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 รจ una donna pazza" which translates roughly into, "you are one crazy lady.")

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