THE THUNDER DIARIES – PART 4
INTRO – Editor ‘arris
|Mr. Tate ponders the wisdom of reviving his racing career on the grid of the Canadian Thunder heat race.|
Wow, what a weekend. The Canadian Thunder Series seems to be really taking off with its best turnout to date, with a show of thirteen competitors. Although Ducati and Buell seem to be the bikes of choice, we managed to connect CMG’s Larry Tate with Pat Doyle of Bavarian Motosports and onto a prepped Moto Guzzi V11.
Since timing was tight for the deal, the Guzzi basically got shod with new tires and a quick look-over to make sure that it was tech-ready. Otherwise it was pretty well in stock form, save for a pair of “Off-Road” pipes that gave the desired ‘roar’ effect. Although Larry had some problems getting the suspension to his liking and enough power onto the asphalt (the motor was in stock form remember), I think he had a blast. Anyway, check in next week for his write up on the weekend’s events.
Although by trying to get to the track on my ageing XS650 I managed to miss Saturday’s heat race, it was by all accounts a cracker. Current series favourite, Darren James, lost his pole chances on the grid by running off the track early on, allowing Team CMG to get a promising 2nd and 3rd (JP and Costa respectively), behind Philippe “Frenchy” Durrand, who was flying on his Ducati 900 SS.
I won’t go into any detail of the actual race as Costa and JP have that covered, suffice to say that if you ever had an urge to come out and watch some racing, then you can’t go far wrong with the Canadian Thunder Series. There’s another three races to go, the schedule of which can be found here.
So, does Costa’s Firebolt have the gearing and power delivery sussed? Did JP fit his “secret weapon” he mentioned in the last update? Who won? Who didn’t? Who cares? You do, don’t you?
Are you a business owner interested in sponsoring Team CMG? The season is young, we still have some space for stickers on the bikes as well as logos in the updates. For more info contact Richard Seck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE COSTA REPORT
|After Costa pulled the pizza out of the oven and off the tray, he had an idea …|
Round three of Canadian Thunder is in the books and the series is gaining momentum. Thirteen riders showed up for the event, which is astonishing when compared to the pro 600 Supersport race that only had three entries! Even fellow CMG staff member Larry Tate made a presence on a Moto Guzzi V11 Sport, graciously loaned to Team CMG by Pat Doyle of Bavarian Motosports.
One of the problems I had getting ready for the third round was getting the Firebolt proper gearing. No one made sprocket kits for the bike so I improvised. I modified the stock belt tensioner so it would take up the slack in the chain and ordered the appropriate sprockets to complete the conversion. The rear sprockets had to be made after I sent the specifications of the bolt pattern to the manufacturer.
I finally received the elusive rear sprockets thanks to the efforts put in by the folks at Moto Internationale and Full-Bore. Their patience is commendable; they put up with my constant badgering without even a look of annoyance. “Did you order the sprockets? – When will they be in? – Did you order the right ones? – Are they in yet?”. It’s no wonder the parts counter became mysteriously vacant every time I showed up.
|Team CMG’s JP (BMW R1100S) and Costa (Buell Firebolt) … following.|
With chain and sprockets in hand, I proceeded to convert the XB9R; a relief to me knowing that I could finally make full use of the limited racing power it produced.
Another problem I was having with the bike was that after I had altered the intake and exhaust, it was running too lean and the Techlusion injection control box I had installed to compensate for the lean condition didn’t have the necessary range. A call to Techlusion produced a new EPROM chip that would better match the modifications I had performed to the Firebolt.
TAKE IT TO THE TRACK
|No problems in the corners …|
Friday practice didn’t go well for any of the competitors that showed up because of a change in the racetrack’s insurance policy; track use was limited to a maximum of twelve motorcycles at any one time. The confusion that ensued created a backlog of motorcycles at the pre-grid with frustrated, overheated riders trying to squeeze in a few laps before lunch break. Eventually, everybody got in one ten-minute session before lunch and things settled down after that, although track use remained limited throughout the afternoon.
I intended to use Friday practice to dial in the injection system. Usually, a dynamometer is a good tool to use for making such adjustments but access to one is not always an option and there wasn’t one at the track. As a result I had to tune the bike by trial and error.
When taking this approach one goes out, rides a couple of laps, comes in, resets the adjustment settings, goes out for a couple more laps and repeats the process until the mixture is right. With the track time we had on Friday, I didn’t have the time to do this being that the ten-minute sessions allocated to us equalled about six laps. Also, I had to get acquainted with the circuit, which I had never ridden before. Frustration was the order of the day and fiddling with the control box in little spurts was only confusing me and keeping me from noting shifting and braking points.
|… but the midrange mixture was proving elusive.|
Saturday practice took place in a more conventional manner with the track insurance problems under control. I was coming to grips with the control box, the bike seemed to run good at high rpm but would cut and backfire in the midrange and during off/on throttle transition. It seemed to choke in mid turn, which is where I wanted the bike to be as smooth as possible.
To compensate for the rough running engine in the qualifier, I would load the engine in mid turn by keeping the throttle open and my foot on the rear brake. It was an awkward riding style but it got me a third place at the checkered flag, thanks to a good drive coming out of the corners and high cornering speeds.
|JP manages to pull second in the heat race qualifier. Costa tries desperately to get by.
(photo: Flair Photography).
Frenchy was leading and JP Schroeder was in front of me during the qualifier. JP was holding me back in the twisty part of the track although with twenty ponies on me, he’d take off on the straight. I almost didn’t want to attempt to pass him though; watching him bounce off his cylinder heads in mid turn was priceless.
I did get by him on lap three but I did it two turns from the straight and he just blew by me once there. Had I gotten in front of him several turns before the straight, I’d have been able to put enough real estate between us to make his catching up to me on the straight more difficult.
After Saturday, with JP as my barometer, I realized that my modifications had finally made me faster than him for the first time this season. Sunday was going to be just grand.
PUTTING THE METAL TO THE TEST
|It makes the ground shake!|
Sunday morning, I finally realized what I was doing wrong with my injection adjustments. The midrange was fat and I was misunderstanding the adjustment pots of the control box. I reduced the amount of fuel on the pot that controls fuel when the throttle is being opened and went out for the single practice session we were getting that day.
I came back in with a grin on my face that made my lips crack. The transition from closed to open throttle was flawless. The engine remained smooth throughout turns and accelerated crisply upon exit. Although I was still down on power, the bike was now rideable.
Due to yesterday’s good qualifier, I was on the first row on the starting grid in the final and tried my best to get a good start.
By the time I got to turn one I was in fourth, just behind Robert Trottier, Darren James and Frenchy I finally got past Trottier on the inside of the last corner in lap two and he attempted to defend his position by trying to get past me down the straight on power. Side-by-side coming up to turn one, the excellent handling of the Firebolt allowed me to stay on the gas while he nailed the brakes.
|Costa eyes up Trottier. No-one can explain how Larry (411) managed to get in the same shot.
(Photo: Flair Photography).
I can’t say enough about the brakes and handling on the Firebolt, although it chews up brake pads like a grizzly chews on salmon. Mine were down to the bones after just two weekends and I had no replacements. In exchange for feeding hungry bears though, it brakes consistently, hard and never fades. Also, I can dive into corners harder than on any other bike I’ve ever raced. I feel like I can pivot the bike on the front tire the way Tom Cruise did in Mission Impossible, although I’d look better doing it.
Fortunately, once again, Jamie Fitzgerald (business manager, not technician) from Motosport Plus of Kingston had come to the rescue with a pair of fresh pads off his personal Firebolt. Thanks Jamie.
|Frenchy finds his way to the front by trading in his Monster for an 900SS.|
After making turn one, I pulled away from Trottier and kept pace with Frenchy and James who were just a few bike lengths ahead. And then it happened; complete failure of the most important component of my racing set-up: my brain. JP calls momentary lapses in concentration brain farts; in which case I contracted cervical diarrhoea.
In lap six, I made two critical mistakes: running wide in turn two – a sharp, decreasing radius right-hand hairpin, and in turn six – a sweeping third-gear right-hander. Running wide usually costs fractions of a second but in this case, it almost cost me the race. Instead of hitting the apex, I ran over the ripples on the track that the outside tires of cars leave. Both my tires lost grip and I almost pitched it hard. After that, my concentration was gone, I was missing braking markers, running wide and asking myself too many questions about what I was doing wrong.
|Darren James battles with Frenchy throughout the race, Frenchy taking it at the last corner to win the race.|
Trottier took full advantage of the situation, passing me going into the hairpin and I never recovered enough of my composure to challenge him again. As a result I finished fourth, my best result yet, behind Trottier, James and race winner Durrand, never losing sight of the front-runners despite my malfunctioning command centre. JP finished a distant sixth.
Of the three races to date, a total of three different riders have taken the top honours. The field is tightening up but unlike F1 racing, the outcome is quite unpredictable.
The next race is in St-Eustache, my home track. I’m planning to lift the heads on the Firebolt and rework the ports by the time Canadian Thunder hits La Belle Province. It may be my best chance to become the fourth victor in this series.
THE JP FILES – Shannonville (Fabi) Canadian Thunder Round 3
Bouncing off heads
Flirting with the rules
Gloves are off!
Qualifier: 2nd, in front of Costa, maybe for the last time! Lapping in the mid 1:12
Race: 6th, behind Bob Close, not enough balls to pass! Lapping in the mid 1:14
THE GLOVES ARE OFF
|“Bang, bang, bang” goes the cylinder head – Cornering BMW style.|
All right, let’s cut the crap! We fooled everyone in pretending that “older” guys on “mature” motorcycles with “reasonable” horsepower could behave like gentlemen. Readers beware: it’s war now. The pressure is rising and pretty soon Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi will look like school kids.
Hey, we in Canadian Thunder are R A C I N G! No more Mr. Nice Guy. Everyone is now faster. Darren James is very focused after losing the lead in the last corner to Philippe Durrand, Trottier and Costa had a race-long fight. Bob and I kept playing games and I almost went off the track trying to show my wheel.
The machines are improving as well. Costa now has midrange and usable gearing. A few more tweaks and he might start sniffing Philippe and Darren’s exhausts. Philippe’s now running a 900SS and will continue to improve it. I’m still waiting for my secret weapon to gain some much needed cornering clearance – According to Costa, who was very close during the heat race, I don’t merely drag my cylinder heads, I bounce them off the track!
I’m still the horsepower king in the series although trials with Elf Pro 100 race fuel might put me over the horsepower limit. The BMW continues to impress me with great drive out of corners, way better brakes than it should be allowed and handling that permits you to get away with murder. One can only cringe at the idea of actually crossing the limit…
LET’S GET MENTAL
|If all else fails try psychological warfare. JP tries to emphasise the size of his heads.|
However, despite all these benefits, given the competition, I determined that psychological warfare was the answer in order to keep up near the front. Painting the rear of my sticky-out cylinder heads day glow orange to hypnotize the racer trying to pass counts as one. Simulating a highside to prevent passing counts as two. Waving “Bye Bye” to a fellow racer while passing on horsepower on the straight definitely counts as three.
I’m telling you folks, it’s going to get ugly. The next round is St-Eustache and both Costa and I were practically born on this track. It’s tight and bumpy. I predict a real close race between Darren, Philippe, Costa and myself on July 6.
PS: Costa and I will also be racing each other in the Supermotard and Pit Bike Race at the St-Eustache National. It promises to be a very interesting weekend.