This year’s A Day In The Dirt gave racers plenty of action with another successful year of Grand Prix events over Thanksgiving Day weekend as amateurs shared the track with pros like Jeremy McGrath, Andrew Short, Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, David Knight, Tarah Geiger, Mike Bell, Jeff Matasavich Kyle Lewis, and Scott Burnworth. Full, official results will be available soon and added to this story, but the event’s finale, the Coup de Grace was won by Johnny Campbell Racing’s Timmy Weigand, second went to sometimes-DR tester Chris Plouffe, and third was had by Blake Savage, on a nearly stock KX250F that he’d just bought a few days before the event.But those fast guys don’t take their time to really experience the track, so I’ll share my novice-speed tour with you.I signed up for two Grand Prix races on Saturday, and Sunday’s finale, the Coup De Grace, a race with no specific start or end time, only a guarantee to keep riders out on the track for somewhere over an hour and a half.
I had my YZ125 Long Haul bike and I couldn’t have had a better machine. Sure the bike gives up a little on acceleration over the big 450s, but the longer the race, the more I was appreciating the 125. I feel like riding a 125 is like doing a cardio workout, while riding a four-stroke is like doing a weight workout. Yeah, you’re moving around a lot more on a 125, but it’s easy to keep going. On a four-stroke, when you hit the wall you’re pretty spent. I was really getting a kick out of catching an passing 450 riders throughout the two days. (Not sure if that says something about 125s being easy to ride or my starts needing work). I was thanking Bones at Pro Circuit every time the bike would just float over the chop and let me ride like a hero across the rolling whoops (the track had two great whoop sections).Like last year, I skipped Friday’s practice day, which made the opening laps of my Beginner/Novice moto interesting. The race was 30 minutes long, so I had plenty of time to catch anyone I was going to catch. The LACR layout took the ADITD track around the upper motocross track, over a pavement section, and then down into and up out of the massive pit five times. The speeds were insanely high, so if that’s your thing, this is definitely your race. The hills were fun, many of the corners perfect, and the chop came and went as they prepped between races throughout both days. I wound up 19th in class, which was mid-pack, after the half hour.My second race was the 30+ GP to end the first day of racing. The 250 Novice wave was a small one, and I caught the leader after about 15 minutes. I was all set to bide my time and let him exhaust himself, but the race was stopped early due to a bad crash. So I finished that day wishing for more track time. I would get it…Sunday’s full day of racing culminated in the (Coup de Gras). This race has no pre-set finish time, so riders must bring enough gas and energy to go until the checkered decides to come out. I was feeling pretty good, and had about five gallons of gas, a quart of Gatorade, and my good buddy Sivan “Z-Man” Zuckerman to pit for me.
The racers lined up by class, from Pro down to the ‘Survival’ class of racers who were just hoping to go the distance. I knew the promoters always did something goofy to catch the racers off guard for the start, so I was ready. I was just wishing the guy next to me ‘good luck’ (not sincerely, mind you) when I noticed a few flagmen getting into a fight, then I saw racers taking off, then I noticed a green flag waving. I was set on not getting fooled, but they pulled the old quick-start and got me.I felt great for the first hour. The pavement section gave everyone a quick rest each lap, and I started to really think about lines. There are two kinds of good lines – lines that save time and lines that save energy. I had a few good picks for speed, and a few others that I knew were the longer or slower way, but missed some of the nasty chop and saved energy. I pulled in at 40 minutes for gas and Gatorade, and a few words of encouragement from Z-Man. He was all smiles, so I figured I was going really fast. That or it was just funny to see me thinking I was going really fast.At one hour, the fatigue got to me. It wasn’t bad, but then even more than before I was glad to be on my 125. The chop could still make the bars twitch like on any bike, but the power wasn’t something I was struggling to control, and the bike still felt light. My lap times slowly went from 4:08 up to a 4:32, and I know I was hitting the high speed sections intentionally slower just to be safe.After a hour and a half I came around and got… The half way sign. I know this race has gone over three hours one year, and I’d been hoping for a long race about 90 minutes prior, but I was ready for a white flag, not a half way signal.
I was intent to finish and not drop my pace off too far, so I tried to gather up a second wind. The next lap I came around and got the checkered flag – the promoters had put the half-way signal out as a cruel joke (or maybe they’d brought out that checkered as a merciful offering).But I survived the A Day In The Dirt Coup de Grace event. The official finisher list numbered 114, with about 20 to 30 DNFs, and I finished 34th, which I’m very happy with (Who’s laughing now, Z-Man?). I got my t-shirt for finishing and loaded up with a sense of accomplishment. Maybe next year I’ll try to Ironman – that’s five events including the Coup.If you want to get your chance to share a racetrack with guys like Short, McGrath, Matasavich, Kehoe, and Knight, start planning next year’s Thanksgiving weekend now (www.adayinthedirt.com). If you have family obligations every year, now’s the time to start the falling out with the family so you’re freed up to race. Christmas is coming up. Is the family getting together? It never goes over well to wear your dirty riding gear to the dinner table…