The final stretch of the Pikes Peak course is definitely and eye opener for an asphalt racer like myself. From Devil’s Playground until the last mile or so is loose gravel. The cars had already practiced up there the past two days, which pushed much of the loose stuff to the outside of the turns. I quickly noticed that the lines used by the cars is different from a sidecar race line though. The cars dip their wheels off the inside of the course in faster corners, using the hump from shoulder-to-road as sort of a berm. As we started building speed, I started to use this line in lefts, but in right turns the chair wheel bounced violently, throwing Gina around and upsetting the bike. Staying on the actual roadway was also tricky, since going the least bit off-line put the steer-wheel into the loose stuff pushed out there by the cars.
There were several fast corners and several hairpins, and remembering which was which definitely became a priority. The altitude up top definitely robbed the engine of power, and it developed a stuttering behavior as I tried to roll the throttle on. I countered this by slamming the throttle open, but this upset the handling and almost yanked Gina off the back. Really, the highlight of the morning was the pit area. We were pitted next to the Ducati team, which were putting a big effort forward. The effort was coordinated by Malcolm Smith Motors. We had met motorcycling legend Malcolm Smith the day before. Malcolm is most famous for his appearance in the film “On Any Sunday,” However, he has a huge list of racing achievements from all over the world. Hanging out with the crew and people was pretty fun, as they were definitely gearheads like myself. The bikes they ran were the new Multistrada 1200, and they were surprisingly close to stock. The effort was first-rate though, and the bikes had been extremely fast all week. Malcolm was open with advice for Gina, and even at 69 years old, he still bristled with enthusiasm for motorsports. In fact, he had “gotten bored” watching his son race last year and decided to enter the event himself! Obviously, this was a great group of people to be around.
With the last day of practice over though, it was obvious we would be slow in the race. The inability to handle right hand turns was killing my confidence. The bike pulled left, but pulled right under braking. The rear brake pedal sat very high making it hard to finesse. This was all compounded by my lack of experience with this type of bike. A road racing sidecar is vastly different. I kept telling myself that it was a learning year; I had come to learn the course, so I could bring my own sidecar next year… not to set world records.
Despite having his own race to run, Dave Hennessy helped me out as much as he could. He had ordered up the big guns; a 50lb free weight that he had used last year to help his own sidecar effort. By lashing it to the chair, it would help make up for Gina’s light weight and maybe stabilize the bike in right turns. We wouldn’t know until the race though. There really was not reason to worry about it though, so I concentrated on Friday night Fanfest.
Last year I did not attend Fanfest, and I now believe that was a mistake. The nearby town of Colorado Springs serves as bas camp for the event. It has a pretty slick looking downtown, of which several blocks are closed down to allow for the top qualifying machines from each class to be on display. Among them are many vendors, with many stores and restaurants open for business. Since Dave owned both bikes, he brought them to display. Gina and I spent some time hanging out there, answering questions and doing the press stuff, but we were feeling like fans ourselves and went roaming around to check out the scene.
The vintage cars were the most striking to me, with many of them absolutely immaculate, and bristling with horsepower. Gina spotted a Japanese restaurant and decided to treat me to some awesome sushi. What a gal! thoroughly full and happy, we strolled around a bit, did some shopping, and then caught the freestyle motocross exhibition. This stuff has always been cool, but when it’s done on asphalt it really gets my attention. The guys were pretty good, nailing backflips and tailwhips one after another. Anytime a talented rider makes their craft look easy it earns my respect.
By the time the exhibition was over the sun was down and we were getting ready to head back to the cabin. On the way out, Gina spotted a cool little bar and we stopped in for some pool. After being kind enough to let me win the first two games, she then proceeded to beat up on me, but was buying the drinks, so I could only smile. Te night couldn’t have got much better. Seeing hardcore race bikes, being treated like a celebrity, and being wined and dined by my passenger… and all with perfect weather.
We settled in to the cabin to finish off the night, still basking in the afterglow of a great night out. It really helped me, as I had been constantly stressing, then relaxing, then stressing, and so on The whole event is also my only real vacation of the year, so to forget to enjoy it is a real shame. Afterall, the better you feel, the faster you ride. Fanfest was a good reminder to enjoy the sport I love. Saturday would be a final day off to go over the bike, install out ballast weight, and then Sunday would be the big day.
Up next, RACE DAY.