First race of the 2009 Season in the books

We did ok… We’re going to call this first race weekend ‘test and tune’ since Sidecars don’t exactly get trackdays.

Our goal was to see the checkers and bring the hardware and ourselves home intact. Four hours into our trip from Santa Cruz to Willow Springs we had just reached the outskirts of Bakersfield when I realized I’d left our oil containment tray (belly pan) on a shelf in the garage instead of dzusing it in place before rolling the chassis up on the trailer.

We felt hosed…

We ended up making a million phone calls to club members in our motorcycle club and throwing a plea to the intertubes up on Bay Area Riders Forum. (we’re sponsored by BARF Racing). What followed was nutty. Two of our Vampires went over to our home and kicked in the side door to our garage, which I had thankfully left un-deadbolted. The catch tray was grabbed, and ambulated to Santa Cruz BMW in Watsonville where a member from BARF strapped it on his bike and proceeded to haul ass to Seaside where his mechanic who also happened to be a WSMC racer was in his truck and ready to head down to the track…

Through this Rube Goldberg Olympic Torch event Mike from Seaside handed us the pan as we rolled by on the Becker F1 at 8:30 AM on our way to Tech Saturday morning.

At this point I’d like to mention how much I hate Friday the 13th.

Given that this is a brand new chassis with different brakes, different steering characteristics, different gear ratios in the transmission, a different passenger platform… We were out on the track again like we’d never even been on a F1 rig before. Baby steps around the track, slowly come up to speed, get heat in the brand new Yokohama slicks and try not to pitch it sideways.

The bike was not downshifting right, I could tell from my position on the back that Sarah was missing shifts going into 1, 3, and 5. So after second practice we popped the body off and I made and adjustment to the servo on the Translogic unit to give it more throw in the ‘pull’ stroke thinking that it just wasn’t pulling in enough to give consistent downshifts. Our following practice was a game of Follow The Leader with Sean Bakken on his F1 sidecar training a Novice passenger. We would lead Sean around the track and Sean would stay glued to our tail so that his Novice passenger could follow my hand signals and body movements pointing out timing, reference points along the track, and how to tuck, brace, etc.

That went well, but we were still having downshifting issues. I made more fiddly adjustments and we went out for the final at speed and things seemed slightly better, but it was hard to tell if it was just us getting used to the new bike/engine or if it was in fact a gremlin somewhere in the bike itself.

The following morning (race day) We went out for first practice and I could tell after Sarah got a couple laps in to heat up the tires and got her pace up that something was still obviously wrong with the shifter. There was no obvious (POP) of the ignition cutting out during up shifts and it simply was not downshifting at all till it was below a particular rev range. I knew what the problem was.

We got in to the pits, popped the body off, got the Becker up on the jackstands and I removed the rear wheel. (love the new chassis, that takes about 60 seconds). I whipped out the laptop and brought up the .PDF manual Translogic UK had sent me for the powershifter and ‘brain’ QS-ECU control unit. First thing I did was bust out the micrometer and get everything on the servo set mechanically back to factory recommended settings. Then I fired up the bike and visually verified that… yes, I’d never programmed the brains of the ‘intellishift’ system after our little ‘incident’ in the garage back in December where I was prepping the rig for the Jesse James TV show shoot and snapped the drive axle trying to program the intellishift system. We were so freaked out that we’d just broken our brand new toy that despite the fact that Bill Becker had a new drive axle waiting for us at the track ready to go I’d never finished programming the Translogic ECU interface after that little ’emergency’ was handled.

The bike had been shifting up and down in our practice sessions with no ignition cutout to unload the transmission or ‘brain’ to monitor everything to make sure the shifts are working smoothly. It had just been moving the shift lever up our down when the corresponding button was pressed in the cockpit.

So after programming everything I ran the bike (sans rear wheel) up and down through the gears and instantly noticed an auditory difference. The only problem was there was no way to confirm my ‘fix’ since we were out of practice sessions and our race was 12 on the roster with 3 up and circling the track.

I approached John, the WSMC track God and said, “How do you feel about letting me run the sidecar out at the back of a warm up lap for another race so I can test a fix?”. His response, “Haha, no.” I was not at all surprised, but it never hurts to ask.

So we went out cold turkey on a untested fix on race 12, and on our warm up lap I could tell already that all was right in the world. The bike was shifting flawlessly, going into turn 3 Sarah went ‘bingBingBING’ down through the gearbox for the first time all weekend setting up to shoot up the Omega.

The rest of the race is uneventful I have to say.

The flag dropped, we launched. And we stayed at the back of the bus putting down smooth consistent laps doing our best to feel out the chassis now that the gearbox was working properly. I concentrated on getting used to the handhold placement and ducking my head down, feeling internally the weight bias and bite on the Becker chassis in the corners. Sarah worked on getting used to the new gear ratios in the transmission, finding her new shift points, and feeling out the hub-center-steering front end versus the leading-link/earles front end she was used to.

She was really disappointed to have been the caboose in the race, given the ripping pace she was laying down last season. And was really angry that she just couldn’t get out there and go WFO and mix it up with the pack like she could in the CSR.

But I told her, just consider this a test and tune weekend, we’ve got maybe an hour and a half of seat time in the Becker now and a couple dozen laps under mechanically distressed conditions. Compared to two full seasons of racing on the CSR, a chassis she learned to become one with. It won’t happen overnight.

Points are points, you have to be in it to win it… And not everybody who left the line saw the checkered flag that day.

Some video from Passenger Training. Good passing at the 4:00 minute mark.

One Response to “First race of the 2009 Season in the books”

  1. oldironnow says:

    Hello Moike!

    It’s been great reading your posts at CW – as another CWer said – please keep posting.

    As to CW stepping up for a gig on your rig, try calling with the phone machine. Others have tried it in the past. Just flat out ask the editor.


    best of luck and good hunting!


    p.s. if you ever need help – give a shout.

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