Few remember but Dave Sadowski was a 250 rider in the 1980s. I doubt those that do remember Ski’s 250 period will dispute this statement: Ski was lucky to survive his 250 career. He over-rode the bike and the tires in every session; the bike was not great to begin with and Dave was only interested in going as fast as possible, not in set up or tactics. He used an older TZ model which looked worn out. It was tuned by a guy who was very new at two-stroke tuning. It had the words “Polish Assassin” brushed on to the tailpiece where anyone who was behind Ski would have to read, and mull, the words.
Ex-racer turned tuner Steve “Bigs” Biganski pitted by Sadowski’s 250 effort at Laguna Seca one year and watched as Ski’s tuner prepared for a main jet change after practice. Ski’s tuner walked over to the bike with a screwdriver and a Styrofoam coffee cup, put the cup under the carb and cracked the float bowl open, draining the gas. Of course, the gas instantly ate a hole through the coffee cup bottom and ran all over the engine. Flummoxed, the guy would go pull another Styrofoam cup from the stack and crack the drain screw again only to watch as the fuel ate through the Styrofoam cup, again and again.
“Bigs” watched the comedy long enough and once he could keep a straight face, he walked over to Team Ski and asked the fellow if he needed a bit of help. Sure! Bigs turned the petcock off, and drained the float bowls into a steel basin. What jets are in it? “Dunno,” Biganski was told.
What jets are you going to put in it? “Dunno.”
Biganski raced 250s against Eddie Lawson so he knew both sides of the racing coin: the bike needed to be fast and the rider needed to have a plan. Ski had neither but after an hour or so Bigs had the old, loose TZ “tuned” in terms of jetting, gearing and tire pressure so that it was no longer a danger to itself and others. While Biganski and Sadowski would go on to be great friends, at that time they only knew each other from seeing the other around the paddock. Biganski was a respected racer and tuner. Ski was … Ski. He knew that he was fast enough to win. Few others shared this opinion.
Somehow in the fork springs/gearing/tire compound Q&A that Bigs held for Ski and his tuner, Ski asked Biganski if he could follow him around for a few laps in the next practice. For whatever reason, Biganski said okay. Next practice Bigs dawdled along off the racing line until he had Ski behind him. Then he decided to put in a few 80% laps to get Ski at least a clue on how to go fast on a 250.
Maybe one lap in, Ski being Ski took over. Dave started trying to out brake Biganski, racing him out of corners and the usual Dave not giving an inch performance. Biganski held the throttle WFO over the turn one hill and dropped Ski for a few corners but by about turn four Dave was gaining on Biganski. Bigs decided to go 100% down the hill so he did a very fast section down the Corkscrew. Yet at the bottom of the final corner, he caught a shadow out of the corner of his eye and realized Ski was going to use him as a berm as he too had decided to do a fast lap, on ambition only.
Ski slammed into Biganski sending him off the track. Ski target fixated on Biganski’s bike and he followed him into the dust. The pair recovered enough to run down to the final corner. Only Biganski wasn’t going to let that cheap move fly and he basically did the same move back on Ski in the final left. They tangled, bikes went flying and Bigs ended up catching Ski’s 250 in his chest, breaking some ribs. Sadowski suffered more concussions than any rider I have ever known, but I think that was his first. He and Biganski were loaded into the ambulance together.
Biganski was wheezing, spitting up blood and hoping not to die. Sadowski was on the opposite bench in the ambulance and both were strapped down for a ride to the hospital. Biganski told Ski that if he didn’t die, he was going to kill Ski once they released him. Ski was very typical Ski. He asked Biganski why he was “parked” in the corners, going so slow Ski could have passed him on a ten speed. Personally, I heard Ski used this “parked” phrase many times on many different riders who found themselves on the racing line with Dave Sadowski behind them. Jeff Farmer, Mike Barnes, Steve Crevier and many others.
Biganski kept telling Ski to stop talking. I don’t know anyone who ever successfully shut Dave up, thus the whole ride to the hospital was Ski critiquing Biganski’s riding and Bigs telling him to shut up or die.
Back story: one afternoon at Laguna Seca WSBK in the late 1990s both Ski and Biganski told me this story–together. They were finishing each others sentences and laughing very hard about how they met and later became great friends. I wish now that I had recorded it.