Fear is a terrible thing. All season I've been struggling to shake off the constant veil of fear that accompanies me on every track session - sometimes almost paralytic, often just a constant distraction that clouds my judgment and keeps me from the focus I need in order to have fun.
While I wrote back in May that I got my groove back, that statement was relative to the earlier sessions this year where I was struggling with a neglected F1, a new track (Calabogie) and more pain than I had ever anticipated. But with each trip back to the track, it seemed that the pain became more tolerable and with a ton of work on the F1 electrics, a valve adjustment, new belts and some basic maintenance had the bike running its best ever. The laps at Calabogie became less work.
The Hyperstrada really saved my bacon in the June sessions by giving me a comfy ride and some great entertainment. It's a strange package that requires a super soft input to stay settled and planted and feels like its leaned waaaaay over given the
nosebleed height. It seems I've taken enough weight off the bike to run me out of adjustment on the Ohlins front so the bottom line is that I'll need to have the forks re-valved to get the harshness out and more rebound in. It was my only ride at the Team Pro-Motion event in late June and I spent the event following Fran around as I tried to wrap my head around the 20 mostly blind corners at Calabogie. We improved each session and during the last one, I started to really rock (dragging the right side rear-set on a few occasions and finding some interesting lines through the back half of the track. The reduction in fear was so subtle that I really didn't notice it - and on about the 4th lap, when Fran left the door open for an inside move at the end of the back straight, I was as surprised as he was when
I put the dagger between my teeth and went into the blind three corner combo with hitherto unknown gusto. The glove having been summarily dropped, we put our heads down and went at the course for real and were hip deep in serious fun when the red flag came out.
Those wild men from Quebec had enough psych going in the re-gridded hot pit that we were intimidated enough to give the last run of the day a pass. With four successive red flags in the truly fast guy class, it s eemed like the Pro-Motion guys had lost control and we were damned if we were going to go and mix it up with the liter bikes given the level of testosterone in the air. I was a happy guy anyway - having experienced a truly focused session for the first time in over a year.
Next up was the 1st ever DOCC event at Calabogie and this time I was truly looking forward to getting back on the F1 and having some fun. Given that we're the local guys, Fran and I agreed to put out some braking and turn-in cones Friday night and then made the fundamental mistake of inviting along a half dozen passengers in Rob's pick-up. Crabbier than usual given a back injury that had him walking like a refugee from Miami Beach, Fran was less open to discussion on cone placement than he would have normally been - and the whole affair got complicated by a raft of well-meaning but less than accurate suggestions from the attending group. So, in the end I'm not sure what the green cones signified - other than providing some additional off track reference that could be used to find one's way around the primarily blind track. Green cones could have been interpreted as: Turn in here, Make sure you're on this side of the track, Prepare to turn in soon or Good Morning -hope you have a fine day. On the upside, I took the opportunity to pile up a whole bunch of red cones at the apex of Temptation so I could see it while hopelessly lost mid-corner. But the sessions were brilliant. I was riding well, the track was starting to flow and the weather was staying dry. Then the first black flag came out and was pointed at me just before lunch. It seemed that Jane Blin of CMP was taking db readings at the exit of the corner preceding the back-straight and my F1 (which had in its newly baffled form had been fine to date) was going over the 100db on track limit. We figured that the very low cloud ceiling was giving higher than normal readings and that being in a gang of Ducs probably wasn't helping either. And let's face it - I was hammering the F1 like never before. So after another borderline pass on the static sound check and much shrugging of shoulders, I parked it and went out on the Hyperstrada.
And got black flagged again for noise. Damned if the Hyperstrada wasn't reading almost a db higher than the F1.
At this point, the track management and I figured that if I avoided riding in a pack and kept a low redline with ¾ throttle, I'd be good for the rest of the day - so I jumped back on the F1. Fran and I gridded with Bruce Meyers on his TT2 and the three of us reckoned we could do some cool stuff if we gave Bruce a break on the horsepower side. Bruce - just to hedge his bets - took off like a scalded cat and with my self imposed 6,500rpm redline and ¾ throttle rule our bikes were well matched. But Bruce has gotten waaay faster, so it was all I could do to stay in touch with him - gaining in the mid-track section, but losing ground in the back third. We was smokin' though.
Sadly, a red flag ended the day and it simply pissed rain all day Sunday. The high point of the weekend had to be the session with Bruce Meyers and the long overdue transition to that state of mind that keeps me going back for more. The fear was moving way into the background and the track was becoming more familiar. Calabogie is breathtaking when it works - with incredible traction, smooth pavement and fantastic corner combos that made me smile every lap.
Sunday evening, I packed up and headed to Mosport for three days with Pro6 Cycle, anxious to revisit the track with my newfound confidence and equally keen refit the open mega on the F1 so it could bellow like Fabio Taglioni intended. Sandy and his crew put on an excellent event and while I got some great laps in on both bikes Monday, it was clear that I still had some Mosport baggage that was going to be difficult to unload. Worst of all, I couldn't get my visual focus down-track and had to work diligently to get my eyes off the pavement directly in front of me (and those slippery concrete patches). Regardless, I managed some 1:40s and a couple of 1:39s on the F1, but they weren't what I'd call enjoyable. With a predominantly Japanese liter-bike crowd running in the fastest class and some truly scary speed differentials at the end of the back straight and some of the faster corner entries, I bumped down a class on Tuesday and had my best (most fun) sessions carving through traffic on the Hyperstrada.
By the end of Wednesday it was clear to me that Mosport was going to take time and lots of laps for the old comfort level to return - and that racing in the VRRA Festival this August was off the menu. I've got a four week gap now until a couple of Calabogies, Mt. Tremblant and then a final Calabogie in September. Yesterday, I fabricated a small end can for the F1 exhaust to further cut the sound - using a bunch of exhaust bits that were lying around the shop. The end product looks surprisingly good, retains the mega effect and definitely will keep me under the radar at Calabogie.
Now my lawnmower's louder than the F1. Loudbike, indeed.
Content: 1987 Ducati 750 F1, 2005 Ducati Multistrada MTS1000S, loudbike, Steve Munro