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Living life in the really fast lane

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How many of us, in our early years, had a dream of becoming a certain something one day, but through circumstances either beyond or under our control, it never came to fruition. One determined Valley high schooler had a dream and recently accomplished his life-long ambition.

Patrick Coleman, a 2005 Sonoma High School graduate, became an expert in the field of motorcycle racing. It happened at the Midwest tracks in and around Chicago, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

This whole thing started when he was about 12 years old. Having spent years at Sonoma Raceway as a young spectator and later as a motor-sports photographer for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. Coleman got to experience the thrills of racing, up close and personal, as well as meeting and talking to the racing elite he so admired.

For Coleman, the physical part of racing started when Santa brought him an 80cc Kawasaki dirt bike one Christmas. From then on, all he dreamed about was racing in the big leagues.

While keeping his dream in focus, Coleman went through childhood, graduated from Sonoma Valley High and got his AA degree from Santa Rosa Junior College. During his stint at the SRJC, as an aside to spending a lot of time at Sonoma Raceway, he captained the water polo team.

In high school, Coleman had to do a senior project. Asked what it was going to be about, he decided on a topic that was very close to him. He was going to write a paper on whether a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) test was thorough enough for a newly licensed motorcycle rider. Coleman argued that, “the DMV test was insufficient and that a better way to license someone, would be to do a track day, to better educate you on the way a bike performs and to teach you how to go about riding it, in an environment that was controlled and safe.”

After SRJC, Coleman earned a BA degree in communications from San Francisco State. Finding a job after graduating was now the plan. Weekly paychecks would go a long way in furthering his interests in racing. Sponsorship in some form would have been nice, but it’s very hard to come by.

Glass Door, a Company Ratings website, based in Sausalito, gave him an entry opportunity and with his success at his new job, he now had the means to sponsor himself.

After years of track days and racing schools on inferior equipment, Coleman decided it was time to test the racing waters, in earnest, at Sonoma Raceway. He joined the American Federation of Motorcycles (AFM), the motorcycle racing body for Northern California and began looking for a race-prepared bike that he could afford so he could step up his game. Points were now needed to go from the beginner (novice) class to amateur and then onto expert.

Fast is the name of the game in racing. Fast and controlled is the formula to winning. Being a novice is the start to attaining both of those things.

Speed, he loves. Control at speed he had to learn. When asked, how do you know when you’re going fast enough? He replied, “I’ll know where that fine line is when I crash.” So after a few get-offs, he learned how to take the fast way around a racetrack.

A job opportunity came up from Glass Door, to move to Chicago, so he took the job, packed his bags and his dream, and moved to the racing world of the Midwest.

On racetracks he’d never seen before, he went from amateur to expert in just under a year, and by so doing, he took his 750cc Suzuki GSXR race-bike to an amateur Midwest Regional Championship. Not only was he the track champion at a local track (Blackhawk Farms in South Beloit, Illinois), but also placed second, second, and third in class, in three other events, and achieved Rookies Regional Champion in the Amateur Rookies GTO Championship.

In his first race, in the rain, he experienced a get off while leading, but still came in second. He thanks Sonoma Raceway for his racing education.

In 2018, Coleman will throw his leg over a 2016 Kawasaki 600 Moto-America spec bike, thanks to the Nikkel family of Sonoma, owners of FSI (Fastening Systems International) who have sponsored Coleman for two years. Tutoring on the Kawi 600 will be done by 41-year-old retired pro-racer Jason Farrell, of Farrell Performance of Chicago. To his credit are two international, 89 national, 58 regional, and eight local wins.

Coleman now can enter expert races and try to qualify for the Moto-America national racing series. Who knows, he could possibly be racing at Sonoma Raceway when they host the seventh round of the 2018 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Race Championship, Sunday Aug. 12.

(Editor’s note: Henry Coleman is a longtime Index-Tribune motor sports contributor – and the proud father of Patrick Coleman)