Our first AMA Experience (long version, I’m warning you!.. link to short verision)
Since late last road racing season I had set my goals on making my AMA Pro Road Racing debut at Infineon this last weekend, and with hard work and support from so many people, I was able to make that goal happen. Well…for the most part.
I want to first thank everyone who was helping out this weekend, Sammy and Shelly from Racer 13, Jim and Nickie from Catalyst Reaction Suspension, of course my crew chief, KC from BRG Racing, my team mate Sergio for being a mechanic this weekend, and of course my Wife and family. Also thank you to those who stepped in with parts when we needed them, Ameen of Meen Motorsports, Steve of Evol Technologies, and the Sadowski bros.
Everything started off ok on Thursday when we were setting up and we thoughtthat we ready. We’ve had a pretty good string of bad events the last couple of weeks that caused us to miss out on testing. About 3 weeks prior to this weekend’s event, we came out to Infineon to test, and after getting about two decent laps in, a bolt broke causing the rear end of the bike to collapse—no rear shock. This ended our day early and didn’t allow us to get any data or setup done to the bike. A similar situation a week and a half later happened at Laguna Seca, the steering head bearings cracked, which made the bike extremely difficult (unsafe) to ride, and again sent us home early.
After no setup time on the bike, and the West Coast Moto Jam being our first ride out on the Dunlop spec tires, we really weren’t prepared for the races. Friday practice came around and we were trying our best to sort out a few last minute details on the bike that didn’t allow us to have tire warmers on, this was a BIG mistake. The Idea was that I would wait until there was clear track and I would go out on brand new, cold tires and get some heat in them at a safe pace.
Well, I got out on the track and everything seemed as we expected, a bit slippery. I was taking it at a moderate pace and my first lap, I was exiting the carousel (Turn 6) and was holding my line as I moved towards the outside curbing and alost had the bike straight up when out of the corner of my eye I see a rider going for pass on the outside, the outside where there is basically only dirt left. This rider was probably not on his out lap, and was moving quite quickly. As the rider passed me, we collided and instantly my front end tucked from the collision, throwing me to the ground. I did a quick roll and came to slide at around 80-100 mph. I watched my shiny new paint job slide down the track directly in front of me for some time before I finally slowed down enough to stand to my feet.
When there was a safe opportunity, I went to the bike on the side of the track and attempted to move it. There was mud jammed in the front brake lever that was holding the bike in place, once that was clear I noticed the shift lever rod was broken and the bike was still in gear. The turn worker and I decided the bike wasn’t going to be moved and left it there. From here I started my long walk back to the hot pits to inform my crew…
We had to wait until the end of the 50 minute practice session to get the bike back, missing out on our only chance to set up the bike before qualifying later that afternoon. However, with an amazing team effort and help from those mentioned earlier, we were able to get the bike back together and ready for qualifying a few hours later.
Qualifying 1 was cut into two 20 minute sessions, further reducing our chance to get the bike sorted and working properly. Again, with all of the commotion of the crash, we didn’t get the tire warmers on in time to properly get heat in the tires. As I went out to finally get some laps in, the bike wasn’t easy to ride. Switching to the Dunlop spec tires meant a few geometry changes that didn’t get accounted for/ set up for.
Saturday morning, in Qualifying 2, I came in to make a few suspension adjustments after about 4 laps, and as I went back out, the fun began. I was on my out-lap and as I came up through Turn-3a the tires didn’t agree with how much throttle and lean angle I was asking them for and the rear tire slipped out quickly. just as quickly as it lost grip, it regained it, resulting in the bike catapulting me out of the seat and over the front tire! I remember thinking “this is going to hurt” then thinking, “there’s NO way I’m going to crash…again!” the next things that happened are only believable because there is video evidence
If you’ve ever ridden the bike with your body on one side like I was, you’ll understand how difficult it is to steer. Once I was first riding the bike on the side, my first instinct was to stay off the racing line and coast to a stop in the runoff ahead. As I tried to steer, I failed miserably to stay off the line. I started to try and move my weight to the left side of the bike in attempt to steer, I realized after the second weight shift that I could get my legs back over and I did, completing a once in a life time save! Huge props to California Supermoto School for giving me the feel I needed to control the bike, and my gymnastics background for the rest.
I did hit my ribs pretty hard on the tank during my stunting, but I was more focused on the fact that the rear tire was slipping really bad—even on hot laps once the tire should have been up to temperature. I didn’t have time to focus on the incident, and came back in to make a few more adjustments to the setup, but the bike still wasn’t acting the way it should. In the end, with all of our short comings added up, we just barely missed qualifying by three tenths of a second; a big bummer for all of us.
Although I was done riding at this point for the weekend, I switched my focus and started give my support to the other two riders we pitted with, Bruce and Ricky. I’m glad I was able to provide some support for Ricky, since he was having battery troubles and we ended up pulling the Anti-Gravity Battery out of my bike and putting it in his for Race 1 on Saturday.
I had a chance still to participate in the fan walk on both Saturday and Sunday and had a great time meeting the fans and signing some posters for the first time I’m sure those of you who got your free East Bay Motorsports water were happy on such a hot day. I can’t wait to do everything again at Miller in a couple weeks from now, and this time we will be better prepared.
Again I would like to thank all of my sponsors who have helped me get this far, and who I hope to have continued relationships with for our success in the future. Thank you KC from BRG Racing for getting me up to speed, and being a valuable mentor, Bell Helmets for stepping in last minute to get me a helmet for the race (luckily my head never hit the ground this weekend), Brok & Supermoto Schools for training me and giving me the feel for the bike, Nickie and Jim from Catalyst Reaction Suspension for your amazing support in the pits this weekend and everything else you’ve helped with, K-Tech Suspension and Skip from Orient Express Racing for getting me off my stock suspension and onto something I can get feedback from, Ken from Pacific Track Time for the awesome canopies and the guidance that got me racing in the first place, GU Energy, Heroic Racing Apparel, Tech-Spec for getting me some tank grips this season!, Leo Vince Fast systems, Renthal, Viets Performance, Motorex, Woodcraft/ Armour bodies for great parts and bodywork that holds up well in a crash, I’ve used lots of different bodywork and crashed the Armour bodies at the highest speed and they held up great! And of course East Bay Motorsports for providing the fans with some FREE water for the weekend.
See you all at AFM @ Thunder-Hill this weekend, then again at Miller Memorial day Weekend.