THE THUNDER DIARIES - PART 7/RACE 5
INTRO - Editor 'arris
Mosport. It's name makes me twitch. I used to be a race virgin until last year's experiment with a BMW R1100S in the now defunct Buell/BMW cup. We took it to the Mosport round to get in some track time before my first (and the series' last race) at St Eustache, a few weeks later.
Fear of this fast and potentially unforgiving track dissuaded me from entering the actual race (which I still regret). However, the experience of riding on a track where you have to lean and turn into a corner before you can actually see it (corner two is directly over a hill) and the buzz of leaning at extreme angles into a long high speed curve at the end of the back straight, is simply awesome.
So going to Mosport to cheer on Team CMG and then to stand at the sidelines watching everyone else have fun, produced mixed emotions. As it turns out, the same applied to Team CMG as Costa once again experienced the more frustrating side of racing, although JP seems to have had another happy-happy race weekend.
Team CMG was temporarily expanded to include Bavarian Motosport's V11 Guzzi, this time piloted by Inside Motorcycle's Steve Bond. Bondo took time out from his SV650 Cup and 250GP series (where he currently places second and fourth respectively) to ride the Guzzi and give his thoughts of it as a potential ride in the Canadian Thunder series.
A link to what Steve thought of the Guzzi on the Mosport track is included at the end, just after the points standing. What I thought about not being part of the fun, I'll keep to myself.
THE COSTA REPORT
I was looking forward to the Mosport round of the Canadian Thunder Championship more than any other round. Mosport is known as a horsepower track and several top American riders from the Buell Lightning series would be present, so I knew I had little chance of a podium finish. But I also knew that riding Mosport is like riding no other track in Canada and the atmosphere and camaraderie in the pits is hard to beat.
Yet I left the track on Sunday with mixed emotions.
Although I have more than enough reasons to go into my bag o scuses for this past weekends mediocre results, Ill list the day's events that went wrong, followed by the stuff that didn't.
FRIDAY - FORMULA USA PAIN
PAIN IN THE ASS FACTORS:
1) Since Formula USA were running a Buell Lightning round at Mosport, I figured that I might as well enter in that class and double up my available track time in the process. However, while trying to register I was erroneously told by F-USA officials that my Firebolt was not eligible in that class and therefore I could not participate.
When the confusion was cleared (thanks to the presence of a F-USA rulebook), I was finally allowed to register but with little time to prepare for practice.
2) The confusion continued when I showed up for the Buell Lightning practice, where a Formula USA official disallowed me from participating in the twenty-five minute session because I had no transponder. (Transponders are used for scoring in the US series BUT using them in practice is only necessary to verify that they work - the confusion caused by the mistake at registration had prevented me from getting my transponder in time ).
3) With precious track time dwindling, I hobbled with my one and a half feet (damaged ankle and all) to the building where the transponders were available, only to have the transponder person advise me that I didn't actually need one to get on the track for practice. Apparently a decision had been made earlier, and officials notified, to be lenient on the transponder issue because of some late entries. Obviously, the official at the track entrance had not been made aware of said decision.
4) When I pleaded my case to the officials in an effort to make up the lost practice session, they offered me a free session in the Canadian Thunder practice. I let them know that I had already signed up for the Thunder sessions and would prefer to go out in another class session to recuperate the lost track time.
A brief consultation with their legal advisors resulted in a denial of my request and a determination that: "Our obligation towards you has been fulfilled, we deeply regret any distress this may have caused you". Grrrrr.
... AND THE HEMORRHOID RELIEF:
1) During Canadian Thunder practice on Friday, I managed to draft past JPs BMW on the back straight. I had done further modifications to the Buells airbox from information acquired from the Buell racing department and had gained a couple of more ponies as a result.
2) A trip to the dyno showed 81.6 hp for my Firebolt; the highest Ive gotten it this year, confirming my suspicions on the power gains.
3) I needed an oil-catching belly pan on the Buell for it to be legal in the Buell Lightning class, but I didnt have one. Henry Duga, from Buell USA racing support, brought me one - just like that!
4) After returning from a trip to the john, I found Brad Dawson from Deeley Imports (Buell Canada) with a laptop connected to my Firebolt, programming the new ignition control box he had brought for me - just like that!
Wow, I was starting to feel like a factory rider!
Unfortunately, in keeping with the day's events and limited practice time, we couldnt dial it in, so I had to go back to my stock box. Damn.
SATURDAY/SUNDAY - MIXED ASS BLESSINGS
After a rather frustrating Friday, Saturday could only get better ... or could it?
PAIN IN THE ASS FACTORS:
1) During the Buell Lightning timed qualifying session, my Firebolt lost all power on the third lap, stalling out at the top of the back straight. I had to push the bike about half a mile to the pit entrance; my half foot didnt like that.
2) With only two hundred feet left to the entrance of the pits, I came to a marshalling station. Here the officials just about ripped my head off for pushing my bike, although I was far from the track pavement, on the grass and the track was actually heading away from me the whole time I was pushing it. They told me to remain where I was. I explained to them that this was the only qualifying session for the Lightning race, that I needed to get to the pits and that I would stay close to the wall and away from the track, not having to cross it or even come close to it.
They had none of it, forcing me to leave the Firebolt by the side of the track.
It appears that I was not alone on this one as Darren James had an even tougher time in qualifying, having done the entire session with a faulty transponder, which meant that he actually ended up qualifying behind me!
3) Back at the pits the problem showed itself as a blown main fuse. Not being able to locate the cause of the blowing, I simply replaced it (although I did adapted it for easy access in the process) and hoped that perhaps it was just weakened by the crash in the previous round. However, in over twenty years of being a technician Ive never ever seen a fuse weakened by a crash. Why I came to this conclusion, ILLnever know. Wishful thinking and lack of time, I guess.
4) Of course, my optimistic diagnostic skills let me down just into the warm-up lap for the Canadian Thunder qualifier, as the main fuse blew once again. Thankfully I could now replace it at the trackside and nurse the Firebolt straight back into the pits. I guess I'll be starting this one in the last row also.
At least I found the cause of the blown fuse - the regulator wire had been rubbing on a muffler bracket and the insulation had worn through, causing the offending short.
5) I finished eighth in the Thunder final behind JP. Actually, this was fine but it also
generated Pain in the Ass number 10 ....
6) The first protest in the series: A Canadian Thunder rider, who finished behind US riders Richie Morris and winner Jason Smith, questioned the power output of the two Buells that they were riding. Maybe at this point I should mention that these two US riders totally annihilated us, leading the six-lap qualifier by about twenty seconds!
Shortly after the race, Smith was disqualified for being over the 95 hp limit. This decision was based upon his admission that his bike was likely higher and his subsequent refusal to take a dyno run after being asked to do so. In Smith's defence he claimed that he was unaware that the class was limited - theres a F-USA class called Thunder Bike which is unlimited and some of the riders were under the impression Canadian Thunder was a similar class. As Canadian Thunder rule-enforcer, I had to give Smith the bad news about his disqualification; he also wanted to rip my head off.
However, on the following Sunday, the disqualified Smith changed his story, claiming he never said his horsepower output was over 95. Having refused to take a dyno run when requested to do so on Saturday evening, he now wanted to take one on Sunday morning, but it was too late. He was fuming while I made my way down to the medical building to get a neck brace, just in case.
Second placed Morris, who was not to be found on the Saturday evening, agreed to the dyno test on the Sunday. His Buell maxed out at exactly 95.0 hp, allowing him to claim first place. Oh, the grief of it all.
... AND THE HEMORRHOID RELIEF:
1) By the time Saturdays Canadian Thunder final came around, the new Prexport racing boots and Rhyno leathers that Richard Seck managed to get hold of (to replace the items I had destroyed in the St-Eustache crash) were finally getting accustomed to my form. My ankle was feeling safer and I was looking quite cool to boot.
2) During the final, I was sure that I could hear my name being called but thought I was hearing things. It turns out that SV cup rider, Wes Eastveld, was so excited about catching up to me he was screaming "COSTA, Im coming to get you!" from inside his helmet. Wes went on to finish first in the SV race.
Later, while I was on the pre-grid for the Lightning race, I heard my name being called again. I glanced over my shoulder to see Eastveld and his gang atop a trailer about a quarter mile away, waving frantically and cheering me on, I almost cried.
3) The support didn't stop there, as Team CMG racing followers were dropping by our pits and wishing us well throughout the weekend, giving me the motivation to continue, regardless of how sore my ankle (or ass) was.
4) With the Canadian Thunder race out of the way, Sunday allowed me to focus on the Formula USA race. Things were looking up and Sunday's practice felt fast. JPs stopwatch showed I was doing high 1:36s, well off the pace of the American riders, but within about a second of the faster Canadian riders.
5) Because of my earlier problems in qualifying, I started from the back of the fifteen-bike field and worked my way up to a seventh place finish, behind Jesse Lauder on the only other Firebolt in the field. Fellow Canadian Thunder racer, Darren James clinched fifth - his best finish in the US series, with Jamie Fitzgerald just missing the top ten.
6) Thanks to the use of transponders, lap times of the race were available. My best lap time was 1:35.563, compared to James 1:35.591 and Lauders 1:35.869, making me the Canadian with the fastest lap time of the race! Okay, no big deal but at least it sounds important, and I need some of that right now.
In comparison, US rider Jeffrey Johnson posted the overall fastest lap of the race at 1:30.597.
I had a taste of the good and the bad at Mosport this past weekend. The next race is the last one of the series at St-Eustache. Darren James can probably grab the championship in that round and I once again have a good chance of winning my first race this year but the way the series has gone so far, I dont know what to expect anymore.
THE JP FILES - Chasing the Mosport Dragon
Mosport. It has been two days and I feel like a junkie coming down from a really good trip. The feeling is awful - life now feels bland, boring and pointless. Right now I just want to be in turn one, passing slower riders as if they were stopped, right cylinder head and brake-pedal sending dust and sparks in my draft as I line up for turn two.
There's no two ways about it, Mosport is a very addictive drug and there is no way to suppress the need. This is the kind of racetrack your mom would warn you about ... if she too knew what is was to be a race junkie.
Great track aside, the Mosport weekend was a difficult one, with problems in every possible area before the weekend, during practice, race day and even after the race, with rider protests and a resultant disqualification. Unfortunately Costa got the majority of those problems all to himself and this was affecting the general moral at the Team CMG pits.
My big downer came when I was offered to try a new energy drink. Glyko Max rep, Paul Booth, was very scientific about it all, conducting a simple blood test first so that he could show the effects of the drink on the blood sugar level. The process quickly came to a halt when my blood sugar level tested well into the redline!!! "Go see a doctor" he suggested. Oh dear.
So, what can I tell you about Canadian Thunder then? Well, in a nutshell, I got my ass kicked. The race itself was run very late on Saturday, meaning a low sun and the ensuing long shadows, which proved to be very disconcerting when a rider got close at speed! Shadows aside, although my lap times this year would have put me in the lead group last year, this time around, flying on the beemer was only good enough for 7th place.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
During the race, I was running laps in the 1:36s. Thats not bad, but still 2 seconds off Vammus', Frenchy's and Darrens pace. Not to mention the two very quick American riders on the Buells that won kind of.
Although a decent qualifier allowed me to get a good start, Jesse Lauder on the Firebolt and Robert Trottier on the Monster did get by mid race. I managed to keep the faster Suzuki SV riders at bay, until I caught a false neutral out of turn eight and coasted through nine before getting back on the gas in ten. However, it was too late, as Wes Estfield on the Diablo SV seized the opportunity to pass me on the last corner of the last lap.
The BMW is the perfect bike to learn and enjoy Mosport. Its long wheelbase, stable and confidence-inspiring handling, and good top end make it easy to concentrate on the track, not the bike. Also, according to Wes, its a good bike to draft behind up the hill, as I punch a big hole in the air!
Fun track bike it is, super-serious racing bike it is not.
However, Mosport is a mind game. By timing the gear changes going up the hill and with the help of the Elf Pro 100 race fuel, I saw my top speed at the end of the Andretti straight improve by 500 rpm over Friday practice. Given time, I believe the R1100S could be brought into the 1:34s, thanks in part to the Pirelli Supercorsa tires that give you the confidence to skim the cylinder heads in fourth gear, high speed sweepers.
I like Mosport. I love Mosport. I need Mosport.
Looking for the next fix ...
AND THE WINNERS ARE ...
American, Richie Morris managed to squeak through the Dyno reading to claim first place on his Buell. Derek Vammus on his 900SS Ducati got second, with Frenchy (also Ducati) clinched third.
Fourth place went to series leader, Darren James (Buell) and fifth to Jesse Lauder also on a Buell.
That's going to make the points tally interesting coming into the final race at St. Eustache (scroll down for latest points standing).
CURRENT POINTS STANDING
Well it ain't over till the Fat Lady sings. Actually, with the CMG budget, there isn't even going to be a Fat Lady, but I'm sure we can encourage Costa with a bit of ankle twisting.
Torture aside, Darren is coming into the last race with a commanding lead. All he needs is a fifth place in the final to secure the championship, and that's dependant on Philippe winning the heat race and the final, and Darren missing out on the other available heat race points.
JP cannot get any better than his third, but could theoretically lose it to any of the four below him. Similarly, Costa can only hope to gain a position by trading places with JP, but the St Eustache is homeground for both the Team CMG riders, so it'll be interesting to see if team camaraderie means jack shit on the track (I think not).
MOTO GUZZI AT MOSPORT
Steve Bond took over from where Larry left off with the Bavarian Motosport Moto Guzzi V11 and onto the Mosport track. To read Steve's report, click here.
Many thanks to Pat Doyle of Bavarian Motosports for trusting not just Mr. Tate, but Bondo (of all people) to take his lime-green baby out onto the track once more.
Also thanks go to Prexport boots (for Costa), Kimpex (Team CMG Rhyno suits), Buell Canada (for the replacement crash parts & chip on Costa's Firebolt), Formula USA people (for Costa's bellypan) and Jeff Bloor at Cycle Max (905-791-9677) for the Guzzi dyno work.
A huge thank you to Hugho Lasalle and his welder at Lasco Concepts Inc. (514-276-7717), for fixing up Costa's Firebolt frame after the St. Eustache crash.
Finally, a big thank you again to the good folks at Flair Photography who allowed us to use some of their photos in this article, including the splash page photo. If you were riding at the track last weekend, you've probably been expertly photographed with top-shelf digital equipment. To find out more about Flair's services e-mail Jack at: [email protected]. As per usual, all other photography is by the superlative Mr. Seck.