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October 2004. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . intro to racing write up
( track map )
( media: pics and video )

Limited edition Ducati MH900e replica makes podium debut at Willow Springs

October's WSMC race weekend was a great event on track and with perfect conditions, too!

This month's special preparations are more of the "get ready to go racing variety" and included sorting out a Michelin tire deal that's already saving at least $100/month. The Ca Cycleworks racing effort also welcomes aboard Catalyst Racing Composites as bodywork sponsor. They're new to the bodywork scene, but Mike Verdugo, the owner, has been doing glass for years. He has been a racer for years, too. What's really great about Mike and Catalyst is his enthusiasm for eclectic bikes, like the MH900e. He appreciates the MH and is willing to take the time to make molds for it, knowing that he'll only get a dozen or so sold. Ever. But having the molds for the MH will enable him to fab "vintage style" bodywork for other models. Ca Cycleworks is also a PD Tire Warmer dealer and I got a set of their warmers for the MH.

The next prep item was to get the Ducati Performance oil catch pan mounted up, as beginning with October, all motorcycles at WSMC are required to have oil catch pans. I got lucky in that the Monster and MH are quite similar (with the MH900e's cast aluminum faux sump removed). The engine is identical to Monsters and I only needed to relieve a little of the fairing where the exhaust pipe runs as well as where the engine mounted rear brake master cylinder is mounted.

Due to the annual Toyota 200 being on Sunday, the WSMC club races were all on Saturday. "Normal" Saturday practice is cancelled and WSMC racers practice on Friday, the normal "track day" at willow. I thought it would be great to get Zina to come up, too, and ride her Monster in "Track day" prep on Friday. As it turned out, there were no street sessions this Friday due to the number of WSMC racers practicing as well as the practice sessions for the 250/50 and the Toyota 200 qualifying. And Zina spent all day Friday cleaning her bike and helping out in the pits.

( click above image for 1200x800 wallpaper )

We drove up Thursday night and Friday was absolutely perfect conditions. We got up and in early enough that I was able to make all 5 of my practice sessions. My times quickly dropped to the 1:33 ~ 1:34 range, which pleased me greatly. I finally got comfortable with the bike, which establishes trust and allows for speed to happen. The Michelins and PD tire warmers made me a very happy racer. The PD warmers are slightly more bulky than the Bandit/Graves warmers but are thinner than the Woodcraft "Tire Baker" warmers. Also, I really like the simple design of the PD tire warmers: a simple velcro strap gets mounting started, once rolled up, there is the typical Velcro closure along the center. On the edges, there are plastic hooks on bungee cord that hook on loops at the other end of the cord. Easy to hook and unhook these even while gloved. Plus, the warmers heat up quickly and have bright LEDs to tell you they're on and/or heating.

Friday night at the Park Plaza (a great Hotel that offers "Willow Springs" discount!), we discovered wireless internet service in the room. YAAY! That is so nice! Zina was really stressing over making her updates to ducati.com/racing during the MotoGP race weekend and having wireless high speed internet in the room really helps out. AND it will make it so that Zina can come to the track during WSMC race weekends that conflict with the "world" events. There was also wireless internet at the track, but access was spotty and kind of slow. That's not yet to be relied upon, but will be an awesome thing once running, as then there will be no excuses for Zina to not come out on a WSMC weekend.

I don't really have that much to report about riding on the track Friday other than being paid a huge compliment from a fellow racer … he was on a GSXR750 or 1000 and said that I had awesome speed up through turns 3-4-5 and that he'd catch me on the straights and then said I would crush him through there. I thought that was really really cool. I wasn't feeling particularly fast through there. One thing to note about Friday practice is that after 4 sessions, I lost some of the hardware for my oil catch pan and the rest of the screws were loose. I need to come up with something different, as the current situation has the mounting screws thread directly into the engine covers. What would be better is to make a post/stud that threads tightly into the engine and then have protruding stud with a hole and then use a hitch pin, a la Army of Darkness in the latest Roadracing World magazine.

Saturday was more "breezy" than Friday, but still a great day. Zina worked very late into the night at the hotel to cover the Phillip Island MotoGP, so she rode to the track late on her Monster. I missed the first warm up rotation as is my habit and my first race up was Formula Twins. I had serious butterflies in my belly, but otherwise felt good. I was properly respectful of the track and going to race … not fearful of my life. So, a good nervous. With the bike on the warmers and me suited up, the calls were finally made and an anxious MH900e racer could "do something" and stop sitting around and wait. Went out on the warm up lap … slightly tentative and a couple of the bikes passed me on the out lap. This kinda showed me the competition and I recognized the bikes … and knew that a podium spot would be unlikely. Going over turn 6, one of the riders ran off the edge of the track, so I shot over to the inside of the track and kept the throttle pinned to get away in the chance he shot across the track. We gridded up and waited for Craig to get us underway. The inattentive move I watched on the warm up lap made me slightly jittery, but all was well.

Craig Hubert, the starter, put up the 2 board then flipped down to the 1 board and when he put the one board sideways, a rider launched early, jumping the start. Craig immediately waved the green flag and the rest of us took off. I got a pretty good start and was with the bikes going into turn 1 when the same SV that jumped the start went into turn 1 and parked it on the apex. I wasn't expecting to have to check up, so wasn't set up to go around him and had to park it, too. We powered on out of the turn and I took the inside line from him going into turn 2. Heh. I kept the throttle mostly on through turn 2 and rolled to wide open as I crowned the exit and the MH900e started drifting for the outside of the track. I really like the lazy drone of the MH's engine. Fully tucked, I hurl myself from ~110 mph to 125 as turn 3 looms ahead. Since I'm not exactly lighting the world on fire with my pace, I enter turn 3 up the center of the track (leaving room for those truly faster if they attempt a pass), hanging off to the left as I brake hard and then arc up into the turn, rolling the throttle back on as turn 4's curbing appears on my line when I flick the MH from full left to full right lean. I roll out of the throttle as the bike's speed carries me wide at the top and then roll on as I shoot back down by the 4b "barrel" with my knee on the deck (this is where the action pic is taken) and head fully tucked down the hill to turn 5 with the throttle pinned. I sweep a gentle arc from the left to the right were the curbing is as I jab the brakes to set me up for diving to the left to head up the hill out of turn 5. This time, my left knee slider catches the inside curbing of 5 and the throttle is again on the stop as I power up the hill to turn 6. On "real" bikes, you carry 5 on a tight exit to enable a late entrance into 6. This helps to prevent running off the exit of 6. I briefly ease off the throttle as the rear wheel drops into the dip at the crest of the hill. Then it's max power and full tuck with two upshifts going into turn 8. Depending on the feeling of how the bike is making the turn in 8, I'll either stay fully tucked or will rotate off to the inside a little, sticking out my right knee. I'm not quite able to keep the throttle full stick through 8. Perhaps is because the MH900e has more power and torque than the Aprilia RS250, but a more likely reason is the long furlough from the track combined with the newness of the MH to me.

As 8 straightens out and I look to 9, I click down to 5th gear and work on bending in to 9. The thing to do is hang out as long as you can by the left third of the track and then sweep down to the apex in such a way and with such speed that the line on the exit takes you close to the pit lane. Here, there are no issues with the MH's power being too much and I'll have it pinned from well before the apex. :-) It also helps when there is a bike or two ahead of you, showing the way. Full tuck up the front straight and the more powerful twins pull a sizeable gap on me. The race turns into something of a real fast practice session until lap 4, when a Ducati 748 goes past me on the front straight. Hmph.

I now start stalking the red 748, looking to retake my position. We go into turn 1 and I gain some time. Through 2, I gain a lot more, but his 10~15 hp is pulling me going to turn 3 and I'm not close enough to stuff up the inside. Going up over "the Omega" and through 6, I find have more speed in plenty of places than this 748 but I'm not able to pull off a pass. Coming off turn 9, I'm right on him but the only benefit from his draft is that I get to stay with him on the front straight as we get the white flag. I'm absolutely tailgating him going into turn 1 and while I'm comfortable on the MH900e, I'm not quite confident to just run up under him into the turn. As the last lap completes, I'm not up to the task of beating this 748, but am still quite happy with the race. The MH900e and I are already on a good pace and I haven't even started on the engine or the forks!

Back into the pits, there are a goodly number of spectators milling about who are there for the Toyota 200 race weekend. As with last month, many people see the MH900e and are compelled to take pictures, comment, etc. A father and son talked to me for a while and made a note of my races and were going to watch me race. The Michelin Pilot Race M2 (medium) rear tire looked a little worse for wear, but I had a spare rear tire, a Race S2. So I took the rear wheel off the bike and headed over to Dale Keiffer's Racer's Edge to get the rear Michelin swapped out. While there, I also got some "Bib" stickers to put on the 916 fender that Alex Ortner gave me. And then I noticed the 2.2 gallon fuel tank was bone dry (oops) and that the mounting screws for the oil catch were loose again.

The day passed and as the BoTT Middleweight race approached, I again got kind of nervous. I put the tires on the warmers and my leathers on. The call for the race finally came and I got to the pit out as final call was made for the race. Again, I was tentative on the out lap, this time because of the new tire mounted on the back of my bike. It felt great going around the lap, which was reassuring. As we gridded up, I saw my competition … young fast guy on a 749R, younger prodigy on a SV650 that I hope to ride "with" on the track some day, and then I noticed the Harley. I know this bike and the rider. Dude's fast. Craig did his start and we were off like the pack of man men we are into turn 1. Oh, there may be a gal in there, too. I know there's a lady SV650 racer and I also know her times are better than mine (based on Nov 2003). In to turn 1, I beat the one guy that balked me the last race and we all were ON. There was a healthy train of bikes going from 1 into 2 and lots of movement. I recall gaining a position and slotted in behind the Harley going into 3. Then I saw what I thought was water mist on my visor. Hmmmm. We all got around the lap and on the 2nd lap, I realize the Harley is oiling a bit, so I really wind up to try and make a pass. I get close in the turns, but I get motored on the straights, so I can't gain enough of a speed advantage. I make a few stabs at passing and I just can't make it happen. On the 4th lap, coming off 9, the Harley rider looks down and then back and I'm so close that I could pat his back. But still not enough steam to even pull alongside going into turn 1. He'd slow enough (due to the oil on his rear tire) that I'd catch him at the apex and then that Harley would get on the boil and pull me. Same deal this time from 2 to 3. So close…

On the 5th lap, as we got the white flag, two bikes pass. One is that 748 from my last race and the other is an SV650. We're a pack of 4 going around the track and the Harley repasses the SV off of turn 6. I'm right there, too, but lacking the power to follow, so I go into 8 on the heels of the SV and draft to his outside. We're both in the Harley's draft and I realize that the SV is going to move over to where I'm at to try and get something on the Harley, so I roll out of the throttle. Just as I do this, the SV moves to where I would have been and the three of us lean in to 9.

By now, I'm so oiled that going into turn 9, I pretty much can't see the track through my visor. My two competitors are dark shapes that I'm aiming for. I dropped off a little between 8 and 9 and gathered up my steam to catch them on the exit, which worked out perfect. I exited 9 right on the SV and was in a great 2 bike draft. I stayed in line with the SV as long as I dared and broke off to the left and got the slingshot by him. While I got some speed, it wasn't enough for me to catch the Harley on our dash to the checkered flag. This was another great race. While it sucks I got oiled down and I could also claim that I "lost" 2 positions due to that, no one fell and it was fun fighting with the other bikes and no one was hurt. Also, it should be said that I think everyone did what was expected: there was no obvious oiling from the Harley, so no black flags are due; the Harley's pilot assessed the situation and things were not "terminal" so no reason to pull off (I would possibly do the same thing and try to ride around the problem).

After the race, I jumped on Zina's Monster and set out to talk to my oily competitor and when I got to their pits, he totally make this funny scene about hiding his head. I laughed and we talked a bit. He was totally sorry about it all and I said I was glad neither of us crashed. And he said he wasn't going to run it in our next race, BoTT Heavyweight. THAT is what I needed to know. I got back to the pit and long time Ducati friend Timmmmmmaaaaa and Zina had the MH900 looking good as new. They really did a great job. Also, Z had to use rubbing alcohol on my helmet to get all the oil off of it. Next, Z got to work on my leathers and gloves. Soon, it was as though nothing unusual had happened. :-)

My last race of the day was the actual last race of the day and I fired up the generator to get the tires cooking again and popped open my last energy drink. This time, I was more relaxed. Not sure why the change. Perhaps I felt that the challenges presented to me already were good preparation. After 1st call, I got my leathers on and with 2nd call, Zina and I pulled off the tire warmers and then I'm out to the grid. This time, there are few of us on the grid. I can tell right away that a podium spot is probable. Upon the race start, we run into turn 1 and I'm 3rd. As the lap progresses, I try to hang with a Ducati Superbike ahead of me but am slowly gapped. By the 3rd lap, they've kinda checked out on me and I look back for the 4th place rider between 1 and 2 and saw empty track. I sat up a little and watched behind me for a bit. OK, so I ratchet back the pace and concentrate on getting around the track. I was hoping for podium finishes sometime next year, so am overjoyed at this opportunity.

For Sunday, we decided that the Monster would sleep in the trailer at the track with my MH900e and that Zina and I could drive in to the track together. Since I wasn't racing, I didn't need to be there at any time. Zina was helping WSMC keep score for the races, so we only needed to be there by 11 or so. When we got up, we realized how wise that choice was as the ground was wet, the skies dark, and the air cold. Yes, in 2 days, the desert had gone from ~90s to high 60s and from clear to rainy. When we got in to the track, we learned that it had poured rain just before we arrived. Thankfully, that was it for the rain and we were able to enjoy watching a great day of racing, albeit somewhat breezy and chilly.

Currently, I'm not planning to return to the track until after the new year. I've got some of Guy Martin's testarosso 2V heads on their way to me for the MH900e. I also have some 996 forks that I need to install. This may involve machining a new top triple clamp if I can't find a handy aftermarket alternative. Woohoo! Can't wait until I get some more of that racing action.



Catalyst bodies

click link for write up

October 2004
- BoTT M/W : 6th
- BoTT H/W : 3rd
- F-Twins : 5th

September 2004
- BoTT M/W : 5th
- BoTT H/W : 5th
- F-Twins : 6th
- Solo GTO: 9th

2003 Championships
- Aprilia ch.: 1st
- 250 GP: 5th
- 550 sbk: 5th
- Solo GT lite: 2nd
- WSMC overall: 23rd

December 2003
- Did not race

November 2003
- 550 sbk: crash
- Aprilia ch.: DNS
- 250 GP: DNS

October 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 3rd
(clench championship)
- 250/50 Heat race 1: 9th
- 250/50: 20th

September 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 2nd
- 550 sbk: DNS
- 250 GP: 6th
- Solo GTL: 1st

August 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 1st
- 550 sbk: 6th
- 250 GP: DNF
- Solo GTL: 2nd

July 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 2nd
- 550 sbk: 5th
- 250 GP: 6th
- Solo GTL: 4th

June 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 4th
- 550 sbk: 13th
- 250 GP: 5th
- Solo GTL: DNF

May 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 1st
- 550 sbk: 5th
- 250 GP: 4th
- Solo GTL: 3rd

April 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 1st
- 550 sbk: 4th
- 250 GP: 4th

March 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 2nd
- 550 sbk: 7th
- 250 GP: 3rd

February 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 1st
- 550 sbk: dns
- 250 GP: 7th

January 2003
- Aprilia ch.: 2nd
- 550 sbk: 7th
- 250 GP: 5th

. . . . . . . . . . . .

2002 Championships
- Aprilia ch.: 2nd
- 550 sbk: 7th
- Solo GT lite: 2nd
- WSMC overall: 24th
2002 results

2001 Championships
- Aprilia ch.: 3rd
- 550 sbk: 11th
2001 results

Product Endorsements:
- WSMC the safest roadrace organization in the US

- California Race Services Sellers of Bridgestone, Pirelli, and Metzeler race tires.

- 250cc GP Slick the Bridgestone race tires we use.

- Wood-Ease hand cleaners work very well! They were kind enough to put dispensers at the track.

- Mototek an Aprilia dealer with many parts in stock!

Other Links:
- Sport Tire Services for racing Dunlop tires in the SouthWest


10 18 04
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