National Motorcycle Racer -

Location: Daytona USA

Events raced - Finish
AMA 600 Supersport - DNF
AMA Superbike 200 - 32nd

As I slid off the pavement and onto the grass I looked up and saw our new ZX6RR tumbling through the air several feet above me; the Daytona experience had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I had tucked the front going into turn one - a turn that in my opinion is one the most intimidating you can take. You approach it flat out in top gear and because of the open layout of the track you don't really have reference points to get accustomed to for brake markers. Basically, I had just run it in too hot and the mistake was going to cost us big. Fortunately I walked away from the crash unscathed with the exception of some tattered Joe Rocket leathers and a small amount of bruising and soreness. Oh, did I mention a bruised ego and a great sense of remorse for our team? -That too. Unfortunately, the 600 did not fair so well. The sub-frame now resembled some new-age art pointing up towards the Florida sky. Not what you want to do with a brand new motorcycle that your team has slaved over the past 3 days. I guess that's racing, but this is just a glimpse of how I spent Bike Week 2003.

Now before I get into the whole experience, I need to take a moment to thank just some of the people that made this whole trip possible. To Dan and Dale Zlock and the whole Zlock Racing team, you guys are amazing. I can't imagine riding for any other team and I feel extremely privileged to ride your painstakingly prepared equipment along with your tutorship and advice. Thank you to Kelly Dodds, Adam Fox and Bruce Parker from Joe Rocket for their amazing support in keeping me safe while also making me look good. Rich Munson at Pirelli for his essential support with the best motorcycle tires available. The crew at Canadian Biker Magazine for their remarkable support both on and off the track. Bruce Porter with Arai for protecting my head with the best helmets ever designed. Lee and Lang Hindle for providing us with beautiful horsepower producing exhaust systems. Dave Hodges from GP suspension for always having a solution to our suspension quandaries. Garry Gallagher from EBC brakes for getting us stopped with the best. Garry Ricci for the fantastic Bardahl lubricants. Steve Whiting from Over The Top for the incredible personal support. Mike Megson for his personal support from day one. Rob at Q Racing Systems for going above and beyond to get equipment on our bikes. Tim Mass from Kawasaki Canada for his continued belief in my abilities. Jay from Graphic FX for working so damn hard. Rob Burns, the team painter, for doing the undoable in record time. Steve Drane for his personal support. And last, but certainly not least, my best friend and wife Karla for her continued support of my desire to pursue racing.

Thank you to all these people and the countless others that make everything possible.

Bike week was a week of firsts for me: First time on race bikes this year; first time racing at Daytona; first time at an AMA National; first time on these particular motorcycles; and the first time with a new crew chief and crew. All these firsts led to a lot of work throughout the week for both the crew and myself. But we wouldn't have it any other way would we.
Daytona costs a lot to attend, and this particular trip required extensive support, teamwork and preparation. Also, with Daytona you generally have to commit to going long before you even have motorcycles and confirmed support lined up for the season, as was the case for us this year. Even though we were one of the fortunate few who had new bikes lined up for the season, some were brand new models that none of our other sponsors would see until after we did. What does that mean? Well things like bodywork, rear-sets, fuel management systems, things one generally takes for granted as being readily available, simply weren't. In fact, the first production sets of bodywork, rear-sets and exhausts were shipped to Daytona just for us. Is that support or what! In terms of engine development on the 600, there was none, as we simply didn't have time to get into it. Box stock at an AMA National….never again. With all this scrambling to keep up, the team was under a lot of pressure to say the least. We had four guys working 10-hour days just to get the last minute things accomplished so that we would be able to get these machines on the track. All this and the weather forecast wasn't looking good at all. But the team kept digging in.

Wednesday - Practice day.
The weather held off and we had a clear day to work on both the 600 and the Superbike. It was a big day for me. I was actually going to lap Daytona Speedway, something that seemed like an unachievable dream just a few years ago. It was time for me to dig deep and deliver by systematically working with the team on the bikes to enable us to go as fast as we could. I took the first practice session on the 600 relatively easy as I just wanted to get a feel for which way the track went. The 600 felt good right out of the box with there already being a noticeable improvement in the handling and brakes over last years machine. The only difficulty we encountered was a glitch in the fuel management due to the increased flow the Hindle exhaust created. What the bike needed was more fuel and at that moment we had no way of altering the fuel mixture on the bike. Thankfully Rick Botting, the owner of a fuel management system called Techlusion, was in Daytona and he specifically came by and personally installed one of his units on the 600. This proved to be an invaluable piece of equipment as we were now able to dial the fuel injection in to work with the exhaust. The times kept dropping as I came up to speed with the track and we began to fine-tune the power delivery on the 600.
Now the first session on the Superbike left me asking what I had gotten myself into. The Superbike made a phenomenal amount of power and with my lack of saddle time I was feeling quite intimidated by the track and the machine. Things felt fast and that's not a good place to be as a racer. But as you can predict, some saddle time on the bike gave me what I needed to regain my confidence in the tires, the machinery and in myself.

Thursday - Qualifying for the 600 and the Superbike.
First up was the 600. With a good night's sleep and a chance to review the track in my mind, I went out and immediately went faster getting the 600 into the mid 2:01's. I knew there was a lot more left, with a little more time. Next up was Superbike and I was able to get down to 1:57 flats. Again we were happy as these were achieved on some pretty shagged tires and every session on the Superbike was proving to be faster. The only issue we were having with the Superbike was a slight transmission glitch that would see it occasionally remaining fixed in a gear or finding itself in a false neutral. The team did what they could, but a solution seemed to require us going inside the motor, something we unfortunately did not have time for.

Friday - 600 race & 2nd Superbike Qualifying.
A weather system came through cancelling the race as well as our second qualifying session on the Superbike. It was quite a downer for me, because I really wanted to put in a good time for the team in Superbike qualifying. I was starting to get into a grove and the times were dropping. I know we would have been in the 1:55's with one more session, but I guess it wasn't to be. Saturday was a day off so the team focused on practicing the pit stops and watching the Supercross race. It was actually relaxing for everybody and I personally think the team needed the break in action.

Sunday - Race day.
This was scheduled to be a very long day indeed. Because of the rain delays on Friday the 600 race had been moved to the same day as the Superbike. Two sprint races in one day I can easily deal with, however when one of the races is the Daytona 200 it left me wondering how I would feel. I lined up for the grid on the 600 and felt remarkably calm. I got a good start and played it relatively safe through the first turn. The first lap was total carnage as riders were trying way too hard and crashing because of it. It felt more like hit to pass than road racing. I managed to stay out of trouble and get down to the task at hand, i.e good consistent lap times. The times came way down and we were into the 1:58's. Now we were starting to get around. I kept up that pace for the majority of the race when, as you read earlier, just a few laps from the end I dove it too deep into turn one and ended up on my head. I couldn't believe it. I was so upset with myself for making the mistake. And to be quite honest, I really feel as though I let the team down. When people work that hard for you and support you as much as they and the sponsors do, you really want to make them proud. The team was obviously dejected but relieved that I wasn't injured. "Hurt but not injured" the team owner says… and there is a difference. They just wanted to hear if I was alright to race the 200. For them, I was going to race the 200 no matter how I felt. We lined the bikes on the grid for the opening ceremonies and at that moment the skies opened up and dumped a tremendous amount of rain effectively cancelling the Superbike race that day. To be honest, I was quite relieved as I would now have a night to sleep off the crash. Lucky me.

Monday - Race day for the Superbikes.
Finally sunshine; we would be racing for sure. The team completed its last practice pit stops getting down to an average time of 22 seconds to change the rear tire and fuel the bike. That's phenomenal considering the fact that we did not have specific quick-change equipment, but relied on the team's ingenuity to create solutions using an assortment of stock parts. Now that's a team. I was feeling surprisingly limber despite the fact that I had crashed the day before. I knew that as soon as I got on the bike I would feel little if not anything in regards to pain. I got a decent start and just let things sort themselves out. My goal for the race was to finish and bring the bike home. It was, after all, a 200 mile race. I settled into a comfortable rhythm but the transmission really started malfunctioning. It got so bad that it was becoming dangerous as the bike was acting up on the banking at well over 100 mph. Not a place that you want anything to happen. I had to make a difficult decision; go for the lap times and risk the transmission packing it in or take it really easy on the tranny and leave the bike a gear taller through all the infield and tighter turns. I chose the latter as there was no way I was going to have two DNF's. My lap times dropped as I wasn't able to get the drive out of the corners but the bike was predictable and safer that way. I think I made the right choice. The pit stops went well and the team had me in and out in record time. For the rest of the race I just settled into a rhythm focusing on doing the same thing lap after lap. When the white flag came out I took my last lap in and savoured every second. I knew it might be a year until I saw it again. Too bad really. Daytona was just starting to grow on me. When it was all over I stood on pit lane and to be honest, I was in a bit of shock. Had I just run the 200? Was this just some awesome dream? It felt so surreal to be standing there. This experience was exceptional to say the least and because of all the wonderful support from our sponsors, it had gone from a dream to a reality. Thank you.

Some Pictures
Click on image to enlarge



A lap of Daytona

Let me go back and take you through a lap of Daytona on the 600. As I described earlier, you approach turn one, a left-hander, flat out, as fast as the bike will go, and have to get sorted out and into second gear before the apex. The exit of turn one is quite slippery so you try to get the bike as vertical as possible while driving out. You go up two gears by the time you go through turn two - a small left hand kink that you basically accelerate through. This shoots you into turn three, the first right hander, also called the "first horseshoe", where you have be back down to second gear focusing on keeping your corner speed up with a good exit. Up two more gears and you're into turn four, a fast left hand kink also called the "dog leg" which for me was the most satisfying corner of the track. You roll off the throttle just a little on the entry to get the bike to turn in and then get back into it smoothly but as soon as possible. If you get the line right and the throttle control down, you get a really nice predicable slide on the exit at about 120 mph. This takes you into turn five, "the second horseshoe", a right-hander taken in second gear that can best be described as a double apex corner. You have to enter it mid track to set you up for the second apex and a solid drive out. Up a gear and then right back down to second and you're into turn six, a left-hander that leads you onto the east banking. The exit is critical as you are now full throttle through all the gears right up to the chicane. This, however, is all done on the banking, which for me was difficult to get used to. You almost get disoriented on it the first few times as the G forces push you onto the bike and the bike turns and handles in a very unfamiliar way. Instead of looking straight ahead or off to the side, you look up and to the left, something your neck does not particularly enjoy. As you come off the banking using the slope to accelerate you even more, you shoot into the chicane, a quick left and then right, that takes you onto the west banking. This, in my opinion, is the most important corner on the track as the drive out dictates your top speed through the entire west banking. Believe me, that is a whole lot of pavement to cover. You enter the chicane in second gear and really focus on getting the bike turned quickly to maximize your drive out. Once out of the chicane you make yourself as small as possible on the bike shifting at the optimal rpm. You go up onto the banking and hold a relatively high line using every ounce of energy the bike can give you. From here it's WFO for what seems like an eternity (on the 600 anyway) and you end up crossing the start finish at maximum speed. Now you're ready for the next lap, just do it faster this time okay.

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