Finally – Round One!

Racing in 2021 is a new beginning in several different ways for the Razorback Racing team. 2020 was a one-event season for reasons everyone knows and is absolutely sick and tired of, so we decided to just write that one off and start over.

The team has a new title sponsor for 2021 and we are very happy this year to represent Gulf Racing Fuels. It’s an incredible privilege to race under this iconic company logo that has a racing pedigree second to none. Thanks to our friends, Jeff and Michelle LaRose, who are Gulf Fuel distributors and made this happen.

The outfit is sporting a new livery for 2021 with the official Gulf two-tone blue and Gulf Racing Fuel logo.

Our co-pilot and co-owner, Ben Ollila, is taking a hiatus from racing to do other important things in life, namely, getting a Master’s Degree in Geological Engineering, getting married and getting pregnant (with his wife, Olya, of course). We wish him the best in all these areas and time will tell whether or not he returns to ride with the team again.

Jennifer Carriere (aka Speed) is the new copilot this year.

Jen is not new to racing and has many laps racing solo bikes in both sprint and endurance races. She initially took a few laps in 2019 on a sidecar demo ride and her talent was immediately apparent. Some people just have the “right stuff” for sidecar racing. This past winter, Jen very enthusiastically accepted when asked to take on the role as passenger.

After an initial delay, the VRRA race school ran at Shannonville Motorsports Park on June 17, 2021, and Jen received her license to copilot a classic racing sidecar.

Our team runs primarily with the VRRA and the first 2 rounds of the 2021 season were cancelled.

Thanks to a bit of teamwork and collaboration, Shannonville Super Series invited the VRRA to participate in their first round on July 9-11 and finally, WE’RE BACK TO RACING!!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of returning to the track with the competitive-but-social atmosphere, business of race prep and reuniting with friends we hadn’t seen for a long time, but it was very good for our souls.

The learning curve for Jen was very steep because there really is no way to just dip your toe in this sport. It’s pretty much as if you get thrown in the deep end of the pool and you’re forced to swim. Or more specifically, to hang out very far on the left-hand corners or the whole rig will flip.

Jen brought a whole lot of enthusiasm, athletic ability and willingness to adapt to the part and was up to racing speed with a practice or two. We were pleasantly surprised by how quickly she adapted. Along with her talents, she kept mentioning the “P” word (podium – as if saying it out loud would jinx the whole business).

Saturday featured a short practice, a timed qualifier and a race. We had a decent pace in the race until a leaking fuel line caused us a DNF. Back in the pits, we discovered a tiny leak on the suction side caused by an overtightened hose clamp. Sometimes you just think you are doing the right thing and being conscientious…

Sunday schedule was the same as the previous day but a broken shift linkage on the warmup lap for the qualifier put us out and at the back of the grid. No harm done and at least we were in the race.

We started well and ran well for the race. All sidecars were included and the modern and big displacement F1s are very hard to keep up to with a 1970 XS650/750 air-cooled twin. However, we had a great race coming in third behind 2 or the F1s and in front of another F1 team who are just starting out. We ended up first in our class and third overall.

Jen performed extremely well for her first race weekend and was finally able to say the “P” word out loud.

The Mosport Vintage Festival is up next and we are counting the days. We have a lap record that needs to be challenged.

A few words from Jen:

Let me tell you about a little bit of fun I’ve had recently. Have you heard of sidecar racing? Google it.

I remember my first years at the track: the sounds, the smells, the bikes. I didn’t give much thought to sidecars. Experienced racers spoke about them with reverence. I didn’t see it. I only understood the magic of solo racing. I purchased a bike, got it prepared for the track and went to school. I. Was. In Love with racing.

So this is what I had been missing all my life. Racing is fun. I spent some time on various bikes. I became part of a women’s endurance race team. We were 3Abreast Racing. I was able to get around the track just fine and consistently decrease my lap times. Racing is fun.

I started to pay closer attention to sidecars. The racing and dicing with someone hanging all over and off the rig was really something to watch! I started to understand what other racers were talking about when they described sidecar racing with such respect and awe. I often heard “you don’t understand until you do it”. As a spectator during the sidecar racing, with a better understanding of the sport now that I had race experience of my own, I had an immense amount of respect for the people on those rigs. The partnership between pilot and co-pilot is really amazing to watch. The two work in tandem without verbal communication. They sense how the rig is moving, they listen to the engine, they feel the brakes and they react accordingly to each other and the track in front of them. Sidecar racing looks fun.

Then life interferes. I was away from the track for a couple of years, my solo bike was gone and then a pandemic happened. In 2018, I was able to get on a rig and “try the track” with pilot Dave Minnett. Now Dave and I were not strangers. We had raced against each other before while we were both in the same class during VRRA races. I was confident to step on the rig with Dave. His bikes are always well prepared, meticulously well-kept and he’s an excellent racer. I enthusiastically hopped on for a ride. Wow. I bet sidecar racing is fun.

At some point in early 2021, I got a call from the Minnetts. They were looking to have someone sub-in for their co-pilot for a few races. Easy answer. Yes!! This worldwide pandemic was a bit of a drag but eventually, I was able to take part in the schooling and track time required to allow me to be a co-pilot… or sidecar monkey as we are usually referred to. I came home with tired muscles, bruises in strange places and a huge smile on my face. That was some of the hardest physical work I’ve ever done on a race track. Monkey school is fun.

Our first official race weekend happened in July. We were invited out on the track with Super Series at the Shannonville Motorsport Park. There were some gremlins to work out on Saturday. We didn’t get to finish our race. Sunday had another couple of issues and we started our race at the back of the pack. Dave is a good starter. We didn’t stay there. We got off the line and shot forward to 3rd place going into turn 1. With all kinds of dicing, some close passing and a subtle suggestion to go a bit faster we crossed the line in 3rd place overall and a 1st place finish in our class. Our first race and our first podium. Hopefully, this is a glimpse of what the future has in store for us this year. Sidecar racing is really fun!

Fellow racers talk about the feelings that follow a race weekend. For me, it’s like coming back to earth after being on another planet where the rest of the world doesn’t exist. There is an “adrenaline hangover” and most people don’t understand what the weekend was about. You can’t share this stuff with others so it’s best to talk to your racing friends for the first few days after a race. They are the only ones that speak the same language as you. For many people (certainly for me), most weekends consist of house cleaning, laundry, groceries and lawn maintenance. It’s an adjustment to come back to regular life after being at the track. This time, I was up at 5:30 AM with my mind spinning. I was walking a couple of feet above the ground. I don’t think I came down until late afternoon on Monday… and then I needed a nap.

All racing is awesome. Anything that makes us focus, work hard and get better is worth doing in my books. I love to challenge myself, grow and get better than I was before. Sidecar racing is more than fun, it’s next level.

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