When it comes to endurance racing, you never know what you will have to deal with until the checkered flag is out. I have seen pretty much everything, and what I haven’t seen for myself I have heard about from friends or other teams. You can nearly destroy your superbike, rebuild it, and finish in the top five in a 24-hour endurance race. The secret to success? NEVER GIVE UP!
I will never forget racing in an amateur three-hour endurance race at Mosport in Ontario maybe 20 years ago (wow, that makes me feel very old). My buddy Dave and I were racing and wrenching together. No one else there to help us. It was Dave’s stint and he was out putting in the laps and he got a flat tire. He brought the bike back to the pits and we scrambled to get the spare wheel. In perfect amateur fashion we had locked the rear wheel to a tree overnight, and we forgot to unlocked the chain. Of course, neither of us knew where the key was… Dave immediately threw his hands in the air and with disappointment said that it looked like that was it and it was time for a beer, as we were done for the day. I was quick to say “we need to figure this out and get back out there.” Part of me didn’t want to give up the precious track time on the best racetrack in Canada, and another part of me still thought that we had a chance for a podium. We managed to get the chain cut, wheel changed and went back out racing. We ended up an amazing thirrd place and stood on that podium with such joy you would think we just won Suzuka or Le Mans!
I have never forgotten that time, as it was a great lesson for us to learn about never giving up in racing. You never know what your fellow competitors are going through and it could be much worse than your situation. There are many variables in racing, even moreso in endurance racing. Weather, crashes, pit stop delays, ride through penalties… you name it.
Maybe five years ago, I raced in an 8-Hour endurance race at Phillip Island in Australia. It was a big event and we had a proper team in place to fight for a top ten finish. In summary, both of my teammates had very small low-sides during the race, and both times it cost us valuable minutes as they both needed to pit for minor repairs, tire changes and rider changes. In this event, we had a really top-level engineer that had calculated fuel loads, pit stops and the entire race strategy in advance. He then went on to change up the strategy in real-time as the race went on. I would say he single-handedly kept us in the running.
We ended up taking 11th overall and fourth in class, which was quite an achievement for us back then. Two crashes, but we never gave up and the results were there for us.
Last week I raced in a three-hour endurance race in China, and although it was a higher calibre event than the one I did with Dave 20 years ago, the issues remained the same. No, we didn’t have a spare wheel locked to a tree, but we did have problems. The fuel light was stuck on from lap 1 which forced me to come in to confirm the team had filled the fuel tank. They had, of course, and we had to immediately move to a new strategy where the spotter would keep track of our laps and use the pit board to bring us in for fuel stops. Later in the race, my team mate Karl had an electrical issue and had to come in which cost us several laps. With only a few laps to go, the transmission let go and oil spurted everywhere, but we managed to stay on the bike and nurse it home. We had built quite a lead at this point and the other teams had their share of issues as well. We ended up winning even with what seemed to be at least two good reasons to quit early. You simply never know the outcome until you see the checkered flag.
Winning races feels great. If you have ever been on the top step of the box you know, it feels great. However, working through a weekend of highs and lows, whether it is struggling to get a good bike setup or coming back from a practice crash and then winning… that feeling is hard to explain. Working through challenges and still getting good results gives you the best feeling in the world. It also really brings your team together and gives you something to celebrate. The confidence it leaves you with carries over to the next event which in racing is everything. Don’t ever give up.
– Dan #71