Daytona International Raceway, Florida
Daytona 2007 was officially my first event with HALOF racing, HALOF racing is the new team name for 2007. It is primarily a personal friend of mine, Rodney Rayborne, and me starting our own team. We are quite proud to say that Suzuki has decided to help us out for the 2007 season. Due to requests from some sponsors our primary focus for this season will be superstock; however we will be doing a few events in the superbike class as well. For the opening event we competed on the bikes from last season, we will be competing on our new bikes at Barber in a few weeks.
I have to admit I have succumbed to the stigma that is Daytona. I do enjoy the racetrack and have a lot of fun racing there, but there is something about Daytona. It just seems that no matter how prepared you are and how good your bikes are that things always go wrong. Well this year was some of the same, although I did not walk away in a sling like last year!!!! (I was pretty happy about that!)
A friend of mine, Mike Turner, also volunteered to go along for the entire Daytona experience this year. I normally go out for the CCS race weekend before the AMA national to try to shake out the bugs and get things in order for the national. This year I had arranged a loaner bike to race in the Daytona 200, a 2006 Suzuki GSXR 600, from Ray Tibedeau. (Thanks!)
So I entered the 600 in the ASRA supersport, and the 1000 in Unlimited GP. After taking the 600 out for a couple laps in practice I pulled in and told Rodney the bike was painfully slow, he asked my how slow and I replied SV 650 slow and put it in gear and went out for more laps.(The practice sessions here were just about long enough to get approx 4 laps) Due to rain I was unable to race in any of the classed I had entered (CCS actually races in the rain at Daytona I just wasn’t crazy enough to chance it right before an AMA national) We decided to enter in a couple classed the next day to try to salvage some testing out of the CCS weekend. That night it rained and it did a bit more in the morning, so we skipped practice. We did not manage to get the 1000 ready in time for practice the day before so the first time I was going to get to ride it was the Unlimited GP.
Time came to go race the 600, so off I went. I took off the line from so far back I couldn’t see the starter’s flag. After the first lap I knew I was in trouble when all the other bikes were pulling me in the infield. (Usually when you have a slow bike it will get pulled on the straights, when your bike is so slow that it gets killed on the short straight sections in the infield you are in for a long day) Towards the end of the race I was racing with a bone stock Ducati 748 (still had a stock muffler) and my bike wouldn’t even draft with it. (A stock 748 makes something like 85 HP) This was the bike I was supposed to race in Formula Extreme against some of the best riders in the country on the fastest 600’s on the planet (most of them make around 140 hp). After the race Rodney and I began discussing dropping the Daytona 200 program. Later that day I raced the 1000 in Unlimited GP. I started 43rd and managed to work my way up to 9th riding very defensively and staying away from other riders as much as possible.
Later that night we decided to cancel the Daytona 200 program and parked the 600 for the rest of the week. After getting back to Phoenix I found out that someone had removed the clutch switch and crossed the wires together, when this is done to a 2006-2007 Suzuki GSXR 600 it causes approx a 20-25 HP loss.
We spent the next two days prepping bikes and building a Superstock bike since we only came prepared to race in Superbike. Wednesday started the AMA weekend, with practice for both Superstock and Superbike as well as qualifying for Superstock. The rest of the crew, Charlie Horton, Jeff Longbottom, and Andres Avlira, all showed up Wednesday. Practice went pretty well except we never managed to get the superbike together and had to use the superstock bike in everything. But after superstock qualifying we managed to end up on row three, we were hoping to be inside the first two rows but were pretty happy with how everything went. Thursday was the Superstock race and Superbike qualifying. Superbike qualifying went pretty well we only took out the Superbike for about 4 flying laps and were already quicker than the Superstock bike. We spent the rest of the superbike qualifying session trying to find a good race tire for the superstock race.
Later in the day on Thursday came the superstock race. We were ready and feeling pretty optimistic about the upcoming race. The green flag dropped and I had a pretty pathetic launch, going from row three to about 18th place entering turn one. By time I was exiting the international horseshoe (turn 3) I was up inside the tip 6 or 7. As I tipped into the next right hander I felt a very hard impact on the back of the bike and something drill me directly in my back. David Webber (Rides for KWS) had just crashed into the back of me sending me flying off the track. He had hit me hard enough that it destroyed the tail section, bent the subframe, broke off the swingarm spool, tore a patch off the side of my leathers, and scratched my gas tank on the side. He hit me in the back hard enough that it almost knocked me out (everything started to get dark) and I started to see stars. I somehow managed to keep the bike upright and went off thru the grass. By time I was able to get control of the bike and get back on track we were back in 23rd. By the end of the first lap I came around in 20th and started working forward. I managed to get up to 8th place and was catching 7th and 6th (Young and Ulrich) when the checkers came out. During the race I had developed a chatter in the front in the majority of the corners. After about half way I really had to watch how hard I pushed the front because it would chatter than start to drift. I couple time I lost the front pretty bad but managed to save them.
Friday we were off and managed to get away from the racetrack after lunch to get down to the beach with my girlfriend Madeline and her friend Jessica. It was nice to get away from the racetrack and clear my head of racing for a little bit. Saturday morning was a quick Superbike warm up and the race was to go at 11:15 am. Two laps into practice I began to develop a running problem with the superbike. After a couple laps the bike would not accelerate past 10-15% throttle, it would just break up and not accelerate, it sounded like it was on the rev limiter. After a couple failed attempts to diagnose it during the practice session we made the decision to park the Superbike and race the Superstock bike in Superbike. An hour later the superbike race went green and again I was off and racing around Daytona. I managed to get a significantly better start than in superstock (although it was not a great start). We spent the entire race battling with Doug Chandler and a couple others, which wound up being a great race. Unfortunately Doug drafted past me with one lap to go. I tried to make a move to retake him into the International Horseshoe but it did not work out. I had planned to let Doug get away from me a bit into turn one so I could square it off, out drive him out of turn one and thru the kink and pass him on the inside into the Horseshoe. I let him go and got on the gas and started to spin the rear tire a lot harder than I had planned to and the bike started to go really wide on the exit. Well I managed to drop the rear tire off the outside of the racetrack and into the gravel with the bike stepped out and spinning. Needless to say it was pretty exciting, VERY nearly highsiding me into the kink. We Doug put a little bit of a gap on me and I was unable to get it back and finished in 15th.
All in all I was really happy with how the team had come together and the way I was riding. A HUGE thanks to the entire team, they all went above and beyond the call of duty this weekend. I had hoped to get inside the top 5 in superstock but considering how the race went I was happy to get back inside the top 10. We leave Daytona feeling very optimistic for the rest of the season. We are supposed to be getting our 2007 Suzuki GSXR 1000’s anytime and I am pretty excited to throw a leg over one. So now we get ready for Barber…..!!!!!!!!!! See you at the races.