They Say The Sky Was Orange That Day
"I did it to show them what was possible. That it wasn't all bolts and engineering and shit."
by Dean Adams
Sunday, October 1, 2023
For the 1994 AMA Superbike season, Miguel DuHamel took on the formidable challenge of racing the Harley-Davidson VR1000 Superbike. It was a season marked by both perseverance and adversity. At Daytona, he faced early disappointment with a DNF and a 56th place finish among a field of 74 riders. The struggles continued at Phoenix, where a second DNF resulted in a 27th place finish after completing only five laps.
As the season progressed, DuHamel's determination remained unwavering. Pomona saw a brief appearance, with just one lap completed before another unfortunate DNF. However, the tide began to turn at Laguna Seca, where he finished 30th after completing 16 laps. The breakthrough came at Elkhart, where DuHamel showcased his prowess and that of the VR 1000 by finishing 11th—on the lead lap.
The season took another challenging turn at Loudon with a complete DNF, but at Mid Ohio, DuHamel and the VR 1000's potential shone brightly. He not only qualified on the front row but also led the race, displaying his undeniable skill. Despite a setback when the shifter fell off, he valiantly fought to finish 14th, leaving a lasting impression of his resilience and competitive spirit throughout the 1994 AMA Superbike season.
When the pack came around to start finish for the first time with DuHamel in the lead, the late Pat Murphy, the AMA's press relations man, shouted to the press corp "YOU ARE SEEING HISTORY!"
Brainerd was the round following Mid-Ohio. The old Brainerd International Raceway was renown as a "man's man" track with the top gear turns one and two.
Following the tumultuous incident at Mid-Ohio, DuHamel found himself engulfed in a maelstrom of emotions, his frustration palpable. His anger was so consuming that, in the tense period between Mid-Ohio and Brainerd, he maintained a deafening silence with the Harley-Davidson team, not uttering a single word of communication. 'Hey, Miguel, give us a call when you get a chance ...'
The weight of disappointment hung heavy, and there were even moments when DuHamel contemplated severing ties with the team altogether. It was a precarious ledge he teetered on, one that threatened to push him away from the very sport that defined his life.
However, it was during this critical juncture that the voices of reason, embodied by his father, Yvon, and his astute manager, the ex-rider Alan LaBrosse, intervened. They became the steady hands that guided DuHamel away from the precipice of resignation, reminding him of the passion and talent that had brought him to this point in his career.
As the days rolled on and Brainerd loomed on the horizon, apprehensions mounted among both the team and observers. The Brainerd International Raceway, with its imposing mile-long front straight and treacherous turns one and two, seemed poised to present an insurmountable challenge for the VR1000. Doubts about the bike's performance grew like an ominous storm cloud, casting a shadow over the team's morale. The prevailing sentiment was one of resignation, as they braced themselves for what appeared to be an impending ordeal.
The VR 1000 Superbike. How to describe the bike thirty years later? It was very "Harley". In fact the bike, the team and even the methods--crew working on the ground without stands--was very Harley.
The collective mood within the team seemed to echo the sentiment of "let's just get through this." Brainerd demanded top-speed prowess, a quality the VR 1000 was perceived to lack. It was an arena where sheer velocity reigned supreme, and the VR 1000's supposed limitations were under the spotlight. As DuHamel prepared to take to the track at Brainerd, there was an air of uncertainty, a tacit acknowledgment that the odds were stacked against them. The challenge ahead was daunting, and it remained to be seen whether the indomitable spirit of Miguel DuHamel and the Harley-Davidson team could defy the odds once more.
People who thought Miguel could not get madder were wrong.
Even more incredibly than leading the race at Mid-Ohio, DuHamel led Brainerd, and was pulling away. As he led he looked for his pit board on Brainerd's fast straight but his crew only gave him looks of shock when he raced past them in the lead. He had no idea how big his lead was and assumed that Troy Corser, Colin Edwards and Jamie James were trying to draft past him. Thus DuHamel over-cooked the entrance to the hairpin and rode off in turn nine. He spun dirt all over the track getting back on line. He re-joined the fight and worked his way back up to second on the last lap when Troy Corser and Jamie James passed him one corner from the finish. DuHamel finished fourth, another in a short list of valid heart-breakers the VR 1000 suffered.
As he led he looked for his pit board on Brainerd's fast straight but his crew only gave him looks of shock when he raced past them in the lead. He had no idea how big his lead was and assumed that Troy Corser, Colin Edwards and Jamie James were trying to draft past him.
Years later, when reflecting on his remarkable performance at Brainerd, DuHamel revealed that his unwavering motivation stemmed from a blend of factors. It wasn't merely a desire for personal glory; it was about defying the skepticism that swirled around him. The doubters included not only the team members but also riders and even fans who had cast doubt on the feasibility of conquering Brainerd's challenging circuit aboard a VR 1000.
In DuHamel's own words, "I did it to show them what was possible. That it wasn't all bolts and engineering and shit. That with a good rider a lot of things can be accomplished." His commitment to the cause transcended self-interest and became a rallying cry for those who believed in the human spirit's capacity to triumph over adversity.
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