So, after our shortened 1/2 hour service break we were back on the transit to get ready for stage 7. Stages 7 and 8 were to be the same course as 5 and 6 however in the opposite direction. So, the start of stage 7 would be at the same location as the end of stage 6. As we rode up the road I kept expecting to see the rally cars on their transit as they finished stage 6 but I saw none. We reached the “start” of stage 7 however we found they were still the “end” of stage 6. None of the cars had come through yet. It turns out that they had a couple of accidents on stage 5 which delayed the start of stage 6.
This meant we had a lot of time on our hands. It was pretty warm so most of us took off our riding gear and got settled in for the long wait. After a few minutes the first rally car reached the stage 6 finish so we got a good view of all the cars as they came through. I wish I had brought my camera! We cheered on and applauded all of the cars as they came by. Even though we race bikes we are all fans of pretty much all forms of racing, even if the car guys think we are completely nuts.
Oh, and yes, the car guys, as well as most of the volunteers think us bike guys are completely off our rockers for doing this on a bike. They all have full roll cages, racing harnesses, and most importantly a co-driver. The co-driver has notes for the full course listing details on each and every corner saying how tight it is and any unexpected obstacles. On a bike it is just the rider, riding as fast as he feels comfortable using no more information than what he can see…. OK, I guess we are a little crazy!
One of the topics as we were sitting around waiting was our various crashes. Everybody but one had at least one fall at this point. Jason Adams on his ultra cool 1990 BMW R100GS “Paris Dakar” edition bike (I dream of owning one of these) had not fallen. Then, almost on cue his bike falls over on it’s own!
After the last car came through they had to get the stage start and finish controls swapped (since stage 7 was to be reverse direction from stage 6) then a well-deserved lunch break for the volunteers. Once again I can’t say enough good things about the volunteers. They were fairly under staffed and with the delays a lot of them had been out there until 3am the night before. I certainly was happy to wait around for a while longer to allow them a chance to get some food.
Not sure how long the delay was but it was certainly over an hour. During that time one of the race organizers had made the decision that this was going to be the final stage. There simply wasn’t going to be time to run stage 8. I was disappointed but couldn’t argue as it was getting late in the day.
I started off the stage and I didn’t feel I was riding all that well. I think I was nervous about crashing on this final stage and not finishing the rally. Then about 5 miles in I see J.J. McCarthy with his bike laying in the ditch. He gave me the thumbs up that he was OK so I kept going on. I was really glad to see he was OK, then I realized that this meant I moved up a place overall. OK, part of me feels a little sick for being excited about moving up due to someone’s crash, and certainly I would have preferred him to have not crashed, but a very important part of rally racing is riding within your means. It truly often is a race of attrition.
So, I knew at this point all I needed to do is get to the finish. Funny thing happened then…. I got faster. I started to relax and have fun and I really feel like my speed improved. I was on the gas early out of the corners and had good smooth lines through the corners. Everything just felt good. I think I would have had a great time on this stage but turns out we will never know….
I rounded a corner and saw several people waving their arms and telling me to stop. It turns out that a local somehow got on to the road and was driving his pickup in the opposite direction we were going. The rule when something like this is reported is everybody stops and the stage is canceled. So, this stage ended up not counting for anything and the final results from the rally were taken as of the end of the previous stage. This meant J.J. got a free pass and his crash didn’t mean anything (except for his shiny new BMW HP2 was not so shiny anymore).
So, I finished 4th overall, could have been 3rd (which would have gotten me a trophy!). Still I have to hand it to J.J. who is also a fairly new rider (his 2nd or 3rd rally) and I certainly hope the repair bill on that BMW isn’t too scary.
Jason Adams was the overall winner. I think this was a very well deserved win as (I believe) he was the only one to not crash on any stage (we won’t count the bike falling over on its own) and he had nearly the fastest time on each stage. David Jansen had faster times on most stages but not by a lot and David had his massive issue on stage 2 where he lost around 7 minutes. As I mentioned earlier, not making mistakes is very important part of rally racing.
So now I am hooked on this rally racing thing. I am already getting excited for the Black River Stages in New York in late September!