There were two big moments at Laguna. These things happen so fast that it’s hard to comprehend them in the moment. And then there’s a brief window when you can try to use your memory to recreate what happened. After that, you start to imagine what might have happened. Pretty soon you’re just dreaming up versions of the scenario and feeding yourself bad data. Best to just hash it out once, and quickly, then move on.
The first big moment happened in the first session, on the first turn of the track. We just forgot about it in anticipation of Turn Two.
You fly down the front straight, full throttle and full tuck, bang bang up through the gears toward Turn One. The turn itself is just over the crest of a hill, so while you’re flying toward it, as noisy and fast as you could hope to be, you’re headed toward a horizon line and your basic memory of what’s on the other side.
Memory failed us this time.
We fell off the left wall of the straightaway toward the right in anticipation of the big braking section and the tight double hairpin at the bottom of the hill on the other side of the crest. Unfortunately, going right there was effectively taking us to the outside of Turn One. Way outside. And so we found ourselves too far out and too fast to either brake or turn in. We were going off-roading.
We accepted this new route and loosened up on the pegs. Loosened our elbows on the bars and prepared to hit the soft like a motocross rider. It worked surprisingly well, for a time.
The runoff at Laguna is hard at first, and then it turns to pea-sized gravel which gets deeper toward the outside walls. We tried to keep a shallow line through the gravel and just pop back onto the hard. But we knew that turning the wheel would almost certainly mean an immediate sink. So we brapped our way forward, fish tailing like mad, and sank lower and lower in the kitty litter. Eventually the wheel bogged and we went lightly over the handlebars, flopped, rolled, and popped back up.
Penny was alright though. The fairings were scratched. There was gravel in the most unlikely places. But she was straight and true and we followed a coach back into the pits for a second tech inspection. All was well enough. Especially considering this mishap started at about 140MPH.
The second big moment happened just down the track from the first, this time at the end of the day. Our confidence had been growing all day, and we’d found a line into the hairpin Turn Two (now quite aware of the existence of Turn One and a reasonable line through it) which we loved. A nice late apex right into the second half of the turn that gave us great drive toward three and tended to give us some space on the guys at our tail.
There is an immense satisfaction to be gotten by gaining speed through patience on the entrance to a corner, knowing that the guy behind you still can’t get on the throttle when you’re already powering toward the next brake marker. You hope that he’s cursing his impatience inside his helmet as you pull away.
This time, we took our patient line and kept the nose in front of a group that was trying to ride us down. Just off the apex, we got back on the throttle and pulled. The rear slid. No biggie. But then it kept sliding, and it started to feel like it might be a problem.
The rear slid away for a while and started to come around. Then it stopped, stood the bike up abruptly, and sent us perpendicular over the seat. A sort of mild rotation high side.
It got weirder.
The moment we hit the ground, the zipper running down the back of our left boot split and the boot went its own way. We slid and tumbled wearing only one boot, and it was embarrassing in the same way as having your fly down is embarrassing. Impractical thoughts go through your head when you crash, and one of ours was that everyone could see our sock. We hoped it was clean.
At the end of the tumble, we left Penny on her side in the gravel. We had to run back into the track, taller on one leg than the other, to get our boot so the other guys wouldn’t crash over it. Embarrassment was the primary emotion then. But we also realized that the unbooted foot hurt. A lot. An old injury has been revived, and we would be limping for the next week or so.
After getting some help picking up Penny, we realized that this time our day was done. Nothing major broken, but she was filled with gravel and a hazard to other riders. We left her on the wall and rode pillion on a coach’s bike back to the pits. More embarrassment. You should always try to return to the pit on the same motorcycle you left on.
An inauspicious end to a great day. Turned out later that the rear tire was way past its serviceable life by that point in the day. We’d asked too much, and we’d paid for it.
But we learned.
We packed up in thick fog, like opening your eyes underwater in a silty river. We wheeled back out the gate, down the hill, and south. Too wired from the day to rest, we humped all the way home.