The Daytona trip was the best worst 10 days of my life. I suppose I should start at the beginning. The plan for Daytona was massive. We were going to take down a lot of equipment and bikes with an eye on getting a lot of racing done. We were supposed to take down:
- Matt Carr's 748 Thunderbike. Matt didn't have all of his motor parts until 4 days before we left, so that needed to be put together at the last minute…great.
- Bill's 749R motor needed to be freshened up before we left and we didn't have everything we needed until 6 days before we left.
- My 999SR needed to be converted over for our rider Larry Denning which involved bodywork, numbers, stickers, etc.
- My 748 Thunderbike needed to be put together, and when I mean put together I mean every last nut bolt washer, motor, frame, rebuild the forks, etc.
- A friend's 749R went down as a B bike and needed to be looked over
- A friend's 999 went down as a B bike and needed to be looked over.
- A new 999 needed to be prepped and taken with us for a customer that was meeting us in Daytona to buy it.
- My GSXR needed to be prepped so I had something to practice on in case my back up ride didn't show up from Arizona (more on this later)
- All of our spares needed to be checked and sorted into a roll away tool cabinet.
- The trailer needed to be looked over and get freshened up.
- The tow unit, my F250 needed an oil and trans fluid change.
- Oh yeah, we also had to do all the normal daily section8 stuff at the same time.
Needless to say we bit a large chunk of stuff to do off. My Thunderbike never got done and Bills 749R and Matt's 748 were not done until I had already started loading the trailer. Did I mention we left a day and a half later than planned?
Matt and I managed to get on the road at 4:00PM on Monday afternoon (Bill was flying down Wednesday night). Of course the first practice wasn't until Thursday morning, but we had plans on stopping at Ducshop in Atlanta on the way down to do some dyno work with Mark on our way down. Originally we wanted to get to Ducshop on Monday morning (when they are closed) so we could screw around a bit and not have a ton of pressure on Mark as well as ourselves in case something went wrong. Well, that was out the window so we had to be there by Tuesday morning when they opened at 9 ish so we could get back on the road as fast as possible so we could get to our hotel in Daytona on Tuesday night and maybe get some sleep. I'm sure most of you are already doing the math, and you are right. Leaving the Detroit area at 4pm doesn't get you to Atlanta until LATE! We got in at 3am, oh joy. At least we had the first four seasons of the Simpson's on DVD so there was something to keep us busy. But unfortunately all the hotel rooms were booked in the area so it took us until 4am to get a room, Doh!
Wake up time, 8am and off to Ducshop, which was only 5 minutes away. Mark was there to greet us in the lot and we got right to work. First on the Dyno Bills newly freshened 749R motor with Mark's head porting and our careful preparation it made125hp! We were hoping for 120. 125 was great! And on top of that Marks dyno reads a tad low. Mark then checked the air/fuel (running VP MR1) and it was very close to perfect using the ECU that came with the Termi 57mm system so we left the bike alone.
Next up was my 999SR (S motor with high comp pistons, degreed cams, Corse ECU and a 62mm Termi Corse exhaust. After a couple of runs my bike made only 140hp. I was a bit disappointed to say the least but not too surprised, it has two race seasons on it. Then Mark cheered me up by telling me it was way lean (who would think that could cheer you up) and he threw a Power Commander at it and I went out in their lounge and did some emails while he made a map for it. After pecking away on the laptop for who knows how long and being in my email zone Mark comes in and tells me my bike now makes 148hp! Yahooooooo! Now were talking. The best part is that it made up to 10 more HP and 10 FTLBS of torque all the way down to 7000 RPM's. Now that kids, is a serious improvement.
Next up was Matt's 748 Thunderbike that he had just put together less than 36 hours ago. The motor is a 97 748. First run the bike made 105hp and was way lean from 9-11,000 RPM's. Matt is using a FIM chip though so Mark didn't have the software to tune it correctly. Not the end of the world though, after a couple of calls we found out that one of our friends was going to be at the track had the software and would bring it along.
We hung out for another hour with Mark, Wendy and their staff, who are a great bunch of people and then split so we could let them get back to what they were supposed to be doing………working, not hanging out with some goofball racers like us that can't stop telling you how fast they are.
So there Matt and I were in the truck again, cruising down I-75 at 75mph hauling 10,000lbs of trailer. It's like being a mini trucker, but no CB unfortunately. As you can imagine our lack of sleep started to catch up with us about an hour into our drive and we started going insane and licking the windows and making face's at people ……..did I say that out loud?
After another 7 hours of driving we got to our hotel in Deland (18 miles west of the track), got some food and much needed sleep. The next morning we got up at 9am, man that was nice. After some breakfast we went grocery shopping and headed to the track to see what the deal was with getting in and unloading the trailer. Now, I could tell you all about how frustrating it was dealing with the security people, and their incredible lack of answers, but I won't, you would probably start head butting your monitor. At 3:30 Team Hammer practice opened up their registration and that went like a breeze. After registering we spent about 45 minutes trying to find someone, anyone, to tell us if we would be able to drop our trailer inside the track. All we got was maybes and I don't knows until someone finally said no. Man, I wish someone had said that at 11am when we got there, we wouldn't have wasted an entire day on the off chance that we could get in. We dropped the trailer in the lot outside the track and headed back to the hotel and got some dinner. At 8pm Matt's Mom and Dad came to pick him up because he was staying with his parents who came down from North Carolina to see him race. I had to drive down to the airport to pick Bill up at 8:30pm and rushed back to the hotel so I could watch the latest episode of "Lost" (yeah, I'm a dork). Went to sleep at 10:30pm or so and up at 5:30am so we could get to the track and hopefully beat the crush of race rigs at the gate……..yeah right. We didn't drop the trailer in front of our garage until 7:30am and first session was at 8:00am, so needless to say we were jamming to get the trailer unloaded, get the bikes prepped, get through tech, etc. By this point I was ready for a nap, not riding. Our rider Larry Denning showed up at about 8:30 or so and we managed to make first session due to some sort of time warp space continuum. I went out on my GSXR because I had not gone over to my friends pit to pick up the 999R that my friend Pat Bushell from Ball Sac Racing sent from Arizona for me to race and Larry went out on my 999SR.
So here is my assessment of Daytona from a person who has never been there before, picks new tracks up very quickly, and has been known to put in some fast laps from time to time:
- Why is this pit out so narrow and when the hell are we going to actually be on the track?
- Holly crap, the "International Horseshoe" is not very "International", in fact it's a stupid little 180 deg second gear right hander.
- Why is this infield set up like a parking lot and why am I afraid that if I slow down much more at an apex I'm going to simply fall over?
- I can't believe how much sand and debris all the bikes are kicking up going on to the back straight and this is supposed to be a racing surface.
- Man, this chicane is awesome, flip it left, flip it right, flip it left again, wheelie over the apex of the exit, short shift third to stop the tire spinning and holly crap!
- Driving up on to the banking for the first time is like climbing all the way to the top of the high dive at the pool when you are 7 years old and not wanting to jump off because you are scared, with the added benefit of the fact that you are already going over 100mph and don't have a choice.
- Driving around the banking is like being sideways in a tunnel because no matter how far you try to look through the corner all you can see is corner.
- Exit the banking, drop down to the "flat" part of the tri oval (which is not flat), shift the bike into 6th hold it wide open and start looking for turn one which ends up being a whole lot smaller than it looks like on TV. In fact, compared to the banking it looks like a sidewalk!
- Brake hard for one, flick it left, short shift third, do the turn 2-3 flip flop, hold her wide open for another second or two and then get on the binders again for the International Horseshoe.
The best way I think I can sum up a lap around Daytona is this. It's like racing around a Home Depot parking lot then getting on the freeway in rush hour traffic while trying to go as fast as you can without killing yourself. One of our friends that was hanging out there with us and was also there for the first time said after being out for a few sessions "I think I would rather run the Isle Of Man than run here"
So, there I am in the pits, not feeling too good about the track and honestly not wanting to go back out. But I have felt that a little before at other tracks, not nearly as intensely as Daytona though, but I thought I could work through it and decided next session to go out behind Bill who had been there a bunch of times and just follow him around. Meanwhile in the pits we started getting Larry's (my 999SR) set up for him.
Next session I went out behind Bill and followed him around for a few laps but he was holding me up in the infield so bad I decided to just go off by myself and figure it out. But unfortunately there was that damn banking every lap and I couldn't will myself to hold the bike wide open in 5th, let alone 6th while on it.
After that session I came in and started to help Larry get the 999 set up. He was having a hard time getting it into the corners because the forks were not using all of the travel and the bike was wobbling all the way around the banking and he couldn't hold it wide open (sounds like fun huh). We took some preload and compression hoping to get the forks working and he wanted to drop the back end a mile to band aid the wobble until we figured out what was going on. He figured he would sacrifice steering for the time being on the infield so he could get the banking right since it was the fastest part of the track. We also threw on a new rear tire that the Pirelli guys wanted us to try out.
Third session came up and Larry went out in the group in front of me so I was not going to get chance to follow him around, but it gave me some motivation to try and catch him so I started to throw down some fast laps. I had gone out at the front of my group and had clear track which was nice since I could run at my own pace. My first time up on the banking I kept telling myself, "By the time you are half way around the bank, click it into sixth and hold it wide open." Well, I wussed out, but there are more laps. Next time up on the banking I am starting to catch guys from the group in front of me and I did exactly what I wanted to do, I clicked it into 6th and held it wide open all the way to start finish! Holly crap that was scary! But I got over it real quick and turned into what Matt calls "Crazy Jason" and did the rest of the session absolutely flying. The rear tire started overheating about 5 laps into it and spun up a lot and it actually got to the point where you could feel it spinning all the way down the exit of the banking. That was a manic session and I now felt like I could attack the track instead of just riding around. Larry was turning laps in the 1:55's and by some miracle I did a :49.
Back in the pits I did a debrief with Larry and even though we had run almost all of the compression out of the forks and we were running springs that were actually too soft for his weight the forks were still not using the bottom 25mm of travel. We decided it was now time to go into the forks and since Larry works with the "Thermosman" Mike Fitzgerald a lot and Matt (our in house Ohlins guy) was busy getting his own bike set up we took the bike down to the Mike's trailer so he could look at it. After bouncing on the front end a few times Mike suggested we remove 30mm of fork oil (I had already taken out 20mm previous to bringing it down) to make the dampening less progressive and try to get all the travel out of the forks. Mike also upped the rate on the fork springs to .95kg's to better deal with Larry's weight compared to mine. While we were over there we opted for a lighter spring for the shock because Mike said it would be better suited to the odd setup required for Daytona.
Fourth session came up after lunch and I went out again by myself and just "rode around". But I was having issues. Every time I went up on the banking I felt some sort of impending disaster was going to get me. I tried to work through it, but I just couldn't bring myself to hold it wide around the bank anymore. Simply put, I was not having fun so I decided to come in. My last time around the banking, while going very slow and right down by the apron in anticipation of exiting the track I saw what I didn't want to see….three riders get together coming down off the banking and a massive pile up at 160mph plus. I'm glad I was coming in, If I had been on the gas coming around there it would have been tough not to hit one of the six (three riders, three bikes) targets that were now crashing down the track on their way to the apron. I had a hard time picking my way through at my very slow track exit speed. Larry ran in the 1:54's during this session.
Once I got back in the pits I made one of the clearest decisions I have ever mad in my life. I was never ever going to turn another lap on that track again. I wasn't having fun before I saw those guys get together and that alone would have most likely caused me to make the same call. But after digesting that disaster on the banking there was no way I was going back out there. And it paid off because Larry needed a lot of setup and there was no way he was going to get it done himself.
So, after everyone got done telling me what a wimp I was (except Matt and Larry, they thinks the place is scary too) Larry and I got down to the business of setting the 999 up for him. Larry was still having front end issues but his big problem at this point was gearing. Larry was on the rev limiter coming down off of the banking and holding the throttle steady all the way to start finish, which is not good. The problem sounds easy to solve right? Wrong, he didn't want to simply go a tooth down on the rear because he was already geared a tough to tall to come off of the infield corners. We decided to go up one tooth on the front sprocket and he would start using 1st through the infield. I put the 16 tooth on the front and since we needed to set the chain tension anyway decided to throw another rear tire at it.
Larry went out for the next and last session and tried it out. Well that session lasted about 5 laps, that solution was not going to work. The street transmission in the bike didn't want anything to do with 1st gear and the bike was only pulling 9500rpm's across start finish. On top of that the forks were not working very well at all. We decided to go back to the 15 tooth front sprocket and take another shot at the forks in the morning. There wasn't much we could do then because Daytona kicks you out of the pits 1 hour after the last session (nice, huh?). Larry ran in the 1:53's in this session also.
Matt, Bill and I went to dinner and then to the hotel to get some rest for the next day which was the first day of racing. Larry called me about 9:30pm and we talked about potential setups with gearing and our fork problems until 10:00 or so and we decided we would keep the gearing where it was at until we could get the forks sorted because if and when they were sorted he may be able to run the bike into the corners hotter and therefore be able to carry a higher gear coming out. To solve the fork problem we decided that in the morning we would take them off and have the Thermosman put the superbike internals in them and hopefully find out why they wouldn't use all of the travel. Since Mike would be working on them for a while we would pull a set of Ohlins off of a 749R that we had brought down as a "B" bike so he could continue to ride the 999 in the morning and hopefully sort out other issues.
Up again the next morning at 6:00am and off to the track. We got to the gates at 6:30 but didn't get to the garage until 7:30 because we needed to get our CCS pit passes, wait in line, navigate the security checkpoints, etc. I immediately started taking the forks off of both bikes, put the spares on the 999 and ran the 999 forks down to Mike so he could get started. I threw some new tires at the 999, fueled it up and Larry went out for his first practice. I went and hung out on pit road and Larry came in for a few adjustments but aside from that he just rode around. After the session Larry came back and said these forks were a lot better than the other ones and they were stock, which backed up our theory that there was something wrong in there. He was having issues with the full floating Braking rotors that were on the bike though. He said they we juddering a bit and that it was screwing up his confidence. We decided to put some Vesrah Super RJL brake pads in which Moose from Trackside Racer Supply (the Pirelli vendor) supplied. Larry was in the 1:51's in this session.
The second and last practice session didn't get us very far. Larry said the brakes were still juddering and we still didn't have the forks back yet (Mike only had them for an hour and a half at this point). Larry was still in the 1:51's
When he came in from the session we took the forks off in anticipation of the other ones being done soon. Larry wanted to try a set of stock brake rotors and Pirelli had a dual compound Daytona specific rear to try for that afternoon's race and we put a "Zero" on the front which is a full blown super soft sprint tire. I pulled the bike to pieces again got the new forks on, new tires on set up the forks. Larry went searching for a thicker set of grips because the ones I run are too thin for him.
Larry's first and last race of the day was GTO which is a 25 minute "GT" race, a little longer than a sprint. Larry was using this as a "race practice" so he could see what the bike would do when it's being pushed, try out the new forks and also get used to launching the bike. Larry had a 3rd row start which was no big deal because it didn't matter where he finished since the race was a throw away. I hung out down on pit road with suspension tools in case Larry wanted to come in and make small changes. The race went pretty well. He launched the bike with no issues, got away from the pack of guys he was with after the first lap and ended up finishing 9th behind a 5 pack battle that he checked up and sat behind because he didn't want to get in the middle of it and risk wadding the bike up. Larry loved the new forks, he turned a best lap of 1:47.8.
When he came back in the pits we took out a few turns of preload on the forks, took out five clicks of compression to make the bike more stable on the brakes and put more weight on the front end so he could turn the bike in a bit better. We also added two clicks of rebound to the shock to make it so he could hold it wide open coming through the 2-3 flip flop. The shock was unloading on the flip and rebounding too fast and causing the chassis to unload and the bike would spin up and go sideways. After these few changes Larry was confident that we were very close to a good setup so we got out of the pits and called it a night.
Matt, Bill, and I went out to dinner that night and we didn't get to bed until 11:30 or so……….and then back up at 6:00am. We got to the track at 7:00am and everything was business as usual. Larry and I got the bike prepped for the first and only practice and we just kind of waited around and told lies about how fast we were for a while. Larry's practice was at 9:00am and I went down to pit road with the suspension tools in case he wanted to make changes on the fly.
When I got down to pit road they were just going out and I couldn't believe how many 999's there were (remember, there is $10,000 to win in the twins race) it was like watching World Superbike practice. I thought to myself, great this will show us what we have to deal with when it comes to race time later that day. The practice session did not disappoint. It quickly turned into the dress rehearsal for the Twins race. These guys were battling, it was great. Larry and "Clarkie" who is the fast Aprilia guy and also has $10,000 to race for and Larry were doing everything but trading paint. The track announcer was calling it like it was a real race! I couldn't see anything but start finish because I was down on pit road but to me it didn't look good. Clarkie was drafting Larry at the line but it looked like Larry couldn't do the same….not good. Larry and Clarkie were running in the 1:46's
When Larry and I got back to the garage I told him the good news that the rest of the twins guys couldn't keep up (except Clarkie) and he told me the bad news and that was that if he couldn't get a couple of seconds on Clarkie in the race Larry would not be able to stay in front of him at the line because Clarkie's bike is sooooo fast. The second part of the bad news was that Larry could not guarantee that he could draft Clarkie his bike was so fast. Side note, Clarkie builds hot rod Aprilia motors for a living, it may possibly be the fastest Aprilia anywhere. Larry was certain that he could out ride Clarkie because he was slicing him up in the infield but we had two things against us. The first was Daytona is a horsepower track and Clarkie had us by it looked like 10. The second is that Clarkie had pole position for the race and Larry was on the sixth row. Uh oh, thinking time.
At this point it would seem that we were really going to have a race on our hands, but we had half a secret weapon. By half a secret weapon I mean we had the 999R that my friend Pat from BSR sent me out so I had something to race. This bike is an absolute rocketship. Mark from Ducshop did his motor and it makes in the neighborhood of 170hp! The bad news was that we had not even started it let alone set it up and Pat needed to OK the fact that Larry could ride it. I had talked to Pat the night before and he said Larry could ride it, but the deal was still not closed. So, here is the situation we were in. We had one bike that was all set up and ready to race but was not as fast as we wanted it to be. One bike that was super fast and not set up at all and we had only one more time on the track before the twins race and that was the Unlimited Superbike race that was to go off in about 5 hours and the twins race was a half hour after that one. Obviously we couldn't just pull the forks, shock, etc off of my bike to throw on Pats because if Larry didn't like Pats bike in the Unlimited SBK race we wouldn't have time to get my bike back together for twins. Let the scramble begin! We pulled the forks and shock off of Pats 999R and a triple clicker Ohlins off of my friend Brock's bike and ran them over to the Thermosman who was kind enough to drop everything he was doing and make them replicas of the forks and shock on my bike. We then went back to the pits and started to set Pats bike up. The first problem we ran into was gearing, and this one was a big problem. Pat has a Corse transmission in his bike which has different gear spacing and a different final drive than my 999. We didn't have time to screw around experimenting since Larry had 6 laps to figure it out before the twins race which required we get it very close on the first shot. I called Mark from Ducshop and he dropped everything and figured out what the final drive ratios between my bike and Pats were and therefore what gearing we should run if we wanted to gear 6th the same as my bike for the banking. It sounds well thought out, but it came back and bit us later. In addition to the above we had to do the following to get Pats bike ready:
- Set the ride height
- New brake pads
- We found his front wheel was bent so we needed to replace that
- Rebuild forks
- Rebuild shock
- Change sprockets
- Change chain length
- Put Larry's numbers on it
- Change the Michelin livery to Pirelli
- Move the start switch to the LH bar
- Bigger grips
- Fix a leak in the front brake master feed line and bleed the brakes
- Remove the electric shifter
- Set the bars up
- Set the footpegs and shifter up
- Move the exhaust off of the swingarm where it was touching
- Get it running
- Go through tech
There were probably 10 more little things that needed to be done, but we were jamming so hard I can't remember what they all are. We ended up getting the bike all done and ready to ride 20 minutes before the Unlimited Superbike race. I think I was about to die, I had not eaten anything yet that day.
We got Larry out on the grid and I warned him about the fact that with the Corse trans it will do 80mph in 1st gear and the launch is going to be a nightmare. Larry did a dismal practice start on the way out for the warm up lap….great. Larry did the warm up lap, came back through and gridded up for the start. The whole time I am about to have a heart attack because the battery in the bike is weak at best and if he stalls it the bike may not start. Flag drops, Larry does a massive wheelie and they are gone. Now keep in mind when you are on pit road you can't see anything but start finish, I had to listen to the announcer for all of the action until they came back around. Everything I could hear was either crash this blow up that, yada, yada, Imagine how relieved I was when he came back around and was passing guys at the start finish line! Jackpot! The race went two more laps with Larry moving up the whole time… and the red lags came out. To say I was having a heart attack is an understatement. But when the bikes came back around to pit road Larry was with them so all was good (for us at least). Larry pulled up to me on the pit wall and shut the bike down. He popped his shield and I asked him what he thought. I couldn't believe it when he told me that he was on the rev limiter half way around the banking. That means he was topping out at the same speed my bike was doing at start finish with damn near a half mile left. Good in the sense that the bike was fast, bad because we had a big gearing problem. I took the bike from Larry because it wouldn't start and he rode the scooter back to the garage, I got to push it. So there I was, pushing the bike back and a bit of time to think. We needed to go up a tooth on the front sprocket to a 16. No big deal, except for the fact that I lent the sprocket to Ryan Andrews for his Ducati because we didn't think we would need it. On the way back to our garage I had to go right back past his pit so I stopped in and talked to his dad and asked him if they were using it. Unfortunately they were. I asked his dad what he thought the protocol on this was and he was non-committal (the same way I would have been) so I told him I would check with Larry and get back to him.
When I got back to the garage Larry was already out of his leathers and obviously deep in thought. We had two choices. We could simply take my bike off of the warmers and race it and have a top speed disadvantage or guess on the gearing for Pats bike and risk getting it wrong. The other problem was that with the Corse trans Larry was already using 1st gear in the infield and it was hard to launch already. Going up a tooth on the front and maybe even down one in the back would create a huge launch problem which is a big deal because he was on the last row and getting into turn one was paramount. Add to this the fact that it may even gear him to high to get drives in the infield we had tough decision to make. We debated between myself, Larry and his friend Joe Gill (a very fast racer also) for about ten minutes and Joe told me to go get the 16 tooth sprocket and they would continue to talk about it.
To say I was uncomfortable going back to the Andrews pit does not do it justice. I knew I could possibly be ruining any chance this kid had of a good race with only about a half hour to go before the green flag. Ryan's dad saw me coming and already knew what I wanted when I got there. He graciously agreed to return the sprocket to us and wanted me to come back in 10 minutes or so to get it. Man that sucked.
When I got back to the pits the decision boiled down to riding the bike we knew worked or rolling the dice on the one that Larry could blast by guys like they were on 600's. On a side but related note here is the quote of the weekend. I asked Larry how Pats bike was set up and if he felt comfortable with the suspension (remember, it was out of the box and untested aside from those 3 laps). His response "Who cares! That bike is so fast it doesn't matter!" I thought that was just about the funniest thing I had heard all weekend since we spent every minute until that point in the weekend doing suspension set up.
We debated for another couple of minutes and decided not to roll the dice and we would run my 999. I quickly got to work getting my bike ready for Larry and sent one of our friends Joe Lee down to tell the Andrews camp to put their bike back together. I imagine they were relieved. I know I was, I don't want to screw anyone and I felt horrible.
Before I knew it, it was time for the big race. Not only was Larry going for the $10,000 Bill was on the Amateur grid on his 749R going for a national championship. Everyone went down to pit road to watch the start. First wave was the experts and it was hard to tell from where we were standing (at the east end) if Larry got a good start but Matt thought he got into somewhere around tenth, not bad from the last row. Next up was Bill in the second wave. He got a cracking start off of the third row and went into turn one in first. The announcer was going nuts calling the race. Apparently Clarkie got the holeshot and was clearing out from second place already, not good. The announcer mentioned Martinez, Andrews, Boy and Stokes moving through the pack, but not a peep about Larry, not good again. When they came off of the banking and toward start finish the first thing I saw was Clarkie and a whole lot of bike lengths before second place, more not good. Then I almost coughed up my breakfast and lunch that I never got to eat when I saw Larry was drafting second! Man oh man, that guy can get through traffic. But we still had Clarkie out in front with clear track and at least a 5 second lead. But don't forget there are two races out there, Bill came around still leading the amateur grid. After Larry and Bill came through we were now back in our information black hole. The announcer was still talking about everyone but Larry and we had no idea what was going on. The next time I saw Clarkie come around Larry was within 2 seconds of him and obviously tracking him down, things were looking good. Bill came back around still in the lead of the amateur race and was building a cushion. The next lap was not so bad, now the announcer finally noticed Larry and was nice enough to tell us (and everyone else) Larry had just passed Clarkie going into turn four and was now in the lead. The announcer also told us that Ryan Andrews was now up to third and knocking on Clarkies back door. The next time around Larry was in first and Ryan was only a few bikes back in second. Now we had a race. Bill came around still leading the amateur grid and was obviously going to win if he didn't throw it down, which he didn't. Larry and Ryan traded the lead for the last remaining laps both of them an equal match for each other. The last lap was classic Daytona. Larry was following Ryan down the short shoot with intentions of following him through the chicane and drafting him on the banking before start finish. The fly in the ointment, a lapper in the chicane. Ryan and Larry split the lapped rider and Larry didn't get the drive on to the banking he needed. Larry still had a taste of the draft but came up a couple of feet short at the line. I was gutted. We did everything right, worked our asses off, Larry rode an incredible race and we lost by the smallest of margins. I suppose that's why it's called racing and not winning huh? Larry and the Andrews kid were in the 1:44 range the whole race. For comparisons sake Michael Barnes was doing height 1:41's on the Valvolene GSXR1000 with massive amounts of support.
Since the Twins race was the last one of the day we had an hour to get out of the pits. We cleaned up the area as best as possible and got out of Dodge. Just before we were about to leave Ryan Andrews and his dad came down to our pit in an attempt to "cut the tension" that was obviously there. We had skipped the podium ceremony after the twins race, not because we were mad and refused to attend. We simply didn't even think about going to it. We chatted with the Andrews for a couple of minutes but to be honest I was so upset that I cut it short as soon as possible and got back to the hotel.
We went to dinner at a nice little restaurant in Deland about 8:00 (my first meal of the day) and I talked on the phone for at least an hour with all of my friends that called and needed the scoop. We got back to the hotel at 9:45 or so and I took a shower and tried to get to sleep. But it wasn't going to work, I kept seeing the Andrews bike cross the line in front of ours every time I shut my eyes. At best I slept 2 hours even though I was so tired I thought I would cry. But not that this was bad enough, Bill was sleeping so I couldn't turn the TV on because I may have woken him up. What a crappy night.
We were back at the track for our last (thank god) day so Matt could run his Thunderbike race. When we got there Matt's bike was already to go so he didn't need any help with that, so I just started putting bikes back together, packing the trailer and getting ready to go. Matt didn't practice because the track was wet and we were done packing the trailer by 11:00am or so. Matt's race wasn't for another couple of hours so I wandered off to hang out with Larry on top his RV where we could watch the races for the day.
Matt's race was the third race of the day, and he had already qualified on the front row the day before. This was also the second time Matt had ever ridden this bike and it had a fresh motor in it for this weekend that he just finished before we left. Matt did a bang up job on that little motor. It's a 748 with a Ducshop prepped crank, Ti rods, High comp pistons with very tight squish, lightweight primary and secondary gears, lightweight flywheel, ported heads, SPS cams, 54mm Corse system. It made 93 hp after qualifying and that is on CCS's "Factory" dyno which reads 15% low. Matt was very close to the class rules of 4lbs/1hp. The race did not disappoint, it was a barn burner. Every lap was a battle. There were four guys at the front you could have thrown a blanket over, and Matt was one of those guys. Watching the race from Larry's trailer let us see everything but from the exit to the banking to the exit of turn one. It was a great place to watch, but we couldn't see start finish. During the race it looked like Matt had brake issues. He would be motoring the other guys on the banking, obviously gaining on them and looking like he was going to pass then he would be out of site. When we saw him come out of one, he was in fourth place every time. This happened lap after lap, but things didn't look to bad, every time they got on the banking Matt was setting them all up for the draft and pulling hard. Out where we were there were no speakers so we had no idea what lap was what, but it wasn't too hard to figure out which one was the last one. When they came out of the chicane and on to the banking for the last time Matt was already on the back tire of the third place Buell. By half way around the banking Matt had already passed the first Buell and was next to the second one and when they went out of site Matt was reeling in the Suzuki of Ed Key in 1st. We couldn't see a thing and couldn't hear the announcer so we jumped on the pit bikes and got over to the other side of the infield ASAP.
The news I got when I saw Matt's dad was great! He finished 2nd only .03 seconds behind Key on the Suzuki. What a race. Matt had never been to Daytona, new very little about the bike, was on a fresh untested motor, went up against the Factory supported Buell's etc. We are so proud of him it's hard to put into words.
So in conclusion, I hate Daytona. I have been told for years by riders and team owners to avoid it al all costs, but at the end of the day, you got to go there at least once. I have not decided if I will ever go back (I certainly won't ride there).
I would like to extend my congratulations to Bill Keros my partner for his win in amateur twin and therefore making himself a National Champion.
I would like to thank Larry Denning for giving it 100% and riding an incredible race. He was a joy to work with over the course of the weekend and is obviously the professional that his reputation would lead you to believe. We look forward to putting together a program to get Larry on Ducati's full time in 2006
Matt's accomplishments in the Thunderbike race are simply amazing. No one expected him to do so well in a tough fought class with lots of factory support. Matt should be very proud.
I would also like to thank:
- Moose and Teresa from Trackside race Supply (Pirelli distributor) for providing us with the "good stuff" and getting tires changed out at lightning speed.
- Mike Fitzgerald "The Thermosman" for taking the many hours needed to do two sets of forks on the fly when he was already busy at a hectic weekend. Mike is always a joy to deal with and his work is flawless.
- Joe Lee, who had come down to race but his bike broke in practice so didn't get to race. Joe hung out for the rest of the weekend and helped out in the pits. I'm not sure I could have gotten everything done without him.
- Brock Cattanach for letting me take his 999 down for a "B" bike. Which was a good thing because we stole parts off of it all weekend.
- Lee Finch for letting us take his 749R down for a "B" bike. Which we stole the forks off of for a few session.
- And I can't forget to thank Pat Bushell from BSR racing for sending me his bike out to ride. The amount of trust he showed when measured against the value of his 999R is amazing. Pat is truly an enthusiast and a fan of racing of the highest degree.
- And last but certainly not least we would like to thank every one of our customers. Without your loyalty to our shop we would not be able to even think about racing at the level we do.
So, now it's winter, the bikes need to be freshened up, plans need to be made for next year and as usual spring will be on us before we know it. We are now on the lookout and are making headway toward picking up a title sponsor for a team with Larry riding next year. If you have anyone who you think may be interested or you may be interested yourself please drop us a line and we'll chat.