They say it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.  No wonder I’m sore, I’m old and all I did this weekend was learn.  As I packed the van up Sunday evening after our races a friend of mine saw me stare at my hand as I deliberately opened and closed it.  He asked “What’s wrong with your hand GoGo?”  I answered “Nothing.  It’s the only part of my body that’s not in pain right now.  I’m wondering why.”

I hi-sided coming out of turn seven in the second lap of the first practice Saturday.  Half way through that “wreck” I grabbed the clutch as my feet shot off the footpegs and headed for open air.  After a few lurches left and right beneath my flying body our RC8R obediently came back to me.  I thanked it by landing my ass square in the seat and twisted the throttle back wide open like nothing ever happened.  I figured maybe the rear tire was still cold, so I gave it more time.  A lap later, the third of our first practice, the same hi-side happened again – this time out of the Carousel, and a lot faster.  “OK that’s strike 2 and I’m not waiting for strike 3.  Something is wrong I’m coming in.”  Little did I know at that point “Something’s wrong I’m coming in” would be the ongoing theme for Saturday.

A good buddy of mine, Bill “Swim” (at least that’s his last name in my phone), leaned into my ear early Saturday and shared with me something he found amazing.  As he whispered he motioned with his head toward a few key racers he candidly offered up as quite obviously the most high maintenance racers in northern California, all miraculously somehow contained in basically the same garage.   He pointed out Chris Siglin dead ahead, Brian Parriott to our left, Berto Woolridge to our right, and then quite regrettably  “GoGo” at garage front.  We both laughed about the irony and then moved on like it was all just a good joke – but his point was made.  Later that day I asked Gerry Piazze of GP Frame and Wheel for a print-out of our last chassis measurements.  As he handed me the sheet he noticed one of the numbers indicated that our forks are still a little skewed to the right (there’s still a slight problem with our triple clamps).  I asked how much of a difference this “off measurement” might make out there on a real racetrack, as opposed to his computer.  Like, is it crooked bad, or are these thousandths of an inch really just nit-picking?  Gerry’s answer went exactly like this – “Well, GoGo, you’re what I would call a very unique type of rider.  You feel things that…  Ahhh…  You are a highly sensitive typ…   Well…  What I mean to say is the very subtle nuances that some riders might not even notice, well, you tend to….”   Right then I cut in and told Gerry to quit the bullshit – “Are you trying to say I’m a Bitch, Gerry?”  He laughed out loud just hard enough to confirm all of what he had just tried so hard NOT to say.

OK so apparently I am a high maintenance bitch of a motorcycle racer.  I told you I did a lot of learning this weekend.

Eric Gulbransen

 

Go ahead call me sensitive.  Whatever, I’ve been called worse.  The interesting thing here is the bike really does do those things I feel.

In my last race report I remember talking a lot about rear tire traction.  We focused on pressures then, and running different pressures did have a drastic effect on our rear grip.  But even at round 3’s fastest settings, I could still spin our rear tire too easily.  There are three other things our bike was doing poorly in round 3 that I never made a big deal about because I could ride through them at Thunderhill – our rear tire lifted into the air and wagged side to side under hard braking, our mid-corner speed was down, and the bike wallowed side to side on it’s way up the back straight.  So we knew going into this round at Sears Point that our settings weren’t perfect, but we also knew by our lap-times that they weren’t too far off.

…Boy were we wrong

Sears is a physical track.  It’s very tight and it’s very technical.  You’re never square in the seat or straight up and down.  This is very different than Thunderhill’s fast and flowing layout.  Somehow these differences in tracks not only magnified our issues from Thunderhill, but they multiplied them several times over.  Rear grip was so bad that I had, count them now, SEVEN bad-wreck threatening hi-sides.  If that’s not horrible enough for you try this – our RC8R wallowed side to side so violently as we flew up the back straight out of the Carousel and toward turn seven, that I was almost thrown off the bike TWICE.  Finally, as if that’s not enough, under braking our rear tire came off the ground so frequently that I couldn’t use it to help slow the bike down in braking zones AT ALL.

We ended Saturday practice with a total of only six laps under our belt – that’s not even one full practice session.  We also left confused.  And finally “I” left Saturday practice kind of bummed.  We can run with these guys in Formula Pacific.  I know we can.  But we aren’t yet.  And Saturday we were even worse – we were actually in their way.   Being in the way like that while I struggled through our practice laps really left me feeling out of place.  I can ride through issues better than most, but I am not very good at fixing them.  This leaves me feeling helpless, too.   It destroys my confidence, and it haunts my every breath.

GoGo KTM RC8R

 

Right now it sounds like round 4 ends badly.  It doesn’t.  Things turned better late Saturday, well after practice ended.  It’s funny how this happens.  You push, you ask, you drive around the pits looking confused.  Some people ask why you’re not smiling, others avoid you all together.  Times like these are when you need your setup guy the most.  This weekend  I had a hard time getting Barry’s ear.  When we first started working together KFG was new here in the AFM.  Barry wasn’t working with many racers at all.  I’d like to think we had something to do with changing that, he’s busy as shit now.  But there’s a down-side to helping change something like that.  Now there’s a line at Barry’s trailer, if he’s even there.  I like to see this – someone being successful.  He’s good so this is how it should be.  But the worst part of all this is quite a few of the fast guys under Barry’s tent, now, are faster than us.  This essentially creates two lines before Barry – one that you can see, and another that you can’t.  I had a hard time moving us up this invisible line Saturday so once I finally nailed him I talked to Barry about it.  His solution didn’t come in the shape of words, it came in the shape of a man.  Enter, KFG’s J.J.

Now, I’m all about change.  Especially when facing a problem I’ll change everything in sight.  But J.J. suggested changes “out” of sight.  If there was a bell to signify the turning point in our weekend it would have gone off the instant J.J. entered our garage.  In less than two hours he had changed our front spring rate, adjusted our rear shock, taped a 1.5″ pad to our gas tank to move my weight back, and really wanted to lower the rear of the bike to aid traction.

JJ of KFG Racing

Rear weight bias

Front springs KTM RC8R

I am eternally fascinated not only by the number of relationships there are in racing, but in how well you need those relationships relating with one another in order to harness the one thing everyone out there is trying to achieve- MORE SPEED.

We’ve already established the fact that I am a high-maintenance bitch.  Also by now we’ve established that our bike is still cock-eyed.  But things were about to get worse before they could get any better.  Now I had to face a total stranger and dump all my data (bitching) into his lap, he had to interpret it, then he had to come up with a viable solution for it all.  And then he had to sell it to me before I’d jump back on what could have been an even more ornery animal than the one that tried to throw me over it’s bars just an hour before.  Add on top of all this, Keith.  Don’t think Keith doesn’t have his own reservations about all this.  I wish I could have watched us all wrestle our way through this learning process.  Surely we all faced the same question – “Does this guy trust I know what I’m talking about?

JayJay KFG Racing

Keith Rodrigues

 

With Saturday gone we would have just one practice Sunday, an abbreviated one at that, to basically start our weekend all over again from scratch.  Instantly the bike felt improved.  The greatest differences I felt were under braking the rear stayed down now – thanks to stiffer front spring rates.  The other difference came as quite a welcome surprise – our RC8R turned much better now.  I could roll much faster through turns now without struggling, without going wide, and without pushing the front or rear – also due to stiffer front spring rates.  This was fantastic, we were making progress.  But the wallows were still there, and the lack of rear grip was still there.  Two out of four was a great start to the day though.  After that we went out in the sighting lap of almost every race Sunday morning, desperate for more testing of more changes.  We never made any more progress though – this was the bike we were taking to battle in our first race of the day, Formula Pacific.

FORMULA PACIFIC
We lined up 6th on the grid, next to the very same Matin Szwarc that we have each round this year.  In our previous rounds he was our rabbit.  This round we had no rabbits.  My main goal was to survive.  We got a decent launch and stayed with the lead pack longer than I expected.  I heard Jeremy Toye nudging his nose under us into turn 4, but he backed off.  Then again heading into the Carousel, but he backed out of that too.  I have a lot of respect for him, he could have bullied his way through but he showed respect.  I could feel our rear spinning on the exit of the Carousel in just our first lap, but oddly we didn’t lose that much ground.  Such little confidence and grip destroyed our drives, but somehow going into turn seven on our third lap I could see the leaders just heading out.  We had made huge progress overnight.  Turns out we were now circulating the track at low 1:41s – probably five seconds faster than the day before.  In a way I was very comfortable, the bike was turning well.  Martin was just ahead and once again we were just a tenth or so off his pace.  We would lose ground on drives, maintain ground in turns, and make up ground on the brakes.  I started to push a little more but through turn 10, which is NOT a turn you want to crash at Sears, I spun the rear into a very high speed hi-side, which I saved, at the exit.  Turn ten is a hard-driving right hand sweeper which basically heads down an alley lined by walls and guard rails.  I wouldn’t want to crash here in a car, never mind on a bike.  This moment was our low-point for the weekend.  Possibly the year.  This is the closest we have come to very bad things happening in a long time.  Call me a bitch but we’ve got to sort this traction thing out NOW..

Dave Stanton crashed mid way through the FP race in turn seven, putting us up a spot in the order.  But this round had two new players – Jeremy Toye and Brian Parriott.  They finished 2nd and 4th so that pushed us back to 7th in the race, 5th in the championship.

Our lap-times were decent, and very consistent.  I feel confident that once we sort our problems out we can run 39s at Sears.  This RC8R has huge potential, we just need rear traction and to settle the wallows.

OPEN TWINS
It’s interesting, if you look at it on paper we are far more competitive in Open Twins than we are in Formula Pacific.  Why then was I twice as freaked out before the Open Twins race?  Because Tiger Boy/Desmoto Sport/Ducati – they all kicked our ass last round.  Straight up I rode as hard as I could in that race and we couldn’t get the win.  That rang my bell, apparently, because early Sunday there I was scouting Tiger Boy’s pace in his Open Superbike race.  It looked like he was struggling so I watched who was ahead of him.  I knew we had their pace as well, yet still that wasn’t enough for me to relax.  I told Keith just before our race to give me signals on how close Tiger Boy was from us.  I don’t trust his pace anymore – one minute he’s struggling and the next he’s blowing by us like we’re painted to the guard rail.

Keith Rodrigues

 

If that’s not bad enough, Saturday night when I got back from dinner I found this wrapped around our bars…

Sorry but at this point I just gotta ask…   Who does shit like this?  I mean think about it for a second – it’s a Ducati neck-band wrapped around what just so happens to be the likeliest source of our crash-threatening chassis wobbles (our triple clamps), holding not just one but TWO of Tiger Boy’s competition licenses – which just so happen to be resting on our RC8R’s Motion Pro throttle.  What, the, HELL!!!   Can there even be a limit to the tauntingly suggestive nature in all of this?  And then on top of all this I bring the dam things back to him Sunday morning and he denies even entering our garage..

I used to think “I” was good at getting into people’s heads.  And really I am.  But I can’t hold a candle to this cat.  WTF.

He was nice enough to wave from his grid as we waited for the flag to drop.  Bastard.  And then we were off.  I saw him to our side as we went up through the gears, he got out of the hole much better this time.  We took the run through turn one and charged out of turn two like half the Sonoma Police Department was in chase.  Usually I can hear Tiger’s bike behind us when he’s close.  Big twins are like that.  I couldn’t hear a thing – which you would think might relax me.  It made it worse.

They started our Open Twins race as the second wave of two separate races this time.  Felt like half a lap and we were getting into traffic.  Remember not only am I paranoid at this point, but I am also now a bitch.  I strategically passed lapper after lapper in what I figured would be the absolute worst places for Tiger Boy to deal with them.  I still couldn’t hear him behind us so I watched Keith’s pit signals like my life depended on them.  First lap his hands were close – I needed to get moving and I did.  Second lap they were all the way far – I’m supposed to slow down.  …”SLOW DOWN?” I thought?  “Not a chance!”  As long as there was a Tiger on the track I was not slowing down.   So I didn’t.  But I should have.  First of all I hi-sided but saved it, again, for the seventh time of the weekend.  Second of all Tiger Boy wasn’t even in the race anymore.  He had pulled off with clutch problems.  Can you imagine if I crashed out of the lead for no reason other than me being A COMPLETE…

 

So we ended a particularly tough weekend on two high notes – a solid run in FP, and a win in Open Twins.  Emotionally I am stoked, physically I feel like a train ran me over.  We HAVE to work our issues out, now.

Thanks for reading!

GoGo

  1. Brian says:

    GoGo, both races on Sunday were great to watch. I have never seen a bike so sideways out of 6 and stay rubber side down. It feels like you and the team are on the verge of some great results. Congrats on the win, and the first since the SuperDuke.

  2. Brian says:

    At Sear’s…

  3. Marc says:

    This was awesome! Your blogs put me right in the action. Keep rockin it…

  4. GoGo says:

    Awesome guys thanks for reading. There’s a video clip coming of one of the saved hi-sides. Should be entertaining..

  5. mattacme says:

    Great to see you and I’m looking forward to hearing what the solutions are for the chassis. Your talent earned you a good result in Open Twins and with a comfortable set up I am certain that you will repeat it, without the benefit of Mr. Metz retiring.

  6. GoGo says:

    Thanks for coming down Matt. Really great having you there. Next installment we get into what Chandler suggested Monday… Very interesting stuff. Not unlike your opinions Chandler is also against lowering the rear :-)

  7. Sonny says:

    J.J. Has this intense expression that resembles Josh Hayes during qualifying. Yours I can’t figure out.

  8. GoGo says:

    Yea he’s an intense dude. Not sure I know what he was thinking then either. Probably something like, “I’ve heard this guy is a real pain in the ass…”

  9. Tyler says:

    Thanks again GoGo, a KTM fan and CCS regional racer here from the east coast (FL). Funny when you said the rear was waggling entering and I am thinking springs (a problem I had running our Triumph 675) and loe and behold that’s what you did next.. I guess we aren’t idiots, nice to know.. Look forward to more updates.

  10. mattacme says:

    Tap tap tap…

    …monday has passed.

    Well? 😉

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