Dirty Girl Motor Racing > 2007 Season > North Bay Runway Romp
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North Bay Runway Romp 2007


North Bay hosts a fantastic motorcycling event, and this years Runway Romp was no exception. This classic airfield event is a great note on which to close the VRRA's racing season. The Jack Garland Airport hosts a temporary track installed on two runways and a taxiway, letting the VRRA use part of the airport for the weekend, while the remaining runways stay open for air traffic. We watched air cadets in tow planes and gliders, and commercial air traffic tanking off and landing through the weekend, providing added entertainment for both racers and spectators. Sunday three Snowbirds flew over the airfield racetrack, flying tight formations low overhead adding a wonderful note to the engine sounds on the ground.

Tim and I arrived in North Bay late afternoon on Friday, and got to the track just as it was starting to rain. We worked our way through the registration process, but tech was closed by the time I was organized enough to get there. It rained in brief spurts, with windy intervals, during which I got the tent set up. I've never tried to erect a tent in that much wind before and I wondered how far my tent would have to loft me before air-traffic control would spot me on radar. I was actually comforted to imagine that flying an unregistered tent without logging a flight plan would cause a sufficient hazard to traffic that I'd be fetched down.

Saturday morning was cool, and I lingered too long huddled in the warmth of my sleeping bag; the lineup at tech was getting long by the time I was up and organized. Turns out high winds make putting in your contact lenses very challenging too. My first practice session went well, although my bike needed a very long warm-up to run smoothly, and my tires didn't get much heat into them. I dropped my tire pressure 2 lb. in the front tire for the second session, and both tires were warm when I got off the track after the second practice. And as the day warmed up I worried less about tire temperatures for the late afternoon heat race.

Overview of the pits in Northbay
Arial overview of the paddock and pit area set up on a runway, in the infield of the racetrack, for the VRRA's Runway Romp in North Bay.

I was gridded at the back, for the heat race on Saturday, having registered late. I got a pretty decent start, but the first corner was just full of bikes and I couldn't see a way through, so I backed off, and was nearly last by the time I got through the first corner. The bike ahead of me started further up the grid, but seemed to be going wide, and I made my way around inside that rider before the taxiway straight, hoping to put some distance between us. I could see other riders ahead of me but I wasn't making any headway catching up to them. The pack was disappearing ahead of me when the short heat race was over.

Saturday night my endurance teammate Laura and her husband Stephen held a dinner party for racers. Understanding the needs of a racer away from home, Laura hosted a wonderful 'Dinner and a Shower'. Stephen made an amazing vegetarian dinner, hearty and satisfying, with a great salad (salad seems impossible to acquire at a racetrack) and Laura offered guests the opportunity to shower before or after dinner. Our endurance crew Tim and Tim and the other P4/F3 riders pitted with us at Mosport were all invited. North Bay motorcycling enthusiasts, and luminaries like Max Burns, whose columns I read for many years in Cycle Canada before becoming a columnist myself. While I often joke that writers shouldn't be expected to be witty in less than 7 drafts, Max is a very entertaining raconteur. We had a lovely evening, laughing and swapping motorcycling stories and we left clean and well fed. Thanks Laura and Stephen, for a wonderful evening!

North Bay track corners 2, 3, 4 connecting taxiways
This arial photo shows the exit of corner 1 in concrete, which transitions smoothly to asphalt for corners 2, 3 and 4, onto the back taxiway straight. There is a sizeable frost heave between corners 3 and 4, and a bit of a hump after 4. The surface of this track is challenging in all sorts of ways.

Sunday riders meeting we were told our schedule would be compressed to one practice session, as has been the case all season. Unfortunately the potential for time-consuming oil spill clean-ups has lost us a lot of useful practice time. While we did have oil-spill issues this year, we also managed to keep the day on schedule, for the most part. I'm hoping for a schedule that allows for more practice time next year, I need all the practice time I can get, particularly at the North Bay circuit, where riders don't have the opportunity to do trackdays through the season.

North Bay Jack Garland Airport image from Google
Google Map image showing the Airport layout for the Jack Garland Airport in North Bay Ontario

North Bay Runway Romp racing circuit layout, satelite image from Google
Google Satelite image with the VRRA's Runway Romp racing circuit overlaid in green. The start finish line (approximately) is shown in red.

P4 Challenge race was right after morning practice on Sunday and I was on the last row of the grid again. I'm still confused about how the Vintage Challenge classes are gridded, there were riders who registered at the same time I did half way up the grid, and riders faster than me gridded behind me, so it didn't seem to be based on either lap-times or registration order. Either way, I'm used to starting from the last row, and this race I got a really good start, past several riders on the way to the first corner. Again, approaching the corner I could see no way through the riders ahead of me, so I backed off and trailed the group through the first corner. I could still hear bikes behind me, but I was focused more on the group ahead of me, which was disappearing each lap. We were red-flagged part way through the race, the riders who'd crashed were uninjured, but their bikes had to be removed from the racetrack.

We were re-gridded after only a brief delay, and since I knew I'd been near the tail of the race, I lined up at the back in my original grid position, and waited while officials arranged the grid in race order. While we were setting up to go, the three Snowbirds flew over wing-tip to wing-tip the sound of their engines so loud I didn't hear the bikes around me rev up and I nearly missed the starters flag. I definitely need to focus on my race starts more then that. I was feeling rather discouraged after the P4 Challenge, but a rider on a 500 single spoke to me after the race, complimenting my bike's mid-range pull in the straightaways. I'd heard him scraping parts in the corners behind me, but apparently my bike had the pull on his getting out of the corners. I was still discouraged with my performance, but at least I wasn't last, I think there was more than one rider behind me.

North Bay Runway Romp circuit as seen from helicopter September 8 2007
Arial overview of the North Bay Runway Romp circuit - September 8 2007

The P4/F3 final was just after lunch. I had several interesting conversations with race spectators over the lunch break, and had a bit of a scramble getting into my leathers and warming up my bike but I got through the oil check before they let us out for our tire-warming lap-and-a-half. After a rather dismal finish in the heat race, I was gridded in the final row again. I'd had two chances to jam myself into the traffic in the first turn, and I was bracing myself for a third try. I got another decent start, but a rider on the outside of the grid made a dive across to the inside to try for a space in the corner, and that slowed my progress. There were only a few bikes behind me when I got through the first corner. I passed one rider a few laps later, but then he was right on my tail. I could hear him behind me and I couldn't seem to get much of a gap between us. He passed me back, out braking me into the hairpin, but I passed him again when he went wide off track on the way out of the corner. He was faster on the way into the corners and I was faster on the way out, so we traded the position (which might have been last place) a few times through the remaining laps of the race. It was a really thrilling way to end the season.

I have enjoyed the North Bay experience every year I've gone to the event. The town welcomes racers enthusiastically, and the spectators are great, friendly and knowledeable. The airport venue is an authentic vintage racing experience, providing a challenging track surface for racing and an exciting venue. I really enjoy the chance to camp at a running airport. It was fun chatting with racing enthusiasts and fellow riders who came out to watch vintage racing at the airport, including Tony Ledgard (who sent me this photo) and his riding buddies, who recognized me from my headshot in Cycle Canada. They told me they would cheer for me when my race was up. Although my earplugs and my engine prevented me from hearing anything, it was nice to imagine when I lined up on the grid.

Thanks to all the volunteers and VRRA members who organize this event, as well as the marshalls who make a long drive north from their usual tracks. I want to thank Laura and Stephen for their hospitality and amazing plumbing, and expertise entertaining racers too.

Andrea Goodman and her NS250F Honda
Tony Ledgard, Cycle Canada reader submitted this photo.
Last, but not least, my thanks to Tim, my partner, mechanic and crew-chief, for his support all season, for hauling my bike and assorted gear to each race round this year, and trackdays too, and for his endless patience with my mechanical questions.





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