It’s been a few years, but I really wanted to do a write up how I came to build my race bike: a Suzuki SV650 powered Ducati 1098S- or as I like to call it, a “Duzucati”. A big reason why I wanted to write this up is because building custom/one off race bikes used to be a lot more popular, but with the advent of the modern “street bike” (really a race bike with mirrors and blinkers) custom bikes have gotten a lot rarer. People no longer need to do radical custom modifications to get a bike to make good horsepower and handle properly- you just need to walk into the local dealer and give him some money.
I had originally planned on glossing over some of the problems in order to focus on the positive parts of the story, but after a lot of consideration I decided to tell the whole story because I wanted to be honest about the experience. Building the bike and making it competitive wasn’t easy and it seemed dishonest to pretend that everything went smoothly.
So I was looking through my “Drafts” folder and found this post that I started writing back in September of 2011. This was back when I was racing my first race bike and before I built the Duzucati. Not sure why I didn’t post it back then, but looking back over the past few years I can’t say that much has changed. :)
So it’s almost the end of my third year racing in the AFM in a “cheap” class: 650 Production. Basically you take a relatively inexpensive motorcycle like a Suzuki SV650 and make it a race bike with limited modifications. If you’re not familiar with motorcycles, basically the SV650 isn’t a “race” bike like the sport bikes you’re familiar with. SV’s are great for commuting or just going out for a leisurely sunday ride, but they’re not that sporty, don’t make a lot of horsepower and hence don’t go through tires as quickly and since it’s production legal with a minimum amount of engine modifications should last a fair bit.
After Round 3, I was able to get a lot of track riding in which ended up being both good and bad. The bad came early- a lowside while riding the new full 5 mile Thunderhill course. Both I and the bike came away with only minor damage (me bruised ribs, the bike just damaged controls) but it was enough to end my day. The good was both I and the bike were easily fixed and I was able to do 2 more days at Thunderhill (in ~110F heat!) before the AFM race weekend. All the extra riding really helped my “bike fitness” as I always find that no matter how much I work out in the off season, I can’t replicate the kind of motions while aggressively riding out on track.
I did the Friday trackday of the race weekend I had two goals:
After missing the last three rounds (my engine leaking oil from the cases at Round 7 last year, an electrical issue for round 1 and an injury sidelining me for round 2), I was desperate to finally get back out on track. I literally hadn’t been on a motorcycle since October of last year and I felt like a heroin addict in withdrawal. There was of course the small issue of a severed tendon in my left middle finger which had me sidelined last round. I remember having the following conversation with my physical therapist just a few days days before round 3:
Me: So when do you think I can start moving my finger and start racing? I have a race in little over a week.
PT: Racing? Like a marathon? Oh, no you can’t do that, far too dangerous! You might trip and fall and hurt your finger!
Me: Actually I was talking about bike racing.
PT: Oh, no, that’s far worse… people crash in bicycle racing all the time and you might re-injure your finger!
Me: Uhm… not bicycle racing, motorcycle racing…
At this point I got that look motorcycle racers have been getting from “normal” people since the beginning of time. You know the one- it’s where you suddenly you feel the need to touch your shoulder just to make sure that you don’t have a second head growing out of it. Clearly I wasn’t going to the answer I was looking from the physical therapist! She did however say that the final decision on these matters would be up to my doctor: Dr. Ting.
As luck would have it, I had a follow up with Dr. Ting on Tuesday the 27th and he cleared me to start moving the finger for the first time in 7 weeks and said it was OK to ride if I wrapped my finger to help support it. Two days later I had the truck loaded up and I was driving up to Thunderhill Raceway! Continue reading →
So I had planned on doing regular reports after each and every AFM round during the 2013 season. But after missing the first three rounds due to mechanical problems and then a constant struggle to not just develop a new bike, but make it reliable enough so I could just concentrate on my riding, I ended up having a really hard time talking about the project in the kind of positive manner that I wanted to.
Not to say I figured this year would be easy- building a one-off custom race bike is of course going to be fraught with lots of challenges, but frankly, the problems I ended up having left me exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was share them with the world.
In the end though, I wanted to make sure to have a record of 2013 and take the time to thank my sponsors and everyone who helped me if for no other reason so that when things go better next year we’ll be able to look just how far things have improved.
So, long story short, back in October 2012 we started off with this poor 2008 Ducati 1098S with less then 1,000 miles:
It’s been a few weeks now so I’ve had time to digest the 2012 AFM season.
Things definitely started on the wrong foot with the first race of the season being cancelled due to weather conditions. That left six races for the season- four at Thunderhill and two at Sonoma Raceway (aka Infineon, aka Sears Point). I had worked a fair bit on my fitness and mental preparation in the offseason and it definitely showed in my riding- I was much more consistent and my practice times were finally only a second or two off of my race times which really helped me with bike setup and consistency and confidence in my races. Continue reading →
After a weekend of racing I was emailing back and forth my mentor K.C. and during the exchange he asked me: “Why do you race?” Surprisingly, I couldn’t just spit out the answer- it took some time to internalize the question and get to the core nugget of truth: Continue reading →
I don’t really have the time to write up a full race report, but I really wanted to send out a few thank you’s to everyone who helped me out at the last AFM round:
Dave, Jim and Nickie at Catalyst Reaction for completely redoing my suspension and working with me over the three days to dial in my suspension and geometry. After struggling with setup at the last Thill round where I felt we were just chasing our tail in circles trying to find something that worked, I was both worried and excited coming to Sears for the first time in nearly a year with a completely different setup. Turns out I was right to be excited- we made an amazing amount of progress in a relatively short period of time out on track and I went faster in practice then I ever had before and then faster again still in my races.
K.C. Gager of BRG Racing for helping me wrench on my bike, talk strategy and mentoring me at and away from the track. I can’t really begin to say how lucky and honored I am to have a sponsor like you who invests so much time and effort into my race program.
Matt Lai for bringing me a rear axle Saturday morning after mine decided it had lived a good life and no longer wanted to be apart of my race program. Thanks Matt!
Frank Shermon for letting me strip the radiator off his bike Saturday evening after my bike started overheating.
Ernie Montague for bringing me yet another radiator Sunday when Frank’s turned out to have problems of it’s own.
Chris Maguire and crew at Pirelli…. actually I didn’t buy tires from Chris this round or anything like that that. I ended up just using the same tires I raced on last round for Friday’s trackday, Saturday practice and my three races on Sunday. Put my personal best lap time at Sears on the last lap of the last race on tires with 4 days on them. :teeth
KC wasn’t able to make it up this round which was going to suck and not just because it meant I’d be without A/C either- KC has been a great mentor for me all year and it seems I need someone to kick me the pants lately and KC has been more then happy to oblige.
Instead, I stopped by BRG on the way up to the track on Friday and we talked about where I was loosing time and goals I should set for myself. KC said he thought I could do a 2:02 and I think I laughed. I mean, drop 3 seconds in a weekend? Riiiiight. Seemed like a big step at this point. But I’ve learned to listen to KC and so I told him I’d push harder this round in practice and try to build off that in the races. Honestly, I would of been happy with just improving my times at all. Continue reading →
So I haven’t done my normal post race writeup’s this year… mostly because I really just wanted to forget the early rounds. I had really high hopes for this year: my first year with white plates, a new motor, new fairings with a pretty paint job. And then I missed the first round with food poisoning and things really didn’t improve that much for the next few rounds.
Anyways, the last round at Sears actually went pretty well with me putting in a series of personal best laps in the last race and so I was looking forward to coming back to Thunderhill. The bike was running great and I’ve always liked the track even if my laptimes (best a 2:06.3) haven’t been anything to brag about in the past.
For round 6 I’d be pitting with KC/BRG Racing again. Having KC available to talk about bike setup, strategy, lines and to basically kick my ass into gear has been nothing but awesome. The fact that his trailer has A/C and the temps were near 100F didn’t hurt either. :) Saturday practice was pretty uneventful, but my laps were as usual for practice pretty crappy. I’ve never been able to do anything close to race pace in practice and I pretty much hit a wall at 2:10. KC and I spent a lot of time talking about lines and what I needed to do to get my laptimes down between practice sessions and so I hoped I could bring my A-game on Sunday for the races.
My first race was 650Twins which all things considered went pretty well since I did a new personal best of 2:05.8 on the last lap and finished 19th, my best so far this year. It was only one lap, but at least I was consistent in the 2:06-7 range and so I hoped to build on that in my next race: 650 Production.
For some reason, I haven’t been getting as good starts this year as I did last, and this race was no different, but at least I was able to get the spot I lost back going into turn 1. I slotted in behind Stephen Smith (#769) who had beaten me in the last race. I had a good run on him down the hill out of T9, but couldn’t quite show him a wheel on the brakes and lost 5 or 6 bike lengths on the exit. I was however a lot stronger in T1 & 2 and thought I had him on the inside going into 3, but he shut the door on me and so I looked for my next chance.
That came at the end of lap 2 as I got a much better drive out of the T13. Stephen was about mid-track so I went to the outside, hoping I could carry more corner speed through 14 and beat him on the exit of 15 for the long front straight. Unfortunately for me, Stephen started to drift over to my line before I could show him a wheel and I had to give way to avoid a collision. I was still able to get a good drive out of 15 and was right on his tail into the first turn. I knew I was able to carry more corner speed through Turn 2 and so I set to pass him on the outside on the exit of 2 and into 3 and was able to make it stick this time. From the last race I knew Stephen would be all over me and so I put my head down and tried to get a little space. Just up ahead I saw a couple of Super Dino’s and I knew I had to get past them as quickly as possible and hope they’d hold him up. I was able to get the first one on the exit of T6 and the other on the exit of T8.
As I came over the hill, I could see two more bikes far in the distance so I took after them and found myself right on their tail a lap later coming out of the esses onto the back straight. I got the Super Dino on the brakes into T14 and caught up to Patrick Murphy (#752) coming out of T1 with two laps left. I followed Patrick for a few turns to get an idea of his lines and found myself getting a much better drive out of T9 and easily passed him before entering 10. With about 1-1/3 laps left, I pushed hard to keep Patrick at bay and finished in 8th place- my best of the year. Even better, I put in my most consistent times ever at Thunderhill with 5 laps in the 2:05-06 range… hardly fast, but at least I was improving and I knew where I was loosing time.
I ended up skipping Formula 4 since I seemed to be suffering from the heat and/or not enough food earlier in the day and it didn’t make sense to go out there and push hard when I’d already made a number of improvements. Spent the rest of the day hanging out, drinking beer and talking to all my friends before packing up for the drive home.