Kyle Wyman - A Wild Weekend at Road Atlanta, aka, Road Adversity
NEWS May 2, 2012
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
(May 1, 2012) - I always start my blog entries by telling you all what I'm up to right at the moment I put fingers to keys, so right now I'm on an airplane heading west bound to California. I've just spent the weekend in Birmingham, AL at the most recent Jason DiSalvo Speed Academy at Barber Motorsports Park, and now am headed out to the left coast to get back to racing. The past 10 days of my life have been filled with ups and downs, and I feel it was worth it's own blog entry.
I was really excited to be racing at Road Atlanta again, it is my favorite track in the country and the event had returned in 2012 after a one-year hiatus from the AMA Pro Road Racing schedule. I always look forward to "Road A" - as it's sometimes called. I always thought that the "A" would always stand for Atlanta, but based on my recent experiences, I'm going to go ahead and change that for this weekend's sake. The 'A' in "Road A" now stands for adversity; as a result of a race that would go down as one of the most memorable of my career.
It all started on Friday afternoon. I had been riding my Triumph Daytona 675R in the GoPro Daytona Sportbike class. The team and I had no testing time going into the race weekend, and we struggled. There weren't major problems with the bike - in fact, the bike was incredible. The potential of the Triumph in middleweight competition is something to be recognized. The problems we were having were small, yet just pronounced enough to hinder our performance. There is no one to blame - the amount of testing time was the key factor, and as is the case with any new bike, we just had to massage out the kinks a bit before we could really start rolling.
My weekend took an unfortunate turn for the worst on Saturday morning during GoPro Daytona Sportbike qualifying when I lost the rear and high-sided over the turn 5 hill. Believe it or not, this was the first time I had ever high-sided a road race bike. I've had my share of crashes, as has every rider in our series, but the brutal high-side was something I had been able to avert up until this past weekend. I knew it would happen eventually, but I have always tried to use my dirt track background to be smart and utilize throttle control skills that I've practiced since I was just a little kid.
Something hurt now - my foot was throbbing. I made it off the racing surface, the medical staff reached me, loaded me up into the ambulance and carted me over to the on-site medical center. I knew that I had my first XR1200 practice session coming up in less than an hour, so I did my best to get in and out of there as fast as I could. Turns out they let me go with a couple of ibuprofen, and I was on my way with a crutch under my left arm.
I don't remember a lot of details from the "Road Adversity" weekend. There was a lot going on both on and off the track that it was difficult to take in at times. It's a funny thing when there's loads of adversity thrown into a situation, not only in racing, but in many things in life. The human brain seems to reach an extremely efficient, reactive type of 'mode' that allows it to perform to it's maximum capability when problems arise. There is no time for doubt, no time to question one's ability, nor is there time to over-analyze. The brain simply gets it's job done using 100% of it's power, at times leaving no left over brain space to store memory or process events - simply a reactive state. This is the best description I can give for my Sunday at Road Atlanta.
After the crash on the Triumph, I decided to apply my focus back to the XR1200 class. I had XR practice right after my wreck, and was able to come out P1 during the first session. This was great reassurance for me and the situation with my foot. I was worried - I could barely walk. It was nearly impossible to walk without a crutch or cane, but the nature of the injury (being in the heel) made it tolerable on the motorcycle, since I ride with my toes.
Saturday afternoon qualifying went pretty well, I went out early on my practice tires and set the 2nd fastest time of the session, but was dis-pleasured towards the end of the session when my new-tire hard qualifying stint went unrecorded due to lack of a transponder on the bike. It turns out we had switched to the back up bike briefly in the session, and when we went back to the primary bike we forgot to put the transponder back on. This was a bummer - it's no fun being second fastest! Nonetheless, I was confident for the race, knowing that I could run at a fast pace for full race distance, I just couldn't wait to get back on the track.
Sunday morning I was P1 again in the morning warm up. It's nice being able to grab that last little bit of confidence before the race by going fastest on the morning of. I was ready to go, that's for sure, and the foot was feeling pretty decent. It was tough to ride, don't get me wrong, but walking was the real issue. The adrenaline that flows when I'm riding was a big help with the pain, so quite honestly it was the least of my worries come race time.
Road Atlanta was an important weekend for me. It was my first race debuting my new title sponsor - the KLR Group. The KLR Group is an investment bank focused on the energy segments, and along with GK Motorsports and my partnership with the Progeria Research Foundation, I wanted to give them my best efforts and get another win under the new banner!
The beginning of the race seemed to be going as planned. I got a great holeshot and was in second place going up the hill. I made a move over Turn 5 and was able to put myself in the lead, only to get drafted back on the straightaway headed down into turn 10. Keep in mind, this is the first lap - nobody is quite pushing the limits yet, but there was problems on the other side of that hill.
Apparently there was oil down on the racetrack from an incident that happened on the warm up lap. The corner workers did not recognize the oil and/or did not convey the message to AMA Pro Racing in time to get the race stopped. The next thing I knew, I was tumbling through the gravel trap in Turn 10, not knowing what hit me. I reached the conclusion that there had to be fluid on the track.
From the sidelines, I could see now that they had red flagged the race, so the only thing I could think about was getting back to pit lane as quickly as possible to make sure I had time to restart the race - if I could. I ran through the gravel trap and through my pain to climb the fence and reach a mystery fan with a dirt bike whom I begged for a ride back to the pits. He was my hero at that point, so hey, if he's out there reading this - Thanks for the lift!!!
I made it back to pit lane to see the mad scramble of humans, tools and parts as my Dad, Uncle Bill and Paul Diener worked hard to get my back up bike prepared for battle. AMA Pro's word was that I would be able to restart the race - but I would have to start in the back of the grid. The oil on the track and (alleged) negligence had just cost me my hard work in qualifying that got me on the front row. I am still in disagreement with the way the rule was applied to the situation, but that's racing.
My reactive mind went into full combat mode at this point. I had watched Blake Young just the day before - he crashed in the SuperBike race and miraculously came through the field from the back of the grid to secure victory in Race 1. It was incredible, and I wanted to do the same thing. I knew it would be a challenge. My spare bike had a completely different setup on it compared to my A bike, including a different brand of suspension components. I had done three laps on it in qualifying, so it was shaken down, but at the same time it was very new to me. I would have to adapt to it in the opening laps of the race to maximize my odds.
From the time the lights went out, I rode as hard as I could. I tried to put riders behind me as early as possible so I could have clear track to put my head down. By lap 3 I had made it up to fourth place, but the leaders were about 2.5 seconds adrift and it is very difficult to reel in a group of three riders when they are all drafting each other. I posted the fastest lap of the race on lap 6, but it wasn't going to be enough. There weren't enough laps for me to close up the gap that I lost while sifting through the pack. With two laps to go, the rider in second place had a mechanical and I was then slotted into third place. Finally! A gift? I couldn't believe it! After everything I went through, something finally went my way and I was able to come away with a podium finish despite all the drama. I couldn't be happier, and I have no complaints. My crew did a great job and we never gave up, so our hard work was rewarded.
On Tuesday after the race, I decided I better go get my foot checked out. I went to the local Urgent Care location in Trussville, AL to have x-rays done and the prognosis was bitter-sweet. Firstly, the bad news was that there were hair line fractures in my heel from the accident on Saturday morning. The good news was there didn't need to be any cast, brace, or any other stabilization process. All I have to do is continue on as I normally do, try to ice and elevate it, and take it easy with the impact activities. This was a relief, because after my accident in 2009, I was all too used to being laid up because of my right leg. I was glad to hear that I could resume some of my normal activities according to a doctor, but we all know the riding was going to happen either way! I have been cycling only, just as I expected, but I know I will be strong and ready to get out to Sonoma at the end of the week.
Next up on the schedule is Infineon Raceway. I consider this my weakest track on the tour. I've only had close to 30 laps around the place but I'm looking forward to re-learning it and the challenge involved. On a positive note, I think the track layout and characteristics will cater to my bike. I have found a great base setup with support from Ohlins USA and Superbike Chassis, and the bike really excels in the types of technical sections that Infineon has to offer. I can't wait to get out there this weekend and give this thing another go!
Thanks for reading!
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