AFM Round 1 at Button Willow Raceway, March 16-18, 2018

The 2018 Season rolls around again in very short order. Many sponsors are back for another year after three Championships secured in 2017 (Formula 40 lightweight, 450 Superbike, 450 Superstock).

2018 Sponsors:

BBJK, Bell Helmets, Bridgestone, Driven USA, Galfer, GP Frame and Wheel, GP Sports, Insurrection racing, KC Paint, Keigwin’s at the Track, MC Tech, Motion Pro, MOTO-D Racing, Motul, M Works, Optimal bodywork, Oxymoron Photography, RAM Print, Serious R&D, Zooni leathers.

New for 2018:

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I am looking for more sponsors for Apparel, Fuel and entry fees to help me focus on winning four championships. If you are interesting in supporting my efforts, please contact me directly via email:

AFM Round 1 at Button Willow

When you know your race bike will not be ready by round one, what do you do? Call it a season before it starts? Even though AFM this year is your best results from 6 events out of 7 race weekends count toward championship points ( so you have a throw away), do you really want to start by missing round one and being at the back of the grid for round two?

OR, do you get busy and ask around for help?

I wasn’t going to miss round one so two riders very graciously allowed me to ride their bikes:

– Greg Clouse with his R450 Superbike

– Marcus Zarra with his R450 “B” bike, production legal.

As I intended to race 4 classes this year, Greg’s bike would be legal for 3 with Marcus’ bike legal for the solo superstock race.

So……… get off the plane from NZ, ride to Greg’s house and get his bike that evening. Next day drive to Button Willow and prep his bike that night Friday’s practice day. Marcus’ bike was already prepped, so that was very helpful.

Each bike had to have massive changes into geometry, suspension settings etc to suit my unique riding style so that was done first thing in the morning. I wasn’t planning for a very busy morning but when I looked up form all the suspension work it was already noon…… Yikes.

No practice for me as Haim needed some help getting around Button Willow so I jumped on Marcus’ bike to get a feel for it and coached him for 3 sessions. I did not get any further time on that bike and did not ride Greg’s bike at all as his mechanic looked the bike over thoroughly prior to handing it back to me.

Saturday morning was VERY cold, so running Greg’s bike was an interesting and I turned that into a “does it work mechanically” session making sure the bike did what it was supposed to on track. Post session I noticed the tail pipe was a little sooty, so I cleaned it out and ran session two at an elevated pace to find more soot. Hmmm…. not good. The oil level was low so I topped it off and parked that bike.

I ran 2 sessions on Marcus’ bike to make sure everything was approximate for me and called it good with his bike as I would not race it until Sunday late afternoon in Formula 4 and 450 Superstock.

Saturday Race 1: Formula 40 lightweight

Greg’s only requirement was for me to get the holeshot with his bike from pole position. I did just that but in the back of my mind I was concerned about the engine. I ran it up to 14,000rpm and didn’t go any higher so I did quite a bit of short shifting and increased my corner entry speed to make up for the lack of power I was using.

After the hole shot all I could think of was lines and entry speed. Close to the end of lap 2, I encountered the first of seemingly several hundred (not quite) of the 300cc wave that started behind us and from that point on my focus was traffic and making it work for me and not against me.

I must admit that in this race, traffic was difficult but not obnoxious so with good vision, planning and solid execution, passes were made cleanly with the minimal pressure wave disturbance to the 300 riders.

I normally have Mike Canfield on the wall signaling for me, but after 3 laps there was no sign of him. Right, head down, crack on and don’t lose the pace or lines!

I took the checked flag with a smile and wondered how close others were to me. It turned out 2nd place was 16 seconds behind me. Getting through traffic had been the key!

Saturday Race 7: 450 Superbike

Once again on Greg’s bike, I lined up on pole position. Was I going to get the holeshot again? Oh yes, but this time it was a lot more difficult after an 11 o’clock wheelie off the start line (sorry about that….)

The same rules applied as Saturday with my head down and perfect lines, high corner speed and effective use of traffic. I won the race by 13 seconds this time.

Saturday Race 9: Formula 4

I was now racing Marcus’ bike as I needed to feel the bike out at pace prior to the 450 Superstock race.

Mike Canfield had persuaded me to install a 2018 Ohlins TTX GP (YA469) that belonged to Marcus and test it with 40 series valving in this race. We changed the rear spring from a 10.5 to a 10 with 12mm installed preload and added 8 turns of preload on the spring manually, and then lengthened the shock to get the geometry I needed. Compression was a 13 clicks out, rebound at 12 clicks out.

I had no points in this class, nor did Ian Smith – so we lined up way back there in 12th and 13th places respectively with a grin. As the green flag flew a sea of veering bikes took off with almost no way through at all. I had forgotten how chaotic it is back in the pack off the start line, so I had to dig way back into the memory banks to remember how to move up through the order quickly and decisively without making contact with anyone. Mark Elrod saw me coming in turn two and created a wall of NC35 that was effectively impenetrable. Nice!!!!!

After the first lap it was slow process of chipping away one rider at a time. To me the shock had no movement at all and I could feel the tire being tortured underneath me so I needed to up the pace in all acceleration zones to make the shock work harder and give the tire some respite. The change in riding style did not work for me, but the goal was to get myself on the front row for round two!

There was a glimmer of hope for me when Charles Almy was indecisive in getting around Mike Valentine and I quickly made up a huge gap. Was there a slight chance that I could nab third from Charles in the last 30% of the track? I was close enough but Charle’s was flawless and I did not want to push Marcus’ bike any harder than I was even though there were a couple of chances for block passes.

Take the fourth place and make some changes to the shock ready for the 450 Superstock race…..

Race 13: 450 Superstock

After race 11, I sat down and considered what to do with the TTX shock. After some musing and looking at the devastated rear tire, the executive decision was to take out 4 turns of preload and four clicks of compression but leave rebound alone. It seemed a reasonable change to allow the shock and tire to work harmoniously together. It was also much colder, so I dropped hot tire pressures by 1.5psi front and rear to increase the contact patch and create more heat which would equal more grip.

A reasonable, intelligent, and rational gamble…….

No holeshot this time as Paul Johnson took the lead. I waited patiently until Phil Hill and made the pass but sure enough on the last turn “Sunset”, he came flying by on the brakes. It was time for another Dovi Marquez move, so I got on the gas earlier and beat him to turn one. Half of Paul’s bike came into view at turn in so I gave him the corner knowing I would get him again at Phil Hill. Once back in the lead, I braked deeply into the last turn and Paul didn’t show me a wheel there or in turn one.

Mike Canfield was on the wall thankfully as Paul is to say the least, very talented and particularly relentless. The gap grew rather slowly as we worked thorough much more obnoxious traffic so patience became a virtue for us both. In the end, traffic favored itself so Paul and myself did not gain an advantage. At the line I had a three second lead so another win for the trifecta!

Final note:

Round one of any race series can be many things but what you don’t want it to be is about many riders being injured. To those of you that were injured, I sincerely hope you recover fully in the appropriate amount of time. We are all your family, so know we are thinking about you and wishing you speedy recoveries.

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