It all started when I found out that the European GP series coming to America would have a vet class. To make matters worse, or better, as the case may be, the race would be taking place right in my own back yard. The word on the street was that 40 of the top 40+ year olds from around the world would go at it with huge crowds watching and all of the other pomp and circumstance that go with an FIM European GP race. My first thought was,“ I wonder if I’m fast enough to run this”? There would be no Intermediate class, which is where I normally hang my hat (or helmet). If I was going for it, it would be with the big boys, the 40+ pros. I decided that I should go for it. What was the worst that could happen? I could get my clock cleaned by some famous old dudes? I could get roosted in an extremely painful and uncomfortable way? I figured that the fun and historical value of the whole event greatly outweighed the down side, so it was full steam ahead.Getting In
The next thing I did was send an e-mail out to the U.S. contact for this race to ask what my chances were. I simply said that I was interested in racing, and had been racing the WORCS series for a few years. Also, I said that I didn’t expect to run up front, and didn’t expect to run in the back either (I should say I hoped). To my surprise, I was placed in an e-mail group that included many of my heroes from years gone by. The administrator of this group was none other than Tom White. The names in this group read like the Supercross line up from 1976-1988. Names like Jeff Ward, Doug Dubach, Jeff Matesivich, Gary Jones, and Chuck Sun. No kidding, these were the big boys who were preparing to represent our country in this Veteran’s Cup GP race. Somehow they needed me, if for no other reason than to fill the gate on race day. That was fine by me, and I told the lady from the AMA that if anyone famous came along and they needed to push me out then I would understand. Somehow that never happened.Red Tape
As the race grew near, those of us racing had to go to our doctors for a physical, and eye exam, an EKG in some cases, and other requirements put forth by the FIM. I have never raced for an organization that made me pee into a cup before. I guess now I have. The red tape was monstrous, and that was just for our bodies. Everything was sent off to the AMA, including notarized copies of liability release, and the mandatory purchase of FIM health insurance for use throughout the event. What was I getting myself into here?Vet Bike Bling
Next I had to prepare my bike. I am an avid rider. I hit the track 3-4 times per week, so I needed a few goodies on my slightly clapped out 09’ YZ450 in order to run this race properly. My friends (I’ll call them sponsors because it makes me sound so much more legit) got together and set me up with Dunlop tires from Orange Coast Automotive, a new Surflex clutch, new Rimwrapz graphics, and a great discount (thanks JER Motorsports in Elsinore) on some fresh Answer gear and a Shoei helmet so I wouldn’t look like the poor kid lining up to race with these 40+ speed demons. Heck, one of my competitors even brought me out a special pipe to use throughout the race so I could pass tech inspection. It didn’t seem like Doug Dubach was too worried about racing me when he gave me the pipe. Haha. Turned out he was right, and it was very nice of him to do that for me. All of this took place in the frantic week before the race. Of course it was fun to bling out my bike and gear, but a little stressful too making sure everything was ready.Passing Tech
Tech inspection really wasn’t that big of a deal. We had to have special VP M8-1 race fuel that cost about $20 a gallon. Not cool, but oh well. We had to have a quieter than normal exhaust, which Dr. D hooked me up with. They run a much different sound test than we do in America. It’s called the 2 meter max test, and they rev the bike to 4500 RPM to test it. I must say that my ears liked it. I heard a lot of spectators say the same thing. Also, we had to run an OEM counter shaft sprocket cover that actually covered the sprocket. What? I had a bitchen Anodized one as specified in the vet rider’s bitchen bike code. I had to leave the track and go over to John Burr Cycles, where they were nice enough to take a stock sprocket cover off of one of the new bikes on the floor for me. That is how it went throughout this race for me. People just helped as much as they could. I owe the karma bank big time.
Now let’s back up to when I first heard about this race. I knew I had a month to prepare physically for this one. I am used to riding often, but to race on Glen Helen’s brutal motocross track for twenty minutes plus two laps twice in a weekend, plus qualifying practices, was something I felt I should prepare for. I started hitting cycle class at the gym with my fitness nut of a wife. I would ride moto first, then go to class with her in the evening several times per week. When your wife and her friends are laughing at you because you can’t keep up, it is a powerful motivator, I assure you. Then there was the rower, the weights, etc. It will bore you to tears if I tell you all of it. I will say that I also rode my dirt bike even more than normal and had a great time doing it. I was ready to race when the weekend came around.Race Day
Saturday morning came around, and boy was it windy. So windy, in fact, that Youthstream postponed practice for 4 hours waiting for the wind to die down some. The schedule was abbreviated and our two morning practice sessions quickly became one practice/qualifying session. I could see the disappointment in the other Vet racer’s faces. We all kept asking each other about the jumps too. It was clear that we were worried about the wind’s effect on our jumping abilities. Well, when we finally got out there on the track, I did a couple of warm up laps. I felt good. I started to flow. I was on lap three, and it was time to run some fast laps and see where I could qualify. In the FIM, your single fastest lap in qualifying practice determines your gate pick for both motos. I had set a goal for myself of 20th place. I knew I couldn’t run with Dubach, King, Nilsson, and some of the others, but I felt I could secure a mid pack spot if I rode well. Then it happened. I messed up. I over cleared the step over jump just before the Talladega start straight. I struck my helmet on the bar pad when I landed, which shoved my helmet into my goggles, which then cut a nice two inch gash into my nose. It also gave me two black eyes. Good times. I knew right away I was in trouble. I was seeing stars. I tasted blood. But hey, at least I didn’t fall off the bike, right? So what did I do? I pinned it, of course. I was breathing through my nose just fine. I had to qualify, and had come too far to pull over for a flesh wound. I finished out the practice session, and qualified 28th. I then went straight to the Asterisk Mobile Medical Unit and got 6 stitches in my face. By the time I got out of there, my buddy Jeff had washed my bike for me, and handed me a fresh set of gear. He said moto #1 started in 25 minutes.Moto #1
I didn’t feel tip top, but I went for it anyway. It was clear to me in my race that I wasn’t at my best. I didn’t ride smart. My bell was still ringing. I did have an awesome time though, even though my result was dismal. I finished 31st in the first moto. I enjoyed the race much more than I enjoyed my result. I was stoked just to be on the same track with so many guys that I respected so much as riders. I then went back to my trailer and relaxed and hydrated. The next day would be a hot one.Moto #2
Sunday morning they allowed us Vet riders a short practice followed soon after by moto #2. I felt much better. The track was chewed up from the previous day’s racing. Lines and jump options that were no big deal on Saturday morning were now scary at best. As Chuck Sun had told me in between practices the day before, “work on the ground game”. As much as I enjoyed the jumps, the real time to be gained in our class was through the turns even more than is usually true. Again I had a great time on the track. The ruts were pretty soft, and very wet. Even the faces of some jumps were rutted. This track was pro level, and as I watched the pros race on it later I was in awe of them because I knew the track was becoming even more technical. I finished 31-29 for 30th O/A. This was not the result I had hoped for, but I think I got lucky to even be able to continue after my error in judgment the previous day. I had the chance to meet and race against some of the best Vet racers in the world, and I learned something. They are just like me, only way faster. Maybe next year.