Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2005 01 26

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 78 of 79

By IN J'HE PADDOCK HENNY RAY ABRAMS Rainey's Crash-Course Karting School O h sure, everyone thinks Wayne Rainey is a great guy, doting father to Rex, loving husband to Shae, three-time 500cc World Champion, and the rider who changed the way racing motorcycles was approached with his rigid preparation and unwavering commitment. That's the public image. But I know better. The man is a killer, cold-blooded as a copperhead with Siurpee running through his veins. You think he won those 24 GPs and three titles on his surfer-boy good looks alone? Come on. He was as relentless as a bulldog on a mailman, chewing him up and spitting him out and moving on. But why does he want to kill me? That question was pinballing through my racket-filled skull the first time the 2S0cc shifter kart I'd wedged my butt into went sideways as I simultaneously downshifted, hit the brakes and let out the clutch entering turn five at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I knew this was a crap idea. After all, how many sports do you know where the first thing you do is get fitted for a neck brace? I'd put mine on backwards, around Laguna Seca faster than any motorcycle, but even Lawson's bravery has limits. "I scared myself in the kart doing that," he said of his 1:23.857, under Troy Bayliss's 2002 mark of I :24.833. "I don't know if I want to do it again." Lawson in a kart is as smooth as Lawson on a motorcycle, the kart instantly changing directions like a mechanical Barry Sanders. Schwantz never stopped grinning. "It's a lot more fun on a kart than it was on motorcycle," Schwantz, who'd never driven a shifter kart, said. Fearless as always, the 1993 500cc World Champion threw himself into it with Corkscrew was a blur. I was later asked if I thought there was enough run-off on the right side of the track for MotoGI' I have no idea. I didn't look off the track. Pamela Anderson could have been Jell-O wrestling Lindsay Lohan on the side of the track. I wouldn't have noticed. The last thing 1 remember before falling off the edge of the earth was a "3" marker. I don't think there was a "2" or a "I." Then I was in the Corkscrew. Kel Carruthers, former 250cc World Champion and crew chief to World Champions Roberts, Lawson and Rainey, thinks it's one of the stupidest pieces of racetrack in the world, and he raced the Isle of Man. sputtered up to the final left and the first humiliating run up the front straight. I pinned the throttle as much as my sneakers would allow, racing through the gears as the engine hit the rev limiter - or so I thought. Turns out the engine wasn't screaming toward the redline, it was a cry for help. "There was probably another five grand left," Rainey later told me, shredding the last bit of dignity I might have had. On my first flying lap, things started going bad entering turn five. Almost before I knew it, the world was suddenly circular and the rear end started to come around, and I was reminded of the time I wrecked the late Dale Singleton's Audi the weekend of the 1981 I thought about weaving back and forth to get heat in the tires, but I didn't need heat. I didn't need tires. My lap times wouldn't have been much different if I was on the rims. By the time I got to turn six, I felt emboldened. I'd been through five corners without spinning or stalling. which impressed the hell out of Rainey and Kevin Schwantz and Doug Chandler and whoever else was watching, and also restricted my breathing. Rainey had invited me to try the kart during media day for the Superstars of Superkarts race that will run on the Saturday of the AMNMotoGP weekend. I had neither the talent nor desire. But Rainey is nothing if not persistent. Late in the day, I relented. "Just sit in it, see how it feels," Rainey said as I squeezed into the form-fitting fiberglass tub, my knees sticking up, the shifter digging into my thigh. It was as uncomfortable as a gynecological exam. I half expected a doctor to tell me I was 2 centimeters dilated. Getting in was the easy part. There was no way 1was getting out without two bottles of Astroglide and a forklift. Over the course of the day I'd seen the best at work. Eddie Lawson is a master. The most prolific American 500cc World Champion, with four titles. Lawson has guided his Yamaha TZ250-powered kart Belgian GI'.. but that's another story with a happy ending. Then, just as suddenly, the kart forgave me and I was on my way. Then, it was to the Corkscrew again. This time I didn't run as far up the curbing or overcompensate quite as much, but I still thought it was a stupid corner. In the end, I did one out lap, one flying lap and one cool-down lap. Turns out Rainey wasn't trying to kill me, he was schooling me. I came away with an increased appreciation for the better riders - their skills, their concentration, their determination, and their concern over backmarkers. 1was a backmarker of the worst kind. Mladin and volatile neglect, the kart twitching and darting and looking every bit as nervous as a Chihuahua on crack. His times were more than respectable and would've gotten better if the transmission hadn't lunched itself just after lunch. Rainey only made two laps before pitting with shifting problems. On Rainey's advice, 1 took it slowly, gradually feeding in throttle, making deliberate shifts, using roughly the same brake markers as the sweep truck. I thought about weaving back and forth to get heat in the tires, but I didn't need heat. I didn't need tires. My lap times wouldn't have been much different if I was on the rims. By the time I got to turn six, I felt emboldened. I'd been through five corners without spinning or stalling. The run from turn six up the hill to the First off, the name is wrong. A corkscrew brings to mind an aged California cabernet savored with a wellmarbled filet. It doesn't evoke tsunamistyle panic as a two-stroke gargles helplessly while you flail at the steering wheel like you're wrestling an octopus for the last scallop in the bay and plunge in three different directions all the while thinking you should be shifting and wondering what the hell the bridge is doing halfway up the chute between the Corkscrew and Rainey Curve? Corkscrew, my ass; that trap door dead drop should be called "the Abyss." By the time I got done fumbling with the controls 1was through Rainey Curve and into turn I O. Doug Chandler said he went through in sixth, nearly flat out. So was I, in third. Nearly flat out. Then I Duhamel and Ben Bostrom often complain that lappers are unpredictable; the fast guys don't know where the grid fillers are going. Hell, I had no idea where I was going. I probably tried more lines than John Belushi. And no two were the same. I was slow in a way molasses could never be. Compared to me, molasses is Valentino Rossi on a qualifier. The Superstars of Superkarts race is on the Saturday afternoon of the July 9-1 I AMNMotoGP weekend. With three 500cc World Champions, AMA Superbike Champion Doug Chandler and, possibly, multi-time 500cc runner-up Randy Mamola, it will have as much motorcycling history as any race on the weekend. Having survived my adventure, it's a race I wouldn't miss. Neither should you. CYCLE NEWS • JANUARY 26, 2005 eN 79

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