AFM 2005 round 3, Infineon California

If anyone got to see the FP race, you probably got to see our battle with Chris Siglin and his gang. What a battle it was. There was no bumping, no bruising, as each of us gave the other more than enough room in every turn - but that was about the limit of the cordial crap. Everything else was 110% of a fight to the finish...

We've struggled these past two weeks, to get the parts we needed to re-build our 999R. Finally we had them this past Thursday night. So Friday began with Mike Harmon working from fourteen plastic bins, re-building the motor from the ground up, against all odds. Dennis and I took the easy job, going over the 749R. Only the 749R was ready for Saturday practice, so we ran that all day. Dennis stayed back with Mike and they both put in a huge effort to finish the 999R for Sunday. In our rush to build the bike, one connector didn't get totally locked in place, so we only made it to the chicane before our only practice on a very strange feeling motorcycle, ended way too soon. We only enter 750 superbike to use for practice, and only actually run it when we really need it. Considering we had not one complete lap on the big bike yet, we ran it. Mike ordered me to finish in the position we started in - third row, tenth spot. "Just break the motor in, let the rings seat, check the bike, come in if you need." They had a running bet I wouldn't be able to control myself, but in the end I did. Tooled around mid pack, until while going into the esses I felt some big vibrations going on. I looked up and the corner workers weren't falling over, so I knew it wasn't an earth quake. This was the new motor checking out, so we rolled into the chicane and parked it at about half way. This bike was done.

That meant we had to run the 749R in FX. It also meant the hard tire we chose for the big bike's run in FX was going to be a hockey puck on the little bike - but we only have one set of wheels for each bike, so that's what we had to run.

FP began with a crappy start by me, but it really didn't matter a whole lot because everyone ahead of us would have gotten there by turn seven anyway. We just got down and did the best we could to keep them in sight. Surprisingly they stayed in sight for quite a long time. We struggled with the rear tire a bit on drives out of the turns, and on lean angle. This little bike can lean over and wrip around a turn like a demon on the right compound tire, but this wasn't the right compound tire so every time we really got down there it stepped out. In a few laps I began to hear a howling four cylinder just behind us in the carousel. I could tell by the pitch it wasn't a 1,000, so from very early on I knew exactly who it was. I really had no idea how fast Chris's bike is, so I tried real hard to get the hammer down early getting out of the carousel. We struggled exactly there in the ama FX race, which cost us some positions going into turn seven, so I knew this was going to be a weak spot for us again. Two times in a row I heard him howling behind us through there, so I was really pushing the front all the way around. When I dropped the hammer again the rear broke loose and my inside foot dragged on the ground while I collected the bike again. All in all it was just an instant of time before we were back in it, but that was enough to lure Chris in for a pass going into seven. I thought, "Oh crap, here we go again. He's gunna come up the inside, I'm gunna give him room - follow him around and out of seven - and then we can hope again ...........just like the national" Just then, something woke me up. I guess it was Chris. He drifted into that turn from the inside line and had to hang it just a pinch wide mid turn, so I nipped him right back underneath. That 749R really does have amazing roll speed in a corner, so we got to lead again through those esses. I'm not exactly sure on the order of our passes, but I think he out-broke us into the chicane just after that. He goes into that chicane like a nut. Doesn't even need a rear tire on the bike until just before he turns in. It's sick. So he lead the next lap until we both ran into the carousel again. I have to say it again, that little Duck can corner. He ran through there on a line that was a little wider than we could, so at about mid corner we came by on the inside and powered out - making the pass stick.

This was getting fun.

I don't know if it was this lap or not, but Chris shot by on the brakes going into seven again, and we shot right back underneath him mid turn again. This time though, he expected it, so on the drive out of seven I could see his front wheel just on our outside! We were now headed for the first "S" side by side. I doubt he expected I would, but I gave him about three feet of room for that first left. We turned in for the right and I couldn't see him anymore, so I took the normal tight line for the following left "S". (sorry, I still don't know the proper numbers of each turn).
This battle was everything racing is about, and I knew it was going to the end.
On the last lap he came by on the brakes going into the chicane - just like I expected, so I held a tight line going into it. This didn't even phase Chris. He passed us on the outside instead. I did my best to brake as late as I could, and to stay as even as I could with him. I threw it back under him for the right, and just "barely" made the left. I think I even hopped the yellow curbing, because we came out of there going about four miles per hour. I knew this would kill my drive, and I knew his drive would be ON, so I dropped it to first and did my best to get going again. Not good enough, he was on our outside for the sweeping turn ten. I don't know if it was his bike, a difference in traction, or my bad drive out of the chicane, but somehow he gapped us in the little space between ten and the entrance to eleven. He broke for eleven on an outside line and I figured we had done way too much work to not give this one last try. I stayed on the gas until we were even with him, on his inside, on the brakes. But don't you know my fat ass was just too much to stop in time. We shot by him, then the apex, then the whole damn turn. I squared it off just before the cones and he dropped back under us. We came across the line in sixth, I think.

Chris beat us hands down and I was screaming so loud in my helmet going across the line I thought I was gunna fall off the bike. What a great race, and what a great time.

Thankfully we have some time before our next race. We'll need it.

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