The Wind – My Original Short Story
The Wind – Original Short Story (a novel in the making?)
He gave a gentle tug with his left hand, careful not to disturb the position of the input to the awesome power nestled between his leather-clad legs. The machine rotated right, aimed at that precise pivot called the apex. His body rotated with the bike, taking the center of mass down low in the process. The kneepuck touched down, triggering a slight release in bar pressure to hold the bank angle at that point, and his right hand began to roll the power on. As usual, his breathing stopped at this point in this particular corner. At a hundred-and-sixty-five miles per hour, everything needed to work perfectly. Once again, everything did. Just as the rear tire started it’s waltz toward the outside edge of the track, the pressure on the bars changed polarity and the bike gradually stood up. The throttle returned to it’s normal, WFO setting just as the lean angle reached zero. Passing the start/finish line one more time, the transponder recorded the event to the ten-thousandth of a second.
Rod rolled out of the throttle, having completed the session successfully. He let the speed bleed off with engine braking, coasting until the speed was down below 100mph, then trolling around at what seemed like a crawl to the pit entrance. He rolled to a stop and let his crew take the bike while he stood up and pulled off his helmet. ‘Whew – it felt good, how’d we do?‘ he asked. From the grin on Rando’s face, he figured it was okay.
‘One eighteen oh seven was the best one, average for the last ten was one eighteen seventy-eight‘ replied Pete. No seventeens. Not quite there – but more than two seconds better than the last test session two weeks earlier. The new bike was coming along – but with only a month left before the season began, they had their work cut out for them. Three more riders needed seat time, and the crew had to polish their pit skills for a long season of endurance races.
While that thought went through his head, Pete plugged in the laptop and downloaded the session data. Seconds later the connector was free. ‘Let’s go have a look at some data‘ he said, not waiting for a response before heading back to the RV.
It had been quite a road they’d travelled to get here, and the pressure was now on to get into the season of racing. Nearly two years since the first conceptual sketches of the new ‘Formula Endurance’ machine had been reviewed, and here it was. Sleek and very fast, it’s carbon-fibre frame and unobtanium bits keeping the bike’s weight down to the minimum for the formula – one-hundred-twenty kilos. A mere two hundred sixty pounds being motivated by a very high-tech V-6 engine producing more than two-hundred-fifty horsepower at the rear wheel – at nineteen-thousand-five-hundred revs. The only sound that came close was the F-1 equivalent V-12. Thousands of hours of CAD time had produced an engine that doubled as both a powerplant and a frame member. Wrapped around it was a CF monocoque with only four unstressed subframe elements with which to attach the rider’s accommodations and computer bits. ‘Minimalist’ didn’t begin to describe the exquisite machine.
The team had taken on the moniker of ‘MT’, which stood for MotoTechnikon. The machine was only known as the MT VR-1. While there were dozens of designers and fabrication engineers who had touched the project, the crew that remained to complete the testing and development consisted of the ‘core’ team of Rod, Rando, and Pete, along with mechanics from the successful Moto-Technikon endurance team, two engine technicians, and two chassis technicians putting things in place back in Italy. An additional team of logistics personnel would handle the team during the season; but for now, the core team did all of it in order to keep the expenses within budget. Two years and more than $30M later, it was now time to show the results – at a track different than the one they’d put more than a thousand test miles on. The final stages of testing and development were being done in the States, to keep the prying eyes of Europe and Asia from getting too much detail on the project as the season opener came closer.
‘Yo – take a look at this‘ came Pete’s voice. On the PC screen was a graph which showed the output from more than two dozen accelerometers, strain gauges, and other sensors mounted on the test bike. They gave great details about how the chassis worked at every single point on the track. Where the speeds suffered as a result of tiny flaws in setup, design, or rider input became relatively clear. ‘See this?‘ he asked, pointing to a wavy set of lines at a location just prior to the ‘turn 1’ marker. ‘Both ends are oscillating just slightly – I guess you’d call it chatter. It lengthens the braking zone and probably adds a half-a-tenth. Does it again right …. here‘ he pointed to the entry into another corner where hard braking was needed to haul the bike down from it’s terminal speed (on this course) of nearly 200 mph. ‘A few minutes with the shock sim and I can probably fix that with a little damper trim‘ he said, adding ‘should pick up a tenth, maybe more‘. He scanned through multiple laps worth of data, fingers flying on the keyboard as he analyzed information and compared data from one lap to the others looking for clues to more speed. ‘Here’s another one. Just past the apex in nine, there’s a front-to-back transition that’s upsetting the chassis balance every lap. Like just as the power is coming back up, either the rear shock is doin’ somethin’ funny, or the front is chattering a little. Very subtle; but at that speed it could be another tenth or more.‘ he told them.
‘Two tenths. That’d put us into the high seventeens best case. Not too shabby. Just under the lap record for sure.‘ Rod suggested. ‘Bike felt very comfortable to run low-eighteens for long stretches. What’s that look like?’ he asked, watching Pete’s fingers deftly bring up the data. ‘Talking about the last ten…. number two was the slowest at nineteen-two- thirty-seven. Way slow – what the heck was up with that Rod?‘ he quipped. ‘Five through nine didn’t vary more than a tenth and a half from eighteen-forty. Looks pretty solid. Then ten was a real ripper at oh-seventy-eight. Anxious to take a break?‘ he teased. Rod chuckled and popped open a brew. No more riding for the day, and it was good for his nerves. Pete buried himself in the data, looking for more.
Rando grabbed a brew himself and sat down next to Rod. ‘So what’s next in the queue?‘ he asked, knowing it wasn’t going to be easy.
Rod scratched his chin, thinking through all that remained before the 1st week in March. ‘Gotta get back to Atlanta with the bike, making whatever changes we think we need on the way. Couple days of testing before two of the other pilots arrive, then it’s hammer-down for a week. Second bike should be there at the end of that, so we’ll have a little debug time on it before we get to Florida.‘ he said, referring to Daytona. The first race of the FEC had been added to the Bike Week festivities. They knew they’d be the underdog, as three of the big factories would have entries for that one, along with six support teams and a few privateers. The investors expected results. Representatives from two of them would be there for the testing next week, as observers.
‘What’s the deal with tires? Do we have support from Dunlop?‘ Rando queried, a legitimate concern.
Rod nodded. ‘Yeah, it’s looking good. They’ll have a small transporter/service rig at Road Atlanta. All the best stuff in all the compounds we’ll want to try, with techs to assist if needed. I’m okay with that.‘ He was actually very confident that the tire situation was under control. He had put nearly a hundred laps on three sets of medium slicks in the past two days, with no tire problems at all. There were just too many little details that could sneak up on them all if they didn’t all maintain a vigile – one they’d been maintaining for months.
Rod broke the silence. ‘We havin’ fun yet guys?‘ he asked, downing his brew and standing to walk over behind Pete – still buried in his precious data.
Without taking his eyes from the screen or his fingers from the keyboard, Pete replied. ‘Yo. We got a good five, maybe six tenths hidin’ in that little beauty. All stuff I can do on the ride back east. We leave in the morning?‘ he asked.
‘Yeah. Let’s throw some vittles on the ‘cue and try to relax a bit. We can still talk bikes, and even THE bike; but let’s take a few minutes while we can here’ Rod said. He pulled some marinated filet’s out of the fridge and headed outside. Rando was already loading up the Weber with coals. He knew Pete would be chopping up fresh veggies for a salad. The fire in the kettle flared with the first match, heating the mesquite to cooking temperature in a matter of minutes.
Just as Rod was about to drop the three steaks onto the grill, Pete came out the door of the transporter, three brews in his hands. ‘Hey guys, salad’s made – and I just found another quarter second in the ECU.‘ he said casually.
‘You tellin’ us you can now put us in the low seventeens here? That’s like – crazy man. Way crazy.‘ Rando replied, grabbing his brew and taking a good slug.
Rod tended to the beef, gently prodding them this way and that to sear them just right. ‘ECU, huh?‘ he asked.
‘Yeah. ECU. I was wondering why you were getting a little squirrely on off-throttle transitions mid-corner. Turns out there’s some adaptability in the injection that we hadn’t used that softens that transition.‘ Rod was about to ask about the impact on other tracks, and Pete had the answer. ‘I’m running the full sims on Road Atlanta and Daytona as we speak; but I already ran partials on Road Atlanta, and I can tune it for every circuit easily.‘ he said.
Rando shook his head. ‘Freakin’ genius.‘ he muttered.
Rod laughed. ‘Nah, he’s just a data junkie‘, sticking the fork into the first filet and flipping it over to reveal the sizzling, crunchy surface – perfectly done – and quickly flipping the other two to show the same result.
Pete whistled. ‘Speakin’ of freakin’ genius. Those look good enough to eat‘ he exclaimed.
‘Not yet. Five more minutes.‘ Rod replied.
The three mates downed another brew over the steaks and salads, chattering mostly about women and bikes, as men do. Then, turning on the floodlights in the waning light of dusk, they packed up the bike and tools and hit the sack early. Four AM would come soon enough, with two hours of preparation yet to do before a scheduled six o’clock departure.
With full sleeping and dining facilities aboard, the long trip across the country took only three days. One four-hour overnight stop at the end of the second day was the sole break of more than thirty minutes. Rod and Rando shared the driving duties while Pete worked the changes on the VR-1. The full suite of precision machine tools and electronic gadgets made both the mechanical and electronic changes as simple as such technologically advanced tasks can be. Pete’s meticulous attention to detail confirmed each change twice after completion, the chassis dyno proving invaluable. All three men made certain they got a healthy amount of sleep during the trip, as the following two weeks would be non-stop.
They rolled onto the grounds at the famous Road Atlanta circuit right at dinner time on day four of the journey, a collective sigh rising in unison from the men. A quick meal and a bit of unpacking and they hit the beds for another early wakeup.
Road Atlanta – Final Testing, Day 1
The pre-arranged access had the team rolling the bike out of the transporter just as the sun fully cleared the horizon. The track surface wouldn’t be ready for any serious speed for three hours; but they needed to make some test laps to shake whatever bugs had been left by the many changes. A track support team had arrived to assist in clearing and control to keep things safe, and was already circulating the long course in a small Toyota pickup, checking for debris or other spooge that could make Rod’s laps less than safe. By the time Rod had his suit on and the VR-1 glistened in it’s pure-white livery in the pit lane the truck rolled up and stopped. ‘All clear guys. Looks like there’s a bit of dew about the middle of the downhill, but that’s about it.‘ came the report. ‘We’ll be up in the tower – channel 25 access – if ya need us‘ the young man added, dropping the truck into gear and heading down the tarmac.
Pete held the bike as Rando rolled the starter under the rear tire. Electric start was required for the long races; but there was no reason to add wear to that rather fragile part of the mechanicals at this point. The manufacturing folks had run the starter through hundreds of cycles with no failures. Next week they’d put the bike – and the rest of the team – through a more rigorous endurance test. This week needed to be the final refinements of the bike’s performance-related systems. Rod pulled on his Shoei and gloves, waiting until Pete lifted his hands from the bars and nodded. The fast idle and very low-restriction exhaust system made it nearly impossible to hear spoken words, so gestures and head motion ruled the day. The now incognito pilot threw his right leg over the lithe machine, grasping the two handles that had become so familiar over the past months, then nodded his own acknowledgement of readiness. The stand was rotated forward, Rod smoothly engaged low gear and fed just the right touch of throttle as he let out the clutch. The VR-1 picked up speed with an eery ease, it’s pilot settling quickly into the position that had gone through such careful development to improve rider comfort for the long stints of endurance racing.
Rando and Pete rushed around the pit, setting up the transponder and PC to capture lap times and ‘flash’ data as Rod and the bike flew past the start-finish line at 150-plus. By the time they were ready, they could hear the shriek of the six-cylinder mill as Rod flew down the hill into the last corner. They could tell he wasn’t wasting any time, even this early in the run. The guy seemed to have only one speed – WFO. The outrageous howl of the VR-1 in anger, winding up through the gears, sent shivers up the spines of both of the men as bike and rider went by. On the binders into turn 1, they watched the rear tire dance, barely skimming the pavement before the bike’s pilot got back on the throttle sufficiently to balance traction as he flicked the machine to full lean at the turn-in point and drifted through the fast uphill corner. Pete piped up with his guess at Rod’s first lap. ‘One twenty eight – sumthin‘ he said.
‘Yeah?‘ came Rando’s challenge.
‘Yeah. Whatdya got‘ Pete replied.
‘Ten bucks‘ Rando said.
Pete won the wager, the lap coming in at twenty-eight seventy and change. The session went on, lap times coming down in steps as Rod found better lines and later brake markers to his liking. An hour later they were down in the high nineteens. Rod brought the bike into the pit lane, running low on fuel after a bit more than a hundred miles. Pete had already pulled the PC off of it’s stand, his fingers doing a dance of their own as the computer crunched the data. Rod rolled in ‘deadstick’, having shutdown the engine on the way to their spot. Rando had the stand ready, rolling it up behind the bike and rotating it back to lift the rear wheel up. Rod was very animated as he pulled off his helmet. ‘Wooooohoooo this thing ROCKS‘ he howled, patting Pete on the back hard enough to distract his normally focussed data crunching.
‘Works okay, huh?‘ Pete asked, returning to the data on the screen. ‘Okay. Best was a nineteen sixty. Last ten averaged just under one twenty. Real consistent. Good job, boss‘ he added.
Rod stepped back, resting his helmet on the pit wall and leaning against the concrete. He ran his hands through his sweat-dampened hair. Rando stood up after collecting tire temperature data and shook his head in disbelief. ‘Sup, man?‘ Rod asked.
‘Almost too consistent to believe. Plus or minus four from edge to edge. I mean – it looked good from here; but it musta rode good for sure!‘ he replied.
Rod nodded acknowledgement. ‘I knew the bike was good that first lap. As the pace picked up it got better. Very easy to ride at that pace. So Pete, what are we looking for from the sims?‘ he asked.
Pete’s eyes never left the screen as he responded. ‘Oh…. eighteens would be good. Even high eighteens. Hell, I figured we’d be in the twenty twos today, not the nineteens. How tough do you think it’ll be to take six tenths off your lap?‘ he asked, finally looking up.
‘Mmmm… Well…. I guess there’s a coupla places I could pick up a tenth or two. Let’s look at the data and see what it says.‘ Rod replied.
The three decided that what was needed wasn’t more laps for the moment. They’d exceeded the expectations. Now was the time to be very careful and measured with their next steps. Consider all the angles. Were the sims that gave them the twenty-two target just not done with the conditions of the day, or what? They knew that tires, engine settings, and all of that were the same. Pete confirmed that the sims had used a track temp that was several degrees cooler, and re-ran the data. The actuals were still more than a second a lap better. ‘Okay. Let’s just do a comparison run on the sims versus actuals and see where we were faster than we thought we’d be. Then we’ll do some correlation with all the bike variables. Maybe we just got lucky, or maybe Rod just did a better job than the sims gave him credit for. Gotta be sumthin‘. ‘ he said.
They settled at the portable table, Rando putting up the umbrella for shade as the late-morning sun brought a bit of heat to the paddock. Rod popped open a Gatorade to replenish the fluids he’d lost during the hour of circulating and pulled a chair over to the table. Pete set the computer down on the table and continued to scour the data for clues – something to tell them why the speed was higher, and where they could improve even further. Pete found something. ‘Well… looks like the ECU changes we made picked up a few ponies we didn’t expect – and pretty low in the rev range to boot. The speeds on every straight are higher than the original sims. That’s where the extra speed came from. Now to find more….‘ he told them.
Rando rose to his feet and headed for the bike. ‘Time for a little PM and some tires‘ he mumbled. Rod followed, going to the transporter and pulling out the next set of tires, already mounted and ready to go. He also grabbed the warmers and joined Rando on the pit lane.
A car pulled up to the paddock area where Pete conintued his work on the PC. As usual, Pete didn’t bother to look up to see who it was. Two men stepped out of the sedan and headed to the shade at the table. ‘Brad Lewis and Chen-Zhen Chou from Technology Group‘ the one who was obviously Lewis said, holding out his hand.
Pete reached over and shook it, looking up only long enough to say ‘Pete – I’m the data geek‘ he said, returning to his work.
‘How is it going so far?‘ Brad asked, taking a seat across from Pete, who stopped his work and looked up.
‘Uh… well, you probably should be talking to Rod. He’s over there with the bike. From my perspective it’s going very well. We have more speed than we’d anticipated here. Bike is going very fast.‘ he replied. Then his eyes were again locked to the screen, searching for even more speed.
The two businessmen rose in unison and headed over to the pit wall. Rod, being the ‘business contact’ for the team, wiped his hands clean and shook the hands of both of the visitors. ‘Things are going well, very well. The bike has been quite reliable over the past five hundred miles or so, no mechanical issues, no electronic issues. We’ve been working hard to get the speed and consistency up. We’re two seconds faster here thanks to some good work by Pete and Rando on the ECU and chassis. I’m very comfortable going fast on the bike, and it’s easy on tires too. We’ll beat our milestones for this week, I’m sure. Then it’s a matter of tuning it for the team of pilots rather than just for me. That’s when we’ll really know about the performance.‘ he summarized.
The Asian man spoke up for the first time. ‘Can we… see… your data?‘ he asked in somewhat broken English, as expected.
‘Sure. Let me help Rando get these tires mounted up and we’ll go have a reporting session with Pete. HEY PETE?‘ he yelled. ‘Print us out the performance reports for both Willow and this morning, okay?‘ he asked.
‘Yo boss. Comin’ up‘ came the reply.
Thirty minutes of Q&A followed, the two investors representatives doing their ‘due diligence’ for their employer. A cell phone came out, a call was made, and the phone was handed to Rod. He listened for a moment. ‘Ah, yes sir, good to speak with you as well‘ he said, his head nodding as the voice on the other end asked a very pointed question. ‘Yes Bill, things are going that well. We are very much focussed on the last of the evaluations on our schedule, then we’ll be switching to Daytona preparation. Scott and Wallace will be here at week’s end, and we’ll have the second bike at that time. I expect we will still be ahead of schedule, and will report progress at the end of the day on Friday.‘ he told the key investor. ‘Talk to you soon Bill, and thanks‘ he concluded, handing the phone back to Brad.
The rep finished the conversation, taking a couple of notes before flipping the phone back into it’s holster. He held out his hand once again. ‘Mister Wagner is very pleased Rod. It sure looks like you guys have done a great job on the project. We’re looking forward to Daytona. Chou and I will stop by later in the week, perhaps on Thursday. Thanks for the time Rod, and have a great week.‘ Rod shook his hand and the two men headed back for their car.
After they’d driven away, Rod looked around for the other two guys, locating them hunkered over Pete’s PC. He joined them at the table, sitting on the opposite side facing them. ‘Sup lads?‘ he asked, genuinely curious.
Rando was first to speak. ‘Looks like the boy genious has found another chunk of time somewhere.‘ he said. Rod waited a minute for Pete to chime in, then prodded him ‘Peter?‘ he asked.
‘Um…. yeah… I think so. It looks like the changes we made to the damping were in the right direction, just not quite far enough. I think a bit more will make it both faster and more stable – a really good thing for the big tracks. I can have the change done right after lunch. You gonna be up for some more laps?‘ he asked,
Rod smiled broadly. ‘You bet. I’d like to put in two one hour stints with a leisurely pit stop in the middle if you guys are up for it.‘ he replied, looking forward to more seat time on the machine.
Rando just couldn’t resist. ‘You sure you’re up for that much of a workout old man?‘ he chided.
Rod just chuckled. ‘It ain’t much of a workout on this sweet set of wheels. Trust me, two hours is nothing.‘
Pete got to work on the fairly minor suspension changes he’d found while Rod and Rando got to work on lunch. It was Rod’s turn to prepare the salad, and it was a good one. Rando put together some very tasty garlic bread, and the three shared another meal while talking about the afternoon’s objectives. Rod would need to run as fast as was comfortable, simulating an endurance race scenario so they could gather meaningful fuel mileage and tire wear data. Pete had setup a few new gadgets on the bike to give the pilot real-time information about fuel and tire status. They were new tools, and while they didn’t want to use them during actual races, they needed to discover some things about their usefulness and utility. More testing. That was the name of the game, and time was running short.
Rod did his stretching and pulled his suit back on, making sure to smooth away all the folds that would become chafing irritants after an hour of climbing around on the bike. It was a part of his normal pre-race ritual, one that every racer would understand. Riding on the track was tough enough on the body and it’s systems, you didn’t need any additional stress. He heard the bike’s engine fire up, the revs rising and falling as Pete made some last minute tweeks to the ECU, his laptop plugged into the side panel. Rod pulled on the Shoei, grabbed his gloves, and headed out of the RV. He stared straight ahead as he made his way to the pit wall, getting himself into the zone he would need to accomplish the goals for the next few hours.
As their pilot arrived Pete and Rando made their final checks of the machine, checking the security of fasteners and connectors as the coolant warmed sufficiently to ride the bike. Rod didn’t even notice that they’d finished the pre-flight, his mind focussed on the job ahead. Pete tapped the top of his helmet. ‘Coolant one-four-zero’ he shouted, indicating it was time to go. Rod threw his leg over the saddle, his gloves finding the bars without looking. His head nodded acknowledgement without a thought, Rando rolled the bike forward and off of the stand as it’s pilot selected low gear and feathered the clutch. Seconds later, the VR and it’s rider were on the track, headed for the uphill turn 1 and beyond. The two crewmen scrambled to get things setup once again for the two hour test, laptop with the wireless antenna aimed trackside to capture lap times and burst telemetry, notepads and pit gear at the ready.
Rod settled into his rhythm by the end of the second lap. The tires had warmed nicely, and the bike felt rock steady all the way ’round the varied surfaces and terrain that was Road Atlanta. He put his head down and began the methodical process of improving his lap times. Because every tiny change made to the rhythm forced a change to the next event, and the one after that, it wasn’t a trivial process. He had to be cognizant of all of the changes. At the speeds he was reaching a mistake could be disastrous, not to mention painful. He pushed a little further, counting a tenth past his previous braking markers and pushing the envelope just a little wider until the bike’s response told him he’d reached the limit. Ten laps, about twenty minutes, into the session and he’d dialed up a good pace he felt good about. Now to maintain that exact rhythm for the next forty minutes….
‘Wow, is this amazing or what!‘ Pete exclaimed, his eyes never leaving the data on his screen.
‘What’s that, bro?‘ Rando asked, leaning over Pete’s shoulder to have a look.
‘Twelve laps in a row, all under 1:18, all within a two tenths range‘ he said. Clearly their friend and chief test pilot was in a zone. The open-class record here was a very quick 1:18.19, set by none other than Colin Broeker the previous year on the factory Suzuki. That was on qualifying rubber under more suitable conditions, and it was one lap. Rod had just run twelve straight laps a good four tenths quicker on each one. This was a good thing. All the work they’d been doing had been ‘aiming’ at this kind of speed, but they’d not actually seen an honest-to-God record lap until now.
Their amazement was interrupted as Rod and the VR coasted to a stop in front of them. He had come in ‘deadstick’, the engine having fallen silent. ‘Gas’ was his single word from under his helmet. ‘Sensor wasn’t working from the start‘ he added, letting Rando lift the bike before he dismounted. Rod pulled off his helmet, setting it on the shaded table. ‘Felt pretty good, how’d we do?‘ he asked.
Pete looked up and smiled. ‘Too bad we don’t have any FIM types here. You just ran a dozen laps at a new record‘ he said, holding out his hand in congratulations.
Rod sat down. ‘Geez, I knew it was pretty quick; but she’s probably got another half-second in her pretty easy. Qualifiers will give us another second on top of that. Unbelievable.‘ he replied, taking a long drink of Gatorade while Rando buttoned up the fuel rig.
‘Tires look good. Right on two hundred, plus or minus ten edge-to-edge.‘ he told them. Putting on his crew chief’s hat, he picked up Rod’s Shoei and handed it to him. ‘Time to go, bud. Pete and I have to find the fuel mileage while you’re out riding around having fun‘ he quipped. Thirty seconds later, bike and rider were back on course.
First flying lap was already in the low eighteens. Lap three was back into the high seventeens. Pete and Rando watched the times settle around seventeen-five, another two-and-a-half tenths quicker, and steady as a rock. Then halfway through the session, Pete let out a loud WHOOOP that got Rando’s attention. ‘SEVENTEEN OH EIGHT MAN!‘ he shouted. From that moment on, both of the men were glued to the PC screen as their man and their machine settled down at a pace that was a full second faster than the single-lap record. The elation they felt was second only to the adrenalin rush of seeing Rod repeat the lap time, over and over again. His last flying lap was a sixteen-ninety-eight.
Rod was amazed at the incredible level of ‘feel’ he had of both ends of the bike. He found it was possible to push the Dunlops into a perfectly controllable two-wheel drift any time he wanted. He knew the times would be good, and the bike was supremely easy to ride at this pace. It would be a different thing with three dozen other bikes on the track fighting for space; but he’d always been good at that part of racing. Having the machine that allowed you to pitch it around like this would make a huge difference. He tried a few lines that were slightly different, and found a bit more speed in the process. The changes Pete had made to the suspension and ECU bordered on magic, giving him just the right amount of extra power to give him the ultimate in freedom to choose a gear that would save him both time and fuel. Extra speed seemed almost trivial.
Then it was time to pull in. His timer showed he’d been out another 59 minutes, so he knew fuel would be running low even without the active sensor. He let the speed bleed off on it’s own as he guided the two-wheeled missile onto the pit entrance. As soon as he was within sight of his two compadres, he stood up on the pegs, his fists in the air. The bike was near perfect, and they had four days left. He coasted to a stop, Rando ready with the stand as Rod fairly leaped from the saddle. Five months of testing, detailed analysis, major changes and minor tweeks and practice were paying off for the team. Tonight would be champaigne and poker.
By the time Rod had pulled off his helmet and peeled his leathers off, Pete had downloaded the data from the bike and was on his way to the paddock table. Rando ran his post-session checks, recording tire, coolant, and oil temps, and checking wear on both the tires and brake components. ‘Everything is pretty normal. Tires should go two tanks easy, and pads should go four. Fluids are all good. No leaks or abnormal useage. Oil is down a cup or so, which is normal. Tires are a bit warmer; but with those times I’m not surprised.‘ he said.
‘TIMES!‘ shouted an excited Rod. He’d almost forgotten to ask.
Pete was already done with the session time calcs, and smiled broadly at the other two men. ‘Average of all flying laps is seventeen forty-two. That’s eight tenths faster ON AVERAGE than the standing record for one lap on qualifiers. Last ten averaged seventeen fourteen, with a best of sixteen ninety-eight. No question we have speed and consistency lads. No question at all.‘ he said proudly. Rod was speechless.
Rando spoke up first. ‘Hell, these are medium hoops. Just think whatcha could do on softies.‘ he said, referring to the tire compound.
Just then one of the Dunlop techs came up. ‘Looked pretty good from trackside. So how’d it go?‘ he asked.
Pete’s eyes caught the other two, warning them not to say too much just yet. He didn’t want too much detail getting out at this point. He responded ‘Things are going okay. Fast enough for now, to be sure. We still have a bit of work to do but we’re confident we’ll be competitive.‘ he said calmly.
‘That’s great guys, so how’d the tires work?‘ he asked, getting down to business.
This time Rando took the lead. ‘Um, good. Good consistency, good wear, good temps. We’d like a dozen sets of the same; plus two sets harder and two softer please.‘ he replied.
The tire guy nodded, making a note of Rand’s request. ‘Have ’em for ya in the morning, if that’s okay‘ he told them.
‘No problem. I think we’re done with track time for today. Thanks for the help‘ Rod responded, holding out his hand to the man. They shook on it, and the Dunlop guy turned and strode away. They heard the truck start and drive out a few minutes later.
Pete was buried in his data, analyzing every inch of each lap of the day, comparing tiny details with simulations, trying to understand exactly how they’d arrived at such performance with seeming ease. Rando wheeled the VR around the wall and back into the transporter. Rod guzzled another quart of Gatorade and slipped into a pair of shorts and a jersey that allowed the slight breeze to cool him off.
When Rod and Rando joined Pete at the table, Rando was sporting a brew for each of them. ‘Miller time, my friends‘ he said.
For the first time in thirty minutes, Pete looked up from the screen. ‘No shit.‘ was all he said.
‘Boys, the progress in the past two weeks is nothing short of amazing. I’ve been waiting to let you know a little secret for half of that time, and now is the time to tell you.’ Rod began, noting the raised eyebrows of his compadres. ‘First, a toast to the incredible work you two guys have done on this bike’ he said, holding his brew up and nodding toward his friends. Each touched his bottle to Rods, then all three took a healthy swig.
‘Okay, enough suspense boss. What’s the surprise?’ asked Rando, never a patient lad to begin with.
‘A team of folks are coming over from Cosinia tomorrow, including the Monsignor himself, just to watch us go and catch up on things in person.’ Rod told them. He, of course, was particularly pleased that Miranda would be joining the visitors.
‘Your girl coming too?’ asked Pete, obviously reading his mind.
‘Yep, I’m happy to say she is’ he replied. ‘But that’s personal. To have the Monsignor pay us a visit is a real honor you know. He doesn’t go to many races these days, and to travel here from Cosinia says a lot about the respect he has for us. I’ve arranged a reception in town at the Four Seasons, tomorrow evening at six-thirty sharp.’ He added, his emotions growing anxious to see Miranda again after many months away.
‘Well cool then boss. What’s the plan for tomorrow?’ asked Pete. ‘I haven’t finished crunching; but I sure don’t know where any more speed is at this point. You’ve gone way quicker than my data says is possible already, so I’m scratching my head’ he added.
‘We should talk about tomorrow, because we need to be ready for two more riders and another bike in two days. It’s about to get a lot more complicated.’ Rod replied, taking another swig of his Sam Adams. ‘We need to be ready to get that second bike setup, and do our best to anticipate setup changes to accommodate Scott and Wallace.’ he added. Then he looked at his watch. ‘We are done for the day, unless you two just can’t stand a little relaxation. I say we do up some ribs and pop open some bubbly to celebrate some very serious success.’