Rally West Virgina – part 2, racing in the dark

Note the small auxillary lights just below the headlight. Not much but enough to give me the confidence that if the headlight died I had enough light to not instantly crash!

I used the one hour service period to give the bike a quick check, cleaned my visor and my headlights, and grab a bite to eat.  I was lucky and my wipeout on stage 2 had not done any damage to the bike.  An hour later I was back on the road and did the transit back to the start of the special stage.  By this time the sun had gone down and it was dark.  With the nearly full moon and the perfectly clear skies however we could see pretty well while waiting around for the start of the special stage.

I don’t do a lot of riding at night and what riding I usually do is just on paved roads and normal speeds.  This was the first time trying to ride at race pace on gravel in the dark.  Once again, it is probably good I didn’t know where I stood overall (3rd at this point) because then I probably would have tried to push it beyond what was reasonable.  One big key to night racing is having lots of extra light on the bike.  I had a couple of cheap led driving lights which I had originally bought for my street bike but never got around to installing.  When I heard there were going to be some night stages an RWV I figured I should install them on the DRZ.  They are not all that bright but at least they would provide some redundancy in case my regular headlight failed.  I have always been very nervous about riding a bike that has only one light illuminating the road, if that light fails you are in the dark.  I also recently bought an led helmet light which is powered by a battery pack.  It is surprisingly bright for an led but still far from riding in the daylight.

We ran the same road as we had run in the daylight however this time it was in the opposite direction.  This gave me some idea of where the tighter corners were however with 13 miles you don’t really know what is coming up.  There were a few corners which took me by surprise as I carried a little too much speed into.  On a few corners I had the death grip on the brakes as I realized I was coming in too hot.  I had to tell myself to turn into the corner and prevent myself from freaking out and just going straight on into the trees.  Each time I ended up having no trouble making the corner, I think it was more of a difficulty in judging my speed in the dark.

I finished stage 3 without incident in a time of 20:49.  That was 4th fastest for the stage and still good enough to keep me in 3rd overall.

We then had another 5 mile transit back to the same start for stage 4.  This was the same course again.  I was surprised how I nearly got caught out on a few of the exact same corners.  Still I had to force myself to turn in when I thought I might be going too fast.  On this stage I was slightly faster at 20:40 (9 seconds faster).  How is that for being consistent!  This was still 4th fastest however I dropped down to 4th overall.  David Jansen (who had the crash on stage 2 where he lost about 7 minutes) had been turning in the fastest stage times of all the bikes in these night stages and had climbed back up to 3rd.

By the finish of stage 4 I think it was around 11:30PM and with the transit back to the service park at Snowshoe it was right around midnight.  The scary thing is the cars still had not run their night stages yet!  The cars were going to be up very late.  Jane and I had planned on sleeping in the van at the service area however when I realized that the race cars would be coming in so late at night I decided that a parking spot away from service would be a good idea.  I later learned that the cars finished up the second night stage at around 2am.  Most of the volunteers were out there until about 3am.

If any of the RWV volunteers are reading this.  YOU GUYS ROCK!!!!

Jane and I slept in the van in a parking spot about 1/2 mile away from the service area.  Was nice and quiet and we got a good night’s sleep.  My mind was spinning from the day’s excitement but I was so tired I managed to fall asleep fairly quickly.  Of course my dreams were filled with twisty gravel roads :)


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One Response to Rally West Virgina – part 2, racing in the dark

  1. Fabio Miguez says:

    I know what you mean about the dreams, I often find myself installing parts in my dream that I can’t afford in real life, and of course in my dreams their performance is even better than you could expect, so a lot of mornings I’m disappointed to find out it wasn’t real…

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