Round Five wasn't going to be any easier as it turned out. The heat was just as bad as the previous round. So too, were our overheating problems. Only on this weekend both bikes were running hot. In fact just about every bike on the grid was experiencing a high fever. But this time Jason and Scotty had a plan. And it worked. Although the bikes did run hot at times, neither of them were losing any water so our fear of another wreck subsided. But it turns out those fears subsided a bit too soon. We wrecked twice that weekend. Once was my fault. Apparently I wasn't happy being arguably the fastest bike over the top of the cyclone. I wanted to jump the damn thing. And so I did - only I landed on my head instead of on our wheels. When the boys threw the first bike back together in almost no time at all, I decided to go out and do it all over again in the SAME DAMN TURN! Only difference this time was I threw her down on purpose - to avoid wrecking into two other guys who had tangled off track, and then back on again - just in front of us! I have to say, trailing the front brake while you're eyeing up a line that's about to put somebody's clip-on in your throat, is not a very comfortable moment. Even though I was already sore from the crash just before, I chose the pavement over the clip-ons.

Hands down, this weekend was the hardest on our new team. Both bikes were wrecked. And even though they had worked constantly both Saturday and Sunday, meeting each new challenge the weekend threw at them, we still ended up with two DNFs - one in F1, one in 600 superbike - and one DNS in Formula Pacific because the bike was still broken.

We did manage to finish one race that weekend. Open Twins. And we did win it - extending our streak in that class to five consecutive wins. But that weekend had taken a toll on our crew, and I was well aware of it. After our second wreck the turn marshals asked if I wanted a ride back to the pits. Covered with dust, bruised, and hotter than hell, bathing in that Thunderhill heat, I thanked them and opted for a long walk back all on my own. I definitely needed a few mintes of alone time..

One of the true measures of Jason's character, and probably the single most vital ingredient that lead to our successes in 06, showed up as we began loading up to leave that painful, worn out, weather beaten Sunday. He had us all line up for a team picture, standing behind what was left of our weekend's only winning bike, the Ducati 999R.

I remember thinking that was pretty cool. The man was plainly beaten, yet still he had his focus up-beat, and up ahead.

We came home to a mail from Ducati North America in Jason's box. That mail asked if they could have at least one, if not both bikes for the Ducati Island display at Laguna Seca, during the MotoGP weekend.

That was Monday. Laguna was Friday. And both bikes just happened to be total wrecks...

Jason responded in typical MotoItaliano fashion.
"Yes, the bikes will be there.."
And so they were... Only somehow, some way, they made it there with a brand new "Retro" look. The guys had stripped the bike and recreated our 999R into one of the nicest paint schemes I've ever seen on this particular era of Ducati superbikes.
- The classic Ducati 750 F1 -

We immediately fell in love with the new look of the bike, and simultaneously. new life was breathed into our currently ailing race program. The next two AFM rounds would be held at Infineon Raceway, again, and this time we would be ready for battle.

In round six we did some damage. We won the Open Twins race, we won the Formula One race, and we came in fourth in 600 superbike. By this time the guys at MotoItaliano had experienced enough of the good, AND enough of the tough parts of racing to have learned not to take good results for granted. Each win from that point forward would be celebrated like it was our first.

Before our five week AFM summer break began, I got a call from a good old friend of mine, Leslie Grossman, owner of BCM Motorsports, in Laconia New Hampshire. He asked if we had any time in our race schedule to do a road trip back east. Maybe take on some of our old rivals again. Run around Loudon a few more times, under the collective banner of both BCM & MotoItaliano... We all jumped at the chance.

It was strange being a foreigner in a place I used to call home. I remember always dreaming that one day I might move to California, but somewhere deep inside I feared I never would. Now here we were representing California, on a track filled with cut throat competitors who had all been brought into this roadracing world while fearlessly facing concrete walls and tire barriers that eagerly threaten to collect you and your bike at the fist sign of mistake.
This is an example of the proper line through turn three at Loudon.. HOLY CRAP!

We met the east coast challengers head on in two races, Heavyweight Superbike,
and Heavyweight Supertwins. We left with a second place in superbike, a win in supertwins, and we set the third fastest lap time of the entire weekend - all on our Ducati 749R.

By this point our TagTeamDucati effort had built some momentum. We returned home with two remaining tasks at hand - not just to survive the last two AFM rounds of the year, but to win them. You see, although no one had mentioned it, we were actually the only team in the AFM that was undefeated in a particular class in 06 - up to that point. And just like a no-hitter in baseball, no one had spoken a word about it...

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