Macau GP, China
Well anyone who has heard of the Macau GP before knows it is famous for being dangerous. It is one a few real road races left in the world today for motorcycle racing. The event is invitation only, so just getting invited is an honor. Last year I was an alternate in case anyone was injured leading up to the event and would be unable to attend. This year I was one of the three that were going. Normally the USA brings three riders for the event, this year we were able to bring a fourth, Michael Barnes, since he was riding for a British team he didn’t count as one of the three that we get to send. For 2008 the Americans that were invited were Jeremy Toye (riding for Corona Honda), Mark Miller (also riding for Corona Honda), Michael Barnes (riding for the BSB team Vent-Axia), and Myself on my Moto Garage Racing, EBC brakes sponsored, Suzuki GSXR 1000.
Pretty much everyone who knows me or my brother in law (Aaron Clark) knows that he was in a very serious accident about seven weeks ago and has been hospitalized ever since. Due to his injuries my sister and I have been staying in the town he has been hospitalized in, Colorado Springs, ever since the accident. Obviously this made getting ready for the event extremely difficult. The entire month I had planned to spend building an engine and entire bike specifically for this event was spent here. This meant that I had to ride one of the existing bikes with an old engine we had already from the season. Luckily a had a couple close friends, Josh Graham and Eric Haugo, help me get the bike and crate done in time to leave for the event. Josh built an entire shipping crate with steel frame that converted into a workbench once unloaded in a matter of two days!!!! With out his help I never would have made it to the event at all. But with some serious scrambling and a hectic couple days the three of us were able to prep the bike and load the crate for shipping. Oh and did I mention that I crashed 4 weeks prior at the season finale, Laguna Seca, and broke my foot, sprained my ankle, separated my left shoulder and fractured my left wrist… This made prepping the bike and loading even more interesting to say the least!!
Before I knew it I was getting on a plane flying to China. Upon arrival I was very surprised at the ease we were able to negotiate customs and transfer to different means of travel due to several tours guides that had been provided for us by the organizers of the Macau GP. This made all the travels extremely easy and trouble free. We arrived in Macau at approx 6 pm and were immediately taken to the Rio Hotel where we would stay the entire time we were in Macau, talk about a nice hotel!!! We arrived early enough that we had a few days to get accustomed to the new environment and get used to the time change before practice started on Thursday.
The event has classes for several different cars in addition to just motorcycles so the try to schedule the motorcycle practice first in hopes of us getting the cleanest track possible. So Thursday morning bright and early we were on track, I managed to get approx 7 laps of practice in before my bike lost a rear wheel bearing. Hopefully most of you have never experienced this, let me tell you it is not a lot of fun. The bike started wobbling and sidestepping driving up a fast hill that leads into a left horseshoe. I started to roll off the gas and the wheel cocked sideways in the swingarm and was intermittently locking up. Luckily I managed to save it and get the bike stopped and off the circuit, unfortunately I was on the top portion of the track and with the bike not able to be ridden it was the end of my practice. Shortly after the session ended the crash truck picked me up and brought me back to the pits. The weird part of this is the quickest was back to the pit was thru the public streets that were open to traffic. It’s quite interested sitting on your bike in the back of a crash truck at a stop light with 50 Chinese people staring and pointing at you saying things that you absolutely cannot understand. Later that same day we had our first qualifying session which under the circumstances was also my first actually practice as well. This track was absolutely a blast to ride, it requires your full attention at all times and is nothing but blind corners that you spend the entire time staring at the Armco barriers either on the inside or outside of the track. By the end of the session I had successfully ran a time that would qualify me for the event, a 2:40.4. Friday morning was another quick qualifying session without a practice session. I managed to pull out another 4 seconds by the end of the session after getting caught out with the good tire not being on the warmer. We went out with a pretty well used up tire from the day before just to get warmed up, during this time I put in a 2:36.5, and came in to put on a good rear tire and found out that it had not been put on the warmer. After some deliberation we decided to put it on and do three slow warm up laps and try one flyer at the very end of the session. Unfortunately this didn’t work out and the tire tore up on the third warm up lap.
Saturday was race day. In the morning we had a quick warm up session. During this session we started to develop transmission troubles with the bike not downshifting entering corners, even with this we were another full second quicker on our second lap. After the session we pulled the transmission part way apart and didn’t see anything alarming so we put the bike back together. After some discussion with Eric, my mechanic, we came to the conclusion that it was probably due to my foot, which was still broken along with a sprained ankle, and the fact that I had taped it a bit differently for that session. We decided to drop the shifter a little bit and go back to the way I had been taping my foot and ankle for all the other sessions. Later in that day was the final event, and due to our problems during the qualifying and practice sessions we didn’t manage to qualify very well, starting from the second to last row. The good news of this is that the bike was plenty fast down the straights so as long as I managed a decent start we should be able to get into the top ten on the opening lap. Unfortunately in this sport things never quite work out like you hope. I was able to get off the line pretty well and was looking like I would be just inside the top 15 coming out of turn three (aka Lisboa) when Dan Linfoot, a very talented young 600 rider from the British championship, came in a bit deep on the brakes and crashed entering the turn. He managed to collect 2 other bikes with him which nearly collected me as well, fortunately I was able to keep it upright but I did get caught on the outside of the mess and ended up getting pushed out. By time I collected myself and was back on track I was in last place with about a 10 second gap to the next bike. So I put my head down and went to work. I was working my way up and the bike was starting to do the mis-shifting problem again. Just past half way I missed the same downshift three times entering “R bend”, the last turn leading onto the front straight, and was unable to make the turn. Luckily this is one of three turns on the track you actually have an access road you can run down if you go off. Unfortunately this run off area is the pit lane, so I had to cruise down pit lane at 60 K for half the length of the front straight, losing another 30 seconds.
Well after all the issues that came up I still was able to bring it home in 16th place, not what I was looking for but none the less a decent result.
I would like to say a HUGE thanks for EBC brakes for stepping up and helping to make this event possible for me!!
Can’t wait for next year!!!!