The Thunder Diaries, Part 9

(Read Part 8 here)


INTRO – Editor ‘arris

It was all smiles … initially.

Having missed the last round of the Canadian Thunder series, I figured I’d better make sure I show for the St Eustache endurance race, and the last race of the season for Team CMG.

I think there might have been some pay-back when I was given the plum job of time keeping, basically ensuring that I was away from the pit’s action and sitting out in the cold stands for the duration. Never mind, I had good company in the form of my cousin, Michele, with the added bonus that she was well away from the ever charming (and horny) Costa.

But enough of the intricacies of the CMG family, what happened? Over to Team CMG’s Costa and JP …


Pascal Picotte (#37) seemed to be having fun.

The four-hour endurance race held at St-Eustache is always a great way to cap off the racing season. It’s called an endurance race but is ridden more like a long sprint race; lap times of the faster teams matching the lap times of shorter sprint races for the duration of the event.

The rules stipulate that each team must consist of at least two riders with not more than one pro-rider per team. Usually, top-finishing amateur racers match up with pros or other amateurs and give it their best shot at one last victory before the snow falls. It also gives amateur riders a chance to race against pros in a more relaxed setting than the highly stressed Superbike or Supersport classes.

This year, some cameo appearances included Francis Martin, top rookie-pro Ugo Levert, top motocross racer Marco Dube, Enduro rider and Paris-Dakar racer Guy Giroux and everybody’s favourite, Pascal Picotte. Martin and Picotte were on separate teams, both choosing to ride Supermotard bikes.

The teams are split into three separate classes depending on the engine displacement of the machines they ride: Lightweight (500 cc and less), Middleweight (501 to 620 cc) and Heavyweight (everything else).

JP Schroeder and I would be competing on my Buell Firebolt in Heavyweight along with seven other teams.


Costa tries to find Michele – striking his manly pose #42.

After the first warm-up lap, a delay in the start (due to a fallen rider) and following that, a malfunctioning clock (scoring is done by noting the time whenever a bike crosses the start/finish line) forced everyone to wait alongside their machines while the clock doctors attempted to revive the official timepiece. They never did, taking the important score-keeping device away on a stretcher. Scoring would have to be done by synchronizing individual stopwatches (and what a pain that was – ‘arris).

Editor ‘arris, accompanied by his attractive cousin, Michele, would have to be exceptionally attentive in his score-keeping duties. I attempted several times to pry Michele away from him so he could focus more on the task at hand but he recounted that his timekeeping would in fact be more accurate with Michele by his side, thus preventing him from having to keep a constant eye on me had she been in the pits. He also mentioned that my riding would no doubt suffer by her presence, my concentration being somewhat affected. In the interest of the team, I had to agree…damn!

Costa can’t get it to slide in and blows it with Michele … or should that be the other way around?

The starting procedure of the endurance differs from a regular start in that it is what is called a Le Mans start. The motorcycles are lined up in a row along one side of the track with their engines running, while the riders stand opposite their respective machines across the track. When the flag drops, a foot race ensues as the riders scramble to hop on their bikes, pop them into gear and head for the first corner.

JP and myself had decided that I take the start.

Team CMG had been sacrificing things once again, as we found out we were placed in the top spot of the starting grid. The gridding procedure in the endurance is done by drawing team names at random for grid position; we had the luck of the draw.

While waiting on the sidelines, Carl Wener, an ex-racer, friend and volunteer team member was trying to convince me that once the start did take place, I should hop onto the bike from the right hand side. He told me this would probably prevent me from unintentionally hitting the shifter, causing an embarrassing situation. I explained to Carl that I always got onto a motorcycle from the left, would do so on this occasion and probably always would do so in the future.

Martin and Picotte do it their way on a pair of Supermotards.

His concerns were to no avail as I took the start, hopped on from the left side, and sat there, frantically trying to get the bike into gear. I’ve reversed the shift pattern on the Firebolt, feeling more comfortable with this set-up but the shifter must be lifted to get the bike into first gear. This takes a more conscious effort to do and my first attempt wasn’t convincing enough. By the time the revs came back down and I did get the bike into gear, about seven bikes had already gotten ahead.

It was no big deal though because this was a three-hour race (it was shortened by the delays) so we had plenty of time to catch up. Two of the riders that got by were Martin and Picotte. As I caught up to them (they were on underpowered Supermotard bikes) and finally made the pass along the back straight, they were riding side by side, both balancing their machines on the rear wheel. Obviously, they were taking this endurance race with the utmost seriousness. Soon after they were black-flagged and warned to cut down on their antics. Too bad, it was fun to watch and kept the three spectators in the stands entertained but it could also have proven dangerous being that other teams were there to win.

I passed a few of the riders that had gotten ahead of me at the start but after about twenty-five minutes in the saddle, I got lapped by one of the faster teams aboard a Honda CBR 929. A few laps later, Canadian Thunder regular Robert Trottier got past me on a GSXR 750. He used to race one when he was living in Alberta and obviously still knows how to ride one, and fast.


JP takes over the reins.

Thirty-five minutes into the race, a rider went down hard coming out of turn four. One of the hazards of participating in the endurance is that there is a great difference in skill and speed between riders. The rider that went down was Levert’s tuner, taking part in his first road race. Trottier was approaching him to make a pass and the two riders clipped handlebars causing the slower rider to fall. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured and Trottier managed to keep upright but the incident brought out the red flag.

I entered the pits as soon as they opened, gassed up and handed the Firebolt to JP. We came out of the pits fifth overall, third in Heavyweight.

JP is a great rider. He wasn’t yet completely familiar with the Buell but still managed to get past two of the teams that were ahead of us, one of which being the second place Heavyweight contender, putting us in third place overall and second in our class.

Cracked exhaust pipe caused the Buell to blow?

We signalled JP at the forty-five minute mark, leaving him the option to ride on should he feel comfortable doing so. He opted to enter the pits so we did the changeover routine and I headed for the pit exit. Once there, one of the ASM officials pointed out that something was amiss with the Buell. I looked down and saw that my hand built exhaust pipe had severed at one the welds, about ten inches from the front exhaust port. Not only had it broken, but the bolts that held it onto the head had come loose as well. I decided to ignore it and left the pits in the same position we were in when we came in.

Although the bike was certainly louder, it ran fine and the pipe seemed to stay put so I stayed on the gas, actually going faster than I was my first time out.

After twenty-five minutes, I had passed several riders and never got passed myself, although I was concerned that the exhaust pipe might fly off at any point. Not having any way to communicate to my pit crew, I was hoping it would hold until they signalled me to come in at which point I’d arrange to at least tighten the mounting bolts.

And then it went “bang”.

The chance never came as the motor gave way coming onto the front straight. It made this horrid crunching sound and chewed itself to a halt. I pulled the clutch and coasted the bike into the pits to everyone’s surprise. That would signal the end of our race.

Pulling the front spark plug later on confirmed my suspicion; the front piston broke, having overheated, most probably due to the broken front header pipe.

I wasn’t disappointed though, we had given it our best, and had worked our way to third overall when disaster struck. It was the first DNF for the Firebolt after a full season of abuse and the failure was no doubt caused by my neglecting to do something about the exhaust pipe. Sometimes you take a gamble and sometimes you lose.

The Team CMG endurance effort was a valiant one, and all the ingredients were there for a winning combination. The only ingredient missing was good luck.

I’d like to thank everyone that was part of the team: Isabelle, Lyne and Lyssa, Michele, Jonathan Lauzon, Carl Wener, Rob Harris, Richard Seck and JP Schroeder.

Costa Mouzouris


Montreal, Saturday October 12, 2002.

JP getting to know the Firebolt.

It’s the final event of the year, and being a four hour endurance race, it’s always an interesting one. This was to be my third such event but the first time without my trusty BMW R1100S. As you may remember, after the last race of the Canadian Thunder Series I had elected to retire my S back to street duty. CMG team-mate Costa promptly volunteered his Buell for the occasion.

This, I was quite excited about. Costa’s proven to be very fast with the Firebolt, winning the last race at St-Eustache. Since I can keep a good pace myself, I thought we had a fair chance of putting Team CMG on the podium.

The first step however, was to get familiar with the Firebolt.

The last open practice session, exactly four weeks before this endurance race, was my only chance. Initial runs on the Buell proved I could go fast, but after more than two years racing the Beemer, I needed more practice. However, this would not be possible as while running my KTM Supermoto, things went horribly wrong as I left the track in the ambulance thanks to a spectacular highside (so the officials tell me). With the diagnosis of a broken collarbone and a good chunk of finger missing, I now wondered If I would be able to make the endurance race at all.


The restart.

Fast forward four weeks to the endurance race and a so-nearly-healed collarbone. Since the plan was to stay on the track as long as possible, I was somewhat worried as to whether my collarbone would hold up. Oh well, only one way to find out.

Costa starts the race and went on for about 30 minutes until the race is red flagged. He uses this opportunity to pit in. We refuel, I get on for my 45 minute stint, line up for the restart and off I go. Team CMG is now 5th overall and 3rd in its class.

I spend my 45 minutes on the track dicing with a GSXR-750. It’s the classic story of a better handling bike (Firebolt) going faster in the corners, only to lose that advantage in the straights, due to lack of power! Lacking the aggressiveness I need to make the pass (especially since I’m on someone else’s bike), it takes me a long time to get by.

“Croik, croik, croik” goes the collarbone – JP follows the pack into corner one.

Then when I finally do get by, I’m passed once more as I get tangled in traffic. I keep putting pressure on the Gixxer, showing my front wheel on the inside and outside. I suspect that the rider could also hear the Buell constantly on his tail (especially since the bike seemed to be getting louder by the lap – that exhaust pipe problem).

Eventually, I passed him again and this time managed to stay in front.

However, all this racing was starting to take its toll. For the last ten minutes I could feel my collarbone doing a weird thing best described as “croik, croik, ( I need grease), croik!”, especially during the quick left-right transition of corner one. Although the Buell’s excellent chassis was responding well to rider input, it was also getting very physical to drive. I had told Costa to leave the bike set-up for him and I would adapt, which meant that the suspension was over sprung (I am lighter than Costa) forcing me to sit over the front as much as possible.

“It’s fooked”.

After close to 45 minutes of constant duelling I was getting tired, so when I saw Carl Wener waving frantically at the end of the straight (the sign that my time is up) I decided to pull in, even though the fuel light wasn’t on yet. I suspected that I might be getting slower as well. I was even starting to run wide a few times because I just didn’t have the strength to countersteer hard and fast enough. Yes, it was definitely time to pit.

And that was the end of my race and Team CMG’s, as the bike died shortly afterwards. I have to admit, I was almost relieved not to have to go back! I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t keep a fast enough pace and Team CMG would lose positions as a result.

Even with my physical injuries, I really enjoyed the Buell Firebolt. The chassis is exceptional, although you do need to spend some time to understand how to ride it the way it’s meant to be ridden – fast. My only complaint of the Firebolt is with the brakes, especially when compared to the Beemer, as the initial bite is rather soft. Although I suspect that this may be improved with set-up and different pads.

I hope Costa gets it fixed up in time for next year, so that I can get another opportunity to race it – future injuries allowing!

JP “I just wanna race” Schroeder


“Whadayamean my race is over?”
Dimitri lets one loose … and burns out the rear tire to boot.
‘Nuff said.


Of course, with Team CMG out of the picture, who really cares? But that just simply isn’t cricket, unfortunately as of posting time we didn’t have them from ASM. Best thing we can do is put them in the next news. Sorry ’bout that, but what can we do?


Many thanks go to Arai (Team CMG helmets), Kimpex (Team CMG Rhyno suits), Pirelli (Team CMG tires), Trac Racing (for the Elf fuel), Prexport boots (for Costa), Techlusion (Firebolt ignition module), Bistro Champs Elysees, ATC Chemicals, Jack Grammas (ASM), the racing department at Buell Canada (including Ric Marrero and Brad Dawson) and everyone at Moto Internationale.

(Read Part 10 here)


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