Ken Travels to Salt Lake City World Superbike Meet

((May 29-31 Red River BMW member Ken Paulovich got to do something many will just talk about. He traveled to a world superbike meet at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was everything you would expect world superbike to be, with a little extra included. Here is Ken's account of his weekend with some of the fastest riders on the planet.))

by Ken Paulovich
Sue and I had a wonderful opportunity to join Dr. and Mrs. Bill Steen and Rich Horstman, our co-pilot, over Memorial Day weekend and travel to Salt Lake City to attend the World SBK race weekend package sponsored by BMW Motorrad. We arrived in Salt Lake around lunch and after a hair-raising moment trying to land with major cross winds and literally last second runway changes, we all needed a drink.

Diane (Steen) had done some homework on “local favorite” eating establishments and numero ono was the RED IGUANA , an authentic Mexican dining extravaganza that lived up to its reputation. In fact, we read in an SLC Dining Review that the owners decided to open a 2nd location due to popularity and did so only about 100 yards away from the original!

We then left for the hotel and I must say BMW really knows how to pick and negotiate pricing on pretty fine “DIGS. It was  a 5-star downtown establishment called “Little America Hotel” and each room came complete with living room area with workstation/Ithernet/etc., queen bedroom w/48” wall mounted plasma tv; closet/transitional dressing area; full bath/shower/jaccuzi tub that could seat 4-5. BMW negotiated a weekend rate of $105/night...I was impressed!

Next morning we awoke to hunger pangs again and all met in one of the hotel’s restaurants to have breakfast and then head to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, UT about 30 mi away.

It was cloudy and about 45 degrees when we arrived there with gusty breezes, probably left over from the day before! This was my first visit to Miller Motorsports Park and my first “live” superbike race as well so I had a lot to learn. We went straight to the BMW Motorrad tent and exhibit to get our “gift packages” which consisted of BMW logoed water bottle, S1000RR hat and jacket. What a nice surprise and all became immediately useful. We wandered around visiting the many vendors and a variety of manufacturers in attendance. (APRILIA, BMW, DUCATI, HONDA, KAWASAKI, SUZUKI, AND YAMAHA) BMW had the largest venue complete with MOA and RA well represented. We got to meet Ray Zimmerman and Becky Weber from MOA headquarters.

Stunt rider Chris Pfeiffer was on hand with his BMW F800R demonstrating the skills and techniques that earned him four World Stunt Riding Championships as well as a 2006 victory in the prestigious “Stuntwars” in Florida. His ability really expanded the boundaries of what you would think possible on a motorcycle! As a World Superbike Rookie FAN, this entire experience was a learning adventure for me so I will share my mental notes with those that are interested:

Classes: The weekend exhibited 4 different classes of bikes battling it out on the track. World Superbike is a world championship class comprised of highly modified production MCs from 1000cc to 1200cc, with riders from all over the world. These are the very fastest production MCs, though each one started life as a bike that can be purchased from a dealership. The World Supersport class is similar in structure, though restricted to middleweight MCs. The Lucas Oil Superbike Challenge featured 2 support classes, GTO and GTU in the 1000cc and up, and campaigned mainly by Americans. World Superbikes are mostly piloted by Europeans, Australians, and Asians.

Practice:  This allows the racers to find and memorize landmarks around the track to aid in braking and turning. Additionally, practice laps are used to set the bike up for a particular track’s characteristics, as the teams make small changes to the motorcycle’s geometry, suspension, and engine management systems. These minor tweaks have a huge effect on how quickly a rider can complete a lap. The practice laps are as exciting as the race because the fastest time is used to determine the starting-grid position for the actual races so as you can imagine, the competition is on.

Superpole system:: This is the system World Superbike uses to decide where on the grid riders start the race and is similar to Formula One. Superpole is divided into 3 sessions. The top twenty riders from qualifying take to the track for the 14 minute Superpole 1, at the end of which the four slowest riders are eliminated. In Superpole 2, only 12 minutes long, an additional 8 riders are cut. Superpole3, which is only 10 minutes long, decides the starting positions of the top 8 riders. The Superpole 3, was the event in which Troy Corser highsided off the track then got up and “highjacked” a photographer’s Yamaha 250 and screamed back to his pit to get his other S1000. He made it back on the track in time to qualify with the 2nd bike but was fined by FIM for his “commando methods”.

Race length: The World Superbike races consist of 21 laps around the outer track at Miller (3.048miles) with no pit stops . A new track record was set by Carlos Checa on a Ducati 1198R screaming around in just 1 min:47.387sec. during practice breaking Ben Spies '09 record of 1:48.768.

Each day, as part of our ticket package, BMW provided lunch, cold beverages, snacks, etc. in a large tent. The package also allowed us access into the pits for observing the teams in between the practice laps as they tweaked each bike to enhance performance. The MC s were completely dismantled in between events. Cowlings were racked out front and the tires were refreshed, transmissions adjusted or changed, engines adjusted or totally changed out, all based on data that was downloaded and reviewed by engineers hovering around computers. Technicians then reassembled and torque everything to specs. Riders came out for a few minutes to sign autographs and meet their fans. At the Ducati pit, while Michel Fabrizio signed a poster, I told him I had a friend named Beau Andrews in our Louisiana BMW club that was sort of a “motorcycle cross-dresser” and had a Ducati also. He smiled (in Italian of course!) and gave Beau his autograph. I was really amazed at the number of fans from all over the world that were there. Motorcycle racing and Superbike specifically is as popular if not more than Football/Baseball combined here in the States.

The only atrocity we witnessed the entire weekend was while leaving the track on Sunday afternoon, we came up on the sight of emergency vehicles off in the distance and slowing traffic to a bumper to bumper crawl on the 2-lane state highway we were on. We all assumed the worst, a probable MC accident due to the thousands present for the weekend. As we got closer to the entanglement, we realized that MCs were involved but as victims of the UTAH STATE POLICE! Seems as though the USP decided to perform “safety checks” just on MOTORCYCLES that afternoon as about 2000 people were leaving the Superbike weekend. Every bike on that stretch was pulled over, and riders were having to show all registrations, licenses, and demo the bike’s brake lights, turn signals, etc. Not only was this a harassment to the motorcyclists but a very stupid and unsafe location for anyone traveling along this stretch of narrow road packed with fans leaving the track. We later spoke to reps Miller Motorsports and they too were appalled by the tactics chosen by their local law enforcement and planned on contacting the governor.
Race Day was perfect. The weather could not have been better. The weekend practice sessions had seen some slide offs but due to gear and track design, no serious injuries occurred. Miller Motorsport Park was designed with safety in mind with plenty of “sandy real estate” in place to abate rider velocities when they disconnect from their mounts in tricky maneuvers gone bad. All major turns were staffed by highly trained and equipped medical personnel, rider evacuation carts and track maintenance crews equipped with brooms to sweep all the tire rubber off the turns between each practice session or race. Additionally, the main complex facility houses an injury diagnostic and stabilization center complete with a medical evacuation helicopter and crew to “whisk” any serious injuries to nearby Salt Lake City. After lunch in BMW’s hospitality tent, I went straight to the pit area to get Troy Corser’s autograph, then hurried back to grandstand to prepare for Race 1 of Superbikes. Our plan was to just view Race 1, then head out for the airport ahead of traffic and to get back to Shreveport in the late afternoon as we all had to return to work on Tuesday. We had a nice flight home and I actually watched the SBK Race 2 at home. A memorable experience was had by all and I am assuming RRBMW Riders will sponsor your “trackside reporter” for Round 8 in Misano Adriatico, Italy on the 27th of June??

((Ed-Negative on the Italy trip, Ken, as I held your post long enough to lobby to be sent to Italy myself. Sadly, I was told "lei è una donna pazza" which translates roughly into, "you are one crazy lady.")

Toasting Through Texas to Taos

by Drew T. Newcomer

According to the paperwork, I have been a member of the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (formally known as the Honda Sport Touring Association) for almost 12 years. While I have attended a good number of local rallies during that time I have never made it to the national event known as STAR (Sport Touring Annual Rendezvous.) This year the planets must have aligned correctly as I pulled out of the driveway on June 18 headed to this year’s meeting point, Taos, New Mexico.

Being June in Louisiana it was somewhat warm that Friday morning as I headed west on I-20 where I picked up US 69 just north of Tyler, Texas. I rode 69 to US 82 and turned west until I turned northwest on US 287 to Wichita Falls. I didn’t plan on going the 450 miles to Wichita Falls, but seems there was a lack of anyplace to stay till I got there. I had planned to meet some fellow MSTA members from Louisiana at the Big Texan in Amarillo on the 19th which left me a short ride on Saturday morning.

The dawn came early and I headed to Amarillo. Not wanting to take the easy way by just riding up 287, I quickly got lost (well, you are never really lost till you run out of gasoline!) and found myself in Oklahoma. After consulting a map I found US 70 near Randlett, Oklahoma and turned west taking 70 to Matador, Texas where I turned north on TX 70 to Turkey, Texas – home of Bob Wills (you do know who Bob Wills is, don’t you?)

I headed north until rejoining 287 in Clarendon and then on into Amarillo. Problem was, I got to the Big Texan too early and my room was not ready. Fortunately, there is a bar there and I consumed a pitcher of raspberry ice tea while my bike and luggage cooked in the hot Texas sun. Let me tell you – it was HOT in Amarillo and the tea was a welcome relief. Finally the room was ready and I unpacked my gear (my granola bars had melted.) The MSTA members arrived and we met for a great steak dinner later that afternoon.

The Big Texan is known for giving away a 72 ounce steak if you can eat it, and the trimmings, within one hour. There was one big ole Texas farm boy (stated weight 320#) who gave it a try, but I don’t know if he made it or not as we left before his hour was up. He was giving it his best shot, however.

In an effort to beat the heat, I was on I-40 west the next morning at 6:15. Heat was not a factor and I was actually cool in my Olympia perforated riding suit. Very soon into New Mexico I turned on NM 392 till NM 489 took me northwest to Logan and breakfast. In Logan, I continued northwest to Roy, where I turned more westerly on NM 120. I should say these are lonely roads and a breakdown out here would be somewhat troublesome as I am sure there is no cell phone coverage for miles and miles. Still, there is solace being on roads like this and the R1150R was running like a champ. 120 was a good road till the pavement ran out. (If I would have squinted a bit more, I would have noticed that the pavement ran out, but I didn’t pay any attention till I rode up to the end of the pavement!) So, I turned around and found NM 442 in Ocate which took me south La Cueva, New Mexico. NM 518 took me west and then north to my destination of Taos. I had ridden 328 miles and some of that was out-of-the-way, but my room was ready when I arrived at the Sagebrush Inn.

My friend Nancy arrived later Sunday evening and we were up early Monday morning as our bodies were still on central time. The 46 degree temperatures, with a humidity of 15%, were a welcome relief to what we’d been experiencing back at home. After things warmed up a bit, we headed up NM 522 to Questa and the ski town of Red River. We continued making a loop on NM 38 to Elizabethtown and Eagle Nest stopping at the Viet Nam Memorial near Angel Fire. The only Viet Nam Memorial that is also a state shrine evokes quite a bit of emotion as you walk through the grounds and view the photos and stories inside. From Angel Fire to US 64 we headed back to Taos with a stiff breeze coming from the west. The ride had only been a little over 100 miles, but the scenery did not disappoint and this was to be an indication of things to come.

Tuesday came as early as Monday and Nancy and I headed west on US 64 to Tierra Amarilla. We had come prepared and brought long sleeve shirts and pants but I didn’t think we’d need them as we didn’t need them on Monday. Was I wrong! Heading up over 10,000 feet in the Tusas Mountains things were a bit chilly. I had not seen sky this blue in a long time. We had passed from desert to forest and warmed up as we descended into Chama. After lunch it was time to head to Colorado on Highway 17. 17 took us upwards of 11,000 feet and we met hundreds and hundreds of bicyclists coming into Chama from somewhere. Chama was expecting in the neighborhood of 2000 folks for lunch, but I can tell you at the rate some were making progress, they would have been lucky to get there for breakfast the next morning. Had to take my hat off to them, as some of the inclines they were peddling were quite steep and you could see exhaustion in many faces. 17 flattened a bit as we approached Antonito, Colorado and turned south for Taos on US 285. Not much to 285 except a stiff crosswind but we managed to get back to Taos without any problems.

With only one day left I decided to head south on Wednesday. Taking the once-traveled 518 south we turned southwest on NM 68 on to Dixon and Velarde where we continued south on NM 68 to Espanola. In Espanola, an easterly turn on NM 98 took us to Chimayo, the home of a very old mission whose soil is purportedly known to have “healing” properties. This was an interesting stop and we found a good number of our motorcycle friends there when we arrived. Taking the “high road to Taos” we headed north on NM 76 until 518 took us the final 16 miles back to Taos.

Wednesday night was the MSTA banquet and the 386 attendees enjoyed enchiladas, beans, rice, and salad as we discussed the previous three days. As usual, I did not win any of the door prizes (including a Triumph motorcycle) but I couldn’t complain. This rally was full of great roads, great people, and great food.

Nancy and I left Thursday morning for Santa Fe where we explored the downtown area on foot. There is much history here dating back to the 1600s. We enjoyed time off of the bike and topped it off with a great Italian meal (we had had enough enchiladas by that time!)

I headed east on Friday morning taking I-25 to US 84 which took me to Santa Rosa and on to Fort Sumner. (Nancy returned to Albuquerque for her flight home.) I had lunch in Muleshoe, Texas where I found my old friend highway 70 to Plainview and on to Floydada. I turned south for 22 miles on US 62 and then back east on US 82. Texas had not cooled off in the four days I was gone and I was soaking my t-shirt in water about once an hour. I was “complaining” about the heat when I noticed a lightning bolt to my left.

Guess I should have kept my mouth shut. I was ready to stop in Guthrie, Texas, only there was no place to stop there. With lightning bolts on my left and right and I was getting a little more antsy. Know what? There was no place to stay in Benjamin, Texas, either, and I had begun to feel a few raindrops by this time. Finally, in Seymour, Texas, I find a hotel and gladly stopped. The rain was no longer a problem but after 522 miles, I was ready for a shower and good meal.

Saturday morning I was on the road at 5:00 and headed east on TX 114 till I intersected TX 380. 380 is a good road but it does pass right through downtown Denton and there are a good number of red lights to contend with. But, they all turned green, and when I found US 69 I turned southeast and I-20.

I had been to New Mexico a couple of years ago on my way to Utah. But, I missed so much then of what I saw this time. And you know what? If I could do it next week, I would, and would put up with the Texas heat one more time!!