I’ve mostly been away from AFM the last two years. This year, I made an effort to be at all the rounds I could; two of em, to be precise. There are so many new bikes, new faces, and new names that I kinda feel like the old-out-of-place-guy. But no worries…I’ve got a camera, and I know how to fucking use it. :D
This round, Tomas came and helped me out on Saturday. I had to shoot some stuff on the west side, so I couldn’t give my full attention to AFM on Saturday until about 2:30pm… So some of these pics are Toaster’s pics. He’s pretty much a BAMF with a camera too.
Also, Kevin came and busted out the video equipment. For those of you know don’t know Kevin—most of you, I’m sure—he’s pretty much spent most of his last 10 years with 4theriders behind-the-scenes…he’s the guy that brought you your favorite motorcycle video:
So…no official word on what may be coming yet…but I’ll keep you posted. ;)
Anyhow, I just wanted to post up a few pics that I enjoyed from this weekend. It was the final round, so I feel like it deserves a small recap in photos. Enjoy. If you wanna see every single one of 6084 photos we took, then they’re online here: http://4theriders.com/pics.php?loc=/pics/2018/AFM-R7/
This weekend, I decided to make a comeback to AFM and take pics. Something I hadn’t done in almost exactly a year. Mostly because I’ve been away at other events, but partly because I know AFM is in good hands with Max and Koi out there doing their thing. This weekend, I just happened to be free, it was along the way to my next event, and because, frankly, I could use a bit of extra cash.
I got to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in some time. It’s always great catching up. I also met many new faces…racers whom I’d never seen in events past…everyone’s numbers were different. Half the time, I didn’t recognize who was who out there…on one hand, it was good. I shot all my photos fresh and new, as if i didn’t really know anyone out there. There was no favoritism. I didn’t particularly lean heavily on anyone (except the few that preordered photos and I’d commited their race numbers to memory). I simply did what I know how to do best: made memories of everyone to have and share.
Bear with me, if you’d like; I have no particular path with this post, only a final destination. I’ve got many, many thoughts, and they’re in zero particular order.
I’ve been taking photos of motorcycles, riders, and racers for about a dozen years now. I’m not sure there’s anything left that I haven’t seen. Both good and bad.
On Saturday while on track, I was thinking back to one instance in particular some years ago where Michael Earnest had crashed in the opening laps of Formula Pacific while cresting t3a at Sonoma. I caught it all on camera. He’d hurt himself, but managed to get the bike up and going again and restarted the race. Honestly, I don’t even remember where he’d finished after the restart, but I do remember it like a hero-story. I chased Formula Pacific around the track that race as fast as I could, capturing this “saga” of Michael Earnest. I was at start/finish when the race ended. As Michael crossed the line, he pulled off to the tire wall on the left, put his head down, and whimpered, leaning on the tire wall, unable to dismount his bike, unable to even finish the cool down lap. He was in a lot of pain.
I captured all of this. It’s something I’ll never forget. I was proud of man-kind at that exact moment. I don’t fully even know how to describe it, honestly. Michael was able to do something that not a lot of people can. It may not have been smart, but the pure guts and determination of it all…it was memorable. It was honest. It was pure.
On the flip side, I’ve seen many riders crash to greater and lesser degrees. Not all of them get up. At least, not right away. One of the first things I do when someone crashes in front of me is take pause and listen. Why? Because the next sound they make tells me how hurt they really are. When I hear a string of curse words first thing, I know they’re good. When I hear the moan of pain, I know they’re hurt, but it’s likely not all that bad. When I hear the wet gurgles, then I know it’s not good at all. When I don’t hear anything…well, I just keep listening because eventually they’re gonna wake up and I’ll hear something.
Twice now while shooting photos, I’ve heard the nothing. I kept listening, but they never woke up.
Allen Rice was a track rider on a Triumph 675. He hit the wall at about 50 miles per hour. Right in front of me. I didn’t know Allen. I’d never met him in my life. I don’t ever recall seeing him at the track prior to that afternoon. But I remember his name. I remember the way his face looked as he lay there on the asphalt while medics did CPR. I remember the sound his body made as they did chest compressions. I took one last click with the camera and walked away dazed. I didn’t ride that day as I’d intended. I briefly wondered if I even wanted to ride motorcycles anymore. It was a haunting memory for a long time.
Joseph Pusateri was a racer on a Kawasaki 636. Another human I’d never met before. It was my first time shooting a WERA race. I clicked away at 6 frames per second as he lowsided, seemingly gently, in a pretty slow corner. I remember thinking to myself that that should be a guaranteed sale. Everyone loves to get their crashes on camera. Except…he didn’t get up either. Instead, he lay slumped in an awkward position next to his bike. The medics came. Then the coroner.
I can’t even remember anything else about that weekend. I don’t know if the races continued. I don’t know if they were cancelled. I don’t know if I even took more pictures after that. The only thing I can remember was thinking about Joe’s wife running out onto the track, fighting with the corner workers and medical personel trying to get to Joe. I cried then. I’m fighting back tear now.
Inherently, motorcycles are dangerous. I’ve joked about how dumb we are as motorcyclists in the past. Really, we are. We’re not smart beings. To take the risks we do, day in, day out. On the track at speeds “normal” people would consider ludacris. On the street dodging cars and thousands of other hazards every day. In the woods, avoiding cliffs and trees. On the motorcross track jumping 100 foot triples. It’s risky. And to put yourself at continual risk like that…it’s not smart.
But it’s what we do. It’s what we need to carry on. It’s in us like the blood that runs through our veins. Smart or not, it’s what we motorcyclists need. I can’t refute that. If i said I could quit riding, that would be a lie. I’d never be happy again not riding.
I’ve seen SO many people injured doing what we do. Bad. Life alteringly bad. Dave Stanton, Mario Bonfonte, Eric Arnold to name a few. Eric ended up taking his own life rather then carry on. I’ve wondered to myself many times how I could cope. IF I could cope. I really don’t know those answers. I only know the questions.
In all this, I’ve learned to hit the “off switch.” At least, I try. I guess it’s never truly off, but I’ve been able to close off most of the dam, so that it’s only a trickle that gets through anymore. I’ve even been accused in my personal life of being “robotic” at times. It’s true. I can be that way when faced with emotional things. I try and set aside emotion and instead rely on logic to get me through hardships.
Sunday was no different. Jason Blancas, racer #780 passed away at Thunderhill during a race. From what I’ve been told, he made contact with another rider in turn 8 and was highsided from his Yamaha R3.
I wasn’t in turn 8 when it happened. A few of my friends were. Glenn was there. As he told me about it, the lost look in his eyes was soul crushing. I didn’t say much. I only hugged him and fought back tears myself. Taylor came in to the building in tears. She was on com in t8, relaying information as best as she could, holding her composure like a true professional until it was time to come in. It was only her second time corner working at AFM. She just had her 18th birthday. Another corner worker came in, whom I don’t know her name. She was also sobbing.
I kept smashing the “off switch” over and over until until it finally stayed in the off position…and I went about my day, hoping no one would ask me about it.
So many lives change in literally a fraction of a second. Jason is gone. I didn’t know Jason, but many people did. I’m sorry for the loss you feel with his passing. I’m sorry for everyone who was there, trying to save him, if he could even be saved. I know that every single person at AFM feels it. I know the corner workers and the medical staff and race direction did the best they could in any role they could fill. I thank you guys and gals for everything you do. You are all amazing. Your efforts at keeping everyone as safe as possible in this crazy sport we choose to do will never go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you.
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 Read More →
About a week ago I got the privilege of riding with one of the best riding schools I know. Rickdiculous Racing. I have been to a few schools with Joe. I’ve listened in to all the information that they pile on you (and trust me it’s a lot of info) and thought, “Wow, I really, really, REALLY want to take this school.” I loved everything that I was hearing but couldn’t fully grasp the concept. See I’m the type of person that has to “do” to retain.
The Rick program is nothing like I have ever seen. They combine both bikes and CARS as learning tools. Plus, their small class size (one on one coaching) really makes you feel important and not fall into the crowd. They are dedicated to the sport and to your personal best.
As some of you may already know, I was involved in an altercation at AFM round 3 with Monte Izatt. As “punishment” for my actions, I was informed today that the Board decided that I was to sit out the next round (AFM R4 at Thunderhill). That I’m not permitted to even be on the premises during the event.
Firstly, I’d like to apologize to all my season pass holders. I’m sorry that I won’t be there to shoot for you guys. It really bums me out. I’ll figure out a way to make it up to you guys tho. And if you have any specific needs or concerns, please contact me and let me know.
////EDIT FOR UPDATE/// Max Klein of OxymoronPhotography has graciously stepped up and offered to take care of all my season pass holders! You’re a gem, Max, thank you!
Secondly, I’ll simply itterate the events that led to this decision:
The altercation was initially spawned from a post he’d made on my 4theriders facebook fan page, which read:
This is the first time I’ve ever posted a race report…I’ve done a few races with SRA West, but this is our first as a Father/Daughter race team!
My dad, Mo, is a first time racer. He’d only had about 20 minutes of seat time EVER in the sidecar at the airport where he works a few weeks ago. So going all the way down to LVMS and racing with WERA this weekend was a totally new adventure! Read More →
What can I say? It was drama. It was close racing. It was friendship and family and community banding together. It was personal bests. It was fun. It was bad calls and ridiculous decisions. It was overcoming obstacles. It was broken timing and scoring equipment. It was hard work by volunteers. It was getting to see and hang out with old friends whom I missed.
It was yet another great weekend hosted by Sam & TTP.
You guys know I’m not that great with words. I often spew out whatever froth bubbles from my mind with little to no filter. Some love me for it. Some hate me for it. Either way, pictures don’t lie. So I’ll mostly let the pictures speak on my behalf.
Tho…I do want to point out something: Sam and TTP put on one hell of a fun event.
He offers up something that I’ve never seen before in all my years of being around the track and motorbikes and the likes; He offers a chance for the “little guy” to race.
The weekend warriors. The commuters. The motorcycle enthusiasts. The ones who may be afraid to make that leap from trackdays into actually getting a race license, spending the beaucoup bucks on aquiring a race bike, trailers, suspension, this, that, everything…he gives the guys and gals that want to experience the rush of a race start…of tipping into turn 1 at 100+ mph side by side with their best friend to see who will come out victorious after 6 laps of slidey-puck, knee-racing, poppa-wheelie action. To get a plastic trophy at the end of the day and who will have a memory that will last them the rest of their life, and the life of their son or daughter and those close to them.
This kid is a beast. He’s my girlfriend, Kinsy’s kid. He’s raced 4 rounds of MiniMotoUSA so far this year, and I just wanted to post up a few pictures showing off how damned adorable and awesome he is motor-scootin around on his little 50 and his pocketbike. He podiums every round racing against some kids twice his age.