ON THE JOB
WORDS BY SCOTT BISHOP
With thanks to KTM Australia, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to jet over to the USA and attend the US launch of the 2016 model KTM machines. Now, you may call it a junket but it’s work, I tell you, and it was particularly taxing, the amount of work I was doing.
I was really going for it at the go kart track. What do rental go kart people think when six grown men walk into their establishment with their own helmets and request three sessions of racing? They must know some driving lessons are about to be handed out, right? And that’s exactly what I did.
I schooled MXTV’s Brendan Bell on how to drive an electric go kart top speed into the retainer barriers. Oh, poor Brendan didn’t want to go there; he just didn’t have a choice. I over-undered him on the turn before, got some good drive from my 7hp kart and then proceeded to pull an Alessi-like move on the unsuspecting Bell that saw him plough into the wall at top speed. And, just to finish him off, when he bounced back out onto the track he was T-boned by KTM’s Greg Chambers. I was lucky Chambers got tangled in that mess — he was after revenge after I parked him on the sight lap.
So, it was a two-for-one deal by Bishop that I thought for sure that would at least see me get the warning flag or even booted off. No, sir. Our new friends at the go kart place loved it. Just as well, as that little stunt was only about five laps into our first of three sessions. Ryan Marmont and Andy Wigan also felt the wrath of my sensational driving and are now carrying injuries. Go karts aren’t about racing; it’s survival of the fittest when I step into those little machines.
On the recommendation of the receptionist at the hotel we were staying in, we headed down to the local bar and grill for some dinner. Now, this place was a lot of bar and very little grill but, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
So, six of us sauntered in to find some redneck chick shouting at the top of her voice, pounding beers like a wild woman and ready to either get on the bar or arm wrestle the first person she saw. She was surrounded by a bunch of straw-sucking hillbillies and the old scene was just screaming, “Welcome to middle America!”
She was loud, very loud even, and continued to taunt the males around her. Fortunately, we were able to get out before she starting turning glasses upside down and taking blokes out. We were all keen to see how this was going to turn out but we were jet-lagged like crazy and waking up at 3am each morning.
THE GAME CHANGER
KTM provided a little dinner for the US journos and we joined in. We took our seats next to a few Canadian scribes and talked about Brett Metcalfe for a while. It was the only thing we had in common. Our moose-loving friends tried to talk about meat pies but when they said they’d tried one in NZ they lost all credibility. And then one produced a picture of Jimmy Barnes on his phone and asked if we knew of him, we shut down all communications with them.
Any-hoo, the US guys had spent the day riding on the new bikes and were unwinding a little with a few “game changers”, which is basically a tall-neck beer in a glass. The game changers started to flow and the boys started to get noisy.
Again, fortunately for us, we were able to leave prior before things got messy but the poor waitress was beginning to get very popular. As un-Australian as it sounds, we didn’t have time for the game changers — we were there to work.
In the state of Indiana, there’s no law regarding helmet use when riding a road bike on the road. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon to see the majority of road-bike guys rolling down the freeway without a helmet. It’s pure insanity and something you just don’t get used to.
Take that one step further: when we drove past a vacant parking lot and a riding school was in session, none of the riders was wearing a helmet.
And, speaking of helmets, when our official tour guide and driver to the stars Greg Chambers decided he was back in Australia, when he was really in Indianapolis, and started driving down the wrong side of the road, we all reached for our helmets. And that was on more than one occasion.
The track KTM used for the launch was the Ironman Track in Indianapolis, which also hosts a round of the AMA Nationals. It’s a great-looking venue with some enormous jumps. There were at least three jumps on the track that were over 30 metres, including one triple step up that was huge. There is a quick video on one of the US media sites of their rider doing it on a 125.
What you don’t see is the amount of run-up he took to clear it. From the track it was a 450 deal only. Nail the turn, bang it into third and hold it to the stopper and you just got to the top. If you were half-a-bike-length short, you’d have two bikes — the front half and the back half, as it would’ve snapped in the middle.
But back to our 125 hero. He went all the way back to where the starting gates were, some 100 metres behind the turn, then race-started the little 125 and just kept shifting gears until he ran out of real estate. It’s a pretty cool-looking jump and the pics I have of it don’t do it justice.