Well, how to begin? This weekend was an absolute whirlwind! But it does have a beginning…
I’ll skip back a few months: Gordon sent me a text message asking me if I wanted to race a 24 hour endurance race with him on a Grom; The M1GP 24 Hour Super Endurance Charity Race. I think my reply was something along the lines of “FUCK YEAH!” I’ve never raced anything before. I have exactly zero race experience at this point. But a 24 hour endurance race? Why the hell not?!
Months go by, and as in usual Joe-fashion, I wait till zero-hour to actually register for the race…shit just got real. I’ve officially signed up for my very first race ever.
I wasn’t terribly concerned about the racing…I was moreso concerned about making sure I pulled my weight on the team. I didn’t want to be “that guy.” I never want to be “that guy.” I was also worried about sleep. I’m probably the worst insomniac you’ve (n)ever met. My brain turns, whirls, and swirls. Even when I’m so tired I can’t keep my eyes open, my brain doesn’t let me sleep. I’ve been this way since I was a little kid. As early as 3rd grade, I would sneak out of the house on moonlight nights and just go ride my BMX all over town for hours during the night because I couldn’t sleep anyways…so I may as well have fun, right?
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all, and then I would ultimately end up being “that guy” who is absolutely useless. At every race event, every trackday, everything, I’m always the last one to go to bed. While I never really voiced my concerns, I was seriously stressing on it.
Friday: Kinsy and I caravaned to Willow Springs seperately as I had to leave directly from the track to Miller Motorsports Park. We got to the track around 9pm and started setting up camp. We hung out for a short while before going to bed. Tomorrow was gonna be a big day. And I layed there. For a long time. Unable to sleep.
What seemed like only a few minutes later, my alarm clock went off and it’s Saturday morning. I’m a terrible morning person. Not in the sense that I’m crabby or anything, I just really, really dislike getting up in the morning. When I do finally go to sleep at 5, 6, 7am, I’d prefer to sleep to 11. But it was 8am. I was tired. Thankfully, I woke up to Eric already having made a delicious breakfast for the team. That lessened the early-morning-blow. ;)
We were scheduled to have a 40 minute practice before the race. That I know of, none of us had previously ridden the Willow Springs Kart Track. We were all green. I was second to last in rotation. 40 minutes amongst 7 riders = 2 laps, then GTFO! Well, I did 2/3rd of a lap when the checkered flag came out, telling me to exit. Gordon was last in rotation for practice…buuuut….even with everyone only doing 2 laps, we ran out of time.
Gordon was lapless. So who better to START the race than G himself!? :D
Gordon, our courageous and talented team captain takes charge in the Le Mans race start
I met Gordon Pull not that long ago, really. Max of Oxymoron Photography introduced us. Maybe just over a year ago and some change, actually. I instantly liked Gordon. If you ever met him, you’d know why. Gordon is a genuine dude. Laid back, total “bro”. He’s one of those people that you’ll not often have a chance to meet…the kinda guy that just exudes good. You know what I’m talking about? Maybe not, cause there aren’t many people in this world like him.
G wastes no time and starts putting down fast laps!
You see, I’ve never raced anything before. I’ve been shooting moto races since April of 2006. I’ve seen so much shit happen, that just when I start thinking to myself “you know, maybe I could go out and do a few races,” something horrific happens. Someone’s life forever changes right before my very eyes [and lens] in a flying, twisting, shearing heap of scrap metal, shattered plastic, broken bones, torn flesh, and screams of agony. Or worse, the deafening silence following a crash…that 3 or 4 seconds—that feels like hours—it takes for an unconsious body to remember to take it’s first concussed breath…as I stare, crossing my fingers that reflex kicks in and they DO actually take that breath. Yes, that’s really what it’s like. And it’s deterred me from ever racing for all these years. Particularly, race starts. Watching 30+ motorcycles all vying for that same inch of real-estate barrelling into turn 1 at the same time…while everyone tells me it’s a rush, I see it as a risk. So I don’t race. I haven’t raced. I’ll likely never race in that fashion.
But this was different. Bikes had already been on track for around an hour. All I had to do was filter into traffic and start lapping. No different than at a trackday, really. I had no fear. Well, I take that back, I did have one fear…the fear of being “that guy.” I didn’t know how it would feel to run our alloted hour-long stint yet. In our team meeting in the morning, we’d all decided that an hour would be our goal, and if we could go longer, we’d signal to our pit and continue on.
An hour straight, while lapping at race pace, loomed in front of me. I glanced at the clock on the Grom’s dash…it was 1:08pm. I really didn’t want to be “that guy.”
After about 3 laps, I had the track figured out and just started riding. I picked off bike after bike after bike. I hit apex after apex after apex. And I giggled. A lot. My first session out, and I was having an absolute BLAST! I had myself a nice little carrot too. My friend Cameron was also racing on another team. I’d catch him and hoot and hollar and laugh behind him and flip him off every single time I had the chance. It was great. I think having him out there, and having ridden with him several times in the past, really helped ease me into the fact that I was actually racing.. This was great!
After what seemed like 20 minutes or so, I took another peek at the clock on the dash. I was nearly 45 minutes into my first stint. “I got this!” was my thought. Suddenly, I wasn’t so worried about being “that guy” anymore. After my hour was up, Kinsy, who was manning the pit board, instructed me to “GTFO”, I waved it off, signalling that I was able and wanting to do more laps. 3 laps later, I was instructed again to Get The Fuck Off the track. Haha! Reluctantly, I did. Eric was eager to ride.
Coming on and off the track, the rules stated we needed to be under “foot power.” Meaning, engines off as soon as you exit the track, come to a complete stop and either have your teammates push you in or paddle your way in with your feet. The same with leaving your pits to reenter the track: paddle or be pushed, but no motors until you hit the entry gate.
As I was pushed into the pits (as was our team strategy for the entire 24 hours), I popped the gas cap open and prepped for entry into the pits. I come in, I stop, and I go to step off the bike…but my legs aren’t responding to my brain-waves like they usually do. Haha! I ended up sorta slithering off the back of the bike. My legs were pretty tired. Moreso than I’d realized while actually lapping. My knees were already hurting pretty good, but my spirits were really, really high. And I took 800mg of Ibuprofen.
Kondo took third shift… I wanna take a second to talk about Eric. I’ve known this dude since he “started” riding motorcycles in 2010. He’d emailed me saying something along the lines of “My wife bought me this R6 and I’m going to go to the track! Take pictures of meeeeee!” He left me with this impression that he was new to motorcycling, or that he’d ridden long ago perhaps, and was going to give it a whirl again or something… So, I met him in 2010, shortly after that initial email, at Miller Motorsport Park during a Yamaha Apreciation day. He was bubbly and enthusiastic. I remember watching him like a hawk on track, judging his riding since he was “a n00b”…and much to my chugrin, the dude seemed to know what’s up. He looked good out there 5 years ago! Like maybe he knew more than he let on…
Skip forward over the last several years, and he’s taken to racing, instructing, and pretty much being a bad ass motorcyclist and one cool dude!
Well, it turns out, he was just a sleeper. This guy has been riding, racing, and kicking ass for more years than I’ve been alive. He’s just so damned humble that unless you PRY (like I was), you’d never know. Behind his warm, friendly smile is a motorcycle racing animal. Eric, you ain’t foolin no one anymore, you stud, you! Eric is also an EXCELLENT cook!
I’m pretty sure Eric (EKON) Kondo was yawning inside that helmet.
If a dude is rocking pink leathers, you know he’s the shiznit. Just sayin.
Andrew Lee, racer extraordinaire, took the next shift. He was our ace-in-the-hole. Our crème de la crème. And he did not dissapoint.
I’ve been watching Andrew grow up over the last several years. He’s still a kid at 16 years of age. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet. But the boy can ride a motorcycle. In fact, just two weeks ago, he had a handful of podiums piloting his R6 at Sonoma Raceway with AFM. With nary an M1 endorsement, btw. ;) He’s a good kid. He’s got great support from his family as well. His dad, Eddie is always by his side at the races, and this weekend was no different. Eddie helped play a huge role in the pits, helping with anything and everything. Thanks, Eddie! You and Kathy are raising one hell of a good kid. Andrew, I’m proud to know ya.
Andrew had exactly 2 laps on the Grom before the race. No matter! As talented as he is, he immediately took to the bike, eventually turning the fastest lap of the entire race with a 55.714. Wicked.
And he looked good doing it!
After Andrew’s session, Eddie and I ran him back to the pits for the next rider change. Photo: Eric Kondo
Tomas was up next. Of all the people I was with, Kinsy included, I’ve known Toe the longest. Toe and I have been working together with 4theriders since 2007. I knew Toe when he was still a skinny little spider-monkey. He and I have travelled upwards of 150,000 miles together. We’ve been across and outside of the country together, riding, shooting, causing general mayhem, and living life to the fullest. Toe is my best friend. I was stoked that he and I, the only two people on our team who had no race experience, would be doing this together as well.
Bear on a bike? I think so.
Yep, confirmed. Bear on a bike. Lulz.
Jim and Nickie of Catalyst Reaction Tuning ended up being our backbone of the entire program. Without them, I don’t think we would have been as successful or as comfortable as we were. They were dedicated from minute one. They dumped in a ton of their own time, money, R&D, and testing into the Grom. Tomas also works for Catalyst Reaction Tuning, and he too helped build and test the bike, making sure everything was dialed in and ready to rock and roll. Our pits looked professional. We had everything we needed. And even stuff we didn’t need.
Too legit to quit, hey hey!
Jim: Talented suspension wizard, and equally talented Grom racer!
Todd was up next. Todd was new to me. I had no idea who he was as we only met just this weekend. All I really know is that he’s a cool dude and he can ride the shit out of a Grom. :D Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of him. It was already around 7:30pm, and I’d been either running around, shooting, or riding all day in the hot sun, and I took a break from shooting for a short while. Before I knew it, his session was up. He wouldn’t ride again till o’dark-thirty and I didn’t take any night pics. Sorry Todd!
Instead, here’s a shot of Todd sitting under the shade of our illustrious pit setup
And some Taiko drummers drumming at the start of the race!
Things went smoothly over the next several hours. I wasn’t up for my next session until around 12am or so. I did team-like pit things in that time. Eric made us tasty burgers for dinner.
We get to hang out and talk with a lot of the racers for a while in between running riders in for rider changes, fuel stops, etc. Young, the M1GP organizer, was on top of his game. He often came to our pits and asked us how we were doing, making sure we were happy, etc. Concierge-like, even. I felt like all of us were very well taken care of. I appreciated him very much.
The hours rolled by. Average laptimes were between 58 seconds and 1:01 between all of us. Team A-Holes kept us honest for many, many, many hours. We held a 6 lap lead for around the first 12 hour or the race. They were pulling LONG, LONG shifts. One of which, I hear, did a 3 hour long shift without stopping. Fucking Iron-Man. Then they had issues. A big crash in the middle of the night set them back by a few more laps…followed by another crash. They dropped from a close 2nd place overall, to 3rd, 28 laps down.
It was around 10pm. Tomas was up. But it was time for a tire change first. Our rider came in, the bike went on stands, and within about 1 minute, a new wheel with a fresh slick was on the bike, and Tomas headed out. Not 10 seconds later, a problem. We’d forget to put the cush drive in the wheel! I sprinted after Toe, but he’d already made it to the track before I could stop him. 4 laps, and lots of yelling later, we got him off track and back into the pits. Problem solved without any damage. Though, we did lose a few laps in that one.
My exact times and who was riding exactly when are a little fuzzy. My phone had no service, so I didn’t have a clock on me half the time. At some point in time, one of the LED light generators had run out of fuel, leaving about 1/4 of the track in the dark. A bunch of us made our way over with flashlights at first, to light up turn 1, then a few vehicles were parked by the track to further light up the track.
My next session started around 11, I think. I’d had a long break, so I was feeling pretty refreshed, even with all the sprinting around. I had a blast out there in the dark. Laptimes were slower by about a 1-1.5 seconds for me, but it was still amazing. The temps had dropped quite a bit, and it felt great!
50 minutes later, my left hamstring cramped. I tried stretching it out while riding, but every time I put my foot on the peg, it would cramp instantly. I signalled to my pit that I had to come off. Since I was still 10 mins shy of an hour, I didn’t know if the next rider was ready to go or not. I rode knee down through the right handers, and supermoto through the left handers, unable to put my foot on the peg. I did 6 more laps until I was 100% confident that the next rider was ready to rock and roll, and pulled off.
I got into the pits and was immediately informed that I may have gotten the team penalized 1 laps for “agressive passing.” I was pretty dissapointed. I defintely made some CLOSE passes, but I was always tidy with them, and would hold impossibly tight lines at times just to make sure I never made contact or ran anyone off, etc. One person did get spooked by my inside pass and stood it up and ran off. That’s what cause the penalty.
I spent most of the next hour and a half stretching, drinking RaceFuelz, and eating bananas and stuff. I also approached the rider whom ran off when I passed them and asked “did you think it was a bad race pass?” The reply was that yes, it did scare them. So I simply apologized. My goal was to have the most fun possible. I didn’t want any friction.
At some point, Tomas was up again, and I let him borrow my helmet. He’d forgot to bring a clear visor. Most of our team had gone to sleep. Kinsy, Tomas, Nickie, and myself were pretty much the only ones up, taking care of everything that needed to be done. After a quick meeting, it was decided that I’d go out again after Tomas to redeem myself. He did an hour and a half stint before coming back in. Rider change. And helmet change. Lulz.
Normally, I’d never let anyone borrow my helmet. Ever. Let alone right before I need to wear it. But after years of being with Toe, I’ve slowly learned that I can get any cure for his diseases at Planned Parenthood for pretty cheap. So I wasn’t so worried. “I hope it’s at least still warm when I put it on,” I told Kinsy. Hahaha!
We were in and back out within a minute. I went out there pretty apprehensive about my hamstring. My biggest fear was that I’d go out and immediately start cramping. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I went out there on a MISSION. I did over 100 laps in a row in that session alone. I rode for about an hour and 50 minutes before I my hands started hurting so much that I feared it was impacting my laptimes. So I signalled to our pits that I was done. It was 4am by then. I hadn’t slept at all yet.
I came off track for what ended up being my final session on the bike.
Kinsy went to sleep shortly thereafter. Tomas and I stayed up doing pit-stuff until 5:30am. By then, we were exhausted. The next shift took over, and Toe and I went to bed. I crashed out in the Ralliment almost instantly.
The next thing I know, it’s 10am and Todd was waking me up, telling me that everyone was hungry. Haha! I woke up, got cleaned up, and then Kinsy and I started in on the BBQ prepping eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, and tortillas into a breakfast burrito medley for everyone.
11:30am, Sunday morning, and It’s time for final rider change. We sent our team captian, Gordon, out for the final 30 minutes to bring it home. I ran him from the pits to the track entrance. As I pushed, I yelled for him to go have fun and bring it in safe. As I let go and he fired up the little Grom motor and peeled off, I suddenly got emotional.
I was really proud of what we had accomplished so far. We still had a 19 lap lead overall. Our entire weekend had gone nearly flawlessly, and the small hiccup or two we had was insignificant. We all did our parts as a TEAM. We gelled. We meshed. We did a really good thing. And we did it all together. I was overwhelmed with pride, and my eyes welled up something fierce. :)
Gordon brought it home. 24 hours later, we won.
Numba 1, bishes!
Kinsy, I can’t thank you enough for coming down. Even though we couldn’t drive down together, you were there for me, for us, for the team. You helped out soooo much with everything and I really appreciate you. I love you tons, Penguin. Thank you, from the bottom, both sides, the front, and the middle of my heart. Not the top or the back though…Hehe :P
Gordon, Tomas, Eric, Andrew, Jim, Nickie, Eddie, and Todd, thank you all so much for EVERYTHING. It was a very special weekend for me that I’ll never, ever forget.
Thumbs up from Ekon!
The top 3 teams overall: G-Craft international (left), If this is GROM, I don’t want to be right (middle), and UnderGrom (right). Photo by Kevin Hipp
Victory is so refreshing!
Gordon and the Little Grom the DID on the top step!
Our team! FUCK YEAH! photo by Kevin Hipp
Champions! It even has our names on it!
Thank you to the team and to our sponsors!