Getting That Factory Ride - Part Two "The Storm"
"The engine is absoloutely screaming, wailing a beautiful 15,000 rpm howl."
I'm feeling good now and brake late and hard for the double apex 180degree left. The tire grips tenaciously through the corner and allows me to get hard on the throttle exiting onto the short straight before flinging the bike in a nearly straight line through the next left/right chicane. As I bend to the right to set up for the tight turn-11 hairpin, I catch a GSX-R750 and am unable to get by him cleanly.
On the straights, his bike is just fast enough to prevent me from drafting and passing on the brakes. For three laps, I'm held-up by this rider, losing a second or so per lap. In hindsight, I should have backed off and got a gap, but in the heat of the moment, all I could think was GO! GO! GO! The Speedway's closed-circuit TV and big screen system got some funny shots of me shaking my head in frustration.
Eventually, I made a Banzai! late braking move and got by, but the tire was already going off and the shock pogo effect was starting to cause wheelspin through the faster lefts. The Pirelli guys had told me that the SC-1 rear was good for about three laps at CA Speedway, so it was a little late, but I spent the last five laps milking the tire for all it was worth.
It took the AMA a while to post the final times, but I could tell by the scoring tower that I was 18th fastest in the odd numbered group, with a best lap of 1:34.813. Once the even numbered group had qualified, my final qualifying position was 39th out of 64 bikes. Sounded pretty good to me, until I found out the AMA was cutting off the grid at 44 riders. WHEW! that was a close one.
The talent pool in Superstock is deeper than we suspected. If I'd had time to extort another eight set of tires from somebody, gas and entry fees, and entered Formula Extreme, my 34.8 would've been good for 30th on the Formula Extreme grid.
Aside from reservations about the rear shock and the resulting arm strain, I was feeling good about Saturday's race as we packed up and walked over to the motorhome for dinner, satellite news and "rest." I quickly fell asleep on the couch, in my cycling shorts and cool-shirt. While I was sleeping, Dale, Ian, and Chris decided to get rip roaring drunk over in Scott's camper (Scott must be a patient man).
At around 2:00am, I decided to get up and take a walk around the paddock with my camera. As soon as I stepped out of my motorhome, gee, I just happened to noticed a white fluttering streamer from Mladin's motorhome: wouldn't you know it, some hoodlums had TP'd Mat Mladin's rolling palace. I took a photo for posterity and went back to bed.
The next morning, I heard a truck pull up and when I looked out the window it was Mr. Mladin himself, looking somewhat peeved as he removed the tissue decorating his motorhome. What a shameful waste of perfectly good toilet paper.
Saturday's weather was beautiful, much warmer and brighter than Thursday or Friday. We put on an old set of tires and I went out for an uneventful morning practice session. I turned a very relaxed 1:36.7 on the old tires and aside from the rear shock, the bike felt fine. After practice, we mounted a new SC-1 front for the race and the SC-2 rear I'd scrubbed in on Friday. We then topped off the tank with VP MR-9 and began the long wait for our evening race.
"I started to feel light-headed and nauseous from the fumes."
My mother and girlfriend showed up around noon and I spent an hour shuttling pit passes back and fourth to them on the sweet little KLX. We watched a little SuperTT in the infield parking lot, then wandered back to my pit to eat, hydrate and relax in preperation for the Superstock race.
As race time approached, my pits quickly filled up with well-wishers and it took some effort to say hi to them all, while trying to stay relaxed and calm. At second call, we pulled the tire warmers off and fired the bike up. I hugged my girlfriend and my mom, shook hands all around and nervously set off for the grid. Once there, I was forced to cool my heels and tires for about 10 minutes while the rest of the riders showed up and the AMA got the show on the road. While sitting there waiting, I started to feel light-headed and nauseous from the fumes. It seems like every other bike in Superstock was on the Neutec or VP bandwagon, because the race gas fumes were enough to knock out an elephant. Listen, brain damage is a small price to pay for five horsepower. After a slow lap behind the pace car, we took our assigned grid positions and waited another 5 minutes, until the start of the warm-up lap.
When we were flagged off for the warm-up, I went as fast as I safely could, and concentrated on getting heat into the tires. We returned to the grid, there was a very short pause and then it got exciting. At the green light, I left the line carrying about 3,500 rpm and carefully slipped the clutch to avoid standing the bike straight up. I was pleasantly suprised by the launch I got and found myself up around 25th position as we made our way off of pit road and through the turn 1-2-3 chicane. Approaching the left-right chicane into the infield, in a large pack of bikes at 125mph, all hell broke loose about five bikes up and two bikes to the left, as first one rider, then another three or four went down in a crazy mess. Bikes were spinning accross my path from left to right as I braked early and slowly threaded my way through the carnage.
Others around me were not as cautious as I was and though some made it past and improved their position, another two or three of them charged right into fallen bikes and crashed. After clearing the chicane and the mess, I gathered my wits about me and got back on the gas through the long left sweeper. On lap two, the shock started the pogo thing again, through that same sweeper and I started losing a little time due to wheelspin and wallow through the long lefts. With an Ohlins back there, I imagine I would've won the thing, see?
On lap 3, I was passed by a couple of the faster bikes that had run off in that first-lap melee, but all was clean and my race was fairly uneventful as I worked to maintain my position relative to the bikes in front of me. On lap 12, Tommy Hayden came by on his ZX-6R like I was tied to a fence post. His pass was super clean and his bike looked like it was on rails. On lap 13, 2nd place Adam Ferguson came by on the banking, his GSX-R 750 going at least 15 miles per hour faster than my ZX-6R. Then, on lap 14, the race was red-flagged and just that quick, my first ever AMA Pro race was over. I wanted to do a few wheelies and burnouts on the cool-down lap, just because I think the crowd expects it of the guy who finishes 33rd , but the red flag put a damper on the festivities. I was a little disapointed with 33rd, but I was in one piece with an un-scratched bike and nobody was mad at me as far as I knew.
When I returned to my pit, I was greeted by a visibly relieved Scott Buckley. My brother was beaming, my mommy looked relieved and glad to see me in one piece, my girlfriend was aloof as usual, and my buddies Ian and Chris were patting my back and high-fiving me. After getting off the bike and packing up, I reflected on the adventure, and decided that with an aftermarket shock and some time for my arms and elbows to recover, I'd be happy to do it all again. Anybody have a bike I can borrow? And about eight sets of tires? Can I get about 50 gallons of that gas and another two weeks off work? Hello, Ohlins? Do you have any idea who you have the pleasure of speaking to?
Sidebar: Bolt-on Racebike
Though the 03 ZX-6R and ZX-6RR are totally new bikes, Kawasaki has already stepped up to support the racer crowd, with a plethora of go faster parts. The majority of parts used to create my one-off "Factory Ride" came directly from the Authentic Kawasaki Accessories department at Kawasaki (see list below). Exerything listed here is available to the public and can be easily bolted on to your stock 2003 ZX-6. Big thanks to Kawasaki's Mel Moore, Scott Buckley, and Jeff Hoeppner as well as the following suppliers:
Race tires were provided by Pirelli
The race bodywork was sourced directly from AirTech Streamlining (760) 598-3366
The Daytona steering damper and Goodridge braided stainless steel brake lines are from Lockhart Phillips (800) 221-7291
The part# 7163 "gold" racing brake pads came from Lyndall Racing Brakes
VP MR-1 and MR-9 race gas was supplied by Mark Hall at VP Racing Fuels (909) 674-9167
The dyno tuning and ECU mapping were done by Hayward Kawasaki (510) 537-2257
|Sidebar: Bolt-on Racebike|
Authentic Kawasaki Accessories for the 2003 Ninja ZX-6R / ZX-6RR:*Parts used for this story are listed in BOLD
Part Number Description Retail Price