Turn 4 on the first lap, and...
Turn 4 on the first lap, and Bradley is already in tenth position from the fourth row of the grid.
In our last issue, we detailed the building of our Harley-Davidson XR1200 project bike and developing it to enter a round of the AMA Vance & Hines XR1200 series (“The XR Project”, Aug. ‘11, or visit www.sportrider.com/magazine/1109
). With the build complete and a handful of test days completed to sort out the details, our intrepid crew headed to Infineon Raceway for the West Coast Moto Jam. A dropped valve at the last test outing and some last-minute changes left us busy right up until the departure day, but we felt we had everything sorted and were primed for a good result. But how quickly things can change…
The original schedule for the weekend included XR practice on Saturday morning, qualifying Saturday afternoon, a warm-up session on Sunday morning and the race on Sunday afternoon. We arrived at the track on Friday morning ready for a leisurely day attending to the bike and pit setup, but a dodgy weather prediction for Sunday had prompted the AMA to push everything forward a day. We would be practicing that afternoon, qualifying Saturday morning and racing Saturday afternoon. That would mean just two on-track sessions before the race rather than the scheduled three. In a way the compressed schedule suited us; the XR1200s had not raced at Infineon previously, and Bradley was one of just a couple of Harley riders that had practiced at the track beforehand. Still, we had some setup issues to sort through and needed the track time to get the bike dialed in.
Dave Behrend of Fast Bike Industries, who provided the suspension for the XR along with plenty of support for the project, was at the track and after some discussions about setup we decided to change the front fork oil before practice. When we went to disassemble the front end, however, we found the front axle stuck in the fork tubes. Evidently if the axle is over-tightened it swells and sticks — a common problem according the Vance & Hines people at the track. As we found out on reassembly, this had caused the front suspension to bind significantly and the fork worked much more smoothly with that issue resolved. On the one hand, it was a relief to find what had been giving us some grief with the setup, but on the other hand it had enough of an effect that we would be starting from square one all over again with regards to the front end.
They’re smiling now… While...
They’re smiling now… While Bradley (center) rode the XR, at Infineon we had part-time SR test rider Eric Nugent (right) and Bradley’s father Curtis (left) helping out. Eric built the bike and spun wrenches at the track for us, while Curtis provided valuable setup assistance. The Geek, in charge of the whole project and keeping these three from coming to blows, should have been in the picture but rolled out early to make happy hour at the hotel.
After a couple of pit stops early in the first practice session to make changes to the fork and shocks, Bradley looked to be settling into things, lapping more than a second faster than he had at the practice day almost immediately. Bradley’s father Curtis was on hand to help, as he had been at the earlier test days, and the two worked well together to sort out the suspension quickly. But then the bike stopped on-track, ending our practice early. Bradley’s original thought was that another dropped valve was the culprit, as the sound and timing of the failure was almost identical to what had happened at the practice day. Back at the pit, to our great relief, we found a broken spark plug and blown ECU fuse; with those replaced, the bike ran fine up and down the pit lane — an easy fix, or so we thought. Things were still looking promising, as even with just two timed laps Bradley was the 9th fastest rider (of 15), albeit four seconds off the quickest rider, Chris Fillmore.
We prepared for Saturday qualifying by mounting a fresh set of tires to the XR and discussing a game plan for setup changes during the session. But no sooner had Bradley rolled out of pit lane at the start of qualifying when the ECU fuse blew again. Bradley pushed the bike back to the hot pit, and with wishful thinking we changed the fuse for a second time only for the bike to make it to turn 2 before stopping yet again. This time the bike was irretrievable and we had to wait until the end of the session to look for and fix the problem. Our qualifying session had ended practically before it even started; not only did we miss out on valuable practice, we were in danger of not making the grid for the race as we didn’t complete a single lap for a qualifying time. In the meantime, the rest of the field went faster than on Friday, with Fillmore qualifying on the pole at 1:47.775 — almost six seconds quicker than Bradley had gone at that point. As a reference for how quickly these Harleys are capable of being hustled around the track, Fillmore’s qualifying time was within the 109 percent necessary to qualify for the Daytona SportBike race — with about 130 pounds more weight and 50 horsepower less than a typical 600.
Just a hog grazing in the...
Just a hog grazing in the field. This is where our bike spent most of practice and qualifying. A chafed wire from the ECU was shorting out on the frame, and while the bike would run fine in and around the pits, under load a fuse would blow.
Chris Fillmore (55, RMR Bruce...
Chris Fillmore (55, RMR Bruce Rossmeyer Daytona Racing) fought Michael Barnes (34, DRAG Specialties) for the victory at Infineon, with Fillmore winning his first-ever AMA race. Steve Rapp (5, Parts Unlimited) finished third.
With the XR back in the pit, some closer examination revealed a chafed ignition/injector power wire under the seat that was shorting out on the frame — but shorting the circuit and blowing the fuse only under load for some reason. With the wire safely insulated, this time we made doubly sure the bike ran properly by checking it on the AMA dyno. As far as actually qualifying for the race, competitors in the Vance & Hines XR1200 class must post a time within 110 percent of the fastest rider’s best lap in order to qualify, but there are considerations given based on the size of the field and the rider’s times posted in other practice sessions. Thankfully, AMA officials allowed us to start the race from the back of the grid. The bike was fixed and ready to go, and we had a spot on the grid, but yet another setback had arisen: Bradley’s new leathers had been tight on his arms on Friday, causing arm pump. And even though Josh Bennett from Pilot had modified the leathers that evening, Bradley’s arms were still bothering him.
Eric waits with the bike behind...
Eric waits with the bike behind pit wall for the race to start. We found Pit Bull stands (877-533-1977, www.pit-bull.com
) to be plenty sturdy for the Harley’s weight. Note, however, that the front stand’s posts are nestled under the brake calipers rather than in the correct position under the fork legs, as the bottoms of the fork legs are too rounded.
Our bike waits in AMA tech...
Our bike waits in AMA tech with the other top-10 finishers after the race. Each bike was run on the dyno and given a visual inspection. Anything amiss (such as an abnormally high horsepower reading) would be cause for a teardown
Bradley prepares for the start...
Bradley prepares for the start of the race while Eric and Curtis distract an AMA official from examining the bike. Even from this angle you can see Bradley looks a bit stressed — it was, after all, his first AMA race. Thanks to Pilot Leathers (800-299-9651, www.pilotusa.com
), we were all quite snappily dressed for the occasion.
Dave Behrend (right) of Fast...
Dave Behrend (right) of Fast Bike Industries (828-435-0125, www.fastbikeindustries.com
) helps Curtis and Bradley dismantle the front end before practice. Behrend was a huge help in getting the finicky XR’s handling sorted, making fork and shock adjustments as necessary, both internal and external.
There we were. At the back of the grid with just two laps of practice, a not-quite-sorted bike and a rider under the weather. To Bradley’s credit, he made the best of the situation, getting a great start and completing the first lap inside the top ten. A few laps in, Bradley was shadowing Gerry Signorelli when Signorelli crashed right in front of him, bringing out the red flag and stopping the race. In the break while the track was cleared, Bradley reported that — finally — the Harley was working well and he didn’t want any changes made. However, his arms were in rough shape from wrestling the XR around the track; it was all he could do to hold onto his position in the race. The second half of the race was uneventful, with Bradley again getting a good start and remaining in eighth place until the checkered flag.
For the first part of the race, Bradley shadowed Gerry Signorelli (Racing for a Wish). Signorelli high-sided right in front of our man, and the race was stopped while officials cleared the track. Luckily, Bradley was able to avoid the wreckage and Signorelli was unhurt.
Former AMA Supermoto racer Fillmore and longtime AMA standout Michael Barnes diced for the win, with Fillmore taking his first AMA victory and moving into the points lead for the series. For us, it was a great result for Bradley and our tiny team considering the circumstances. Still, we have to wonder what could have been: Bradley’s first lap in the race — only his third complete lap for the weekend — was three seconds quicker than he had been in practice, and would have put him sixth on the grid. With some more productive practice time and Bradley’s arms in better shape, the result would surely have been better. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…that’s racing.
Following the race, the AMA impounded the top 10 finishing Harley-Davidsons and ran them on the dyno. If any one particular bike had shown any anomalies compared with the rest of the bikes (none did), teardowns would ensue. A visual inspection was also conducted and all bikes checked out OK. We were notified and warned, however, that we had the wrong gearing on. For the XR1200 class, the intention is that all racers use the same final gearing, determined by consensus. AMA officials had come by our pit twice on the weekend asking what gearing we were using, but we were never told of the final decision nor was it mentioned in the riders meetings. To be fair we should have investigated further, but the process will definitely need to be revised as the number of riders increases. Otherwise, our Infineon experience was quite positive as far as the XR1200 series is concerned: The class is a cost-effective way to get into AMA racing, and our bike — built in Eric’s packed garage with just bolt-on parts — looked little different from the bikes on the podium.
Still in its infancy in the USA, the XR1200 class continues to grow with a couple more entries at each event. The AMA announced that the class would run two races in conjunction with the Red Bull Indianapolis MotoGP event in late August. And this is not the end of our involvement in the series: Look for our bike in the field at Indianapolis, perhaps with a former AMA or world champion on board. SR
Custom Pilot EVO Suit
To look the part of an AMA race team during our assault on the Vance and Hines XR1200 race at Infineon, we got in touch with Josh Bennett of Pilot, who not only fitted our crew with team shirts sporting the required AMA Pro Racing logos, but also fitted Bradley up with a custom EVO suit.
Based out of Murrieta, California, Pilot prides itself on providing custom leather suits that are built with quality, safety and comfort in mind. The company’s all-new-for-2011 EVO suit features CE-approved armor in the shoulder, elbow/forearm and knee/shin areas, and is comprised of 1.3mm-1.5mm milled cowhide leather that is pliable but strong. It also boasts external alloy armor on the shoulders and elbows that allow the body to slide, not grab, in the event of a crash. In terms of protection though, what really gave us confidence in the Pilot EVO suit was the double- and triple-stitched seams that prevent the suit from blowing apart in the event of a fall.
Although available in standard U.S. sizes 38-54, all Pilot suits can be made in custom sizes (as ours was) based on your needs or body type, plus they can be personalized via the many color options available. For us, getting a suit was as easy as getting measured up and going over some of the color schemes Bradley was interested in and options he wanted to add (every Pilot suit can be fitted with full frontal micro-perforation, race/speed hump, air intake shoulder vents, knee sliders, sewn-on patches, logos and rider names for no extra cost). The end result was a completely unique-looking suit that matched our Hog almost perfectly.
Instantly noticeable once we got on the track with the EVO suit was its extremely superb fit and the excellent range of motion it provided thanks to the perforated leather stretch panels on the upper back, lower back and knee areas. And aside from the small problem with the arms of our EVO suit being a bit tight (quite possibly due to the thicker under-armor Bradley was wearing to beat the cold temperatures at the track), we had no problems with fit, and were in fact impressed with the attention to detail on the suit and level of comfort on the track.
The Pilot EVO suit in standard sizes retails for $1200, while custom sizes go for $1500. Build time varies for standard and custom sizes as well, but takes an estimated two to eight weeks.