Thursday, June 26, 2008

brian van rossi

OK, the title only makes sense if you know Moto GP champion racer Valentino Rossi. Brian turns 40 in August this year and for this milestone birthday, I wanted him to be able to cross off one of the items on his life's to-do list. So, I surprised him by registering him in a one-day motorcycle race school on the track.

Brian has been riding motorcycles since he was 12 years-old and he has never ridden on a track. He has ridden dirt bikes, street bikes and his current bike is a Suzuki GSXR 750 race bike. He bought this bike on the off-chance that he decided to get on a track. Well, he finally had his chance this past weekend.

He participated in Mike Sullivan's race school at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington. It was a one-day school that mixes off-track race instruction with on-track practice.

We had to be at the track by 8:00am and as we drove down, Brian said that couldn't eat his favourite breakfast - sausage and egg McGriddle from McDonald's - because he was too nervous. I'd be nervous too. He has an opportunity here to open up the throttle on his bike in a "controlled" environment. Knowing the hazards and risks, how far will he push himself? To add to Brian's nerves, I kept reminding him that he has a family now! Hehehe...

The school divides up the day into 5 one-hour sessions. In each session, the riders get 20 minutes of off-track instruction, 20 minutes on the track and 20 minutes of rest. When I saw Brian go by on his first lap in the first session, I got goose bumps. I wanted to be on the track with him. It was SO cool.

Unfortunately, part way through the first lap, a rider that was 2 in front of Brian lost control of his bike and high-sided. The red flags went up immediately and all riders had to clear the course. I didn't see the guy go down. All I saw were the red flags going up and the emergency vehicles going out. I ran back to our set-up area, all the while praying that Brian was back there. He was. Phew. Luckily. the guy who high-sided was OK and actually went on to finish the day with the rest of the group (though he moved out of Brian's group into a slower-paced group).

Towards the end of the day, Brian started to feel the fatigue. After all, he hasn't had a chance to really ride his motorcycle in the last 2 years! He ended his 4th track session early because he said his head wasn't in it and then he didn't attempt to go out in the 5th session. He couldn't concentrate on the turns and didn't feel like he was at his best. It's like when you are snowboarding and you want to keep going at the end of the day, but your legs are jello and you wonder whether you should end on a good run, or do "just one more" at the risk of wiping out. Well, you don't take those risks when you are moving at 200 km/h. I think he made a wise decision.

On the drive back at the end of the day, as his muscles started to tighten up, I asked Brian if it was what he expected. He said it was more than he expected. It was exhilarating and butt-clenching all at the same time! He said it was alot harder than he expected, but given the opportunity, he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Here are a couple of pics from the experience. I will post more on Flickr soon. Since I had Josh with me, I couldn't really get to other areas of the track, so I took a bunch of movies from the same spot on the track's front straight. I posted one of the movies at the end...
Brian and Josh going for a test ride to make sure the bike is track-ready

Our setup at the race site - since we were novices, we forgot to bring a tent and chairs!

Josh checks out the line-up of Lotus Elise race cars

Brian coming back from a track session - you can't tell, but he's smiling from ear to ear

I can't take credit for this shot - a professional photographer was on site and he caught Brian in action


bockman said...

Wow, what an awesome birthday present! Thats one lucky dad...

The Blommesteins said...

When does Josh get his first motorbike? :)