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1:32 is a target that shouldn't be that hard to beat. After all, the kids are running 1:22 or less. Surely I can go faster?
I spent most of last night dreaming of the various corners on Atlantic Motorsports Park (AMP). I've decided that turns 4 and 9 are the ones I need to concentrate on - both right handers, with the former being decreasing radius and downhill. I hate right handers and feel awkward on the bike. I imagine I look like the hippos doing ballet in Fantasia when I hang off of it. Well hang off is perhaps not the right term.
Qualifying is a good session. I'm starting to get a feel for the track - not to say I know what I am doing, more like I know what I am doing wrong. Lap by lap, I'm making improvements though and I've managed to put my knee down in both turns four and nine, though not every time, which tells me I am not consistently approaching each corner.
And then Harris passes me. Crap. That is what I didn't want. We both know we're going to be the back row of the grid, and it's all just for bragging rights, but it feels important. I ask myself what would Rossi do? Aside from brush past him at the next corner, I realise the answer is study him. Look at his lines, his comfort level and know his weakest corner. It's Turn two, which given his knee operation is no real surprise.
Back at the truck, times are good. I managed to hit 1:30. Not quite as quick as I'd like, but I've now taken 3 seconds off my lap time. Harris is at 1:29. Maybe this will be interesting after all...
Race time is earlier than previous rounds. A quite respectable 2:45. I also means theres not a lot of time to wait.
I have to confess: I am nervous. In fact, I'm starting to get the fear. I'm still not comfortable here, not really. Worse, my main competitor, Harris, is still just a shade quicker than me.
My start in the race is sub-optimal. I start by almost jumping and that throws my timing off. As I finally move, the front wheel is just off the ground and I also mistime the change to second as I'm trying to do it clutchless. During a race is not the time to experiment, I'm finding.
As a result, Harris just about maintains his line into turn one and I'm forced to give it up. From then on I'm playing catch-up again, but I'm remembering, I've still got my turn two plan. Watching him, he is struggling there, especially getting the power on the exit
By lap four, I'm still close and I know this is where I can make some time on him. I decide it times to push it a little and see if I can get right on his tail. I'll either pass this lap or the next I think. I take turn one as quickly as I dare and settle myself for a tighter line.
Pushing in the front end, I can feel my knee down, and the pegs briefly as the camber starts to push back up and out the turn. Then I can feel my elbow down. And the tail section and I'm moving clear of the bike. In my haste, I've managed to low side my cbr and we're both sliding off track.
Stopping just inside the grass, the marshall is upon me before I've even gotten up. I can tell I'm not hurt and answer his questions. He then gives me a choice. I can get back on and ride or retire up the bank. Straight away, I'm back at the bike, looking for the starter. I then realise a potential problem. The left bar is bent and the clutch actually engages past the bar. Up shifting would be fine but down is another matter. Someone else might be able to ride around it: Maybe I would if there were only two laps left, but there is eight to go and I'm not prepared to risk it. Instead, I opt to swap pleasantries with a gentleman on the ridge who offers me his chair at least three times. I decline each time.
After the race, I'm OK to ride the bike back, limping round the track as the crowd generously applauds my stupidity. I wave back, happy. I feel like a part of this.
First stop for me back at pits is off to medical. A short exam shows I'm in reasonable health, at least good enough not to need the hospital. The bike is slightly worse for wear. She'll need a new bar and a new muffler hanger, but it all shouldn't be a problem for tomorrow.
Of course, all this means I miss out on the podium - both watching it and standing on it. But tomorrow is another day and I've just learned that crashing is just a consequence of trying, and I'm in this to try. Tomorrow, I might not try quite so hard...