Archive for November, 2008

Come watch us race Jesse James this Saturday

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

So Jesse James has this new show coming out on the Spike TV network called, wait for it…

 “Jesse James is a Dead Man”


Jesse James takes on the role of a modern-day daredevil in “Jesse James Is A Dead Man,” a new, original weekly series on Spike TV premiering in February 2009. Each episode will follow James as he readies himself for a different death-defying challenge. Preparing for the risky challenge can often be as dangerous as the challenge itself as he endures a battery of tests to prepare. With CGI effects, viewers get a taste of the enormity of the stunt, revealing the physiological stress James’ body will endure. Some of the dangerous challenges he’ll be facing include the harrowing, grueling and lawless off-road race, the Baja 500, and hitting over 200 mph on a Nitro bike supercharged by ultra-combustible nitro-methane fuel… (etc)

So they contacted us several months back about getting Jesse James in the cockpit of a F1 sidecar for a day to race with us out at Streets of Willow… All the business stuff was done, and well… it’s going to happen this coming Saturday the 22nd, we’re going to be one of the first episodes run. The production team said invite people to watch… A good majority of the top FI and FII teams on the West Coast will be there for the shoot.

It should be interesting, this will be the first time Sarah and I have our new F1 Becker on the track, so we’ll be fighting a steep learning curve with cameras pointed at us.

The flier they’re handing out around the office at Willow Springs…

I think the ‘new sidecar’ that will be there might be that new chopper-sidecar he built. This is what he will be racing, it might look a little familiar.  It’s been re-tooled and the cockpit has been modified extensively to fit Jesse James’ 6’3″ frame.  And well… we know it’s fast.

So if you’re not doing anything Saturday and have gas money and a spare 10 dollar bill, come down to Streets of Willow and watch Jesse James give F1 sidecars a try.

BCR gets a new Becker F1 for 2009

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

For the 2009 season Sarah and I have upgraded from the CSR F1 to a Becker Motor Works F1 chassis.

Powered by a Suzuki GSXR-1000 engine this turnkey Becker unit is a true pedigree formula race bike.  Ohlins front and rear suspension with adjustable compression/rebound/preload.  Full Wilwood billet calipers with vented rotors and matching Wilwood master cylinders/brake pedal assembly.  Featherlight Becker 1pc body with the internal cockpit custom tailored to Sarah’s dimensions.  True hub-center steering for effortless driver control.  And a million other features that I could list.  Needless to say the new rig is a monster, an asphalt hoover, a surgical tool, a Weapon of Lap Destruction.  It’s so clean you could eat off of it, and it’s wiring and plumbing would make the thickest bespeckled pocket-protectored engineering grad weep.

Coming soon, to a track near you.

The Final Sunday…

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Sarah and I were greeted to mostly clear skies and dry asphalt when we woke up in the motel Sunday morning.  This was promising because we were going to race today even if it meant we were going around the track in the driving rain on slicks at 25 miles per hour till we saw a checkered flag.  We were going to finish our season, we were going to finish our race.

At the track they had a backhoe out and were clearing off about eight inches of mud and rocks from various sections of the asphalt.   The threat of rain had subsided and it was shaping up to be a nice day to finish the season out on.  A voice came over the PA announcing that even at it’s best we’d be lucky to hit the track at 10AM, and that there would be a single rotation of practice for everybody, not two as per usual.  So we’d be racing today with no Saturday practice, and a single short 20 minute session on a dirty track.  Nice.

The track was cleaned as good as it was going to get with the efforts of the WSMC staff and membership, lots of shovels and brooms, blood, sweat, and tears.  And as I am used to now, they sent us out first to act as hoovers to dust off the racing line.  Things were not as bad as I expected they would be.  There was still a little dirt on the track, but traction was not too much of an issue.  Sarah was really poking around the track and sitting up high in the cockpit getting a good look up the road to see what was going on.  When the wheel did spin up I was able to control it without issues, and the only wet spot on the track, the turn 13 exit onto the front straight actually seemed to clean the crap off our tires for the drive up the dusty front straight.  I’m 200 pounds, I make traction happen regardless of what lateral forces or the motor might have to say otherwise, there will be no  argument.

Our race was staged race seven, right after the 20 lap ‘tag-team’ event, so that put us out at about 2PM for a race time.  Which was not bad all things considered.  And in what seemed like no time at all our race was up, and we were rolling out on the track for our warm up lap.

We were gridded outside second row behind Rick.  Rick and Bill were on the front row, with Wade next to us.  Sean behind us with Leon across from him, and many other angry sidecars behind them… a packed grid.  Given the pressure for time they didn’t waste no time at all once we were staged and set.  The two board was out, one, sideways… the engine RPM’s came up and once more Sarah launched like a bomb went off when the flag dropped and my jaw was left open as we found ourselves drag racing Rick and Bill up the hill into turn 1.  Rick and Bill went around turn 1 two wide and we followed, Wade caught us on the inside and made a quick pass on the inside into two and we dropped in behind him.  I looked up as we slid around the crest of two and was greeted to a beautiful sight.  A whole pack of seven sidecars chasing us up the hill.

Head back in the game I dropped down for the turn three left stretching out forward after Sarah got it turned in to keep that front wheel planted.  We proceeded to boogie with the leaders staying 1/2/3/4 right there with them for a good three laps before they really started to wick up the pace as their tires came online.  We came around the bottom of three again and saw a standing yellow flag.  At the top of four Wade and Christine were pulled off to the outside of the track.  We were up to third again.  After the five/six/seven esses I glanced back as we powered through the bowl  and did not see anybody behind us.

At the top of two I glanced down and saw Hans flying up into turn one at a wicked pace, he was obviously on the drive to catch us.  Passenger math told me we had two laps to go and there was a good chance if Hans stayed on his current drive that he would put us down unless Sarah could kick up the pace or Hans made a mistake.  Sure enough coming into the turn ten Hans had closed the gap and I could hear his Suzuki behind us.  His favorite passing spot was on the inside of thirteen around the skidpad, and I didn’t know how to telegraph to Sarah to stay tight.  She ran a little wide and it was all Hans needed, he snuck under us mid double-apex with his line pushing him wide onto the front straight.  Sarah wasn’t having it and retaliated by using the explosive power of the CBR1000RR to walk Hans down the front straight past the white flag and just pitched the CSR sideways into one and through two.  I brought us around two and made sure we had a nice exit for three and Hans pulled a banzi balls-out inside pass with his passenger John lawnmowing the off camber left hander from the chair.

We tucked up on Hans and now we had lap traffic to contend with.  It was the last Streets race all over again.  Gary was in front of us on the back straight and well off pace due to a damaged front suspension mount.  Hans slipped by on the tighter line and we were forced to take the long way around Gary on the outside and drive for the checkers on Hans’ butt.

A well earned fourth place finish, some excellent dicing at the end with Hans, and more than enough points to secure our third place ranking in the 2008 SRA West Coast Challenge.

We’d like to thank all of our Sponsors who made this possible for us.  We’ve come so far in the two seasons we’ve been racing professionally, and it would not have been possible without your wealth of help and assistance to make it this far.

Sarah & Mike

Who’s driving the U-Boat?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

So this was it…  The showdown.  With one thin point keeping us out of third place we had to score no less than 19 points in the final race of the season if we had any hopes of a top three finish for the 2008 season in the West Coast Challenge.  The weather looked iffy, but the rig was prepped, we were psyched, and it was going to happen no matter what.

We got into Rosamond Friday night just as the sun was starting to set.  The track officials at Willow Springs let us sneak in and drop off our gear before heading back to the hotel.  For some reason I didn’t like the clouds and elected to put the CSR up on the jack stands instead of leaving it on the ground.  On the jack stands, as high as it would go.  And then we dropped the canopy down as low as it would go on top of it, lashing the canopy down in my ‘Willow Springs’ fashion which ensures it will withstand a category 5 hurricane.  Anybody who’s raced out at Willow Springs understands this.

Little did I know how much I was fortelling the near future.  I wish I’d bought a few lottery tickets that night.  We woke up Saturday morning, scrambling to get ready… and then Sarah peeked out the motel room window and said, “Don’t bother, it’s hammering down rain.”  So we took our time and made our way out to the track.

What greeted us was dumbfounding.  I’ve been to tracks in wet conditions before.  We’d just got back from Portland not too long ago where it was pretty wet the whole weekend.  But this was freaking stupid.  I do want to say right now hats off to the WSMC crew for trying to prep the track every chance they got on Saturday to try and get people to practice, but it was like pissing on a raging wildfire.  Every time it looked like there might be a chance all their hard work and effort would pay off and practice for the motorcycles and sidecars would actually happen, Mother Nature would laugh and smite all of us.  Here’s some photos from Saturday just to show you what we were up against.

And, some video…

October 5th Streets Onboard Race Video

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

From my VholdR Camera, Enjoy

Key moments:

~ 2:25 – Warm up lap starts
~ 5:40 – Starter puts the 2 board up and gets ready to launch us, we’re 2nd on the pole next to Rick Murray in his Formula 1 LCR with eight other very angry rigs behind us looking for a green flag
~ 6:34 – I fall out. During a left right transition the CSR fishtails violently and I find myself suddenly going down the track backwards half out of the CSR one asscheek on the ground right leg and arm catscratching at the air. I use every ounce of strength I can muster to pull myself back in with my left arm which was the only thing holding me on at that point.
~ 9:00 – I screw up my left/right transition timing in the very tricky kink before the skidpad causing the chair wheel to lift and Sarah loses her drive out of the corner. I actually reach up and pat her to let her know it was my fault and to go back WFO.
~ 14:10 – I really screw up my left/right transition timing in the kink -again- this time lifting the chair about a foot in the air. I’m pissed. This kills all of our drive around the skidpad allowing Sean who we’ve been leading the entire race to slip by us on the inside and drop us from 4th position back to 5th.
~ 14:19 – I express my displeasure towards Sean as we pass the white flag.
~ 15:35 – As we’re chasing down Sean a yellow flag is thrown and we come on Rick’s disabled LCR traveling at a very low rate of speed around the track. We bunch up behind it into the chicane. Sean sneaks by, we think we have a chance, but then Rick bobbles and we no where to go short of off road. Bye Bye 4th place.
~ 16:20 – I express my displeasure at being relegated to 5th by venting on the bodywork, Sarah shakes her head as we cross the checkers.
~ 16:40 – I congratulate Sean on his nice inside pass and 4th place finish.

Streets o’ Willow, October 4/5th

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

With only two rounds left in the West Coast Challenge season Sarah and I find ourselves tied for third in the points.

We get the news that we’ve secured Second place overall in the Superside America National Series which consists of only Formula 1 class sidecars and only a few choice major events on the 2008 schedule.  While we did not podium in these events, we did consistently finish every single race high enough in the standing order to rack up some serious points.  Not something our competitors could say who either DNS’s (did not start) or DNF’ed (did not finish) the Superside events.  As Sarah likes to say, “You gotta be in it to win it!”  and we always see the checkered flag.  So we find ourselves at Streets of Willow on an upbeat note.

It could not have been a more beautiful weekend.  It was nice for Willow Springs.  Not that much wind, and not horribly cold for this time of year.  All the regulars were out and we packed the grid for what was shaping up to be a good event.

This was the first time we’d been back to Streets since last season, and it’s Sarah’s favorite track since it takes horsepower out of the mix and it’s tight technical nature pits driver against driver on pure skill and crazy factor.  Given Sarah’s pechant for crazy and total disrespect for her own mortality this track brings out the best and/or worst in her.

Practice was going well, but there were a couple spots on the track that were driving Sarah nuts because I could tell she just was not carrying enough speed.  She was either on the brakes way too soon, or not on the gas soon enough or hard enough on exits.  So after batting her eyes at Wade she was able to talk him into taking us out for a tow-around for a session with Wade and Christine so we could pick up some speed, brake markers, and lines.

It’s at this point I’d like to mention that ‘Wade’ is Isle of Man TT roadracing legend Wade Boyd.  One of our first introductions to Wade was out at Reno-Fernley in 2006 where he and Christine went around the outside of us in a sharp left with smoke coming off the front and rear tires and Christine about two feet up in the air… for fun.

So Wade takes us out for a tow, and already I can feel us carrying more speed up through one around the top of two.  Sarah chops the throttle and slides the back end of the CSR around two and chases Wade around the bottom of three and up into four/five/six.  I can feel the tires on the CSR chattering happily to be running at such a nice pace.   Wade takes us on a nice in/out/in line through the high banked bowl that slingshots us out onto the back straight and pulls Sarah into the tricky turn ten blind chicane session about twice as fast as she’s ever gone before.  I get my right foot into the upright as we approach the left kink rumble strips and lift the chair wheel up and over the rumbles as we fly smoothly through the kink like we’re shot out of a cannon still on Wade’s line.  Four more laps and the speed continues to build as Wade and Christine up the pace each lap.  Sarah continues to drive harder and the CBR1000RR engine in the CSR starts to sing, tires start to howl, a symphony of speed and motion begins to play as we shave seconds off laps.

Here’s video from the session.

We’re ready to race.

Practice on Sunday is uneventful.  We actually take it easy and only do a few laps at a moderate pace just to shake down the CSR and warm ourselves up physically.  It’s a long wait from our practice sessions to our actual race around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Finally after quite some time our race is called, we suit up and roll out.  Sarah wastes no time putting on the speed even for the warm up lap.  We’re one of the first out on the track and she gets heat in the tires.  Due to our points lead we’re right up on the front row next to Rick Murray in his LCR.

The tension is high as the two board goes sideways, Sarah raises the revs, the one board is out, and then the flag drops.  Sarah gets the best launch of the season, and only Rick and Bill out pace us from the start.  Wade manages to catch up, and we’re in 3rd up the hill with John sneaking by on the inside around the top relegating us back to 4th.  The rig fishtails violently as I’m making my right left transition between the fast switchback of five and six.  I find myself suddenly going down the track backwards half out of the CSR one asscheek on the ground right leg and arm catscratching at the air. I use every ounce of strength I can muster to pull myself back in with my left arm which was the only thing holding me on at that point.

We do our best to stay on the pace of Rick/Bill/Wade but they are just blistering today.  We hold 4th place with two laps to go, and it looks like a lock.  So I think.  I look back and see Sean’s bright yellow F1 closing the gap on us fast, something has lit a fire under his ass.  He closes up on us going into the turn to esses and that’s when I screw up.  I bobble my timing on the left-right  transition and lift the chair wheel.  It’s nothing major but it’s just enough to spook Sarah and throw her off her drive.  Sean uses this to his advantage and sneaks by under us to drive onto the front straight.  Now we’re playing a game of catch-up as we pass by the white flag hot on Sean’s tail.  I know Sarah’s gameplan, she’s going to set him up and out drive him on the exit of the bowl on the back straight, or beat him on the brakes into the turn ten esses.

But we see a standing yellow flag before the bowl turn and in the distance, Rick’s LCR moving very slowly on the track along the back straight.  Passenger-math tells me unless Sarah can pull off some magic between ourselves and Rick in the next few seconds we’re hosed.  Sean sneaks by Rick with a hair-width to spare and we get hung up behind Rick with nowhere to go.  A perfect block, bye bye fourth place.  I express my displeasure at being relegated to 5th by venting on the bodywork, Sarah shakes her head as we cross the checkers.  But that’s racing, and any race you get that emotional about was a good one.  Last season we were jumping for joy when we finished a race, this season we’re pissed off at losing a position in the top five out of a full grid.  One point off third place in the championship into the last race of the season.

You’ve come a long way baby.


Portland, Land of sky-water

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

 Saturday was dry, but obviously cold and damp.

We were able to practice on a dry but very green track, which made for interesting lots-of-grip-oh-hello-no-grip-at-all conditions.

Sarah dug the track, as it was fast, and fairly easy to learn.  All the regulars were there…  As well as some of the SRA-NorthWest division who was hosting the event.

Practice was decent, the track was green with the fresh asphalt still needing to break in. But things went well.

Odd thing… They sent us out -first- on Sunday morning, while the track was still pretty much soaked from the night before. I think the logic was, “Send out the sidecars, they’ll dry out the track for the motorcycles.

So here Sarah and I are flying around the track with puddles and standing water in places… on slicks. Trying to be gentle and get the tires up to operating heat range without flying off the track. We’re making good progress around the track. Fourth lap in we’re flying down the back straight, Sarah is going down through the gears on her brake marker and setting up for the fast left/right chicane of turn 7/8.

Sarah clips the rumble strips of 7 with the chair wheel at about 80 sending the whole rig into a counterclockwise spin. I drop down into the platform and clamp on for the ride and around we go. We 360 down the track clear to 8 ending up just on the outside left edge, still on the track. Sarah pops up, looks back, and asks if I’m ok… but I’m too busy laughing my ass off and screaming, “AGAIN!!! AGAIN!!!” She throws it back into gear and we pull off into the pits with me waving to the spectators and corner workers who at this point are cheering and giving us a standing ovation.

But, about an hour before our race the skies opened up and it hammered down. We figured we’d just end up running in the rain, even if it meant we’d be running a slow race, or a fast last-man-standing race. But, the plug was pulled on our race due to safety concerns, and we got our money back, so at least there was that.

Sarah’s mom lives about 15 minutes from the track, she came all the way out just to watch us race, bummer.  But that’s racing, and what can you do? We got in some good track time on PIR, which is a great track. Had loads of fun with the OMRRA folk and the SRA-NorthWest peeps who we don’t get to see enough of. And we got to work on traction control and smoothness in low/no traction wet-weather situations. This was our first wet-weather track experience on a F1 rig.

The video breakdown on Sunday afternoon practice before the rain rolled in.  Shot with my VholdR wearable Helmet Cam

I did end up giving Jerry SandsquidXX from Bay Area Riders Forum three E-Ticket level laps of PIR on the F1 before they finally flagged me off the track.  He’s a great sport for holding on during the experience, especially after how I left the hot pit and entered the track. =D

A good weekend overall, everybody who showed up to race got 5 points just for showing up despite the race being pulled, which puts us tied for 3rd place in the championship points standings right now with Streets of Willow two weeks away at Willow Springs Raceway.

My favorite shot from the weekend.

Thanks go out to the guys over on ADVRider for the additional photos and showing up to the track to support us, it was great having you there.