I enjoy Buttonwillow. It has a great flow to it; From T2 all the way to Sunset you are never slamming down on the brakes while frantically backing gears like some tracks. On the bikes that I race, you are at most backing two gears with relatively gentle braking zones.
That flow is what makes the track so enjoyable to me.
This round is a single day event, so Saturday was practice.
As you may recall, I have been chasing an electrical demon all season on my A bike. A demon that only shows up when it is hot and when I am running at or near race pace. Impossible to duplicate on a dyno or even at an average track day.
Fortunately, this track day/practice day had a group specifically for racers, and I was able to twist the throttle in anger. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as this story turns out, the demon appeared.
First, two sessions of the day ran great. By session 2 I was just over a second off my personal best at this track and feeling “comfortable” at that pace. I wasn’t pushing hard yet. A very good sign. Session 3 is when it started to get complicated.
In Session 3, while coming down off the one blind corner on the track the demon appeared. The check engine light came on, and the bike tried to stall. Since I was in the WORST place on the track I held on the throttle and begged her to get out of the way.
An odd thing happened, she restarted! I was able to get her back into the pits under power without having to reset her.
I finish the session to push her some more and see if the issue comes back, it does not.
Session 4, I go back out with the intention of trying to duplicate the issue. Unfortunately, it does but worse; she won’t restart on her own, and I am forced to pull off the track and restart her. Maybe the fuel pump?
I swap the gas tank with my B bike. Next session…
Session 5, I go back out, and she does it again. This time, she won’t restart on her own forcing me to turn her off, turn it back on and restart her as she ran out of gas. Good thing I have a solid Shorai battery in this bike that can handle cranking the engine for that long.
She restarts, back into the pits. Maybe the secondary injectors? I swap the top of the airbox that contains the secondaries.
Session 6, same issue, same result.
Since both of these bikes are 450s which means they have a set of dummy injectors, maybe the dummy injector is bad? Bad in the pits, pull the bikes apart and swap the dummy injectors.
Session 7, no issues! We found it! I am able to put my head down at this point and work on pace.
Session 8, the issue is back. Why did it take so long? Who knows, but it is NOT solved.
Back in the pits, the day is over. The last thing I am looking to swap has to do with the Bazzaz subsystem. Both bikes are running an identical system so perhaps just a bad unit?
I swap them at the end of the day and decide to test them in the morning.
Round 3 — Practice
I lay awake early in the morning as the sun is rising at the track and go through the electrical system in my head. I trace everything that is on the bike and everything that has been replaced so far this year.
I am running with the assumption that if a part has been replaced it is not suspect. The odds of this situation happening on two pieces of hardware should be very low. Therefore nearly every part of the electrical system is now out of contention for being the problem. We have literally replaced everything except the Bazzaz sub harness at this point.
WERA gives us two practice sessions each morning. I go out to warm up my A bike to take her out in the first practice session. She starts fine but her idle is completely off…
Hmmm, well the idle is bad but at 4K, she seems to be running fine. Let’s take her out and see if it is really just at idle!
Nope, she is completely unrideable at this point. Whatever was acting up as just gotten worse. Time to make the call and switch to the B bike.
My B bike has been set up for my son, Stephen, to ride so the suspension is for a much smaller rider, he is riding on different tires than I use (completely different brand!), and his gearing is set up for his style and not mine.
I go out to warm up the bike and get the suspension moving so that it can be adjusted for me. 6 seconds off my pace from yesterday, this might suck….
Take the bike over to Jim from Catalyst Reaction and explain the situation. He does his magic and tells me that she should now be “close” and take her out so that we can fine tune the adjustments.
Back out on the track, she feels better. More planted and I am down to 2 seconds off pace. Back to Jim and ask for a bit more roll-over speed and more feel on the front tire.
He makes some final adjustments, and I get one more shot before the races to test her out.
While out there I notice that the gearing is VERY wrong for me. So wrong that I ended up going a gear higher everywhere just to try and compensate for the three teeth difference between Stephen’s ideal setup and mine. A gear up is close. Maybe adding a tooth and going a gear up will get me in the sweet spot?
Back to my pit, change out the rear sprocket to make the gearing even more aggressive and back out and running a gear higher everywhere. Down to less than a second off pace.
This is as close as we are going to get with no time left.
My primary race of the weekend. I am the defending champion in this class. Fortunately, the one racer who is closest to me in the points is not here this weekend, so I do not have a major risk of falling back in the points as long as I finish the race.
Green flag drops and a supermoto roars ahead of me to turn one.
The primary weakness of the 450 triple is the launch. They are VERY hard to launch well.
I spent the entire race getting a solid look at his rear tire. I have not raced against this competitor before so I was unfamiliar with his lines and his supermoto was well built. Lots of grunt and just enough top end to keep me at bay in the fast sessions.
I finished the race in second, got within fractions of a second of my personal best and got another lesson in why supermotos are so frustrating to race against :)
I started racing in this class last year as practice at Miller since I had very little time at that track. I ended up finishing high in the points for the year so decided to give it another go this year.
Through a combination of mechanical problems for other people, racers not making every round, and all other sorts of luck; I am currently leading the points in the championship going into this round.
Lining up on the grid with a Panigale, a KTM RC 8 and a Triumph 675; I looked around and realized that my luck in this class had just run out. I have 80 hp, and the smallest bike next to me has 120. The others are near or over 200.
Practice race indeed!
I ended up getting clear track for the entire race, the person who is second in the championship just out of reach in front of me the entire race.
I ended up setting a new personal best; on the wrong bike, wrong gearing, wrong tires and wrong suspension.
A good race.
This is my secondary race of the weekend.
Triples vs. SV 650s.
Torque vs. Handling.
Green flag drops and the points leader and one other SV leap in front of me into turn one.
What followed was six laps of trying to get past the racer in second place so that I could challenge the race leader. I had the pace but just did not have the will to risk an unsafe pass on the second place rider. It nevertheless produced a great video:
I ended up third in the race by less than 2/10th of a second.
No one likes to lose like that, but I can say that I had fun even though I placed poorly.
As always, my sponsors are a huge part of what makes all of my racing possible. I trust these companies with my life.
Some racers will seek a sponsor and then use the parts with the hope that they are good. I am the other way round. I will run a product, decide if I like it and then seek sponsorship. I won’t promote a product that I have not tested and trusted.
Please take a moment to look at my sponsor page and their products.
Support the companies that support the sport.