Sunday, May 11, 2014

AFM 2014 Round 2 Race Report

This race report actually starts three weeks before this AFM round. Three weeks before this round I took my GSXR 450 to Sonoma raceway to get some much needed practice in.

Unfortunately, I failed to respect the track as I should have and had an impressive slide as I was exiting turn 6. The slide itself was not that exciting but when my bike touched the dirt on the edge of the drag strip she decided to tumble up the hill. That tumble did extensive damage to her. The subframe was destroyed, the fairing stay was destroyed, all of the plastics were destroyed.

After the track day, the first stop was Gerry at GP Frame And Wheel. Gerry was able to put her forks, swing arm and frame back into alignment for me. He was also able to save the front rim but the rear rim was just too far gone. Pretty impressive list for just one crash!

I can't thank Gerry enough for getting her straightened out quickly enough for me to be able to attend round 2.

While Gerry was straightening nearly everything on the bike, I had to run the rear shock over to Catalyst Reaction Tuning. During the crash I had ripped the hose that connects the remote reservoir to the rear shock. Fortunately Jim had a hose in stock and was able to rebuild the shock.

That left just parts replacements. I had already picked up a second set of plastics and Tim Scarrott of Scarrott Racing had already painted them. I also had already purchased a new fairing stay so I just needed a new subframe and rear rim. A quick trip to ebay and I had the parts on their way.

So after all of that excitement I was ready to put her back together and get ready for Round 2 at Sonoma raceway. Only one little problem -- once I reassembled her she was throwing an error code and refused to run. I spent a couple of days trying everything I could think of to track down the error code but I was unsuccessful. I ran out of time so the only thing left was to pack up and head to the track.

Dave Wallis, Dave Moss, my son and the rest of the 450 grid out in an incredible effort working with me to get my bike back together. Unfortunately we got close but didn't get her back to ful strength. We solved her idling problems and removed all of the error codes but she was still way down on power. I ended up missing nearly all of the practice sessions on Saturday morning and was only able to go out in one session in the afternoon. That session confirmed that she was running at less than 50% power.

What to do? Race anyway!

My first race was on Saturday afternoon, Formula 40 Light. This is always a tough race as even under the best of conditions I am racing against bikes with 20+ horsepower (SV 650s) more than mine. Nevertheless it was a fun race for me as I got to work on maintaining speed, even more important when being down on power. I worked on carrying more speed through the corners, trying to keep my speed up as much as possible. I ended up coming in last but got some seat time on the bike now that she is straightened and effectively brand new to me.

Saturday night was spent going back through the bike again, looking for what was causing the power loss. At this point it definitely felt like the bike was in limp mode. We tried swapping nearly every sensor she had thinking that one of them was causing the loss in power. In the end we came to a conclusion, it was either the water temp sensor or the engine was losing compression. Neither of which was fixable at the track.

One other item I learned on Saturday was that my front tire was shot. The Bridgestone front is a strong tire but the flip up the hill outside of T6 damaged the tire itself. Moss warned me that the tire might feel off and during the race I confirmed it. The tire needed to go.

Fortunately for me, Chris of CT Racing was still at the track Saturday night and was willing to switch out my front tire even though it was not a Pirelli. I have to give credit to Chris, he is always there; he gets there early and stays late to help the racers. He was able and willing to mount my new front tire so that I didn't need to rush around on Sunday morning. I hate leaving things to the last minute and Chris understands that.

Sunday morning dawned with a fresh front tire but no news on the power front. My first race of the day is my big one of the weekend; 450 super bike.

Doing a race start on a 450 is hard, harder than any other bike that I have ridden. They simply have no power below 10K and a launch needs low end power. When the bike is running in low power mode a launch is simply an effort to not stall. I was able to get off the line but was the last bike to go through T1 and it was time to start getting my speed up and keep it up.

I finished last in the race but got an excellent view of the top finishers as they lapped me just as we were passing through T11. I got a front row seat for the dash towards the checkered flag. The other good news from the race is that I was able to shave 2 seconds from my previous race. While no where near my normal lap times it was definitely a pleasure to find two seconds under the circumstances.

Normally I run two races on Sunday, 450 superbike and Formula IV. However, with the lap times I was running I elected to skip the F4 race. Better to solve her power problems and race another day.

In the end I was able to secure a few points in the 450 superbike race and get some seat time after the rebuild. Now to solve the power problem for the next round.

My deepest appreciation

Goes out to the following people:

  • Dave Wallis for all the effort it put in to getting my bike running again. He spent numerous hours working on her and with me to get her back together.
  • Dave Moss for his help in the rebuild along with changing the oil in my forks and setting up her suspension for the weekend.
  • Gerry Piazza for his amazing work on straightening nearly everything on my bike.
  • Catalyst Reaction for rebuilding my rear shock in record time.
  • Chris of CT Racing for always being there when I need a tire changed.
  • Suzanne of Trackside Massage for keeping me in shape while I was trying to get the bike back into shape.
  • Mike Morrisey for being our chef Saturday night for an excellent cookout.
  • My son and the rest of the 450 crew for helping me put my bike back together.
  • Tim Scarrott for an excellent paint job.

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