Being the last round of the 2016 CCS Atlantic series, it was a "Twin sprints" weekend, meaning all the sprint races were run twice, so I was signed up for 8 races total. Thunderbolt's T2 & T3 area is getting pretty bumpy in spots, and T3b had sent many riders to the ground. Even still, I had 3 goals: set a new personal best (PB) lap time, bring the bike home shiny, and race well. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, right?
Middleweight GP, I instantly met goal #1 with a 1:29.4, with the rest of the laps being a 1:30.x - I was happy with that. There was some very close racing, and thanks to picking up 2 spots on a dive-bomb into T1, I was able to take home a 6th place finish.
Middleweight Formula 40 was a smaller grid than usual, but I still had to do decently. Bob Heinz #57 is back up to pace, and quickly checked out with a :28 on lap 2, so I just ran quick enough to keep my 2015 rival Carlos behind me, and brought home a solid 2nd place. Wood!
Middleweight Superbike was tough.. I got caught behind another racer for almost the whole race, not able to take full advantage of where I was faster. I was finally able to set him up for the last turn of the last lap, and sling-shot past him at the line for 10th, also earning a VP Fuels contingency check. :)
Look, happy racers! (#199A Jake Chieffo AKA Tank Driver, yours truly, #333A John Bonelli Sr., and #188 Joe Pultrone, seated)
GTU was the first race, and I'm man enough to admit I got passed by the top 3 amateurs, all of whom are in the solid :28-:30 range. Still, that was enough to bring home 4th!
Heavyweight Superbike was next - I added this race because there was a long gap between my races, and I wanted to stay "in the zone". The front 5 experts were all in a tight pack and while I was hanging in there, this really wasn't my race, so I pitted in at the end of lap 3 to save tires, having turned a new PB of 1:29.2, backed up by a 1:29.7!
Middleweight Superbike, and another "caught behind someone again" race.. There were a few times I maybe could have stuffed it in there and banged bars, but decided to wait.. Meanwhile, Joe Pultrone was showing me a wheel in the lightbulb every lap, being as polite as a racer can be. On the last lap, I had the guy in front of me right where I wanted him going through the light bulb, and was setting up to pass him in the chicane before T12, when Joe came around me and had to check up just a touch at T10 when Melvin shut the door, killing my drive and hurting Joe's as well. Not only did I not get Melvin, neither did Joe! I still brought home an 8th place so I can't be too disappointed.. that's racing! I gave Joe a smile and a "racer's hello" on the cool down lap.. He's #1 in my book!
Middleweight Formula 40, and again, Bob Heinz was rolling. I wasn't doing too bad in 2nd though, and had a solid 4+ second lead over Carlos in 3rd, at the end of lap 3, but didn't realize it. Things got bad right after lap 3 was complete. I had been working on trail braking deeper into T1 throughout the weekend, and was feeling confident as I tipped the bike in.. This time though, the tail swung WIDE to the left, making the bike continue going straight-ish.. That's not going to work, so I let up off the brake a bit and continued to turn the bike, because that felt like the only good option.. MAKE THE TURN - YOU GOT THIS. Well, maybe I let up too much? Maybe it was just beyond my abilities to 'catch it' by then? At any rate, the back tire came back under the bike.. QUICKLY, sending me out of the saddle and off the pegs, trying to highside me. Oh no you don't! I hung onto the bars, trying to get back into the seat, and felt the bike oscillating underneath me. I wanted so badly to just crack the throttle a touch..that would settle everything down.. but I can't.. crap, here comes the curbing, and I'm still not back on the bike, but I wasn't thinking about that. Right about the time I was deciding whether to 1) try to complete the turn on the curbing or 2) stand it up and ride off, option 3 was decided for me. I felt the bars being wrenched out of my hands as the bike went down on the right, my body going a different trajectory.. I know I was a few feet off the ground, and my arms were to my side. (I imagine it was a "lawn dart" type of posture..head first) Estimated speed at the time is around 70-75mph.
The next thing I remember was seeing the sky, my ears ringing, there's dirt in my eyes and in my mouth, and it's really bright. As more of the world lights up (the darkness faded back like the iris on a camera lens opening), 2 people are standing over me, asking me if I know where I was...can I wiggle my toes...wiggle my fingers. Oh crap, am I messed up? I wiggled them which calmed me down a little, and responded "Turn 1". He asked "Yeah, but where?". I said "the track" because that's all I could muster. Why couldn't I think of the name? He laughed a little and said "OK, but where's the track?" "Jersey" was all I could think of. "Good enough" he responded. At that point, I didn't want to move. I just wanted to sit there and gather myself, but they lifted me to my feet and helped me over to the ambulance, which I couldn't get into without a LOT of assistance (I almost fell on my face trying to get in). I also slurred out "Someone tell my wife (I'm alive/OK, but couldn't get that out)", which must have sounded like "How's the bike" because they pointed over to the R6 being loaded onto the trailer, and said "It's not bad" - because that's what racers always ask..."How's my bike?"
Turns out, I had been unconscious for 1 minute, 38 seconds, and suffered the concussion, and a sprained ankle. Other than that and the expected whiplash, I was uninjured, a testament to modern safety equipment My Scorpion R2000 helmet took a beating but held up, with no cracks. My custom-fit Hazardous Racing suit also performed perfectly with nothing more than scuffs. No rips, tears, or busted seams. The Hit-Air vest? It's ready to go after a re-pack, and based on the marks all over the helmet, I have no doubt AT ALL that it saved me from serious injury.
Nicole took me to the hospital, while Fred, John, Will, and others graciously helped pack up the bike and all our "stuff". John and his wife Renee even took care of Marco while we were gone. Thanks a TON to you all for that! I had a CT scan done, and was released. Having never had a concussion before, wow... The next week was interesting. Multi-tasking & critical thinking were really hard for the first few days. My balance was a little off. Constant, all-over headache that lasted days... Blech. After 2 weeks, all the symptoms appear to be gone, though my ankle still hurts when my foot moves the right way (sprain w/bone contusion). The physical therapist is confident of a full recovery there as well.
Anyway, things were going great before the crash. All top 10's (2nd,4th,6th,8th,10th) with a podium, and by all accounts, well on my way to a 2nd podium... Good finishes to round out my first expert season, even if it didn't end WHEN I wanted.
My sponsors rock-
Metric Devil Moto for suspension and Pirelli's (Michael Failace). This winning combination can't be overstated!
Trackside Parts Club (Justin Levy) for everything from hit-air vests, riding gear, bodywork, even gas cans.
Maher Motorsports for a killer engine build. No one can out drag race the tiger bike!
DC Paintworx & DrippinWet make the GrrR6 look awesome!
Hazardous Racing (RJ Wade), Scorpion USA, and Sidi for the awesome protective gear that helped keep me from serious injury.
Vortex, Woodcraft, Yoshimura, PitPosse, and Leatt for all the great parts.
EvolveGT for being the best trackday org out there!
Teresa Waters ("Get fit with coach Teresa" on FB) for the nutritional and fitness guidance. She can help you too!
I also have to thank Noiseless Productions & The SB Image for the photos and video that make me look fast!
My awesome, beautiful, supportive wife Nicole for everything (and it's a LOT!), my track fam for the love and support, and last but not least.. ALL the CCS staff, cornerworkers & EMS at the tracks we race for keeping us safe and on schedule, allowing us to do what we do, (and taking care of us when we don't do it well)!