Once again for 2009 I was able to get some more free tickets and once again we rode up. After last year we had to. This year Tim was unable to make it so we drug Julie along to make it a family affair. To be honest she was less than thrilled about going, but figured it might be fun to hang out with her boys.
In the days before the race I had spoken with the new Tucker Rocky rep for our area, Patrick Rickards who had told me of an alternate route off of US 29 that would not only take us off the four lane highways and put us winding two lanes, but would take us almost to VIR's front gate! Perfect!
The routing was indeed good. Not twisty mountain road good, but certainly better than riding US 29 to US 58 which is four lane all the way. In fact, the area is worth exploring on a future day ride. Stay tuned.
VIR is really a country club located around a race track instead of a golf course, it is a spectacular facility. It takes several minutes to ride the entrance road to the main gate, then several more minutes to get to the race track itself. This year, as last, motorcycles were given special treatment. Once VIR personnel saw you they waved you around any other vehicles that were in line waiting to get in, once in motorcyclists are parked in one of two areas that is specifically for bikes and bikes only. It really does make a rider feel special and appreciated. Once parked we began wandering through the paddock area and scoping things out.
One of the motorcycle parking lots and vendor areas at VIR
Pit road and the Paddock
Again this year the first thing that came to my mind was how clean road racing is, keeping in mind that we come from an off-road racing background where standing in 2" of mud and goo while in your own pit area is not unheard of. The haulers were all in nice rows, individual pit areas clean and well organized just as one would expect at this level of racing. The second thing that again came to mind is just how trick some of these bikes are! Being a road race newbie I am told that recent rule changes have taken the level of sophistication in some classes back down a notch or two and that the teams are forced to deal with more production based equipment. None the less the level of professionalism and the way these bikes are set up left this gear heads jaw dropping.
Our favorites, Dairyland Cycle Racing
Bryan and Julie checking out last years Jordan Racing Suzuki
A local high end sports car dealer had some thoroughbreds on display
Ducati was offering demo rides
Parts Unlimited, an aftermarket distributor that I've done a tremendous amount of business with over the years arranged for us to have some very special passes to the race. Leo Vince Exhaust, an Italian high performance exhaust system manufacturer was a co-sponsor of the event and series, had a limited number of VIP passes available to dealers and industry people. These passes not only got us in the gate, but allowed access to their suite above the garage area overlooking the front straight, provided food and drinks for us, and allowed access to the 'hot pits' which would be like pit road at a NASCAR race. Talk about feeling special... A very special thanks needs to go out to Dean Herrin from Parts Unlimited and Cory Jonson from Leo Vince for all there efforts and hospitality shown us. We had a great time and you guys are a class act.
Team Yamaha's pit stall
Something new this year was allowing spectators onto the starting grid prior to the start of each race. We waited in line for the teams to get their bikes in place and the gates to open then filed in with the crowd to get up close and personal to the teams and bikes. At first there were so many people on the grid it was near impossible to see the bikes or get a good picture, but after giving the crowd a bit of time to thin out we did manage to get close ups of some of the bikes. I was a bit disappointed when they cleared the grid before the riders came out, but having been a racer I can also appreciate that they would rather not have a bunch of people hanging out and asking questions while they get focused on the up coming race.
Bryan really liked the Buell's for some reason...
The racing itself was... memorable. Matt Maladin, one of the sports greatest racers was retiring at the end of the season, he had the series in the bag as long as he rode smart. Yamaha's new R1 was on hand and due to it's new engine configuration not only sounded great, it ran like a striped ape. There was some great racing in all three races but unfortunately the day was marred by one crash after another. Fortunately no one was seriously injured and that is the most important thing, but from a spectators point of view these incidents halted the racing when it probably didn't need to, and seemed to take an exceptionally long time to get the races re-started. I don't want to come off sounding like a whinny spectator that doesn't get 'it' because I do, I really do. The riders and race officials safety comes first, period. But it seemed like things were awfully unorganized and could have been handled better.
The racing action was spectacular
But crashing seemed to rule the day
Like this rider, thankfully most walked away
Bryan and I enjoyed the day, Julie, not so much. I'm not sure if she's just not into road racing or if it's because her boys aren't involved. However, as much as Bryan and I enjoyed it if it weren't for the free tickets I doubt we would go. As good as the facility, the racing and the overall atmosphere is, even as good as they treat spectators that ride in, ticket prices seem at bit high to us. Then again we aren't die hard road racing fans and would rather ride our bikes than watch someone else race theirs.
But given tickets again next year, we'll be there!