As El Jefe (92) tries to weave...
As El Jefe (92) tries to weave his way through traffic, the Geek (99) starts to sneak up on him in the background.
The difficulties for our team continued on race day. While trying to get the rider/pit intercom system working, we nearly missed the parade lap. I hurriedly put on my helmet without the earplug speakers, hoping we'd have enough time while sitting on the grid before the start to put them in and get the radio working. Thankfully I was able to get the earplug speakers in on the grid, but there was something wrong with my microphone; I could hear Herzog, but he couldn't hear me. At that point, though, that was the least of my worries.
Once Trevitt slipped past,...
Once Trevitt slipped past, it was game on for bragging rights in the SR offices. The duel actually carried both of them up the standings during the race. Of course once El Jefe assumed his rightful place in front of the Geek (below), all order in the universe was restored.
Both Trevitt and I were starting the race for both our teams. Because both teams were new, neither had any points, and thus they were gridded toward the back of the field. I still wasn't used to the rolling start, and several bikes got the jump on me as the field threaded into Daytona's first turn.
It took me a couple of laps to get into a rhythm, and I finally settled into a pace and began to pick off a few riders. The bike's lack of speed meant a lot of ground had to be made on the brakes and into the corners, making each lap a lot more work. But an unexpected aid to my lap times came in the form of Trevitt, who whizzed by me as I was attempting to pass another rider. Like a red flag in front of a bull, it was "fight's on" now; I had no desire to listen to his crap about leaving me for dead at Daytona, and we engaged in a duel that actually carried us up the standings quite rapidly. Through all this I was keeping a wary eye on the fuel gauge; it seemed to be working, but I wasn't sure if it was accurate. We decided to do a set number of laps with each stint just in case it wasn't.
Luckily, at the same time the fuel gauge was at its lowest point a red light illuminated on the dash, meaning there was a backup low-fuel-level circuit somewhere in the fuel-pump assembly. I signaled the crew that I was coming in, and during the pit-stop refueling the tank took almost the full 4.5 gallons.
McCormick set out and began to steadily lower his lap times as he became more accustomed to the track. Unfortunately about a third of the way into his stint he ran off the track in turn one and crashed; the damage was minor, though, and he was able to get back to the pits for repairs. We lost a few laps getting the bike straightened out, and once McCormick finished his stint he handed it off to a very determined Russell, who immediately began reeling off lap times that were slightly quicker than mine-with worn tires.
Russell gained us back a handful of spots and handed the bike off to me with a thumbs-up. My next stint was uneventful but also somewhat tiring; the Versys' higher fuel tank (rules prevent modifying the outer profile) forced my chest upward, making it impossible to get tucked in behind the windscreen. My helmet was buffeted around so much that it was becoming fatiguing, and the chin strap was beginning to make my jaw sore.
Shades of Daytona 1992: Russell...
Shades of Daytona 1992: Russell on a Kawasaki (well, a little slower than the one he rode back then) is chased by Doug Polen (77) on a Ducati.
Trevitt's team's 650R called...
Trevitt's team's 650R called it quits midway through the race due to a misrouted coolant-overflow tube.
When I jumped over the pit wall after finishing my second stint, I noticed Trevitt's team's 650R sitting forlornly with no one on it. Their race was done; the bike had overheated due to a misrouting of the coolant-overflow catch tank during the hasty assembly before the race. But the Daytona curse wasn't over.
As I sat in the pit a while later waiting for Russell to finish his stint, I suddenly noticed he hadn't come by the front straight in a while. I notified Herzog and Andrew, and after waiting to see if Russell might be limping the bike back to the pits, they ventured off to make sure nothing bad had happened.
It turned out Russell had asked a little too much of the rear tire coming out of the International Horseshoe, and the bike spit him off hard in a nasty highside. Luckily he was OK with no injuries, but the bike suffered damage on the right side that would require some time to fix. The decision was made to halt our team's effort.
But the Daytona curse still had more in store. During the night we noticed the Springsteen/Filice 650R pit crew running back to the pit garage with their bike. A major engine problem required a motor swap to keep their championship hopes alive, and the garage soon became a beehive of activity as everyone pitched in to help. About 45 minutes later the bike was back out on the track . . . only for that engine to give up about an hour later. Fortunately they weren't the only ones to suffer the Daytona curse; the rival team in contention for the championship also underwent a mechanical failure that took them out of the race, handing the title to the Springsteen/Filice team.
Despite blowing two engines...
Despite blowing two engines and not finishing the race, the Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki team ended up winning the Moto-ST Sport Twins Championship at Daytona.
While the weekend obviously didn't go as planned, the Pair-A-Nines team still won the championship and none of our team was hurt in the crashes, so it was one of those experiences you can look back on and laugh about later. It was great to see Russell back in Kawasaki green, the brand that's been associated with his numerous championships. And Herzog has promised us another race effort in the future. Sign us up, Jeff-but can we do it on a different bike, please?