AFM round 3, 2012

*This race story has three entries; It starts with Thursday’s INTRO, has a Saturday UPDATE, then it ends with Sunday’s final RACE REPORT.

Call me a romantic but there’s something special about entering new battles on your trusty old steed.  Ours is still our 2009 KTM RC8R, but the boys at Cal Moto Livermore have breathed a bit of new life into her for round 3.  We got into trouble last weekend with sound regulations which forced us to race with a banana peal stuffed in our tail pipe.  That cost us horsepower and that cost us track time.  Things will be different this round but before I get into how or why, I need to properly introduce the New Sheriff in Town.

I love racing.  I love writing.  I love people.  Put those three together and you get this blog, which is great.  Thank you for reading.  To be honest with you I want to write more.  I want to share more.  I want to offer riding tips, racing tips, technical tips, I want to produce and host videos – both entertainment based and tutorial based.  I want to, and I know that I can, create something very special here.  I have for years.  But the challenge I need to face before I twist the throttle wide-open on this project is how to justify the the cost and the effort?  I’ve thought about this for years and finally today I approach my first answers.

If you’ve ever been here before, and now you’re here again, you may notice some new changes.  “Stickers for sale too?  Talk of tee-shirts?  And who the hell is this new sheriff in town?”  I was told once as a kid “Do what you love and do it the best you possibly can – the rest will fall into place.”  Well I’ve been doing what I love, roadracing motorcycles, the best that I can for more than two decades.  If all this racing has taught me anything it has taught me that things don’t just fall into place, you have to place them yourself.  And sometimes they’re heavy, and sometimes they’re broken, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, they just don’t seem to fit.  In order to make this project work, I need to make this fit.

So we’re making new tee shirts.  Black this time, simple bulldog logo on the back and small KTM on the left chest pocket area.  I’m making a push that these shirts are high quality.  No ink, instead these shirts will be dyed.  It’s a relatively new process, the result of which eliminates fade, cracking, and even feel of the print.  The print is no longer a print, it’s the actual color of the threads in the shirt.  Should be a cool shirt, the profits of which will go toward funding the projects that will generate this blog, and support our racing.  The stickers are already ready for sale.  Although this is fractional,  for me it does represent direction.  And I need direction.

…So THAT’S the new sheriff in town.  Please don’t be hard on her, she brings good things.

As for bike prep, I contacted our KTM area rep Pat Garrahan after round 2 and told him of our troubles.  He actually responded with enthusiasm and more importantly, help.  “Try re-packing the muffler before you do anything else.”   It’s so basic really, muffler packing, who wouldn’t think of that as a good place to start when trying to make your bike quieter?  OK you can shut up now – I did not think of it.  Immediately I went into “Let’s cut the muffler end off, rotate it, then weld it back on again aiming in the opposite direction away from the sound meters!!”  I don’t understand why I am so complicated.  Thankfully Dannyboy and Keith, inspired by both Pat Garrahan and Mike Meissner – took our muffler apart and discovered not only was the packing compromised, it basically didn’t exist.

Dannyboy and Keith re-packed the muffler and tested it for sound.  It’s down to 102db from 107db on Dannboy’s meter.  That’s a good sign.  Now we need Mike’s pc so we can map the bike with real race gas and start getting real(er) horsepower numbers for Sunday.  We’re leaving tonight for Friday practice where hopefully we can sort this all out.  Also I’ll be filming more of the Open Twins field for my “Project Open Twins” production.

More to come as the weekend progresses..


Saturday UPDATE:  Two days of practice has us in unique shape.  I feel good on the bike.  So much traffic out there, hard to get clear laps.  I don’t remember being affected by this so much in the past.  Either they’re going slower or we’re going faster.  Something in me says it’s us going faster.

Today Alex (Michelin) and I clashed horns about pressures.  I’ve been planning this for a month.  It wasn’t fair.  Last round I lost the fight about running low pressures.  Seems it’s the direction all the manufacturers are going these days.  Almost a trend.  19lbs, 18lbs, 21lbs.  That’s all well and good I think, if the tire’s got a firm carcass.  The new Michelins do not.  They fold in your hands.  Out on track I can feel the rear tire collapse on hard drives.  It’s got great grip at 19lbs but it loses it’s shape.  You can feel the rear drop and kick out sideways in the shape of a hook.  So last month I called my old Michelin partner, Sto Smead from Motorace, back in New England.  Sto and I used to talk about stuff like tire pressures for days.  We did again last month.  It felt like going home.  In the end Sto had the same outlook that I do – 19lbs is too soft.  Maybe 26lbs would be a good place to start over.  That’s exactly what Alex and I clashed horns about.

It’s good having different perspectives between people.  Usually means you’re on the cusp of learning something new.  And so we did.  26lbs gives the rear tire good shape, makes the bike turn well – keeps it nimble.  But mid-corner the rear loses edge grip.  It drifts sideways a little too much.  It’s nice to drift the rear sideways – helps to turn the bike.  But this was too much.  Although the round shape of the tire felt great, we’d lost too much grip.  We tried 25lbs, it was measurably better but still not enough.  We ended up at 24lbs cold.  So far that’s our best compromise – good drive, good side grip, predictable and manageable as it starts to spin.  I know it’s just four or five lbs but trust me, this is huge.  It’s a different bike now.

We got a few cans of U4.4 fuel.  Expensive, yes.  But the bike runs like it was made for it.  Well actually it was made for it.  We spent some time last year using Daytona Sensor’s WegoIII and the fuel mapping software Tuneboy to develop a proper fuel map for U4.4 fuel.  One day soon maybe we’ll make another map for the hotter fuel – MR-12.  For now this U4.4 has us running clean and strong out there.  We managed to hook up with a few of the faster bikes in Formula Pacific in our last practice today, and we stuck right with them.  Our bike can’t hang on the straights but we make up for it in other areas.  Falling out of the draft of these faster bikes on Thunderhill’s long front straight is frustrating at times, but it does build character, I am not complaining.

Our setup keeps getting better.  Barry Wressel of KFG Racing ( our suspension guy) is having a baby this weekend, so he is not here.  I was able to get him on the phone and talk our way through a few changes to our forks.  It’s felt flighty up front lately.  He gave us two clicks slower on rebound as an answer.  It worked like a charm.  This bike makes sense now.  I uncover a problem, I communicate about it, we make the changes and it gets better.  The bike just makes sense.

Tomorrow we run Open Twins in the late morning – race 5.  Then we run Formula Pacific early afternoon – maybe 2pm.  Our goal is to run strong in Open Twins.  Tiger Boy looks much faster out there this weekend.  Could be we’re in for a fight.  We are definitely in for a fight in Formula Pacific.  It’s a long winded dream right now but a top five finish in Formula Pacific would be like winning a world superbike race for us this year.  One step at a time..



I’ve had a rare inner confidence building inside me since last round.  It’s not cocky, it’s realistic.  I’m seeing things out there that I haven’t seen before.  Feeling things I haven’t felt before.  Doing things I haven’t done before.  These changes are coming very naturally.  Like I’ve said for a while now, this RC8R makes sense now.  In fact every part of this new program makes sense now.  Change is upon us.

I’m a quiet guy on track.  Usually I go out for practice alone.  Yesterday I didn’t.  Today I didn’t.  Shy people are like that – if you don’t feel you belong, you stay on the perimeter.  But I’ve been thinking outside my usually self limiting box lately.  Maybe to beat these guys you’ve got to be these guys.  I’m learning a lot chasing the faster bikes around.  Every practice we get quicker now.  I won’t go out alone again.

I came up on Tiger Boy in the morning warm-up.  He looked very good, his bike very fast, but we had his pace pretty comfortably.  I stayed behind him for a few laps to get a measure.  Felt like we could pass in a few places but they would have to be a little rude.  It was practice so I eased off and came in.  We were out there to confirm the final answer on our tire pressure debate.  The rear felt great as we barked at Tiger Boy’s heals like an angry Bulldog.  We came in ready to race.

We started from pole – Tiger Boy, Brendan Walsh then Scott Miles to our right.  Keith made yet another tweak to the oil jet that oils our clutch last week.  How wet you keep these plates has a huge affect on how the RC8R launches off the line.  We are now closer to perfect than we’ve ever been.  Once the green flag flew we won the race to turn one handily.  I’ve got a good feel for traction out there – our first laps are usually quick.  But on just our first run up the front straight there came Tiger Boy, blowing by us on the gas and heading for turn one.  Right then I knew we were in for a fight..

Let me back up a second here to Friday night, when I interviewed a few more Open Twins racers for the Project Open Twins video.  One of the questions I am asking each racer is “what’s the hardest part of racing to you?”  It’s pretty revealing actually, the varied range of responses I am getting to particular questions.  Except this one.  This question most guys are answering the same – “Putting it all together.  All the aspects of racing, the bills, the mechanics, horsepower, practice, parts, work, etc.”  Well Tiger Boy’s answers were just the same, only with more detail.  This cat puts some serious time, money and effort into his race program.  And let me tell you, when he shot by me on Thunderhill’s front straight, all his work showed in spades.

Instantly I thought of Rossi against Stoner at Laguna years ago.  Only way to beat a faster bike than yours is to instantly fight back for position.  And so I did.  I chased Tiger Boy through turn one and over the hill towards turn two, then dove under him and took the turn back.  I’ve done this to him before but today something was different.  Usually he backs off when you show him a wheel.  Today he stayed right by my side.  He’s a lot like me, he leaves good room for someone in a fight.  It’s counter productive if racing for position is your only goal out there, but for us there are more goals on our minds than one turn on one lap in one race.  Almost half way around turn two, which is a very long, very fast 180 degree left, I could see his front tire to our outside.  Right then I knew we were in for an even bigger fight than I thought.

We held P-1 until our next run up the back straight.  Then it happened again, he shot by on the gas.  If right now I wrote “Holy mother of Jesus his bike is fast”, would that give you an idea what it’s like?  If not try this; you know the painted yellow line near the edge of the train station platform, that’s meant to keep you at a safe distance from passing trains?  Have you ever stood on that line, or even over it, when a speeding train came by without stopping?  Impressive right?  You can feel that power in your soul.

Tiger Boy’s 1198 is not a train, but you can feel it’s power in your soul.  At least I could.  And now we’d have to fight it all the way to the bell.  Immediately I out-broke him for 14, but not by enough to make it past.  I drove out of 15, onto the front straight with everything our RC8R has.  This got us closer to his rear tire, we actually out-drove him initially, but once he stood that beast up and twisted it’s grip the best I could do was stay tiny and grab as much of his draft as we could hold onto.  He yarded us down the straight, we couldn’t keep in his draft.  But going into turn one we made a lot of ground back up.  This gave me confidence that we could still fight for the win.

By the half way mark we had a good gap to the rest of the field.  It was a two way fight to the flag then.  We gained ground in braking, the super-fast sections out back, and the technically aggressive sections from turn 1 to turn 6.  But it wasn’t enough.  I started pushing harder – powering through turns, spinning the rear to stear, drifting the front as we entered 6, 8, 10, 14 and more.  And then I got thrown out of the seat.  The rear stepped way out, I corrected with throttle then my feet were over the tank.  We recovered.  My ass landed on the seat again and instantly we were wide open driving after him.  But now suddenly we had a problem on our hands.  We were losing rear grip.

There is so much more to racing motorcycles than racing cars, from a riders perspective.  There’s so much more you can do.  So many ways to turn a bike, to drive out of a turn.  Instantly I changed my riding.  I rotated the bike on exits trying to find areas with better grip.  Nothing doing, grip was gone.  I fought the good fight.  I rode my best.  I learned so much about traction in that race it was all worth while.  Tiger Boy beat us straight up.  He rode very well.  Consistent, respectful, and fast.  He built a fast bike, he put in the effort, he won the Open Twins race.

Tiger Boy, as devastated as I was to lose our epic battle, I am proud of you man.  You did good.  You also helped breath new life into the AFM Open Twins race.  For sure next round we will have a crowd.  Bring your best to Infineon next month.  The fight is on..

OK so here is where I get to eat my sneakers.  All day Friday I broke Alex’s balls about tire pressures.  We debated, we argued, we theorized – then finally he realized I wasn’t gonna race our RC8R with his low pressures anymore.  Alex is a big boy, he reminds me of a Peterbuilt Truck.  Easily he could squash me with his big thumb alone.  But much to his credit he’s actually a kind and gentle guy.  He said “If you think higher pressures is the direction you want to follow, then let’s follow it.”

As it turns out we failed to build great heat into our tires in Friday and Saturday practices.  With higher heat comes air expansion, so the hotter our tires get the higher the pressure rises.  We did practice Friday and Saturday, but without generating enough heat in our tires we were not duplicating race conditions.  That was a BIG mistake.  We came in from Open Twins with an exaggerated rear tire pressure of 34/35lbs.  That’s way too high, and that’s exactly why we had such little traction.

Some racers are super critical about monitoring these differences in pressure and heat.  I never have been.  I always set pressures cold, heat them up and go race.  Done.  But I also always have issues, so maybe it’s time for more change.  Time to get real, modern tire warmers, with temperature read-outs so we can set accurate, consistent hot pressures.  And, more importantly, time to apologize to Alex for breaking his balls all weekend about putting more air in our Michelins.  In the end Alex was right.  These new Michelin slicks work better closer to 21lbs cold than the 24 that I insisted on.

…whatever, I’ll never hear the end of this now!

In last round’s FP race we finished a very distant & lonely 6th place, from Martin Schwark who took 5th on his #5 Suzuki.  I’ve had a quiet goal to improve on that result this weekend.  Not necessarily to beat him, but to be much closer at least.  We started the race from the second row, in 6th, with Martin to our left and Formula Pacific’s top four in the row ahead of us.  Thanks to Yoyodyne’s awesome slipper clutch we came off the line very well.  We left the second row instantly then built on that by taking Dave Stanton into turn one.  That put us fourth into turn one.  It felt great being up there.  As everyone got up to speed I actually felt slowed down.  We could have gone faster had we been alone.  That’s how I felt all the way up into the Cyclone (turn 4).  Through turn five I lost two bike lengths on Lenny Hale.  Our bike is not turning through five as well as the others.  But unlike round 2, we turned far better through 1, 2, 3 & 4.  Stanton came under us going into turn 6.  Dave is fantastic at passing.  Always has been.  We chased him real close all the way around to the back straight.  His pace through technical sections felt comfortable but it was tough to keep up once our throttles opened up.

 Again, I hate to say this because I sound like a whining bitch, but our RC8R is underpowered.  How could it not be, it’s a stock streetbike motor with three seasons on it.  At least this is a testament to this KTM’s durability.  On the run up the back straight to turn 14 Dave gapped us, then Martin shot by on the gas.  Now we were sixth, like last weekend.  But in a very welcome way, this was nothing like last weekend at all.

While Martin and Stanton did gap us on our run up the front straight (Martin’s on a Suzuki, Stanton’s on a BMW), we actually clawed back toward them on the brakes into turn one, over two, around three and into the Cyclone.  Our rear tire now had much better side grip, and much better drive.  Amazing what a few pounds can do for a tire.  Alex was so right.  I was so wrong..

Each lap, lap after lap, we would end up back on Martin’s rear tire by the Cyclone.  To me this was a small victory in itself.  But what’s better is how great of a job Martin was doing fighting to keep Stanton in sight.  With us on Martin’s rear wheel, Stanton was just as in-sight to us as he was to Martin, and that lasted all race long.  The last time I kept Dave Stanton in sight for eight laps was 2005.  Well hello there seven years later – glad to finally meet you again.  We finished FP in 6th, with obvious work to do before round 4.

To get by Martin we’ll have to find more horsepower.  Any passes will have to be restricted to out-braking moves otherwise, which will be a challenge coming from the consistent deficit we suffer leading up to braking zones.  We could make up the difference between the speed of our bikes through the technical sections and under hard braking, but not enough to make a pass.  At least not a safe pass.

Martin read this blog after round 2 and commented about it on the Bay Area Riders Forum – telling the  local motorcycling world that my saying his bike is “Monstrously fast” is the funniest thing he’s heard.  I’ll say the same thing here that I said there – it’s a matter of perspective Martin.  From our seat your bike is monstrously fast.  Take it as a compliment.  …and yes, that was us you kept hearing on your heels through turn 8.  I would have waved when you kept looking back on the run up to turn 9 but I was busy working my ass off trying to keep up.  Maybe next time.


And so it begins, our quest for more horsepower!  Stay tuned this should be an interesting month.

Thanks for reading,

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