AFM 2005 round 9, Buttonwillow California

Most racers don't have to dig real deep to pull an all nighter, or to load the trailer, or to paint a bike real nice in fifteen mile per hour winds in the middle of a parking lot. What drives us to race, always seems to drive us. It's not something that ever goes away. I remember many years ago when I lived back in NY with my family. I was 24. Everyone was there. I'm sure it was a party of some sort, as the kitchen table was covered in gifts and there were candles and hats and lots of laughing and joking. It was mid winter, and at about mid way through the party a friend of mine turned to me through all the people and motioned as if to ask where my head was at. My only response was to subtly close my hand around an imaginary throttle, and twist it to the stop.

In NY, in the middle of January, there is snow on the ground, it's colder than balls, and your bike struggles to even turn over, never mind start. Yet still my mind was ripping the rubber off a tire in the heat of summer. And everyone in the room knew it.

That kind of pisses people off sometimes. You ever notice that? I think what I'm getting at is the fact that I believe our team's mojo problems this year actually stem from me. I think I set our goals too high for what we were prepared to take on. This is why we had so many problems with our big bike. This is why we fell from such a good place in FP, and why we rarely ran the bike we should have. Believe me when I tell you that the most elementary mechanical challenges are what gave us such consistent trouble. And some of those very challenges were actually packed into the trailer just the way they were, for this last round at Buttonwillow.

We never made Friday practice, like I hoped we would. And on Saturday I had to abandon any hope of running the big bike because none of our team actaully came to Buttonwillow. It was just Tracy, me and Matthew. In a way, that was fun. It was like old times. But in another way it was pretty tough to get everything done in time. We didn't make practice on Saturday until the third go around - after lunch.

I got suspended from our last race at Buttonwillow, which is an entirely different story - the likes of which still gives me nausia, so we were way off pace. But that little 749R has a mind of it's own sometimes, so I was basically along for the ride. By the fifth lap I began to feel a rhythm coming on. Only one problem, that's about when the temp gauge read about 235 degrees. Like a dufus, I had not ever looked. I would explain what happened soon after, but you might like watching it more: Give it a sec to load..

At this point, once back at our pit, I was ready to quit. I called the guys and no one could come down, or come up with any great reason the thing had overheated. Head gaskets were new, water was full, etc. etc. bla bla bla. I was about through with it, since the big bike was also DOA, but then Tracy turned to me in that umbrella girl fashion kind of way she has, and suggested that if I got the bike going for the race on Sunday she would wear a special outfit.

Well, that’s all I needed to hear.

Mike hard wired our fans to a switch, for times just like these, so I buttoned everything up real tight, sealed everything but the throttle with RTV silicone, and went for it. By the second lap of Open Twins the gauge read 215. We were in the lead. By the third lap it read 232. While these are good numbers to bench press, they aren’t very good to read on your gauge. I went into survival mode and started short shifting everywhere. By lap four the bitch was real angry at 240 degrees, and the digital read-out on the dash suddenly flashed big red letters that read “You’re a freeking retard!” Going into the white flag lap Pat Blackburn came up our inside going into turn one, just to say hi for a moment. I gave him about six feet of track in there, then mumbled in my helmet, “That’s about all the real estate you’re gunna get on this last lap. The rest you’re gunna have to earn the old fashioned way, with a baseball bat, cause I’m either gunna win this race, or blow this bike up so bad it’s gunna leave a crater half the size of Bakersfield.”

And that’s how we ended our “David VS Goliath,” Open Twins season. In the lead, with a win. No craters, and not even one drop of water. I love that bike more than any other I have ever ridden.

I’m very thankful to have a girl like Tracy by my side. Without her there wouldn’t have been a Sunday. Without her there wouldn’t be hope.

I would also like to thank the rest of our team. Matthew, Mike, Dennis, and Nickers were the best this year. Especially Mike. I think he was the one I pissed off the most, but that’s because he stayed the closest. Thanks for that Mike.

And thanks to you guys on BARF. Believe it or not, your comments about our race stories have fueled the aim of some new direction for us. I will write a story about the season, soon. In fact I’m looking forward to it.

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