Laguna Seca Thrash
Sliding along Laguna’s Seca rain washed pavement on my ass, I watched my Yamaha TZ250 spin into the mud outside turn three along with my AMA 250 GP season, my carefully amassed second place points thrown down the road in a careless moment of stupidity. Anyone who crashed knows the feelings that swept me there in the muck of Laguna Seca,
“What kind of an idiot crashes on the warm-up lap?”
- Nick’s girlfriend, Judy Perez, September’ 94
through the desire to take back the last 30 seconds, to look at the rain falling and have another chance to negotiate the rapidly moistening corner. The battered Yamaha was rolled unceremoniously behind the hay bales and my weekend was done before it ever really started. I couldn’t speak is a stomped back to my pit; my normal gift of seeing a silver lining in any black cloud had completely deserted me, leaving a furious, helpless,hopeless feeling of disgust. Everything the team and I had worked for just got flushed down the toilet...on the warm up lap, of all places. And then the angel of hope landed on my shoulder: my tuner, Steve Biganski, burst around the corner of the Zero Gravity tent. “Where is the bike” he demanded. “There is a rain and we got twenty minutes to make the grid!” Sprinting back from turn three with the bike, Biganski and I took inventory: front brake master cylinder, throttle housing and grip, fairing, right pipe, right footpeg, windscreen… we arrived back to Zero Gravity tent and began and all out thrash. Out of nowhere, help arrived. Jake Van Vleet (The Race Shop) and Richard Sims (Sims & Rohm) added their talented hands and minds, pulling parts from the Zero Gravity backup bike as Biganski stripped the broken and muddiest parts from the racer. My gal Judy pulled the front brake system off the B bike to replace the creamed system on the race bike.
is down! Ienatsch is down!
is down! Ienatsch is down!
He’s crashed exiting turn three on the warm up lap!”
-Laguna Seca announcer,
AMA250GP, April 30 1995
By this time, Sport Rider Shop Foreman Kerry Ward and Road Test Editor Lance Holst had their hands in the stew, along with mechanic Bill Ward. It was a meele of people calling for tools, parts and rags while a crowd gathered to watch. Five minutes into the work, Biganski exclaimed “We are screwed!. The radiator is junk.” Everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Then Sims piped up, “We can change it. Let’s go” The chaos re-fired. AMA Race Director Darrel Dovel encourage us to move to the hot pit lane to complete the work, but his words didn’t sink in until he grabbed me and said “ I am going to disqualify you unless you move. You can only work on your bike in the hot pit.” We moved-pronto. Zero Gravity manager Glen Cook had taken over the tool chores, handling screwdrivers, wire cutters and sockets when and where needed. Van Vleet and Sims took care of the radiator swap, while Biganski and I pulled the carb slides and throttle housing from the B bike, repositioned the needles for the race bike’s wilder porting and my trembling hands reinserted the 4mm screws. Mean while, Judy, Kerry and Bill were cleaning mud and rocks out every nook and cranny and Lance was double-checking all work, redialing the suspension to rain settings and getting rain tires mounted on our spare wheels (thanks, Dunlop crew). Van Vleet pulled the bent clutch protector away from the clutch basket, Biganski took three steps and the TZ refired as the five minute board announced the restart. I began my second warm up lap of the day, the one I did not deserve. Most frenzied track side fixes end with a loose bolt dropping out or the engine seizing on ingested dirt, but not this time. Jake Van Fleet, Richard Sims and Steve Biganski formed a three way brain trust that only stayed cool enough to forestall any potential problems, but worked with a magical combination of operating room thoroughness, lighting quickness and solid support from some talented people. Forty minutes after the bike refired, I stood on the third rung of Laguna’s podium surrounded by luck, God’s own help and the best friends a racer could have. In 20 thrash-filled minutes they gave me back my season.