CALproject Daytona... The Motorcycle Diaries of Dave Moss
Dave gets a new ride...
Updated 675 chassis report
Laguna Seca and MotoGP
Installment 1: Buttonwillow, AFM event
Installment 2: Infineon Raceway, AFM event
Installment 3: Infineon Raceway, AFM event
Installment 4: Thunderhill Raceway, AFM event
Installment 5: Thunderhill Raceway, AFM event
Installment 6: Infineon Raceway, AFM event
Installment 7: Infineon Raceway, AFM event
Having owned and raced a T595 (and being British) I have long held a love affair with the 3 cylinder engine. It is the best of all worlds as an engine configuration with lots of torque and an engine that stills revs out, not to mention the glorious sound from that engine with a full race system - the virtuoso performance of the Bennelli Tre in World Superbike springs instantly to mind. With all the press hype starting with Bike Magazine in the UK and not being able to see the 675 at any of the International Motorcycle shows, I was very keen to see the bike for the first time. A great deal of patience was required as the projected delivery date for the bike was mid March. In the interim there was plenty of information to research, a plethora of rumors to ponder, and of course the internet chat rooms broiling with speculation, spy pictures and conjecture. Amazing how creative restless minds can become!
While there were plenty of "pictures" available of the bike and a huge amount of information to sort through, not actually seeing the bike made me wonder about all the hype. The article in Bike Magazine left no bones about how great the 675 is (and the British bike press are notoriously direct in their critiques), for some reason there was still a sliver of doubt in the back of my mind. Perhaps that was due to the potential for political correctness about a flagship model and/or the need to show positive support for the replacement to the Daytona 650. British journalists wouldn't risk their reputation for that kind of folly would they? We laughingly joked that once the bike was ridden, we would all be looking at each other laughing at our skepticism and declare ourselves a bunch of plonkers in the finest traditions of self deprecating humor. When I was told that the bike had arrived, I was on a road trip and deferred the bike to a private party as I would not be back for a week. Let me tell you that was one of the hardest things to do, but also the right thing to do as I could not deprive the waiting owner the joy of hearing the news. Such generosity meant that I had to wait two weeks for the next bike to arrive at the dealership. Not only was that a very long agonizing wait, I had still yet to see the bike in real life!!
There were many initial impressions upon first seeing the bike, most of which involved utter silence. It has been many years since I have been utterly captivated by a new bike, and this fell directly in line with the Ducat 916, Bennelli Tre, and MV Augusta F4. The frontal area was no wider than my 1999 TZ 250 – that was very visually amazing. The details in the design of the frame over the engine with the adjustability swing arm pivot point and rear ride height adjustment, the standard braided brake lines, radial brakes, gorgeous lightened upper triple clamp, elegant trellis sub frame and surprisingly slim swing arm provided a tremendous amount of eye candy. The bike was effortless to pick up off the side stand and move around the showroom. Sitting on the bike reinforced the TZ 250 theme with the narrowness of the tank, but the noticeable difference was the seat to foot peg difference as there was plenty of room and my legs were not folded underneath themselves. The tall seat height was also immediately noticeable, but it did not seem to pitch all my weight onto the handlebars and wrists like a Ducati. I was apparently silent for quite some time as the California Triumph staff looked on with smiles. So much to take in, so much so admire, so much to appreciate. The 675 was truly remarkable in every way.
I did the pre-delivery set up myself to be able to understand how the bike was put together that included the full wash and polish to remove the cosmoline protective coating (that took a while). I set tire pressures, added oil, checked all the lights and switches and brought the bike into the workshop. I was told to tighten the ground bolt on the upper engine case by lead tech Jimmy to make sure that I would not be stranded on the test ride. Fortunately the tank removal was very simple and the task was completed in a few minutes. The chain seemed a little too tight, but that was not adjusted and left alone as I wanted to see how much it would stretch initially after 50 miles. I pulled out the owner's manual and started reading through the normal instructions and diagrams to get myself acquainted with all the facets of the 675. Not surprisingly, I spent the most time looking through the section dealing with the instrument unit, especially all the programs available to the rider for data recording. Top speed, distance traveled, average fuel consumption, lap timer, two odometers and a host of other functions and display information. This would be very useful once the bike became a race bike so that we could calculate fuel load for a given distance and test out gearing to see what gave us the best top speed. Very impressive, so much so that I was gone in the break room for an hour or so before I was asked if I would be starting the bike today.
The engine was fired and I must admit I was really disappointed by the severely muted engine note. I was hoping for the signature triple sound right away, but in all honesty that was a false hope. I had to wait patiently for the fan to come on and then let the bike cool off before giving the bike another heat cycle, so in between it was back to the owners' manual to study the instrument panel. All in all we did 3 heat cycles to let the motor settle in before venturing out on the street.
In assessing the stock settings before the last heat cycle started, the initial feeling from bouncing the forks and shock gave an immediate impression of track ready suspension and geometry. I changed the rebound and compression settings to get a feel for the bike so that I could assess the damping characteristics of the forks and shock, and it was very evident that the OEM springs were very stiff while there was an excellent range of adjustment in compression and rebound. The ergonomics were very comfortable for my 32 inch inseam, but the seat did create a very forward feeling while holding onto the bars. In preparation for the street ride, all suspension components were returned to stock settings. I did set the tire pressure on the stock Pirelli's to 34 front and rear and headed out for a brief ride on the street and freeway to see just how stiff the chassis was.
Prior to heading out I adjusted the throttle cables to meet my zero play needs. Once the engine was up to temperature, I revved the motor to see how it would respond. I was very surprised how quickly the revs climbed at just a hint of throttle. I wondered how true that might be when actually riding the bike, as it is one thing to make the engine sing on the stand but another to put it under load while riding. Stock gearing of 16 x 47 mathematically indicated that the bike was geared for 160mph, so I expected that the bike would take a while to climb up into the power band. The torque of the engine pulled with increasing enthusiasm and was IMMEDIATELY noticeable between 4 – 6,000 rpm. However, the engine was so quiet it was hard to discern the unique audible signature of the triple. The steering was incredibly light and neutral although it seemed like it may be too quick for the street at the dealership. On side streets the suspension was definitely firm and on the first freeway stint the bike was the same – it did not want to absorb freeway concrete joints at all. I pulled over and changed the compression settings on the forks and shock 2 clicks counter clockwise (making the suspension more plush) from the stock position of 6 clicks out from full stuff. This made no discernable difference, so I pulled over again and went 2 clicks softer again. This made a slight difference, so I went out 4 more clicks, to a total of 14 clicks out from full hard. At these settings, the forks felt much better, but the shock was a little too soft so that was changed to 12 clicks out. That gave the chassis an overall good feel.
In returning to the dealership, we checked SAG with the bike suspension completely warm. My weight was 203lbs in t-shirt, jeans and shoes. The front forks at full extension measured 135mm and resting statically, the forks measured 108mm. With me on board, the number changed to 98mm giving a SAG number of 37mm. Normally for the street I would set a SAG number of 45 - 52mm, so the initial impression of stiffness was correct. Note that the gold preload adjuster had 4 lines showing and in order to correct that number I would have moved the preload adjuster to 5 or more lines showing. The shock measured 640mm extended with free SAG of 10mm and with me on board the number changed to 600mm giving 40mm of SAG. Normally I would run 40 - 45mm as a SAG number for the street.
The transmission was far more precise than the old Daytona 600 and 650 and the shifting was very positive. It was evident that there would be a lot of work in getting the transmission broken in so I could plan on many hours of back road riding getting as many shifts in as possible prior to 900 miles to get the transmission buttery smooth. This is perhaps the most tedious of all things to do with a new bike, and seems like you have to pay some kind of penance prior to reveling in de-restricted riding.
We have a local ride here in the Santa Cruz Mountains called the century loop for obvious reasons. It is a mix of back roads, two and four lane roads and goat trails so there is ample opportunity to refine the suspension and be able to shift gears several hundreds of times on each 100 mile loop. Total ride time for the loop is 2.5 hours, so you can put in a massive number of shifts and clock up several hundred miles in 3 days easily. Doing this really transformed the transmission into something that worked effortlessly with no miss shifts at all.
Since the last section was posted, the bike has become a fully fledged race bike and has taken the track in competition. The development continues with the chassis in order to keep reducing lap times and we are occasionally fortunate to test new products as they become available :)
Geometry & Tires
We took the bike to the company I am partnered with in San Jose - Evolution Suspension. They have a GMD machine, so this would give us basic chassis information on rake and trail and swing arm angle, as well as provide information for Rob so that crashed 675's could be measured for straightness. Initial findings told an interesting but not unusual story of compromise - you could attain a reasonable swing arm angle, but at the expense of rake and trail, and vice versa. That is pretty common for modern sport bikes.
I wanted to use the Dunlop 209GP 190 size tire for greater contact patch, but given the data we had, the forks would need to be flush with the upper triple clamp to flatten the chassis and provide some stability. The sacrifice was poor swing arm angle, so it was determined that new inserts would need to be made in order to raise the swing arm pivot 5mm. Those are yet to be made, but this basic set up made the bike really stable at high speeds, but retained lightning quick steering.
The forks were sent to GP Suspension to be gone through so that they had some data on this new model. Dave determined that bottom out on the forks was unusual - 17mm above the axle casting joint with the chrome tube. With his modifications, that changed to 5mm above the casting gaining 12mm more travel - great stuff!!! Dave also changed the pistons, valve shim stacks on the pistons, and changed out the compression needles. The new needles gave a noticeable difference every two clicks, which is critical for race bike set up.
The stock fork spring is a .95kg - very stiff and very track oriented. This rate will work for someone around 180-210lbs or a very aggressive braker who is a little lighter. We changed the springs to .90kg as this was the set up for the 2004 600. After a couple of races, we are going to change back to the .95kg spring as the bike is sitting too low in the forks overall with too much weight on the front of the bike.
Penske had already done some development work based on the 675 being raced back East. We ordered the shock through GP Suspension, and Dave placed the shock on the dyno once it arrived. He mapped all the settings and sent the charts to me so that I could see how the shock worked. A 575lb spring was put on for me (220lbs in gear).
The shock was fitted within a couple of minutes and the external reservoir was easy to mount to the sub frame. We chose the high and low speed adjusters so that we would be able to optimize the shock for both undulating surfaces and sharp ridges. Once on the track with SAG of 30mm, there were a couple of minor tweaks for rebound based on tire wear, and spring and compression based on corner exits. The improvement over stock is obviously considerable!
Once again we used the best available - Sharkskinz. The bodywork mounted very quickly and with fasteners already installed, this made things a lot easier. The bolt holes were perfectly aligned, but you will have a little trouble with the tail.
There are plastic spacers in the kit as there is a large air gap between the sub frame and the tail. Alan Rice machined us some aluminum spacers that we mounted to the sub frame with red Loctite. That allowed us to use short bolts to mount the rear of the tail piece - much easier!!!!!
With the paint (Mountain View Cycle and Paint) and graphics (www.race-graphics.com) done, the bike is getting rave reviews just sitting on the rear stand :)
The stock rearsets have more than adequate ground clearance, so save your money if you ride street shift pattern. For those of us that use GP shift, the shift rod must go outside the frame. You can do this with the stock rearsets, but it will constantly catch your boot, and that can cause some serious problems.
We worked with EMA (www.ema-usa.com) to develop a one off prototype to facilitate GP shift pattern. We had to change the rear master cylinder as the stock threaded section was too short (production units now use the stock rear master cylinder). The beauty is that there are so many ways to adjust the rearsets both laterally and diagonally that you can find the perfect placement.
Note that with the shift rod outside the frame, the 'throw' between first and second gear is now a lot longer, so you need to concentrate on engaging second gear. Since we have no tracks using first gear, that is not a problem.
Translogic (quick shifter)
I have used many of these in the years I have been racing and all of them require you to program them into the Power Commander, set the rpm limit that they will work from and then set the delay for the engine timing so that the transmission unloads to allow full throttle shifting. A lot of work and something that takes a day or so to match to your riding/shifting style.
The Translogic system is BY FAR the best I have ever used. The system plugs in between the harness and coils, fits perfectly beneath the seat, and then attaches to the battery. That's the installation done. To use it requires no programming at all. It is set to work at any rpm, already has the engine kill delay built in and when the coils come back on line, it sequentially feeds them back in. The result is seamless up shifting at full throttle with no 'pop' from the exhaust and no jerking from the engine refiring on all cylinders at once. This is absolutely amazing, so get the whole kit from EMA!
We built our own slip on, as master Tech Jimmy at California Triumph is an excellent fabricator. We used the under seat slip on from my T595, and Jimmy fabricated the connecting pipe. The carbon fiber can was only 8lbs, so that was a huge gain. It was also built for the triple, so it gave much better power than stock.
Leo Vince just came out with their slip on that arrived a couple of days before Laguna Seca and MotoGP weekend. I have yet to test the pipe on the track, but will do so in the very near future. Jardine will also be coming out with a slip on, and I have agreed to test that out. At present there is no full system available in the USA, but Leo Vince is discussing that as you read this. Send them an email if you want one so that they can see there is demand :)
I am still using the stock front brake master cylinder, stock lines and stock pads. I really like the progressive feel of the stock pads and have yet to experience any fade at all. I cannot find alternate products to test as yet, but that may change in the very near future.
We are still waiting on a Puig product to arrive in the USA. I have really been impressed with the quality of their product and also the optics when behind the shield. More patience.......
This is the event we all look forward to every year and this year I decided not to work with as many racers as last year (12) as I had no free time to enjoy the weekend. The 675 was on display with the Triumph range in full race trim complete with Leo Vince slip on that arrived 2 days earlier, so we had some posters made from a stunning photo created by fellow AFM racer Craig Sanders. Triumph set the bike apart by their canopy in the grass so that it could get maximum exposure, and it was surrounded all the time.
I spent several hours each day working with enthusiasts, street and track day riders that had purchased the 675, and tried to give out as much information as possible to all of them, all of which was contained on a one page FAQ sheet.
Signing the posters for children was also a really great thing, especially putting them on the bike with their parents beside them. There were many riders from Europe and from the southern hemisphere all curious about the 675 and what needed to be done to it to make the chassis and suspension work.
It is always fun to give back, and helping so many riders and just the plain curious over three days was a great experience. Certainly, the 675 race bike was a star attraction!
The 675 was broken in the week prior in the hope that that there would be parts available (i.e. bodywork) for racing, but nothing was available anywhere. Huge disappointment!! The bike was stripped with forks, shock and steering damper being sent to GP Suspension (www.gpsuspension.com) to be analyzed and reworked, and the air box was sent to K&N for them to design the appropriate filter. Rear sets were next on the list (stock cannot be changed to GP shift pattern as the shift rod goes through the frame), so those will be sent out for prototyping this week.
The weather forecast looked a little dismal to say the least for the race weekend and many riders were a little skeptical about heading down to Buttonwillow to be washed out and sent home. The track held an open practice day on Friday and good weather prevailed allowing many to take advantage of blowing out cobwebs, shaking down old and new bikes and getting a lot of track time on the race track. For me, it was a really busy day of work with basic set up and fine tuning. That worked out well as the Daytona 600 was not arriving until Saturday morning!
As predicted, the rain showers started on Saturday right on time at 9am and continued all day long. There were a few dry breaks and everyone went out on the track with trucks and vehicles to create a dry line but inevitably, the showers started shortly thereafter, so there was little practice for anyone and the Clubman races were transferred to Sunday morning as the first race. No practice time for me other than the 20 minute session Sunday morning and this would only be the 2nd time on the 600 this year!!
Race #2: 600 Superbike
Set mid pack in 31st position entailed quite a hair raising start with all the testosterone on the grid. The old rugby training of being clinically ruthless would be essential in the first three turns in order to maintain position and not let anyone through. Add to that the impending and inevitable lap one crashes, survival was definitely essential. As the green flag flew, a good start was immediately hindered by bumping and banging in front of me and one bike cutting directly across my front wheel as a result of contact. That made me stand the bike on end approaching turn one, and as a result lose a few places. Another bike sliding in front of me in turn 7 from a low side made me check up again and another low side in turn one on lap two made for the trifecta of hard braking!!! Things settled down a little after that and I set about trying to make up on lost positions, by now being in the mid 40's. Being a little impatient made for some unorthodox passes, but I had to make ground and eventually ended up in 37th. Not bad for 20 minutes practice that morning and avoiding three crashes that could have easily taken me out.
Race #7: Formula 40
It was obvious that for this year, everyone was stepping up to liter bikes and 750's and the Daytona 600 was one of a handful of 600's – getting way too serious for a fun class!!! Obviously, I would really struggle to stay in the top 20 this year until the 675 was ready, but Buttonwillow is more of a technical track so at least I had a chance to compete until the front straight. Set at 18th on the grid, I had a great starting position and with a mature group, there was a much more civilized first lap with no crashes. There was of course the usual gentlemanly bumping, but that is par for the course :-)
I managed to hold my own in the technical sections much to the chagrin of the liter and 750 bike riders, but with every straight I would lose out on power even though I would catch up and sometimes pass on the entry to corners. Very frustrating stuff... However, the points were more important than the overall finish as the goal was to make the top 10 at the end of the year, so putting frustration aside and trying to ride as fast and as smooth as possible, I finished the race in a rumored 24th position.
Certainly nice to leave the season opener with a lot of happy sponsored riders, customers and a race bike in one piece to be ready for the April round at Infineon raceway in Sonoma!
With an estimated entry count of 1,500 race entries or more for all classes that weekend, there was no way that I could practice at all. Having not ridden at this track since last year, I was hoping (foolishly) that I would be able to get some time on the track in the afternoon. Saturday was a 12 hour day working on more than 50 race bikes. Thankfully, Rob Sissons from Evolution Suspension was available all day to help process so much work! The partnership with Rob's company continues to gain strength and respect with both street riders and racers alike, and plenty of happy customers attested to that Saturday evening.
Sunday morning, I signed in and passed tech inspection. Fortunately, I was in group 4 for the morning practice so I had some time to be able to go through the bike before being bombarded once more with follow up settings prior to racing. Morning practice went well although by this time the slicks were 6 months old, heat cycled well beyond recommended limits, so tire pressure was set lower than normal to gain some kind of traction.
We had the pleasure of Dave Kaiser keeping us company for race day morning. Dave is one of the owners of EMA USA, whose company sponsors the AF's premier class, Formula Pacific. As EMA imports parts from Europe, the new Triumph Daytona 675 was of particular interest. We provided Dave with all the development work we have done and how we have tried to help get parts developed by sending out pieces of the bike for prototyping. Some parts were unavailable such as GP shift rear sets and a race windshield so Dave kindly volunteered to make some rear sets for us so that the bike could be on display and perhaps even ready for the May AFM race.
Set in 35th position right in the middle of the pack, things were going to be very pinball-ish for the first half a lap until traffic sorted itself out. In this slot, you cannot afford to be safe and careful, as you simply become a casualty of the bumping and banging that goes on. The launch from the start was great and I immediately gained a whole row as we went up to turn one. I tried to hold the inside line up into turn 2, but was forced up the inside almost over the rumble strip. That served as good motivation to immediately get into the clinically ruthless mindset and execute some rough and ready passes to gain me back some of the spots lost from being pinched off. The only problem with that mentality is that after three laps, you realize that you have not been breathing regularly and working without enough oxygen so arm pump comes along by about lap 4... The last two laps therefore become an exercise in relaxation, especially when you have a really hard time trying to relax while you struggle to brake in and throttle out of the corners. Fortunately, I had an old friend in front of me, Mark McKinney so I latched onto him and immediately got into a rhythm. We have raced bar to bar for several seasons and last year, Mark had something of an epiphany and disappeared for me, so to be right with him was very encouraging. We finished nose to tail with the rumor of a top 25 finish.
Race #2: Formula 40
The pressure was on and having a 19th place start. It has been a long time since I have been this far up in the pack, so I was very keen to get a good start. Once again I was faced with trying to race all the 1000cc bikes, but the technicality of Infineon helps a little as the 600 can hold a little more corner speed. Fortunately, a really good start left me with the front pack and I set about trying to consolidate my position and then gain some spots. Having already got the arm pump out of the equation, I was much more settled and ready to race so progress through the pack would be fun. In fact, this was the most fun of the year so far! Once again I found myself bar to bar with Mark and we had a great battle, swapping places back and forth. In the end, the lap times showed the degree of fun with a best ever time of 1:48. Given all that had transpired with the amount of work on Friday, the number of race bikes set up on Saturday, and riding on really old tires that should have been replaced some time ago, there was most certainly a reason to celebrate.
Bring on the May event !!!!!!
We were blessed with perfect weather for the race weekend, but there was no Friday track day event to bolster a minimized Saturday practice due to the clubman races. Being the second AFM race at this track I was anticipating some practice time in the afternoon. Why practice on Saturday? The new Daytona 675 was ready for the track, so a huge "THANK YOU" has to go out to all the staff at CA Triumph, David Kaiser at EMA, Sharkskinz, Penske, Dave Hodges at GP Suspension for modifying the forks and of course Jeff at Mountain View Cycle Paint. Once again we have one of the best looking bikes in the paddock!
I was excited to get out on the bike after the positive experiences at Keigwins track day the previous month, especially with the new triple adjust Penske and the reworked forks from GP Suspension giving me almost 10mm more travel than stock. I gave the bike a couple of laps to get everything warmed up and then came across the start finish line at 90% to head up the hill under the bridge. At that point the o-ring on the oil filter popped out of place (the oil filter never moved) and started oiling the back tire. I had no idea and managed to get to turn 3 before the bike low sided. I tried to hold onto it to slow it down (why do we do that?) and then we went different ways. When I eventually stopped rolling and doing gymnastic floor exercises, I ran to the bike and killed the ignition and proceeded to pick the bike up and run it over to the wall. Two other riders fell in the oil before the red flag was flown. I looked at the oil soaked rear tire and thought the engine had let go. I was left to wonder about that for a while in the crash truck while I watched grease sweep being put down from turn 2 to 3.
Back in the pits, we were amazed to find only a couple of scratches on the race fairing, so it can be categorically confirmed that the R&G race slider kit from EMA worked wonderfully. The left foot peg was ground down and the left rear spool was gone, but there was no damage to the frame or tank. Incredible. Zip and Amelia took the bike from me and basically strip cleaned it that afternoon so that the bike was ready and thank you both so much for that!
We had to wait for a new oil filter and fresh oil from Jimmy at Cal Triumph who delivered it the next morning. We worked the bike over, put the new oil and filter in and started the bike - nothing wrong with the engine, and that was a huge relief. We topped the oil off and then let the bike run until the fan kicked in and then checked the oil filter again. I took the bike out in some warm up laps to double check everything. Seemed to be fine with no oil leaks - the motor ran fine and the transmission shifted perfectly, so I was left with the choice to race that bike or the 600. That didn't take long to decide, so we rolled the 675 out for the first race.
I had no points in the class and was set dead last on the grid. Seeing as I had many memories of this being an axe murderer class with pinball tendencies, I was quite glad about that. True to form off the start, several people were bounced to the outside of turns 2 and 4, bikes went down in turn 7, 8 and 9, then 11 and the red flag came out shortly after completing the first lap. Nightmare...... I went back to the pit and put the bike on the stands and warmers and waited to be sent back out. On the restart things were a lot less violent and the first lap went without incident. There were more crashes, but none causing a red flag. I wanted to use this race to make sure the bike worked well and that the forks and shock were working correctly. I was also paying attention to my feet occasionally making sure my boots were dry. No surprises and I finished the race and came in to make changes for fork preload (now down to 3 lines showing) and set fork compression to 6 clicks out. I had set the SAG on the Penske to 31mm and changed the low speed damping from 6 out to 10 out from full hard to try to soften the shock and get some more travel from it as there was almost half an inch of unused travel.
While going through the bike, I noticed an oil trail in the rear suspension linkage. We traced all that back to the shock, so we had to carefully evaluate whether it was shock oil or residue fro the earlier crash. We could not determine the source, so the area was cleaned again and I went out for the next race.
I was set at 37th on the grid and was now a little nervous to say the least after the oil discovery, so I decided to just go easy for the first two laps to see if anything was going to happen. Better to be safe and not take out a whole bunch of riders! By lap 4 everything seemed fine so I relaxed a little and started to push the bike a little harder and immediately bottomed the forks at the bottom of turn 6, so at least that gave me some good information to use. Back in the pits we went through the bike thoroughly and saw no further oil residue anywhere - what a relief!
With the appropriate changes to the forks (now at 2 lines showing on preload), this was the most important race for me as I was set at # 14 on the grid. With the knowledge that the bike was fine I was prepared to push it as hard as I could go. I had a lousy start and went up the hill 15 places back from where I started. Within one lap there was a red flag for a bike on the track so we went back to the pits. On the restart I changed the launch technique with less rpm and got to the top of the hill in 10th with a gaggle of riders. Enthused with such a great start I stuck with the group for 3 laps until I made a mistake and lost 3 spots. That was really annoying so I had to make myself relax and try to close the gap as best I could, but with only a lap left, there was little point in trying too hard. In the end I managed to finish 14th, so with a total of 18 laps on the bike I was surprised to learn that I had beat my best ever time at Sears. Just goes to show how good the Daytona 675 is and how much potential there is in this bike.
The following day was a Keigwins track day at Thunderhill, so I managed to get 2 sessions in late in the day and determine the fork and shock baseline settings, as well as change the geometry from Sears as it was too steep and needed one turn of ride height out of the shock. With one more day there before the next AFM race, I should be in really good shape to compete and go for a sub 2 minute lap time :-)
After two grueling prior days of working on bikes in 100 plus degrees of heat, race day was not as welcome as normal, but Rob from Evolution Suspension was of immense help again on Saturday - thanks! In addition, I had picked up some kind of virus that left me in a sad state – not the condition one wants to be in on race day. Fortunately, I had two complete 20 minute practices for the 675 and the 600 first thing in the morning as usual, and that gave me some time to try to relax (rather difficult when you have reversed peristalsis from your stomach to throat). Fortunately practice went without incident, but getting on the 675 after the 600 was a complete shock. It felt like I was on my old TZ 250 with a huge booster seat – quite funny really. It took a few laps to get everything back to normal from a sensory and rider perspective and settle in to the 675 (after losing the counter shaft lock washer and nut and three days earlier and having the countershaft sprocket fall off the shaft only to be thankfully captured by the stock cover !!!!). I had to wait until after lunch for the first race – nightmare – as I am hopeless at sitting around but the CRST sponsored riders came to my aid with frequent “drive by” spot checks between races.
Having tried to hydrate for 2 days prior to the event and keep drinking a bottle of water every 20 minutes during the event, I was concerned that my bladder may have lost all sensory feeling and was imminently due to explode as I had no desire to use the bathroom. Not a good thought to have but easily rationalized based on the heat and workload. My grid position was 35th place, right in the middle of the pinball group– oh joy! I botched the start on the 600 as it had been so long since I had ridden the bike, but immediately settled in to bumping and banging, avoiding elbows and working my way around errant riders. The continued reverse peristalsis didn't help any nor did the rather poor hand eye coordination as I kept turning in early or late and missing braking markers. I decided discretion was the better part of valor and settled in to a pace that could be maintained by my lower cerebellum so I did not need to think – I could just circulate on past experience and conditioned learning. Talk about frustrating, watching guys go by you and look back to see if you are okay; a very weird sensation. I have no idea where I finished and got back to the pit and threw my head into an ice soaked towel to try and calm down, bring my temp down and also get some control over my rapid breathing. I had to seriously ask myself whether it was worth going out again.
Being set in 13th position did not bode well for this race but I had a few races to sit and recover in the interim. I was given some salt and a potassium tablet to take in by a fellow rider and it wasn't long before I felt worse. I could taste pure salt in my sweat – charming…… More water please! I took the grid knowing full well that this time I would simply turn laps and complete the race and to hell with racing for a top 15 position. That didn't last too long when a good friend passed me close and waved goodbye. I managed almost one lap at true pace before I missed (by miles) my brake marker for turn one. Having made the turn with no breathing and what seemed like no heart beat, common sense prevailed and I finished the race out at a more appropriate pace.
With only a one race break I was back on track, much to the consternation of crew and friends. Again, points were at stake in this class, so I needed to circulate and score as a DNF would kill any chance of being top 15 by seasons end. I managed to get a good start, while simultaneously another racers side fairing departed from its bike and hit the ground almost immediately after the start. It was hit a couple of times and eventually reached back to our row where it flew over my head spinning sideways in the air. PHEW! Then two riders went down in front of me and I managed to avoid that, followed by another rider at the end of the first lap in turn 14. Again discretion was the better part of valor and I sat back and completed the race. By the time I reached the pits I could feel how overheated I was, so I immediately got the ice towel and cool neck tie to try to settle down. It took quite a while though and delayed the loading procedure substantially. I must thank Zip, Jen, Joey, Eddie, Cheryl and Amelia for all their care and concern over the race day in keeping me above ground while still respecting my desire to collect points and exercise common sense while on the track.
There's always one weekend that stands out as a “throw-a-way” and this was the one. At least I managed to salvage points out of the whole ordeal, survive and move on to next month's event.
At well over 100 degrees, it was a long two days of set up but a cool Sunday morning for practice was a nice start. Makes a change to actually be feeling well when heading out for practice, unlike last month's meanderings..... I decided to race the 675 in all 3 races, as I had to improve the set up on the bike and get it somewhere in the ball park to improve my settings. The first practice felt like the bike was a hard tail, so I brought it in early to measure sag - the rear was 17mm. Ouch!!! Left me wondering how that was possible, but with all the "happenings" of mysteriously changed suspension settings from the last race weekend, I had to rush to make some changes and alter everything for the first race. Nice.......
I was 25th on the grid and completely botched the start as one rider "jumped" in front of me and then turned a little sideways to block my path as he stopped in place. Damn..... After getting going, I tried to make my way past a few folks as quickly as I could in order to make up lost places. I had completely forgotten about the changes I had made and soon realized I needed to be aware of then as I ran almost off the track while hard on the gas in turn 8, the fastest corner on the track..... Oops...... Went too far in softening the shock to 30mm of sag and changing the low speed compression to 10 clicks out. I had to change riding style to pick up corner speed so less throttle was needed on exits, and that helped a great deal. I managed to make up several spots, but was handicapped by the shock.
I added 2 turns of spring to the shock and set the LSC to 7 clicks out. I had time to do a warm up lap on the race prior just to see how the shock would squat under hard acceleration and all seemed well. A much better start had me maintaining my position into turn one and that was very encouraging. Throughout the first lap a little bumping made for some interesting sights as well as passes, but by the start of lap two we were in single file traffic. From there on I could really evaluate the shock, and the settings were much better with being able to add as much throttle as needed and not run wide. However, now the shock was set correctly, the forks were clearly too stiff with chatter under full load going into the corners. So, once again an adaptation was required so brake early and get on the gas sooner so that the chassis was balanced on corner exit. The rest of the race was eventful trying to chase riders down and avoid parts of bikes on the track in turn five, but I had one race in between to fix the front and check the rear tire for rebound problems.
Starting 15th, I was hoping to be able to fight for a top 10 spot given the way in which riders were going off track or blowing turns, but as usual the front runners were all on 1000 or 750 bikes, so that was going to be hard. A good start had me railing into turn one and for the first time, the 675 felt balanced (I had taken out one line of spring preload and 3 clicks of compression from the forks). I was able to start to push the chassis and really test out the limits of the front end in corners so that corner speed could remain high. The forks worked well but bottomed consistently in one spot causing the front to slide little. A little patience and relaxation let the bike settle and then I could pick up the throttle and balance the chassis again. I was doing well until the second to last lap when two bikes were in mid track and I had to make an emergency move to avoid the parts and pieces on the track and that cost me a few spots.
All in all a good baseline for Thunderhill, but now back to Sears where the bike did so well on its debut!
It was with a very sad and heavy heart that the race weekend began. My good friend Allen Rice was killed while on his 675 exiting the track on Friday morning. Everything that was discovered with my 675 was done to his. As parts became available after testing, he put them on his 675. When we changed geometry to try tire sizes, he did the same. As the race season progressed, Allen got fitter, rode more and we worked together on many track days to improve his riding. His passion for motorcycles was obvious, his love for the 675 unfettered. In the short time we worked together we shared a lot and his death and the circumstances of it left all of us stunned.
As of this report we have no idea what happened. The Coroners report has not been released, and the bike was in perfect working order both before and after the accident. All this week I will be helping his family as best I can before I get back to my track day event schedule. My prayers and those of AFM racers and friends alike go to his family, with the service being this coming Saturday.
I was fortunately kept very busy on Friday with racers and track day riders, especially the BMW group from San Raphael BMW - thanks for the opportunity to work with you all! Once the day was done I was so mentally exhausted that I left the track and came back the next morning, but leaving the track didn't help much in regards to sleeping. Saturday was equally busy (thankfully) as there are only a couple of events left and points mean everything! Having to focus so much was critical for the riders I worked with and yielded some great results with many personal bests. That night I had some down time and thought about racing on Sunday: - mostly about whether I should be on the track with little sleep and how much of a liability I would be out there to other racers and my friends. Peer pressure made the decision easier for Sunday practice.......
I went out with the same settings as I had several months earlier when the o-ring came off the oil filter and I crashed. Funny how those things come front and center first thing in the morning!?! In cold weather, I gradually got up to pace and once comfortable turned the screws a little. Too much it seemed as I bottomed out in the hard braking areas of turn 6 and 9 with a solid "clunk" That set the pace for the rest of practice - no points for crashing in the morning, so no crashing.
Slotted in 27th position on the outside of the row was a good omen! As soon as I thought that I knew I jinxed myself and sure enough at the start the bike in front of me went skyward, landed, and wobbled around with a violent tank slapper and left me with no options and no where to go. A couple of bikes went down in turn 2 in front of me, and then another went off in 4. Coming onto the front straight to complete lap one there was a bike smack on the race line sideways to traffic and just ahead Brant Wiwi went off in turn 1; Carnage as usual. We were black flagged in turn seven and then told to pit. On the restart things were much better with the front 1/3rd of the grid decimated, so getting ahead of the pack into turn 2 was easy. It is so relaxing to be able to be in that position that you can really focus on lines and not wait for elbows. The front pack of 25 took off, and the leaders were soon gone. The changes made to the chassis were fine on the first lap but then things got ugly when I started pushing. The front rebound damping was too soft (added a lot of preload to stop bottoming the forks) so coming into turn 7 the front would bounce on and off the brakes. The same would happen in turn 9 and 11, so it got to be very entertaining. Mental note to change that.......
I battled with Mark McKinney for three laps, hounding him in some spots and catching him in others and as usual when we crossed the line there wasn't much between the wheels to separate us.
With the mental note and changes made to the chassis the bike was ready and I knew I would be able to push. This was Allen's race and it was really hard to get on the bike and head into the hot pit. Once on the track with a personal dedication to him, I calmed down a little and tried to slow down my breathing and thinking and relax. I was in 15th spot so I had a great chance at a clear run, and the good start made that possible. As usual on the first lap all the 1k's came flying by into turn 7 and took off. I think I might investigate a small nitrous canister for that one time use just to make them do a double take when the 675 disappears in front of them :)
Mark came by me again within the first lap on the brakes into 11, so it was on again and he dragged me around catching up the pack in front. The friendly duress we gave each other almost broke us into the 1:47's and the funny thing was that I didn't even think about the bike at all, so the revised settings must have worked well.
When I came in from the cool down lap I knew that I was exhausted and for the first time I looked at the impact zone where Allen hit the wall. I cruised into the pit and took my gear off, and went for a walk. Thankfully it is not often that we endure these tragedies, and that in of itself is amazing considering what we do with two wheels when we race.
Godspeed Allen - you will be missed for sure...
This three day weekend is probably the biggest of the year for me with Friday practice, Saturday Clubman races and the 4 hour race and Sunday Expert races. Friday is particularly crazy as endurance bikes are added to the normal mix with settings installed to compromise weight and lap time differentials for up to 4 riders. Add to this the points chase for class championships and the need for a perfect setup on 40 plus bikes, a clear understanding of the workload for the weekend sets in.
I was invited by one of the Keigwins teams captained by Eric Arnold, to be the 3rd rider of 4 in the 750 class. Patrick Flora provided a really fast first hour and Eddy Gonzales backed that up in the second hour with excellent lap times. On my second lap, I came past start finish and was given the dreaded oil flag. I immediately got off line and checked myself and the bike and could see nothing at all wrong with either so I concluded that it was another rider. However, the next time across start finish there was no confusion so I came into the pits. The bike was dry and there was no oil to be seen in the belly pan or anywhere on the bike. We were at a loss until we were told by race control that the bike was smoking during deceleration, so we fired the bike up and watched a faint trace of steam come out of the exhaust. We looked at the oil, and that gave us the real clue - very little viscosity at all - so the head gasket had blown in the last few minutes of Eddy's stint. We checked the temp guage next and that showed 250 degrees. Damn... nothing like feeling guilty about a blown engine, so now we need to find another GSXR 750 engine. What a real downer for the whole team (not to mention the second Keigwins team with the Viets/Attack Suzuki bike throwing a rod in the second hour).
Sunday morning was even more hectic than usual as so many riders were still fighting for a top ten spot in class and a top ten plate in the overall championship. I went out for my 20 minutes and barely had any time to get my grid position for race 2.
Fortunately, the fog was long gone that morning so we had a little sun and heat in the track. My start spot was 25th in the middle of row 5, so that was a bad spot to be. Needless to say, that proved to be the case in turns 2 and 3 after the start with bikes going all over the place and literally being hit 4 or 5 times. Nothing like the axe murderer class to get your adrenaline flowing! I spent most of that race avoiding people rebounding off each other and going on/off track and it seemed that discretion was the better part of valor so I sat back for a couple of laps and let Darwinism take its course. By lap three I began to settle and attack the track with determination to get back as many places as possible. With only a few laps left I had definately made back a lot of spots but was disappointed with the overall finish, but I had brought the bike back in one piece!
There was not a spare moment at lunchtime, just enough to inhale some eggs and sausage in between working on race and street bikes and somehow managing to find the time to get a new front tire for the 675 fitted. It was so busy that I missed all the calls and realized that bikes were heading out so I had to change quickly and get out on the track. I was mentally derailed on the out lap when I had come around to the grid without ever applying the brakes hard or accerating out of corners agressively to heat the rear tire. Add to that missing a gear three times on the start, and I was certainly completely out of focus for racing. I took one lap to collect my thoughts as I was at the back of the pack in around 40th and then started to move forward. I made the mistake of getting far too close to other riders and that almost cost me a crash as a rider spun the rear tire coming out of turn 6 and low sided maybe 12" in front of me. I knew that there were other riders inside me so I had no exit there and had to choose to hit the grass and head up the banking to avoid the bike and rider who were both going in that direction. Fortunately, quick reactions and good judgement gave me a wide enough passage that I got through the mellee unscathed, but again lost 10-15 places. Clearly I needed to relax, fish, and take the points so that is what I did, much to my chagrin.
I had a break of one race to get my mind back into racing mode and relax. There were (amazingly) no bikes to work on so I actually had time to check the bike, drink some water and think about the next race. I was set at 15th in row 4 on the outside so that worked well for me. I had the best start of the day, did not miss a shift and went into turn 2 in the same position. There were a couple of close calls in turns 4 and 7 on the first lap, all of which I managed to avoid but a late braker in turn 9 got me as I had to shut the bike down or collect him as he overshot the turn in point. That cost me several spots so I again had to fight back, but the main pack was now too far away to catch and I started a fun dice with a 2006 GSXR 1000. He had the power in a straight line and I had the brakes/inside line/corner speed. We were often 6-10" apart in the corners and those three laps made up for the rest of the weekend. It had been a long time since a dice like that with a rider that you completely trusted. The fact that I finished 16th did not matter too much - the fun of those laps made up for it.
One more race left in a few weeks at Button Willow using a new layout and configuration. Should be fun, but at the same time rather sad - the closure of the 2006 season.