BMW Motorcycles National Racing Series
Canadian Thunder

Photo Gallery
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The pits getting set-up

Amazing new Joe Rocket suit

Quick team photo

Carol - aka - "Mom"

The pits


The bike


"Crazy" Cathy & I

Sean & I

Carol & I

Richard & I

Dan "slavin" away

Chris Duff my boss/teammate

Colin Fraser & I


Team shot after the race

Team shot after the race

Race Report Round 1

Before I begin, tremendous thanks have to go out to the team, the sponsors, and everyone involved for providing me with this opportunity. Also, special thanks to Dan Zlock for everything he does as my crew chief. This weekend has once again reminded me what a phenomenal talent he is and how fortunate I am to have him in my life.

Day 1
Well I am finally here in Shannonville for Round 1 of the Thunder series after what seemed like the never-ending trip to get here. With only a few hours of sleep last night, combined with the three hour time change, I have to say I'm not feeling all that sharp. Not too much to report today as I am mostly relaxing getting to know the other members of the BMW crew, as well as talking to racers and friends I haven't seen in a while. Honestly, about the only real work I've done is locate and unpack the new Joe Rocket leathers that just arrived about an hour ago. Dan Zlock is busy, as usual, working away taking measurements, crunching numbers, and getting familiar with our all new BMW R1200S. Due to the bike's rather unique suspension, he's focusing on educating himself with how it will respond to our changes. Last week we had an opportunity to test the bike for the first time and we came away impressed with the improvements BMW has made over the previous model. I really think the bike has tremendous potential. All we need is some decent development and seat time to see what direction we need to go with any necessary changes. This weekend will undoubtedly give us a very clear picture of how the bike stacks up. I can't wait to ride.

Day 2
What a difference a good sleep makes. I definitely feel improved over yesterday. Dan and I had discussed what needed to be done on the bike the night before so we came to the track armed with a plan in place to accomplish all the detail work that was still lingering. After those details were accomplished, Dan took the bike through tech and the team started to get things ready for practice. In the meantime, I watched Clint McBain and Jordan Szoke rip around Shannonville on their superbikes in an effort to get some idea of what lines they were using around the track. As I had never ridden at this track, I needed to educate myself however I could. My first few laps around were a feeble attempt at figuring out which way the corners went and just where the really big bumps were (I think I found them all). Shannonville is a rather tight 15 turn 4 km track with a considerable amount of - let's call it "character". It's definitely a place where track knowledge and seat time would help. I only did seven laps during the first practice, and then came in for a minute to mull things over in my head before going out at the end of our practice session. I managed to knock off several seconds in the two subsequent laps, but still needed to trim down my lap times. Our second practice didn't unfold as I would have hoped, as the steering damper malfunctioned on lap three causing the steering to effectively lock. This unfortunately put an end to my practice session as the issue couldn't be resolved in the remaining time. Tomorrow brings us to qualifying, so we'll look forward to making more progress with the bike then.

Day 3
As I am new to this series, I find it quite interesting walking around talking to people and listening to conversations that go on along pit lane. At this point I'm just beginning to learn of and hear about the politics that go on. This morning, with rain pouring down, the series got its first taste of the Pirelli spec rain tires. This conjured up multiple questions regarding how many tires the teams could use during today's all important qualifying sessions. Without going into massive put-you-to-sleep detail and essentially reciting the rulebook, I'll lay it out. In each qualifying or practice session a rider can only use one set of rain tires. That's it. For us in our twenty minute qualifying session this isn't such a big deal. However, when you have superbikes that qualify in forty minute sessions, this conjures up questions regarding tire safety and life. I'll give you a scenario to illustrate. Let's say the track was drying somewhat in areas, but still eighty percent wet. In this situation a rider could easily destroy a rain tire within a few laps. That said, what if you ran into that same situation during a qualifying session? Should that rider only be able to use one set of rain tires, or should they have access to multiple sets? Just some of the goings on that you might not hear or read about.

This race weekend has proven and continues to be a weekend of firsts for me. While I am no stranger to riding in the rain (something that comes with living on the west coast), this morning's practice was my first experience with the BMW in the wet. I'm happy to say the bike really did surprise me with how well it worked given the conditions. I'll even admit that I ran with the heated grips on all day, and at one point had to turn them down to the low setting as my hands were getting too hot. I went out in the first practice session with the goal of getting a feel for where I could and couldn't push. As I mentioned earlier, this track has multiple sections of pavement that ultimately provide some of the before mentioned "character". With qualifying up next, I knew we needed to knock off several seconds in an effort to get a front row start. For qualifying we mounted up a new set of rains (as per the rules I mentioned above) and set out to put some laps together. With about six minutes remaining in the session, I came in to see where we were. Unfortunately, I was back in fifth and needed to knock off some considerable time. I went out knowing I had one shot to improve our starting position. Somehow I managed to put in a decent lap bringing me to fourth position behind all three factory Buell riders. Honestly, I had my eyes closed for most of the lap so describing it might be difficult. Tomorrow is our first race of the season. It's going to be a competitive race for sure.

Day 4
With the temperature dropping to just a few degrees above freezing, race day conditions clearly weren't improved. I went out in the morning practice on full rains, however the track was mostly dry so I could only manage a few laps before the tires were pretty much shredded, while I was pretty much frozen (with the exception of my hands as I'm now addicted to those hand warmers). As our race start came up we noticed some large, ominous clouds approaching. Sure enough, just after we finished our warm up lap with rain drops appearing on my visor, race officials decided to postpone the start to allow us to make tire changes. I have to say this is quite a refreshing change to what I've experienced in the past. The officials and sanctioning body were far more concerned with the safety of the riders over the already late-running schedule. This type of forward thinking does not happen in every series I can assure you. Now just when we thought it could not rain any harder, it started to hail. I did fairly well off the start and went into turn one in second place right behind Darren James, the 2005 Thunder Champion. As we exited turn one I was traumatized to find that we could hardly see turn two because of all the steam coming off the now rapidly drying track. Yes, the sun was now, just twenty minutes later, out in full force. I played it a little safe for the first few laps which cost me several positions. I knew we didn't have the pace for the Buells in the wet conditions, so I focused on managing my tires gambling that the track would be mostly dry by the end. It was quite difficult forcing myself to be patient, but luckily things worked out for me in the end. With four laps remaining I gave it everything I had and somehow managed to catch up to the third place rider, Michael Taylor on the Ducati. This, I have to admit, was a pretty cool moment for me as I was, and still am, a HUGE fan of Mike. In fact, I even have a poster of the guy in my garage from when he rode for Kawasaki in the late nineties. On the last lap I managed to get by Mike off the back straight and barely held him off for the last spot on the podium.

From here we have a week or so break and then it's off to round two. As I mentioned earlier, this weekend did provide a very clear picture of where our bike stands compared to its competition, and with that we now have a plan to improve the bike in certain areas. It's going to be an exciting season to say the least!

Stay tuned.