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"The Quest"

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Go to race report:
Part I
- H/W Superbike-

part II 9/2-3/2006
- Heavyweight Supertwins -

Once we got back to the BCM garage, and next to Tommy and Grant again, we all rejoiced about the superbike race. Our side of the garage housed one crowd. Tommy's side - another. After a bit the two opposing sides came together and gave each other praise - but again, something was different between us. I made sure to look Tommy in the eyes at least once, and remind him that I was well aware of how much room he didn't leave for us in turn three. Once my glare wore off, we smiled about it. But my point was made - "Round two will be different."

And round two, was....

At Loudon, you line up for a start about six feet from a Nascar retaining wall. Especially among a field of big bore twins lined up for a race, the booming sound of thunderous pistons echoes off this wall and ignites your sole, as you lock your eyes on the starter - waiting for him to throw his folded green flag. I looked up ahead at tommy, in pole position, from our spot on the third row, and worried about our task at hand. I knew he was fast where it counted, and I knew he was hungrier than ever. I fully expected Tommy to check out on the field while we monkeyed for position in our charge for the front. But Tommyboy wasn't our only threat. The east coast Supertwins field is the regular home for quite a few heavyweight contenders. There is Jessie Sandoz, from SeaCoast Cycles (a new Ducati dealer, and an old twins competitor rumored to have gotten a LOT faster since we left). There is Tom Fournier, from Dunbar Eurosports, on his hot-rod 996. Bret Guyer has been doing some serious damage in the twins field this year, and then there was our old arch nemesis Robby Nigl, on his 748. If you've ever notice the nasty bump on my shoulder, then you've already learned about Robby Nigl. We got that bump as the result of a last lap high side we had during an intense battle with Robby in 2003, just before we moved to the west coast.

Jesse Sandoz---- Tom Fournier===== Robby Nigl

To add a bit more drama to this race you have to remember that we crossed the country for this very event - and EVERYBODY knew it. Just like we took Ducati, MotoItaliano, BCM, and all of California with us, to represent, they too were poised for battle - and they ALL planned to charge from a corner very clearly marked "The East." So needless to say, this race had me in a pretty intense state. Poor Tracy had no idea why I was so quiet when I picked her up from Logan airport at 6am that Saturday morning. Surely, the Supertwins race was why.

I watched the flag man twist his card in the hopes that we would nail this start, but in an instant of time that came quicker than lightning on a rainy summers day, he threw the flag before it was even sideways! Immediately we got into the meat of the clutch, but really I had blown it already. We came out of the hole feeling rather average, and went into turn one in sixth place. We were a tight pack going through one and one-A (a fast left, followed by a similar speed right), and then just at the front of this pack Brett Guyer tucked his front tire as he flicked his bike left for turn two (a sharper left that heads up onto the Nascar oval). As sparks and shreds of leather littered the pack in front of us, the whole field checked up as Bret fell into an inverted sliding roll that saw him land on his neck, head, and back, as he tumbled his way to a stop. The whole Supertwins field dodged his every move. I was shocked no one else went down.

This wreck baulked everybody. Everybody but Tommyboy. Tommy lead Brett into that turn, so he never knew a thing about it. Tommy immediately gapped the field. He had almost the whole back straight on us before we even got to turn three. By the end of lap one our 749R had made it from sixth to second, but we were far behind P-1. We had a posse of angry east coast Supertwins on our ass, but I didn't care. Our sights were set up ahead, on the very distant Tommyboy.

Steve Guinard is the Dunlop guy back east. He's a real joker, and we are still very good friends to this day. Steve knows us very well. He's seen us up, and he's seen us down. On the Supertwins pre-grid Steve leaned in to my helmet as he looked over the rest of the field, and uttered the following advice, "Listen.....GoGo" he looked away for a second, and then looked back "The way I see it you've got two choices...." He looked away again, and then back. "You came too far to get beat by these guys. You either gotta win it..... Or bin it." Then he slapped our Suomy shield down and walked away.

Without question, in those laps behind Tommy we rode that 749R harder than we've ever ridden it before. People gathered around turn three again, just to watch us lose the front tire and ram ourselves into the tire wall just outside it. I'd trail brake going in there until just before it tucked, then I'd close my eyes and throw er' in there no matter how fast we were going.

To give you an example of what you're up against in turn three on a hot lap, check out this image which shows "OUR" hot line through there..

I really have to hand it to Dunlop. We broke every rule out there on Sunday and their tires took care of us like my Momma's favorite babysitter would. I'd gently let off the front brake as I pushed on the inside bar going in, and the whole bike would skip across the pavement as it fell on it's side - then it would grab - and then we'd be right back in the gas and headed up the hill as we drifted the rear tire in hot pursuit of P-1. Coming out of the bowl (an extremely banked 180 degree third gear left hander that you approach while going downhill, and you exit going uphill) you keep heading left until you line up the two curbs that define the entrance to turn 7 (an uphill hard accelerating right which leads to the infamous turn 8 - scene of my broken back incident in 1998). We were pushing so hard at this point that the front wheel would come off the ground as the bike flicked from left to right.

If you'd like to go for a ride around Loudon yourself,
push the play button on this Quicktime video screen:

By lap four we were right on Tommy's ass as we both headed down the front straight.
But this time, just like we promised, things were different. We were so close to him we could almost hold onto the draft (even though we were down some 30hp). The plan was to stay very close coming out of turn two, so we could out-brake him going into three. But just then, as we were right on his tail going down the front straight, Tommy's bike began to shake real bad. Immediately I pushed on the right clip-on and headed between him and the Nascar barrier wall.

Sure enough he had to get out of it for an instant to recover, and we shot by at full tilt. I knew at that point, if we were able to reel him in like we just had in the previous three laps, we should also be able to gap him.

This time WE were running scared. And run, we, did. Each time down the straight I expected his front tire. Each time into three I anticipated his block. I even listened for the sounds of his motor just behind us, but they never came... We took the checked flag at 13,000rpm, after setting the third fastest over-all lap time of the entire LRRS race weekend... Chest in the tank - screaming all the way! I turned around after we went through the checker and we had the entire front straight to ourselves.

Once we came to a stop on the hot pit lane, after quite a few victory wheelies around Loudon, Jesse Sandos parked his Apriia next to us and quietly said - helmet to helmet - "Well GoGo, you came, and we gave you guys everything we had.
And we had nothing for yu'."

At Loudon they have trophy celebrations for every class. When they called our name I grabbed our team's only REAL trophy, and headed through the crowd to say thanks.

What a weekend..

Special thanks must go to Leslie Grossman at BCM Motorsports. Really, although we all had to work to make this weekend happen (Ducati, MotoItaliano, Tracy, and Derek LaFontaine) Leslie and his crew deserve the mother-load of the credit. He made a long standing dream come true for us. In the end we won that Supertwins race by what Leslie calls, "A Miracle Mile..."

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