This would be the first race of the year that I would not have my regular passenger, Vanessa McClure. However, Josh Fogle was able to fill her slot. Josh did a very short practice stint with me though and handled himself quite well, so that freed up much of the Saturday practice to work with my passenger for Pikes Peak, Giorgina Gottlieb.
Gina has no racing experience and has never been on a sidecar. My fear was less that she couldn’t get the technique, and more that she would completely freeze at high speed. You can work around a bad passenger, but someone who locks up in a high stress, fast paced environment can quickly get you killed. The real kind of dead. I had only met Gina once at a concert, so I was eager to see if she could handle things.
Although a road-racing sidecar is very different from a motocross sidecar, the speed is much higher and therefore a great way to test a person’s timing. I ususlly only do 3-4 laps in practice, but with Gina making the 400 mile trip from the San Francisco Bay, I stayed out the entire 20 minutes, getting in 6-7 laps. Gina is much lighter than my normal passenger Vanessa, and I was stunned at the difference in handling. The chair was off the ground no matter what I did, and I changed my lines through the left turns to compensate. Gina was hanging out all the way though, and her transitions were the typical way-to-late of a novice passenger, but not unduly so. We built a lot of speed throughout the day, with a fastest lap about 2.5 seconds of my normal times. This is pretty good with a rookie passenger. I feel that with the slower speed of the motocross hack, Gina will be able to learn technique just as fast as me. Remember, I have never driven one, only passengered. It will be an exciting week.
Practice with Josh Fogle on Sunday morning was interesting. He was very late in some important transitions. We imporved in the second session though, but I had a strong feeling I would struggle to keep up with the leaders. This is no surprise, as I rode the fastest I had in my life last month against Bill Becker, and only managed to beat him because he thought there was one more lap. Wade Boyd was not there, and having him back meant the pace would be much accelerated.
My front row start was good, but coming out of turn 1 I saw the purple of Wade and Red/Yellow of Bill behind me. With new brake pads I was suddenly able to slow down; something I was struggling with all year since we put the new engine in. Trying to take advantage of this, I overshot turn 3, but the fast guys behind me were waiting for their tires to come up to temp before striking. I fumbled together a good first lap, but the machine was sliding everywhere. I still don’t know if it was the extra weight of Josh or the tires being rather used up, but I could not get a “planted” feeling in the high speed corners.
Again I blew turn 3, this time going EXTREMELY wide. This caused Josh to have to stay out to hold the chair down, as I was unable to get on the throttle hard enough to hold it down myself. Now he was forced to scramble over to the right for turn 4, which immediately follows. He couldn’t do it fast enough (no human being could) and this sent Bill and Wade around the outside. The actually couldn’t fully make the pass, or maybe decided not to try as I was wobbling and sliding like a lunatic, trying to build up speed. When we got the the bottom of the hill for turn 5, I over shot it too. At that point I knew I was over my head and holding up the two bikes behind me. I rolled on the throttle only to about halfway and waited for them to squirt by me.
Now in third place I decided to keep in touch with them and learn something. However, Bill was checking out, and I began to lose Wade as well. Here’s how it works:
First you get into the corner too late and you aren’t sure the passenger is in position. You fixate on them but you are supposed to be rolling on the throttle. Now you are wondering if the passenger will transistion. Of course, if you aren’t on the throttle in a left turn, the chair will stay in the air. The passenger stays out because of this, but you are looking at them waiting for them to transition, but they’re waiting for oyu to get on the gas so the chair will come down. I do this much too often to call myself an expert, and I did it almost every corner to Josh.
However, the race ended with Bill far ahead, Wade a few seconds ahead, with Josh and I in third. Trophy in your first ever sidecar race? Not bad, I must say. The season enters a long dormancy, with no road racing until September when we visit Miller Motorsposrt Park in Utah. This is my favorite event of the year, and I will be busy getting the sidecar ready for paint so we can have a good show at Miller.
But now all eyes turn to Pikes Peak. All my focus and attention is on the summit, 14,000 feet above the sea. I hope this summer lull continues next year, as I would like to try my hand at vintage motocross. I recently found a company in need of test riders near where I live, and I would like to build up some dirt experience for my resume.