No Fear. By Bob Brown
Across my gas tank are the words “No Fear.” Below is the cross of Christ. The rain beads up on the tank and water runs off it.
It is raining and I am afraid.
Motorcycles and rain don’t go together. Motorcycles, race tracks, and rain equal insanity. Or so goes the little voice in my head. I am looking at my race bike, looking at it in a different way. It might not survive the rest of the day. Certainly there is a good chance it will not look the same. There is a good chance I might not look the same. There is no amount of false bravado that can fix the reality of the carnage of broken bodies and smashed bikes at the race track… it happens in the dry, more often in the rain.
All right. I might be being a bit dramatic here, but so goes the little voice in my head.
It is possible to go well over 100 plus miles an hour on a motorcycle on a rain drenched track. And live. And not crash. They do it all the time. They also go off the track, and riders get hurt.
I am at Summit Point, WV, getting ready for my very first race in the rain. Joe, my partner on the Christian Sport Bike Racing team, gives me my pep talk.
“You can go hard on the brakes, about 90 percent of what you would do in the dry. Keep the tires cool, find water to drive through to keep the rain tires cool.” “The rain tires are heavily grooved to channel the water away and are a very soft compound compared to the race slicks we normally race on.”
“Keep the bike as up right as possible, lean off as far as you can. Be smooth on the throttle.” Then he added, “Stay off the dry patches,” He said it sternly.
Joe loved racing in the rain. Most hated it, he loved it. It is all about courage and faith in those two credit card size patches of tire touching the pavement and how well they will stick.
I was nervous. I was afraid.
At the track, they start the race by announcing the calls.
First Call is a five-minute warning to get ready for your heat. They announce which race it is and what category. Second Call is a two-minute warning. Third Call and final call is the call to report to the pit out area to do your warm up lap before gridding up for the race.
“This is your third and final call for Light-weight Super Bike,” The announcer said over the loud speaker in his rich baritone voice.
I pushed the bike off the stand and headed out to the pit out area, weaving my way through the normal congestion of other racers and support people. We were waved on to the track to do our warm up lap and got a chance to view any changes to the track from the last race. It is also a time to put some heat in our tires. I make a point to not look at all the spots where other riders went off the track.
Racing is a game of confidence. It is the other guy that crashed, that screwed up or somehow got tangled up with another rider and went down. Not me… Not me. It is the mantra of all racers.
There are about 30 of us out there braving the rain. I look at my grid position which is written in pen on a piece of tape on my gas tank. 11 A. It is just above the words “No Fear.” I was in the grid that was the front row of the Amateur racers; the experts are in the front.
We all worry about the start.
Turn one in any motorsport at the start is always a white knuckled event. Today the rain only added to that anxiety.
The flag drops.
The throttle and the adrenaline are both maxed out.
I have a great start. Before turn one I have caught a bunch of the experts.
I am hard on the brakes coming into turn one. From over a 100 mph to just over 30mph on a rain covered track in a matter of seconds. I out brake a lot of other riders, passing them going into and out of turn one.
I decided the moment when the flag dropped to trust my partner and his experience--not my fears.
I was burning up the track with a new-found confidence…the bike stuck.
I passed one rider right after another as I made my way around the track. On lap 4 I caught and passed two riders going through turn 4 at a little over a 90 mph. In front of me were 3 other riders who had slowed down to take turn 5 which is the slowest corner on track. In a split second, I had to choose between passing all three of them or going hard on the brakes to make the corner behind them.
I decided to pass.
Going on the outside of the corner I did the best I could to gently make the corner. Keeping the bike as up right as possible with as much as my body hanging off to keep it in balance, smooth on the brakes and throttle.
With an ever so gentle slide of the front wheel I was on the ground. Impacting on the pavement, the normal phrase left my lips.
As the bike and I slid through the corner my life vest inflated. The bike went one way and I another.
As I lay on the track with bikes narrowly missing me, I was smiling. I had just ridden one of the best races of my life.
“I love racing in the rain.”