LAGUNA SECA, Calif. — Andy Leisner was losing his concentration so he pulled into the pits only eight laps into the most important race of his life, the 250cc class of the International Grand Prix. As Leisner, 21, maneuvered his 250cc motorcycle into the turns, his braking action caused a gasoline overflow bottle on the front of his motorcycle to fill. As he accelerated out of the turns the bottle would empty itself onto Leisner, burning his neck and dousing him in gasoline.
"I was breathing a lot of gas," said Leisner, a resident of La Canada. "You need concentration to ride. I started to take some corners too fast and some too slow."
When taking a corkscrew turn at 80 miles per hour, your body only inches from the ground, concentration is of the utmost importance.
Leisner has crashed three times since he began his career at Willow Springs race track in 1985. That his worst injury has been a sprained ankle is little comfort to his parents.
"My mother used to not go to the races," Leisner said. "But she has really turned around a lot. My dad has always loved racing. But my mom tells me that he's a complete nervous wreck during the race."
Leisner's start in racing gave his parents reason to worry. After wrestling for two season's at La Canada High, Leisner acquired a taste for speed, expending his energy on the winding Angeles Crest Highway. After watching several friends get hurt, Leisner decided to move off the streets and onto a track.
He spent his first two seasons racing at Willows Springs, winning about half of his races and consistently finishing in the top four. In 1987 he finished 12th overall in his first season on the U. S. Grand Prix tour. He set a lap record on the 2.5-mile Willow Springs track with a time of 1:28.90. And at the first race of the U. S. tour this season, Leisner finished 10th.
He left Sunday for a six-week eastern tour that includes three stops on the U. S. circuit and two Canadian national races.
He is hopeful that his experience on the U. S. tour will vault him onto the European tour, the steppingstone to the International Grand Prix.
"Motorcycle racing is very popular in Europe," Leisner said. "The top three finishers on the European tour usually pick up good sponsors for the International Grand Prix. I think in another year I can be up there."
His short and bitter taste of the International Grand Prix has not soured his enthusiasm.
"It was the first time I had even seen a world championship race," Leisner said. "It felt good just to qualify. I raced against people that I had only read about. Qualifying ahead of some of them has really given me a lot of confidence."