The first race of the season. For many of us it’s the first time back on our bikes in a few months. The first time we get to reunite with our moto families. The first time we get to feel like we're alive again. The first race of the season is more to most of us than just our first chance to get back into a hobby we all love. Its our first chance to feel normal. Our first chance to be apart of something we all love more than any person should love a sport. It’s a passion within all of us that’s reinvigorated the moment you get to the track and throw your leg over the bike for the first time in months.
This is the story from my weekend at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
Thursday was one hectic day. The plan was to leave CT with fellow riders Anthony Franco, Renee Franco, and Peter Oliver around 7PM and meet up with Anthony Vene and Mike Poli in Staten Island to hook up the trailer full of bikes I was hauling to Vene's bus/toy hauler that we were all going to make the rest of the trip in. The big problem was I didn't have the trailer yet, I had not packed or got any of my gear ready yet and was planning on working a full day. That plan quickly went out the window after sitting at work for two hours and me realizing just how much stuff I had to do to get ready. I promptly left work to go get the trailer and start packing so we could all be on time.
Off to pick up the 20' Trailer
Shopping for essentials
Loading the bikes
Once we arrived in Staten Island and met up with Vene and Poli I knew the ride down was going to be awesome. Vene's bus is insanely comfortable and there were so many drivers that I knew I wasn't going to have to drive very long. Vene started the drive to get us out of all the New York highway craziness and Poli took over for the next shift.
Next thing I know it's Friday morning and Poli is still driving. The man is a champ and ended up driving the entire way after Vene gave up his seat. Something like 8.5 hours straight. Pulling into VIR was such a great feeling. We were all excited to finally be there, so much so that we were basically throwing a mini party on the drive in.
Wait. Lemme take a #Selfie (Yes that happened. Far too many times.)
As soon as we pulled in and found the ideal spot to set up our pit area we started to unload. I can tell you this was not something any of us were looking forward to. That and packing up. It was honestly shocking how much stuff we were able to get down there with us. I dont even have pictures of what was loaded in the back of the bus. I can honestly tell you it was equally as packed.
It took us about an hour to fully unload and get organized, if you can even call it that, but man it was worth it. We had the tents set up for the bikes, A whole tire changing section thanks to Vene and Hamma Racing. Tthe way we dropped the trailer gave us a nice little nook for a kitchen and front row access to the picnic tables.
By the time we got all setup and ready to go, we only had a couple hours of practice on Friday afternoon, sans dirt. It was pretty muddy still and they didnt want us running on it just yet. Which was fine, we needed to get used to the asphalt anyway and we all spent friday having a ton of fun just turning laps.
Friday night is where I'll honestly say I might have had the most fun and I don't think I'm the only one to say that. The guys running VIR let us head out on their rental karts for 30 minutes. I haven't had so much fun in a long time. We were all racers, we all wanted to beat each other. Needless to say things got dirty. Real dirty. There were quite a few black flags and more people going off into the dirt than I could keep track of. You know, good clean fun.
Saturday was a ton of fun. Not only did the girls (Tamara Franco and Sara Hammer) get in from the airport we also had a great day of riding and good food ahead of us. I am a little ashamed to say I probably spent more time getting food prepped and ready for dinner than I did riding, although I do think it was worth it.
We were able to get out on the dirt in the late afternoon which is really what I was looking forward to. I got a couple hours out on the asphalt Friday, and today all I wanted was to hit the dirt. Entering the the dirt was really where the only mud was and the rest was near perfect. The dirt section was pretty wide, long and not too difficult, nor was it terribly easy. The perfect setup for a race with riders of very fluctuating skill levels.
I spent the rest of the afternoon cooking everyone in our pit area steaks with home made Guacamole and Aiji sauce and then proceeded to make a cake. Yes, you read the right. I made a cake and baked it on a grill in the pits of a supermoto race. To answer your question, yes it came out fantastic.
Sunday was the big day. The first race of the year for many of us. The reason why we were all here. Everyone in our group, with the exception of Anthony Franco, had an off day. On that note I will let the guys from SMEC take over and give you the highlights!
Mini MOTARD Cup - The mini asphalt only class is new for 2014, this class was implemented this year due to feedback from racers last season. We hope to see it grow to allow more accessibility to Supermoto. Once the lights went out, all racers charged for turn1 and all stayed together leading up to the back straight where the bigger-mini of (#31(12)Anthony Franco was able to pull away and remain upfront until the checkered flag, followed by the (#69)Trevor Prater and (#121)Chris Potter.
MOTARD CUP – One of the largest and most exciting races of the day, once all the riders were on the grid everyone in the area was watching the start of this race. The first massive grid of the day everyone wanted to see the outcome of turn1. Everyone made it through without issue and the race was on. After the first few laps the top three riders pulled from the pack and remained there for the duration of the race with the (#86)John McGinnis crossing the line in 1st , followed by the (#26)Shawn Basset and (#951)Mitch Thomson taking the 3rd spot.
SMEC Youth – This is the class that had the spectators out of their seats, showcasing the young racers who will be tomorrows stars. A pavement only class, these young rippers stole the show. Local hero and pole sitter #122 Blake Davis opted to start from the back of the pack, moving #78(46) Damian Jigalov to P1 , (#914)Lucas Cunha to P2, (#805)Gus Longphre to P3 and (#78)Matthew Warren to P4. Lights out and the race is on, a bobble from Blake on the start saw the pack pull away into Turn1. Encouraged from his family and friends on the side lines to get going, he assured them with a glance through the visor that it was under control. In short order he was able to catch the group and overtake for the lead before the 1st lap and this is where he stayed for the duration of the 5laps and the cheer of the crowd on hand. The cheers continued for 2nd place rider Damian Jigalov who was able to keep a small gap on 3rd place rider Gus Longphre who was being hunted by the little powerhouse Matthew Warren who crossed the line in 4th.
SMEC2- This was the class everyone was waiting for, riders focused on turn1 as they took their place on the grid as they knew it was going to be a battle to get out of the turn1 left hander. The roar of the 16 bikes as they charged into the turn1 had those that were not already at the fence, running over to see the sight. Some of the riders were not so lucky to make it out of the turn1 mayhem but were able to quickly remount and continue their push to catch the pack. The front runners put their heads down and pushed all the way to the off camber uphill left turn leading to the back straight. The three riders were able to keep the pack at bay for the duration of the race. (#925)Randy Wilbur was able to show his craft as he muscled his Honda around the course and maintain the lead and be the first to cross the line. The KTM of (#414)Benjamin Kelly followed for 2nd and Yamaha of (#189)Michael Fallowes claimed the 3rd spot on the box.
SMEC3/SMECMINI/XCUP – What a great showing for the combined group, as they got to the grid, the riders were focused and ready to go. From the start of the race new rider (#944)Robbie Campbell led and dominated the race, which earned him a bump into SMEC2. The pack was doing all it could to catchup and in lap 2 an incident for the hard charger (#63)Mike Poli shuffled him to the back leaving the door open and allowing for the (#298)Donald Bowen and (#64)Matthew Lombardi to get by where they would finish in 2nd and 3rd respectively. (#16)Jack Chartrand took the SMECMINI class and (#11)Ross Davis took the XCUP win.
SMEC1 – The big show, everyone was on deck to see what was about to go down. All day during qualifying and moto-1, AMA Pro Flattracker and AMA Pro Supermoto rider (#10)Johnny Lewis was putting on a master class of Supermoto racing. With an amazing ability to put his SolidPerformance/Eyeball KTM where he commanded, the smooth and consistent Lewis continued dominating in moto-2. Pushing hard the 2013 SMEC1 Champion Eric Stump running the(#1) plate, was doing everything he could to respond to the speed of Lewis and hold off the pressure from (#72) Miles Thornton. The three riders gapped the rest of the field to make it a 3 man race, but the speed of Lewis could not be matched and he was able to secure a commanding victory and points lead for the SMEC1 class. Stump maintained his position for 2nd and Thornton for 3rd.
For those of you still here reading I applaud you. Nothing terribly exciting happened on the way home, other than it taking entirely too long, and all of us fighting sleep the entire ride. This race was one of the largest turn outs we have seen in years with over 65 racers coming from 13 states to partake in the first round of the Supermoto East Coast series. I truly hope to see all of you there when the series makes its second stop of the year at Myrtle Beach May 17th.