Date: March 9th - 12th
Classes raced and results
USA Formula Xtreme - 31st
There I was sipping a cup of sugary tea in one
of the teams' favourite Chinese restaurants in Daytona Beach,
when I suddenly came to realize that a new racing season was
upon me. With all the testing, writing, riding and training
I did this past winter, it really didn't seem as though the
2004 season had ever ended. However, once the jokes started
between the team members (same ones as last year), and the
stories of racing glory and gore began (again the same old
ones), I suddenly realized how much I had missed the team
over the last few months.
As is always the case, I need to thank everyone that played
a part in our trip to Daytona, and also need to specifically
thank some key individuals. A tremendous thanks to the Meyers
family for their amazing hospitality and support. It's simply
impossible to put in words just how wonderful this family
is and how much we appreciate them. Also, I need to thank
Dan and the entire team for all they do. I consider myself
very fortunate to be riding for the team I do. Dan, Joyce,
Dale, Arnie, Shawn, Jeff, Brad and Cindy - you guys are the
best. Thank you. And last, but certainly not least, I need
to thank my wife, daughter, and family for believing in me.
When Dan Zlock received word of the new rules for the Daytona
200 incorporating Formula Extreme 600cc bikes and rules for
the most prestigious and historic race in America, he gave
me a call. Basically, he told me he wanted to run an '04 Kawasaki
ZX6RR as he felt they could make a competitive machine for
the race starting with that platform, and so it began. Several
months later, after dealing with countless man hours, sleepless
nights, phone calls, and every other conceivable logistic,
the team was ready for Daytona. All that was left for them
was a fifty-seven hour drive from the team's headquarters
in Washington to the Florida racetrack. They manage to accomplish
the long drive with generous amounts of RedBull and chocolate
covered coffee beans. Who said being the rider was unhealthy.
Besides the new rules already mentioned, 2005 Daytona 200
was also going to be run using a completely new infield course
(see image below) freshly laid by the Daytona management.
The new layout was created to reduce the dangers Daytona presented
to motorcycle riders by eliminating NASCAR turns one and two
which are banked very high speed turns that produced enormous
heat generating loads on the tires. (sometimes catastrophic).
What this meant for us was a completely new track to learn
as quickly as possible.
Notes on practice
With the weather looking threatening the team set me out on
the bike for the first time. My objectives from Dan were clear:
get a look at the track and get a plan for the new layout,
while making sure the bike was operating and running correctly.
I set out and got my first look at the new layout, but unfortunately
the quick shifter wasn't operating correctly and the brakes
were giving inconsistent lever feel so I came after only three
laps to enable the team to get everything up and running.
With the shifter now fixed and although the brake system issue
wasn't completely solved, I went out for a few more laps at
the end of the practice session. As is almost always the case
Dan and the team had built a rocket ship of a bike, with this
one being the fastest 600 I had ever ridden, something that
is essential to a successful race at Daytona. As Dan says
about Daytona, you need to gear tall, jet rich, and bring
power. I wasn't able to put in any laps for the rest of Wednesday
as it started to rain bringing a halt to our session., and
it continued to rain causing the AMA to shut down the track
for the remainder of the day.
Notes on qualifying
Even though we had only spun fifteen laps on the track due
to the rain and the nagging issues with the brakes, I felt
really confident that I could put something together for qualifying.
Once out on the track with a fresh set of Pirelli slicks mounted
up, I began to explore deeper entry points and earlier drives
while keeping the bike in the right places on the track. Sure
enough the times kept dropping taking me to the second fastest
time of my group. This was also due to how fast the Zlock
ZX6RR was, hitting 171.5 MPH on the banking. Awesome.
Notes on race
Race day came quickly as we spent Friday going over the bike
and practicing our pit stops and strategy. Dan planned for
a two stop strategy where we would change both tires with
fuel each time. In our practices, we managed to get the stops
down to twenty seconds, and I felt we were in a good position
for the race. I got a mediocre start as the super tall gearing
we were running forced me to slip the clutch rather dramatically
to get going. For the first lap I played it a little safe
as riders were punting themselves off the track making ridiculous
moves in almost every corner. From then on I just worked on
getting into a rhythm to start putting in good lap times.
Unfortunately, I was running about a half second a lap slower
than I wanted to. When I worked to push through, it added
up to a few "close" moments so I just clicked off
the laps as best I could all the while saving as much energy
as possible. To give you an idea of how much work a rider
goes through in this race, here are some numbers for you to
digest: in this race I changed gears over 1,197 times, braked
and dealt with braking forces 603 times, and in an effort
to be as aerodynamic as possible on the banking, I squatted
and hovered over the rear tail-section every lap. Ask me if
you need to be in shape for this sport.
Things were going relatively well until our first pit stop
when we noticed our transponder had fallen off the bike and
we also had a malfunction with the quick change equipment
on the front end. Unfortunately this cost us a serious amount
of time and I went out in 57th place. Despite this, I just
kept on running the laps in an effort to improve on my position.
The second stop went much smoother as Dan decided to only
change the rear tire and not risk having the front end cost
us time again. He had faith that the Pirelli front could make
it for two stints. The last session was without a doubt my
best. Despite the shagged front, I still managed to put in
my best lap times of the race even getting within a few tenths
of my qualifying time just four laps from the end. When all
was said and done, we had worked our way to 31st place. Certainly
not where I wanted to end up, but some days things just aren't
going to go your way. Daytona dealt us a little bad luck this
year, but I feel good knowing we had the package to do much
better. The only thing left to do is to go again next year.
on images to enlarge