First race of the 2009 Season in the books

March 17th, 2009

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.

Latest SF Urban Moto Cover…

February 16th, 2009

I laughed.

We’re nerd-famous =D

February 8th, 2009

So Simbin has released GTR Evolution for multiple platforms. Mikkel with Simbin hooked us up so we could get to testing on the GTR Evolution platform with our newly built F1 sidecar simulator. To say GTR Evolution is a giant leap forward in racing/physics simulators would be putting it mildy.

Just take a look at the demo video, this is in-sim play, not a cutscene movie.

One thing we found as we were poking around in the new software is that Sarah and I were available as drivers for a couple of the different cars and racing classes. My jaw dropped the first time I saw this. I booted up GTR Evolution on a couple different machines just to make sure it wasn’t something I’d tweaked by accident inside the base configuration. So now you too can go out and purchase your own copy of GTR Evolution on the Steam network and get your butt kicked by the AI version of myself or Sarah herself.

Sarah wasn’t exactly as excited as I was to be in a worldwide distributed video game. She just shook her head and sighed knowing that she was now nerd famous. Given that I’m a professional geek, her sexy points just ratcheted up that much more for me. A mutual friend asked if they’d made Sarah’s driver model in the game ‘anatomically correct’, and if you’ve met Sarah, you know what he’s talking about =D

I thought it was quite a nod from the Simbin team and Mikkel given that the Dodge Viper SRT10 holds the fastest lap around the Nurburgring.

Thanks for the honor guys it’s very cool, sponsors like you rule.

2009 ~ Time for that #1 plate!

February 7th, 2009

Well, we finished 2008 with enough points to slap a big shiny #3 on the front of our brand new Becker Motor Works F1 Sidecar.  That’s nice, but it would be even nicer to swap out that #3 with a nice big #1.  We’ll see if we can make that happen for 2009.

The start of the season is just six weeks away, and we’re happy to say many of our sponsors for the last two seasons who have helped us so much in the past are right back with us again for this season.  But we could always use more help so we’re actively seeking sponsorship to assist us with the goal of becoming the Formula 1 Superside America Champions for the 2009 season.

We’d like to thank the following companies for their past and continuing support:

Repsol Motion Pro Simbin Studios
  Blanco Basura VholdR Wearable Cameras Scorpion Sports
Drews Used Tools Yoyodyne We All Ride
Eastwood Co. Helimot

2008 ~ A brief recap

February 7th, 2009

 Welcome to 2009 for those that survived the holidays intact.

Let’s start with a quick wrap-up of 2008 before we crack open the new season.

As you know we wrapped up the shoot with Jesse James on his new show, “Jesse James is a Dead Man” for the Spike TV Network.  It will debut in May, we don’t have the exact details yet on when our episode will air, but it’s up high in the roster.

I thought my job was stressful… but of all the jobs on the planet I know I do not want, “Television Production Crew” now ranks high on the list.  They were going nuts in the wee hours of the morning when we arrived, and they were still running around like lunatics when we were pulling out of the pits in the dark.

Jesse James was amazingly cool.  If he was sitting down at the porch with the rest of the Vampires talking shit and drinking coffee you wouldn’t be able to tell him from the rest of us assholes wearing leathers.  Most of the time during the day when someone with a headset on wasn’t in his face telling him to stand somewhere look at something or do something he was just standing around with us with the same, “I have no idea what’s going on.” expression and shooting shit with us.

Here’s a few photos from the shoot.  Jesse’s rig might look familiar, he’s driving our old CSR.  We were out in our new 2008 Becker for the first time.  We’re going to look sloooooow on TV.

The 2008 Cycle World International Motorcycle Show

So I got a e-mail from a representative at the IMS stating, “If you can get your sidecar and display gear here we have a 10×20 booth for you, gratis.”  I’ve always wanted to have a sidecar racing booth at the IMS since it’s a huge event drawing a massive crowd, but even a 10×10 booth starts at over $1000 bucks.  So when I got the e-mail I jumped at the chance.

Barret and his father came over Thursday evening and lended a hand while I fabricated some body lifts for the new Becker rig.  When I display our sidecar I always like to lift the body about 14 inches above the chassis on risers for viewing purposes.  Given that the Becker body is a on piece unit like a Windle and not a three piece unit like a LCR I had to fabricate four risers total to get the body up in the air and rock-solid steady once it was up.  The last thing you want is someone at the show bumping the body and the whole display crashing down.

About 2AM I got wrapped up and finished packing.  Dimitry was able to meet me up at the show in San Mateo (around an 80 mile drive for me one way from Santa Cruz) to help unload the Becker, get it up on the jackstands, and then go through the process of popping the rims off and detailing every inch of the chassis with WD-40 and Windex.

For the show I had bought a large LCD monitor, my laptop with it’s Verizon wireless card, and a set of speakers.  I tucked the laptop and speakers into the cockpit and put the monitor up on the engine cowl behind the cockpit.  I cued up several of the full-length Supeside broadcast races from the 2006/2007 FIM series on Google Video and let those play at random during the three day event.  It was so much easier to have the races running with live footage and on board camera action going then trying to explain over and over what sidecar racing was, how it worked, and what the job of the person on the back was.

Attendees at the show loved the display.  Kids were wide-eyed at the sidecar, old guys stared at every weld and machined component, and everybody crowded around the monitor to watch the races.  I ended up giving away 250 business cards, every single sponsorship sticker and bit of schwag I had.  I’d also brought 50 printed color photos of Sarah and I on the track at Willow Springs just to give away but I ended up autographing every single one by request.  I’ve never autographed anything in my life, it was surreal.

I had a great time at the show, the staff at the IMS was great, and I hope they invite us back next year.  Here’s some photos.

Come watch us race Jesse James this Saturday

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

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…

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?

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

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.