- TagTeamDucati's 2005 Year In Review -


I have to write this story for our 999R mostly, because it really got a shitty deal this season. We made a great bike look not so great at times. The following is why:

2005 for me was the highest point I've reached in racing, at times. Other times it wasn't quite so high. It was comical, explosive (don't touch that), fun as all get-out, it hurt like hell, and it scared the crap out of me. I've left this year more in debt than any other year I have ever raced. The irony in that kills me, because I went into this year with more support than I've ever had. But just like a race, with a bunch of shiny bikes on the grid, you never know what's gunna happen. You just never know..... And what's more? Sometimes you never even find out after the fact.

So I thought I'd share what I've found out about our year, our team, and about our bikes - after the fact - in a "Year in Review" sort of way.. Could be fun, could be retarded. You just never know.

We started this year right. Strong. Good sponsors, great plan, competent and motivated team. Both bikes worked real well. The 749R was stock. The big Bull had a slightly milled head and a valve job. Looking back now I kind of wish we left it that way. After all there's nothing like seat-time.

Strangest thing happened that first weekend at Buttonwillow. I found myself fumbling to shift gears at times. Mostly on the bull. The thing would cut out about a thousand rpm before you'd expect it to - every time. And always it hit the damn rev limiter just before I had it stood up coming out of a turn, or just at the wrong time on a switchback or something. Definitely the wrong time to be yanking on the throttle. What I worked out in the saddle was simply weighting the shifter and waiting till the limiter kicked in. It worked like a dream. No hesitation on upshifts. Just kept it pinned. We did well those first weekends. Strong finishes in FP, and a good lead in the Open Twins championship.

We left those weekends knowing full well that although size DID matter, we were just "That" shy of where we needed to be.

The AMA race was coming up so we called Ducati and got our hands on one of those trick hop-up kits for the 749R. Not the Chandler one, for a quarter of a million dollars, the realistic one that gives you another ten hp. It comes with blank heads, velocity stacks, a full exhaust, an ecu, cams, and air filters. This brought the little bike from 115hp, to 125hp. This also brought us hope for FX. Our goal was to make the top ten, beat the Andrews kid on Chandlers bike from 04, and make a decent showing in the superbike race.

The cams are pretty cool. You can see the difference if you look close. These are stockers compared to the kit ones from Ducati:

749r cams

We searched for trick parts for the 999R, but oddly enough we couldn't find any. I knew that meant I was going to get a 400 lb ass whooping in the superbike race, but that's OK, it builds character.

Two days before the AMA round my throat acted up. One day before I began feeling warm. I called my brother - the doctor from back east. He said I was doomed. We qualified OK. I laid down between runs. But for the races, all I can say is at least I didn't give up. We ran with the flu.

GoGo ama superbike

Then I'll say I wished I had given up. We got thirteenth in FX, and run through the meat grinder in superbike. It turns out my great shifting discovery - weighting the shifter and holding the throttle wide open - wasn't so great after-all. Now the bike couldn't get out of it's own way. It missed shifts constantly. There's a shifter fork that both pushes the shifter drum to the next gear, AND limits just how far the drum actually gets pushed into the next gear. Well, my big foot broke the end off that fork and the rest, as they say, was history. SLAM, right into the one wall I told myself I never wanted to hit - outside of turn ten. The fact that my elbow still hurts a little to this day from that wreck is a testament to Vanson's great armor. I'm confident that if they didn't have the armor they do in their suits, that wall would have shattered my elbow into a thousand tiny pieces. Instead I walked away with only a good bruise.

999R wrecked

Once we got settled down from that ugly weekend, we went to work on the big bike's re-build. Nick had this great idea to run Pistal pistons. "High compression" Pistal pistons. Said we'd get more power. Maybe get closer to the FP front runners. Hell, sounded good to Mike and I. But then of course, as we would find out as the year proceeded, Mike would end up having to do all the work. Nick really ended up being more of a general contractor. An "over the phone" general contractor. And this was when our big bike effort really began to crumble.

Nick Hayman

That first weekend we ran the "new" big bike, we went into with high hopes. Unfortunately the bike didn't. Turns out the pistons we were given were for an 04 999R. Unfortunately the 05 has completely different heads. The new motor made it to turn seven. And boy did it feel ugly after that. Valves smashed into pistons, bearings failed, and tiny pieces of donkey doo went everywhere.


So that was why Siglin and I had such a great battle in FP the weekend after the national. I was on the little bike, probably still with an advantage, and we were battling for a place nobody really cared about - except of course for us. He won in good fashion, but we definitely made him earn it. Thirty minutes later I learned why my late braking, last turn move under him in eleven didn't work out for us. As I went into turn six behind Pfeifer in Open Twins, suddenly I stopped doubting myself, and began wondering if something was up with our brakes. Then going into turn nine I knew it for sure. Suddenly there were just about NO brakes. I pitched it after almost coming to a stop on the marbles just outside of nine. Glazed/chunked pads up front. Our Open Twins points lead evaporated as I sat and watched Jack blaze around thinking we were still behind him. In the end, the big bike wouldn't run again until after our next two Thunderhill events. Team-moral had left the building some time around the day my flu did, and as a result the big bike just sat.

We sure gave it our all in the next events at T-hill on the 749R in FP. But on that track, either you have legs...... Or you don't.

secretariat

We got beat a lot in FP, but still faired pretty well in Open Twins on the giant slayer...

Once we got back to Infineon, we finally had the Bull again. But it wouldn't start for some strange reason. I got only one practice with it all weekend. It felt a little strange, but not too bad.

For the FP race, though, on the third call while everyone else was about to start their warm-up lap, WE had Dennis's Audi hooked up to the 999R with jumper cables. "Get ready for another ass whoopin'....." I thought. "One practice in three months, won't start, I can hear everyone else's bikes in the hot pit." It didn't look good. But suddenly it started, so we barely squeeked in, but the bitch shifted gears about as well as the old ice cream truck that used to come around my neighborhood when I was a kid. It was horrible. Turns out it was the shifter fork again, only this time it wasn't broken. This time it was put in wrong. Our GC installed it, over a beer I imagine. Why I aughta.......

All this fumbling put us at a spot in the FP field where we shouldn't have been. The result was, well, a tangled up and ugly crash. And our great friends at head-quarters disqualified us for the next round, because that made two crashes. Suddenly I felt the flu coming around again.

Slowly though, I snapped out of it. And the flu turned to inspiration. I figured I'd paint the bull, like a bull. And then I planned on doing that last weekend like we should have all year.

I think a "bull paint scheme" was an appropriate idea. Although surely I missed on the execution of it.

And just like racing would have it, don't you know we went to the last weekend and the big bike still wouldn't start? It wouldn't turn over, not even with a jump. And a push start on this farm tractor is totally out of the question. I thought I'd seen everything until Saturday night at Buttonwillow. Apparently Rob Mesa had too. I think the way it went was, someone ran around the pits that night looking for help from someone a little "cracked" and with an open mind. Dontcha know who showed up...

I think I can still smell the burning rubber

We actually DID get it started, but we didn't have enough gas to run it through the night, so once it shut down it was all over for the year. Kind of sad, actually, but it could have been worse.

When Dave left that night he said one thing that stuck. "Seems like dat thing got SOME compression." So about a month ago Mike did some math. Turns out all our problems with the big bike this year, you just read about.....

The milled head combined with the high compression pistons that we had to get re-worked to fit the valves of this motor, gave us over 200 psi of compression in the cylinders. I think stock is about 60 less than that, but I'm not sure. This ridiculous compression (ultimately just over 14 – 1) absolutely destroyed the sprag clutch, which is a very important part of the starting system - which is why the damn thing never would start. Add to that my big foot on the shifter, then our screwing up the shift fork install, and you actually have quite a reliable bike - minus the RETARDS that buggered it all up this year (me being the biggest one of all).

In the end we did win a championship on that 749R. That was part of our goal. But really we should have done more. If there is a next year for us, you can bet your ass it's gunna be very different than this one was. And that's all I have to say about that.

Happy New Year to you all. Fun racin with yu'..

And thanks again to all our great sponsors in 05

 

 

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