Thursday, August 24, 2006

Part Six

On the day I arrived in Belgium Hans and I were busy getting the bus prepared for the trip to Assen, some four hours northeast of Antwerp in The Netherlands. We’re looking around the barn, essentially a very large garage, when I spy an open door and poke my head inside looking for parts that might have walked away. I stop suddenly, drawing a sharp breath. Feeling my jaw slacken, I become weak in the knees and stammer for words.

“Pretty cool, huh?” His smile grows when he sees the look on my face.
“This. This is so… awesome. Hans, you have your own dyno.”

I stand there a moment taking it all in. Sound deadening foam on the walls, high powered fans to simulate additional ram air horsepower, piping for ventilation and a desktop computer all stand at the ready. In my mind, I conjure the sight, smell and sound as Hans’ 200 horsepower World Endurance race bike is loaded onto the dyno and sent through an ear splitting six gear symphony. The crescendo would occur at the bike’s 16,000 RPM redline and be accompanied by the sweet smells of race fuel and massive flames blazing like cannon reports from the race tuned exhaust system.

Scattered around the garage are various half-finished and half-destroyed race bikes from a lifetime of racing. A Honda RS250 awaits custom parts and a motor from Jos DeRooy and a possible race during the MotoGP weekend at Assen. Another pile of broken bodywork pays tribute to the sacrifice of life and limb that sets motorcycle racing apart from all other forms of motorsport. Above one of the low interior doors hangs the twisted remains of a Techno-Magnesio lightweight rim; I do not bother asking what fate the rest of the bike saw, but I know it must have something to do with the fractured pile of bodywork behind me. A dirt bike of some creation sits in another dark corner, as does a full size hydraulic car lift used for doing service on his aging VW Golf TDi.

Outside the barn sits the team’s full size tour bus. Painted with the team’s distinctive logo it is a vehicle that, despite only containing four beds, will soon house 12 of the 18 crew members and riders that comprise Primo Racing. It may not be four star accommodations in Europe, but for me this is a dream realized. Traveling on the road with a World Championship team while I sleep, eat, drink and live racing at two of the world’s most celebrated circuits is not something I would trade, even if it means sleeping shoulder to shoulder with three snoring Belgians, two days out from their last shower. Besides, they smell better than the acrid stench of burning pallets at Le Mans, and the snoring is far easier to sleep through than the insanely loud crackle of bikes bouncing off the rev limiter, blasting six foot flames out their tail pipes in the spectator camping area.

Midnight. Darkness has fallen and the tell tale dance of headlights precedes the howl of more screaming race bikes. Their arrival and departure on the front straightaway occurs so quickly you barely have time for it to register, but your mind is constantly picking one noise out from another. Pitlane activity is announced by a two-tone cell phone like chime before bikes roll by on their speed restricting rev-limiter coming from, or returning to, a battle which runs twice around the clock. There is no silence. Since our arrival four days ago, there never has been silence. The ever present roar of a race motor, whine of an air gun or click of a ratchet resonates from all points of the paddock. Even in the dead of night when we arrived, ear plugs were required to drone out the constant banging and popping of another demon of the dark: The fans.

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