AFM 2005 round 2, Infineon California

In the last two weeks we managed to get our hands on two exhaust systems, thanks to DNA. They both came with race ECU's as well, so we took the two twins to the dyno for the first time ever. Big bike topped out at 152, little giant at 117. Not a bad place to be, since apparently we had 138, and 111 at Buttonwillow.

From the first practices on Saturday that 749R was stylin'. The bike is amazing. Goes anywhere, at any time. In an odd way I'm kind of glad more guys haven't caught on to them yet. It's not too shabby on acceleration now either. Jumping from one bike to the other had us scratching our heads all day. The little bike was always the faster one? 42.9 on it, 43.2 on the giant. It was also much easier to ride, turned quicker and held a tighter radius at the same speeds. What gives? The bikes weigh the same, and have the same frame/swingarm/forks, etc. We poked around for a bit until we discovered some differences between the two bikes. Turns out they are actually very different, while being almost identical at the same time. 749R comes with different triples/offset with another adjustable offset INSIDE the steering head concentric, a totally different rear suspension link and ride height adjuster. Also a bigger gas tank, which totally perplexed us until we considered they run this thing in world supersport - where you can't change stuff like this. Suddenly it all became clear... So, until late in the evening we turned wrenches on the big bike until we got it to where the 749R is. Or should I say "Was." In fact we swapped the entire front ends, and rear suspension links. Our theory was to make the smaller - easier to ride bike - worse, while making the bigger - harder to ride bike - better.

First (and only) practice Sunday saw our theory proven correct. The big bike actually was better, and the little bike actually was worse. But the gains outweighed the losses, so we stuck with them for the races just like they were. Never turned another screw.

For Open Twins we started on pole. We were in a panic about the hole shot, since the other liter bikes have more power, but our Yoyodyne slipper clutch got us out of the hole in a hurry and everything was fine. That bike really comes to life once the flags drop. I never saw a wheel anywhere, but definitely heard another twin behind us early on. I can just picture Jack Pfeiffer now, with a bib tucked in his shirt and a fork and knife in each hand - just waiting for his portion of Duc soup. But at least for this weekend we were able to hold them at bay. Getting that win was a great accomplishment for TagTeamRacing. It's a goal we set a long time ago.

Formula Pacific was a horse of a different color. The top guys in FP have no problems with confidence, or with aggression. All of them are the nicest guys in the paddock, but once the helmets go on it's another story. You make an instant of a mistake in FP and you're back a spot before you can blink. And as for their bikes? Holy $h*t they are fast! I'm not sure, buy I think on a BAD day they're running at 160hp.

The warm-up lap was a bit scary. I like heading out pretty much last. Turns out so do Michael Earnest and Ken Hill. So we went out together, I followed about four bike lengths behind, and watched. Earnest and Hill were pretty close. Hill leading the way. We got to three with no issues, but on the exit I saw a puff of smoke come out of the right front side of Hill's bike. Earnest was just on his inside but a bit off his rear wheel. The smoke trailed off into a tiny blurr as we all headed through the fast kink at a pretty good clip, but still I thought it best to keep a tighter line just in case. Just on the exit of that kink a huge burst of smoke billowed out of Ken's bike on the same right side. An instant later both Earnest and myself were covered in what we thought was oil. I immedietly was blinded, and could feel the chill of the liquid coming through the perforations in my leathers. Vision came back with a quick wipe across my shield and I headed farther off the racing line only to see Ken surviving a really huge slide over and down the crest into the carousel. Once he was off, and his bike hit the grass it launched into the outer reaches of our galaxy - spinning and flipping out of control. I could see the two of them were on different paths, so Ken was in no danger of getting hit. That has to be the hilight of this round of FP - Ken walking away from that wreck. Thank God. Earnest and I began flailing to the workers about all the oil we knew was out there but no one seemed to understand. I rushed through the hot pit in a panic that they were going to start the race, trying to get to Barbra quick enough to stop it. Earnest went to her too, but he took the safer bet - ON the grid. If they started it anyway, I was screwed. Thankfully they didn't, and we both got wiped down. Turns out it was coolant, so the cleanup was no problem.

We started on the front row because of our finish at Buttonwillow. It was great to finally be starting up front, but while being on the outside of these guys in turn one is a nice place to hang your laundry, it's not the hot line to make a pass. Usually an outside line in one can put you on a good line to jam it up the inside of someone going into two. But that rule doesn't work against either Stanton, or Michael Earnest. At least it doesn't work for us. They run up that hill like their ass is on fire. I felt like a try for their inside would have put us in the bleachers, so we chased them in third spot and proceeded to make every mistake in the book. The bike just felt foreign. It was totally different with the new front end, and link. Turned better, but not as good at the 749R with the same pieces. Accelerated totally differently as well. Better than Saturday, but not anything like we're used to. Thankfully the Dunlop guys mounted a fresh tire for us, and I relied on their great rubber to bail me out a few times when I got overly stupid. By mid race it became obvious to me we had no chance of keeping the lead pace. Those guys were "On." But we never saw a wheel all race, although a strange exhaust note did sound out a few times in the distance. That kept us on our toes. Turns out that was Mesa.

We held a protecting line on the last lap, but still went fast enough to keep position. In the end I was glad we could at least "see" the leaders. The checker was a beautiful thing to see as well. Fist in the air, shouting in our Suomy. We'd finally made it onto the box in California!

Up on the podium Michael Earnest turned to me and said a really cool thing, "Dude, you just put a DUCATI on the box in Formula Pacific! That's HUGE!" Just then I looked out at all our team and thought, "I didn't put anything anywhere. It's all them." Then of course I drew a blank when I tried to thank our sponsors. Pretty obvious we weren't expecting that podium. Working on a cheat sheet now.

In the end we managed better lap times with the new set-up, basically low 41's, but we definitely need time to dial it in. There's more time out there for sure. We're running the AMA stuff in two weeks. Hopefully that will go well. Believe me, the 749R will get all its parts back for FX...

Thanks go to all our team and sponsors. We're crap without them.



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Eric "GoGo" Gulbransen, Tracy Gulbransen, Matthew Pilla, Motorcycle racing, AFM, Ducati 749R, 999R, race story, MotoItaliano