Here is the article since it was deleted from the old website when Tea updated to the new.
Riding Grattan Backwards (Counterclockwise)
Which way is up?
Sometimes the best adventures are the ones you don’t plan for. I’d made a last minute decision to attend a NESBA track day at Grattan Raceway in Michigan on October 21st of 2007. This late in the Midwest season, weather is so unpredictable that you’re really taking a chance if you pre-register for an event. Let’s face it, nobody likes riding in the cold and rain, especially if it wastes valuable winter motorcycle project money. In this case the weather forecast looked more than favorable, so I decided that I just had to go.
I called Senior Editor K3 at about noon on Friday and dropped a guilt trip on him like I usually do about how he should be riding the race track with me instead of spending time with his lovely wife Laura. He took the bait at first, thinking that he might be able to get the Trackdaymag.com salvage project bike up and running for the weekend so that he would have more to write about. Eight hours of thrashing later, K3 came to the simultaneous conclusions that A) the bike most likely wouldn’t be ready in time and B) it was his wedding anniversary! At this point K3 set down his wrenches and slunk off to the mall to find a gift for his wife. I must have called 10 of my other track day/race friends but nobody else could make it, so I was on my own. Off to Michigan I went late Saturday afternoon. I met up with some of the NESBA crew at the Grattan bar for a few drinks and some lies about how fast I think I am, and then retired to my hotel room in Grand Rapids.
Morning registration went smoothly, aside from getting busted as I tried to nonchalantly register for the intermediate class because Advanced was so empty. Grattan is a very technical track with only one long straightaway, so I figured that I’d have ten times more fun harvesting liter-bikes with my little SV in Intermediate than I would if I rode in Advanced. I was quickly apprehended by Fast Fred of NESBA.
“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Fred barked. “HE IS AN ADVANCED RIDER!”
“Oh come on Fred,” I replied, “I promise I’ll behave!”
Unfortunately I was given that look which meant I’d better either listen or leave. Next, the tech inspector went over my ugly Mad Max bike with a fine tooth comb looking for some reason to send me back to my pit for repairs. Happily for me, he couldn’t find anything amiss. Hey, my Apocalypse SV may not be beautiful, but it’s tight!
Our first session out was a bit cool. I’d say the temperature must have been in the low 60’s but the sun was coming up fast and shining bright. By mid afternoon it would become windy but the thermometer would eventually climb into the mid 70s. Once the marshal let us out onto the track for that first session and waved us to the left instead of the right leaving “pit out,” I just couldn’t wait to get my tires warm and ride a brand new race track. Oh yea baby, Grattan counterclockwise. I’d heard so much about it but never had the chance to ride it for myself. I’ve ridden Grattan clockwise more times than I can count, so I figured that if I could turn on a little dyslexia I’d be able to get a groove going.
No sooner had we entered the track and arrived at uphill, off-camber Turn Two, than “Johnny Liter-Bike” got throttle happy and spit himself off right in front of me. I mean come on! The first lap of the first session of the day and you’re on your ass? Are you really an advanced rider, dude? After witnessing that debacle I was waiting for the red flag to come out, however he must have managed to pick himself up, because the session continued. Grattan is aligned east to west, so at this hour the second half of each lap had me riding straight into the blazing early morning sun. It was almost like riding into a black hole as I rolled through 4th and 5th gear and into fiery blindness.
Did I mention that they’d repaved half of Grattan raceway the week prior? Actually, it was the new asphalt that I’d come for. I didn’t find out that they’d be running the track counter-clockwise until I got there! The sticky/gritty fresh pavement extends from after the jump to the beginning of the front straight. (running clockwise) Basically the entire backside is repaved. The entire track could use new pavement but they definitely repaved the section which needed it the most. I never had a traction issue at all on any of the new pavement and found that it gave good tire wear as well.
So this is my explanation of Grattan backwards, as experienced on my little 75hp naked SV 650 with dirt-bike bars. I’ll be naming the corners as they occur, so if you’re used to running clockwise, what I will call turn 1 is what you normally think of as the last turn. If I seem overly excited in my description, understand that Grattan in reverse is now my all-time favorite race course. What a freaking roller coaster!
Starting on the front straight going as fast as my motorcycle will go into turn 1, I grab a down shift but stay on the gas, tipping the bike to the right and barely feathering the brakes. As the day went on I realized I could carry more and more speed through this corner. It’s frightening though, because on the outside of turn 1 running counterclockwise, there is a drop-off into a bottomless pit. Let’s just say that you’ll be fine through Turn One as long as you don’t crash. Stay on the gas in 5th into turn two, which is kind of a front wheel raiser if you hit it on the far inside where I like to apex. I fly down the hill on the gas hard and grab 2 down shifts into 3rd gear for the hard left-hand, uphill, off -camber turn 3. Hold steady on the throttle as you sweep to the far outside of the track, then start rolling on the gas as hard as you can around the backside sweeper we will call turn 4. On my SV I’d upshift into 4th and then 5th gear. At the end of the sweeping back straight, I would downshift once to set up for the bowl that we can call turn 5. This is a hard, banked right-hander that lets you get some sick lean angle! Holding 4th gear, I would flick the bike hard left into turn 6, then hard right for turn 7. Hard acceleration through turn 8 would see me grabbing 5th at the exit. At this point, it was time for the most exciting feature of Grattan Backwards, the infamous jump. Hold onto your hat here, because your breakfast might come flying out of your stomach over this rise, where it is absolutely impossible to keep the front wheel down. I would keep my SV in 5th over the jump, down the hill and then back uphill, before banging the transmission back down to 4th for turn 9. I found that turn 9 often presented me with great opportunities to pass. The apex of turn 9 is at the crest of a hill, which presses your knee tight against the bodywork as your puck drags the asphalt. Then you swoop down hill to the entrance of turn 10, which is a blind, uphill, off -camber corner. It’s kind of bumpy here, especially coming up to the crest of the hill. Steady throttle is required to keep the suspension happy and the tires from losing traction through the dips. After cresting the hill I would hold 4th and flick left into the corner which we can call turn 11. This corner was extremely slick throughout the day for some reason (maybe from Johnny Literbike’s early morning spill?) and is also pretty bumpy. I found that the sweet line was on the far inside. I’d be rolling on power in 4th all the way and would hold that gear all the way down the hill into the last turn before the straight, which we’ll call turn 12. This is an awesome place to pass as well because everyone wants to take it wide. Me being a racer, I’m always running a protected inside line by habit, so I caught a few people off guard here. Carrying corner speed all the way to the outside of the track at the exit, Id hit fifth and sixth down the front straight, winding my little SV up to top speed and grinning from ear to ear as I prepared to do it all over again.
Grattan is a blast to run backwards. I’m definitely looking forward to my next chance to ride it that way, though it bears mention that there are a few areas, turn 3 for example, where the guard rail is closer to the track than I’d like. I guess the ticket is to not crash there! Other than that, the fresh pavement is love at first ride and I hope they finish the rest of the track for next year. I’ve always loved Grattan even though it was bumpy. With the new pavement, I love it even more now. I’m sure that in the coming season, lap records will be shattered by the local WERA racers. According to a few of the guys who I was battling and dicing it up with, we were running consistent 1:29 and 1:30 lap times. Not really fast, but fast enough to have a really good time and cap off the 2007 riding season in an extremely positive way. I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but running the track backwards makes Grattan even more of a challenge than riding it clockwise. If you get the chance, Grattan in reverse is a must-ride for sure.