2006 AFM round 1, Buttonwillow Ca.
MotoItaliano enters the frey!

This weekend marked the first race outing as part of our brand new MotoItaliano race team. We've been working at building this program for most of this past winter, and finally about seven days ago we got the green light to run for the season. With no time to secure or build an appropriate Ducati 999R, we decided to run our old reliable honey of a motorcycle, the old "Giant Slayer 749R," in both 1,000cc classes - Open Twins, and Formula Pacific.

As we anticipated, the AFM Open Twins field has grown quite a bit since last year. Taking a simple stroll through the AFM pits these days can be a daunting experience if you are a twins pilot. Not only are there more Ducati 749Rs, but there are more Ducati 999Rs as well. In fact there are many more, and each one of them looks more tricked-out than the last. Surely Ducati's generous 2006 contingency program is one reason why, but for me at least, the other reasons have to be based on what it's like to ride these bikes.

Fun just doesn't say enough....


Scott and Jason worked through the nail biting on Sunday morning by plugging into the 749R's brain with a cool machine called a "Mathesis Diagnostic tester." Two related issues immediately came up - the Mathesis detected that both fans were disconnected. I immediately thought, "How cool is that? We just took the fans off last night!" This was part of our plan to let the bike run cooler at speed, so once everything else checked out we simply moved on through the typical race-day prep. I have to say it was nice to finally NOT be the most nervous person in the pits before a race. Both Jason and Scott were a wreck. Having never gone racing before, they had absolutely no idea what to expect. Jason kept comforting "me" by telling me all we had to do was to survive the weekend. "Just remember we'll be overpowered this weekend. I've heard about what happens to you when you're in a close fight out there, so I want to make sure you stay relaxed and remember it's a long season..." That was comforting to hear, but it didn't relieve any of the pressure, somehow. We really wanted to help make their first race weekend a success, so that's what we set out to do.


Turn one at Buttonwillow is a sharp left, but pole position is on the left as well, so at this track I consider pole position to be a disadvantage. With three 1,000cc twins to my right, another twenty behind us, and the green flag still folded in the starter's hand to my left - I came up with a plan. I knew we not only had to get the hole-shot, but that we also needed to enter turn one from the right side of the track. If there was ever a time we needed an explosive launch from a Yoyodyne slipper clutch, this was it. The instant that green flag budged, this 749R came to life like only one of these bikes can, and by the thirty foot mark our rear tire had already cleared the entire front row, so we swung to the right and commanded turn one in style.


From that point forward we gave Buttonwillow everything we had in that race - drifting the rear
going in, and bouncing the front tire off curbs coming out. I don't think I stopped smiling all race long. And as for Jason and Scott? Well, Tracy tells the story somewhat like this: "Jason's face was flush for the entire race. He barely spoke. And Scott almost broke his leg by falling off the pit wall after jumping and screaming as we took the checkered flag!"

To think all this was going on while I was wrapped around the gas tank of that 749R with the front tire climbing off the ground toward that checkered flag, is definitely a proud moment.

Now, on to Formula Pacific. For me this felt like readying yourself to fight a battle you simply can not win - like throwing yourself to the sharks, if you will. Like I said, our plan is to run Formula Pacific this season on a much more powerful 999R, but we simply didn't own one as of this past weekend. So we faced the music and did the best we could all race long. We did get a good launch, but once the clutch was out all the way we simply got passed by what felt like a small country. We were Eleventh going into turn one, but we held more than our own going through the technical parts of Buttonwillow. I expected fully to get swamped again on our next run down the front straight, but quite surprisingly that remarkable Ducati 749R held it's own against the much more powerful inline-4 1,000s. In some places it was all we could do to not crash into the rear tires of these bikes, but once those guys cracked their throttles back open they would gap us again. We lost two spots all race long, and both those spots we lost because of me. I could have ridden smarter. I could have gone into some turns much harder. I could have come out faster... But like Jason said, "It's a long season. All we need is points." So that's what we got. We finished in 12th, which isn't great at all, but we did still manage to finish in front of some very well known national caliber riders and teams, on much more powerful machines. And that's another proud moment brought to us by the 749R that never says no.

Now it's up to the crew at MotoItaliano to build us a more appropriate 999R for Formula Pacific. We have three weeks to get the job done. Stay tuned.. This could be a lot of fun!

Special thanks to all our great sponsors: Ducati
North America, MotoItaliano, Dunlop, Kneeriders.com,
Vanson leathers, Leo Vince, Suomy, Motorex oil,
Yoyodyne, Raceimage.net, R-Tech race fuel, BCM Motorsports


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