AFM GP Championship “Desert Challenge” Report

The 2013 AFM GRAND PRIX CHAMPIONSHIP season kicked off at the famed Buttonwillow Raceway for the “B.A.R.F. DESERT CHALLENGE“, a track so many of my fellow racers call “Bumpywillow”. As usual, the track did not disappoint, as it was bumpy as ever! Bumpy as it may be, the track is extremely fast, and is also extremely challenging in the tight sections.

We arrived exactly one day after bolting on all new RaceTech suspension. That means all the testing we did at the WERA Las Vegas round was pretty much out the window, and we’d be going into the AFM series with a whole new bike.

Saturday, I was entered in the Clubman Heavyweight class (“heavyweight” refers to the 1000cc engine) and the Formula 40 class. We struggled through 4 rounds of practice to get the bike handling. We started on Dunlop NTEC tires, and just couldn’t seem to get the bike working. We got a lot of the issues worked out, and then at the last minute, we made a decision to switch tire brands this year after talks with CT Racing, Pirelli were successful and we signed on with them for 2013. Now, we were dealing with new suspension, AND new tire brands — back to square one with setup halfway through raceday!

We were pleased to find the Pirelli tires were an instant solution to many of our issues. Really, they were like bolt-on traction. All the sliding we were trying to solve with bike setup instantly went away and the bike felt glued to the track. That was  a pleasant surprise. As I went out for practice session three, the only real problems I was having were 1.) the bike wouldn’t steer, so I was having issues with trajectory and having to steer with the throttle, and 2.) With the stiffer suspension, the track seemed to be getting bumpier and I was a bit “squirrely”.

One of our geometry expert friends, Patrick Finch was able to help us figure out some of the bike setup issues, and practice session 4 showed a huge improvement. Suddenly the bike was steering, and our lap times instantly improved.

I lined up for the Clubman Heavyweight race, and was surprised to see such fierce competition. There were quite a few really fast guys that had been showing much faster lap times than mine all day in practice. At the drop of the green flag, I got a decent start, and was in fifth place into turn one.I gradually worked my way up to 3rd place, and was running a solid 3rd when on lap 4 my bike started running bad and as it turned out, I was running out of fuel. I wasn’t able to finish the race, DNF.

As I lined up for the Formula 40 race, I felt exhausted from a long day of non-stop motorcycle work. I felt lightheaded and I could actually hear my heart beating in my ears. I seriously considered skipping the race, and just taking a break until Sunday’s races. Luckily it wasn’t a terribly challenging race, and I finished in first place! 

Saturday results:

CLUBMAN HEAVYWEIGHT: DNF.
FORMULA 40: 1st place.

 

Sunday was a brand new day for me. With an incredibly difficult Saturday behind me, I was focused on just having a good day of racing, and having fun.

As I lined up for the Open Superbike race,  I was laser-focused on getting a good start. I ended up with a great holeshot, and as I got to turn one in first place, I could feel the pack right on my rear wheel! I led the first two laps, but then as I entered turn two on lap 3, I missed a downshift, and hit neutral which caused me to overshoot the corner. By the time I re-entered the track, Evan Treseder and Tyler Wolters had passed me, putting me in a distant third place. I decided to just put my head down, and focus on riding my own race, and one lap later I found myself on the rear wheels of them both. I was able to pass Tyler Wolters which turned into a real battle for the remaining laps — swapping places several times. I found myself in 2nd place crossing the finish line with Evan Treseder just in front of me. I ran a 1:58 laptime – not a terrific lap time, but it was the best of the weekend so far for me. I had the Grand Prix race coming up next.

As I lined up for the Grand Prix race, I found myself facing the same fast guys. I was staring a hole through the flagman’s right hand waiting for any twitch at all. The second I saw movement, I blasted off the line and it was a drag race to turn 1 with Evan Treseder, and I barely edged him out. I led every lap with him breathing down my back, I could feel him right on my back wheel. One mistake, and I knew he’d pass me. With a tight race for 4 solid laps, I suddenly felt my bike starting to sputter again. As we came out onto the straightaway on lap 4, the bike wouldn’t accelerate and I watched Even sail away, and my hard fought win fade away…

We later found an air sensor on the bike was malfunctioning, and I had yet another DNF for this weekend.

Sunday results:

OPEN SUPERBIKE: 2nd place.
GRAND PRIX: DNF

 

I’d like to thank the sponsors that made this weekend possible:
Seaside Superbikes, AXO, EPIC Cameras, Amsoil, SunStar, FMF, Woodcraft and CT Racing

 

 

 

 

 

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