Motorcycle race preparation: Cheap track time, 1 dead engine

This journey to coming back to motorcycle racing actually began more than 2 years ago. On my 50th birthday, I decided I wanted to go back to the racetrack and compete for one more season. I bought a bike and built it, and made a plan for a year of track days and motorcycle race preparation before I started competing.

Do I need to say COVID-19 put a dent in those plans? Well, at least a significant delay.

The bike got built. The track days happened. Now we’re here, almost done with motorcycle race preparation. Since I haven’t held a race license in many years, I had to start over again. I finished licensing school last week, and registered with WERA.

One minor setback has occurred which we’ll talk about shortly, but we’re gonna get over that pretty fast.

When I registered for race licensing school at Jennings GP, they offered a track day the next day for a significant discount, so I took it. You can never get enough track time, particularly cheap track time.

Motorcycle race preparation – track time

The weather was beautiful that morning. As they called for the first session, I was pretty pumped up. I geared up, mounted up, and headed out. I didn’t try to set any lap records, since I wanted to get me and the bike warmed up.

Second session I felt like I was hauling the mail! The bike felt amazing, and I tried some new lines that an instructor showed me the day before. I got some clear track in front of me and just cranked the throttle. Last corner before the front straight I made an outside pass on a slower rider, grabbed a big handful of throttle to carry me onto the front straight and…

…got a lot less throttle response than I anticipated.

The bike wouldn’t break 11,000RPM, which means I had lost the top 15% of my rev range. On a bike with this little power, that’s devastating. As I dropped into the first turn, the throttle response was slushy. I finished the lap and entered the paddock to see if I could figure out what was wrong.

Going over the bike in the paddock, I couldn’t see anything visibly wrong with it. There was plenty of oil, no loose electrical connections, no fluid in the belly pan – everything seemed all right. I decided that maybe I had just overheated it and decided to go for another session.

First lap of the next session, the bike seems better, but I’m still missing revs, and the temperature gauge doesn’t show overheating. As I come out of turn 1, I realize that something is really, really wrong. I’m losing revs fast. The bike won’t break 10,500RPM now. The further I ride, the fewer revs I have available. By the time I get to the last corner, the bike won’t break 6,000 RPM. I’m rolling scared now, because I’m riding so slow that I’m afraid of getting packed in the rear by a faster rider, even though I’m off the race line. I pit out as quick as I can.

Rolling out of hot pit and into the paddock, the bike just dies.

That was the end of my day. I later discovered that it was also the end of that engine. I spun a main bearing, which isn’t uncommon on these bikes.

Lucky for me, I was able to find (and afford) a used engine from eBay with only 1,899 miles on it. It arrived last week. Good think I’ve got about three months of motorcycle race preparation before the first race of the season!

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