Things started out on a bad note this month. After damaging my transmission in the last race, I installed a used unit from ebay, and Becker Moto Works looked through the wiring to see if we could locate the gremlin that has been causing the engine to cut out and stutter most of the season. I rode the bike for a short moment and was pleased with the result. Unfortunately things were very different during Saturday practice.
Within a few laps the electrical gremlin had returned, but worse. We started over in the troubleshooting, aided by the fact that the engine would now cut out while sitting in the pits, and not just out on the track. After several swaps and a lot of head scratching, it was determined the main on/off switch was the culprit. The frustrating part was that I had already replaced this part at the last race. The brand new switch I installed was defective!
Although it was absolutely a cause for celebration, we ran in to another problem as well. The rear shock absorber had started leaking, and completely let go early in the day. With no damping whatsoever, the spring was left to flail wildly. This not only caused the bike to weave and buck, it actually caused a severe headshake at the front end while braking. It got bad enough to yank the handlebars from my hands on one occasion. The bike was out of control, and the harder I tried, the worse it got. Some help came in the form of Becker Moto Works, who made some observations about passenger Vanessa McClure’s style. The advice worked, and made things much more consistent, though still a wobbling mess. Without a replacement shock there was nothing to do but finish the race as best as we could.
RACE DAY: SUNDAY
We worked through the 2 morning practice sessions without a hitch, and had a simple game plan for the race; finish. The points race is nearly decided with only 3 races left after this one, with Becker Moto Works well ahead, and our nearest competitors behind not attending this event. Really, we just had to finish. A stunning amount of crashes and delays put our race very late in the day. A few rain drops had fallen, and the track was cold and windy. We only have 6 machines show up , and I was gridded in the middle of the three rows. The Wood brothers were beside me with their snowmobile powered bike. They had replaced their brakes and were looking really good in practice, though they did have some issues as well. They would unfortunately damage the bike on the launch. The belt drive of a snowmobile is not expected to handle the traction of a road racing tire on pavement, and it disintegrated under the strain. I was able to get around the front row and lead into turn 1. The tires were cold and very slippery. We caught a few slides and had a rough time finding traction while exiting the corners.
I didn’ t see Becker anywhere so I was taking it easy, trying not to upset the blown suspension. Eventually the red and yellow mass came through the field and sat right on our tail. I stopped paying attention and concentrated on my own ride. After the half way point he easily drove around the inside of us in turn 3, and began to draw away. I decided to stay with him and see if I could learn anything. What I learned was that tey have a very stable machine under them, and pushing a bike to the limit when it has no rear suspension is a stupid idea. I few wobbles and violent shakes reminded me of what I was doing, and I rolled off, finishing a lonely 2nd place.
This leaves Vanessa and I in a secure 2nd place in the driver and passenger points race. Our next event will be with WERA at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada. I have never been to this track, and the SRA-West has never raced with WERA. It will be a double-header weekend and will draw as many as 12 teams, including a host of fast machines. I am unhappy to get a chance to race in a fast crowd while having no rear suspension, but the fact is I don not have the budget to do anything about it. We will most likely put a solid bar in it’s place; better to have NO suspension than to have a spring with no damping to control it.
I leave you all with a link to some practice footage. A friend let me borrow his camera, and edited this for me. I first give a taxi ride to new friend Attila, who had never been to this track, or on a sidecar. You can see how difficult it is to passenger when there is no frame of reference. At the 6 min mark Vanessa will climb aboard, and you will get an idea of how we work together. It’ s a reason I switched from “driver/passenger” to ” pilot/co-pilot” as a description of our duties. It takes timing, trust, endurance, and concentration to drive a sidecar from the chair.