AFM round 5, 8/02/2012

As racers, out on track, we are programmed by flags.  They represent change.  Called over the airways, pulled from wooden stands, they are waved by our guardians to warn us of what lies ahead.  When you think about it, if you think about it, these are very rare and special times in life.  “Flags” are our greatest resource.  When else do people line our chosen paths for the sole purpose of looking out for us?  I’ll tell you when.  Never.  Instead, once off track and back inside the real world, the only “flags” we get are the ones we have the foresight to see, the experience to recognize, and the courage to react to.

Could someone please dumb life down a notch?  I need more, bigger flags…

If there were flags out there to wave in real life, someone would have made a radio call for a caution flag the first time Dannyboy begged that we test stock triple clamps on our RC8R over a year ago.  He mentioned it, I didn’t acknowledge it, we pressed on full speed right past it.  If there were flags out there in the real world someone would have waved one straight in my face the time I brought our RC8R to Doug Chandler a year ago.  He asked me “Why did you change your off-sets?  I told him “We got it measured, it needs it.”  Then he asked again “But why did YOU change your off-sets?”  That was a caution flag.  That was a guardian.  That was someone I placed out there on my own dam path, and I still didn’t listen.

Two rounds ago we had the great tire pressure debate.  Alex and I clashed horns.  Rear traction wasn’t there, it wouldn’t last, and I was bitching about it.  Alex swore our answer lied in lower pressures, I swore it was higher up.  To his credit, he bowed out of the fight.  He let me run the pressures I chose.  Looking back now I see that as quite a noble measure of his character.  He knew we would fail if we did it my way, but he also knew I needed to learn from my own mistakes.  His fight was a waving flag that I not only saw plain as day, but I also lacked the courage to listen to.  And then we failed.

Is this a trend yet?

It’s interesting as hell to me that I went into this weekend with such a different attitude.  I named this story “Meeting of the Minds” last Thursday.  Must have been a feeling I picked up on that something in me finally changed.  Enough flags flew for me to finally catch on, and now that I have this all feels different.  In fact just unloading our gear from the truck Saturday morning one of our Open Twins competitors, #101 Scott Miles, remarked about how calm I looked.  …another flag

We went into this round 5 wielding change like two six guns in a bar fight in Tombstone.

One rule I know and consistently cling to like it’s religion is you only make one change at a time in racing.  Otherwise you have no idea of knowing exactly what change affected exactly what difference.  In the spirit of adhering to my old proven ways (NOT) I decided we’d change everything all at once for this weekend.  What the hell.  Get all the work out of the way in one shot…  I knew I’d likely be in for a hell-ride in our first practice Saturday but keep in mind the fact that we qualified a 118hp KTM Superduke for an AMA Daytona Sportbike race at Laguna in 09.  I’ve been up against worse…

For round 5 we change the following on our 2009 RC8R:

1 – Rear axle placement (thank you DC10) – from all the way back in it’s adjustment range, to all the way forward which is about 1.5 inches – monstrous.  Idea being closer rear axle is to motor, the more weight is on it, the better rear tire traction it will have.  Theoretically we had too much of our weight biased toward the front of the motorcycle.
2 – Front fork spring rates (thank you Ricky Corey, DC10, KFG, Mattacme) – from 1.05 to 1.10.  Idea being steadier on the brakes, higher in travel which gives more trail, firmer ride.
3 – Custom Triple Clamps out, Stock Triple Clamps in (thank you Dannyboy Boyd, Mattacme, DC10, GP Frame and Wheel, KFG) – Idea being the farther away from the motor your front axle is, the less weight there is on it.  Again, our theory was we previously had too much weight on the front of our motorcycle, not enough on the rear.

wheels forward, weight back

4 – Gearing change – from 15/37 to 15/39 (Thank you Cal Moto).  We didn’t have the power to reach redline last race at Thunderhill.
5 – Tire Pressures – I gave in to Alex, we ran 19lbs cold in the rear, and 29lbs up front.  After some hard runs at this setting we took hot pressures and temperatures on the hot pits after I flew in at full bore – as to not let the tires cool and get an inaccurate reading.  We saw rear temperatures of up to 215 degrees, and pressures of up to 26.5lbs.  This is exactly the range Alex was looking for.  The front got up to 190 degrees and behaved very well.  So….  I was very wrong to want high pressures before.  Alex was very right.

First practice the bike felt completely different.  It even looked different with the rear wheel that close up under the tail.  I was paranoid about running the stock triple clamps, I feared we would lose front traction sooner once leaned over.  We didn’t.  I’m sure running stiffer front springs helped keep the bike’s nose more upright in turns and on the brakes, which likely gave us back the trail we lost by putting stock triple clamps on.  The next worry I had was the short wheelbase.  The closer the rear tire is to the motor the more the bike will lift it’s front wheel under acceleration – which could mean I’d have to back off the throttle at times and lose precious time on ultra fast laps.  Well that didn’t happen either.  I mean it happened, the front did wheelie more often and far easier than with a longer wheelbase, but I could ride around this new characteristic by moving my weight more forward when needed.  The new gearing was off, now we ran out of revs at the end of the front straight but not by much.  We changed it from 39 to 38 and stuck with that for the weekend.  With the stiffer front springs the chassis now felt out of balance – the rear spring was suddenly too soft so we gave it a turn and a half and all settled in just right.  By the end of Saturday we had run three practice sessions, all very calm, and each consecutively faster.

OPEN TWINS:  For Open Twins we faced two big unknowns – how would our bike launch from a dead stop with such a short wheelbase, and how in the love of hell could I get my mother’s computer, from 3,000 miles away, to play her our race over the live feed (advance playhead to 1:24:50 to watch and listen to the Open Twins race).  Speaking of this new livestream deal, I have to give big props to Axial Video for putting this live (and recorded) feed together.  For the first time in I don’t know how many centuries my entire family back east in NY was able to, AND DID watch our Open Twins race live.  There’s a lot of things you think of during a race, it was super cool to be thinking of my family back home during this one.

We’ve all been waiting for Tiger Boy to debut his new Ducati Penigale in Open Twins.  He finally did it this weekend.  That thing has an ominous look, and sports some fantastic specs.  In addition to this new steed we seem to have a new gun on the grid – David Raff.  I didn’t know David very well before this weekend, apparently he’s an ex-650 twins champion.  They tell me he held the 650 lap record at T-hill for years.  This could get interesting..

From pole position, completely paranoid about how this bike would launch off the line like with the new short wheelbase, I locked our front tire in the chalk starting box marked #1.  As the number one board slowly went sideways I gently felt the clutch just start to grab.  I do this intentionally, so I know exactly where the clutch will grab best once the flag drops.  Instantly this time though, the clutch locked up for an instant and lurched the front tire forward.  Thankfully I still had the front brake locked, so we didn’t jump the start, but one instant later the flag dropped and my perfectly timed launch was totally wrecked.  The front tire flew in the air, I had to back off, then get back in it, then back off again, then get back in it again…  It was a disastrous start.

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

This crap start put us 4th into turn one, which normally would freak me out but it didn’t this time.  Keeping in the theme of the weekend, all was calm and collected.  I enjoyed racing with the Open Twins field rather than running from them like my ass was on fire.  These are all accomplished racers, rarely stepping out of line.  I got to follow Tiger Boy on his new steed.  He seemed pretty far from the happy place I know he will soon be.  That new bike, like most new bikes, will take some time to figure out.  We passed Tiger Boy and Brendan Walsh in the first lap, both on the brakes, then went to work on David Raff.  David’s running a pretty stout Ducati 848 Evo, and he’s riding it well.  I stuck us in his draft down the front straight and made a move to his outside in turn one.  He pushed back so I tried again on the outside of turn two.  He pushed back again.  This was getting interesting.  We jammed through turn three side by side but I couldn’t make the pass, I chased him over the crest of the Cyclone, then I managed to push our bike under his just before the ultra high speed left hander of turn 7 while flat out on the gas.  I could tell from his lines that he is not yet used to racing a bigger twin cylinder machine.  I could also tell from his bike control that he will only get faster as time marches forward.  Once we got by I focused on the subtle differences of shift points, braking points, and moving my weight about on the bike at different moments and places.  We very comfortably ran a few tenths under our personal best lap times ever on our RC8R, and took the Open Twins win in style.

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

FORMULA PACIFIC:  Because of Dave Stanton’s crash at Sears Point we have advanced in the Formula Pacific points standings from 6th to 5th.  It sucks Dave crashed but I’ll take the points without complaining.  We lined up on the second row with a new plan to oil our clutch plates before the launch.  This was Keith’s idea, from the school of dirtbike launches.  He told me the clutch lurched like it did in Open Twins because it didn’t have enough oil on it.  Our solution was for me to hold the clutch lever in while the transmission was in neutral, then rev the motor a bit before going into our launch procedure.  I wasn’t sure this would work but I was happy we had a plan, and I followed it to a “T”.  Remarkably the instant that flag dropped we exploded off the line with one of the better launches of the whole FP field.  We got into turn one in fourth place, and stayed there quite remarkably all the way around to turn 15.  I was so comfortable racing with the leaders, Chris Siglin, Ricky Corey, and Lenny Hale on that first lap.

Photo by: Alex Florea

Photo by: Alex Florea

Photo by:

Photo by: Alex Florea

Of course we lose a lot of ground once the bikes go straight up and down – we are pretty aggressively under-powered in the FP field, but I could tell when the bikes are leaned over we are not far off the pace at all.  After our first run down the front straight I expected things to change rather quickly.  Martin was behind us, Stanton was behind us, Jeremy Toye was behind us – all typically faster than us.  I kept my eyes on Lenny Hale up front, who seemed to be losing touch with Siglin and Ricky Corey a little quicker than we were losing touch with him.  That was new too, I usually can’t see Lenny for longer than one lap.  Here we were half way through lap two and he was still almost within striking distance.  Second run down the front straight, third run down the front straight, forth run…  Keith’s pit signals stayed the same – arms wide apart (maintain pace, no one’s on our ass).  At this point I really started questioning whether or not I had Keith’s outline mixed up with someone else’s.  Maybe these signals were for someone else, maybe they were for the guy just behind me, maybe our once in a lifetime fourth place in Formula Pacific was suddenly about to vanish like the illusion I kept fearing it was.  But it wasn’t, and it didn’t, and by the start of the white flag lap I began to believe we might just finish this race in fourth place.  What do you know, I guess those signals were for us.  We ran through the checkered flag in fourth, just one position off the Formula Pacific podium.  And very well in sight of Lenny Hale…

Photo by:

Photo by: Dannyboy Boyd

I’m surprised I didn’t get D-Q’d for all the cockeyed wheelies I did on the cool down lap.  Each corner worker station I did something more ridiculous than the last.  This was, after all, one of those rare and special times when guardians line the paths we’ve chosen just ahead.  It’s right to say thanks like that.  If we ever make it to the Formula Pacific podium again I fear our RC8R won’t make it back to the pits in one piece.  It will be that big a day.

So there you go, the lesson of the weekend (and quite possibly the year) is “shut the hell up and listen to those around you”.  Pay close attention to the flags that you see, and even closer attention to the flags that you don’t.  Gather the courage, grasp the faith, and trust the judgment of not only yourself, but of those around you.


Photo by: Alex Florea

Photo by: Alex Florea

Thanks for coming to the track again Matthew! I’ve missed you buddy


SATURDAY NIGHT;  The bike is awesome.  I almost can’t believe I am typing this.  What a day.  The shorter wheelbase had me freaked out a bit.  Yes I understand the intent of running a shorter wheelbase was to get more traction by putting more weight on the rear, but managing a good chassis setup is like juggling flaming torches.  One adjustment here doesn’t change just one thing here – it also affects things other places which may be totally unrelated. Surprisingly the short wheelbase is better almost everywhere.  The bike feels nimble.  It boosts my confidence as a rider.  It goes where I want it to go, how I want it to go.  We definitely do have more rear tire traction.  It’s not perfect, but it’s vastly improved.   One thing I feared about a shorter wheelbase has actually come true – the front wheelies out of some critical turns here at Thunderhill.  Turn 9 for instance is a left/right switch back which simultaneously crests a very tall hill, then heads right all the way through the bottom.  You have to steer while you accelerate down the hill.  If your front wheel is in the air, you can’t steer.  And that’s what’s happening to us.  I need to work on changing this with my riding.  Maybe one less downshift for that turn will get the bike accelerating less aggressively and calm the bike over this rise.  That’s my plan for tomorrow.

Great news here, our hellacious wallow is GONE.  Oh what a relief it is to be able to hold full throttle while driving through fast exits.  It’s amazing how much of an affect such tiny things can have on a motorcycle at speed.  I am both surprised, and disappointed in myself.  Why has it taken so long for me to work these problems out…  Maybe I wasn’t listening right, or to the right people, or at the right times.  Lord knows I tried.

Poor Tiger Boy, his big 1198R broke down yesterday.  He drove to San Francisco last night, fixed it, drove back to the track today and it broke again.  Today he’s been practicing on his 848.  I wish he’d go get his new Ducati Penigale.  I know I would.  But, then, I’m not the sharpest marble in the box.  Maybe he’s being smart – he says he’s not at a happy place with setup yet.  The other downer is our rabbit in Formula Pacific, Martin.  Apparently he had a motor let go on him today and he got thrown over the high side and onto the deck.  They’re rebuilding his bike now, and he’s limping around a bit.   I hope he comes out strong tomorrow.  Jeremy Toye is here on his Kawasaki superbike.  Shit that guy is fast.  He passed us in practice this morning – our first practice when our bike was the most out of balance.  Surprisingly he did not leave me for dead.  A lap later we were still pretty close.  Man would I love to race with him.  We’re probably down 40hp on his bike but what the hell it’s nice to dream.

Tomorrow’s races will be broadcast live.  The video is lame – one camera, still, aimed down the front straight.  But the audio should be fun.  Follow this link:

We are race #5, Open Twins, and race #8, Formula Pacific.

Tomorrow’s a big day, let’s keep the wheels on the ground and fly,



FRIDAY NIGHT; tons of shit has gone on behind the scenes leading up to this weekend.  Some good, some ridiculous, but all ultimately resulting in quite a few strong positives – I feel good, we have a solid plan, our bike is on the verge of total transformation.

TO NEW RC8R, OR TO NOT NEW RC8R:  I pronounced our current 2009 KTM RC8R “retired” after round 3.  Getting smoked in straight-line speed was the reason.  We finally snapped.  To run with the best of the best we need more horsepower, so I spoke with our KTM area rep, Patrick Garrahan, about KTM helping get us into the later model, more powerful RC8R motor.  Our current RC8R is a 2009.  Pat tossed a few ideas back and forth with us and finally we all decided buying the 2012 “KTM RC8R Track” was the best way to get us racing with the late model motor.  So we ordered it.  About a month later something ridiculous happened – the RC8R Track arrived at Cal Moto, with a four year old 2009 motor in it..   WTF?

Turns out Pat, like most people at KTM USA, is one hell of a motocrosser.

The problem is, we’re not racing motocross.

Apparently Pat had no idea the 2012 RC8R Track comes with an 09 spec motor.   Unfortunately, neither did we.  So here it is in all it’s glory, at Cal Moto, where Mike’s been told it must stay.  Remarkably, even after being told by KTM US that we can’t send it back, Mike still has a positive attitude.  It’s no wonder we’ve raced together as long as we have.

Photo by: GoGo

TO CUSTOM TRIPLE CLAMPS, OR TO NOT CUSTOM TRIPLE CLAMPS:  When I took our RC8R to Doug Chandler after round 4 he made a few suggestions – “Fix your crooked triple clamps, push your forks forward, shorten your wheelbase, and move your rear axle forward to get more weight on the rear.”  When I told Mike all this stuff he saw the sense in it, and approved the push to rip the triples off and get them under the magnifying glass again.  Odd thing is though, the magnifying glass our fab guys had didn’t reveal anything crooked.  Poor Dannyboy – he’d been staying late, driving parts all over the place, begging our fab guys to look into our clamps, probably pissing his wife off, definitely pissing our fab guys off – and now maybe it was all for nothing.  In my eyes if you can’t see a problem, you can’t fix a problem.  This got us all, Mike, Dannyboy and myself, to agree on one final thing about our custom triple clamps – they just became really expensive paperweights.

TO LISTEN FOR ONCE, OR TO NOT LISTEN FOR ONCE:  I’ve been called everything from idiot to jerk to genius to complete pain in my mutherless ass.  Whatever, we all have enemies.  But you’ve got to think twice when it’s your friends that are calling you names, not your enemies.  And recently some of my better friends have been telling me I’ve got this all wrong.   I’m a bit of a contrarian so going left when everyone else goes right doesn’t freak me out so much – as long as going left is working.  But it hasn’t been, so it’s time for me to listen better.  Back to square one we go.  But we’ve never actually been to square one with our RC8R.  Always it’s been modified in some way or another, via any number of triple clamp modifications or builds.  Enough bullshit already, time to ride the bitch like it was stolen, as it comes stock.  Anyway Doug’s suggestion was to move our triple clamps forward one milimeter, which would have put us to stock dimensions anyway.

So there you go, a lot has changed and a little has changed.  Dannyboy and Keith put a new DID X-Ring chain on, and cut it to a shorter length – effectively moving our rear axle way forward.  So we go into tomorrow’s practice with a shorter wheelbase, a different offset on our triple clamps (stock – 28mm), and for the first time EVER ON OUR RC8R, we will have straight triple clamps.

Kawa-freakin-bunga dudes it’s time to go racing again!

More tomorrow night!



You must be logged in to post a comment.