Deans first get off - By Dean McDermott.
I arrive at the Streets of Willow race track at 7am on a beautiful sunny California morning. It looks like the conditions are going to be perfect for riding, racing, and getting my head crammed full of race knowledge from Keith Code. I have signed up for a 2 day race course with the K.C.'s superbike school. I am going for my WERA race license on May 9, 2009 and I want to study with many different schools and instructors.
The day starts off with registration, orientation, and instructor assignment. I get Keith's son Dylan. He's a great guy, and second generation Code. I feel I'm in good hands.
I'm nervous as we do our sighting laps as this is the first time on this track, hell its the first time I've been on any other track aside from the Auto Club Speedway. That's where I was introduced to racing, and cut my teeth. I am leaving the nest, and I am scared sh.tless.
To my surprise, and elation, I get the track down pretty quick. My first session out I'm pulling off 1:45's. As my confidence builds, and I work on body position my times start to come down. My second session out is a 1:38. The day just keeps getting better. As I work with my instructor, work on better race lines and braking, I start shaving time off every session. 1:37, 1:35, 1:34, 1:33. You get the picture. I'm pumped, feeling confident, and loving the Track. 3 o'clock rolls around, and it's time for the qualifying session, and mock race. WHAT !!??? I've never done a qualifying session let alone a RACE !! I haven't even learned how to do a race start !! I get a quick race start tutorial from my instructor, and my friends Santiago and Scott who are my pit crew for the next 2 days. What can I say, I have awesome friends. As it turns out I have a natural ability for race starts. Who knew.?? I qualify with a 1:31 and place 6th on the grid. Holy Sh.t !!! I'm so stoked, not bad for my first ever race start.
With great anticipation and laser focus I rev my bike to 12 grand and wait for the green flag to drop. When it does, I get off to a great start, and go into turn 1 in 4th. Coming into turn 3 the rider in front of me takes a really tight line, too tight, and he has to brake really hard to even make the turn. I take advantage of his mistake and take him on the outside. Now, I'm in 3rd. I'm in F....... 3rd !!! I can't believe it, I'm in 3rd !!! I start to round turn 4 when I do an ego check, I tell myself your riding really well and are getting into a great rhythm. Stay calm, focused ,and keep doing what your doing. As I go into turn 7 at about 100 mph's I tell myself "just finish the race, 3rd is an incredible finish for your first race". The next thing I hear is the sound of metal, and plastic grinding into asphalt. It takes me a nano second to snap out of my wonderful feeling of floating as I realize I am staring up at a beautiful cloudless blue sky which turns to brown as I start to roll through the dirt and gravel of the desert. I look to my left to see my beautiful white, black and gold bike spinning counter clockwise on her left side before she slams into my right hip and I go over top of her and start rolling again. The smell of burnt fuel and rubber are quickly erased as my nose and mouth are filled to capacity with dirt. I lay on my back for a few seconds taking inventory of my body... Legs:check. Arms:check. Feeling in my extremeity's:check. Consciousness:check. As I let out a sigh of relief, dust and dirt escape my lungs like I just took a hit off of a bong loaded with nothing but desert dirt. At that moment I realize, there is dirt in the crack of my ass!! There's dirt in my arm pits, there's dirt up underneath my helmet, damn it !!! There's dirt EVERYWHERE.!!!
I look back at my low side starting point to see that I have replicated the crash scene from Days of Thunder. You know the one that tests Tom Cruises meddle as he has to face some personal demons as he drives through a crash blindly as his crew yell at him to "Go high Cole, Go high !!" You couldn't see the track for the 30 foot high 200 foot long Dean McDermott made dust cloud sweeping across the entrance to turn 7. I look over at my baby, and she looks bad. It looks like a pro wrestler went off the top rope and body slammed my fairing and flattened it into my handle bars. My wind screen and carbon fiber tank look like someone took a grinder to them. M left clip on is bent forward into my crushed fairing and my ASV lever is bent in towards my right clip on. It's true, the ASV lever is unbreakable. That's good stuff right there.
Two instructors ride over to me under a waving yellow flag, and ask how my body is. I tell them I'm all good. As we stand my bike up I see the whole left side of the bike is just hanging off, and the only reason it is still the bike is that it is attached to the right side of the bike. We get her started and the one instructor gives me a ride to the ambulance while the other one rides my crashed baby back to my pit where Santiago and Scott are stunned I just crashed. They quickly start to go to work putting my bike back together. Like I said, I've got great friends.
Over at the ambulance I decline them giving me a check up. I'm not being macho, I just felt totally fine. Really. I only had a burn/cut on my left hand where the asphalt burned through my brand new Dainese gloves.
I head over to see my boys hard at work. They take one look at me, and swear they've seen a ghost. I look in the vans window and am shocked at how grey, dusty and dirty I am. It looks like I just survived 10 days in a dust storm. As I try to piece together what happened, I can barely hear what I'm saying over the dirt that has been lodged into my molars and is making a horrible crunching sound every time I speak. I go back into the class room and try to recount my tale to the inquisitive students and instructors to the best of my knowledge, which wasn't very much. I had no answer for what just happened. Class is dismissed until the next day. I head back to my pit and I am in awe of what Scott the wonder mechanic has done to my bike. He has stripped all the fairings off my bike, straightened out my bent clip on, fixed my ASV lever, filled a third of an industrial sized garbage can with dirt and gravel from my belly pan, and is slowly and methodically cleaning and starting to put my bike bake together. An hour later as the pain of my get off sets in, Scott is putting the finishing touches on my bike. A few more zip ties here and there, a little duct tape and I'm ready for the next day at school.
The weather is a carbon copy of the day before. It's perfect, and I'm anxious to get back on the bike and learn more about racing, and what happened in turn 7. I start my day out running 1:44's. I'm tentative, especially in turn 7 as I try to rewind the tape in my head and figure out just what happened. My times progressively get better and I'm running 1:35's. I'm finding as is the instructors are that there is something wrong with my bike. I'm not getting any acceleration coming out of the corners. I'm in the right gear, I'm keeping my RPM's up, but when I cracked the throttle there's nothing there. I'm not surprised considering what transpired the day before. It's not until my instructor Dylan Code decides it would be good to drive his car out to where I crashed. So I jump into his car along with Santiago and one of the camera men from our show and head out to the crash site to solve this mystery.
We walk turn 7 and locate the area on the track where I laid my bike down. That wasn't hard, my bike is white so finding the white paint on the black top was easy. We followed it from the apex of 7 as it gradually turned from white paint streaks to a huge gouge in the black top from my rear set to the edge of the dirt. I say I slide for about 20 yards on the black top. Then the fun begins. I rolled and slid with my bike for another 70 to 80 yards in the dirt and gravel. I almost shot out onto the track on turn 8.!!!! I'm so lucky I didn't who knows what would have happened if I did.
Here's what I think happened. I either lost focus while I was telling myself to "just finish the race", I was getting tired, I cheated on a fast corner and didn't get off the bike enough to keep it more upright through the corner and pushed the bike down through the turn increasing the lean angle on the bike, I ran out of talent, and I had a complete brain fart. All of these thing contributed to me fucking up and tucking the front end. It hurt, it was costly, but I learned some very valuable lessons that day. Focus is tantamount in racing, lean angle and body position are crucial, if you get lazy bad things will happen, and a good pair of leathers will save you from some serious injury.
I went out and qualified with a 1:34 and placed 9th on the grid. I finished in 6th place with a cracked power commander, broken throttle, fouled air filter and plugs with a huge smile on my face !! I finished the race, and had an amazing experience at the Keith Code school. Next stop, Jason Pridmore and Rich Olivers school. I'll keep you posted.
I want to thank Scorpion for providing me with superior safety equipment and their continued support.