Posted by: silverback | 2010/09/10

aftermath: best wreck ever

it was almost prophetic. mere days after writing about hurling myself around Road Atlanta faster than i dared, i found myself on track doing just that. the first session after lunch is generally the one where i try to put it all together. i’m generally rested and hydrated, and have had three sessions to work on lines, braking points, to get comfortable with my peers sharing the track.

i was railing. i had figured out some things, the bike was working great, my confidence was higher than i can remember in a long time. then the dude went by. i’d seen him earlier in the day – white bike, light blue leathers. pretty quick -quicker than me.

when he went underneath me into T3, i decided to try to latch on. often a “rabbit” is just what i need to push myself a little harder, to discover speed in places i’m losing time. i pulled him a bit down through the esses, then he pulled back in T5, but i lost no time in 6 or 7. on the backstraight, my freshened 750 engine sucked the bodywork off his newer 600, and i went into 10a as deep as i dared. i noticed my brake lever felt pretty close to the bar, but i attributed it to the 95 degree Georgia summer day. coming into the 3rd-gear left at the end of a 170+ mph straight is the spot to take note of how well one’s brakes are working.

i made it thru 10b, 11, and T12 still with an advantage. i went deep into T1, again noting my less-than-ideal lever feel. it hadn’t changed, though.

dude went by me again out of T4. this is a weak spot of mine – off camber left, and i tend to run too far inside for fear of sliding off the apex, leaving the right entry to the esses open. i followed him again, but got hung in a little traffic going into T6, so couldn’t pass him again on the back. i was still able to keep him within 5 bikelengths or so into 10a &b.

we did this for several laps – most of the session. i would make ground on the backstraight, and from T10 to T2, then he would eke out a little ground in T3-T5; we were even in 6 and 7. i was pushing harder than i’ve ever pushed, braking later into T10a and T1 every lap. my brakes were starting to shudder a bit along with the spongy lever. i figured i could make it to the end of the session anyway – i was having too much fun.

with about 5 minutes left in the 20 minute session, dude got hung in a little traffic at the end of the backstraight, and i was suddenly back within 2-3 bikelengths. we went down the front straight nose to tail and braked impossibly late into T1. my spongy, shuddery brakes pushing me a little bit deeper than the last lap, but i was able to get it turned and through the apex, cranked over as far as i can ever remember. my knee was on the deck, toe tucked up to keep it from dragging, head and torso off the bike and low – nearly below the windscreen. i rolled on the throttle up the hill.

the bike stopped rolling and began sliding, just that fast. the rear tire completely lost grip, instantly followed by the front. i fell the remaining two inches to the asphalt and began sliding myself. i felt my elbow start to burn immediately where my leathers opened up from friction at 100mph, so i let the bike go and flattened out on my back to surf it out. time slowed to a crawl.

i watched in crisis-induced relativity as the bike slid next to me for several yards. i saw from the front tire a puff of blue smoke as the dragging peg and frame slider levered the force of the bike’s deceleration back onto the contact patch. then, impossibly, she simply levitated right off that patch of rubber, rear wheel rising skyward, the bike performing a graceful counterclockwise piroutte that would inspire pride in any ballet dancer. when the tire met the raised curbing at track’s edge, the bike was thrown into a slow-motion barrel-rolling flip. my perspective from the ground, looking up at the top side of the pristine painted tailsection, back tire, and exhaust pipe, completely inverted, flames as if from an afterburner issuing from the tailpipe.

as the bike hit the trackside sod on its outer side, destructive chaos ensued. the bike digging a huge divot with the other frame slider, exploding plastic bits from the intake plenums and windscreen, bright green blades of grass, brutally mowed by the impact method, scattering in all directions.

as i stopped sliding, i popped up and walked to the tire wall, taking one final look at the bike that brought my skillset so far, that gave me more smiles per dollar than any other toy. i knew she was done. moreover, i knew we were done. i had outgrown her, and had been asking too much from a machine of her advanced age and generation-old technology.

still, we managed to set my personal-best lap time together on this day. and she had danced a farewell dance for me, and it was beautiful.

poor, sad, beautiful girl. goodbye.

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