Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jennings GP

The whine of an 848-cc engine began to build in the distance. Louder and longer until it reached maximum crescendo nearing the corner of turn 1. Suddenly the racing Ducati flew down the straightaway. In a moment it was gone, but the sound of the engine lingered. Then, you could hear the rider shifting gears as it headed into the next leg. You could just feel him leaning into the turn—knee to the ground, torso and leg forming a perfect “Z”; shoulders at a 45-degree angle. Then straightening up in a single smooth roll. Top speed at this track is 150+ mph.

It was a practice day, and we were the only visitors at north Florida’s motorcycles only road racing track. Jennings GP has two miles of smooth black asphalt with 14 turns, and is surrounded by chain link fencing.

We had parked on the grass between a couple of muscle pick-ups, all chrome trimmed and shiny in the bright sun. Nearby, a handful of track crew sat on the wood steps of a small outbuilding that sold tickets and tee-shirts.

The paddock held mostly Ducati motorcycles, and riders were splitting their time between track school and taking laps.

Under the bright red tents you could see racing bikes braced in stands, wheels peeking out from under electric tire warmers.

I walked over to the track itself. The sun was warm and dry grass crackled under my step. A few sharp blades poked their way through the holes in my croc shoes. Flies buzzed around a sign warning spectators to stay at least 25 feet from the fence. On race day, there would be hundreds of race fans in the crowd, but on this day I had the track to myself.

Jennings GP is open to motorcycle riders with any level of experience. Newcomer, intermediate or fast riders can get track experience and go to racing school. Even if you just want to watch others ride, visitors can join the fans and enjoy the thrill of racing up close.

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