It has been stressful to say this least having this new KTM converted into a Super Hooligan race bike.
Being the first person to get the new bike out to the flat track races has not come without its challenges. It was impressive to throw it on the track with minimal modifications in Texas and be the top qualifier and fighting for the win. But it was blow to the championship chase not finishing the race due to a chain breaking. But after some improvements to the motorcycle, between rounds, I was ready to take another shot at putting the KTM on top of the box.
Since Texas, Savage Custom built a new gas tank that's much smaller, made a new sub frame, foot controls, and custom bodywork. The bike was totally transformed into a flat track machine. It looked the part now. But having received the bike the day I was leaving for round 4 of the series in Perris, California, I didn't have the luxury of testing the bike ahead of time. I drove down to SoCal with my Dad not knowing what to expect, but feeling pretty good about the bike modifications. Travis at Savage Custom did a hell of a job making it feel like a proper flat track bike.
On the drive down, my Dad and I got inspired to call a shop in Costa Mesa called Rottweiler Performance, who focuses solely on KTM off road and street bikes. We heard they were the guys to talk to about tuning and a few other things.
After a chat with them, we got inspired to drive all night to get there right at 8am in the morning when they opened to see if we could get a DynoJet Power Commander installed with one of their tunes on it. Sure enough, they were happy to assist us. The owner, Chris Parker, was even nice enough dyno the bike for us to make a specific map just for my bike.
That's when we found out we had an issue. The bike would run for 5 seconds and shut off. We couldn't dyno the bike and we had a serious problem. Rottweiler suggested we visit 3Bros Racing, a local KTM dealer for troubleshooting. We thought it had something to do with the ECU and we needed to have a KTM tech hook the bike up to their computer.
After hours of work, we figured out it was the inertial sensor that was not allowing the bike to run, simply because it was out of placement. We re-oriented it, and we were back in business. Later that night Chris Parker met us back at his shop and tuned the bike. My Dad and I took him, his wife and his awesome crew out for dinner. We made some new friends and they totally saved our day (and weekend). Markinhos and Ricardo at 3Bro's were extremely helpful as well. It was a day where things went wrong, but we were so blessed to have met those people at precisely the right time to have the support we needed to turn luck around.
We showed up to Perris Auto Speedway Saturday morning for the combined American Flat Track / Super Hooligan event. This is the largest track on the hooligan schedule we go to, so it was very exciting for all of us. Plus being at American Flat Track races are always fun. Getting to see the best in the world at it and be part of their event is awesome. Although I want to be dicing it up with them too! I will race AFT later in the year. Anyway, it took us until moments before practice to button up the bike. We were supposed to spend Friday afternoon/evening at a track racing instead of troubleshooting the bike. So having missed that, we didn't get any practice on the bike ahead of the big race, and we didn't get the bike race prepped with new tires, correct gearing, handlebars, and a few other things.
Practice and qualifying was essentially just a bike shakedown for me. I had my fingers crossed and fortunately we had no more surprises. For riding the bike on the dirt for the first time, it didn't seem like it because I qualified second right behind my rival, Joe Kopp. Joe has won something like 16 Grand National Half-Mile races, so he was going to be tougher than normal to beat. This was only the 4th time I've ridden a half-mile track. I was able to go out and win my heat race. My heat race time and Joe's heat race time were almost identical, but he was a tick faster and I would line up 2nd to him in the main event.
When the main event came around, I rocketed off the start into 1st place, leading the opening laps. It didn't take long to notice someone all over my rear, and eventually I made a mistake coming off turn 2 and spun the tire too much, allowing Kopp to get the drive past me into turn 3. This race was quite different than the heat races. Since then, the AFT racers had formed a high line groove around the track. So there were two distinct lines. A low line which I had rode all day until the main event, and then the high line. The low line as maybe the fastest way around, but it was also very treacherous as it had holes and bumps to dodge all the way through. The high line was longer, but very smooth all the way through. You had to ride faster through that line, though. When Joe got by, initially he started to pull a gap. But after a lap or 2, I caught back up and began pressuring him. We ran the high line all race. I wasn't able to get back by him, and I finished right on his rear wheel in 2nd place.
I was pretty happy with the result. I would like to win of course, but considering everything that happened the day before the race, and not finishing at the prior round, it was just nice to be back on the podium and to have had such a close race with Joe. We had a huge gap over the rest of the racers. It felt great to put on a close race in front of the big crowd at an American Flat Track event and give the KTM a solid showing. There were a lot of people from the motorcycle industry at this race, so it was extra special to ride well in front of a lot of important people.
Between now and the next race June 15th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we have some small refinements to make to the bike and hopefully some days of practicing on it. Seat time is the best thing for me right now to keep acclimating to the new machine and getting the most out of it.