Published Nov. 12, 2014
We all have them, those moments where something you don’t quite understand suddenly becomes crystal clear. In cartoons it is represented by a light bulb going on above the person’s head. I still remember one back in 1975 or so. I was having trouble with a bit of code at work – it wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. I was in my morning shower when I suddenly realized what the problem was. I didn’t even know I was thinking about it. When I got to work I made the changes and voila! it worked.
These moments also happened to me on the racetrack, usually the result of a better, more experienced racer showing me how it’s done.
Ontario Motor Speedway turn 10
My friend Ed showed me at Ontario in 1976. I had just passed his Honda CB750 with my Ducati 750 Sport in the fast left sweepers leading to the long infield straight. We were pretty evenly matched in top speed and my Sport could stay ahead of Ed’s Honda all the way down the straight, topping out at about 120 mph. I got to my brake marker, sat up and started braking when WHOOSH! Ed passed me and went at least 30 feet farther into the corner before he sat up and got on the brakes. If I’d had doors they would have been blown off.
** Oh. That’s how this corner should be taken. **
The Carousel at Sears Point
In 1973 I had just started racing and was learning the Sears Point track. I tried an inside line through the Carousel and found it was so bumpy I could barely stay on the bike.
** Oh. This is not going to work. **
Eventually I found the good line was to take a wide entry and an extremely late apex so I could get a good drive towards turn 7.
Laguna Seca Raceway turn 4
This moment happened in 1977 at the Laguna Seca AMA National. Turn four was a sharp left hand turn, about 90 degrees, with Armco fencing on the outside. It was also on the edge of a hill and it you ran wide there and managed to get past the Armco you might stop rolling by Salinas. It was my first time at Laguna Seca and turn 4 and the Corkscrew were scary turns. During a practice session I got my doors blown off, very much like with Ed at Ontario, by veteran racer Ron Pierce on one of the ex-Butler and Smith BMWs.
** Oh, so that’s how to take this corner. **
I moved up my brake point and started really jamming it into the turn. It was a big improvement. Thanks Ron.
Loudon turn 7
Fast forward to 1979 and now I’m riding the BMW, sponsored by San Jose BMW. We were at Loudon, a track where the BMW usually went well. During practice I got most of it figured out but I was having trouble with turn 7, a banked right-hand horseshoe, and turn 9, a left hairpin with elevation loss in the middle. Sadly our bike failed in the heat race and I started at the back of the grid. I had to work through heavy traffic right off the start. I was lapped, the leaders coming around me in Loudon’s turn 7. I thought I was at the apex when the two leading bikes zipped around me on the outside, hitting an apex that was a lot farther up the track.
** Oh. That’s how this turn should be taken. **
Staying wide and taking a late apex, very much like the good line through the Carousel at Sears Point, was the ticket.
Daytona Speedway banking
At Daytona in 1978 I was riding The Dale Newton Ducati Superbike. The infield was simple but the first time I got on the banking I dropped down to the flat apron on the inside of the turn. I’d steer the bike back up on the banking only to drop to the apron again. What’s going on? I thought to myself. After the south banking ended I ran down the back straight, through the chicane to the north banking. Again I rode down to the flat apron. Weird.
The next time around I figured it out. The famous Daytona banked turns are left hand sweepers. I had been treating it like a left turn, with a little pressure on the left handlebar. The second time around I discovered that treating it like a turn was wrong. With the relatively low speeds of my Superbike in those days the 30-degree banking alone would sweep me around the turn. The correct way was to stay tucked in with neutral pressure on the bars, just like it was a straight.
** Oh. The banked turns aren’t really turns. **
I’m sure some of you will have your own moments of enlightenment, either on the track or on the street or at your job, etc. They are moments that stick in my memory, ready to review and re-live at any time.