Connecting the final pieces of the puzzle can be precarious. It’s the big commitment part that brings together the final scene, and that is where we are right now with Team Cycle World Attack Performance Yoshimura Suzuki. Our steady forward progress has been hindered by relatively few mishaps, but closing the gap to the front in the short time frame we have with this project will be difficult.
Coming into the doubleheader race weekend at Virginia International Raceway, we were indeed hoping to race at the front, but we also knew that we would have to step up the commitment/risk factor to do so. The problem for us is, at this point in the season, the competition is riding on a confidence high while we are still in the building phase. Now that I am riding with the speed to follow the front-runners, it’s clear they are able to “will” their motorcycles into unbelievable situations and make time doing so. It’s time for me to step up to a risk zone into which I have not yet ventured due to my short time on this GSX-R1000.
The concentration necessary to step beyond the envelope and stay within control is a special place I haven’t been in a long time. It’s like a mix of adrenaline and euphoria, a drug-like place that the mind fears and desires. It’s very hard to find this enchanted place, and, like all competitors, I absolutely live for it. It pushes back boundaries to the point where the mind is free to work beyond mental blocks and within an area of focus that is narrower than a razor’s edge. In this place, there is untapped strength that sedentary persons may never actually experience. That scenario where a mother is able to lift a vehicle off her trapped child, removing the mind’s borders of possibilities, finding that animal strength that lies internally within all of us, giving us the power to do the impossible. That is the gift of sport. That is what it takes to win at this level.
The track surface at VIR is very slippery. Add heat to the equation and what you have is basically a high-speed skating rink with lots of surface inconsistencies and elevation. With each turn connected to the next, it’s necessary to spend more time on the side of the tire than you would like. Trying to add speed at full lean is a delicate act with a fine margin for error and only gives a small reward on the lap timer. Yet this is what is necessary to shave time at VIR. The downside can be carnage; the paddock often has the look of a trauma unit, as far the bikes are concerned, with teams desperately working on a thin timeline to repair damaged machines.
We had a marginal Friday, pushing hard to qualify ninth. To advance our position, Richard Stanboli and the crew made some leaps forward by changing the fork offset and putting a stiffer internal setting in the Öhlins fork to allow more physical and aggressive corner entry. Nearly 2 seconds back from first, I had to materialize the rest from within—a gentle walk on that tightrope that pushes you beyond the envelope and returning safely. We bit off a nice chunk in second qualifying, shaving 1.6 seconds and advancing to fourth on the grid. Team Cycle World was flying high.
A lethargic start in Race One set the tempo for a poorly run race. I only took back positions at the very end that I surrendered in the beginning. I couldn’t access that “zone” I found in qualifying. We came all this way only to finish seventh? I’d let down the team. Sunday would be different, I reassured everyone.
During Sunday race warm-up, I improved my time on race rubber, once again running with the leaders. We were ready to rumble—time to fight for the podium. A mediocre start put me in fourth position into Turn 1 until an overzealous Brett McCormick dive-bombed up the inside and nearly took out the entire pack. He stood up Tommy Hayden, my brother, Ben, and me; we all forfeited positions. I was back in seventh. Unbelievable. A repeat of yesterday? Not going to happen.
Following Larry Pegram on the opening lap as his Ducati was puking blue smoke, I needed to get past fast. Problem is, Larry is one of the hardest brakers in the paddock. As I saw Ben and Tommy making distance ahead, I chose to take the risk entering Turn 1. Moving by Larry, I knew I was in hot. The rear was off the ground, indicating no more brake pressure could be applied. Wow, it felt great to be in the moment, the GSX-R finally began to slow to the point I felt it was time to ease it into the corner.
At that very instant, the front tire let loose—all the way loose. A nano second later, I was sliding on my back. To make matters worse, my action stood Larry up and ran him off the track. He reentered down several positions. My apologies, LP.
So, that was it: a roller coaster of a racetrack that is VIR and a roller coaster of results and emotions for our team. Overall, I rate it as a huge success. To get that glimpse of the narrow concentration, I can now say that EBoz is back. It is going to take more seat time to successfully spend more time in this zone, and ultimately, it’s likely going to take a few more scarred-up motorcycles. My only regret is that the Barber race is so far away. In the meantime, I will be training with the Sho-Air Specialized team preparing for the Benelli Park US Cup X/C mountain-bike race in Riverside, California. I’ll be giving updates on our progress along the way.
Thanks for tuning in.