The Thunder Diaries, Part 10

(Read Part 9 here)

Photos: Richard Seck

Wanna see the CMG version of the 2001 Buell/BMW cup final and the 2002 Canadian Thunder final? Of course you do. We’ve put together a 20 minute video based off the original RDS tapes with commentary from Editor “apologies in advance” ‘arris and JP “I’ can actually commentate” Schroeder.

However, be warned the files are huge. We’ve got two versions (the bigger one having a bigger viewing area):

28.7 Meg

15 Meg

Click on the one that you want and go make a coffee (or Christmas dinner if you’re on dial-up).

INTRO – Editor ‘arris

So this is it – the end of our racing adventure in Canadian Thunder. It was an exciting first year of the new series. Spawned from the old Buell/BMW cup, CMG, Buell and Ducati managed to take the old and make the new Canadian Thunder series.

We even managed to pull in two competent racers – Costa Mouzouris and JP Shroeder, into Team CMG. Costa on the brand new, but untested, Buell Firebolt, and JP on his trusty BMW R1100S.

Costa spent the season bringing his Firebolt up to speed, only to crash at the most promising chance of a victory at the first St Eustache round. Undeterred, he brought the ‘bolt back up to speed and managed a fairy-tale win at the last round of the series!

JP rode consistently throughout the season, always threatening to pull the lardy but powerful Beemer in for a surprise victory. Alas, his reluctance to risk killing his beloved R1100S in a spectacular race-crash fashion kept him out of the final race upfront shenanigans, but by then he had already decided to retire the bike and return it to road duties.

So, enough of the teary-eyed memories, it’s time to put this baby to bed, and what better way than to hand it back over to Costa and JP with a summary of what they did to their respective bikes in order to get them on the race track:


In standard trim the ‘bolt was a tad lacking.

I knew from the start that the Firebolt would need some help if it were to win a race in the Canadian Thunder Series. The bike’s chassis specifications were promising, but the engine’s output wasn’t where it needed to be to compete against the European competition. The gearing also needed attention—a race bike needs flexible gearing to cater to different racetracks and the ‘Bolt’s belt drive didn’t allow for gearing changes.


The bike’s fuel injection made fuel system modifications difficult, but that wasn’t the toughest hurdle to overcome. It was almost impossible to find the necessary parts to modify the Firebolt for racing purposes. The bike was so new that manufacturers of aftermarket performance items hadn’t yet developed anything.

As a result, the first race was run in bone-stock form and my suspicions were confirmed as the competition rode easily away from the Firebolt, especially when exiting turns. The bike just didn’t have the power to keep up on the straights and the tall stock gearing wasn’t helping matters.

Home made pipe worked fine all the way up till the endurance race.

After the first race, I took matters into my own hands and made an exhaust header. I managed to get some stock header pipes off other Buells, which I could cut and weld to make fit onto the Firebolt.

The new pipe now had a larger diameter and I was sure it would have the desired effect: to increase power output higher up the rpm range. I also modified the stock muffler by cutting it open and replacing the small tubing inside by larger diameter tubing from various other mufflers that were also lying around.

The process took an entire day to complete. It wasn’t pretty, but the pipe fit, and did the job.

To increase air in, I removed the rubber intake snorkel from the airbox, leaving the stock paper air filter in place. Although this would allow the engine to pass more air, the fuel supply also had to be increased. Jeff Bloor of Cycle Max suggested an injection control box made by Techlusion. The control box modified the injection pulses, allowing the pulses to be lengthened by turning separate adjustment pots within the unit, thus altering the mixture.


Top: Techlusion adjustment pods
Bottom: Chain conversion

Unfortunately, due to a very cold second race, the Techlusion control box couldn’t supply the necessary adjustment range for the airflow, meaning the bike had to run excessively lean. The power output had actually dropped over the previous round and I was also concerned that the engine would be damaged by the lean running condition. I had no choice but to replace the rubber intake snorkel. This improved the power output slightly, but I would have to increase fuel flow for future rounds. A trip to the series dyno revealed a meagre power output of 74.3 hp, with a big hole in the midrange.

By the third round, the folks at Techlusion had sent a different EPROM chip for the control box. It doubled the adjustment range and added the necessary fuel to complement the modifications I had done to the breathing. I also finally converted the belt drive to chain.

This had proven somewhat difficult being that nobody made any kits for this purpose. The guys at Sprocket Specialists came to the rescue. All they needed was the Firebolt’s bolt hole diameters, pattern and centre bore diameter. They soon returned several aluminum sprockets, the front sprocket coming from a Harley offset sprocket kit and bolted right in place of the stock item.

Since the Firebolt had no provisions in the stock swingarm for chain adjustment, I modified the stock belt tensioner to swing, and replaced the aluminum roller with a Teflon item from a BMW F650 GS. These modifications greatly improved the drive coming out of turns and also increased power to where I wouldn’t lose my competitors on the straights.


It was all looking so good, then it all went bad.

By the fourth round, I decided to go into the motor for two reasons:

1) I wanted to inspect the condition of the cylinders—the lean running in previous rounds had me concerned with possible scoring.

2) I also wanted to have a look into the ports to see if I could do something to improve flow.

The cylinders proved to be in excellent condition and the ports needed minimal preparation. I enlarged the port at the valve seat and just matched the rest of the port to it. I also modified the intake valve by grinding a 30-degree angle on the tulip, which relieves the port near the valve seat.

These modifications, combined with Elf Pro 100 racing fuel, supplied by Trac Racing, finally brought the Firebolt up to the level of the front-runners in the class. I consistently lapped one second faster throughout the weekend, but the fun quickly came to an end with a qualifying crash. I could cope with the broken ankle, but crash-induced electrical problems prevented me from finishing on the podium in the final.

Mosport had its problems but Costa manages a smile as the Buell got closer to perfect.

At least the Firebolt was now up to speed.

At Mosport, I didn’t modify anything further, although I did some gearing changes. The bike now had enough power to pass several Thunder bikes on Mosport’s long, uphill straightaway. Some experimenting with a programmable ECU from the Buell racing department didn’t prove fruitful, so the stock ECU was retained.

A trip to the dyno at this point showed a clean power curve with a maximum output of 81.6 hp, the highest reading since the modifications began. This was now on par with most of the other bikes in the field, except for the American Buells present on this round, which were all close to the 95 hp class limit.


What better race than the final for it all to come together?

Everything finally came together in the final round at St-Eustache. The bike ran flawlessly. I won the qualifier and then the final, lapping 1.5-seconds faster than the competition, on a bike with equal power. The Firebolt’s advantage was its exceptional handling and braking.

Next year promises to belong to the Firebolt, as aftermarket manufacturers will no doubt be offering several upgrade components, making the Firebolt the one to beat.

Unfortunately, the Firebolt didn’t keep its flawless reliability ‘till the very end as a post-season endurance race took its toll on the engine. The exhaust header I had fabricated broke and the ensuing heat destroyed the front piston. An unfortunate ending to an otherwise excellent mechanical record.

Costa Mouzouris


The R1100S – ready to race.

The racing season seems far behind now. Time for a resume of the transformations made to my 1999 BMW R1100S.

It went from yuppie shiny sport-touring bike to dedicated racer. Now it’s back to road duties. The Beemer now has that elusive quality some call character. To my eyes, she’s beautiful; funky and sexy with her scars, sponsor logos and modifications. And dare I say I am glad to have her back as my daily drive after two-plus years, 15 races (including two endurance races) with approximately 6,000km on various tracks (Mosport, Shannonville, Sanair and St-Eustache).

Stage 1 – Buying a Spanking New Teutonic Twin

I fell in love with the S after a short demo ride. In fact, it was love at first stab of the starter button!

So I ordered my S black, no ABS (so I could do breakies) and with the optional sports package. This addition is well worth the extra cost and I recommend it to anybody looking at the S with a track day or racing in mind. For a few extra dollars you get the wider rear rim on which to mount proper 180 section tires, longer front and rear suspension to gain precious cornering clearance, and a steering damper hidden under the telever.

Stage 2 – Sourcing Knowledge and Parts from Europe

In Europe, the Boxer Cup (for BMW’s only) is a popular and well-run series. Through Christian Brunier, the organizer of the French edition, I got the race bodywork kit that transformed the Beemer into a more serious track bike, with fibreglass headlight, flashers, seat covers and a belly pan to make the tech officials happy.

Staintune pipes.

I added a Staintune exhaust that maintains the oxygen sensor, but gets rid of the catalytic converter. The exhaust is beautifully made and fits well. It has the added benefit of removable end trumpets that keep the noise down when not on the track. Stainless steel construction means weight loss is minimal over the stock system.

Sympathetic to my efforts, BMW Canada sent me some remapped chips to work with the exhaust system.

At Ride West in Seattle I found a shorter Paralever strut to quicken the steering and gain a little cornering clearance. Braided brake lines and Carbone Lorraine racing brake pads completed the set-up.

I even went as far as purchasing a spare set of rims to mount back-up rain slicks. Although I used them in practice sessions, I missed the only true opportunity to use them. Under changing conditions I elected to stay on the dry tires and as a result, lost the 2001 championship on the last race by one point! Bummer.

Stage 3 – Refined Bike, Redefined Rider

Carbon-fibre intake.

The start of the 2002 season with Team CMG and real sponsors signalled a different atmosphere and the chance for more modifications. A carbon-fibre air intake from Boxer Performance mated to the K&N filter and another chip helped to get the most out of the engine. Running with standard gas the R1100S registered 94.9 HP on the track dyno (the series limit is 95hp, so that was close enough).

The set-up continued to improve with a custom developed rear suspension from Elka (local Quebec firm). Longer by 5mm and fully adjustable, this unit, combined with the shorter paralever torque arm, transformed the S into a sharper handler. It can’t hold a tight line through the slow corners like the other bikes in the series, but it is a major improvement nonetheless. Unfortunately we ran out of time this year to complete the suspension set-up with a matching Elka front unit.

All these improvements along with the very predictable and confidence inspiring Pirelli Super Corsa tires meant that I was pushing the bike and myself to a new level. Cylinder head dragging and bashing were now a regular occurrence.

My best result was a second place at St-Eustache, running mid 53’s and challenging Darren James for the last laps. A performance I would not reiterate for fear of crashing. Indeed my last race at St-Eustache was a good second and a half slower a lap.

A Word About Maintenance

One part of the race kit saw the most abuse.

The BMW flat twin is an easy bike to work on. Before every event, I would go through the following routine:

– Engine oil and filter change. I’ve been running the bike on Castrol Syntec 5W30 for racing and 5W50 for the street. For sprint races, I am very careful to maintain the oil level to the middle of the sight glass. Overfilling will cost you a good 5 km/h in top speed.

– Valve clearance is adjusted and has been very stable after the first 20,000km. I seldom need to adjust them. I take extra care to make sure the exhaust valves are on the loose side of the tolerance. Spark plugs are changed for every race not because it is needed but to use them as telltale indicator of what’s going on in the engine.

– Gearbox and final drive oil are replaced using Castrol Syntec 80W90. The gearbox gets a working in racing and I do this as a preventive measure.

The End?

Is love stronger than the need to race?

I have mixed feelings. My R1100S is now on the street proudly displaying it’s grinded cylinder heads, custom suspension, boomy sound and sponsors in what can be stated as a un-BMW like attitude, with hard luggage! I suppose the odd wheelie (I’m not very good) and breakie (better!) aren’t too gentlemanly, which makes it even more fun. All the race modifications proved to work on the street as they did on the track.

If I didn’t miss the Beemer on the road so much, it could be fun to race it again. Costa has a few good ideas on what needs to be done. The bike could evolve and maybe even keep the leaders in the Canadian Thunder series in sight. It’s a fast, stable, comfortable, confident handler that allows you to get away with murder (just ask Costa and Robert Trottier, who have been close behind when I should have crashed!). But I just can’t ask this girl to do it again.

As I said, it has been love since the first stab of the starter button!

Go Racing!

JP Schroeder


As any racer will tell you, racing ain’t cheap. However, one of the initial aims of the Canadian Thunder series was to try and keep $$$ out of it (well, as much as possible) and may the best man (or woman) win.

Below is a rough estimate of dollars sunk into and work done on the Team CMG bikes for the 2002, six race, season.


BMW R1100S (MSRP $18,225)
Modified header and muffler (home-made from X-1 headers)
Ohlins steering damper
FI control box (Techlusion)
$349.99 retail price, CMG freebie
Chain and sprockets kit (Sprocket Specialists)
$240.00 (4 x $80.00)
Chain adjuster (adapted)
$21.00 for idler sprocket, machining done myself
Head port flowing (myself)
about 8 hrs
Frame protectors (old knee pucks)
free (got off old suit)
Race Bodywork Kit
Paralever torque arm (CG)
approx $350.00
Exhaust (Staintune)
Air filter (K & N)
$75.00 (approx.)
Oversized carbon-fibre air intake (Boxer Performance)
Remapped injection chip (BMW)
got it free (chips run normally between $100-200)
Fully adjustable suspension unit (Elka Suspension)
R&D piece, never priced but should cost about $1200.00
Brake lines
Rebuild gearbox (myself)
10 hrs the first time, 5 hours the second time!

Of course, there’s other costs than just getting the bikes kitted with race stuff. For example, a typical race weekend will include the following expenses:

Tires (one set per weekend) – $450.00

Entry fees (includes Fri & Sat practice sessions) – $160.00

Fuel and oil – $60.00

Oh, and then don’t forget all the other stuff such as:

Personal gear (helmet, leathers, boots and gloves) – around $3,000 for decent new stuff.

Race licence – $90.00 (annual fee).

Tools, tent, spare parts and supplies – this could cost any amount. See what you can get for free!

Transport – do you have a truck or trailer?

There’s too much to go into here, but if you want to know more about getting into racing, check out our Road Racing Guide. But, hey, when all is done and you finally find yourself scraping around a corner planning on how to pass the guy in front, it all doesn’t seem too bad after all.

In the immortal words of JP … Go racing!

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