Sorry for being delinquent in posting this. Race Day was an amazing, breathtaking, awe inspiring event. I really wish that you all could have been there. But it was long, long, long.
We staged the race bikes in our pits on Saturday. On Sunday the teams were scheduled to pass thru the entrance gate between 3:00am and 4:00am. Of course it was hard to sleep so we were up early and in line at the gate well before 3:00am. The line of spectators waiting for their entrance time of after 4:00am already stretched well back to the exit off the highway when we drove up. Luckily we were able to use the left lane and bypassed most of the traffic, joining the line of racers and crews on their way to begin the day that we have all been waiting to arrive.
As we have become accustomed to doing, we set up our pit in the dark and staged the race bikes. Our pit glowed in the predawn dark. The Multistradas were poised like gorgeous Italian beauties, gleaming with strength and speed. Tire warmers on, fuel levels checked, last minute double, triple checked on every wire, every part on the bike.
Greg and Carlin got to sleep in later than the crew, and they rode street legal Multistradas up to the pits at about 6:50am. The riders meeting at 7:00 was brief. The course is as good as the race officials can make it; motorcycles will go first from Vintage Class up thru 250, 450, 750 classes, then the 1205 class. The Race Director told the riders to be safe, and have fun. It ended with the customary prayer.
We returned to the Spider Grips/Ducati pit tent. We affectionately call it the “Taj Mahal” because of its size and shape. The excitement was building, but so was the tension. Each of the crewmen worked on his own responsibilities, and tried to gauge whether or not Carlin and Greg wanted to be left alone. As the vintage class queued up right in front of our pit before 9:00am, we calculated the amount of time before we’d be on that line. 9:45am if no incidents, which is what the race organization calls accidents or other delays.
This year was the first year that the Motorcycle Classes were given a rolling start. It has long been the practice for the car classes, while the history of the motorcycle side of the race has evolved from a huge mass start to a grid of 3-4 riders starting at the same time as we did for the past several years. The change was due in part to an official review of motorcycle accidents in the race which showed that a significant portion of the motorcycle crashes occurred in the first few miles when the riders were competing for lines on corners. It is also a more appropriate starting procedure for a race which is actually at its heart a time trial.
Each of the motorcycle classes before us queued up and then started without incident, so we were right on schedule at 9:40 when the last of the 750 class roared off to conquer the mountain. Finally it was time for the 1205 Class! Carlin as top qualifier was first off. In his usual style he pulled off the line with a clean powerful sweep to the left and under the banner that signified the start of his timed run.
Seconds later it was Greg’s turn. He watched for the green flag, then pinned the throttle, giving us a thrill as he wheelied off the line. Greg & Carlin were close enough together that their motors synchronized in that distinctive Ducati growl and we lost sight as they headed off in the race of a lifetime.
The next 10 minutes were agony. We gathered up the tire warmers and all but ran back to the pit where a large screen TV displayed the times of each rider as he passed thru the timing points on the mountain. We watched Gary Trachy, Greg’s brother record a new top time and finish as first in the 750 class with a time of 10:40:753. We were thrilled – what a win for him – and a big gain on Carlin’s record from last year – it was 11:11, so this was an amazing time! So what kind of times would we see from our boys? The question was in all of our minds. Then the 1205 class times stated to flash up. Greg was on pace for an unbelievable time, but just as we were realizing that no times were showing for Carlin, we heard a call over the radio that a 1205 rider was down, off the course and needed medics.
Heartsick and deeply worried that it was Carlin, we could do nothing but wait to hear more. As we waited, Greg completed his run – and finished with an amazing time of 9:58:262!!! The entire team and all the Ducatisiti’s, in fact all the spectators let out a victory cry! Greg’s goal of besting 10 minutes on Pikes Peak had been achieved! Not only was it a new top time, it was a HUGE new top time! We gathered around the live feed, eager to hear more about what was happening at the top. As thrilled as each of us was for Greg, we couldn’t let go of the sick feeling of worry about Carlin’s missing times and the rider who had crashed.
It was another 5-7 minutes before we heard that it was rider #8, Wes Orloff (Harley XR1200) who had crashed out. The report was that he had a pretty bad leg injury but didn’t need life flight. The ambulance brought him past on the way to the hospital and the entire mountain applauded as he went by.
Finally, after far too long, we heard the announcer say that Carlin was safely at the summit. What a feeling of relief. It is impossible to describe how it felt to know that he was safe. His transponder had not worked properly. We don’t know why – it was mounted in the same position as Greg’s and had been fully charged and returned to us by the timing officials just that morning. Of course the Pikes Peak Race Organization had a back-up plan. As they do at all of our practices; they had officials doing hand timing. It was just a matter of waiting for the times to be gathered and calculated by the race officials. The wait seemed like forever. I don’t actually know how long it was. Someone said 2 hours. It seemed like days. We celebrated for Greg, while we wondered what Carlin’s times were. In the meantime the Motorcycle Division finished with no further incidents and the car classes started running. Their times were fast, but no drivers were getting close to GT’s 9:58 – a first – for a motorcycle to be faster than the cars – wow!!
But as the car classes began to make their runs, the incidents began. There were a couple of spectators who were injured, and when the ambulance rolled for them the race was red flagged. The cars also had troubles. There were more and more crashes and incidents, more red flags. The day ran long. The helicopter returned for Life Flights. It was crashes like this one – scary.
Finally we had official timing for Carlin’s run. They announced it from the summit. He made the entire race course, 156 turns from 9,000 ft to 14,100 ft in 9:52:819!!!! Just one second off the previous absolute record of 9:51.28!!!! Again our entire team celebrated! The entire crowd gave a massive cheer. Go Ducati!!!!! What an incredible athletic achievement! The only downside was that Greg and Carlin were at the summit – we had to wait for them to return before the team could be all together to celebrate properly.
The day worn long – the red flags continued. Hours went by as we worried about GT and Carlin at the summit. Eventually the course was shortened for the final competitors due to ice and snow at the summit. The sun got low on the horizon.
Finally at just before 8:00pm first Greg, then Carlin came into the pits. What a moment of triumph! For the first time motorcycles were faster than most of the cars on the course. In overall time only two competitors were faster than our Spider Grips/Ducati team, both cars. Not only were we first and second for the entire motorcycle field, our riders finished 3rd and 4th overall!!!! We had a wonderful celebration in the pits as champagne flowed and the speakers played “we are the champions”. How fitting. What an epic day.
I know this is a long read, but I really wanted to share the whole story with you. We are beyond proud of the one, two finish by Carlin and Greg. In my opinion the times they posted will not be bettered for quite a while. The risk each of them accepted was really almost beyond comprehension yet both took it on bravely and gave it their all. In each of them beats the heart of a champion. ♥