BikeSA 24hr Endurance Race
(10 December 2016)
…is sometimes measured by time
…is sometimes measured by distance
But is always measured by heart!
A week before this event I got an unexpected phone call from Donovan Fourie.
“Would I do The Bike Show/Suzuki team a favour and race with them in the 24hr event as their slow rider?”
I want to say that I took some time to ponder about this request, but… I didn’t.
It took me a full 3 milliseconds to confirm my participation.
I know age eats away at brain cells, but I do faintly still remember my first 24hr event (2012). I didn’t race, but I was the team manager. I nearly died and I vehemently repeated over the next 3 days that I would never do it again.
My second 24hr event (2013) went even worse… Not only did I actually race, but we won the ladies class. I could not walk, sit, hoes, poep or skinner for days. If I had any workable muscles, I would have thrown my fists in the air in protest of any further such ludicrousness.
But yet… I did not say NO?!?
My prepping for the event consisted of dusting off my race suit, wiping off my visor and buying 24hrs worth of swiets.
Suzuki offered us one thrilling machine. The GSX-S1000F!
The bike was a Beeeg Momma and would probably suit better touring through the midlands, but Momma pulled up her panties. She was gonna be racin’!
As I haven’t been on the track for three years and I’ve never joined hips with this bike, I was sent out in qualifying to learn how to salsa with Big Momma.
In three words:
The power is either ON… or OFF. I quickly realized that the faster I went, the less Momma wanted to whip it through the corners.
The team also voted for upside-down gearing, and not having a slipper-clutch backup, the magic words for the remainder of this race was…
When you’re not sure which gear you are in – AF!
If you’re not sure if you want to go faster – AF!
If someone tries to run you on the outside – AF!
If the bike is not moving forwards anymore, get – AF!
Luckily they sent Jaco out first to secure us a good spot in the startup.
The Race Team: Jaco Viviers, Robert Coutts, Roger Bonte, Luke Kayser, Harry Fischer, Skinny van Schalkwyk
The Pit Team: Stuart Baker, Donovan Fourie, Clint Lake, Doug Lang, Christopher Kuun
For the Le Mans start we were placed in 8th spot of 16 starters. Jaco pulled out of the blocks like a Bolt. By corner one he dipped into second spot, but hanging onto that second spot proofed near nay. With the likes of the Shezes, the Porties and the Shells, we could only dream of keeping up with them.
A paparazzi kiekie of one famous ou…
Harry went out in the first slow class. For those that didn’t bother to study the rules of this game: Each of the four classes had a time restriction. In the A-class you could ride as fast as your heart could beat. But in the other three classes you were penalized if you went TOO fast.
Harry went out, completed 7 laps, and got us 9 laps’ penalties, placing us 2 laps negative after his session. Even though he got a good talking to from the team manager, he had a smile on his bakkies that we could not wipe off with Handy Andy & Scotch Guard. He was stoked to say the least.
We even contemplated finishing the 24hrs with the most negative laps recorded in history… Note the word CONTEMPLATED!
For the first 3 hours I was just hanging around, walking through the pits to see if I recognized anybody. How sad to see there were only one other chicken racing that weekend. Though… Sandra Shelley kicked enough butts to make up for the lack of pink on the track!
When I finally got the order to – SUIT UP – my heart started pumping, my hands started leaking sweat and my limbs started shaking. NnnnnERVES!
Was I ready for this? Would I not disappoint the rest of the team?? Which side is the clutch again???
As my front wheel rolled over the line, that little devil on my shoulder tapped my helmet and whispered, “Welcome back Oh Thin One, now – TAP IT!”
With every knee scrape, every bum slide, every twist of the wrist, my soul moved closer to eternal bliss. Oh… how I have missed the track!
And my happiness was echoed in my team mates standing at the pit wall, waving every time I came past. I even waved back once – the happiness needed to be shared.
But it turned out they weren’t waving as such. It was more like a finger wagging… I finished my first session with 4 penalty laps. OEPS!
Endurance racing is… patience – concentrated!
Some of the supporters; Marco on the right is also one of the guys that taught me a lot about biking when I was still young and stupid. I’m still stupid…
As the sun set behind the track, it must have ripped a hole in the heavenly canvas.
The stars leaked through and soaked us.
For about two hours it rained non-stop.
Everything flooded. The pits were ankle deep in water and the track looked like a skate rink.
The safety car was sent out for a while, but by the time it was my turn again someone found the stop kraan and the storm calmed down.
As Harry handed over the baton to me, he shouted – it’s got grip – JUST GO!
In the dark, with the lights reflecting off the pools of water on the track, you could not clearly see the edges. I’m sure I took a few short-cuts through some of the sharper corners. But Harry said it’s got grip, so I let rip. I was flying past some of the riders as they tip-toed around the wet track. Some of them were so slow; I assumed they were merely spectators…
I loved riding in the wet. So much… that I didn’t STOP.
As the laps ticked by I started wondering why they didn’t call us back in? I kept looking for a flag but never saw one. But I wasn’t too worried. I was sure I would notice if the A-class came out onto the track. I was still flying past most of the okes, so I figured they must have decided NOT to send the fast guys out in the rain.
Finally the petrol light came on and I decided to pop into the pits for a quick refill.
As I came rolling down the pit lane I became awkwardly aware of everybody staring at me. WHAT?!?
Apparently, at night the rider change is announced with a flood-lit board, not a flag. I must have missed that during the riders briefing. OEPS… AGAIN!
I already completed 20 minutes of the next session. I asked Chikita if my team was upset with me and she said that at first, yeah… but then they looked at my times and I wasn’t doing too bad out there, so they were like… Mhew, let her ride!
It’s rubber time! Dunlop was one of our main sponsors – DANKIE DUNLOP!
Best team manager in the pit lane; nothing fazed him and he was a brilliant person to have around with his inexhaustible fund of stories that sent us all to sleep between sessions when we would normally have been wide awake with adrenaline. Seriously; he pulled it all together and put in a huge amount of work (and Suzuki’s money!) to make it happen. The industry would be all the better for having more like him around.
That was the best that bike has ever felt and was the sole reason why Harry went so fast and screwed up our chances of finishing further up the field. Brilliant preparation, brilliant pit work and because of his skill and competence, a calm influence to have around the pits.
Well, strictly, he was working for the opposition but he seemed to spend more time with us! We were, after all, more fun to be with… He was great to have around and sometimes we didn’t realize how much he actually did because he just got on with it in a quiet and unobtrusive way and he was one of the main reasons things went so smoothly.
Endless hours at the pit wall didn’t seem to faze him and he was always ready with an ego deflating quip after a riding session. Calm and unflustered when we needed it most and lets’ face it, that is what is sorely needed in endurance racing.
It was really sad that he couldn’t ride with us this year but a million thanks for being there for the whole thing; lesser men would have been there for a few hours and then hot-footed home to a warm and comfortable bed but not him; he lived the whole thing with us and we really appreciated the show of support.
The ‘old man’ of the team but it seems that he haven’t lost any of his speed; a safe and solid pair of hands to have on the bike and able to give good feedback to Doug; you can’t buy that kind of experience and the team was all the stronger for having him on it.
Otherwise known as ‘The Quiet One’. He didn’t know any of us apart from some of the Suzuki staff, but he fitted in and got on with the job without any fuss or drama and that is so important when nerves and bodies get stretched throughout 24 hours of little sleep and great exertion. Oh, and he was pretty damned quick too!
We think that to get on a bike and race it while coming to terms with a father in hospital through a bike accident took a hell of a lot of courage. Big respect and really well ridden; safe and steady.
The effort he put into his part put us all to shame. He is flipping quick, despite memories of his spill in the 8-hour still being fresh in everybody’s minds. Much respect.
His rise to title of ‘serious contender’ was as unexpected to us as it was to Harry. He had to be bumped up to a faster class, not leaving us with enough ‘slow’ riders in our team. Thanx for holding back on some of those laps, we knew you had a burning desire to fly as fast as that Suzuki could go.
“Skinny, you were fast and safe and always brought the bike home in one piece… when you brought it home, that is!”
Nothing amazed us more than the punishment we dealt out to it and yet it was running just as sweetly at the end of the race as it was at the beginning and it has been like that for two years; thrashed mercilessly and always coming back for more. Respect!
*Team introductions were written by Harry Fischer*
People rarely succeed, unless they have fun in what they are doing.
Talisman; an object thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck. Is there any better way to describe these two men?
Jacques van Wyngaardt (track owner) and Simon Fourie (SA bike legend)
By the early morning freshness dawning over the track, the Suzuki was still mercilessly gliding around every corner.
One of the Slaapstad teams came up with two extra engines for their Yamaha R1. They burnt them all out! All!! ALMAL!!!
But the Suz kept on purrrrring…
Hungry pants… racing makes you ravenous!
We decided to ‘call it quits’ after 24hrs and even though we didn’t get to step up to the podium, we finished 7th overall.
Team Ride Fast took the checkered flag.
What a team, what a bike, what FUN!
Chikita – Moral supporter, Lucozade supplier, slaapplek provider, kiekie taker!
Also thanks to all the other extra pit crew, wives, children and friends!
Even though this event is a lot smaller these days, the fun has exponentially increased. The 24hrs is on the endangered fun list – how can we let something that brings such pleasure to everyday life go extinct?
This is the Tank Girls Petition:
Get your lazy superbike, adrenaline loaded, competitive asses off your dusty bike seats and come join the race in 2017. Wanna dice?
“As my chest heaved with asthmatic quiver, the engine of my heart beat restlessly, my blood poured through the map of arteries in my body, I sensed the enormity of the power I possessed. Not magical power, but real power. The power to achieve, the power to endure, the power simply to go on.”
*Most kiekies were taken by Jolandi Mentz. In between there’s a kiekie or two from André Laubscher*
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