Racing People, AFM round 1 – 2014

Used to be I couldn’t walk through a restaurant without blood rushing to my face in horrified despair. People were watching, people were judging. I didn’t go to parties, proms, or football games. I couldn’t, I had locked myself in my own prison. Surely I got this from my Dad, he was just the same but he never made it out. Luckily I escaped but you never escape entirely, I still remember. Racing helped me through it more than anything. People would come over to my pit – sometimes to cheer, other times to challenge. But they always came over. It was a comical paradox actually; some expected I was conceded by purposefully staying apart from the rest, while I consistently tried but failed to ever fit in. Lucky for me the more these forces clashed over time, the less either of them seemed to matter.People are fascinating, we all have our things..

Late Friday night, maybe 3am, an otherwise numbingly mild-mannered Keith shot up noisily from his bed in Buttonwillow, shouting desperate commands to what surely must have been his crew. I didn’t understand a word of what he said but I could easily identify its urgency. Keith was, at that moment, a great and courageous Captain of a Viking warship. I know this. I watched him as he pointed, as he commanded, even aiming with his eyes at times. Somewhere on the other side of our nappy hotel room, even though I couldn’t see them with my own eyes, lurked the Viking enemy. Perhaps right behind the TV. I wiped my tired eyes in disbelief, how could I not see this. Either way, whether I could see them or not, I knew the shit was about to hit the fan. A fight was upon us, or we were about to sink. Could have been a sea monster for all I know, either way I was riveted. Then as sudden as he rose up with the confidence of a great Captain at sea, he laid back down in that ever so quiet, bashful nature that is Keith. I sat there alone again, staring back at a blank tv in a strange dark room, left to ponder yet another one of life’s cruel tricks. There really was no ship; there really was no captain. ….or was there

Maybe each of us are two people, I think. There is who we are, and there is who we are afraid to be. Most times we are one, seldom are we the other, almost never are we both. …Except maybe in racing. Racing is one of the rare and special places I have found where we can be all of ourselves. From the Captain of a Viking war ship, to the guy who solves the chatter, to the hero of a last turn pass for position – the racetrack is where it all happens. Sure, I get to ride our RC8R out there on track, but that lasts just fifteen minutes. I don’t get to build the thing. I don’t get to design it’s new pistons. I don’t get to have that feeling from the pit wall, that none of this could happen without me. When our bike’s front tire pulls up for the sky as we power onto the front straight, it’s not me who remembers the slippery sense of a con-rod receiving it’s pin. I can’t feel the gears of a transmission in my hands, and I definitely don’t deserve the credit when one works. When I come in from practice Keith always asks me about the bike – how does it feel, what does it sound like, how does it shift. Yes I’m sure he asks for technical reasons, but I think there’s more to it. I think our RC8R is in fact his war ship, and in this case he definitely, appropriately, even though he seems bashful about it, takes pride in being its Captain.

I need to thank Keith right now, he built the shit out of our RC8R this winter. I need to thank Calmoto’s commander and chief Mike Meissner, he took some chances since last August. We couldn’t get the parts we needed from KTM, no matter how long we waited. So Mike had to out-source some pretty special stuff. Which brings me to Greg Spears, of Spears Racing. For some reason none of us can make sense of, Greg took it upon himself over the last year to design and build 2mm overbore pistons for the RC8R. Since we didn’t have the cams, the pistons, or any of the superbike kit from KTM to work with, we put our trust in Greg’s parts. Keith assembled the results of this union into what is now the most powerful RC8R we have raced.

After Friday’s first practices, which were the first times we ran the new motor, we were in great shape mechanically. Interestingly that shifted the mother-load of weight onto my shoulders. It had been seven months since I rolled our blown motor into the grass at T-hill. I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle since. So now I am old, and I am rusty. Shit

Never mind. Two practices in and already I broke my promise to not talk about setup. I have to say it felt so good to be back. I was not fast, I was not even trying to be fast. But I was riding again, I was free again – to push or to wait, to try or to back off. Finally again it was my choice.

By Saturday the Captain and I had found a moderate pace. Alex of Fastline helped us decide not to use hot gas, as we still don’t have a way of programming maps. We were too lean, he put us on pump gas to be safe. Something strange about the ECU that came on this version of this RC8R – we can’t break into it. I didn’t care about gas, I would have run the bike on milk. I didn’t care about lap times either. In fact any time someone asked if I knew our pace I told them to stuff it. Two things I don’t do anymore – scales or stop-watches. My plan was to work back into racing gradually, maybe we’d go for laptimes come June, but not until. This lax Saturday attitude came back to bite us in the ass for Formula Pacific, but I’ll get to that..

Three things I struggled with out there which I didn’t expect; the bump before Riverside, the bumps after Riverside, and the turns. Other than those three problems the bike was monstrously faster than it has ever been. We went up, we went down, we went sideways quite a bit with setup – until once again we hit on our solutions. We picked up right where we left off as far as working out setup issues. Really good stuff.

I felt the back hit those bumps too sharp. I could feel the rear land again too far out of line, that would get everything twisted and bucking, which sucked going into Riverside. Then once it settled down and my balls dropped back from my throat, I felt the front turn in too much at full lean. The tire changed its shape, the bars turned in – then it would snap back straight and start all over again. We softened the rear, sped up the rebound, Barry went up a spring-rate in the front and we put 1.5lbs in the tire. Bam, Sunday morning we were faster, the bike was calmer, but I still had a hard time zipping my leathers shut. Fucking Girl Scout cookies…

Open Twins: We started on the front row, which wasn’t hard to do – there was only one row. WTF happened to Open Twins? Brendan Wal0T(.IUO/R64w4N+-άJ24*(pS33JsRL t