DAYTONA REPORT 2000
A twenty seven year old dream finally came true for me last Monday. I finally won a motorcycle race at Daytona!! I won the Formula 250 race on my Yamaha TD3!! And what a race it turned out to be!
A battle right down to the line between myself and Harry Barlow on his Yamaha 250 "Barlow Special".
Here's my lap by lap description of the way the race unfolded:
I started on the fourth row of the grid. At the rider's meeting the day before, the Starter had shown us his procedure. When the one minute board was turned sideways, he would count to 4 and then drop the flag. So I was primed and ready to count when the one minute board went sideways. The board turned sideways and I counted to four and dropped the clutch! Uh oh, too soon - thought I had the count wired but I was wrong! Must have been the adrenaline pumping in my veins! I was just able to get stopped before my rear axle crossed my start line which would have caused me to suffer a stop and go penalty - a death knell in a sprint race! Big mistake on my part as now I was at the back of the pack as we entered turn one. I could see as I rounded turn one that Harry had already moved up to fourth place as we headed to the International Horseshoe. Unfortunately for me there were about ten bikes between me and Harry. I knew I really had to get busy if I was to have a chance.
At the end of lap one I had managed to get into fourth place but as I looked across to the exit from the Horseshoe, I could see that Harry was starting to pull a sizeable lead on me as I was working my way through traffic.
By the end of lap two, I was safely in second place but a long way behind Harry. So I put my head down and really started pushing HARD!
By lap three I begin to realize that I was losing time to Harry on the west bank but gaining ground on the east bank and in the infield so I started pushing even harder!
As lap four started I had almost caught up with Harry and at the same time we were about to start lapping some of the second wave bikes. Harry rode up to three of the lappers as we entered the Horseshoe. He elected to ride around the outside of the lappers so I just stuffed it under all four of them and came out of the horseshoe in the lead! It really caught Harry by surprise. But Harry sure wasn't done yet!!!
I held the lead until we were about to enter the chicane on lap five. Zip, Harry got me on braking and now he was back into the lead. I decided to see if there was any chance of a draft pass coming off the east bank - and there was!! I was back in the lead as we crossed the start/finish line going into the last lap. Now my question was should I let Harry by and
then set him up for the draft pass before the finish line? Or should I just press on. For reasons that I don't even understand myself, I decided to just keep pressing on even though I was very concerned about Harry doing to me what I had just done to him on the previous lap. Or maybe another late braking move going into the chicane. I really expected to see Harry as I entered the chicane, but it didn't happen! Now I was REALLY concerned about a draft pass. I remember thinking that it sure would be great if I could use the old "weaving" trick, but that got banned a number of years ago. So all I could do was start out high on the bank and slowly work down to the bottom as we exited the bank and started the run for the finish line. Usually I can just "sense" when someone is right on my ass, even if I can't see them. But that feel was not there - then the finish line WAS!!
Turns out that Harry had made a bobble and dropped just far enough back that a draft pass was not possible.
And just to show that even an old man can rise to the occasion, my last lap was almost one second quicker then my earlier laps.
I don't know where that came from – must have been a gift from God!
AND AFTER 27 YEARS, MY DREAM FINALLY CAME TRUE!! I'M A DAYTONA WINNER!!
But wait!! My adventure wasn't over quite yet. We also had the BOT 2stroke race to run. We had ignition trouble in both out practice sessions. We thought we had found the problem after the last session. But during the warm up lap I found that the problem was still there. Since I was gridded on the inside
of the grid I decided to take my starting position knowing that I could stay low and not be a road block to the other riders behind me. Sure enough I quickly advanced to the rear of the pack as the ignition problem persisted. Then about three quarters of the way through the first lap all of a sudden she just chimed in and took off!! All of a sudden I had a real race bike between my legs - and boy did I take off!!! Even though I knew that a good finish was not possible, I kept pushing because I was riding really
well and having a great time. 'In other words, I was "in the zone"!
And I love being there!! Greatest feeling in the world!! Then as I entered the exit from the chicane to the bank on the sixth lap all of a sudden the rear tire just let go - and then caught!! Now I'm telling you what - I thought I had crashing and I was waiting
for the pain that was sure to follow! I thought for sure I was going to get an ambulance ride next!! The tank slapper of my life had just occurred! All of a sudden the bike settled down and I remember seeing my front wheel and green grass! I was still on the bike, by the grace of God, but mostly laying on top of it.
I don't know how I managed to get back into the saddle, but I did! I decided to re-enter the race only to discover that I was stuck in third gear due to the fact that my foot had completely jammed the shifter under the frame during the "slapper" Good
thing too, as we discovered later that the oil breather line from the gearbox had come loose and left copious amounts of gearbox oil in the fairing and all over the rear suspension. That's where the scariest tank slapper of my life came from!! Just enough oil got on my tyre, and that's all it took! I spent most of the rest of the day thanking God for looking after me!!
After all of this, the F500 event on my trusty TR3 was rather anticlimactic but here's what went on. I started in the fourth row and got a halfway decent start but I could see that Chris, Miyagi and Harry were quite a ways ahead by the time we started lap two. I was still getting the head shaking that's plagued my TR since last year, in the west banking, and quite frankly, it was frightening - so I opted to take it easy and not risk the farm when it was obvious that I was getting my ass kicked real good anyway! Chris won going away and Miyagi was second followed by Harry and then me! Hey, I got no complaints - fourth isn’t bad - what the hell - I've just had my best Daytona ever!!!
Know the old saying "been there - done that"? Well, I could never say that about a motorcycle win at Daytona.
Not in twenty seven years - till last Monday - now I can!! - I truly have been blessed by God!!
The Grey Fox.
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