There’s nothing like racing to get the competitive juices flowing. In that moment, it’s just you, your motorcycle, and a grid full of other gladiators waiting to do battle. Success is sweet as you reap all the rewards. Conversely, any mistake is entirely on your shoulders.
In 2010, I was racing at Miller Motorsports Park as part of the local Utah Sportbike Association Masters of the Mountain series. It was a club racing organization full of good souls and fast racers. While I had won some endurance races that season, I was itching for a good result in a sprint race. I’d come close to the podium before, but never quite made it.
But one day in August I felt different. For whatever reason I felt like this day was going to be my day. It’s difficult to describe, but any rider can relate to those days when you’re “feeling it” and others where your head is in another place. On this day, I had total confidence. I knew my ride, a very stout Honda CBR1000RR, was up to the task, it just needed a capable pilot.
The Miller Motorsports Park West Track wasn’t my favorite of the four configurations, so I asked Brian Whipple, a good friend, fast racer, and photographer extraordinaire for some tips. “You see this last turn before the start/finish straight?” He said to me. “It’s a great place for a last-lap, last-corner dive up the inside if you’re close enough. There’s lots of room and people generally leave the door open since it’s not the fast way through there.” Before leaving, he says to me, “Oh, and I’ll be standing there with my camera all day.”
As I lined up for my race, I got a terrible start, shuffled back to fourth, and the leaders took off. Angry with myself, I knew I had my work cut out for me. As luck would have it, two of the front runners took each other out (they were fine), gifting me second place with the Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Tommy Richardson just ahead. Tommy and I had raced multiple times before throughout the season. I knew his strengths, he knew mine, and what transpired next is one of my favorite racing memories.
He slowed to avoid the crash ahead, allowing me to cover the gap between us. From there, the two of us swapped positions for the lead every lap of the race, leaning on one another through every corner. It was a high-stakes game we were playing, but we trusted each other implicitly.
My Honda had the horsepower advantage over Tommy’s Suzuki, and at the start of the last lap I motored past for the lead. From here, defense would be my strategy, as I knew he would be right on my tail. My plan was working, as he failed to get by me in some key areas. However, as we entered the “Indecision” and “Precision” set of corners, which are fast and tricky, and come near the end of the lap, Tommy slipped past, like he had been setting me up for this. I stayed on his tail as we approached the final corner, and I suddenly remembered Whipple’s words of advice that morning, “Last corner, last lap.”
Sure enough, as we approached turn 10, the final corner before start/finish, Tommy left an inch and I took a mile. I snatched away the inside line, knee on the deck, finger still on the brake, hoping to scrub enough speed without falling. We both ran wide, and as we finished the corner it became a drag race to the finish line. I won. True to his word, on the cool-down lap I saw Whipple, long lens in hand, standing in the perfect spot to capture what I now call, “The Pass.”
Victory always brings about a great sense of accomplishment, and back in the pits Tommy and I shared high fives and a few howls as we both just rode the race of our lives. Thinking about that race never fails to make me smile. Any racer will tell you, it’s moments like these that make the money we spend and the sacrifices we make towards pursuing our passion absolutely worth it.
What are your great racing stories? I’d like to hear them. Tell us about it in the comments below.