Preparing for the (hopfully) upcoming ride to the Grand Re-opening of BOTA’s Crossroads Tavern, S# takes the MSF course. With any luck both he and SurrealChemist will be riding with the Maggots in a few weeks.
Very nice bike that the MSF foundation so graciously provides, complete with real word dents and the finest in 1960’s brake technology (drums on both ends!)
The dewey-eyed riders get their instructions from seasoned professionals (note dopey grin on S#’s face! This must be fun!):
Staging for one of the MSF’s complicated drills:
And away we go!
One full lap:
Looking very good! Clearly he has not forgotten the motorcycle skills from his yoof.
He was SSNJ in my Autocross post, but I am informed that he prefers S#. Scheduled to take the MSF course in September, so it is now open season to shop for bikes.
See if you can name the modles…
I asked Bing and Zig to accompany me to the 6th Autocross run by the Northern New Jersey Region (NNJR) SCCA at Giants Stadium this past weekend. Sure, it was short notice and Bing was unable to swing a kitchen pass. Zig lives locally, but since President Trump was in Bedminster they had declared a 50-mile radius no-drone zone, and Zig won’t do no race event if he can’t get aerial footage.
So I asked a friend from town (the father of one of my younger daughter’s friends). He immediately upgraded me from “friend” to “good friend” and agreed to drive with me. We don’t use real names on this site, so I was planning to use his initials: SS. But we already have an SS so I was figuring that he could be “The Other SS”. But that produces the acronym “TOSS” and this guy has roots in the British Commonwealth, so that would be rude. So let’s go with NJSS to distinguish him from Maryland SS.
And so after helmet fitting from my spare lid supply, a shot trianing drive on Friday to make sure he was OK with the quirks of my car, and minimal preparation (mostly consisting of charging the batteries on my GoPro), we were ready.
NNJR tech opens at 8:30 and we live about 25 minutes from Giants Stadium, so I was at NJSS’s house at the crack of 7:30 AM. His last Lotus training was to drive to the “track” so that I could nap. Weather report was perfect: 0% chance of rain and a high of 78 degrees, so I didn’t even bother to bring the roof. Nothing but a baseball cap and sunscreen between me and the burning orb of the sun today!
Our confirmation email had said that we hit the Autocross jackpot. There would be 3 heats, we would race in heat #1 and do corner work in heat #2. That meant that we would be able to head home early and appease our wives. Upon checking the race officials revoked the joy. Too many corner workers in heat #2, so they moved us to 3. We would have to stay until the bitter end. A True Racer is happy to suffer for his speed.
Tech was a breeze (they don’t even make me open the trunk/engine lid on the Lotus – they just took my word for it that my battery was tightly affixed). Pumped an extra 10 PSI into the tyres and it was time to walk the course.
NJSS is resourceful and had a runner’s GPS app on his phone, so he was able to record a GPX file of the track. Here it is for your edification
Total Time: 00:13:32
Normally I would walk the course 3 times or more, but for some reason time got tight. I blame NJSS for spending too much time ogling the course as a first-time Autocrosser. The course itself was pretty large, and seemed like it should be easy to follow; no crossovers, no double-baks. Mostly a series of 3 slaloms connected by 180-degree turns and gates. It seemed like it would be pretty fast, but pretty easy to follow.
Or so I thought…
When it came time to run our heat (which is to say immediately after the obligatory driver meeting), I learned differently. I took my first THREE runs with an instructor because I discovered that the simplicity of the track was deceptive. There were several gates near the end of the course which just did not compute in my mind. I expect an Autocross to be made of twisty little turns, and so the last 180 kept fooling me. I would run inside or outside of the entry gate and DNF. Bastardos!
But I was right… it was a very fast course. Here are our first two runs:
My first run
NJSS’s first run:
My second run:
NJSS’s second run… sort of. Watch what happens in the first 10 seconds:
I spend a lot of energy telling friends that Autocross is safe. Nobody ever gets hurt. There is almost (almost) nothing to hit. Why, I have only every personally witnessed ONE car get damaged (err… ummm… totalled) at an autocross event. I had to go through this speech twice with NJSS.
Now I have witnessed TWO cars get totalled racing Autocross.
If you watch that video closely, when NJSS pulls back into the grid you can see the carnage. Just to the right there is a vehicle wrapped around the concrete base of the light pole. An, light poles… nemesis of overconfident Autocrossers. I don’t think I’m violating the “no social media” rules of Autocross accidents because A) I am not mentioning the car or date, and B) nobody reads this blog. But I saw it happen, and it was just like two years ago. The driver lost control, and instead of just giving up and going “two feet in” (slam the clutch and brake hard), he tried to control it and recover. The result was the same: he drove straight into the only object in 100 yards that could damage his car.
The car was nice one too. A particular model that is very rare and in huge demand. Shockingly, there were FIVE of them at this event. Well, now there were four.
Oh, also this crash cannot be a secret because a fire truck, two ambulances, and an NJ State Police car all attended to the crash.
If this was the Potomac Area PCA (Porsche Club of America), they would have hurried to pack up the cones and run like the cur that they are. But this is New-fookin’-Jersey. Rare car totalled in a crash? Just pour the goddamned kitty litter, sweep it up, and continue racing!
…but it still took 90 minutes to clear the course. That meant that they reduced us from 8 runs to 6, and we were going to be there very, very late even with the truncated schedule. (for non-Autocrossers: 6 runs is normal, 7 is good, and 8 runs in a day a phenomenal).
And so we went on to finish the rest of our six runs.
NJSS’s re-run of his second run:
NJSS run 4:
My 4th run:
NJSS run 5:
My run 5:
NJSS 6th and final run:
My 6th and final:
What happened to our third runs? I blame the user interface on GoPro cameras. It sucks, and it’s easy to get out of sync. So for those runs I got the talky-talk part with our instructors, not the actual racing. For an idea of what that looks like, you can watch it if you have a high tolerance for boredom:
After that we had heat #2 free. NJSS had packed some sandwiches, and I had packed Gatorade. That amused us for 15 minutes. Then we watched the other racers and… oh my God! Heat 2 was packed with Pros! In fact, one of the racers was the USA National SCCA Solo Champion from 2015! The big Kahuna. And he didn’t even come in first! There were a half dozen nationally-ranked pros racing that day!
So of course NJSS had to pester them until one of them let him ride along as a passenger 🙂
This is him in grid, waiting for the run to start:
And this is the pro on the course, with NJSS holding on for dear life:
And Perry (the Pro driver) was kind enough to share his video from that lap:
Here is the RX7 of the 2015 National Champion (heavily modified! Look at that intercooler!):
And here is what he puts in the gas tank along with 5 gallons of race fuel. Yes, that is two gallons of Xylene:
The rest of the day? Corner work. The course was huge, so there was the potential for a lot of running to reset cones. Also, because of the delays they are running on a very tight 20-second interval between cars. It made for great spectating, but when a cone did get punted, you had to move fast if you didn’t want to cause a red flag or get run over. Luckily, the section I was working on was a loose slalom and 180-degree turn, so drivers mostly kept the cones in place (except for these three Mustangs who did what Mustangs do and got a bit sideways on almost every run).
We did not finish until 5:30 PM. Very late for an Autocross. Luckily our wives are understanding (and we treated them to dinner at Arthur’s for being so generous).
If we are ever to get the larval maggot Josh elevated to full biker status, he is going to have to get more comfortable in the saddle. As his mentor, I have been very busy this Spring and thus delinquent in forcing his training regimen.
Both Josh and I were free this past Saturday morning, so during the week we locked in a plan to do some ride coaching from 9:30 to 11:00. I did not look at the weather report.
On Saturday morning, I got up and prepped the Buell to meet josh. I did look at the weather report, and it showed a slight chance of rain (10%) up until Noon, then a Very Serious Chance of rain after that (like 80%).
So I says to myself “If I get there by 9:30 and we ride for an hour, I’ll be able to make it home before the deluge.”
I did not look at the weather radar.
Got to Josh’s garage early, maybe 9:10. This time, the bike had a fresh battery and his Sena helmet communicator was fully charged. We were set to go with no delays.
There was something funny with the self-storage garage unit where he keeps the bike. The roll-up door seemed stuck, and once it was up it was not stowing properly. It was flopping down inside the garage unit.
Being brilliant engineers, we decided to go inside the garage and pull the door down so we could get a look at the mechanism. We did not bother to remember whether this door had an automatic latch which would lock in place once the door was closed.
So we close the door, using the headlight of the running Moto-Guzzi for illumination. “I see yer problem right here… the coil spring which is used to operate the spool that helps lift and store the roll-up door is broken.”
Okay, let’s open the door and tell the storage company they need to fix it.
Grrrr, *strain* *grunt*… no budge.
Is… this… door… latched now? Neither Josh nor I can recall.
Are we locked in a garage with a running motorcycle breathing carbon monoxide? Ummmm, yes.
Shut the bike. Pitch darkness.
Well, at least we have cellphones and we can use Google to get the phone number of the office for the storage company so they can walk 50 yards to let us out.
But one last try to lift the door, with both of us this time. THIS time it budges. Of course! No recoil spring = no assistance lifting the door, so it only felt like it was latched.
We breathe the outdoor air as Free Men once again.
Now, what to do for a training ride? This storage unit is on the corner of a pretty nasty pair of roads in Metuchen, just across from Cross Country BMW. I suggest we start by going there and doing some parking lot practice. Josh is not so keen on that. Uh-oh. That’s like 100 yards away, with a traffic light. If that is too scary, then where else can we go?
I suggest an alternative: we can make a right turn out of the storage lot, head to Route 287, ride for 5 minutes on the highway and then hit the extremely large parking lot of Telcordia on Centennial Road in Piscataway. I figure this will also be vetoed because it is much farther and involves highway riding.
However, with minimal encouragement, Josh agrees. So I coach him through the turns and de-rusting his clutch skills, and we make it to Telcordia lickity-split.
This turns out to be a brilliant plan. The Telcordia parking lot is MASSIVE and empty, and has a private ring road connecting the front and the back of the building. We practice clutch work first, then move to left and right turns withing the markings of the parking spaces, then circulating the ring road to run up and down the gears, and finally figure 8’s and tighter turns.
we do not look at our watches
We do not look at the sky.
In our defense, Josh was having a huge amount of fun. This was working out well.
Until the first drops of rain hit. Then we decide to head back. Before we even get half way to 287 is is coming down like Bangkok in September (or whenever it rains like a mofo in Southeast Asia). In 30 seconds everything not warded by Gore-Tex is soaked through. For me that means my pants and gloves. For Josh, that means everything except his helmet and boots, but they fill up from water dripping off his pants.
We looked for a parking lot to stop in, found a company lot and then discovered they had absolutely zero awnings or overhangs, so we took partial refuge under a tree.
THEN we checked our watches and the weather radar. The storm had not come early; we had lost track of time while riding, and it was in fact 11:45, right up against the predicted deluge. Weather radar shows no mercy, so we Cowboy Up and ride in blinding rain back to the storage unit. It’s only about 10 minutes, and even the cars on the highway were creeping along at under 40 mph so while I would not do this for fun, it was not life-threatening.
Of course we were super drenched by the time we parked. Weather radar showed that the downpour would be over in maybe an hour, so we decided to go grab lunch. After checking out some places, we settled on a Taiwanese street food place in Edison. This area is very asian, and you can count on Chinese restaurants that cater to real immigrant Chinese people. Places where they don’t even speak much English. In this one, the waitresses were accent free, but the food was absolutely native. Meaning not a single item you’ve ever seen on your local Chinese restaurant menu. Good stuff, but best not to think about the ingredients too much.
By the time we were done, the rain was over. My ride home was saved by the heated grips which kept my hands from seizing up from the wind blast on soaking wet gloves. My torso was fine (thanks, Aerostitch!) but my legs were also coated in sopping-wet denim exposed to 70 mph wind. I’ve had worse rides, and I’ve had better rides.
But the key thing is Josh got in some major practice. If we can do this again (minus soaking) next Saturday, I think he should be able to do it alone without and escort. A little bit more after that and he should be safe to ride in a Maggot palaton.
June 2, 2017
Bing put out the call. Since many of the car maggots complain about having to get up early and go racing at Speed Week Classic (the one that happens in the fall), he was going to host a Speed Week Lite for the express purpose of going racing at the Chesapeake Region Porsche Club of America (PCA) Autocross event in Easton MD on June 3, 2017. This was originally to be held at the Easton municipal airport, but it got moved to a disused Black & Decker factory parking lot when someone forgot to file the paperwork with the FAA.
The course was to look like this:Easton Industrial Info
Turnout for SW Lite was… lite. Scott, Josh, and I met up at Noon-ish on Friday to drive down., Scott in his MB SLK, me in my Lotus Elise, and Josh in the passenger seat of the Elise. This arrangement made for some significant cargo problems. We all packed extremely lite, but there were still 2 full face helmets, plus camera gear, plus duffels, plus gifts of liquor and tobacco for our host. The weather was perfect, and I wanted to take off my roof, but on the Lotus that comes completely off and stows in the area that Lotus jokingly calls a “boot,” leaving no room for any other luggage. So normally I put any cargo on the passenger seat. Except that would be occupied by Josh. Luckily, Scott is a good sport and offered to take some of the gear so Josh would not have to sit with it on his lap for the four hour ride from NJ to MD.
Oh, and why was Josh a passenger and not a driver? Was it because Josh drives a car that sucks for Autocross?
No, that is Scrounger‘s excuse.
Is it because Josh can’t read cones and is afraid he will DNF?
No, that is Zig’s excuse.
Is it because he flew in from Florida and has no vehicle?
No, Andy does that and just rents a Hertz V6 Camaro and drives it anyway, and devil take the rental agreement.
It was because Josh’s perfect-for-autocross Volkswagen GTI was overdue for an oil change and he didn’t want to risk damage.
Fine. We accept your excuse. Take your passenger seat and prepare to be our errand boy and valet for the rest of this trip.
For me the ride was a bit nerve wracking because I was technically still “at work” in the afternoon and had 2 hours of conference calls to take. I used Josh as my phone valet because there is no hands-free kit in the Lotus. He would dial the numbers and operate the mute button while I used a headset and kept two hands on the wheel. Still, the Lotus is a twitchy little beast on the highway, and microphone management sent us wobbling in our lane every once in a while.
we were fully fueled up from the start, so we only made one stop on 95 in Delawhere for caffeine (both in and out). At the same time we hit a spot of traffic which is torture on a roofless manual transmission no-compromises sports car. 20 minutes of stop-and-go had me cursing my decision not to cut the corner onto Route 13.
We arrived by 4:15 PM, greeted by Bing, Brenda, Kayla, SHelby, and Olive. Bing informed us that there was only one other potential SW Lite attendee: Carl Spackler, and we weren’t even confirmed on that. Fine. Who cares. Fewer whiners to bitch about the early start or the fact that we would have to drive cars fast.
Pizza was ordered and consumed with drink valet Josh’s newly created drink on Bing’s brand-new dock bar. BTW, the as-yet-unnamed drink is constructed thusly:
- 1.5 ounces Patron Mocha Tequila
- 1.5 ounces some brand of Chocolate infused Vodka
- 4 dashes of Mole bitters
Yeah, that sounds kind of gurlie but it’s basically pure alcohol at about 75 proof. It drinks like a silk rope hangman’s noose. A few of those helped us agree on a respectable yet sane bedtime of midnite, with alarms set for 6:45 AM to allow a 7:15 departure for Easton.
In the morning we found that Carl Spackler was waiting for us in the driveway as we pulled on our pilotis and fireproof suits. So at least ONE other car maggot has some guts.
the following pictures courtesy of photo valet Josh:
Note the dude with the epic beard on the left… he was driving an MGB with a Chevy V8 motor, but he never once actually finished the course. He missed the last cone just before the right turn into the skidpad every single time. While we were walking the course he commented several times that he would never remember the proper path. I guess he was right on that!
Here are four of my five runs:
Run #1, with an instructor because of all the DNFs we witnessed during Heat One. I wanted to be abso-fucking-lutely sure I knew the course
Run #2, putting in the real speed
Third run, experimenting with the tricky upshift in the slow first box-turn
Fifth and final run
Full race results found here, in case you want to know who among us was fastest:
The racing was over by about 1:00 PM and we were hungry and thirsty, so we voted to accept Bing’s suggestion that we go to the “best Chili’s in the state” just down the street. To this I must note that the very concept of “best Chilis” of any type seemed weird, but it turns out that maybe this chain joint has gotten just a smidge better since the last time I set foot in one over 15 years ago.
After lunch I got ambitious and decided to rig the GoPro on the roof arch of my car and set it to time lapse mode. With shots spaced one second apart, the 30 minute drive back to Bing’s house should take just over a minute on video. This has always worked well as part or Mr. Furious‘ highlight reels from motorcycle trips, so I figured I’d give it a shot. But the car had been sitting in the sun for over an hour. And it is black. So it was hot, too hot to touch, and I felt the GoPro suction cup mount go kinda squishy as I affixed it to the car. This worried me enough to have me reach up and check that the camera was still in place every few minutes.
Like an old gypsy woman, my premonition was correct. About 15 minutes into the drive on Route 50 I reached up to check and found nothing but bare metal. FUUUUUUUUUuUuUuUuUuuuuuuuck! $300 of camera and mount were surely crushed on the road behind us. I had flashbacks to Mr. Furious earning his nickname on the ride back from Deal’s Gap in 2008. I was last in line behind Bing, Scott, and Carl, and I pulled over to the shoulder to decide whether I should circle back and look for the wreckage.
But Josh looked back first, and… Miracle of Miracles, the camera and suction cup mount had hooked themselves on the louvers of the Lotus’ engine cover! So I asked my camera retrieval valet to grab it toute de suite, which he did. This kind of thing could have ruined my SW, but instead I was giddy. But the Camera Gods were not to let me off that easily. It turns out that I hadn’t set the GoPro up correctly, and it was not in time lapse mode. It was in normal video mode, and I will post the final 20 seconds of the huge 15 minute file here, once I get a round tuit.
Surprisingly, I caught up with the rest of the SW crew in short order even in the heavy-ish Route 50 traffic. It’s good to have a small car that can zip in and out of traffic gaps. It’s also good for making left turns across highways with feet… no YARDS to spare before oncoming death. I really don’t see what all the fuss and horn blaring was about. Ignore Bing if he claims I did that with only inches of safety margin.
Since we were back by around 4:00 and there was nobody to bitch about it, we declared a 45 minute siesta and set smartphone alarms. After a refreshing power nap, we hit the Pontoon Boat to meet Brenda at the Redeye Dock Bar where she was holding a raffle for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I once again tried to set the camera up for time lapse to capture the boat ride, and once again it failed me.
Drinks… live music… sunset over Kent Island… really the best kind of finish to a day of racing.
Bing captained the pontoon boat back to his house and fed us home grilled wings, and we emptied bottles of rye and bourbon that I had left at his house on previous trips. And we burned the gifts of tobacco, sending aromatic smoke rings up to the Gods of Motorsports, who had smiled upon us well that day.
Sunday morning we got up fairly early again, around 7:00 for some of us. 8:00 for others. We were in no hurry, and somehow the discussion came to questions about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quattrofoglio. Someone remembered that they had reviewed it on The Grand Tour, so we fired up Netflix and watched that episode on Bing’s massive 78-inch TV. After the show we were feeling peckish, so we fired up the pontoon boat again, collected Olive in her doggie life vest (she’s a sinker) and headed to The Jetty near Kent Narrows for Bloody Marys and brunch.
After boating back to Bing’s house, we bid farewell and headed for home ourselves. One last motorsports experience was listening to the NASCAR race being held in nearby Dover Speedway on the local country music station. The weather continued to be almost perfect, with only a small bit of drizzle hitting us around halfway up the NJ Turnpike. Josh was dropped off back at his apartment, and I made it home just after my wife & kids got back from a weekend at the Alpine Club (famed location of the Catskillcades).
If you were not there, you should be very jealous and have a heightened sense of FOMO for next time.
The biggest Cars & Croissants event of the year is the one hosted at Paul Miller Porsche in mid-Spring. I went there alone this year to take some pictures for your perusal. Note that at this point I barely bother to take pictures of Ferraris and Lamborghinis… there are just so many of them! And Porsches… there are several hundred 911 derivatives so only the most modified or unique are worth a picture.
Here they are:
The owner of this car was pretty friendly and willing to chat about his rare non-Federal Elise… until we saw contrails in the sky. Then he immediately went full tinfoil-hat crazy telling me about chemtrails. It was very awkward and difficult for me to escape. Proves that Lotus owners all have one form of mental problem or another 🙂
There was at least one more AMG GT, but I can’t find the picture I took
That’s all for now.
Picking up my brand new 2016 BMW R1200GS Triple Black at MAX BMW on 4th of July weekend. After selling my beloved Triumph Tiger 800XC, and taking a brief detour on a sport touring bike, I am back where I belong, on and adventure bike. Best bike I’ve ever owned! But then again they’ve all been the best bike I’ve ever owned, when I owned them 🙂
I was wrong. He got rid of it in three months.
Why? The Guzzi V7 is a great machine, but it’s only 55 HP… at the crank. Probably closer to 40 HP after the shaft drive takes it’s power tax. Furious needs triple-digit horsepower to be satisfied. Meanwhile, Konrad Urban put a crowbar to his wallet and bought a new BMW R1200GS, which made his Triumph Sprint redundant. Furious had rode on the Sprint and pronounced it Full of Goodness, but Furious also has no garage to keep two bikes.
Along comes Surrealchemist, with his freshly-minted motorcycle license. He was looking at the usual suspects – Suzuki SV650, Kawasaki EX500, maybe even a Ducati Monster 620. Knowing that he was in need of a forgiving bike but tempted by more enticing machines, Furious made Surrealchemist an offer he couldn’t refuse: $500 off the public asking price of the V7.
Test rides were taken
And so a deal was struck.
Clown rule number one was triggered.
The Ducati 916 was my dream bike when it came out. When it was introduced in 1994, it was unbelievable. The design alone was stunning, groundbreaking. It took the motorcycle world by storm and other manufacturers eventually copied it for their open class sportbikes. It was Massimo Tamburini’s magnum opus, and sealed his position as the greatest motorcycle designer in the world.
At the time the 916 was out of reach for me. It cost something like $17,000 in 1994, about twice what other liter bikes cost. Absolutely out of my reach. But I bided my time and in 2008 I acquired a 2001 996, and my dream bike was in my garage.
But as Spock said: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” What i found was that the 996 was exactly what the motorcycle press said it was: a pure track machine with a horrifically punishing riding position. Aggressive almost to the point of being useless on the street. It was my second bike, my garage sculpture that I took out on occasional Sundays for a half day ride (even though I did do a 1,500 mile long weekend tour on it… once).
Maybe I came to feel that it was becoming a bit too much of an object of art and less of a riding bike. But I planned to keep it, maybe forever, as an icon to the purest sportbike ever made.
And then Surrealchemist passed his MSF course and started looking for a bike, And i went to help him pick a model. And so I visited a used bike dealer. And they had my OTHER dream bike sitting there, in pristine condition. Right there on the floor was a 2010 Ducati Streetfighter S. Essentially a naked version of the Ducati 1098S, the direct descendant of the 916/996/998, but set up for street use rather than track use. This was one of the bikes that I fantasized in my ideal 5-bike garage. It too was prohibitively expensive when new ($18K for this “S” version), just not quite as bad as the original 916. Also, it had been discontinued for 2016, so now it was a potential endangered species.
The model in the used bike shop had 3,200 miles on it and not a scratch. The asking price was about $500 below the blue book value, and they made me a decent trade-in offer on the 996. And so I pulled the trigger on the trade.
And there it is, in my driveway, with my standard daughter for scale. Here are some of the details:
Carbon fiber EVERYTHING!
Brembo Radial Monobloc brakes. Currently the best brakes in the world.
Slim profile as only a Ducati twin can have. Note the bar-end mirrors, installed by the previous owner (the only mod he did).
Other items not shown:
- Ohlins suspension front & rear (that’s like $3,000 worth of shocks alone)
- Forged alloy Marchesini wheels (another $3,000 at least if I bought them myself!)
- 155 HP Testastretta motor
- Traction control (it NEEDS it!)
I will be adding some of my own mods Real Soon Now. Look for further posts.