Jul 11, 2001
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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin responded to NHIS Safety Director Jerry Wood's earlier comments regarding the situation at Loudon, via phone and e-mail. (See related post below, headlined "Loudon Video Delayed Until Tomorrow; Wood Comments On Situation".) Mladin's version of what happened at Loudon differs significantly with Wood's.<BR><BR>In his statement to roadracingworld.com, Mladin wrote:<BR><BR>In response to Mr. Wood's comments:<BR> <BR>Thursday about lunchtime Ron Barrick came to my motorhome to ask me to come and look at the track. He wanted me to see the position of the airbags and if there needed to be any changes. He asked me to meet him in the AMA tech garage after the day's riding had finished. I agreed. Doug Chandler was also asked and he agreed.<BR><BR>Within the next few hours I got talking to Aaron Yates (whose motorhome was parked next to mine, as was Doug Chandler's, Jamie Hacking's, Ben Spies' and Roger Hayden's) and told Aaron that we are doing an airbag inspection after practice. He said, great I'll be there.<BR><BR>By the time we showed up at AMA tech there were a few more riders already there (Jamie Hacking, Rich Oliver and Steve Rapp). This so-called "posse" that I had nothing to do with getting together, certainly has a lot of racing experience! <BR><BR>From there we went onto the track, the first thing we looked at were the airbags at the end of the front straight. They were close to being in the right place so we were about to move on when we noticed a rubbery gum-like substance filling up all the cracks in the racetrack. While this stuff is definitely not good to race on it was actually quite funny that they thought it was acceptable to fill the cracks with. You could actually stick your thumb into this stuff up to the first knuckle and a lot of the cracks were at least one inch wide.<BR> <BR>It was at this point that everyone had very serious doubts about racing in the rain. Although some people will try to make you believe that last year I said the surface was too slippery to race on in the rain, this is not true. Whilst the surface at NHIS in my opinion is definitely not good, it is not my main worry. The walls are my main concern. You see, people think that when you are riding in the rain you are going a lot slower than in the dry. Whilst you do go slower there is one thing for sure, and that is, when you crash in the rain it takes a lot longer to stop than it does in the dry. Now, if you make the track surface better and don't move the walls then, bingo, you hit the wall harder. <BR><BR>With 40 bikes racing in the rain and no room between the track and the airbags as soon as you have a crash you could have people lying everywhere on the racetrack. I'm sure you can imagine what happens next. <BR><BR>My recent crash at Road America in the wet is a good example of how long it takes to stop when you crash in the rain. I would say that it took me at least 60 to 70 yards to stop. This crash was second-gear doing approx 110 mph compared to third gear at NHIS entering turn three at approx 125 mph with a concrete wall protected by car tires just 10 yards away. Last year in the dry, I tangled with somebody in that same corner and made it into the wall covered by car tires. While I walked away with only a tweaked neck, I didn't expect the response I got from Mr. Jerry Wood telling me that the car tires work great because I hadn't broken anything. I couldn't believe what I had just heard. <BR><BR>Then there will be the argument that there are airbags on the walls, agreed. Unfortunately when the airbag is placed directly on the edge of the track as they are at NHIS, there is every chance of hitting it and bouncing back into the oncoming bikes. So yes, the airbag stops you hitting the wall but no guarantees about what's next. Airbags were meant to go on walls after slowing down through a gravel trap. <BR><BR>From there we move on and continued to sort out the airbags. Another funny thing happened in turn three. You could see where somebody had grabbed the gum and pulled it out for about 10 feet. A lot of these gum-filled cracks were running parallel with the racing line. <BR><BR>We continued to go around shaking our heads, then we got to the penultimate corner when there was this painted arrow on the track right on the race line. We took a look and realized it was a piece of the track that you could grab with your hand and lift it about two feet in the air. We were told that they were flying some epoxy in overnight and it would be fixed. Well, on Monday we raced around the outside of it. It had some temporary curbing nailed on top of it which made any passing in that section of the track almost impossible. There are plenty of issues between turn three and the penultimate turn that were discussed, but to be honest I am quicker on the track than I am at typing and I can assure you I have a sore neck. <BR><BR>From there, we headed back to AMA tech to discuss the track. This went on for about 10 minutes and the last thing somebody asked Ron Barrick was, "Are we racing here if it rains?" (It wasn't me.) The answer was "no". Not maybe, just a plain "no".<BR><BR>This is my recollection of what happened on Thursday afternoon, June Bike Week 2001.<BR> <BR>Mat Mladin