Wednesday Morning rolls around.
As the boys load up 2 MVagustas, a CB250r, Grom and the Ruckus, [Kris’ girlfriend] Kim and myself run the last few errands and pack up t-shirts and loose ends. Finally we are all set and ready to head towards Circuit of the Americas for the first round of MotoAmerica.
The trip over from Houston to Austin is short and sweet compared to the traveling we’ve been doing days prior. The boys are in the RV while myself and Kim are in my truck in tow. We arrive a little after noon and get in line with all the other rigs to get into the paddocks with anticipated excitement—we’re finally here! The plan was to get to our designated pit spot in the paddock and set up shop—RV along with a massive blow-up tent to house the garage and crew for the 5 day long event. Except that all does not go along as planned, from the get go we come to find out that RVs for privateer teams are not allowed into the COTA paddock due to space issues. OK we can deal with this, it’ll make things harder since we won’t be able to cook food and eat but we can work around it. But the bigger problem is that all of a sudden we aren’t allowed into the paddock with our RV to unload…what? I mean how are we supposed to get unloaded with all this heavy equipment and bikes? And secondly my truck isn’t allowed in there as well (which holds our pit bikes along with other equipment). Frustration and tension is starting to build.
Fortunately Kris is very personable and makes friends wherever he goes. We acquired a 10 minute window to pull in and unload. So our little 4 man team got into hustle mode and got things done. As we finished unloading everything into our designated spot the boys took the truck and RV back out to find us permanent parking for the week while Kim and myself got to work on setting up the pit area. Turns out the spot was pretty tiny and we had to make sure to fit so that everyone had enough space around us as well. 2 very long and sweaty hours later we were set up at which point I was on a mission to find some water. The one thing about travel and working non stop is you forget or have no time to eat. I didn’t realize how hungry I was.
As I’m Gromin’ it up on the RedBull Grom down the GP paddocks I get flagged over by the Repsol garage crew. At first I’m quite apprehensive on what’s going on, I mean the team riders aren’t even here because everyone was still stuck in Argentina. It’s only Wednesday so security is pretty lax once you’re in the pits. Turns out they liked the grom and wanted to share an espresso with me in the garage—I’ll take it lol! So after fueling up on caffeine and water it’s back to our paddock. We button everything down as the boys get back and then it’s off to dinner since we’re all famished.
We end up meeting a bunch of Kris’ friends at RoadHouse for dinner including our lovely umbrella girl Angie. Angie is super cool, She’s tall, thin, gorgeous and tracks an R3. Her passion for riding and racing is pure and clearly apparent. As the margaritas poured we discussed our plans for the following days and what had to be done. The stress of the day was eventually washed away by good company, food and drinks.
Later back at the RV, Steve and myself get comfy in some sleeping bags where the MVs previously slept. It’s tight and cramped with all our stuff but it’s a sheltered place with AC and it’s our home for the next 4 nights 🙂
As 6am rolls around I’m rudely awakened by the sounds of some guy on a Busa revving his engine for no apparent reason right next to our RV. I’m a little delirious from lack of restful sleep and his engine grates on my nerves but I’m too incoherent and tired to get up and scold him. It’s still twilight and there’s no movement on track but the volunteers are arriving to help with the following day’s festivities from corner workers to entrance attendants. My immediate goal is to get on the 250 and find myself a hot shower, that’ll make everything all better.
As the day unfolds and we ride over to the paddocks, we meet up with our head mechanic Scott who shows up to help. Kris’ MVagustaF3 is still in need of some TLC and not ready to hit tech inspection, much less the practice session later that afternoon. I’m a little nervous about that. To be honest I’m not sure anyone else was but I felt insanely tense as the hours dwindled down to minutes before tech closes. But as all seems to always work out we roll the bike into tech just in time. There’s some questions I can tell and a lot of running around but in the end everything gets buttoned up and everything is sound. On to hot pit we go!
Kris takes off as we all stand in anticipation and watch him go by..lap 1…lap 2..then he pulls in. Something isn’t quite right he says…the power just isn’t there. But he goes out again, it’s been a while since he’s ridden the MV. Lap 3…lap 4…and then lap 5 it’s over—Kris pulls in and is not happy. Something is making a terrible sound, it’s definitely not right. As the boys inspect the bike they notice the Cam chain tensioner bolt has backed out to the last thread and is leaking oil. They screw it back in and Kris proceeds back to the pit. There he lets us know that the bike is nocking and he fears the worst. At this point it’s about 3:30pm so Steve and myself take both the MVs in our truck and head over to Ducati Austin in desperate hopes that the mechanics can take a look at it before the MotoGP Launch party later that evening.
We are in luck, because Kris does his work at Ducati Austin they oblige and pull the bike apart. I know they aren’t thrilled that we dropped this in their lap only 2 hours before the party—everyone in the store is running around and prepping for the event. Now all of the mechanics are hustling in the garage as well—I can’t begin to even tell you my gratitude towards these guys for not turning us away. As they pull out the drain bolt I get a glimpse of probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen to come out of there—crazy amounts of metal shrapnel.
Well that’s it, turns out the MV is down a cylinder and god only knows what else is also wrong with it. We look back at Kris’ B bike that we brought and decide an engine swap is futile—it’s 30hp down and just not capable of competing at COTA. So with a crack of a beer the mechanics stand around the MV and it feels like a scene from a movie where the doctors tried their best but just could resuscitate the patient. We are absolutely gutted for Kris, he’s not there yet but on the phone with the mechanics; I can’t even imagine the look on his face.
As we pack it up we turn our focus to the party that has now started and is in full swing. My mind is quickly distracted by many friends and fellow riders. As the alcohol flows so does the good conversation. We tell Kris’ story to those who inquire with a sad sigh at the end, but what can be done? As the evening rolls on we try and enjoy it as much as possible but buy 11pm we are all back in the RV gathered around and faced with the somber reality of trying to figure out what to do.
Even with these odds against us there is still one more option—to borrow a race bike. Kris makes a few calls while I put out some feelers on my social media channels and tell our story. We need to borrow a bike, one that is prepped and capable of competing in the 600SuperSport class at the fast paced Circuit of the Americas…
To be continued. ~Red