Wednesday – Travel
Thursday – Practice
Saturday – Race #6 SOT3 Race #9 SOT2
Sunday – Race #7 SOT2 Race #10 SOT2
Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham Alabama is one of my bucket list tracks. From the start of the year, it’s been my plan to find a way to make it to the AHRMA Vintage Festival solely for the opportunity to race in a world class facility and to cross Barber off my list. Being 13 hours away and over 850 miles means it’s not something I get to do every weekend, and my standard race organization [CCS / ASRA] does not go their in any of their seasons. The 740 acre facility is more manicured than most golf courses and contains the premier motorcycle collection and museum in the US. So starting off early in the year, I roped in a travel team to get us down there. Chai #76 and Father John #315 would be making the trip.
The trip started at 1:30am on Wednesday as I drove down to Joppa, MD to transfer my race kit into the “Dodson Express” trailer and the thankfully pass out for the next 10 hours of driving. John and Chai kept the truck between the lines while I took some photos, searched for the cheapest diesel fuel stops, and kept throwing granola bars and bottles of water into the front to keep the train going.
Around 6pm we rolled into the track and the sight was literally breathtaking. The facility was akin to Disney World in its presentation. Beautiful signs, freshly paved access roads, security personnel. Compared to our east coast tracks, it was like being in another world. Add to that a line of hundreds of RVs, trailers, and track rides as people were queuing up early to get the best spots. It had to be the largest turnout of race rigs I had ever seen.
We unloaded, grabbed some amazing BBQ and tried to get some sleep. All day I had been watching videos, studying track maps, and visualizing the race track trying to get a heads up to what was to come the next day. There was little I could do, it turns out, to prepare for the track. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time. Massive elevation changes paired with countless blind corners all over a highly technical track. Each practice session I got more comfortable, but it was apparent that I was off pace and needed to get my head down. Thankfully Max Grant #531 was willing to tow me around and thankfully he got me into a pace I was comfortable to end the day with – solid 1:46s. It is hardly a record braking pace, but I was happy with that after only one full day of practice.
Friday the LWT team and I spent the day just enjoying the sights of the Barber Vintage Festival. After getting the bikes ready for the races the following day, we hopped on our pit bikes and took in the whole festival and then went through the museum. What an amazing time. The vendors and swap meet was very impressive and the museum is indescribable. Add this one to your bucket list.
Race day showed up quickly Saturday morning with my schedule putting me in SOT3 and SOT2. Sound of Thunder 3 is the class that I am most competitive in. It is akin to the CCS class of Lightweight Superbike with the biggest challenge being the Ducati 800ss. Sound of Thunder 2 is a class I am racing up in. There will be the high horsepower Paul Smarts and other exotic liquid cooled twins. I was hoping to have SOT2 be my first race as a good warm up, but the schedule did not work out that way. I have no morning practice to warm up and my first lap will be in the race I am fired up for the most. To top that off, the grid would have over 50 bikes on it. Lets GO!
As it would turn out – I would have a lot of practice laps. The start of SOT3 was red flagged before we even lined up in the grid. The second start was red flagged by turn 3. So when I gridded up again I had 4 laps or warm up under my belt. Hardly an abundance, be enough to get me in the ride mindset. For the start of SOT3 I got an amazing start bolting up from the 3rd row into second place going into turn 1. I slowly got picked off by a few of the faster riders, but I turned in consistent 1:43 laps and finished in an impressive 8th place. Not bad for my first race ever at Barber finishing behind some names like Chris Parrish and Robbie Scudder!
SOT2 I was less hopeful for, but after getting a great start I settled into a very tight race with a big Ducati and fought back and forth the whole race. I ended up finishing 17th out of 37 big bikes on the grid and was the second SV on the grid.
Sunday I knew it was time to shine. I was warmed up on the track, the Speedwerks SV was running fantastic and I was ready to go. 55 bikes lined up for SOT3 in the morning. I flew out of the start and latched onto Robbie Scudder to get the best tow that I could. I kept him in sight for the first few laps until Charlie Mavros managed to motor past me on the back straight. We then had a fantastic race back and forth as I would out brake him and simply ride around the outside of him through the corners. He eventually beat me to the line on the front straight but I finished in 6th place behind him after turning a 1:41.984. I was very happy with that. SOT2 I improved as well running up to 11th place in the grid of 36 bikes while keeping my lap times in the 1:42 range.
Overall the racing for the weekend was fantastic. The grids were packed and the track lends itself to tight fights in the corners. Add on the professional atmosphere of the facility and 75 thousand fans packing the arena and it truly felt like the real deal. We got to see the Brittens on the race track, got to head to the Alabama Theater with a bunch of race fans, and had some fantastic food.
The whole weekend could not have been possible without the LWT crew being together. Thanks a million to Chai “I haven’t slept in days” and John “The Driving Machine” for helping me get down there, and thanks to Harry Loyle for being the best rookie pit crew member. The bike performed even better than I expected thanks to the great team at Speedwerks, and Jennifer kept the home front fully functional while I was away for the extended weekend. This entire season is impossible to do without all of the LWT team, all of our sponsors, and our friends an family for making all of the sacrifices.