Typically I write race reports at night, the week after the event. This report is not typical.
Everyone makes mistakes. We are human, it’s in our nature. So when something goes wrong I’m pretty good about it. Like riding a motorcycle vs driving a car, you’re not shocked when people pull out in front of you – it happens all the time. Don’t get me wrong I am not a doom and gloom kind of guy, I don’t always expect everything to go wrong. More, I am ready for them to. At least emotionally.
….hold that thought a moment now.
What’s every racer’s dream? To get “a ride”. Basically “a ride” means you are just the pilot. You don’t buy the bike, you don’t pay the mechanics, you don’t dig bottomless holes in your own pockets struggling to keep your program afloat. So this is a dream, no doubt. Especially in club racing. I pinch myself every weekend just to be sure it’s still real, that I actually do have a ride. And I do my best, for everyone involved. Trust me. But every dream comes with a morning, an eye-opening reality – and ours looks like this; Our RC8R goes to the track with the bodywork on it’s back, the bars on it’s forks, the motor in it’s frame – and that’s it. If I throw our bike down the road it’s game over for our weekend. We have no spares. If our motor blows up we are shit out of luck. If I tear a rear-set off we’ve got nothing to stand on for Sunday’s races. We are done.
- I ride each weekend as careful as I can. I go out for practice alone, free from chasing or being chased. Free from temptation. But racing is all about chasing. All about temptation. So there is conflict here.
- We show up each weekend with a streetbike – basically a stock KTM RC8R. The idea behind this is to be free from the hi-maintenance/hi-costs/lower reliability associated with building a superbike. But every bike we race against is faster than ours. So there is conflict here as well.
- Lastly, when I race I do so with the primal instincts of a hunter. Of a fighter. My mind is clear and purely focused, I barely feel the ground beneath me, and I always want more.
All of this means, by nature, that I am the type of rider who will push a bike if I need to, and that this is the type of bike that will need to be pushed – but we are not ready to respond if the “pushing” goes wrong. I will over-rev a motor if it gets us one foot closer – but when it blows up it’s game over for us. I will find the courage to enter a turn wide open, even when the bike beneath me can’t – but if I throw it on the deck in the process we are done.
This is my ride. I race for CalMoto Livermore, and I am proud as hell of it.
We tried to run a superbike this season. Mike ordered all the necessary hop-up parts from KTM which would have put our bike right there with the rest of them. Or at least closer. But KTM didn’t have the parts to sell to us. In fact they still don’t. Ironically, after finally getting our program to the point we have strived for years to, it is impossible to get our bike here too. So this spring we decided to do our best with what we had. We altered the timing on our cams, we installed the thin head gasket that KTM offers with all RC8Rs, and we had Dannyboy clean up the ports in our heads. That’s everything we did to our RC8R’s motor, which is basically nothing, yet apparently it was too much. Or possibly not enough. Something happened inside our heads, I believe mid-way through round 4. The slightest ticking sound, which I honestly thought I was imagining in round 4, became louder during Friday/Saturday practice of round 5. Our bike felt lazier, the motor had lost it’s pop. We changed gearing again, searching for the lost power. We listened closely to the motor in the pits. Keith took extra care checking things over and over again. Then Saturday afternoon, after we’d all decided that the ticking sound was indeed coming from a baffle inside our muffler, Keith discovered two loose motor-mount bolts…
Holy shit loose motor mount bolts say one thing to me – your motor is about to blow up. Maybe not to you, but after my years racing Ducatis, loose motor mount bolts mean your laps are numbered. Keith tightened them, torqued them, and blue lock-tighted them. By Sunday noon they had backed out again. And I don’t just mean loose, I mean half backed out loose..! Oh the horror of it.
We raced Open Twins again anyway, with the instincts of warriors to be on Sunday. Our race-long battle with Tigerboy “anyway”, was in the end/at the end reduced quite simply to a fight between machines. Our KTM entered the last straight in the lead but that Ducati was too fast for our machine to stay in front of in a straight line. Once again we got passed just feet from the line. I knew something was wrong though. Last weekend we could stay in front of that beast, and when behind we could almost stay in it’s draft. Not this weekend though. Something was either broken or breaking in our motor. Turns out it was the latter. Second lap of Formula Pacific our bike seemed to slip into a false neutral. I heard a loud rattling coming from our motor and the bike wouldn’t accelerate mid-turn. Then suddenly it did, so I continued on. Then suddenly it didn’t again. Then finally it died in my hands. I rode straight off into the grass and parked our bike against an EMT’s 4-wheeler, like it was a wounded racer. As I sat there I wondered if this was the end. I am not a mechanic but I’ve been through the blown motor rebuilding routine before. It takes big money to come back from something like that. And big money is something our team does not have…
Keith took our bike apart the week after round 5. One cam is destroyed, both heads need every keeper and seat replaced, one piston is destroyed, both cylinders are ruined, one head needs welding, a few valves are ruined, etc. etc. it’s pretty bad.
Sears Point is this upcoming weekend. Our bike is not ready, we will not be there. Mike and Keith worked hard at getting our bike back together but everything considered, we all decided it was more reasonable to aim our return for the last round at Thunderhill instead.
It’s a sad time right now but things could be a lot worse so what the hell, we have nothing to complain about. We do the best we can with what we have. Sometimes that’s not enough, other times it’s a little too much. One day we’ll get it just right. Maybe round 7…