Ahem... this was the state...
Ahem... this was the state of our two machines on the morning of practice. Our Versys chassis sits bare while the engine gets cams replaced; Trevitt's team's Ninja 650R stands in the background with a stripped-down engine and no bodywork. Amazingly, nine hours later both bikes were up and running.
The Daytona Curse . . . Again
As Trevitt and I were flying into Orlando on Thursday before the race, the news coming from Herzog wasn't encouraging; the team truck containing our bikes hadn't arrived yet, apparently having suffered a blown transmission somewhere along the cross-country trek from Los Angeles to Daytona. It wasn't going to arrive at the track until sometime during the wee hours of Friday morning, and there was only a two-hour practice session on late Friday afternoon (5:00-7:00, allowing teams to get some night practice) followed by a single 20-minute warm-up session at 8:20 Saturday morning (the race was scheduled to begin that day at 1:00 P.M. and end at 9:00 P.M.). Nonetheless we figured it couldn't be that difficult to get things squared away by the time 5:00 P.M. rolled around, so we weren't too concerned.
When we arrived at our garage bright and early Friday morning, however, we began to get a bit concerned. The Versys sat on stands stripped bare with no engine or bodywork, while the Ninja 650R of Trevitt's team had no bodywork with a stripped-down engine. Andrew was busy in a corner of the garage installing the cams on the Versys engine as it sat bolted to an engine stand. Herzog was working intently on the fuel tank, and various parts were strewn about the garage. With the clock ticking down toward the day's practice session, Trevitt and I both dove in to see what we could do to help.
An apparent mix-up with the Megacycle camshafts' labeling led to the last-second cam switch. The more modified Versys engine was supposed to get the aggressive cams, but Andrew inadvertently installed them on the engine intended for the 75-horsepower Sport Twin class 650R. Not wanting to run afoul of the strict horsepower limits (bikes are dyno'd immediately after the race, and even a fraction over the limit brings a penalty) as well as ensuring that the Versys engine had the most power potential possible forced Andrew to make the change.
The special JE pistons (right)...
The special JE pistons (right) in the Versys engine force a compression ratio of 12.5:1 (compared with the stock 10.6:1) and weigh 40 grams less than the stock unit on the left. Note the slipper skirt design and deeper valve cutouts in the dome.
Because the Versys was entered...
Because the Versys was entered in the Grand Sports Twins class, we had to add 25 pounds by strapping these lead weights on both sides to meet the minimum weight rule.
The Versys' fuel tank is larger...
The Versys' fuel tank is larger than the Ninja 650R's at 5.0 gallons, so Andrew had a fabricator take out a half-gallon section underneath. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time for testing, we found the modification interfered with the fuel-gauge float.
The fuel-tank problem was that the Versys has a fuel gauge instead of the 650R's low-fuel light, requiring a movable float inside to measure the level. When the fuel-pump assembly (which includes the fuel-level mechanism) was installed, the float was binding on the section modified to help the tank meet the 4.5-gallon maximum capacity rule. With no fuel-consumption data available, a fuel gauge of some sort would obviously be important for determining pit stops during the race. After some careful tweaking we managed to get the float working freely, but when the tank was filled with fuel we found it was still over the 4.5-gallon limit. This forced us to stuff the tank with antislosh foam and even some plastic hose to meet the capacity level. With all that inside, whether we'd still have a working fuel gauge during the race was going to be a crapshoot.
Amazingly both bikes started to come together about an hour before practice was to begin. Andrew had planned to see how the Versys engine ran on the Moto-ST dyno, but some delays in the riders' meeting meant that the dyno closed sooner than planned, leaving the Versys virtually untested before it was to turn a wheel on the track.
"Kent, we can get you a walker...
"Kent, we can get you a walker so you can get out to the bike in pitlane . . ." El Jefe's team of wise guys included Russell (center) and young Canadian superbike hotshoe Brett McCormick (left).
We got both bikes approved by tech inspection about a half-hour after practice started, so we quickly jumped into our leathers to get some shakedown laps in. While Trevitt's team didn't seem to have too many issues, our bike was definitely down on power; we might have been entered in the 90-horsepower Grand Sport Twins class, but some bikes in the Sport Twins category were pulling us off the corners and leaving us behind on the banking. Having to strap on 25 pounds of lead weight to meet the 20-pound minimum weight difference between the two classes surely didn't help matters.
Through all these snafus I was impressed with Russell's positive attitude. It would've been easy for a former WSB and AMA champion to become frustrated with the bike's lack of speed and walk off in disgust. Instead, Russell simply shrugged his shoulders, laughed and said, "Hey, it is what it is. Let's race!"