Well, it’s that time of the year again where a small group of predominantly Irish motorcycle racers take to the roads and compete in what some think is the craziest form of racing on the planet.
With a year of ‘Real Road Racing’ (as some like to call it, not to be confused with circuit ‘road racing’ like MotoGP or Superbike) under my belt, I wanted to share my perspective and also explain the difference between road racing and circuit racing as well as endurance racing. It basically all comes down to a few things: how we mentally and physically prepare for it, the teams that participate in it, the press that covers it and, quite frankly, the competitors that enter it.
Training: Preparing physically for a road race is totally different than for a circuit race or endurance race. It is less about cardio training and more about muscle training, specifically the upper body and neck muscles. Some of the roads we race on are so bumpy that it’s hard to keep clear vision and both wheels rarely touch the road at the same time! We surpass 325 km/h (over 200 mph) in several cases, and that lasts for what feels like an eternity. At night I can’t even look behind me due to neck pain, and the crazy thing about most road races is they are spread out over several days, so you need to get back on the bike the very next day and do it all over again. The North West 200 is held over five days, and the Isle of Man TT is two weeks!
Mindset: I am writing this paragraph last since it is the most difficult part to express in words.
Road racing is dangerous. More dangerous than any other sport that I am familiar with.
Every year, we reflect back at the loss of life, and the saying “At least he died doing what he loved,” surfaces. I am not going to dig into that right now as it is too deep for my upbeat and happy blog, but I will say that you do need to prepare for the worst heading into these events, and use your head at all times when on the bike. For me that means riding at 95% and to really think through any risky manoeuvres.
At night you reflect on each day and the feeling is impossible to put into words. It is amazing. Getting back home to be with family when it is all said and done is why I personally do it. It is the only thing I have found that tests a person in so many ways and gives me the ultimate appreciation for being alive.
Team: In my opinion, you want to be part of an experienced team. In racing, we all know that things can go wrong mechanically. It is the nature of the sport as we are essentially assisting the manufacturers in the development of future consumer models. With road racing, you want to have a team that is focused on safety. Having a footpeg come loose or a chain come off is not an option. In fact, crashing is not an option with this form of racing.
There are a lot of ins and outs to road racing and I personally would rather team up with a group that has decades of experience rather than try to figure it out for myself. FYI, I am with a great team – Team Penz13.com Bathams BMW Motorrad. They are German-run and precision is everything to them.
Press: The press much, like the fans, are very knowledgeable about both the sport and who is racing in the event. It is predominantly European press with the odd Australian or Japanese journalist. From time to time you will get someone from North America, but not very often. Usually, the Isle of Man TT will attract more global press and events like Ulster or the North West 200 will attract a smaller bunch.
In the end, the press does glorify all the loss of life that is the result of this type of motorbike racing. The Youtube clips get millions of views and there seems to be a new feature film being launched just about each year on tributes or simply the dangers of ‘Real Road Racing.’ I think is where the fascination with this type of racing comes from. It is also this reason why it has never, and most likely will never, become a mainstream form of racing.
Competitors: Much like a national series for circuit racing or the World Endurance Championship, road racing is like a travelling circus. You end up racing against the same riders at all the events, the only difference being that a lot of the Irish road racers will enter into 2-3 smaller local road races in the weeks leading up to the big North West 200, whereas most of the international riders will warm up at a British Superbike Series round or, in my case, racing over in China.The other event that is a little unique within road racing is the Macau GP, held each November in Asia. It is an invitational-only event where only 32 riders are invited. It is usually 32 of the better-known road racers who have a history of attracting a lot of press and getting through a road race safely.
Road racing doesn’t usually have the same paddock environment as other types of racing. It is more relaxed, friendly, and laid back. Competitors genuinely care about each other and rarely ask where we finished, but simply if you are happy and safe. It feels like everyone has your back, which is always a good feeling.
I am off to Northern Ireland tomorrow and practice for the Northwest 200 begins Tuesday. They have issued me #21 for both Superstock and Superbike. Wish me luck and follow me on www.facebook.com/dankrugerracingteam for real-time updates.
Update from Kruger as of 5/13/15
“Horrible weather today. 80km/h winds and rain, but I managed to qualify comfortably for both Superstock and Superbike and that is more than almost 40 other guys could say who have yet to qualify! The BMW is crazy fast, and when shifting from 5th to 6th gear in the pouring rain, the rear wheel lights up and you are spinning up the rain tire at 260 km/h on a bumpy country road with no visibility… nothing quite like that in any racing back home!”
Last chance qualifying is Thursday morning for the guys trying to get into the main event, and then the first race is Thursday evening. The final three races are Saturday.
– Dan #71