I feel I should preface this story
by first telling you it's effects, once posted on the public forum BARF, basically wiped out all we had accomplished while racing under Ducati North America's banner. We got fired for what you are about to read. Or, maybe it's more accurate to say we got fired because of a few "Key" people's reactons to it. I followed this story up with another, some time after the fallouit, which shared some of the never to be mentioned antics which had gone on behind the scenes - and which "theoretically" got us canned.

* FALLOUT FROM "The World is a Stage" *

3/25/07 AFM round 1, Buttonwillow racetrack

"The World is a Stage"

Eric Gulbransen

__________It’s 1982.  At fifteen years old I am painfully shy, reserved, yet hungry as all hell.  It’s 80% through lunch period and by now everyone has abandoned their trays and gradually, strategically, packed themselves around the perimeter of our schools lounge.  Lounge perimeter represents a safety zone that quietly promises the weaker kids little more than a chance to survive the overwhelming pressure of their peers.  At fifteen I’m all about survival.  I sit in the back of every class, keep a low profile, and only speak when I’m spoken to.  I’m definitely a perimeter kid when it comes to the lounge.  With ten minutes to go until the bell flushes this hall of fear, the very same desperation that has so effectively trained me to dodge the spotlight, to avoid all eye contact, and to always face the borders, is overwhelmed by my uncontrollable gaze toward center stage.  It’s our school’s prettiest girl who enters, and innocently perches herself precisely at the core of what for me would represent a bone crushing force of critical focus, unwanted attention, and painful insecurity.  Her name is Tara.  For me, she single handedly defines beauty.  Yet also for me, she is not reality.  Our worlds exist only in parallel.  Our paths will never cross.  As I secretly watch her from among the crowd I realize this, and from a pivotal point littered by the backs of people’s heads and the thoughtless bumps and shoves of those bigger than me, I emerge from one final gaze at her name creatively etched on the back of my notebook.  Today is a big day for me.  What I do next defines not necessarily who I am, but how I finally gathered the courage to also speak when I’m not called on.

I’m standing directly in front of her now, finally defying the very same light that I’ve always hidden from.  Once she looks up to me I begin telling her things she would otherwise never understand.  For once I don’t stare at her books, at the ground, or at any of the sea of other escapes I could have chosen.  I only see her eyes, and eventually, her smile.  Once my story is told I turn and begin on a very new journey.  As I walk away from the pressure I quietly say, “F**k the light.”

Since that day I’ve always told stories.  Some have opened doors, others have shut them right in my face – but if nothing else they were all the truth.  By definition I am still shy, but definitely NOT cagey.  In racing I’ve found most people shoot straight once out on the track, but in the pits – well that’s another thing all together.  I see this typical difference between fact and fabrication as a rare opportunity to share with you what’s real – and so I do... 

I saw Steve Crevier go through Daytona’s pit-out once with an unknowing wrench hanging from his swingarm.  The instant that wrench touched the International Horseshoe’s tarmac he was launched into oblivion.  And from the moment he regained consciousness - till today, I’ve never heard or read one word about that wrench.  We still don’t know what caused the ever mysterious career ending crash for Dale Quarterly up on Daytona’s banks, and we are even sometimes asked to accept claims that insist a particular riders recent discovery of over two seconds per lap has nothing to do with his bike suddenly sounding like a surface to air missile launch.  Surely politics are at the core of some of the bullshit.  Lots of time it's pride.  Sometimes a straight shot will get you shit canned in one day, so there are times I imagine when drawing the blinds could be seen as a good thing to do...  For me, I don't see how there can only be good - all the time. 
I just don't think that's real.

Enter, TagTeamDucati’s 2007 AFM round 1 race report :

It’s 12:15pm Sunday afternoon and not a person is in sight.  The sun finds the back of my neck as my head hangs between my arms, which are stretched around my knees.  My ass is parked on the very same alligator teeth that I so cautiously jumped over on our 1098 less than an hour ago.  My hands are locked together, calmly fighting the warm leather and stitching that protects me in battle.  I am intentionally, completely alone out there.  All the corner workers are at lunch, the winners of F1 are celebrating, and none of our crew knows where I am. 

In a dream sequence the following memories replay in my mind:
- Tom Montano appears before me.  We’re at the Infineon national of 05.  After climbing from the wreckage of our losing fight, battered and bruised I asked him why he’d sat the race out.  He said, “I’ve been doing this long enough to recognize when it’s time to race, and when it’s time to not.”  Just then I looked back at our wrecked bike and wondered why I didn’t pull off the first time our bike came out of gear.  Or even the second…
- Then it’s Saturday night again, I’m holding a our team manager's frustrating, arguing, and destructive phone call to my ear - when I’d really rather be dunking it into the tall glass of water that’s looking back at me from a table surrounded with tired - hungry people, and filled with uneaten food. 
- Then I’m twentyeight again and Jimmy Adamo is on the phone asking me to wrench for him at Daytona.  The very same Daytona that he ultimately went to unprepared for, and never came home from.  I tell him I won't go.  “Too many pieces are missing.”  That’s the last time we ever got to speak.
- Then it's today once more.  We're in second place, braking deep for turn one when I feel our right clip-on twist around the fork as seven hundred angry motorcycles breathe down my back.  My chest drops toward the tank as I struggle to steer a bike with basically one bar.  After we recover I twist the awkwardly placed throttle in the hopes of pressing on in the race and the motor feels off.  By the exit of Riverside I pull us out of our first race of both the day, and of the year.  I then remember the nearly empty brake reservoir that I discovered with two minutes till launch, the missing nut on the shock, the fact that we'd managed to complete only four consecutive laps on either of our two bikes, in two days at the track.  The list relentlessly goes on.  I can feel how little time we've somehow ended up with, again, and I resent it.  Upon limping back to pit lane I drive our 999R front wheel into a 55 gallon garbage can and toss the bike against the concrete wall.  It’s fear that’s got me intensely upset.  Pressure.  And finally thoughtlessness..
- Then I remembered the light again, the girl on center stage, and those three words I first said so well, so long ago…   “F**k the light!”

Just then a slowly approaching white pick-up truck pulls to my feet.  I look up to find one of racing’s best friends dressed in white with his chin resting comfortably on his folded arms just atop the door.  He quietly asks, “You OK GoGo?”  Slowly my eyes draw from somewhere off in the distance, to his face, while I consider the unnecessary struggling, the one sided phone call, the momentum we had as we continued to careen farther and farther out of control, and I say, “Our team is having problems.  Things are getting dangerous.  I think it’s time for me to go home.”  When he asks if I need a ride I accept, and as I stand I see my next best friend Barb, head of all that happens on the tarmac, sitting in the passenger seat.  I thank the two of them for always taking care of me.  Once back at our pit I pack up my boy, pack up my girl, and we leave the racetrack early – something I have never done in 19 years of racing, crashing, winning, losing, trying, hoping, and dreaming. 

I finally surrendered.  But I did not surrender with the idea of giving something up.  I surrendered with the idea of gaining something, of building something, and of making something better - for everyone involved. I knew leaving meant that I might never ride those bikes again. But I also knew leaving, under those circumstances, was the right thing to do.

As we pulled away I watched a clutter of pit equipment pass before the red silhouette of a massive looking 1098 that I’ve been dreaming about racing for over eight months – yet that I was about to turn my back on.  I thought about how good that bike felt beneath me in the only four laps that we completed all weekend.  I thought of the chances I was giving up.  I thought of the losses that we now might face.  And I drove forward…

eric gulbransen






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Eric "GoGo" Gulbransen, Tracy Gulbransen, Matthew Pilla, Motorcycle racing, AFM, Ducati 749R, 999R, race story, MotoItaliano