Just saw this thread as I don't always make it over here to the Busa world.
My friend Gerald Deneau's death at the Ohio Mile in June 2012 was a bit of a mystery to myself and others. Here was a man who had drag raced in his early years, who purchased a ZX12R when it was first released in 2000 and racked up over 30K miles on it before bringing it to the track. A bike which I personally piloted on the street to just shy of 189 mph on GPS to make sure it was "safe" at those speeds.
I can tell you his spirits were lukewarm Saturday when he ran a best of 168 mph. It seems a combination of focusing too much on needing to run the exact speed (and not get in trouble for going too fast for a license run) mixed with the 2000 model's notoriously small numbers on the speedometer may have caused him to struggle too much (spend too much mental energy and time) to run the appropriate speed.
The standing mile is quite LONG for those who haven't done it. Speeding on the highways or racing your buddies on the streets....goofing off and flirting with jailable speeds still doesn't necessarily quite prepare some for ... dare I say ... courage and humility it takes to run the standing mile.
I did my best to get his spirits up and after a hearty breakfast and a game plan of not worrying about perfect redline shifts and instead get to 6th gear early and hold it wide open. I just wanted him to focus on getting the throttle wide open in 6th and look for the finish line, nothing else. He was plagued with shifting issues, shifting too late or not at all and bouncing on the rev limiter longer than the majority of other participants. I figured without his attention being taken up by a small numbers on a speedometer or getting shift points precise instead clutch up 5 gears very early and hold on till the finish.
Well he went through the traps at 175 mph. There were reports of people saying they heard him on the limiter....which would indicate not going into 6th as advised....which is a human mistake (miscount...how many of us have shifted into 7th). According to eyewitnesses there was no evidence of shutting down. No brake lights (streetbike), no rolling off sound, body position wasn't normal...it just didn't add up....and at those speeds going off the track ... well....you can figure out the rest.
With the help of the authorities, ECTA, his family and others who I may have forgotten at this time I and a couple other helpful officers at the impound wrestled the twisted, mangled, depressing sight of a 2000 ZX-12R for the long haul back home. The damage was catastrophic to say the least. For the family's sake and for my own sanity I went through the shifts on the shifter once the engine was removed from the frame. Save for the slight possibility of the motorcycle's shifter upshifting or downshifting while tumbling, the bike was still in 5th gear.
It was finally released to me after a lengthy wait (I don't know if that is normal or not, maybe given the situation) that the official cause of death was related to blunt force trauma. In other words the accident and tumbling caused his death. That still gave no answers as to WHY. WHY was there no visible attempt to slow down.
Having thought about it almost every day since June 2012 my gut says one of 2 things. He was in his early 70s....and I can't help but think it was either a medical reason (heart attack, stroke, etc) or failing to realize where the finish line was. Based on his significantly varied speeds throughout the licensing passes on Saturday I can see how missing the orange cones/flags in your peripheral if you are zoning in (straight or tach) is possible would lead you to go past the finish. And in his early 70s I woud say it was safe to say that my eyesight may have been better than his.
Years ago I ran at the TX Mile and zoned so hard on the tach, desperate for 100 more RPMS to go 200 mph that by the time I looked back up I realized I couldn't see the MILE MARKER
So here I am trying to haul this bike down to normal speeds, higher than stock tire pressure, single rotor up front. Lots of finessing and brakes, slight front, mainly rear...and I end up keeping it upright and go into the grass maybe 20 mph? Gave the guys at shutdown a
and did my
back to pick up my slip.
A momentary lapse of judgement is all it takes. It didn't matter how many times I went over his bike (taking him under my wing since he had the same bike as I), going over the game plan of riding, shutdown, licensing, etc. There is always the human element. We forget this 1" of styrofoam around our heads, foam and leather around our bodies can only do so much. Safety is a state of mind, we forget sometimes.
Be safe everyone.