Wrenching, Not Racing

Trying On A Different Hat

Photography by Kevin Hipp

For the first time since childhood, I went to a club race without suiting up and hitting the track. That’s because I literally hit the track (hard) back in April at the CBR600RR press launch, and my left knee still isn’t ready for the rigors of racing or the bacterial onslaught of sweaty leathers.

So rather than racing, I was wrenching for fellow Motorcyclist staffer Zack Courts, who volunteered to flog my CBR250R and new CRF50F roadracer in the M1GP races at Grange Motor Circuit in Apple Valley, CA.

I expected to be frustrated and maybe a little saddened to watch my own machines lap the track, but as it turns out, I really enjoyed watching Zack rip around on my bikes. Most it was that in the 14 months I’ve had it, I’ve never witnessed my CBR250 racebike in action from anywhere but the cockpit, so hearing its booming staccato from pit wall and seeing the bottom of the belly pan as the bike sliced through corners was pretty satisfying.

[ (Cue clown music) Zack leading the CRF50 pack going into Turn 1 in race one. Once Zeke Rodriguez’s team put taller gearing on his bike for race two, Zeke was able to out-accelerate Zack on the straights (the kid weighs 80 pounds to Zack’s 180 lbs.), which made for a very close race.

The CBR is dialed, but the little CRF is still in the early stages of development and improving its handling and performance is already proving to be a fun team project.

And then there’s the fact that Zack measures in at 6’2”, and even with a tall seat from Two Brothers Racing and longer suspension, the CRF’s perch stands just 24 inches off the ground. Zack looks like a clown on the little CRF50 and it’s impossible not to laugh at the sight, but he was riding the little Bridgestones off the bike!

Wrenching instead of riding also meant I got to spend more time with the people in the pits, socializing and helping them get their own bikes dialed in. It’s great to be part of the M1GP family, which does so much to introduce youngsters (and adults) to roadracing. Based on how quick some of the M1GP kids are, I think it’s safe to say that some professional-grade racers may well be developing within the club’s ranks. Zack and I both commented on what an advantage it is to start so early – I attended my first trackday in my early 20s, and these kids are already dragging knee at age ten. They’re fearless and absorb information like a sponge; after just a few laps behind Zack, young Zeke Rodriguez had slashed seconds off his lap times and was running defensive lines in the infield to keep Zack at bay. It made for some tight, competitive racing, which is what we all look forward to, no matter the bikes’ displacement.

[ Zack closes the gap on Javelin Broderick with some seriously hard braking. Grange is tight enough that there’s not much room to pass in the infield. "The track was a lot of work on the bigger 250.” says Zack. “Some of the tighter corners are more like survival than skill!”

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed attending to the pit duties instead of acting as the pilot, but I told Zack not to get used to it. I intend to take the reins back as soon as I’m able.  For me, a great race weekend entails wrenching _and _racing!