Winter for the Midwestern motorcyclist is a dark time, and not just because the sun goes down so early. Overcast skies dump ice and snow on our favorite twisties. The roads are coated in salt and strewn with gravel. The severity of this winter in some parts made it too cold even to go out to the garage and commiserate with our estranged loves.
Photos by: Super Bike Photography
For those of us afflicted with the incurable disease of sport riding, there is only one antidote for a winter that seems to tighten its grip even as the calendar marches toward Spring: head south. With that in mind, I loaded up my beloved Yamaha R6, all of my gear and headed down I-75 to Jennings, Florida for some asphalt therapy.
JenningsGP is a flowing, 2-mile, 14-turn ribbon of pavement nestled in the woods of rural, north Florida. Its mild winter climate and proximity to Daytona have made it a perennial pilgrimage for amateurs and professionals alike. All seeking to cure their winter blues and knock the rust off their skills ahead of the riding and racing season.
A late winter track day at Jennings provides a unique opportunity for rank amateurs (such as yours truly) to rub shoulders with top-flight AMA pros like Dane Westby and Danny Eslick as they put the finishing touches on their preparation for the opening round at Daytona. But leaving aside the enormous race haulers, the pit crews and the differences in pace, we are all alike in that paddock. We're just a bunch of motorcycle junkies, trying to find a fix to get us through the last few weeks of winter.
The layout of the track makes it seem as if you're always accelerating, always cranking the bike over for another beautiful corner. The abrasive pavement isn't easy on tires, but it provides ample traction that both inspires confidence and allows for a multitude of corner-entry flubs, a feature I put to good use through my two days there.
Turns 1 and 2 are fast, long, sweeping left handers, sculpted to allow for constant acceleration and at least two upshifts. The squiggle of turns 3-6 act as a speed check before you get into the flow of 7-10, which is punctuated by the sharper-than-it-looks Turn 8. Your apex and exit of 10 are crucial to set up 11 and 12, which you can square up and rocket through with a hair-raising amount of throttle. Then you carve around 13 and 14, on the throttle again to the start/finish straight.
Two days of sun, palm trees and twisted throttles were just what the doctor ordered. Spring doesn't seem so far away now, and when it comes, I'll be more prepared than in seasons past, having gotten an early start. And when winter comes again to strip the joy from our lives, I'll take solace in knowing that relief is only a day's drive away.