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Part II
- Supertwins -

- part I -9/2-3/2006
- Heavyweight Superbike -

We had a team mate when we raced on the east coast. His name was Tommyboy Eckfeldt. We beat him every weekend. Keep in mind, though, that you're supposed to beat your team-mate every weekend - before you beat anyone else. But we also helped Tommy every weekend. He was an up and coming guy on Ducatis when we lived back in NY. Good rider, hard worker. He wanted to learn a lot, and we helped him any way we could. Tommy's father, Grant, supports their Ducati race program with everything he's got - weekend in and weekend out. When we left three years ago, Tommy battled hard just to make the podiums that we used to rule. But that was three years ago. And times have surely changed since then...

Tommy ekfeldt--------

Tommy has a 999R now, and he wins a lot. It seems three years without us has worked out well for he and his Dad. Still, though, they welcomed us back with open arms. Although I do have to admit, Tommy did threaten he was gunna' wipe the track with our ass this weekend. I didn't really know how to take that. I was glad to see him confident, finally, but we felt pretty good as well. What should I have done? Threaten him back? Talk a lot of smack? Get into his head? Or just let things play out...?

As it turned out, just like the old track felt natural again, so did being Tommy's team mate. We ended up helping him iron out the set-up on his 999R, which he had been struggling with all year. He complained the front end pushed, we sent Joey Israel over to help him. He had no traction, we looked into his swingarm angle. When we noticed the zip tie on his forks was pinned at the stop, we told him. When he responded by saying "I know, I know. It's always like that." We made him get off his ass and get them re-sprung.

But still, even though our communication was open, when it came to riding, Tommy was very different out there. We used to go out in practices together. Now he hid from us. Now he went out before I even had my helmet on. And he was pretty tight lipped about things when we got back to the garage. There was definitely something strange in the air. Not Tracy, Derek, or myself could put our finger on it - but if you took either Tommy or us to the side and asked, we both would have admitted "The fight was on."

Tracy stood on the hot pit wall for our first race (Heavyweight Superbike), next to Derek, and next to Grant. Emotions were peaked, nerves were highly visible, and the sound of the heavyweight superbike field lining up ran through everyone's blood like electricity. We were gridded on the 4th row. Tommy was on the 2nd. He's run strong in this class this season, with two wins under his belt for the year. We were nobody to most of the guys we lined up next to. Just a strange sounding silver bike that looked like a disco ball, and a foreign rider with his left toe jammed on top of his swingarm spool.

We got a good launch and quickly made our way into third by using an old trick through turn one - keep it wide open till your nose bleeds, then jam it up the inside of everyone going into two.. It worked very well. On the brakes going into turn three we made our way into second. Our 749R was up to its old tricks again - taking on the big bikes in a class it has no business running in - and doing it with style.

Loudon is a very tight track. Very technical. A little bike can do well there. But Loudon DOES have some straights where good old horsepower definitely does work to your advantage. When we came onto the front straight, we were two bike lengths off P-1. It was Tommyboy up font, leading the way for the entire field on his 999R. Or was it Tommyboy running scared? The way I saw it, if he was running scared, surely mistakes were about to be made. And we would be ready to pounce. But if this was simply Tommy on his game, we were in for one helluva race... Although we out-drove him heading on to the front straight, he simply hazed us once we got straight up and down.

I'd like to say we made up for our underdog horsepower disadvantage on the brakes, or that we got by him by out-riding him, but the sad truth is we were doing our best and couldn't get by. This was NOT Tommyboy running scared. This was Tommy on his game.. Lap after lap the best we could do was stay close. We'd go through turn three with such great roll speed that we'd almost hit Tommy. We'd out-drive him, outbrake him, and desperately keep in touch through traffic that seemed to be there solely to make our task more difficult. On lap six I tried a late braking move on him right in front of a crowd in turn three. They say everyone rose to their feet as we came from four bike lengths behind and shot by Tommy on the brakes with our rear end swinging from side to side. I watched that apex pass right on by though, and recovered as best we could by going way out to the tire wall before turning in on the marbles. The crowd surely thought we were done but we managed to square off our turn before the tire wall and head back to the fight just outside Tommyboy's left side fairing.

Turn three is a 160 degree turn that starts flat, but exits up a long off-camber hill that seems to keep turning right, for what seems like an eternity, while you bang up-shifts as the edge of the track grows threateningly closer (I say "threateningly" because there lies a concrete barrier wall about twenty five feet off the side of the track that boasts a very long list of victims over the years). As Tommy and I jammed our way up this hill, with our bike about six inches to his outside, I expected him to give us some room so the two of us could take this fight all the way to turn six "The Bowl." But Tommy was having none of it. He rode his line right to the apron, and pinched us off. I had to let off or it was game over. Just then some guy named Kimp came rocketing by as the three of us headed for the bowl - Tommy still in the lead.

I thought, "Great move, jack-ass. Now we're in third!" For the next two laps we hit traffic that was terrifically slow. Our lines were all over the road. At times the track looked like a swarm of bees after a twelve year old took a good swing at a hornets nest. I knew our chances of catching either of them were slim to none, but we gave it everything we had anyway - desperately clinging to the hope that we could stay close enough in touch, "just in case."

On the white flag lap, while going through turn ten, those two came up on a lapper that really jammed them up. Our bike was about six lengths behind. Kimp, who was leading at this point, got through the chicane clean, but I saw Tommy's shoulders tighten up - which told me he was in trouble. He hesitated behind this lapper for an instant too long, and sometimes an instant is all a Ducati 749R needs... Suddenly we were in a "good enough" spot to try for a double pass through this chicane. Typically there is only one line through a chicane, and this chicane was no different. I squared the turn off, picked it upright as much as I could, aimed for a line just over the edge of two curbs, and pulled the trigger...

In the next heart beat we were passed Tommy and his lapper, but our bike was doing the "Huckle-buck" and my ass was off the seat as we wheelied our way toward the sweeping turn eleven. We went from riding the rear tire toward eleven, to crushing the front end into the pavement on the brakes while going in to it. But we made it. To say that we didn't exactly hit our marks going through eleven is an understatement. But we did get through it, AND the next chicane which leads on to the front straight as well. We got out of turn twelve on a drive that took us all the way to the Nascar barrier wall. I pressed my chest into the tank as I watched Tracy and Derek on the pit wall out of the corner of my eye. Those two were jumping up into the air more than they were on the ground, as our amazing Ducati 749R blazed toward the checkered flag with Tommy's monster machine about to swallow us up.

And we made it.... Second place from 20th, with Tommyboy right on our tail. Two Ducatis on the podium for heavyweight superbike. First time all year at NHIS.

Does it get better than that....?
Well..... maybe....

Next up was Supertwins,
the real reason we traveled 3,000 miles back in time to Loudon.

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