), and our carry-overs for missing the 550 Superbike race.
We said goodbye to many friends and pulled out. Jack Pfeifer had told us to get in touch with Dr. Canale of Team Orthopedics, his sponsor. We skipped Zina’s favorite Sizzler dinner so we could get her into the ER. We knew there would be some serious waiting, so I brought my laptop to get started on the race report, as well as snacks and water. They confirmed that Zina’s little foot was indeed broken. The ER doc was worried that more might be broken due to Zina’s incredible pain tolerance, so he made her do a bunch of gymnastics on the bed… move her fingers, hands, and good leg. We rolled out of there at midnight and when we got home, I e-mailed Dr Canale. His message was on the answering machine when we got up and he recommended a foot and ankle doctor in La Jolla. She took new X-rays, saw the massive breaking, and is going to cut open Zina to pin and fix her foot Thursday!
Zina is really awesome in all of this. I’d basically be a whiney worthless sort, while she’s just gettin on with life. Thankfully, her Daytona Security boots saved her ankles. The left boot really took a beating. I wish they did more for protecting the front part of her foot, but compared to what could be, we’re thankful that Zina’s injuries are not worse! She is most discouraged, however, at not being able to work out. We have a routine of 3 days a week, we run 3 miles and 3 more days we lift weights, etc. Of course, she also laments the Kelley 1-2 finish, but this is much less important to me.
We’ve been talking about the crash and Zina’s normal line on the exit of 6 takes her somewhat to the edge of the track. This left little margin for the severe “breeze” at Willow that day and on her last lap, she was off line and off track to the left so quickly, she was only just able to be aware of it happening. Then she shot across the track and highsided, with the bike kind of smashing her leg or more. We’re both thankful that her injuries are so light considering the violence of the crash. We typically get through that section of track between 90 and 100 mph.
Unfortunately, her bike is kinda trashed. With the triple clamp square, the front wheel isn’t straight. The steering damper was forcibly removed via violent front end oscillations, the steering stops sheared off. The fairing stay is bent a good bit and the body work is trashed. The front end tweaking ripped the fender off of its mounts. The left footpeg is missing and the left rear set is bent in over ˝ inch. I’m not sure if the front wheel is round, but the tire is still holding air. A quick review of direct costs associated with Zina’s crash comes in at $4000. Add to this the fact that we’re going to cannibalize our third RS250 dramatically adds to this figure, as we were hoping to sell it soon.
Oh well… “that’s racing”.